UCLA Is Optimistic About Its Basketball Season
November 11, 2016
How bad was the UCLA basketball team last season?
When the season ended Coach Steve Alford returned the money he had been awarded for an additional year on his contract.
Yes, the coach was taking the blame for a 15-17 season which included a 10th place finish in the Pac-12 Conference.
Yes, we’re talking about UCLA, the school with all those NCAA championships.
Crosstown rival USC beat UCLA twice and finished in sixth place. Oregon was the champion.
Well, a new season is starting and it’s likely the Bruins will be much improved. The biggest reason is a recruiting class that ranks high nationally.
The first name to know is 6-foot-5 point guard Lonzo Ball, who led Chino Hills High to a state championship last season.
Most basketball experts I’ve asked say Ball figures to go into the NBA after one season.
He’s so good that Brice Alford, the coach’s son who’s been the Bruins’ point guard, is switching to shooting guard for his senior year.
UCLA has also added two quality big men. Power forward T.J. Leaf had 19 points and 12 rebounds in an easy exhibition game victory last week. Ike Anigbogu made a successful debut too.
Factor in returning center Thomas Welch and guard Isaac Hamilton and the Bruins have depth as well as considerable ability.
“We’re taking and making more three-point shots than last season,” said Coach Alford.
Running and shooting far better than last season is the UCLA plan this time as play begins in Pauley Pavilion November 11 against Pacific and continues Sunday Nov. 13 against Cal State Northridge. Both games are scheduled to start at 6 pm.
We’ll soon know the status of forward Jonah Bolden who showed NBA ability in high school but didn’t do as well for the Bruins last season.
As I gathered information to write this column I thought about the many years I eagerly went to Pauley Pavilion to see a championship-bound Bruin team.
John Wooden of course. But so much more. Another national championship in 1995 coached by Jim Harrick after Wooden retired. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich. Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Kevin Love just to name a few.
And I don’t want to leave out Ben Howland, who coached UCLA into three straight Final Fours.
I don’t know how this season is going to unfold but I find myself with a lot of curiosity.