On Wednesday 5-11 point guard Jordan McLaughlin verbally committed to attend USC, picking the Trojans over crosstown rival UCLA. And if that wasn’t enough for UCLA head coach Steve Alford, Quentin Snider picked Illinois on Thursday evening.
The question: how much of a bind does this put the Bruins in when it comes to the point guard position in 2014?
Well, that depends on what they get from the position in 2013-14.
At this point the Bruins have three options, with two being freshmen. There’s Bryce Alford, who was committed to attend New Mexico before his father accepted the position at UCLA, and he put together some excellent numbers as a high school senior. Alford averaged 37.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning Gatorade New Mexico Player of the Year honors as a result.
The other freshman would be Zach LaVine, who was considered to be one of the top combo guards in the country in the 2013 graduating class. He averaged just 2.5 assists per game as a senior however, doing the majority of his damage as a scorer (28.5 points per game). While both are talented neither has played a game at the collegiate level, and this could be a cause for concern amongst the Bruin faithful.
That third option: using sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson as a point forward now that leading assist man Larry Drew II is out of eligibility. Anderson finished last season second on the team in assists, posting an average of 3.5 helpers per game. Add to that the fact that he led the team in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and was second in steals (1.8 spg), and it’s pretty clear that the New Jersey native is UCLA’s most versatile player entering the 2013-14 campaign.
UCLA has three options this season, but the problem is that not one of those options is the clear-cut solution to their question at the point. Given the shrinking pool of available talent at the point guard position in the 2014 class, UCLA will need someone to step forward and grab control of the offense with an eye towards the future. Of the top 20 point guards on 247Sports.com’s composite rankings list just four are uncommitted, with Tyler Ulis scheduled to announce his decision Friday.
The other top prospects remaining are Tyus Jones (he’s already begun taking official visits, and UCLA wasn’t among his choices), Dante Exum, Alex Robinson (officially visiting Texas A&M this weekend), and Lourawls Nairn (according to reports earlier today he’ll be visiting Michigan State this weekend).
There’s also the transfer and junior college markets from which to land a quick fix (UCLA reeled in Lazeric Jones from the JUCO ranks a couple years ago), so UCLA isn’t without hope. But for as important as the point guard question is for the 2013-14 season, it’s even more important for UCLA in regards to the long-term future of the program.