In the aftermath of their missing out on point guards Jordan McLaughlin and Quentin Snider, the question has been asked in many circles what the next step would be for the UCLA basketball program. This year’s roster doesn’t have a concrete answer at the position, and it’s something that becomes even more problematic when looking towards the future under head coach Steve Alford.
But the Bruins may have found an answer, one that while a bit unconventional is also an extremely talented one.
While Hamilton will not be allowed to play this season (and he loses a year of eligibility), he is eligible to join the program and receive an athletic scholarship. This is a highly valuable addition for coach Alford and his staff, and given the questions at point guard Hamilton having to sit out a year could be a blessing in disguise should they entertain the possibility of using him there in 2014-15.
As a senior at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., Hamilton averaged 22.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on a team that won the CIF Southern Section Class 3A title. There’s no doubt that he’s got the talent needed to make an immediate impact at UCLA. The question is whether or not he’s the best answer for the Bruins at the point in 2014-15, with Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine (and whoever the Bruins could possibly reel in on the recruiting trail, but the pickings are slim at this stage).
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.