Last season Tony Parker was a member of one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Though, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged just 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.3 minutes per game.
Now a sophomore, the former McDonald’s All-American could be on his way to making up for a disappointing freshman season, his new head coach Steve Alford told ESPN’s Myron Metcalf on Monday.
“Well, Tony’s had a really good offseason,” Alford told ESPN.com. “He’s lost 20, 25 pounds. I think he’s built a lot of confidence by seeing what that does. He’s moving better, he’s in better condition. He’s making plays now because he’s in shape. So I think because of all that he’s kind of rededicated to the game, and he’s built some confidence. Hopefully that momentum carries forward because he’s a very good low-post threat but he’s learned to move out. He can knock down the 15-foot shot. Now he’s defending much better because he’s lost the weight.”
Parker’s freshman year didn’t go how many pictured it’d would for the No. 27 overall recruit in 2013. He didn’t see time on the floor, either due to injuries or conditioning, and following questions from the media and even his own tweets, it appeared he could be the next Bruin to transfer out of the program. But his dedication to getting into shape is a good sign UCLA. Returning to school, and returning to school in better shape tells you he feels good about the direction Alford is taking the program and the role he has for him on this year’s team.
Parker being able to play meaningful minutes and produce gives the Bruins another body on the frontline to go along with the Wear twins. The Bruins are coming off a season where they had the worst rebounding margin in the Pac-12 Conference, and entering this season UCLA will have to go up against Arizona, the conference preseason favorite featuring one of the nation’s best front courts.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.