Steven Alford lands commitment from top 75 recruit Jonah Bolden

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UCLA picked up another commitment in the Class of 2014 as Jonah Bolden announced his intentions to be a Bruin in college. The news was first reported by Evan Daniels.

Bolden is a 6-foot-8 small forward from Australia that is playing at Findlay Prep this season. He’s ranked No. 62 by Rivals. Here is how Eric Bossi breaks down his game:

“Thin combo forward arrived from Australia for his senior season and shows upside. He can run, he is athletic and he can make deep jumpers. Would like to see him mix it up a bit more, but he has some Nicolas Batum to his game.”

Bolden joins five-star forward Kevon Looney, Thomas Welsh and Gyorgy Goloman in Steve Alford’s first recruiting class in Westwood. Next season will also feature Isaac Hamilton’s first appearance as a Bruin. He’s a top 20 player in the Class of 2013, but he has to sit out this season after Tim Floyd refused to let him out of his Letter of Intent.

The Bruins will also return Jordan Adams and, in all likelihood, Zach LaVine. Toss Tony Parker, Norman Powell and Bryce Alford, and UCLA looks like they could end up being a top ten team by the time next season rolls around.

The issue will be the point guard spot. Alford had two goals for this class: restock the front court and land himself a point guard. He did the former. The latter, he whiffed on Jordan McLaughlin, Quentin Snider and Josh Perkins. Can Bryce Alford play that role? What about Hamilton? Will Kyle Anderson actually go pro, like his father has said, or will he be returning to school next year?

Regardless, the bottom line is that Alford is doing a better job than a lot of people expected him to do in Westwood, and the future is looking bright for UCLA.

Should I be patting myself on the back for this column now?

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.