UCLA needs Tony Parker to build on career night

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Last summer UCLA forward Tony Parker arrived on campus as part of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, with the expectation that he and his classmates (Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad) would be able to lead the Bruins back to prominence. While UCLA did manage to win the Pac-12 regular season title that isn’t the standard in Westwood, with the end result being a change at the top with Steve Alford replacing Ben Howland.

And for Parker personally the 2012-13 campaign was a disappointing one, as he failed to establish himself in the UCLA rotation and played just over six minutes per game. But the change has served as a rebirth of sorts for Parker, who’s earned more more minutes and just as importantly taken advantage of those opportunities. Up to eight points and just over five rebounds per contest, Parker’s shooting 60% from the field and has been a solid contributor for the Bruins in his sophomore campaign.

Thursday night Parker, facing a Stanford front court led by Dwight Powell, put together the best performance of his career by tallying 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the Bruins’ 91-74 victory. Parker made nine of his 14 attempts from the field and was far more active on both ends of the floor than in UCLA’s loss at Utah last Saturday.

“Tony Parker was terrific. That’s the sign of a good team,” Alford said after the win. “When others are hurting, you have others pick it up. Tony really stepped up for us. I thought he did a really good job once we got the ball inside to him. He played 28 minutes and he played with really good energy and urgency and battled on both ends.”

With Kyle Anderson running the show and players such as Adams and Zach Lavine capable of getting things rolling from a scoring standpoint (Bryce Alford and Norman Powell have also been good for much of the season), Parker doesn’t have the pressure of needing to score 20+ points every night. But for all that perimeter firepower at the elder Alford’s disposal, more will be needed from the big men if UCLA is to make a deep run in March.

Travis Wear, who averaged double digits in each of his first two seasons at UCLA, missed the first three games of the season due to a case of appendicitis and has struggled for much of this season. And twin brother David, who’s averaging seven points and four rebounds per game, has reached double digits in scoring just once since racking up 16 in a loss to Duke on December 19.

With this being the case UCLA’s going to need Parker to consistently be a factor inside, and with Cal’s tandem of David Kravish and Richard Solomon visiting Pauley Pavilion on Sunday this will be a good weekend to see if the sophomore’s capable of doing so.

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
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Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.

“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”

The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.

What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.

The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.