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.