Jonah Bolden


UCLA hopes to have versatile forward back to full strength by mid-July

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Given their personnel losses from their Sweet 16 team, led by Norman Powell and Kevon Looney, UCLA is expecting 6-foot-9 forward Jonah Bolden to be a key player in 2015-16. Bolden, who was supposed to be a freshman last season, wasn’t cleared by the NCAA and wasn’t even allowed to practice with the team until late January.

That inactivity makes this offseason an important one for the Australian, but unfortunately for he and the Bruins he isn’t at full strength. Bolden underwent knee surgery in mid-May, which was expected to sideline him anywhere from six to eight weeks. In an interview with Jack Wang of the LA Daily News, head coach Steve Alford stated that he hopes to have Bolden back at full strength by mid-July.

Alford also discussed the impact Bolden could have on next year’s team, which returns starters Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Tony Parker and adds some talented recruits as well.

On former four-star recruit Jonah Bolden’s role after sitting out the 2014-15 season:

“He’s a big guard. Being able to play somebody that’s 6-9, 6-9 1/2, long wingspan — to be able to play him at a guard position will help. And then we can swing him a little bit, like we did with Kyle (Anderson). We can play him at the big guard, we can play him at the stretch four. Good rebounder, great passer, and he can score it. He can score it all the way out to the three-point line. You know, it’s his first year. Anytime you’re a freshman, you’re going to go through some growing pains. But hopefully, he’ll be back healthy by mid-July, to where he can get a good summer in.”

The Anderson comparison is an interesting one, especially when considering what the current San Antonio Spur did during his lone season playing for Alford. Anderson was one of the nation’s best players and arguably its most versatile in 2013-14, averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.

Being used in a similar role, can Bolden have that kind of impact in 2015-16? Part of that will depend upon how his rehab goes this summer, because if Bolden has the ability to transition from rehab to skill work before the fall that would undoubtedly be a positive for UCLA.

And if UCLA can have another playmaking option alongside the likes of Alford, Hamilton and freshmen Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali, that will help them in a Pac-12 that will be more balanced at the top.

Report: UCLA forward has knee surgery

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UCLA freshman forward Jonah Bolden didn’t get a chance to play this season after being ruled ineligible. But the Bruins are still counting on the 6-foot-10 Bolden to contribute immediately next season and he was the No. 32 overall national prospect in the 2014 class.

The talented forward is going to miss some time this summer to recover as Joey Kaufman of the Orange County Register reports that Bolden had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. It’s been called a “slight” tear and Bolden is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks.

With the loss of Kevon Looney to the 2015 NBA Draft, Bolden is being asked to fill some of Looney’s production and a talented player has had since January to practice with the Bruins. The surgery and recovery for Bolden is a minor setback and he could continue to use reps, but he has been playing with this team for a bit and has a good start going into his sophomore season.

Ineligible UCLA freshman forward now allowed to practice with the team

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UCLA has struggled to an 11-9 start and a 3-4 beginning in Pac-12 play, but the Bruins got a bit of good news on Monday afternoon as ineligible freshman forward Jonah Bolden was ruled eligible to begin practicing with the team.

Bolden took to Twitter to announce his debut with UCLA, as he’ll continue to redshirt the 2014-15 season.

The 6-foot-9 Bolden is a native of Australia and his eligibility issues stemmed from his arrival in the United States last season. Bolden started at Findlay Prep before moving to Brewster Academy to finish out his high school career.

A four-star prospect who was ranked 32nd in the Class of 2014 by Rivals, Bolden should be an immediate contributor in practice as the Bruins are thin with able-bodied players. Bolden spending practice time with his teammates should also build some additional chemistry for when he’s able to play in games next season.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 24 UCLA Bruins

Steve Alford
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2014-2015 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day. We continue our Top 25 countdown with the No. 24 UCLA Bruins.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

source: Getty Images
Steve Alford, Getty Images

Last Season: 28-9, 12-6 Pac-12 (t-2nd), lost in the Sweet 16

Head Coach: Steve Alford

Key Losses: Kyle Anderson (14.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.5 apg), Jordan Adams (17.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), Zach LaVine (9.4 ppg)

Newcomers: Isaac Hamilton, Kevon Looney, Thomas Welsh, Gyorgy Goloman

Projected Lineup

G: Bryce Alford, So.
G: Norman Powell, Sr.
G: Isaac Hamilton, So.
– F: Kevon Looney, Fr.
– C: Tony Parker, Jr.
– Bench: Wanaah Bail, So.; Thomas Welsh, Fr.; Noah Allen, So.; Gyorgy Goloman, Fr.

They’ll be good because …: There certainly isn’t a shortage of talent on UCLA’s roster. It starts with senior guard Norman Powell, one of just two upperclassmen in Steve Alford’s rotation this season. Powell has spent the past two seasons stuck behind NBA wings on the UCLA depth chart: Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Zach LaVine, even Kyle Anderson. This will be his season to lead, and while he may not be as good as some of those guys that played in front of him, he doesn’t necessarily need to be.

Isaac Hamilton, a wing, was a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2013 before being forced to sit out last season after UTEP refused to release him from his letter of intent. Kevon Looney is a five-star recruit in the Class of 2014 and should join junior Tony Parker in anchoring UCLA’s big, deep front line. They’ll be joined up front by four-star big man Thomas Welsh as well as sophomore Wanaah Bail, who should finally be healthy this season, although their front line’s versatility took a hit when Jonah Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier that will have to sit out this season.

UCLA lost three first round draft picks with a combined seven seasons of eligibility remaining, yet they may end up having just as much talent on their roster this season. That’s how it should be in Westwood.

source: Getty Images
Norman Powell, Getty Images

But they might disappoint because …: While the Bruins have quite a bit of talent on their roster, there is an awful lot of youth and inexperience on there as well. Powell and Parker, a junior, are the only two upperclassmen that will see significant minutes. Four sophomores will likely end up in the rotation as well, but just one of them — point guard Bryce Alford, Steve’s son — played major minutes a season ago. Hamilton sat out, Bail was injured and wing Noah Allen played in just 11 games. Alford, the coach, is going to have his work cut out for him this season.

The other question mark is Alford, the point guard. He had a promising freshman campaign, averaging 8.0 points and 2.8 assists, but he was more of a sparkplug off the bench than he was a guy counted on to run a team and facilitate an offense full time. He was supposed to battle Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus for the starting role, but Octeus was denied admission into UCLA, meaning that Alford will be sharing ball-handling duties with … off-guard Hamilton? How the sophomore handles the role will be a major determinant in how good the Bruins end up being.

Outlook: Arizona is the favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. There really isn’t even much of an argument to be had there, but what will be interesting to see is how the rest of the conference plays out as there are four or five teams that can lay claim to the title “second best in the Pac-12”. UCLA is one of those teams.

If everything breaks right — Powell becomes an all-league player, Looney and Hamilton live up to their five-star rankings, Alford makes a seamless transition to full-time point guard — than the Bruins are probably closer to being a top 15 team than they are the No. 24 team in the country. But there are a lot of things that can go wrong during the year, which is why I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the Bruins ended up being an NIT team this season.

Like I said earlier, Steve Alford is going to have a lot of work to do this season.

Report: NCAA rules UCLA freshman power forward ineligible for 2014-15 season

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With Isaac Hamilton eligible after having to sit out all of last season and three talented freshman big men joining the ranks, UCLA is expected to be one of the teams looking to make life difficult for prohibitive favorite Arizona in the Pac-12 this season. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they’ll be without one of those freshman big men due to the fact that the NCAA has declared him to be a partial qualifier.

According to Jeff Goodman of the NCAA has declared 6-foot-9 freshman power forward Jonah Bolden ineligible for the upcoming season. Bolden, a four-star prospect who was ranked 32nd in the Class of 2014 by, was expected to be an immediate impact player because of his ability to play both inside and step out onto the perimeter as a face-up power forward.

Sources told ESPN the issue stems from Bolden leaving Australia after his senior campaign had already begun to attend Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Bolden left Findlay in December and finished at Brewster Academy.

According to Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register, Bolden has yet to be cleared to practice with the team.

Without Bolden the Bruins will still have options in the front court, most notably fellow freshmen Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsh and junior Tony Parker. UCLA also adds freshman Gyorgy Goloman, who at 6-foot-10 is the team’s second-tallest player behind the 7-footer Welsh. Parker’s development was already going to be important for UCLA, despite the arrival of the talented freshman big men. Without Bolden the need for the junior to take a step forward becomes greater.

Parker averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, and in each of his first two seasons at UCLA consistency has been an issue for the former McDonald’s All-American. However he played well at last month’s adidas Nations camp, and if Parker can build on that performance it would bode well for UCLA moving forward.

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?