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UCLA Introduces Steve Alford

UCLA AD Dan Guerrero expects Pauley Pavilion to be ready for regular season

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Last night a water main break on Sunset Boulevard resulted in some eight million gallons of water flooding part of the UCLA campus, with Pauley Pavilion absorbing a significant amount of damage. With the building undergoing major renovations a couple years ago (reopening in 2012), some $136 million in improvements were placed in danger due to the flooding. However in assessing the damage Wednesday, the biggest concern moving forward is the state of the court used by the basketball, gymnastics and volleyball programs.

According to Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has been assured that the building will be ready for use when the men’s basketball team begins its season with an exhibition game on October 31.

“When we saw the flood going down onto the court, it certainly was of concern to us,” Guerrero said, when asked whether UCLA might not be able to play at Pauley Pavilion. “But after getting the water off and getting the experts in, we’ve been assured today that we’ll be able to play in Pauley this year.

With regards to the damaged John Wooden Court, a new surface would be ready for use by the time the season begins should UCLA feel the need to replace the current floor (which they are attempting to salvage). Given the damage a large amount of water can do to a wood surface, one would think that UCLA’s best course of action would be to begin the process of putting together a new floor as soon as possible.

For the time being the affected programs will have to make use of the Student Activities Center and the John Wooden Center while the school works through the process of renovating Pauley Pavilion. No figures have been given as to how much the damage done by the flooding will cost the school.

Report: Loyola Marymount signee Elijah Stewart requests release from NLI

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With the coaching carousel already moving, there will be roster changes to consider as well. Current college players will decide whether they want to play under a new coaching staff or transfer, and the same goes for incoming recruits who have signed a National Letter of Intent. That’s the case at Loyola Marymount, which hired alum Mike Dunlap to replace Max Good a couple weeks ago.

6-foot-5 shooting guard Elijah Stewart was one of Good’s signees, and after he put together a very good senior season at Westchester High in Los Angeles the general consensus was that Stewart was a steal for the Lions. However according to a report by Evan Daniels of Scout.com, Stewart has decided to request a release from his NLI in order to reopen his recruitment.

Stewart was under recruited the first time around and when he gets his release will likely have virtually every school in the PAC-12 knocking down his door.

Stewart’s senior season at Westchester was nothing short of spectacular. Stewart is an impressive scorer from both mid-range out to the three-point stripe, but he’s also an impressive athlete that potential as a wing defender.

According to 247Sports.com’s Composite Rankings for California, just three of the top 20 players in the state (not counting Stewart) remain unsigned. And given the praise for Stewart’s ability, he’ll be a popular prospect this spring. Stewart’s Westchester High team finished the 2013-14 season with a 30-7 record, losing to undefeated Mater Dei in the Southern California Regional Open Division final last Saturday. Stewart scored 19 points in the defeat.

Stewart isn’t the only former Loyola Marymount signee looking into other options, with point guard Kyron Cartwright reportedly on an official visit to Providence according to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal.

Personal improvement equals team success for Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie

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While the Colorado football team has taken its lumps during the school’s brief run in the Pac-12, the men’s basketball program has seen its fortunes change for the better under head coach Td Boyle. The Buffaloes have reached the NCAA tournament in consecutive season for the first time since accomplishing that feat in 1962 and 1963, and despite the early departure of forward Andre Roberson they’re expected to be a contender in the Pac-12 this season.

A major reason for Colorado’s recent run of success has been their recruiting of California, which was directly impacted by the school’s move form the Big 12 to the Pac-12. Three of CU’s five projected starters hail from the Golden State, including 6-foot-6 junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. As a sophomore Dinwiddie led Colorado in both points (15.3 ppg) and assists (3.0 apg), earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors as a result.

With Roberson now in the NBA more will be expected of Dinwiddie, whose skill set attracted the attention of NBA scouts as the 2012-13 season wore on. That attention can be a negative for some players, with the desire to fit the NBA “mold” ultimately taking away from what their college team needs. But that isn’t expected to be the case for Dinwiddie, as he looks to achieve his childhood dream of not just reaching the NBA but ultimately excelling at that level.

“It’s really great because (scouts) are not asking me to go outside of my comfort zone or outside of my box,” Dinwiddie said. “They’re saying we want to see consistent effort on both ends of the floor, assist-to-turnover ratio, leadership and we want to see you win more games in the Tournament. Those are all things that point to a great season for Colorado, not just for Spencer.”

One area in which Dinwiddie will need to improve in 2013-14 is on the glass, as noted by coach Boyle in the article written by Brian Howell of Buffzone.com. Averaging 3.2 rebounds per game may be permissible for most point guards, but given his height Dinwiddie isn’t your standard floor general. Add in the fact that Roberson was so good on the glass (defensive rebounding percentage of 27.1% per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers; Xavier Johnson was second on the team at 14.3%), and it’s rather evident that Colorado will need “all hands on deck” in order to account for the production they’ve lost in that department.

“For his size at the guard position, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be averaging six or seven rebounds a game,” Boyle told Howell.

Arizona State’s Jahii Carson is the generally accepted answer to the question of who the best point guard in the Pac-12 is entering the 2013-14 season, but there are a number of contenders for the honor with Dinwiddie being one of the options. And if Dinwiddie continues to progress, both he and the Colorado basketball program can reap the rewards in the spring.

Report: Former UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton enrolls at UCLA

2013 McDonald's All American Games
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In the aftermath of their missing out on point guards Jordan McLaughlin and Quentin Snider, the question has been asked in many circles what the next step would be for the UCLA basketball program. This year’s roster doesn’t have a concrete answer at the position, and it’s something that becomes even more problematic when looking towards the future under head coach Steve Alford.

But the Bruins may have found an answer, one that while a bit unconventional is also an extremely talented one.

That answer: McDonald’s All-American Isaac Hamilton. After having his request to be released from the National Letter of Intent he signed after committing to attend UTEP denied, Hamilton had to move quickly in finding another school to attend this fall. According to Neal Nieves of Bruin Sports Report, Hamilton was admitted into UCLA Friday and has begun the process of enrolling in classes.

While Hamilton will not be allowed to play this season (and he loses a year of eligibility), he is eligible to join the program and receive an athletic scholarship. This is a highly valuable addition for coach Alford and his staff, and given the questions at point guard Hamilton having to sit out a year could be a blessing in disguise should they entertain the possibility of using him there in 2014-15.

As a senior at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., Hamilton averaged 22.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game on a team that won the CIF Southern Section Class 3A title. There’s no doubt that he’s got the talent needed to make an immediate impact at UCLA. The question is whether or not he’s the best answer for the Bruins at the point in 2014-15, with Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine (and whoever the Bruins could possibly reel in on the recruiting trail, but the pickings are slim at this stage).

2014 PG Jordan McLaughlin a big commitment for USC

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When Andy Enfield took over as head coach at USC the question was how long would the process of turning the Trojans into a factor in the Pac-12 take. On Wednesday the head coach received an important verbal commitment, as Etiwanda (Calif.) point guard Jordan McLaughlin announced his decision to attend USC (subscription required).

The 5-11 McLaughlin picked the Trojans over crosstown rival UCLA but this doesn’t change much for the Bruins, as they continue their pursuit of former Louisville commit Quentin Snider (and keep in mind the fact that they’ve got freshman Zach Levine).

The addition of McLaughlin fills a need for USC, which will rely largely upon Maryland transfer Pe’Shon Howard to handle the point guard responsibilities in 2013-14. Howard (3.3 ppg, 3.6 apg) has just one year of eligibility remaining, and the question of where the Trojans will turn in 2014-15 was an important one to answer. In McLaughlin they’ve got themselves a talented prospect who will likely be handed the keys to the USC offense upon his arrival.

McLaughlin, who averaged 15.6 points per game and helped lead Etiwanda High to a CIF-SS Class-1AA title last season (they knocked off a Mater Dei squad led by the highly-touted Stanley Johnson in the title game), joins a perimeter rotation that will also feature UNLV transfer Katin Reinhardt and 6-5 wing Byron Wesley next season. Add in this year’s current crop of freshmen on the perimeter (Khalil Dukes, Julian Jacobs and Roschon Prince), and USC has the potential to put forth a formidable group next season.

McLaughlin joins power forward Malik Price-Martin as commitments in USC’s 2014 class, and with centers D.J. Haley (transferred in from VCU) and Omar Oraby both being seniors the Trojans will have more work to do on the recruiting trail when it comes to their interior options.

National Letter of Intent committee denies Isaac Hamilton’s waiver request

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Last fall Isaac Hamilton, one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the 2013 class, announced his decision to attend UTEP. A five-star prospect, Hamilton had the talent needed to make the Miners a dominant program in the new era of Conference USA.

But in July, Hamilton announced his desire to be released from the National Letter of Intent he signed that locked him in to attending UTEP. Head coach Tim Floyd refused the request, ultimately resulting in Hamilton and his family having to appeal the decision in front of the NLI committee. On Friday it was reported by Andy Katz of ESPN.com that the request for a waiver has been denied, meaning that Hamilton cannot play college basketball at another school this season.

Greg Hamilton said his son will now pursue finding a school, preferably a Pac-12 school in the Los Angeles area. He would attend academically but won’t be able to play this season.

“We will get him in school and enroll him,” said Greg Hamilton, who added Isaac has been at home during this process. “We know he’ll have several opportunities. We want it to be in the Pac-12 so his mother can see him play, since she is the primary caretaker for his grandmother.”

With Hamilton’s request to be release being denied, it’s once again time to ask why an elite prospect would sign the NLI to begin with. The majority of student-athletes need to do so in order to “lock in” their spot, because if they refused to do so the school would simply go about recruiting another prospect (and that can happen even if they do sign the NLI).

But for a player of Hamilton’s caliber, why not just sign the grant-in-aid (which is the document that has to be signed, with or without the NLI, in order to lock in the scholarship)? Do that, and if there were to be an issue (coaching change, family illness, etc.) it’s a lot easier to make a move. That isn’t the case when it comes to the NLI, as Hamilton and his family have come to find out.

So where will Isaac land? His father’s quotes in Katz’s story focus on the Pac-12 due to Isaac’s grandmother’s illness, and that may be the easiest move to make given the fact that many schools have already begun classes (schools on the quarter system likely won’t begin classes until later this month). And while Floyd left the door open for Isaac to change course and attend UTEP, that isn’t an option for the family according to Katz.

Wherever Hamilton lands, that school will have a player capable of being one of the nation’s best guards. But the fact of the matter is that this situation could have been avoided had he not signed the NLI.