Bryce Alford was second on UCLA in scoring at 15.4 points per game.
He’ll return in an even bigger role this season with Norman Powell having graduated. However, he should benefit from the addition of two heralded guards joining the program.
Prince Ali and Aaron Holiday, two four-star guards, were the prize recruits in in Steve Alford’s Class of 2015. On Monday, the UCLA coach spoke to reporters, and according to Zach Helfand of the Los Angeles Times, Alford praised the two first-year guards, saying they were both, “way ahead of it physically, more physically ready to play college basketball than most guards are.”
Last season, the Bruins back court was overworked with Alford, Powell and Isaac Hamilton all logging between 34 and 36 minutes a night. The lack of guards meant Alford had the ball in his hands the majority of the time. That should change with Ali and Holiday, the younger brother of former UCLA point guard Jrue Holiday.
Bryce Alford is most productive in catch-and-shoot opportunities, but he rarely operated without the ball last season. With Holiday as an additional point-guard option, Alford should be free to try to score more.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Steve Alford said. “I think what we’ve seen in the summer has given us an awful lot of confidence that that can happen.”
The UCLA front court is also gaining some much-needed support. Jonah Bolden will make his collegiate debut after being he was not cleared by the NCAA last fall. The 6-foot-9 forward is coming off of knee surgery this past May. Bolden will join Tony Parker and sophomores Thomas Welsh and Gyorgy Goloman. The frontline also adds the other two members of the Class of 2015: Ikenna Okwarabizie and Alex Olesinski.
The UCLA front court will be mostly inexperienced, meaning the Bruins will once again rely on the guards. But this time around they’ll have depth in that department.
UCLA begins the season on Nov. 13 against Monmouth.
With point guard Aaron Holiday having already verbally committed to attend UCLA, head coach Steve Alford was in need of another guard with transfer Jon Octeus and Norman Powell both being seniors. Saturday afternoon the program landed a verbal commitment from one of the best shooting guards in the Class of 2015, as Prince Ali announced his decision to head west for college.
I'm excited to announce that I've committed to UCLA! Proud to be a Bruin! Thanks to my family, coaches and friends for all the support!
As a junior at Sagemont, Ali averaged 20 points and six rebounds per game on a team that finished the year with a Florida Class 3A state title and a 33-0 record. For his efforts Ali was named Small School Boys Basketball Player of the Year by the Sun-Sentinel.
With Ali on board UCLA still has a couple spots to fill recruiting-wise, with 2015 small forward Jaylen Brown and big man Carlton Bragg being two of the players they’re actively recruiting at the point in time. Who else Alford and his staff can reel in remains to be seen, but with Holiday and Ali in tow UCLA’s off to a solid start.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C . — The Class of 2016 is shaping up to be quite impressive at the top, and while names like Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Dennis Smith have rung out across the country, there is a very real argument to make that 6-foot-3 Arkansas Wings guard Malik Monk is the most impressive player in the class.
On Friday night, in front of coaches like Bill Self and John Calipari, Monk put on an absolute show. He scored 40 points in a win over Team Penny — which includes the Lawson brothers and Florida commit KeVaughn Allen on the roster. He hit threes from 25 feet, finishing 6-for-10 from beyond the arc and 14-for-20 from the floor. Three times in the first half he threw down vicious dunks after knifing through traffic in the half court. He made no-look passes that drew just as many oohs-and-aahs as those dunks, collecting six boards and five assists in the process.
On a day when Allonzo Trier dropped 35 points and Jalen Brunson went for 34, Monk’s performance was by far the most dominant of the day and, in all likelihood, will go down as the most dominant of the event.
And it’s not even close to the best game he played on the EYBL circuit.
That would be the 59 points he put up on All Ohio Red out in Sacramento back in August. He hit 10 threes in that game and got to the foul line 23 times. That pretty succinctly sums up what Monk is able to do with the ball in his hands, and gives you a feel for why programs like Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Baylor and Memphis have already offered him a scholarship, although the consensus right now seems to be that Florida and Arkansas are the favorites. Monk is a native of Bentonville, Ark., and his brother played football and basketball for the Razorbacks. He is a must-get recruit for Mike Anderson, and not just because he is the ideal two-guard for Anderson’s system.
It’s not all big shooting numbers and highlight reel dunks for Monk, however, as he still has a tendency to mix in a 3-for-11 night too often. The game before he went for 40 he finished with just eight points and 1-for-8 shooting from three in a 15-point loss.
The thing to remember is that Monk is a member of the Class of 2016.
He’s doing all of this while playing up a level.
What happens when, in a year, he goes up against guys that are in his age group?
Quinndary Weatherspoon shines with Malik Newman out: The biggest news on the first day of Peach Jam was that the hand that Newman injured at the LeBron James Skills Academy would keep Rivals’ No. 2 player in the Class of 2015 out of the tournament. That was bad news for the Jackson Tigers, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Weatherspoon, as he lit up Southern Stampede and top 30 recruit Prince Ali to the tune of 32 points in front of a handful of high major coaches.
“I feel good about the way I played but it’s hard because I’m disappointed with the loss,” Weatherspoon said after the Tigers moved to 0-4 in the event. He lists offers from Tennessee, Georgia, Wichita State, Oklahoma, Murray State and Mississippi State.
Speaking of Prince Ali …: He only played the first half in that game. He didn’t look like himself, and after getting cursed out by his coach at halftime, he spent the second half sitting at the trainer’s table and then did not play for Southern Stampede in their evening game. When I asked him why, he said it’s because he hurt his ankle.
Stephen Zimmerman needs to be more assertive: I got my first look at Stephen Zimmerman this spring, and the 7-footer from Las Vegas played well in a win for his Oakland Soldiers team. Zimmerman is a terrific passer for a player his size, but at times it seems he becomes too reliant on it. Playing against a team that didn’t have anyone on their roster over 6-foot-7, Zimmerman’s first instinct on every post touch he got was to pass. To be fair, he was being doubled, but the only time he made a quick move — a lefty jump hook on the right block — he scored.