Tony Parker

Isaac Hamilton, Jay Hedgeman
Associated Press

Alford scores 27, No. 22 UCLA tops Louisiana-Lafayette 89-80

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Bryce Alford scored a season-high 27 points for No. 22 UCLA as the short-handed Bruins posted their fifth consecutive victory, holding off Louisiana-Lafayette 89-80 Tuesday night.

UCLA (8-3) played minus starting center Thomas Welsh, out with a stomach virus, and reserve Prince Ali, who bruised his left knee against Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Tony Parker and Isaac Hamilton each added 19 points for the Bruins.

Shawn Long contributed 26 points and 16 rebounds for Louisiana-Lafayette (3-5), which fell to 0-5 on the road this season.

For Long, it was his fifth double-double of the season. The 6-foot-11 senior is the NCAA Division I active leader in double-doubles (57) and total rebounds (1,117).

Kasey Shepherd scored 15 points and Jay Wright added 14 for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

The Bruins shot a season-best 55.4 percent from the field. Their previous best was 52.8 percent in their upset victory over then-No. 1 Kentucky two weeks ago.

UCLA, which led by as many as 19 in the first half, saw Louisiana-Lafayette pull within 63-59 with 10:13 to play.

The Bruins responded with an 11-2 spurt to lead 74-61, only to see the Ragin’ Cajuns close to 79-73 on Long’s 3-pointer with 2:17 to play.

UCLA made 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute for the victory.

The second half was refereed by two officials, David Hall and Marques Pettigrew, after referee Eric Curry left at halftime with an undisclosed injury.

TIP-INS

Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns, coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons, entered the game ranked third among NCAA Division I programs in scoring, averaging 90.0 points per game, having already eclipsed the century mark twice this season.

UCLA: With Welsh out, coach Steve Alford was forced to change his starting lineup for the first time this season. He replaced Welsh with 6-10 sophomore Jonah Bolden. … The Bruins cracked the AP Top 25 poll for the first time this season, boosted by two victories in nine days over ranked opponents, Kentucky 87-77 on Dec. 3 and No. 20 Gonzaga 71-66 on Saturday night.

NEXT UP

Louisiana-Lafayette: At Pepperdine on Friday.

UCLA: Vs. North Carolina on Saturday in New York.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 24 UCLA Bruins

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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

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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 ESPN.com 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 Rivals.com, 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.

adidas Nations college counselor Superlatives

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source: Getty Images
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LONG BEACH, California — The 2014 version of adidas Nations is behind us now, but with CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips both in attendance, they decided to break down some of the college counselors by going over a list of superlatives for the week. Be sure to look out for high school superlatives as well as brief recaps of every college counselor in attendance later this week on College Basketball Talk.

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations

BEST PERFORMER:

  • Norman Powell (UCLA): Of the college players at the camp Arizona’s Stanley Johnson would likely be the highest draft pick if there were a draft today, and that will likely be the case in June as well. But the honor of best performer at adidas Nations goes to Powell, who was consistent on both ends of the floor throughout the weekend. The rising senior was aggressive offensively without being reckless, and if he can carry over that level of play into the season that bodes well for Steve Alford’s Bruins. (RJ)
  • Terran Petteway (Nebraska): Since Louisville guard Terry Rozier had some inconsistent performances down the stretch, I’ll go with Petteway, who had an impressive week at adidas Nations by knocking in perimeter jumpers, attacking the basket and defending hard at the other end. He’s one of the college counselors who stared NBA veteran Arron Afflalo in the eye and didn’t flinch. After a big year in the Big Ten last season, Petteway looks like he’ll once again be one of the league’s best players this coming season. (SP)
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WANTED TO SEE MORE FROM:

  • Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin): Kaminsky is considered by many to be the top face-up big man in college basketball, and based upon the way he played as a junior that’s a fair label to give him. But the perimeter shots weren’t falling in Long Beach, and what was even more concerning was the lack of consistency on the boards. He’ll play better during the season, but it would have been nice to see him do more in front of the NBA scouts in attendance. (RJ)
  • Zak Irvin (Michigan): Since Raphielle picked Kaminsky and Louisiana Lafayette’s Shawn Long only played two days of the camp, I’ll go with Michigan sophomore wing Zak Irvin, who didn’t appear to be much better than when I last saw him in Indianapolis during the Sweet 16/Elite Eight weekend. Irvin can still perform as a catch-and-shoot player, but after losing Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Irvin needs to step up this season and do more off-the-bounce. That didn’t happen at adidas Nations. Irvin struggled with two-dribble pull-ups and was stripped multiple times while trying to drive to the basket. Still plenty of time before November, but Irvin doesn’t look much better than last season. (SP)

BIGGEST SURPRISE:

  • Tony Parker (UCLA): In all honesty I didn’t expect much from Parker, based largely upon his inconsistent play during his first two seasons at UCLA. However Parker held his own, working hard on the glass and converting many of the opportunities he was able to find around the basket. The question for Parker: can he provide UCLA with consistent minutes throughout the season? Even with the talented trio joining the UCLA front court (Jonah Bolden, Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsh), the Bruins are going to need something from Parker this season. (RJ)
  • BeeJay Anya (N.C. State): There were stories of Anya’s weight loss since the end of last season, but he clearly looks like a player who has redefined his game heading into his sophomore season. Since Anya has lost so much weight, he’s getting up and down the floor much better, getting better lift off of the ground and also making hustle plays that he would never try to make before. The improved lift and mobility means Anya was more confident as a low-post scorer and his tremendous wingspan also makes him a difference as a weakside shot blocker. I like this version of BeeJay Anya much better and I’m sure N.C. State fans will agree with me. (SP)

BEST NBA DRAFT PROSPECT:

  • Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Simply put, the incoming freshman is a grown man. He was aggressive in driving to the basket, finishing above the rim on multiple occasions, and he knocked down his perimeter shots at a solid clip as well. And Johnson held his own against Arron Afflalo on Saturday night when the Denver Nuggets guard joined the scrimmages. (RJ)
  • Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Not to piggyback off the same player as my colleague, but Johnson was really good this week and has improved his body even more since entering college this summer. Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier are both good NBA Draft prospects as well at this current juncture, but with Johnson’s size, athleticism, skill and tenacious work ethic, he’s the frontrunner of the group that played at adidas Nations this week. There’s a reason Tracy McGrady and Afflalo went at Johnson the most and it’s because they respected his ability to give them a fair fight as an incoming college freshman. (SP)

adidas Nations Saturday Night Recap: Pros Arron Afflalo, Kyle Lowry join the action

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LONG BEACH, California — After playing one round of games during the morning session the attendees at adidas Nations were back at it in the evening, with there once again being for high school games and two college counselor contests. Scott Phillips and Raphielle Johnson were in attendance once again, this time focusing solely on the two college games. Play was more physical, and with Arron Afflalo (Denver Nuggets) and Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) playing in the games (one on each court) the intensity was raised as well. Below are a few thoughts on Saturday’s evening session.

RELATED: adidas Nations Saturday Morning Thoughts

– Pros Arron Afflalo, Kyle Lowry join the college counselors game and their impact on the level of play was evident from the start.

With Afflalo and Lowry playing in the games, ball movement and player movement improved as a result. And if there was one player who took on the challenge of dealing with Afflalo on both ends of the floor was Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson. The 6-foot-8 wing handled the physical play well, finishing through contact and doing a good job of “locking and trailing” Afflalo through down screens. In speaking with a couple NBA scouts in attendance, they came away from the game impressed with the way in which Johnson competed both offensively and defensively. That will be a key for Stanley as the Wildcats look to account for the loss of the versatile Nick Johnson on the perimeter. (RJ)

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations

Kyle Lowry just signed a four-year, $48 million dollar contract with the Toronto Raptors but that didn’t stop him from jumping in with the college counselors and playing hard. Lowry took charges, woofed at officials and was talking some mess to A.J. English at the free-throw line. Lowry got his UCLA teammates the ball and generally upped the level of play against guards like Derrick Walton, English and Zak Irvin. Although Lowry didn’t have any high-profile positional matchups like Stanley Johnson against Arron Afflalo, his intensity resonated with the group and the level of play was significantly increased from the morning session. (SP)

– Tony Parker plays the clean-up roll.

UCLA sophomore big man Tony Parker put together a string of productive efforts on Saturday as he registered a double-double in the night game. Parker didn’t do much with offensive touches in the half court but he did one thing incredibly well in the night game: hit the offensive glass.

Parker posted 11 offensive rebounds and it led to most of his points on Saturday night. Although he struggled with his off-hand and didn’t do much with his post touches, there is something to be said for consistently cleaning up misses and producing points. If Parker can do that for an uptempo UCLA offense this season, Steve Alford will be thrilled. Parker still floats in-and-out of games sometimes, but when he’s fully engaged, he can be very productive. (SP)

– E.C. Matthews working to improve his point guard skills.

As a freshman at Rhode Island, Matthews went from a player who factored into the rotation for head coach Dan Hurley to the Atlantic 10’s best freshman as he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. Now with Xavier Munford out of eligibility Matthews has been working more on his ball-handling, as he’ll be expected to spend more time at the point guard position in 2014-15. When asked where he made his greatest strides last season, Matthews noted that he had a better understanding of what his role was as the year wore on.

“When the season started I really didn’t know my role,” Matthews told NBCSports.com on Friday. “But as the season [wore on] I got better and I knew what my role was, and that was to score and get everyone else involved. I’m looking to be a captain this year and I’ll be playing the one. I have to work on [strengthening] my right hand, but I think I’ll be able to [play the point].”

Through two days at adidas Nations, Matthews hasn’t been spectacular but he’s been solid, spending time at both guard spots on a team that includes LSU point guard Josh Gray. In Saturday’s night cap Matthews used his length well defensively, getting into passing lanes and even getting the game-saving block on a Terry Rozier jump shot attempt. The offense is still a work in progress when it comes to running the show, but his ability to get into the lane and finish was easy to notice. (RJ)

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.