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.