The UCLA basketball team's biggest improvement in the early season involves one of its biggest players.
Center Tony Parker had a career night against Oakland on Tuesday, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Compare that to the season opener against Drexel when, hampered by early fouls, he finished with six points and five rebounds in only 20 minutes.
"It felt great," Parker said of Tuesday's game. "Coach [Steve Alford] was really on me about keeping out of foul trouble."
The sophomore has returned to UCLA this fall looking more fit and confident after a difficult first season that had him considering a transfer. His role during the early part of the schedule has been magnified with forwards Travis Wear and Wanaah Bail out of action.
"We don't have the depth inside," Alford said.
Wear is recovering from an appendectomy and could return to action next week. Bail, who underwent knee surgery, has yet to be cleared for practice.
Parker seems eager to carry the load.
"I really have to get it going and play a lot more minutes," he said. "Coach has to trust me."
The No. 24 Bruins will play Sacramento State at Pauley Pavilion on Monday.