UCLA’s Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton likely to share point guard job
Going by the numbers, it looks as though UCLA’s basketball team got a push. It lost two players and kept two. But the reality is the Bruins lost more than they retained.
Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine both declared their intent to enter the NBA draft. Jordan Adams announced Thursday that he plans to come back for his junior season. Norman Powell hasn’t made an announcement but is expected to return.
The immediate problem for the Bruins is that they do not have a true point guard, someone to run the offense.
“Obviously, it’s going to be different,” Coach Steve Alford said. “We don’t have a 6-foot-9 point guard who will lead us in rebounding, assists and be second in scoring. [Anderson] was a special kind of player.”
He averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
Alford said that Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will likely share point guard duties. Neither were considered point guards in high school. Alford refers to them as “combo guards.”
“We have a lot of guys who can rebound and handle the ball,” Steve Alford said. “There will be no need for an outlet.”
Adams could fall into that category, Alford said. The 6-foot-5 guard was the leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points, and was third in assists, averaging 2.3.
“We have a chance to be more athletic this coming year,” Alford said. “We want to play at a high rate of speed. We do have guys who take good shots and take care of the ball.”
But for the Bruins to play at that pace, someone will need to direct traffic.
Alford averaged 8.0 points and 2.8 assists as a freshman last season. He was effective as a backup, usually with Anderson remaining in the lineup at power forward. Anderson played an average of 33 minutes a game.
Hamilton was a redshirt in 2013-14 after walking away from a letter of intent he signed with Texas El Paso. He averaged 23.5 points as a senior at Bellflower St. John Bosco, where he was considered a shooting guard.
Alford says he has confidence in both.
“Bryce has proven over the course of the year that he can play point,” Alford said. “Isaac had a tremendous year in our program. He has developed nicely. He can do the same things.”
The Bruins have two scholarships left — three if Powell decides to turn pro — but finding a point guard at this point is unlikely. The top unsigned point guard, JaQuan Lyle from Huntington Prep (W.V.), committed to Oregon last month.
UCLA is expected to have a point guard in the 2015 class, as Aaron Holiday from North Hollywood Campbell Hall has committed.
The Bruins will likely go into the season with what they have, which includes freshman Jonah Bolden, a 6-8 Australian-born small forward. Alford said Bolden has playmaking abilities.
UCLA reached the NCAA South Regional semifinals, but did so with little inside game. Sophomore Tony Parker was the only true post player on scholarship.
The Bruins have signed four players for next season, all adding size. Kevon Looney, a 6-9 power forward from Milwaukee Hamilton High, is considered the best of the group.
But that means he could be off to the NBA as soon as next spring.
Alford is hoping that the NBA will change the one-and-done rule, preferring that players stay at least two years in college.
“Very few players are ready after one year,” Alford said. “Staying a second year would help on a lot of different fronts, socially, physically, mentally.”
Asked if LaVine should have stayed another year, Alford said, “With the rules the way they are, it was probably a good decision. We would have liked to have him longer, but all the projections said he was a first-round pick.”
Still, Alford said, “A lot of kids are not that mature yet. But the rules force kids to do things whether they are ready or not.”