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UCLA basketball report: Steve Alford looking for leadership

UCLA basketball report: Steve Alford looking for leadership
UCLA guard Bryce Alford dribbles the ball against Cal State Northridge during the second half on Sunday. (Danny Moloshok / Associated Press)

Steve Alford is openly seeking a few L's early in the season.

Leaders, that is.

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The UCLA basketball coach acknowledged his team's deficiency in that department after its victory over Cal State Northridge on Sunday. The Bruins rallied after a lackluster first half but received too much prodding from coaches and not enough from players.

It's an ongoing issue. Players have mentioned the need to better direct themselves going back to last season, when the team finished 15-17 and guard Bryce Alford said "some of the guys aren't fully there, fully following what we've got to do."

Alford and fellow senior Isaac Hamilton have played well in season-opening victories over Pacific and Northridge. Steve Alford wants more.

"I just need them to be more vocal whether it's in their personality or not because we're a fairly quiet team," Alford said. "We're great guys, we're just quiet and I need somebody to rile them up a little bit."

Bryce Alford said Tuesday he noticed the locker room was hushed before the game against the Matadors. The Bruins didn't seem like they had to much to say either during a first half in which they fell behind by as many as five points.

"It's not really something you can teach," Bryce Alford said of being vocal. "Guys just have to talk and that's probably my biggest role outside of having to score the basketball and doing the things I do on the court. My biggest thing is getting guys ready to play."

Bryce Alford said he spoke to the Bruins at halftime after coaches chewed out the team. His message: Everything's fine. It was in the second half, when the Bruins outscored the Matadors, 62-45, on the way to improving to 2-0.

Bryce Alford said being the coach's son didn't diminish the value of his voice because of his having won a Pac-12 Conference tournament title and twice advanced to an NCAA tournament regional semifinal.

"I feel so close to these guys that I don't have an issue with it," Bryce Alford said. "I think they respect what I've done here as a player and what kind of person I am, so they listen to me pretty good."

Point guard Lonzo Ball, who has more cachet than most freshmen considering his high-profile status, has also tried to become a chatterbox at the urging of coaches.

"I feel like I could always be more vocal," Ball said, "but I think I'm doing a pretty good job."

Hoosier role model?

Bryce Alford could be replaced by an extended member of the Alford family next season. Incoming UCLA freshman Kris Wilkes is the overwhelming favorite to be selected Mr. Basketball in Indiana, an award Steve Alford won in 1983 on the way to winning a national championship with the Hoosiers.

"I told him in recruiting, 'I need that Indiana kid because I haven't got that at UCLA yet and I need somebody,' " Alford said, noting he had a player from his home state in previous coaching stops at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico. "We'll have a lot in common because I told him we'll be in that Mr. Basketball Club and we'll have a lot to talk about."

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Wilkes, a 6-foot-8 guard from North Central High in Indianapolis, was the final player to sign in a five-man recruiting class that has been ranked No. 1 in the nation by Scout.com.

"He gives us something we desperately need—we need a big guard," Alford said. "We're obviously going to lose a lot of our backcourt, so that's being corrected through recruiting."

Quick hits

Steve Alford said forward-center Ike Anigbogu had resumed running in his recovery from knee surgery and could return as soon as the Bruins' game against Long Beach State on Sunday. … Ball was among 50 players named to the preseason Wooden Award list for the top college basketball player in the country. … The Bruins did not budge in the Associated Press poll, remaining ranked No. 16.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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