There’s somehow more where Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf came from.
UCLA’s freshman class is preparing to unveil another newbie who’s expected to turn what’s been a dynamic duo into a fearsome threesome.
Ike Anigbogu could make his season debut Thursday night against Portland at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym in the opener of the Wooden Legacy after being sidelined for a month following knee surgery.
Although he hasn’t played a game that counted, Anigbogu is being hailed as the Bruins’ top interior defender. His prowess in putting a stop to things around the basket was on full display during three summer exhibitions in Australia.
“That’s a huge piece that we’ve been missing,” Bruins guard Bryce Alford said of Anigbogu, who averaged 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game during the exhibitions. “He has humongous hands, he blocks everything, he tries to dunk everything.”
Anigbogu is expected to split time with starting center Thomas Welsh, though he can also play power forward. Alford noted that Anigbogu is a nice complement to Welsh because his low-post style contrasts Welsh’s ability to step out for mid-range jumpers, giving defenders two vastly different looks.
The 6-foot-9 1/2, 255-pound Anigbogu recently turned 18, meaning he has even more upside than most freshmen. He joked in a recent article for The Players’ Tribune website that he has the biggest hands in the world and his teammates said his defensive skills can be deceiving.
“He’s a sneaky good blocker,” Leaf told the website. “He doesn’t look like he’s gonna block you, but he’s gonna block you.”
Anigbogu also apparently isn’t a fan of pillow fights, putting Ball in a playful headlock this summer after his teammate repeatedly threw pillows at him.
“Long story short, he tapped out,” Leaf told The Players’ Tribune of Ball. “So basically here are the rules: Don’t get Ike mad. Don’t go in the paint if he’s in there.”
Added Ball: “And don’t throw pillows at him. Pac-12 teams, are you writing this down?”
Making their points
UCLA leads the nation in scoring, averaging 105.8 points through four games. It’s the first time since December 1990 that the Bruins have averaged that many points through a four-game span.
“Right now the ball’s moving, people’s moving, so the offense looks good,” said UCLA Coach Steve Alford, whose team features six players averaging double figures in scoring.
Alford said teams that have tried to limit the production of senior guards Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford have been hurt by teammates who are equally skilled.
“We want that diverse way of playing to where whatever we see you taking away you’re giving something up,” Steve Alford said. “And we feel like what you’re giving up is just as potent as what you’re taking away.”
UCLA has made 80.2% of its free throws, putting the Bruins on pace to beat the school record of 75.6% set during the 1978-79 season. “That can be a weapon for us moving down the road,” Steve Alford said. … Steve Alford said forward Alex Olesinski, who has not played this season because of a strained foot, is doubtful to play in the three Wooden Legacy games. … UCLA rose two spots to No. 14 in the Associated Press media poll.