UCLA has no shortage of issues four games into the Mick Cronin era. The Bruins are learning to sustain effort, figuring out their rotation, trying to lower point guard Tyger Campbell’s minutes and attempting to give up fewer easy baskets around the rim.
All of those things are secondary to their coach’s biggest worry.
“We have got to change our assist-to-turnover ratio as a team,” Cronin said Wednesday. “That’s my No. 1 focus right now by far.”
UCLA has more turnovers (55) than assists (48) despite heady play from Campbell, the freshman whose 20 assists are more than double his eight turnovers.
Part of the problem is what Cronin called yo-yoing the ball with loose dribbles, leading to players losing the ball on their own or having it taken away by defenders.
“I’ve watched some people play right now and they can’t guard their lunch from my daughter’s friends in seventh grade at Campbell Hall,” Cronin said jokingly. “So right now we’ve got to take care of the ball.”
Cronin said maximizing efficiency on offense can make the difference in the trajectory of a season, noting that his first team to reach the NCAA tournament at Cincinnati did so largely as a result of avoiding excessive turnovers.
“I’ve coached some teams that maybe didn’t have NCAA tournament talent,” Cronin said, “but we made it because we took care of the ball. We have got to do that.”
Waiting for David Singleton
The Bruins (4-0) are bound to get better once David Singleton rounds into form.
The sophomore guard has recovered physically from the broken foot he suffered during the Pac-12 Conference tournament in March but has hardly resembled the player he was late last season.
He has made only one of six shots and averaged two points in 13 minutes per game.
“When you had the injury that he had and you don’t play for an extended period of time, there’s just no way you can be as fluid as you would have been if you wouldn’t have had that injury and not just the injury, just the lack of time on the court,” Cronin said.
Singleton said he was spending as much time as he could on the court, in the weight room and in the film room to regain his form.
“I just know that I’m nowhere near the potential that I can be right now,” Singleton said.
He’s no hack
Freshman forward Shareef O’Neal, who has made two of four free throws, said he didn’t learn his shooting form from father Shaquille but club coach Mark Brown. Shaquille, the Lakers legend, made only 52.7% of his free throws in the NBA, leading to the term “Hack-a-Shaq” because teams intentionally sent him to the free-throw line.
“He made sure that all his kids who decided to play basketball could make free throws,” Shareef said, “because he didn’t want us to go through what he went through.”
Cronin, on junior guard Chris Smith’s room for growth after reaching career highs in points in consecutive games: “He has to compete all the time. He can’t be an enigma. Potential is for 10th graders. When you’re a junior in college, you can’t have the word ‘potential’ attached to you anymore.” … Cronin said he would award the team’s one available scholarship to a walk-on player in January for the balance of the school year if the Bruins did not add a transfer to their roster by then. … Cronin said he would make a cameo appearance at the pep rally for the football team Thursday as part of rivalry week against USC. “I’m not crowd surfing,” Cronin said, “but I’ll do something.”
Up next for UCLA on Thursday
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Pauley Pavilion.
On the air: TV: Pac-12 Networks; Radio: 570.
Update: Cronin said he wanted to get freshman guard Jake Kyman into his first college game. “He had a little toe injury that threw him off for a few days and when he’s a shooter, I think he’s pushing off, so it was a little bit of a problem for him,” Cronin said, “but I love being able to play all your guys; they’re on scholarship for a reason.” Junior guard Tareq Coburn averages 15 points per game for Hofstra (2-2), which features five players averaging double figures in scoring.