Center Mac Etienne playing this season for UCLA? It’s a real possibility

UCLA coach Mick Cronin reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin reacts during a game against Pepperdine on Nov. 27. One of the top center prospects of 2021 could be playing for the Bruins this season.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

A late-season reinforcement might have arrived on UCLA’s campus.

He’s 6 feet 10, can run from baseline to baseline in a flash, and possesses an array of impressive moves around the basket.

His name is Mac Etienne, and Bruins broadcasters Josh Lewin and Tracy Murray could be calling his name before March.

Etienne’s arrival is another oddity that can be pinned on COVID-19. Ranked as the nation’s fifth-best center prospect in his class by 247Sports, Etienne had already graduated from high school and gave up waiting for an imperiled prep school season to join the Bruins for the winter quarter.


At the very least, Etienne can redshirt this season while practicing with his new teammates and enhancing his development through UCLA’s strength and conditioning program.

There’s also the chance that he comes far enough along by late in the season to actually play.

Michaela Onyenwere finishes with 19 points for UCLA, but it’s not enough to prevent top-ranked Stanford from staying unbeaten on the season.

Dec. 21, 2020

“If he gets to the point where he’s physically and mentally on the same page with our team and it’s something that he wants to do, then obviously I’m going to support him and we’ll go from there,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Monday, “but right now we’re not even close to that point.”

There are several hurdles Etienne would have to clear before heading to the scorer’s table to check into a game. He needs to receive medical clearance, start learning Cronin’s system and see how he fits in with the Bruins.

“He is not in shape. He does not know one damn thing that we do. He is far, far from it,” Cronin said of Etienne’s readiness. “But if we ever get to that point, whether it’s February or whatever and that is something that he wants to talk about, I’m going to support him no matter what he decides on that topic.”

Should Etienne play this season, he would still have four years of remaining eligibility under NCAA rules related to the pandemic.

Cronin said he discussed similar early enrollments with Long Beach Poly’s Peyton Watson and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman’s Will McClendon, the other two members of his most recent recruiting class. But McClendon only recently learned that his high school season would not be played and Watson holds out hope that the Jackrabbits will be able to start their season, allowing him at least a handful of additional games alongside his younger brother Christian.


Not taking offense

Dan Cronin, who has closely followed his younger sibling’s teams since Mick coached high school basketball in Cincinnati, recently alluded to it on social media.

“I keep wanting to recheck that like it’s gotta be a misprint right,” Dan Cronin tweeted this month.

Nope, it’s absolutely correct.

The Bruins’ women’s basketball coach and her players found communication to be the key during a summer of social unrest.

Dec. 21, 2020

For once, Mick Cronin’s team might have a better offense than its defense. The Bruins’ adjusted offensive efficiency ranked No. 11 nationally Monday, according to, compared with No. 60 defensively.

Mick Cronin said it is the highest offensive rating of any team he has ever coached, in large part because of zippy ball movement.

“We haven’t even shot the ball well yet from the three-point line from some of our better shooters,” Cronin said, “but we’re passing the ball extremely well.”

Cronin said he was emphasizing passes regardless of whether they led to assists, mentioning that the Golden State Warriors try to throw 300 passes in a game and the San Antonio Spurs try to give up good shots for great ones.

“Too many kids, they want to make the assist all the time, they want to drive and all that,” Cronin said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to give it to the next guy, keep giving it to the next guy.”