UCLA might run it back with a familiar core now that Tyger Campbell is returning

UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell drives against North Carolina's RJ Davis during a Sweet 16 game March 25.
UCLA’s Tyger Campbell drives against North Carolina’s RJ Davis during a Sweet 16 game March 25. Campbell intends to return to play for the Bruins next season, his mother, Jennifer Krekeler-Campbell, told The Times.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

UCLA might be getting most of the band back together.

Point guard Tyger Campbell intends to return to play for the Bruins next season, his mother, Jennifer Krekeler-Campbell, told The Times on Saturday night, allowing the team to retain its primary playmaker.

Campbell has two seasons of eligibility remaining, and his return alongside that of guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. will provide a major boost to the team’s national championship hopes. A two-time first-team All-Pac-12 Conference selection, Campbell averaged 11.9 points and 4.3 assists per game last season while compiling an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.2-to-1.


Guard Jules Bernard has also preserved the right to return while soliciting feedback about his NBA draft prospects, meaning the Bruins could have as many as three starters back. Guard Johnny Juzang has said he would declare for the draft, commencing his professional career, and forward Cody Riley is not expected to return after having spent five seasons in the program.

After sitting out his first college season because of a torn knee ligament, Campbell has been a primary component of coach Mick Cronin’s efforts to quickly restore the luster on the UCLA basketball brand, providing toughness and a steadying presence in addition to his scoring and passing. Campbell has also significantly improved his three-point accuracy, making 41% of his shots from beyond the arc last season after having made 26.7% as a freshman and 25% as a sophomore.

No one could call UCLA’s spring showcase a game, but optimism overflowed in front of fans as fifth-year quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson shined.

Campbell is often at his best when his best is needed.

He scored eight of UCLA’s final 10 points during a comeback victory over Akron in the first round of the NCAA tournament, including a three-pointer from NBA range. Campbell then supplied 16 points and four assists with only one turnover in the second round against Saint Mary’s.

Next season, Campbell will have a true backup point guard on the roster for the first time with the arrival of highly touted freshman Dylan Andrews. Freshman combo guard Amari Bailey will also be able to help with some of the ballhandling duties, as will Bernard if he decides to return.

But there’s no question who will have the ball in his hands most of the time: the floppy-haired 5-foot-11 point guard with the outsized determination.