The UCLA Bruin basketball team lost a ton of production from last season to the NBA and graduation, which was discussed in a previous analysis of the basketball team, and replacing all of that talent will not be easy. However, according to 247 Sports, the Bruins have the seventh ranked incoming freshman class so that will make the transition a little easier. But just how far can these four freshmen take the Bruins in 2014-15? Can, top recruit, Kevon Looney be the next Carmelo Anthony and carry a team to a championship as a freshman? Let’s take a look.
Three of the incoming freshman are ESPN Top 100 players and that group is led by 5* forward Kevon Looney who is the 12th ranked player in the top 100. Up next is 4* center, the 36th overall player, Thomas Welsh. Joining Looney and Welsh in Westwood is 4* forward Jonah Bolden, the 69th ranked player, and Hungarian center Gyorgy Goloman. I expect Goloman to be a garbage time player this season, but the other three freshmen may all be huge contributors this season.
Lets start with Goloman. He is a little bit of an unknown having received only one high level D1 basketball scholarship, but he could be a steal for head coach Steve Alford. Goloman is a great passer for a big man, can shoot the mid range jumper very well, and can finish with both hands, but he has a lot of work to do in the weight room. He is the odd man out with all the young frontcourt talent and will not make any impact his freshman year.
Up next is Jonah Bolden. He is the only person associated with the UCLA basketball team that was happy when Jordan Adams bolted for the NBA because that means more playing time for him as a freshman. Bolden gets some comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his incredible length and ability to beat defenders off the dribble, but the college body just isn’t there yet. Bolden may be a guy who learns a lot and bulks up early in the season and becomes the difference maker down the stretch when he comes into his own. Do not expect immediate impact out of Bolden, Bruin fans, but patience is the key and he could be a big contributor by years end.
Time for the big fellow, 7’0” 245 pound, center Thomas Welsh. He is big, has great hands, and knows how to finish at the rim. Welsh needs to work on his strength, as do most freshmen, and he also needs to work on his quickness. All that being said, he will be Tony Parker’s back up and will be able to fill in for him admirably. Welsh is a future NBA player and may not be in Westwood for four seasons. As for his freshman season he will challenge Parker to be better and will fill in whenever he needs a breather.
Now it is time for the big name and the guy who will carry the Bruins this upcoming season. Kevon Looney can score from anywhere, rebound with anyone, and can play both forward positions, making him the frontcourt talent UCLA has missed since Kevin Love left. He is a great teammate and his unselfishness makes him that much better of a player. However, I do not think he is the answer to the Bruin fans championship prayers, at least as a freshman. He is not the type of player who can take over a game like Carmelo did at Syracuse. He will probably average a double double, but I am not sure if he has the Carmelo effect on the Bruins. If Looney stays more than one season, which is unlikely, he will have a great opportunity to lead the young Bruins to a championship in a year or two.
Overall, Bruin fans should be excited about what their incoming freshmen class will bring to the table. The Bruins are replacing six players, and 55 points, from last years team, but between the four of these freshmen they may have found over 30 points of scoring. The Bruins are deep, young, and talented and the future of UCLA basketball is looking bright.