This weekend, Jack Wang of InsideSoCal talked to UCLA basketball head coach Steve Alford about the current state of the program. After going 22-14 with a second straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen in Alford’s second year, the Bruins are once again looking to improve, though they will have to do it with a roster that once again looks completely different from the previous season.
Alford spoke to Wang about several things including the depth of the roster, his son Bryce Alford‘s role with scholarships and what redshirt freshman Jonah Bolden will bring to the table this winter.
Though it is a quick read, it gives UCLA basketball fans a lot of perspective going into the 2015-16 season.
With the roster going forward, we know that the Bruins will be without Norman Powell and Kevon Looney who are heading to the NBA Draft. Because the UCLA basketball team was not very deep last season (they lost five players to the NBA the previous season plus had seldom used Wanaah Bail academically ineligible half-way through the season and then transferred out), Alford has an interesting situation going into next season.
The Bruins return Bryce, Isaac Hamilton, Tony Parker, Thomas Welsh, Noah Allen, and Gyorgy Goloman. Next season, UCLA basketball finally gets to utilize the services of Bolden as well as four new comers as incoming freshmen Aaron Holiday, Prince Ali, Alex Olesinski and juco transfer Ikenna Okwarabizie will make there way to Westwood.
"We’ll have a minimum of 11 guys on scholarship and I haven’t had that since I’ve been here."
Though there are questions about whether Alford is obtaining the right players for the program, having a packed roster is a start.
One of the key elements to that is how Bolden fits in. Before the 2014-15 season, Bolden was ruled ineligible to play, but has since been cleared by the NCAA. That gives the 6’9″ Australian his first shot at playing college ball next year and according to Alford, he has the talent to be used in many positions.
"We can play him at the big guard, we can play him at the stretch four. Good rebounder, great passer and he can score it. He can score it all the way out to the three-point line."
Too bad Bolden could not have played last year with the equally talented Looney. Still, to have a player of that size that can do as much as Alford says he can is something to look forward to… again.
Alford then asked about the scenario of possibly pulling Bryce’s scholarship to make room for an extra player in the next year or two. Now this does not mean Bryce would lose his spot on the team, just releiving him of his scholarship to add another player to the roster for the allotted 13.
Jan 24, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Bryce Alford (20) dribbles the ball against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
"No, we haven’t talked about that. But obviously it is something we can do."
It is something he can do, but it also seems as if he is in no rush to load the roster with the 13 allotted scholarships.
"I am not certain that we always want to get to that 13 number. We’ll probably never get to that point, but having 12 or 13 (scholarships) every year is going to be good. Our ’16 class is filling out very well. We’re now getting in a position of strength where the numbers game isn’t a problem as to what it was a year ago."
Sure it is a tricky game balancing scholarships and rosters every year, especially with the uncertainty of players leaving for the NBA or transferring, but one would think a coach should at least attempt to have the maximum amount of scholarship players on hand. Still, things seem to finally be falling into place for Alford and having 11 players will put UCLA basketball in the best position to succeed next season.
For Bruin fan’s sake, let us hope tat is the case.