With the return of two key players along with a group of talented freshmen, Steve Alford could have his deepest bench since becoming the Bruins’ coach.
When Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday announced they would be returning to the UCLA Bruins’ basketball team, a deep sigh of relief was let out by all fans of the Blue and Gold. Not only did it mean that two of the Bruins’ top scorers would again be on the floor for Coach Alford, but it instantly added to the depth of the 2017-18 team. It also meant that Alford wouldn’t be forced to start four freshmen.
With junior Aaron Holiday and senior Thomas Welsh coming back, in addition to redshirt sophomore Prince Ali coming back from injury, the Bruins may only need to start two of their freshmen. This means that the Bruins should have a fairly deep bench, especially in the frontcourt.
Let’s take a look at a few Bruins who will be contributing from off the bench this year:
LiAngelo Ball Freshman 6’5″ Guard
Not the highest rated player coming into UCLA this year but LiAngelo Ball could be the most recognizable by name alone. The younger brother of former Bruins and current Lakers’ point guard Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo is more of a shooter than his older brother. He also has the most conventional looking shot of his brothers.
While his 33.8 points a game his senior season at Chino Hills HS is impressive, the high flying, shoot quick style that Chinos Hills played should be taken into account.
According to prepcircuit.com, Ball shot 33% in 25 games as a senior but that was, I’m assuming, while taking plenty of shots. At UCLA, he will be taking fewer shots so hopefully this will lead to a better shooting percentage.
Jaylen Hands Freshman 6’2” Guard
One of the most highly touted freshman UCLA has coming in this year, Jaylen Hands could see himself either starting or seeing a significant amount of playing time coming off the bench. The five star recruit from Foothills Christian HS in El Cajon, California has a quick first step to the basket but can also pull up for a mid range shot. Hands is also a fantastic distributor of the ball. This should help to give his Bruins teammates open looks all over the court.
Hands versatility will also be helpful when Holiday is in playing point guard as Hands has the ability score playing the two guard.
Gyorgy Goloman Senior 6’11” Forward/Center
In his three years at UCLA, Goloman has provided a few high points, a few low ones, and a whole lot of solid play. His numbers don’t necessarily show it, 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds a game, but GG’s presence on the court is a stabilizing one. With a recruiting class coming in that includes one five star, two four star, and one three star frontcourt player, GG may see his playing time diminish.
But even with less playing time, Goloman will be a veteran on the court, on the bench, and during practice. His biggest value this year may be his senior presents around the younger players.
The Bruins’ starting five may change throughout the season with Alford looking to rotate between a big, power lineup and a Welsh-less, quick lineup. Even with the loss of four starters from last year’s team, UCLA’s returning starters and freshmen class coming in will give Coach Alford the depth to experiment with different lineups. Alford will also have the ability to rest players during the season and have capable replacements if someone gets injured or in foul trouble.
If the freshmen class is as good as advertised, the Bruins may have their deepest team since the 2006-07 team. Not to say that this team will also make the Final Four, but by midseason, they should have a strong rotation eight, nine, or even ten players deep.