It was announced that freshman point guard Tyger Campbell will be out for the 2018-19 season due to a tear in his ACL. What does this mean for the UCLA basketball team who will be without three players to start the season?
This season was looking so promising. The UCLA basketball team was bringing in a Top 5 recruiting class chockful of 4 and 5-star rated recruits. The depth and talent of these young players were going to adjust for the fact that the Bruins do not have a lot of experience.
UCLA lost three key players from last season as Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh made the jump to the NBA and Gyorgy Goloman graduated. The addition of C Moses Brown, PF Shareef O’Neal, SG Jules Bernard, SG David Singleton, C Kenny Nwuba and the talented PG Tyger Campbell was going to keep the Bruins competitive in a year that they could have taken the Pac-12 Conference.
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That narrative is slowly fading as it was announced on Tuesday morning that Campbell is out for the 2018-19 season due to a torn ACL. This injury alone would not be that bad (it does affect point guard play, which I will get into in a bit), but considering the Bruins will be without two other players to start the season makes a very unideal situation for head coach Steve Alford.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that reserve power forward and one of only two upperclassmen on the team, Alex Olesinski, will miss the first few months of the season due to a foot injury. A few days after that, it was revealed that O’Neal would miss the season due to a heart condition (on a positive note, O’Neal is determined to return to basketball and will continue attending classes at UCLA).
Unfortunately, the positivity has taken a step back with the loss of Campbell.
All of these injuries hurt the Bruins, which arguably would have given Alford one of the deepest rosters in his tenure if all three Bruins were healthy. The loss of O’Neal could have been sustained as UCLA still has Brown, Nwuba, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley to help out down low. The Bruins also have Chris Smith and Kris Wilkes, though they will most likely play out on the wings rather than under the basket, but the loss of Campbell might prove to be a bigger loss.
With Campbell out, sophomore PG Jaylen Hands will be the only floor general on the roster. Last season, Hands did a respectable job backing up Holiday, though there were a few things he needed to get control of, most notably, his propensity to turn the ball over and playing out of control.
Hands is a very talented ball player that has good hands, the ability to score quickly and is extremely fast, but can he handle leading the offense on his own?
Last season, Holiday averaged 37.7 minutes per game. Hands was not expected to do that with the addition of Campbell, but now it appears he might have to cover as much of that ground as possible, though he will not be expected to play all 40 minutes.
That could lead Alford to move one of his three shooting guards over to point, Prince Ali (the only other upperclassman on the team), Bernard or Singleton. Though he might be more suited to play out on the wing, the player that might best help backup Hands could be Bernard. Not only does he possess some amazing talent and a sharp basketball IQ, but he has good ball handling skills which is something the Bruins need this season.
What could be an even more ideal situation is having Singleton play at the 1 spot, keeping Bernard on the wing, which will help with ball movement, control and keep the pace uptempo.
Again, this is not ideal. UCLA has the talent, but it has quickly been shedding from what was previously expected. This is not great for Alford who was apparently given an ultimatum in the off-season: Final Four or final season. Hopefully, he can put something together to make the Bruins competitive and compete for the conference title this season.