Four-star running back T.J. Simmons commits to UCLA

For the first time in years, UCLA could sign multiple running backs to the same recruiting class.

Four-star running back T.J. Simmons announced his commitment to the Bruins on Monday, choosing them over Florida, Ohio State and LSU. Rivals.com ranks him as the 21st-best 2015 prospect at his position.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Lakeland, Fla., native joins 5-foot-10, 216-pound Bolu Olorunfunmi — a three-star recruit — in UCLA’s 2015 class. If both sign letters of intent next February, their arrival will mark the first time since 2010 that the program added two tailbacks at once.

That year, Malcolm Jones and Jordon James became Bruins. The former had a unspectacular UCLA career, while the latter will likely be the team’s lead back this fall.

UCLA technically signed Paul Perkins and Fabian Moreau in 2012, but the latter quickly converted to cornerback and could be an all-conference talent there.

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Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus commits to UCLA

UCLA has added one more option to fill out the largest hole on its roster.

Colorado State point guard Jon Octeus will play his last year of college ball in Los Angeles, according to Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. The graduate transfer will help repair a thin backcourt that loses All-American point guard Kyle Anderson — a constant triple-double threat who was drafted 30th overall last night.

Octeus was third on the Rams in scoring (13.4), rebounding (4.7) and assists (2.3), starting all 32 games. He picked the Bruins over Missouri and Cincinnati.

He is now the only UCLA point guard with significant starting experience. The other candidates at the position are Bryce Alford, who backed up Anderson last season, and former five-star recruit Isaac Hamilton, who sat out the season for breaking his letter of intent to UTEP.

The Bruins struck pay dirt they last time they relied on a one-year transfer point guard. In 2012-13, Larry Drew II shed his maligned reputation at UNC by dishing out 256 assists — a new UCLA single-season record.

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Alford says Anderson, Adams can compensate for lack of athleticism

Of the UCLA trio selected in first round of Thursday’s NBA draft, one was chosen based almost solely on athletic ability. The other two, not so much.

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams may have to combine their test results to equal Zach LaVine’s 46-inch vertical, but UCLA coach Steve Alford isn’t worried about the criticism of his two sophomores’ athleticism. The 22nd and 30th picks of the draft may be diving into the deep end of the talent pool next season, but Alford is confident they’re in particularly good shape for the NBA above the shoulders.

“I think athleticism is way overrated for the most part,” Alford said. “You can either play or you can’t play and Jordan really understands how to play. You could give me the most athletic guy that we’ve played against collegiately this year and Jordan probably outplayed him because of being smarter and being tougher.”

To the credit of Adams, chosen 22nd by the Memphis Grizzlies, the 6-foot-5 guard was more than just a scorer at UCLA. He set a school record with 95 steals last season, an impressive statistic for someone projected as a potential defensive liability in the NBA.

Alford echoed some of his sentiments about Adams when referencing Anderson, who was selected 30th by the San Antonio Spurs. The third college basketball player in the last 30 years to average at least 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a season, the 6-foot-9 Anderson made a compelling case for Alford’s argument that he is a truly unique player with more than athleticism to lean on at the next level.

“As good a basketball IQ as I’ve coached,” Alford said of Anderson. “Sometimes a lot of people get wrapped up in athleticism and being able to jump over the backboard but do you know how to play the game?”

“I told him (Friday) morning, you don’t change who you are but you’ve got to take advantage of going to a franchise, an organization that really gets it from the bottom all the way to the top. So listen. Listen to people. You’ve always been coachable. Make sure you stay that way.”

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Alford: LaVine took advantage of UCLA brand, system to raise draft stock

In Steve Alford’s estimation, it wasn’t just Zach LaVine’s freakish athleticism that vaulted the freshman into the elite lottery portion of Thursday night’s NBA draft.

Wearing the UCLA letters across his chest for his lone collegiate season had plenty to do with LaVine becoming the 13th overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves, not to mention the fast-paced offensive approach employed by UCLA’s first-year coach.

“(LaVine) came in and he used the brand and this system,” Alford said. “I’ve always said it’s a very, very powerful brand and I think our style of play getting up and down the floor allows somebody like that to flourish and he had a tremendous freshman year.”

Though LaVine played just 37 college basketball games before achieving such lofty status, Alford didn’t know he had a lottery pick on his hands when the freshman reported to Westwood last summer.

“I don’t think you ever think that,” Alford said. “The NBA is a whole different level and mind set. We saw him this summer and he had incredible athleticism.

“To say we saw him being a lottery pick last summer, no.”

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