Steve Alford talks state of UCLA basketball heading into 2015-16

UCLA head coach Steve Alford stands during the introductions before the Bruins' 72-63 win over Oregon on Feb.14, 2015. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA head coach Steve Alford stands during the introductions before the Bruins’ 72-63 win over Oregon on Feb.14, 2015. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

This morning, UCLA men’s basketball ran an instructional clinic with Special Olympic athletes at Pauley Pavilion. A group of UCLA students regularly run the clinics every Saturday, and had reached out to the team to collaborate this weekend. The Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles from July 25 to August 2.

After the session on Saturday, UCLA coach Steve Alford talked about participating in the event and the state of his program — including thoughts on Jonah Bolden’s role, and whether or not point guard Bryce Alford might be taken off scholarship.

On being involved with the Special Olympics:

“The more you give, the more you get out. I’ve been involved with the Special Olympics since 1984, when I got back from Los Angeles being a part of the Olympics. … Every stop I’ve made, I’ve been involved with it. Anytime that they reach out to us, and we get a chance to be around the Special Olympians, we want to do that. Give them a chance to run down Pauley Pavilion. It’s not like any other court. It’s a special time for these kids to be able to do that. …

“The personalities come out. You get to see the ones that have flash. The ones that have swag. The ones that shoot threes. Ones that want to post up. Ones that want to guard. It’s a lot of fun seeing that. … The passion that they play with, that’s a very encouraging thing.”

On how he feels about state of UCLA’s roster heading into his third season:

“Good. Our freshmen get here about the 20th, 21st of this month. [Four-star guards Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali, three-star forward Alex Olesinski, JUCO transfer center Ikenna Okwarabizie] Once we get those guys in, it’s as full a roster as we’ve been able to have. We’ll have a minimum of 11 guys on scholarship, and I haven’t had that since I’ve been here. So we’re starting to get depth now in all of our positions. That’s an encouraging thing. Last year, we didn’t have much of a summer, to where we were able to play five-on-five. Right now, Jonah (Bolden)’s the only one battling an injury. It should be a summer where we get a lot of five-on-five work, which will help.”

On former four-star recruit Jonah Bolden’s role after sitting out the 2014-15 season:

“He’s a big guard. Being able to play somebody that’s 6-9, 6-9 1/2, long wingspan — to be able to play him at a guard position will help. And then we can swing him a little bit, like we did with Kyle (Anderson). 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. You know, it’s his first year. Anytime you’re a freshman, you’re going to go through some growing pains. But hopefully, he’ll be back healthy by mid-July, to where he can get a good summer in.”

On whether or not he may take point guard Bryce Alford off scholarship to open up another spot in the 2016 recruiting class:

“No, we haven’t talked about that. But obviously, that’s something that we can do. What we’re encouraged by, is that now we’re getting ahead of the game. We’ve been here two years. We got here, and there were seven guys on scholarship. We lost five of those seven to the NBA. You almost have to start over in your recruiting process from that standpoint.

“It’s not a hit; that’s encouraging when you’re getting that many guys in the NBA. And now, two more (in Kevon Looney and Norman Powell). So seven in two years. I’m not so certain that we always want to get to that 13 number. We’ll probably never get to that point, but having 11 and 12 (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.”

On Kevon Looney saying he didn’t show his full potential at UCLA, and whether the coaching staff could have helped him more:

“Oh, I thought he was terrific. He played every game for us, started every game for us. He was the only freshman that I can think of in the country at 6-9, in his position, that averaged 32 minutes and averaged (close to) a double-double. So I don’t know what more — what he could have done, or what we could have done. He’s in a really good situation. He’s only 19 years of age, and that’s what that next level’s got to see. He’s 19 years old. He’s only going to get better.

“But as far as what we could have done? 32 minutes, 12 points, 9.5 rebounds — there weren’t a lot of freshmen doing that.”

  • ProbationU

    Well, it might have been nice if they ran a play or two to get Kevon the ball a little more. A little more Kevon and a little less Bryce. A little more to Tony Parker as well. A little more Thomas Welsh. Getting the ball inside helps win games, even if it comes back out.

    • OCBruin78

      Wow, did you read his response before you put on your “hate Alford” hat to spew some nonsense that you usually post on that crappy site that is run by bunch of USUCK people macerating as Bruins? Kevon was similar to Zac. lots of potential but totally raw talent that needed time to develop.
      You are welcome to come down to Pauley floor and try out for a round of one on one with any of the staff to show your basketball IQ

      • ProbationU

        If you paid some attention to the latter half of the year, they got better as they went inside more. Take another look at the UAB game.

        And yes, if you can have a set play where one guy has the ball and 3 guys are simply setting picks for Bryce, then you can have a set for Kevon and Tony. Or, actually run the motion offense that you stated you ran, similar to Indiana.

        The Bruins played better when they shared the ball. If wanting a team to put forth effort on D and share the ball makes me an Alford hater, then so be it. I just want to see team basketball. It’s what I grew up watching.

        • Bigwoof1

          I am not an Alford hater. I think he’s done a very good job so far and by the end of last season the team even overachieved by their tournament performance. But I basically agree with Prob. U’s analysis. It’s also not that different from what Bill Walton said quite often, and despite his constant spewing and ‘act’ that’s getting tiring and cliched Walton does know a bit about the game. The team clearly was better when Brice was not overhandling the ball and when more players were involved in the offense. With the increased depth on this year’s team hopefully we will see improvement both offensively and defensively and the team will do better and the complaints in this forum and elsewhere will decrease.

  • Sam C

    Coach grade your first years here at ucla. Where could you have done better? What are you most proud of? What plans do you have for the next year, and three years for that matter?