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.”