The program’s first trip to Kentucky’s Rupp Arena and a pair of games against reputable Big Ten programs headlined the UCLA men’s basketball 2016-17 nonconference schedule released Tuesday.
Of 13 nonconference opponents including Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio State, only three remain unknown. The Wooden Legacy, an eight-team tournament beginning on Thanksgiving, includes three UCLA contests yet to be determined against a field of Texas A&M, Dayton, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland and Cal State Northridge.
Despite a nonconference slate last season dotted with matchups against the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga and Kentucky, UCLA went 9-5 during the portion of the season where it showed the most promise. Tying the worst conference record in school history, a 6-12 mark good for 10th in the Pac-12, is what the Bruins are hoping to avoid this season.
“We’re confident that this nonconference schedule is not only going to go a long way towards helping our team prepare for Pac-12 play, but ultimately it’s going to pay dividends for us in March,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “Over the last three years, we’ve upgraded our program’s non-conference schedule, and this year is no exception.”
A year ago this time, Nate Meadors was a senior at San Gorgonio High School without a single major conference scholarship offer. The precipitous ascent of over the last 12 months could land him in the UCLA secondary rotation as a true freshman.
Meadors played out of position his final year of high school, but the athleticism he displayed as a quarterback led to an onslaught of scholarship offers including Notre Dame, Oregon and several other Pac-12 programs. The safety’s choice of UCLA looks good so far.
After enrolling in the spring, Meadors made significant inroads during spring practice. The 6-foot, 190-pound freshman has put on 10 pounds since joining the Bruins and likes his chances to earn playing time this season.
“That was the whole reason I came to spring practice, was so I could get a better edge, better for me so I could play as a true freshman,” Meadors said. “I think I’m doing pretty well so far and once I get all the plays down, I’ll be really good.” Continue reading
Myles Jack was kicked out of practice on Friday after an extended display of anger by the UCLA linebacker following a scuffle with an offensive lineman.
Jack was restrained by several different coaches and players for the entirety of the ensuing water break, but when the linebacker continued to yell in the direction of left tackle Conor McDermott, head coach Jim Mora directed an assistant coach to “get him out of here.” This is the second consecutive fall camp Jack has been kicked out of a practice.
“Sometimes there’s flare-ups, there’s dust-ups,” UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure said. “It’s really how you recover as a team. You expect the leadership to take control of the locker room.”
Jalen Hill, a five-star center who committed on Sunday to UCLA, could look significantly different when he arrives on campus in 2017.
The Corona Centennial junior-to-be turned 15 in December. He could easily be a 2018 prospect based on his age alone. Hill is touted as a defensive center, but his offensive game is developing as rapidly as his 6-foot-8 body, according to his high school coach, who noted that Hill’s father is 6-9 and his mother is “at least 6-3.”
“Most kids who are this tall this young can’t chew gum and walk, but Jalen is one of the fastest, most agile players on our team,” Centennial basketball coach Josh Giles said. “A year ago, sure, he was more of a defensive guy, but he’s increased his range and he is a much better outside shooter. He’s got much more to his game than just defense.”
Giles thought enough of Hill’s perimeter skills to call the Scout.com five-star prospect a stretch-4. Hill’s offensive development was on display earlier this month when he set a record for the 16U USA Basketball team on its way to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship. He connected on 88 percent (15 of 17) of his field goal attempts in the tournament’s five games, breaking Jahlil Okafor’s 2011 mark of 71 percent shooting.
It has been an unexpectedly eventful summer for Hill, who wasn’t anticipated to issue a commitment this early. His decision boiled down to UCLA and Arizona, according to Giles. Continue reading
UCLA head coach Jim Mora wouldn’t commit to 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore Conor McDermott making his second consecutive start at left tackle on Saturday.
With injuries and inexperience having limited him to 22 snaps entering last week’s surprise start, McDermott held up impressively for 89 plays in Saturday’s 36-34 win over Cal.
With McDermott’s start shifting former left tackle Malcolm Bunche to guard, an offensive line that allowed 24 sacks in the first six games gave up just one to Cal.
Mora, however, is still cautiously approaching his use of McDermott entering Saturday’s meeting with Colorado.
“Has he done enough to stay in the starting lineup? Yes,” Mora said. “Will he? We’ll see.”