One of the three members of the UCLA basketball team’s prized recruiting class won’t make his debut with the other two.
Freshman center Ike Anigbogu tore his right meniscus during practice last week and scout.com’s No. 17 recruit in the class of 2016 will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery on Tuesday. The tear is small enough that UCLA is hopeful for a return before Thanksgiving, in which case he would only miss the first four games of the season: Pacific, Can State Northridge, San Diego and Long Beach State.
On a team loaded with offensive talent, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Anigbogu is the most imposing defensive presence. There isn’t another player on the UCLA roster in the mold of a rim protector who plays such a physical style.
“He’s a big body and we can pressure up more because we know Ike is in the back cleaning up shots and getting rebounds,” senior guard Isaac Hamilton said. “He’s going to be a huge key to our success.” Continue reading
For the second time in as many meetings with the media prior to the season, UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford was asked about the public letter he wrote following last season, an apology for the fourth losing campaign at UCLA since John Wooden retired 41 years ago.
In his response on Friday at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco, Alford referenced Wooden himself, citing the expectations at UCLA created by a man whose accomplishments are unmatched by any coach in the history of college basketball.
“Coach Wooden raised the bar at UCLA,” Alford said. “That bar was raised a long time ago in Westwood by a guy that won a bucket-load of games and a lot of championships and established something that, quite honestly, hasn’t been established anywhere else in the country. So when that bar is that way, there’s expectations. When you don’t meet or come close to those expectations, we talk to our players all the time, there are going to be consequences.”
Alford made clear the consequences to which he referred included his voluntary return of a one-year contract extension through 2020-21, information in the letter he penned after losing the final five games of last season to finish 15-17. Continue reading
From left to right, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Lonzo Ball form the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, according to rivals.com.
Only Oregon and Arizona were chosen to finish ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. Returning nearly all of the Elite Eight team from last season, Oregon received 23 of the first-place votes and Arizona the remaining four, but UCLA finished third by a wide margin.
In the poll released Friday at Pac-12 Media Day, 50 votes separated the Bruins from Cal, which finished 10 votes ahead of fifth-place Colorado. Featuring perhaps the best freshman in the country in Markelle Fultz, Washington finished sixth, followed by USC and Utah.
UCLA can argue it may have the best freshman in the country in Lonzo Ball. Only Arizona landed a more highly ranked group of freshman in the conference than UCLA’s top-five recruiting class including forward T.J. Leaf and center Ike Anigbogu.
Seeing as the Bruins graduated just one player from the team that finished only ahead of Arizona State and Washington State last season, UCLA was richly rewarded by the media for their recruiting haul.
2016-17 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Oregon (23)
2. Arizona (4)
3. UCLA Continue reading
UCLA is the lone team in the USA Today coaches’ preseason poll that finished last season with a losing record.
There are a couple of entries at nine games over .500. Texas was just five games above the mark and Rhode Island is the closest at 17-15.
Expectations for the upcoming season became a little more real as the Bruins earned a No. 20 preseason ranking in the first major poll released ahead of the 2016-17 season. UCLA obviously isn’t the only team on the list with a top-five recruiting class, but Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu are expected to elevate their program more than any other freshmen in the country.
2016-17 USA TODAY COACHES’ PRESEASON POLL
1. Duke (27)
2. Kansas (1)
3. Villanova (1)
4. Kentucky (2)
5. Oregon (1) Continue reading
Senior Isaac Hamilton, the Pac-12’s top returning scorer, is a stark contrast to the other member of UCLA’s backcourt named to a preseason award watch list.
How deep is the UCLA backcourt? Two guards have been named to preseason award watch lists – not including two returners who were starting guards last year.
Senior Isaac Hamilton, the top returning scorer in the Pac-12, was a natural choice for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award watch list announced Tuesday. The buzz about freshman Lonzo Ball is only growing after he earned the distinction as a watch list candidate for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.
To illustrate the depth in the UCLA backcourt, consider that Bryce Alford, who averaged seven tenths of a point less than Hamilton last season, is a certainty to be in the starting lineup when the season begins Nov. 11. As for Aaron Holiday, whose minutes are more difficult to project than the coach’s son, all he did was averaged double figures as a freshman last season and play the best on-ball defense of anybody on the roster. Continue reading