An important announcement

After three-and-a-half years of covering UCLA, I will be switching to the Rams beat for the Los Angeles News Group. Thanks to everyone who ever read a blog post, shared an article, or responded to a tweet. It’s been a fun run for me, and I hope it has been for most of you as well. If you ever see me out and about, please don’t hesitate to say hello.

Replacing me starting today is Thuc Nhi Nguyen, who most recently covered the L.A. Galaxy for us as well as preps. She is, unlike many journalists, very good at math. You may remember her project on Josh Rosen two summers ago, which explored the various factors behind his success as St. John Bosco’s quarterback. Clay Fowler, who has written features on everything from Super Bowl I to how Lonzo Ball deals with his growing celebrity, will cover UCLA basketball.

As I leave, here are a few moments I’ll remember from the beat:

» How Jim Mora handled the death of receiver Nick Pasquale. From the way he embraced the Pasquale family, to the anger he directed at a camera operator’s press conference interruption — it all struck the right note of compassion and authenticity. Mora tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve, for better or worse. This was an example of the former.

» Myles Jack’s breakout game as a running back, in which he churned out 120 yards on six carries and stunned just about everyone at Arizona Stadium. Never before or since have I talked to players left as starstruck by a teammate.

» Watching the UCLA baseball team win its first national title in 2013, sweeping through the College World Series despite only finishing third in the Pac-12. After the final out and the celebratory dogpile, I stood on the field in Omaha and saw then-assistant coach T.J. Bruce celebrating with his family, tossing his two-year-old daughter into the air.

I asked what he had planned for the next day. “Recruiting,” he said.

If you’ve read this far, thanks again.

Best,
Jack

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UCLA’s Thomas Welsh named to Pac-12 All-Academic second team

UCLA center Thomas Welsh is the first Bruin named to a Pac-12 All-Academic team since 2010. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Archive)

UCLA center Thomas Welsh is the first Bruin named to a Pac-12 All-Academic team since 2010. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Archive)

Thomas Welsh has been named to the Pac-12 All-Academic second team, becoming the first UCLA men’s basketball player to receive such honors since 2010.

The sophomore center maintained a 3.18 GPA in economics while averaging 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season. He led the team with 10 double-doubles, but head coach Steve Alford never found a way to best utilize both him and senior big man Tony Parker in the same lineup en route to a 15-17 record.

Welsh is the first Bruin to win conference academic honors since Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, a little-used reserve who earned a first-team nod with a 3.81 GPA in global studies. Malcolm Lee made the second team behind him that same season.

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UCLA center Ikenna Okwarabizie undergoes shoulder surgery

UCLA center Ikenna Okwarabizie will be sidelined for six months after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound reserve joined the Bruins this past season after spending a year at Tyler Junior College in Texas. He only made seven appearances as a sophomore, grabbing four rebounds in 13 minutes.

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UCLA AD Dan Guerrero: ‘We’re not all about a coaching carousel’

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (center) talked on Tuesday about Steve Alford and the state of the Bruins' men's basketball program. (Brad Graverson/Staff)

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (center) talked on Tuesday about Steve Alford and the state of the Bruins’ men’s basketball program. (Brad Graverson/Staff)

After one of the most disappointing men’s basketball seasons in recent memory, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero responded today to fans who have called for him to fire head coach Steve Alford.

“I believe that those that want a coaching change are not going to be happy no matter what I say,” he said. “I believe that others who may be disappointed in the season will understand what UCLA’s all about. We’re not all about a coaching carousel every two or three years. We’re about building a program and doing our best to build our program the right way.

“There are very few coaches around the country that, in their first two years, at any place, will go to two Sweet 16s. You would hope that we would’ve been able to build on that. And we didn’t. We had a subpar year. There’s no question about that. But that was one year.”

Read the full Q&A here.

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UCLA women’s basketball reaches first Sweet 16 since 1999

For the first time since 1999, the UCLA women’s basketball team is heading to the Sweet 16.

The third-seeded Bruins earned themselves a spot on Monday night, holding off a resilient South Florida team for a 72-67 win at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA never trailed, but saw a 16-point lead dwindle to as little as one.

They will take the court again on March 26 against No. 2-seeded Texas.

“This is a huge next step for our program,” said Cori Close, the Bruins’ fifth-year coach.

» Sweet 16 run marks best year of Cori Close’s UCLA tenure

USF senior Courtney Williams, the nation’s 10th-leading scorer, led the game with 29 points — but did so by taking 32 shots. She missed her first eight shots of the night, pestered by defense from UCLA’s Nirra Fields, as well as forward Monique Billings.

Sophomore point guard Jordin Canada kept UCLA ahead late, shaking off a 1-for-11 start to score 17 points in the final quarter. She sank six free throws in the final 25 seconds.

The Bruins are one of four Pac-12 teams to make the Sweet 16, joining Oregon State, Stanford and Washington.

“You really gain credibility when you go do it on the biggest stage, the NCAA Tournament,” Close said. “The Pac-12 has sort of put its money where its mouth is.”

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