UCLA basketball 2017 report card: TJ Leaf

TJ Leaf was the most dynamic offensive weapon for the highest-scoring team in college basketball

Strengths: TJ Leaf was the best one-on-one player on the highest-scoring team in the country. Coupled with the freshman forward’s ability to run (and stretch) the floor, he was UCLA’s most dynamic offensive weapon. Surrounded by shooters and the best facilitator in college basketball, Leaf was in an ideal situation to succeed. But when he needed to create his own shot, he had abundant success scoring on anyone from anywhere. His 61.7 field goal percentage ranked fourth among all power five conference players and the 6-foot-10 freshman shot 47 percent from 3-point range, making him the best stretch four in college basketball aside from Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen.

Weaknesses: Leaf was plenty athletic and surprisingly physical on the defensive end, but he was very slow to adapt as a help defender. Most of Leaf’s defensive shortcomings were mental. He was slow to rotate, was consistently beaten on back-door cuts and generally had a difficult time keeping his head on a swivel. UCLA’s lack of perimeter defense put an unhealthy amount of pressure on UCLA’s big men, but it also exposed Leaf’s lack of continuity with his teammates on the defensive end.

Best moment: One of Leaf’s best halves of the season maintained UCLA’s elite status at a critical point in the season. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: TJ Leaf” »

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Ike Anigbogu hires agent, won’t return to UCLA basketball team

Ike Anigbogu hired an agent on Thursday, meaning UCLA’s entire three-man 2016 recruiting class won’t return for a second season.

Ike Anigbogu has hired an agent and won’t return to UCLA

Fifteen days ago, the 6-foot-10 freshman announced he would declare for the NBA draft. Since then, he has received favorable news about where he will be selected, leading to his decision to sign with agent Jason Glushon.

“With the feedback he’s been getting, I think it’s been made clear to him and his family that it looks like he’s going to be a first-round pick,” said Josh Giles, Anigbogu’s coach at Corona Centennial High School. “Nothing is a guarantee, but this is as close to a guarantee as you can get.”

READ: Ike Anigbogu hires agent, will take his chances in NBA draft

In seeking advice about Anigbogu’s next move, his family has relied heavily on Giles and Etop Udo-Ema, the founder of Anigbogu’s AAU team, The Compton Magic.

Anigbogu’s decision is based on a fascinating contrast. Continue reading “Ike Anigbogu hires agent, won’t return to UCLA basketball team” »

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Ike Anigbogu

UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu didn’t earn the playing time expected of scout.com’s No. 17 recruit in the country last season. (Brian Rothmuller/Getty Images)

Strengths: Ike Anigbogu’s current situation perfectly illustrates the exceptional athletic ability of the UCLA freshman center. Despite averaging a pedestrian 4.7 points and 4 rebounds, the obvious potential he possesses could land him alone side some of college basketball’s elite in the first round of the upcoming NBA draft. He is more than six months shy of his 19th birthday, but he has the muscle tone of an NFL strong safety. He is at least 6-foot-10, but looks vastly different than the majority of gangly basketball players at his position. By the end of the season, Anigbogu’s off-the-charts body and athleticism were translating to a high level of defense on the court.

Weaknesses: Anigbogu was the very last offensive option in UCLA’s eight-man rotation last season. He didn’t get much opportunity to develop his skills on that end of the court, but it doesn’t mean Anigbogu doesn’t have the ability to score using more than just brute strength and leaping ability. He averaged 17 points per game as a senior in high school and showed glimpses of having soft hands and nice touch around the basket. It’s apparent that he is lacking polish at the offensive end, where he was most effective catching lob passes.

Best moment: Anigbogu started the season slow after a knee injury, but his coming out party happened on a grand stage. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Ike Anigbogu” »

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Markelle Fultz motivated to put himself ‘further in front’ of Lonzo Ball


Three weeks ago, Lonzo Ball told ESPN 710-AM he was better than Markelle Fultz, his chief competition to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Fultz responded on Tuesday in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

“I have a lot of respect for him, and he’s supposed to say that. Anyone that’s your competitor is going to think that they’re better,” Fultz told SI Now. “To me, it was just funny. He just motivated me to work harder and be sure I put myself further in front.”

Fultz, who played his freshman season at Washington before declaring for the NBA draft in March, is widely projected to be the No. 1 pick on June 22. Ball, who declared for the draft after his freshman year at UCLA, is often referenced as second-best prospect in the draft.

On March 28, Ball was asked who the better player is. “Markelle’s a great player, but I feel I’m better than him,” Ball told ESPN 710-AM. “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Fultz acknowledged his budding rivalry with Ball in the interview with Sports Illustrated and addressed to the chances we’ll see him wearing Big Baller Brand apparel next year – “Over my dead body,” his mother, Ebony Fultz, said. Fultz doesn’t just want to be the No. 1 pick, he wants to win the NBA MVP next season.

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Aaron Holiday

Will Aaron Holiday ever get to run the show at UCLA? (Thomas Cordova/SCNG)

Strengths: Whether is was overall maturity, another year to develop his point guard skills or that he was surrounded by twice as much talent than his freshman year, Aaron Holiday looked like a future NBA point guard as a sophomore. Lonzo Ball’s presence made for an odd situation, moving Holiday out of the starting lineup and off the ball much of the time he was on the court. None of it threw him off. Holiday averaged nearly a half-assist and two more points than last season in five less minutes per game and found a near-perfect balance of when to be aggressive calling his own number and when to defer to teammates. He also maintained his status as the team’s best defender.

Weaknesses: Holiday is only 6-foot-1, which means he better learn to play point guard at the next level, because he doesn’t have the size to play any other position. At 185 pounds, Holiday has plenty of heft for his frame, but he had trouble finishing in the lane. His 64% shooting at the rim, per hoop-math.com, was the second-lowest on the team to only Bryce Alford. His size is about the only limitation for a player who can shoot, handle and pass the basketball well on top of his above average perimeter defense.

Best moment: While the player who took his starting spot struggled in UCLA’s Dec. 3 trip to Kentucky, Holiday made all four of his shots and scored 13 points in the first half alone of what held up most of the season as UCLA’s best win. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Aaron Holiday” »

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