JUCO big man Ikenna Okwarabizie commits to UCLA

Days after missing on a major frontcourt recruit, UCLA has landed 6-foot-10 big man Ikenna Okwarabizie out of Tyler Junior College.

Okwarabizie grew up in Nigeria, but played his senior year of high school at Sioux City (Iowa) East before spending his first season of college ball 100 miles east of Dallas. According to the Sioux City Journal, he also drew interest from Iowa, Mississippi State and Virginia Tech.

The Bruins have considered offering the 245-pounder as early as last October.

Okwarabizie averaged 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds through his lone JUCO season, shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from the line. His announcement on Sunday morning helps add depth to UCLA’s frontline, which lost all-conference forward Kevon Looney to the NBA draft and little-used reserve Wanaah Bail to a transfer.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar undergoes quadruple bypass surgery

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar underwent quadruple bypass surgery on Thursday at UCLA Medical Center, but is expected to make a full recovery.

UCLA released a statement today at the request of the former Lakers and Bruins star. He was operated on by Dr. Richard Shemin.

From the university’s statement:

At this time, Abdul-Jabbar would like to thank his surgical team and the medical staff at UCLA, his alma mater, for the excellent care he has received. He is looking forward to getting back to his normal activities soon.

He asks that you keep him in your thoughts and, most importantly, cherish and live each day to its fullest.

For those wanting to send well wishes, he thanks you in advance and asks that you support those in your own community who may be suffering from various health issues.

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UCLA’s wait continues as center Stephen Zimmerman picks UNLV

Five-star center Stephen Zimmerman announced his commitment to UNLV tonight, spurning Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA in favor of his hometown team.

Before Thursday, the 6-foot-11 prospect had been one of the top national recruits still undecided on their college destination. His choice leaves the Bruins — who are coming off back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 — looking somewhat precarious in their quest to break back into the sport’s elite ranks.

A player like Zimmerman would have helped reinvigorate a frontcourt that lost Kevon Looney to the NBA draft. Through his first two years in Los Angeles, head coach Steve Alford has yet to construct a roster with depth across the court. Continue reading

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UCLA officially signs three-star forward Alex Olesinski

UCLA signed three-star forward Alex Olesinski to a national letter of intent today, officially bumping its 2015 recruiting class to three players.

The Bruins signed four-star guards Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali back in November’s early signing period. Olesinski projects as a stretch forward who can add depth to a team that recently lost reserve Wanaah Bail as an outbound transfer.

“Alex is a talented player who has very good size, a great understanding of the game, can really shoot the ball well and never takes a possession off,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He has developed a reputation as an extremely hard worker, both on the court and in the classroom, and comes from a high school that has embraced a winning culture.”

Several top recruits in the country remain uncommitted, such as five-star forward Jaylen Brown and center Stephen Zimmerman, but many of them don’t seem in a rush to announce a decision even as the second signing period begins.

Some may even opt for grant-in-aid agreements over letters of intent — the former binds only the school, not the athlete — as more and more elite prospects realize that they have the clout to keep their options open.

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Wanaah Bail transfers out of UCLA

UCLA's Wanaah Bail dunks during basketball practice, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, at UCLA. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA’s Wanaah Bail dunks during basketball practice, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, at UCLA. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA forward Wanaah Bail has decided to transfer out, a school spokesperson said Friday, ending a stint that saw him make only 24 appearances over two seasons.

Bail had been ruled academically ineligible after the fall quarter, and leaves having totaled just 159 career minutes. The sophomore’s final game was an eight-minute showing during UCLA’s 83-44 loss to Kentucky in Chicago on Dec. 20, one in which he grabbed three rebounds and missed his only shot.

He recorded double-digit minutes five times as a Bruin. The Bahamas native averaged 1.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11 games during the 2014-15 season.

UCLA also lost forward Kevon Looney on earlier this week. The freshman officially declared for the NBA draft on Monday, after averaging 11.6 points and leading the team with 9.2 rebounds per game.

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