UCLA’s Kris Wilkes one of 28 vying for USA basketball roster spot

Kris Wilkes is doing a fine job building anticipation for his debut with the UCLA basketball team.

The most decorated member of Steve Alford’s 2017 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, has already worn a McDonald’s All-American jersey. He’ll don a USA Basketball one in a few weeks.

The incoming freshman small forward was among 28 players invited to Team USA’s U19 World Championship Team training camp June 18-25 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The first roster cut-down will happen after two days and the 12-member team will be determined by June 22. The final roster coached by Kentucky’s John Calipari will attempt to win a third consecutive gold medal during the FIBA U19 World Championships in Cairo, Egypt July 1-9.

UCLA rising senior Thomas Welsh was a member of the 2015 gold medal-winning team. This year’s roster will feature three of Calipari’s Kentucky players along with a couple familiar faces from the Pac-12, Continue reading “UCLA’s Kris Wilkes one of 28 vying for USA basketball roster spot” »

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Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, sits down with team brass

Lonzo Ball at the LA Lakers training facility in El Segundo where he went through a workout and spoke to reporters afterward. (Photo by Brad Graverson/SCNG)

Lonzo Ball’s long-awaited workout for the Lakers wasn’t limited to the basketball court on Wednesday. Tuesday night, the former UCLA point guard had dinner with Lakers coach Luke Walton, GM Rob Pelinka and President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson.

After his 75-minute workout at the Lakers practice facility – followed by an interesting session with the media – Ball was whisked off to a lunch date with Lakers owners Jeanie, Joey and Jesse Buss.

Ball’s private workout included “typical stuff” on the court, but he had a few eyebrow-raising things to say afterward. As for his infamous father, LaVar, Lonzo said he was ensured at dinner that Lakers brass is far from worried.

“They said they love him,” Lonzo said. “That’s about it.”

LaVar Ball wasn’t present at the workout or at dinner Tuesday night in Venice. Neither were any of the current Lakers players.

READ: Lonzo Ball downplays criticism of LaVar, highlights leadership qualities 

Perhaps the most interesting thing Ball had to say indirectly referenced D’Angelo Russell, the team’s current point guard. Continue reading “Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, sits down with team brass” »

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Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are returning to UCLA

Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are returning to UCLA, the school’s athletic department confirmed Tuesday.

Without the sophomore guard and junior center, UCLA would have lost 98.9 percent of its scoring from last season. Their return means the Bruins are losing 73.2 percent of their scoring and gaining the the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, which includes two McDonald’s All-Americans.

READ: Thomas Welsh, Aaron Holiday choose UCLA over NBA

Welsh and Holiday were two of five UCLA underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft in April. Freshmen Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu also declared and have each hired agents, sealing their departure from UCLA. The Bruins also graduated senior starters Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, meaning they would have lost their top seven scorers had Welsh and Holiday remained in the draft.

Instead, UCLA retains its 7-foot starting center, the team’s leading rebounder last season. Holiday is now the team’s top returning scorer, and a much needed body in a thin backcourt that figures to receive heavy contrubutions from incoming freshman Jaylen Hands and redshirt sophomore Prince Ali, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Continue reading “Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are returning to UCLA” »

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TJ Leaf’s intellect, charisma only helping his draft stock


TJ Leaf was lauded for his interview skills as much as anything during the NBA Draft Combine last week. The former UCLA power forward interviewed with 14 teams at the combine and has since worked out with three teams individually.

On Thursday, the projected first-round pick worked out for the Toronto Raptors – the Raptors pick 23rd in the first round – after which he talked about everything from his ability to score on three levels to whether Lonzo Ball would provide him some Big Baller Brand basketball shoes.

Leaf was the life of the party in the UCLA locker room last season, and gave some insight into what a charismatic person he is before stiffening up with the media as the season went along. Continue reading “TJ Leaf’s intellect, charisma only helping his draft stock” »

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Post-lottery NBA mock drafts slot UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu

It’s nearly impossible to find a mock draft projecting Lonzo Ball to be selected by a team other than the Lakers. (AP photo)

Where do UCLA’s NBA prospects fit now that the draft order is in place?

Tuesday’s draft lottery likely only effected one of them, but Lonzo Ball’s destination seems more certain than ever. It is nearly impossible to find a mock draft that doesn’t project the former UCLA point guard as the No. 2 pick to the Lakers.

Even CBS Sports’ mock draft forecasts Ball to the Lakers despite slotting Duke’s Jason Tatum as the top pick to Boston, dropping near-consensus No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz to the 76ers at pick No. 3.

The Trailblazers and Raptors – Portland owns picks 15 and 20 while Toronto picks 23rd – are popular destinations for TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, the two other UCLA players expected to be drafted.

Anigbogu, who averaged just 4.7 points and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes per game during his lone season at UCLA, is largely moving up on draft boards after the NBA Draft Combine last week. His best projection is 15th to the Chicago Bulls in Sports Illustrated’s mock draft. On the lowest end of the scale, NBADraft.net has Anigbogu dropping to the Magic with the fifth pick of the second round.

Leaf, who aptly showed off his range of offensive skills as the leading scorer for college basketball’s most efficient offense last season, is projected to be selected as high as 14th by the Miami Heat in The Sporting News mock draft. Leaf is a consensus first-round pick, but Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders predicts him to fall to 28th, where the Lakers will use their second first-round pick, No. 28 overall, to reunite him with Ball.

Mock drafts:
ESPN: Ball (No. 2, Lakers); Leaf (No. 18, Pacers); Anigbogu (No. 20, Trailblazers).
Sports Illustrated: Ball (No. 2, Lakers); Anigbogu (No. 15, Trailblazers); Leaf (No. 23, Raptors).
CBS Sports: Ball (No. 2, Lakers); Anigbogu (No. 16, Bulls); Leaf (No. 23, Raptors).
The Sporting News: Ball (No. 2, Lakers); Leaf (No. 14, Heat); Anigbogu (No. 23, Raptors). Continue reading “Post-lottery NBA mock drafts slot UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu” »

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