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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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Gyorgy Goloman

GG Goloman has the size and athleticism to make an impact, but the junior is running out of time to realize his potential. (Hans Gutknecht/SCNG)

Strengths: At 6-foot-11 with plenty of athleticism, Goloman has the ability to be a dynamic player. Averages of 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 11.5 minutes didn’t turn any heads, but when he was aggressive, the junior from Hungary achieved respectable success. Even when he was on the court, there wasn’t an abundance of opportunity as the fourth option in UCLA’s frontcourt rotation. Goloman was at his best going to the basket and his ability to run the floor fit the Bruins’ up-tempo style.

Weaknesses: UCLA coach Steve Alford insisted all season Goloman was a good outside shooter who just lacked opportunity. The numbers said otherwise. He shot an impressive 58 percent from the field, but made just 1 of his 10 attempts from 3-point range and shot just 33 percent on 2-point jumpers.

Best moment: Goloman was perhaps his most aggressive this season when UCLA most desperately needed it. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Gyorgy Goloman” »

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Thomas Welsh

UCLA center Thomas Welsh played his role in the nation’s best offense ever better than it appeared. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Strengths: Thomas Welsh was UCLA’s sixth offensive option. It’s a testament to the junior center that he still managed to average double figures. Starting alongside a couple of first-round draft picks and two of the most prolific scorers in UCLA history, Welsh played his role in the nation’s highest-scoring offense even better than it appeared. Nobody on UCLA’s roster shot a better percentage on 2-point jumpers than the 7-foot junior, according to hoop-math.com. Welsh’s 52 percent clip on 2-pointers not at the rim wasn’t the only pure shooting statistic for which he posted UCLA’s most impressive number. He led the team with an 89.4 free throw percentage. And it wasn’t a small sample size. Welsh made 42 of 47 free throws this season.

Weaknesses: Welsh was not a rim protector, a stark contrast to his more athletic and less-played backup, freshman Ike Anigbogu. He made up for some of his physical shortcomings on the defensive end with solid team defense and a team-leading 8.7 rebounds per game, but there is no denying Welsh was a finesse player on a team that had too many of them. He wasn’t a presence in the paint on either end of the floor, attempting just 21 percent of his field goals at the rim. Power forward TJ Leaf, by comparison, took 51 percent of his shots at the rim. UCLA’s glaring weakness was physical play and their center was an apt representation for why.

Best moment: Welsh played an integral role in a game that won’t stand out as one of UCLA’s most important victories of the season to the casual fan, but was vital for a number of reasons. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Thomas Welsh” »

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Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh declare for NBA draft, won’t hire agents

Aaron Holiday (left) and Thomas Welsh will both declare for the NBA draft, but neither will hire an agent. (AP photo/Mark Humphrey)

UCLA sophomore Aaron Holiday and junior Thomas Welsh will declare for the NBA draft, a UCLA spokesperson confirmed on Monday. Neither will hire agents, meaning they have until May 24 to withdraw their names in order to return to school.

Neither player is projected to be selected in the draft. ESPN rates Holiday the No. 80 NBA prospect and Welsh No. 119. NBADraft.net ranks Holiday and Welsh 61st and 85th, respectively.

They may be declaring primarily to workout for NBA teams and gather information about how best to prepare for the league when they do leave school for good. UCLA coach Steve Alford’s statement about their decision indicated as much.

“Both Thomas and Aaron are doing their due diligence in getting feedback from the NBA to determine what’s in the best interest for their basketball futures,” Alford said. “Each of these young men come from strong families with great support networks and I want them to know that we will fully support their decisions, whichever way they go.”

There is much riding on the eventual decisions of Holiday and Welsh for a UCLA team already losing freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf to the NBA along with seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton. Freshman Ike Anigbogu has also declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent. Continue reading “Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh declare for NBA draft, won’t hire agents” »

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Isaac Hamilton

Strengths: Isaac Hamilton’s malleable nature made him an ideal teammate, an ideal representative for why this UCLA team’s unselfishness made it so good, but he didn’t have a problem calling his own number when needed.

Isaac Hamilton epitomized UCLA’s rare unselfishness

Hamilton’s average dipped nearly three points from his junior year to 14.1 points per game as a senior, but he finished third in assists behind only point guards Lonzo Ball and Aaron Holiday on the team that averaged the most assists since UNLV set the Division-I record 26 years ago. The senior was an accomplished scorer who likely would have climbed into the top 10 on the school’s career scoring list had he played four years at UCLA.

Weaknesses: Hamilton wasn’t the target Bryce Alford was on the defensive end, but he was the Bruins’ second-weakest link on that end of the floor. His athleticism translated to him being a crafty scorer and a great shooter, but lateral movement wasn’t Hamilton’s forte. Consistent struggles to stay in front of his man forced UCLA’s back line to play help defense more often than the Bruins could handle, especially with two freshman in the front court who needed time to learn defensive rotations.

Best moment: Hamilton broke out of a slump with a 33-point game on Jan. 19 in a win over Arizona State, tying a school record in the process. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Isaac Hamilton” »

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