UCLA recruits to face off in McDonald’s All-American game

Following in the footsteps of UCLA freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, two of the Bruins’ 2017 recruits will play in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American basketball game March 29.

Point guard Jaylen Hands, Leaf’s teammate at Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.) High School, will play for the West Team. Kris Wilkes, a 6-foot-8 guard from Indianapolis, will be a member of the East Team.

The two are part of a five-man UCLA recruiting class ranked second in the country by rivals.com, scout.com and espn.com. UCLA coach Steve Alford casually mentioned this week that UCLA may add to the 2017 recruiting class. Continue reading

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Steve Alford: Bryce ‘as tough mentally as they come’

"CU vs UCLA Mens Basketball"It’s not often that Bryce Alford is on the bench for critical moments of a game, but Steve Alford removed his son with six seconds left in UCLA’s 83-82 win over Utah on Saturday.

Utah had the ball trailing by three and Steve Alford wanted his best defensive lineup on the floor. That meant guard Aaron Holiday was a better option than Bryce Alford, who is probably the team’s weakest defender.

Steve Alford said didn’t feel the need to explain the move to his son, chuckling as he answered the question before UCLA’s practice on Tuesday.

“He’s so much tougher mentally than that,” Steve Alford said. “That guy is as tough mentally as it comes, so I don’t ever worry about that whether he’s making a big shot, a big free throw, missing a free throw. I know he wants it the next time and that’s just who he is. He’s got that DNA in him that he’s a tough, tough kid that enjoys the competition, enjoys the big moments. But you can watch him whether he’s on the bench or on the floor, you can see the demeanor of how he supports this team because this team is a lot of fun.”

Bryce Alford readily acknowledged Holiday’s defensive prowess and said he didn’t blame his father for the decision. Continue reading

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How I voted in the college basketball AP poll: UCLA is my No. 1

Aaron Holiday vs UtahEarly in the season, I was stubborn about ranking UCLA above other teams with similar records. My reasoning? A team that finished with a losing record last season needed to earn their standing more so than the other elite teams near the top of the rankings. UCLA was the only team in the entire preseason top 25 that finishing under .500 last season.

At this point, I think the Bruins have earned it. I was just one of three voters to rank them No. 1, likely because Villanova (2) and Kansas (4) each have a much higher RPI than UCLA (17). But it’s not UCLA’s fault that Michigan, Ohio State and Texas A&M aren’t any better this season.

What UCLA does best – run and shoot 3-pointers – it does better than anyone in the country. I’m not sure that Kansas and Villanova can say that. I don’t think either of those two teams can say they have the best player in the country, either. Lonzo Ball has made a legitimate case for that honor.

How I voted in the Week 11 men’s basketball AP poll:
1. UCLA
The Bruins are coming off their first sweep of Pac-12 road games in Steve Alford’s tenure, a comfortable win at Colorado and a squeaker at Utah, which is looking like a top tier conference foe. It shouldn’t be forgotten UCLA’s one loss was on a last-second 3-pointer to an Oregon team looking like a juggernaut right now.
2. Villanova
3. Kansas
4. Baylor

Last week’s AP poll No. 1 team still has the top RPI in the country even with a loss. I think Baylor was unfairly dropped to No. 6 by the voters because their one loss this week was so lopsided. And it should be noted the 21-point was to West Virginia, the No. 7 team in the country.
5. Kentucky Continue reading

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UCLA narrowly earns first Pac-12 road sweep of Alford era


A one-point win for the No. 4 team in the country against the team picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 doesn’t appear very impressive on the surface. But UCLA’s 83-82 win Saturday at Utah was monumental for Steve Alford.

Coupled with Thursday’s win at Colorado, it was the first conference road sweep for UCLA in the Alford era, which is in its fourth season. Escaping Salt Lake City with a win was extremely significant for UCLA, considering its weaknesses on defense were on display most of the game.

One of the knocks on the Bruins as they rose to No. 2 in the country earlier this season was that they hadn’t faced much adversity. Games like Saturday’s are proving UCLA’s mettle. It has been in a handful of tight games now and has lost just one.

For a team with freshmen as its two best players to overcome a nine-point second-half deficit on the road early in conference play is no small feat. UCLA will have plenty to assess in the film room this week, but Alford will undoubtedly be administering his thoughts with a smile on his face.

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Bryce Alford has big names in his sights on UCLA career scoring list

After his 37 points on Thursday, Bryce Alford is on pace to finish in the top five on UCLA's career scoring list and break Jason Kapono's  school record for 3-pointers

After his 37 points on Thursday, Bryce Alford is on pace to finish in the top five on UCLA’s career scoring list and break Jason Kapono’s school record for 3-pointers

Bryce Alford and Reggie Miller aren’t often mentioned in the same breath. But their names will likely sit next to each other on UCLA’s career scoring list by the time this season is over.

Alford exploded for a career-high 37 points in Thursday’s 104-89 win at Colorado, achieving the feat in a fashion Miller could appreciate with nine-3-pointers. Alford passed Marques Johnson (1,659) on Thursday to move into 15th on UCLA’s career scoring list with 1,687 points. The senior will likely pass Gail Goodrich (1,691) on Saturday in Utah.

If Alford equals his average of 17.9 points per game through the end of the regular season, he will rank fifth behind only Miller and Jason Kapono, who each finished with 2,095 points. Don MacLean (2,608) is UCLA’s all-time leading scorer and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,325) sits in second.

Alford said earlier this season he won’t forget the way he was treated early in his college career when fans questioned if he would play for a program the caliber of UCLA were his father not the coach. Reaching the top five on the school’s career scoring list would undoubtedly leave a satisfying mark of justification in the record book for both Alfords. Continue reading

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