Steve Alford: Wooden raised bar at UCLA with unmatched success

For the second time in as many meetings with the media prior to the season, UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford was asked about the public letter he wrote following last season, an apology for the fourth losing campaign at UCLA since John Wooden retired 41 years ago.

In his response on Friday at Pac-12 media day in San Francisco, Alford referenced Wooden himself, citing the expectations at UCLA created by a man whose accomplishments are unmatched by any coach in the history of college basketball.

“Coach Wooden raised the bar at UCLA,” Alford said. “That bar was raised a long time ago in Westwood by a guy that won a bucket-load of games and a lot of championships and established something that, quite honestly, hasn’t been established anywhere else in the country. So when that bar is that way, there’s expectations. When you don’t meet or come close to those expectations, we talk to our players all the time, there are going to be consequences.”

Alford made clear the consequences to which he referred included his voluntary return of a one-year contract extension through 2020-21, information in the letter he penned after losing the final five games of last season to finish 15-17. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball picked third in Pac-12 preseason media poll

From left to right, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Lonzo Ball form the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, according to rivals.com.

From left to right, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Lonzo Ball form the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, according to rivals.com.

Only Oregon and Arizona were chosen to finish ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. Returning nearly all of the Elite Eight team from last season, Oregon received 23 of the first-place votes and Arizona the remaining four, but UCLA finished third by a wide margin.

In the poll released Friday at Pac-12 Media Day, 50 votes separated the Bruins from Cal, which finished 10 votes ahead of fifth-place Colorado. Featuring perhaps the best freshman in the country in Markelle Fultz, Washington finished sixth, followed by USC and Utah.

UCLA can argue it may have the best freshman in the country in Lonzo Ball. Only Arizona landed a more highly ranked group of freshman in the conference than UCLA’s top-five recruiting class including forward T.J. Leaf and center Ike Anigbogu.

Seeing as the Bruins graduated just one player from the team that finished only ahead of Arizona State and Washington State last season, UCLA was richly rewarded by the media for their recruiting haul.

2016-17 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll
1. Oregon (23)
2. Arizona (4)
3. UCLA Continue reading

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UCLA men’s basketball ranked 20th in USA Today Coaches Poll

UCLA is the lone team in the USA Today coaches’ preseason poll that finished last season with a losing record.

There are a couple of entries at nine games over .500. Texas was just five games above the mark and Rhode Island is the closest at 17-15.

Expectations for the upcoming season became a little more real as the Bruins earned a No. 20 preseason ranking in the first major poll released ahead of the 2016-17 season. UCLA obviously isn’t the only team on the list with a top-five recruiting class, but Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu are expected to elevate their program more than any other freshmen in the country.

2016-17 USA TODAY COACHES’ PRESEASON POLL
1. Duke (27)
2. Kansas (1)
3. Villanova (1)
4. Kentucky (2)
5. Oregon (1) Continue reading

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Hype grows for UCLA backcourt with 2 watch list candidates

Senior Isaac Hamilton, the Pac-12's top returning scorer, is a stark contrast to the other member of UCLA's backcourt named to a preseason award watch list.

Senior Isaac Hamilton, the Pac-12’s top returning scorer, is a stark contrast to the other member of UCLA’s backcourt named to a preseason award watch list.

How deep is the UCLA backcourt? Two guards have been named to preseason award watch lists – not including two returners who were starting guards last year.

Senior Isaac Hamilton, the top returning scorer in the Pac-12, was a natural choice for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award watch list announced Tuesday. The buzz about freshman Lonzo Ball is only growing after he earned the distinction as a watch list candidate for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.

To illustrate the depth in the UCLA backcourt, consider that Bryce Alford, who averaged seven tenths of a point less than Hamilton last season, is a certainty to be in the starting lineup when the season begins Nov. 11. As for Aaron Holiday, whose minutes are more difficult to project than the coach’s son, all he did was averaged double figures as a freshman last season and play the best on-ball defense of anybody on the roster. Continue reading

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Kevin Love makes record-tying donation to UCLA

Former UCLA basketball player Kevin Love (left) made a record-tying donation to UCLA's Mo Ostin Basketball Center. (AP Photo/Dick Whipple)

Former UCLA basketball player Kevin Love (left) made a record-tying donation to UCLA’s Mo Ostin Basketball Center. (AP Photo/Dick Whipple)

The UCLA athletic department announced a record-tying donation to the Mo Ostin Basketball Center from former UCLA basketball player Kevin Love on Tuesday as the NBA champion matched his former college teammate Russell Westbrook’s donation that was the largest by a former basketball player.

In honor of the gift, UCLA will name the new basketball-specific strength and conditioning facility in the Ostin Basketball Center The Kevin Love Strength and Conditioning Center.

Love will be at the Rose Bowl on Saturday at UCLA’s football game against Stanford for the UCLA Olympians reunion after he helped Team USA to a gold medal at the Rio London Olympics. He will be honored during the first quarter break.

“UCLA will always be my home,” Love said in a statement. “I have such fond memories of my time here from meeting Coach Wooden, to our run to the Final Four. I want to give back to the school and help prepare all the athletes who come through UCLA sports programs for their next steps, just like my time on campus prepared me.”

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