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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Ike Anigbogu declares for NBA draft, doesn’t hire an agent

Freshman Ike Anigbogu will declare for the NBA draft, joining classmates Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf.

Ike Anigbogu became the third UCLA freshman in the last 12 days to announce he will declare for the NBA draft. Unlike classmates Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, Anigbogu left the door open for a return by not hiring an agent.

“He’s not going to hire an agent for the time being, but that could change if he starts shooting up the draft boards and it pretty much becomes a lock that he’ll go in the first round,” said Anigbogu’s coach at Corona Centennial High School, Josh Giles. “If Ike really starts doing well in these workouts, I’ve had NBA people tell me he could be a late lottery guy.”

One the one hand, Anigbogu’s potential seems limitless. The measurables don’t nearly do his body justice. He is a chiseled 6-foot-10, 250 pounds and his legs look like tree trunks. And he only turned 18 five months ago.

On the other hand, he only played 13 minutes per game and averaged 4.7 points, 4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His opportunities were limited in part because he played behind Thomas Welsh, who probably has a future in the NBA, but Anigbogu’s statistics are underwhelming.

Giles and Etop Udo-Ema, the founder of Anigbogu’s AAU team, the Compton Magic, both did their homework about where Anigbogu might be drafted. Both coaches have served as mentors to Anigbogu and aided his parents in making basketball decisions throughout Anigbogu’s career. They both got similar answers when digging for information about where Anigbogu may be selected in the NBA draft.

“I’ve received calls from 15 to 17 NBA teams and I’ve talked to scouts and directors of player personnel,” Giles said “The overwhelming consensus is there are very few people who think Ike’s going to fall out of the first round. He could go as high at 15, but mostly what we’ve heard is the 18 to 34 range. I know a few people who have played and coached in the NBA and (Udo-Ema) has a ton of contacts. It would be different if we were getting different answers, but everyone we’ve talked to has given us the same numbers about where Ike will go.” Continue reading “Ike Anigbogu declares for NBA draft, doesn’t hire an agent” »

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Bryce Alford

Bryce Alford is one of the most divisive players in UCLA history, but it’s hard to say the coach’s son didn’t maximize his potential


Strengths: In his one season as a non-point guard, Alford proved his value as a specialist. He didn’t have the athleticism to do much other than be a spot-up shooter, but he proved his strength by setting a school record for 3-pointers on top of a vital role as team’s primary vocal leader. To put Alford’s shooting accomplishments in perspective, he shattered UCLA’s school record for 3-pointers in a single season by making 116, passing Jason Kapono’s career record for 3-pointers in the process. The difference this season? Efficiency. Alford shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range after shooting 38 percent his previous three seasons combined.

Weaknesses: UCLA’s team defense evolved into a decent unit during the final third of the season, but Alford was the most glaring reason why the Bruins needed to be so adept at help defense. Alford was the first to acknowledge he wasn’t blessed with an abundance of athleticism, but his honesty didn’t help him stay in front of his man. Defense is what kept UCLA from being a convincing championship contender and Alford was the poster boy for the problem – though there were plenty of others who contributed to the Bruins’ defensive deficiencies.

Best moment: Alford’s best moment didn’t occur on the basketball court. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Bryce Alford” »

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UCLA’s TJ Leaf is leaving for the NBA after one season


TJ Leaf announced his intention to declare for the NBA draft Thursday afternoon. UCLA’s freshman forward said he’ll be hiring an agent, meaning there’s no turning back.

It would have been more surprising if UCLA’s leading scorer returned, but that certainly wasn’t out of the question.

Leaf is the second freshman to announce his departure in the week since the Bruins’ season ended in the Sweet 16. He and Lonzo Ball were the primary reasons for UCLA’s dramatic turnaround from 15-17 last season to 31-5 in 2016-17. Now they’re both gone.

“It was definitely one of the hardest decisions in my life,” Leaf said. “I will always love my UCLA family so much, in particular the amazing teammates I had this past year. They are like brothers to me. This was the most fun year of basketball I’ve had in my entire life, and I will definitely miss it. But, I cannot wait to start my new journey.”

Leaf is projected as a mid-first round pick, ranging in mock drafts from 11th (NBAdraft.net) to 17th (ESPN) to 22nd (Draft Express). One NBA scout believes he isn’t getting enough credit.

“He’s probably a lottery guy,” the NBA scout said. “But I’d like him to be tougher. He’s more of a mismatch offensively as a stretch four, but I wonder if he’d quick enough to guard a (small forward) or strong enough to guard a (power forward).”

Read the complete story about Leaf’s departure and its implications on UCLA.

Four of UCLA’s five starters are already gone – seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are graduating – with the potential for more. Fifth starter Thomas Welsh could leave, but his freshman backup Ike Anigbogu may be more likely to capitalize on his hype and declare for the draft after one season. Sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday could also leave to join his two brothers in the NBA. Continue reading “UCLA’s TJ Leaf is leaving for the NBA after one season” »

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UCLA in good Hands based on McDonald’s All-American game

UCLA signee Jaylen Hands had 14 points and 3 assists in the McDonald’s All-American Game. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Lonzo Ball’s prospective replacement at point guard didn’t just show up to the McDonalds’s All-American game Wednesday night, Jaylen Hands showed promise.

One of two signees from a UCLA recruiting class ranked No. 2 in the country playing in the nation’s premiere high school all-star game, Hands finished with 14 points and three assists in 20 minutes to help the West team to a 109-107 win over the East team.

Kris Wilkes, UCLA’s most heralded incoming recruit, finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting in 13 minutes for the East team. UCLA’s roster is still very much in flux with TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday yet to declare if they will stay or depart for the NBA, but Wilkes’ spot in the starting lineup seems fairly secure given that small forward Isaac Hamilton is graduating.

Hands showed the type of ability that makes rivals.com’s No. 24 prospect in the country a player who has to be on the court even if Holiday remains at UCLA. Much like he played Ball and Holiday together, coach Steve Alford will put his best players on the floor and Hands certainly qualifies no matter who returns to UCLA.

Ball tied a McDonald’s All-American record with 13 assists last year, but few point guards’ will compare favorably to the best pure passer to play college basketball since Jason Kidd. Continue reading “UCLA in good Hands based on McDonald’s All-American game” »

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