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.
UCLA head coach Steve Alford and guards Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford talk about UCLA’s 79-67 win over Cincinnati on Sunday in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ball led the Bruins with 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists with only one turnover as he hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half that spurred UCLA to the win. Alford had 16 points (13 in the second half) on 5-for-13 shooting with three assists and one steal.
UCLA advanced to its third Sweet 16 in four years and will face No. 2 Kentucky on Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT in Memphis.
Bryce Alford’s worst slump of the season came in UCLA’s last three games before the NCAA tournament
Were Lonzo Ball a larger personality resembling, say, his father, it’s safe to say his relationship with Bryce Alford would be different. By all accounts, the two have meshed fantastically this season.
Ball is UCLA’s floor leader and Alford is its vocal leader. It’s an arrangement that evolved organically.
Alford has willingly accepted a reduced role on the court – he’s taking two less shots per game this season – but his shooting percentage has jumped from 38.5 last season to 45.2 this season, allowing him to maintain essentially the same number of points per game.
From a pure basketball perspective, the Ball-Alford dynamic works in perfect harmony. Of course, it’s hard to find a player who doesn’t work well on the court with the best point guard in the country. Alford is UCLA’s best shooter, but has difficulty creating his own shot. Ball is leading the nation in assists in part because he is remarkably unconcerned about how many points he scores and is hyperfocused on setting up quality shots for his teammates.
Bryce Alford is just 44 points from moving into fifth on UCLA’s career scoring list
Bryce Alford has long since carved out a place for himself in the UCLA record book. Now he’s just etching his name deeper.
The senior’s 26 points in UCLA’s blowout win against USC on Saturday moved him into seventh on UCLA’s all-time scoring list with 1,802. With four games left in the regular season in addition to any Pac-12 and NCAA tournament games, he is just 13 points behind Ed O’Bannon and 44 from surpassing Toby Bailey to move into the top five.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the coach’s son – and his father’s role in aiding totals that will land him among UCLA’s all-time greats – but he has managed to be consistently productive during all four years of his career. Should a guy who seemingly has little to no shot at the NBA have played ahead of current Minnesota Timberwolves 19-point per game scorer Zach LaVine during his lone season at UCLA? Should Alford be playing now ahead of defensively superior sophomore Aaron Holiday?