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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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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UCLA’s Bryce Alford can’t forget his treatment during bad times

Senior Bryce Alford says he prefers the reduced role he is playing for No. 2 UCLA

Senior Bryce Alford says he prefers the reduced role he is playing for No. 2 UCLA

Bryce Alford feels like he can finally take a breath.

His first two seasons, the coach’s son was under constant scrutiny to prove his father didn’t unjustly gift him a UCLA uniform. Last season he was burdened with something even more stressful, trying to save Steve Alford’s job.

This season, Alford is finally playing the role he was meant for. He’s not a point guard. There are plenty of nights when he doesn’t even have to be a primary scorer. He has better defensive players around him to offset his deficiencies on that end of the floor. He’s mainly just a shooter…and the team’s vocal leader.

Alford finally seems secure enough in himself – and he has accepted that he can’t single-handedly save his father’s job – to play a reduced role. The thing he spoke most passionately about was how he perceives criticism of himself, which is detailed in this feature story I wrote about him. The turning point came during UCLA’s trip to the Sweet 16 in the 2015 NCAA tournament his sophomore year.

“The same voices that were bashing me my freshman year for playing over Zach (LaVine) or whatever it may be were the same voices that were praising me after I had a good game against SMU,” Alford said. “So I kind of saw it first hand, the same exact people that are going to bash you when you’re not doing well are going to praise you when you are doing well. That’s when I really started to realize the voices that I needed to listen to and not to pay attention to anything else.” Continue reading

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UCLA basketball links: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf lead dunk-fest in debut

If last night’s exhibition game is any indication, the UCLA basketball team is going to be fun to watch. How many victories the new-look, fast-paced Bruins will augment their entertaining style with is very much to be determined.

But Lonzo Ball alone may be enough to begin to fill Pauley Pavilion again. The freshman point guard (14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) was must-see in every facet – he had a spectacular block, a tip-dunk, and was on both ends of ally-oops, to name a few highlights. “I think you saw a little bit of how much Lonzo can impact the game in every single way,” senior Bryce Alford said.

But it was classmate T.J. Leaf who led the dunk-fest with four authoritative throw downs. The 6-10 freshman was hardly overshadowed with 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

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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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