Despite reduced role, Bryce Alford still UCLA’s alpha

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.

READ: Bryce Alford slumping at the worst possible time

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.

Off the court, it’s Ball who gives the team a pep talk before every game, but Alford, for example, is the one who called the players-only meeting after UCLA’s only two-game losing streak that altered the course of the rest of the season. Continue reading “Despite reduced role, Bryce Alford still UCLA’s alpha” »

Bryce Alford destined for top 5 on UCLA career scoring list

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?

Alford said earlier this season he has learned to block out such noise. His detractors won’t like to hear that Alford has a decent chance to leave UCLA as the all-time leader in one significant offensive category. Continue reading “Bryce Alford destined for top 5 on UCLA career scoring list” »

UCLA’s Ball, Leaf, Alford, Welsh make mid-season award lists

Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are in the running for several of college basketball’s top awards

Naismith Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year
Freshman Lonzo Ball was the only UCLA representative on the 50-player preseason watch list for college basketball’s most prestigious award. The Bruins freshman point guard will almost assuredly be one of the 30 players on the mid-season watch list when it’s announced on Thursday. He was one of six Pac-12 players on the preseason list along with Waghington’s Markelle Fultz, Cal’s Ivan Rabb, Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Oregon’s Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher.

As a pass-first point guard, Ball will largely be judged on UCLA’s win total and the Bruins aren’t too shabby in that department with 20 victories in their first 23 games. The 6-foot-6 freshman is the only player in the country averaging at least 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Ball’s actual averages are 14.8 points, eight assists and 5.8 rebounds.

TJ Leaf was added to the Wooden award watch list at the mid-season mark

John R. Wooden Award (Player of the Year)
Ball and classmate TJ Leaf are two of 25 to crack the mid-season watch list for an award that carries plenty of weight in Westwood – it’s sponsored by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. It was no surprise that Ball was among the preseason top 50 for the award. Leaf, however, was not.

The committee gave a nod to Leaf’s particularly high level of play through the freshman’s first 17 games, adding the 6-foot-10 forward to the pool of candidates on Jan. 11 while subtracting more than 25 from the preseason list. Leaf is averaging a team-high 17 points and 8.9 rebounds. He is shooting 64 percent from the field, the 19th-best mark in the country.

The complete John R. Wooden Award Mid-Season Watch List:
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, Soph., G
Lonzo Ball, UCLA, Fr., G
Joel Berry II, North Carolina, Jr., G Continue reading “UCLA’s Ball, Leaf, Alford, Welsh make mid-season award lists” »

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 “Steve Alford: Bryce ‘as tough mentally as they come’” »

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