UCLA to open Maui Invitational against UNLV

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UCLA last won the Maui Invitational in 2006. Doing so again this year would be a big statement for Steve Alford.

The eight-team tournament will signal the Bruins’ first significant competition of the season, starting with UNLV on Nov. 23 at 8:30 pm PT (ESPN2). The Runnin’ Rebels have regressed under head coach Dave Rice — missing the NCAA tournament the last two years — but still have a talented roster that includes five-star center Stephen Zimmerman.

After that game, UCLA will face either Kansas or Chaminade the next day. The other side of the tournament bracket consists of St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Indiana.

“You get a really good litmus test right away,” Alford said. “You get a really good feel from a coaching standpoint, playing three games in a row against quality opponents. You’re going to get a really good idea and picture of who your team is going into December.” Continue reading

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Steve Alford talks state of UCLA basketball heading into 2015-16

UCLA head coach Steve Alford stands during the introductions before the Bruins' 72-63 win over Oregon on Feb.14, 2015. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA head coach Steve Alford stands during the introductions before the Bruins’ 72-63 win over Oregon on Feb.14, 2015. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

This morning, UCLA men’s basketball ran an instructional clinic with Special Olympic athletes at Pauley Pavilion. A group of UCLA students regularly run the clinics every Saturday, and had reached out to the team to collaborate this weekend. The Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles from July 25 to August 2.

After the session on Saturday, UCLA coach Steve Alford talked about participating in the event and the state of his program — including thoughts on Jonah Bolden’s role, and whether or not point guard Bryce Alford might be taken off scholarship.

On being involved with the Special Olympics:

“The more you give, the more you get out. I’ve been involved with the Special Olympics since 1984, when I got back from Los Angeles being a part of the Olympics. … Every stop I’ve made, I’ve been involved with it. Anytime that they reach out to us, and we get a chance to be around the Special Olympians, we want to do that. Give them a chance to run down Pauley Pavilion. It’s not like any other court. It’s a special time for these kids to be able to do that. …

“The personalities come out. You get to see the ones that have flash. The ones that have swag. The ones that shoot threes. Ones that want to post up. Ones that want to guard. It’s a lot of fun seeing that. … The passion that they play with, that’s a very encouraging thing.”

On how he feels about state of UCLA’s roster heading into his third season:

“Good. Our freshmen get here about the 20th, 21st of this month. [Four-star guards Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali, three-star forward Alex Olesinski, JUCO transfer center Ikenna Okwarabizie] Once we get those guys in, it’s as full a roster as we’ve been able to have. We’ll have a minimum of 11 guys on scholarship, and I haven’t had that since I’ve been here. Continue reading

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UCLA forward Jonah Bolden out 6-8 weeks after knee surgery

UCLA forward Jonah Bolden will be out for six to eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday morning.

Bolden, who is expected to start in 2015-16, had the operation to repair a slight meniscus tear in his right knee. He is expected to make a full recovery, according to a team spokesperson.

The former four-star recruit will need to fill a major void for the Bruins, who lost 6-foot-9 power forward Kevon Looney to the NBA draft. Bolden had signed as part of the 2014 class, but was ruled ineligible to play as a freshman due to issues with his high school transfer from Australia.

At 6-foot-10, Bolden could potentially play either forward spot for UCLA.

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VIDEO: Jonah Bolden practices with UCLA after being cleared

Jonah Bolden practiced for the first time in front of Los Angeles media on Tuesday, providing a glimpse at the type of player that could have changed the arc of UCLA’s season.

A four-star recruit, the 6-foot-10 wing was ruled ineligible to play this season, but this week the NCAA cleared him to begin practicing. Bolden said that he had been able to get individual training with assistant coach with Ed Schilling over the past few months. He described those as being tailored for his frame and body type, name-dropping Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as a pro comparison.

Added head coach Steve Alford: “He’s a big guard, or he can play a stretch four and really do a lot of things helping both bigs and guards.”

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VIDEO: UCLA’s Jonah Bolden talks about being cleared practice

Jonah Bolden was cleared to practice with UCLA this week, four months after being ruled ineligible to play this season by the NCAA.

Today, the four-star wing spoke to reporters for the first time, touching on what he’s been working on in his game and what he sees in his future.

Asked if he’s considering entering the NBA draft over returning to UCLA next season, the 6-foot-9 Bolden said: “Most definitely, my goal is to get to the NBA, but my main priority right now is here at UCLA.”

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