Jonah Bolden curiously departs UCLA basketball team to turn pro

UCLA junior Jonah Bolden has decided forego his final two years of college basketball eligibility and play professionally this coming season. Bolden informed the coaching staff of his decision to leave the school after one season, the UCLA athletic department announced Tuesday.

Where the 6-foot-10 Australian-born guard/forward will play professionally is uncertain, but a return to his home country seems an obvious possibility.

UCLA is now without three players that were expected to be on the roster this year not including guard Prince Ali, who isn’t likely to return from meniscus surgery by the start of the season. Three-star recruit Kobe Paras mysteriously withdrew from UCLA in June after academic conditions of his admission weren’t met. Junior Noah Allen transferred to Hawaii in May and now Bolden is departing what was expected to be a deep roster considering incoming talent labeled head coach Steve Alford’s best recruiting class. Continue reading

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UCLA clings onto NCAA hopes with 78-65 win at Arizona State

UCLA got a win it desperately needed on Sunday night. Now, it just needs to scratch out five or six more.

The Bruins injected a bit of life into their tepid NCAA tournament hopes in Tempe, closing out a 78-65 win over Arizona State — one of just two teams sitting below them in the Pac-12 standings. After weathering some hot shooting early on, they held ASU to 31 percent from the field in the second half. With 86 seconds left, Steve Alford felt comfortable enough to empty his bench.

Talent disparity or not, UCLA (13-11, 5-7) showed a few encouraging signs. Most crucial was the play of sophomore Jonah Bolden, who led the Bruins with a career-high 16 points. That’s no small feat, even considering his four-star pedigree. Heading into Valentine’s Day, the 6-foot-10 forward had averaged just 3.5 points per game in conference play.

Perhaps sharing the floor with Tony Parker has helped. The senior center is by no means a perfect player, but he nonetheless commands a healthy share of defensive attention. And in the last couple of games, Alford has become more willing to play Bolden next to Parker, rather than subbing out Bolden for sophomore Gyorgy Goloman. Continue reading

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VIDEO: UCLA coach Steve Alford on USC rivalry, Bruins’ outlook

With just nine regular-season games left, UCLA is still hovering below .500 in conference play. Needing a few more emphatic wins to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins take their next step on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at USC.

Head coach Steve Alford talked on Tuesday about the matchup. A few notes:

» UCLA shook up its starting lineup this past Saturday, playing forward Jonah Bolden ahead of senior Tony Parker in an 83-50 win over Washington State. Bolden seems likely to keep that spot, with Parker continuing to man the backup center position instead of playing next to sophomore Thomas Welsh in a “big-big” frontcourt.

“We played well last game doing that,” Alford said. “I don’t think it’s always going to be etched in stone as to who that is, but I don’t see any changes.”

» Alford lost to USC for the first time on Jan. 13, with his Bruins devolving on defense. Looking back on that 14-point loss, the third-year coach pointed out that the Trojans scored 13 points off of “50-50 balls,” as well as 16 second-chance points.

“When you fuel their transition game by mistakes that you make, that makes it really, really difficult,” Alford said.

USC represents the type of athletic, up-tempo team that has troubled UCLA all season, and offers a good test for just how much Bolden’s presence will improve the Bruins’ defense. Continue reading

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