Alford says Anderson, Adams can compensate for lack of athleticism

Of the UCLA trio selected in first round of Thursday’s NBA draft, one was chosen based almost solely on athletic ability. The other two, not so much.

Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams may have to combine their test results to equal Zach LaVine’s 46-inch vertical, but UCLA coach Steve Alford isn’t worried about the criticism of his two sophomores’ athleticism. The 22nd and 30th picks of the draft may be diving into the deep end of the talent pool next season, but Alford is confident they’re in particularly good shape for the NBA above the shoulders.

“I think athleticism is way overrated for the most part,” Alford said. “You can either play or you can’t play and Jordan really understands how to play. You could give me the most athletic guy that we’ve played against collegiately this year and Jordan probably outplayed him because of being smarter and being tougher.”

To the credit of Adams, chosen 22nd by the Memphis Grizzlies, the 6-foot-5 guard was more than just a scorer at UCLA. He set a school record with 95 steals last season, an impressive statistic for someone projected as a potential defensive liability in the NBA.

Alford echoed some of his sentiments about Adams when referencing Anderson, who was selected 30th by the San Antonio Spurs. The third college basketball player in the last 30 years to average at least 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a season, the 6-foot-9 Anderson made a compelling case for Alford’s argument that he is a truly unique player with more than athleticism to lean on at the next level.

“As good a basketball IQ as I’ve coached,” Alford said of Anderson. “Sometimes a lot of people get wrapped up in athleticism and being able to jump over the backboard but do you know how to play the game?”

“I told him (Friday) morning, you don’t change who you are but you’ve got to take advantage of going to a franchise, an organization that really gets it from the bottom all the way to the top. So listen. Listen to people. You’ve always been coachable. Make sure you stay that way.”

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UCLA’s Jordan Adams drafted 22nd overall by Memphis Grizzlies

He made the right choice after all.

After leading UCLA in scoring on the way to a Sweet 16 run, Jordan Adams announced that he would stay for his junior year. Nine days later, he announced that he had changed his mind.

That decision paid off during Thursday night’s NBA draft, when the 6-foot-5 swingman went 22nd overall to the Memphis Grizzlies. It was about as high as Adams — projected as a fringe first-rounder — likely could have hoped to go.

The Atlanta-area native ranked seventh in the Pac-12 with 17.2 points per game and set a single-season UCLA record with 95 steals, but also finished near the bottom of nearly every strength and agility test at last month’s NBA combine.

Adams was the second Bruin drafted, following Zach LaVine going to the Minnesota Timberwolves at 13th overall. It marked the third time in seven drafts that multiple UCLA players were taken in the first round — following Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison in 2009, and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love in 2008.

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Adrià Gasol looks to step out of shadow

The love blossomed on a warm summer day in Calafell, a small beach town less than an hour’s drive west of Barcelona.

His grandmother owned a house there, not far from shores so white and pristine they once earned a European “blue flag” designation for cleanliness. Five years ago, the summer before his freshman year of high school, it was where Adrià Gasol truly found basketball.

You know the name: the one found on five different NBA All-Star rosters, two Olympic silver-medal teams and a FIBA World Championship. Continue reading

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