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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Alford: LaVine took advantage of UCLA brand, system to raise draft stock

In Steve Alford’s estimation, it wasn’t just Zach LaVine’s freakish athleticism that vaulted the freshman into the elite lottery portion of Thursday night’s NBA draft.

Wearing the UCLA letters across his chest for his lone collegiate season had plenty to do with LaVine becoming the 13th overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves, not to mention the fast-paced offensive approach employed by UCLA’s first-year coach.

“(LaVine) came in and he used the brand and this system,” Alford said. “I’ve always said it’s a very, very powerful brand and I think our style of play getting up and down the floor allows somebody like that to flourish and he had a tremendous freshman year.”

Though LaVine played just 37 college basketball games before achieving such lofty status, Alford didn’t know he had a lottery pick on his hands when the freshman reported to Westwood last summer.

“I don’t think you ever think that,” Alford said. “The NBA is a whole different level and mind set. We saw him this summer and he had incredible athleticism.

“To say we saw him being a lottery pick last summer, no.”

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Post-NBA draft transcript from Zach LaVine, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders

Below are quotes from Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders and 13th overall draft pick Zach LaVine in their session with reporters, as transcribed by the team.

# # #

*ZACH LaVINE QUOTES*

Emotions that went through your mind when you were picked?
You know man, I’ve waited my whole life for this moment. It was just a rush of emotion that came through me, and I’m on cloud 9 still man, I’m ready, I put my head down and prayed to God, thank God, I just hugged my mom and I couldn’t believe this is happening. You think about this since you’re a little kid, and you just can’t believe it’s actually happening. I’m just ready to get to Minnesota and do my best.

Good impression the Wolves were high on you at No. 13?
You know, I know I had a really good workout with them. I talked to coach Flip Saunders and we had a great meeting. And then you know, I knew they were around my draft range so I was hoping for the best. When my name was called man, it was a jolt of energy through my body. It was amazing.

Did the Wolves promise they’d draft you?
No, you see it on Twitter, it was on Twitter a lot, and you know I didn’t want to confirm or anything like that or believe it until my agent or someone you know really close to me, the GM or owner told me. But you know, I knew it was a good thing no matter what, so I’m just ecstatic that it actually did come true.

Aware Twitter storm that you thought you were upset coming to Minnesota?
No man, I’m completely ecstatic. I couldn’t be more happy. I’m a very emotional person, so I might’ve uttered something completely wrong but I put my head down, thanked God, kissed my mom, kissed my dad, couldn’t believe this was happening to me right now. I’m going into Minnesota full-fledged ready to become a Timberwolf. Continue reading

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Kyle Anderson sneaks into first round, picked 30th overall by San Antonio Spurs

Kyle Anderson had, by almost any measure, a superlative college basketball career.

The 6-foot-9 point guard was the most important player on a UCLA team that reached its first Sweet Sixteen since 2008, registering the school’s third-ever triple double along the way. He was a third-team AP All-American, and a finalist for the Wooden, Oscar Robertson and Bob Cousy awards. He earned Pac-12 Tournament MVP, and even flushed in one of the most memorable dunks of the weekend.

But on Thursday night, five Pac-12 players saw their names flash up earlier — the wait finally ending when the San Antonio Spurs picked Anderson 30th overall to end the first round.

Before that, he watched Arizona’s Aaron Gordon go fourth overall; former UCLA teammates Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams go 13th and 22nd; and Washington’s C.J. Wilcox and Stanford’s Josh Huestis going 28th and 29th. Continue reading

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