UCLA’s Norman Powell defends Byron Wesley during the Bruins’ Sweet 16 loss to Gonzaga on March 27. Powell had 16 points, five rebounds and three blocks to end his career at Houston’s NRG Stadium. (Tom Pennington/Getty)
UCLA men’s basketball held its year-end banquet last night. Here’s the list of awards the team handed out.
Norman Powell, Sr., G, 6-4, 215
John Wooden Award (most valuable player)
Kevon Looney, Fr., F, 6-9, 220
Seymour Armond Memorial Award (most valuable freshman)
Gerald A. Finerman Award (rebounding leader)
Norman Powell is taking it easy, relatively speaking.
In his final season at UCLA, he averaged 34.6 minutes per game — nearly nine more than he did the season prior. Before he dives fully into preparing for the NBA draft, the 6-foot-4 guard is giving himself time to recover with lighter workouts.
Based on conversations with UCLA head coach Steve Alford, he also has a good idea of where he might be drafted.
“What he’s heard is the late first round, early second round,” said Powell, who led the Bruins with 16.4 points through their second straight trip to the Sweet 16. “I know a lot’s going to depend on my combine, my workouts and my interviews. Really preparing for that and ready to go in there and work. I know I control where I could possibly end up.”
He has meetings set up with three different agents on Thursday, and hopes to make a final decision by Sunday or Monday. Whoever he picks will then guide him through the rest of the process, including where he will actually train for the draft.
A thoughts on how the Bruins finished and where they’re going next …
1. UCLA’s going to back-to-back Sweet 16s doesn’t necessarily mean you should expect a third. The Bruins could certainly be better next season. They will have more depth in the backcourt, though losing freshman Kevon Looney would be a tremendous blow to the frontcourt. Gyorgy Goloman looks like a nice under-the-radar find, but I think he and center Thomas Welsh will pay bigger dividends as juniors rather than sophomores. Introducing former four-star recruit Jonah Bolden will help significantly; he spent his ineligible season transitioning from the four to the three, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts immediately.
But it is unreasonable to expect the type of good fortune that has followed UCLA these past two postseasons. The Bruins deserve credit for taking advantage of their opportunities, but drawing a double-digit seed twice in the round of 32 is as friendly a path as any team could hope to see. At least Stephen F. Austin was a team that was good enough to return to the NCAA Tournament this season; I’m not sure the same can be said for UAB, which was likely one of the 10 weakest teams in the whole field.
Norman Powell ended his UCLA career on Friday, scoring 16 points to go with five rebounds, an assist and three blocks in a 74-62 loss to Gonzaga. It was his 141st career appearance, more than anyone in school history except Michael Roll (147), Darren Collison (142) and Alfred Aboya (142).
The senior talked to reporters in the locker room about the Sweet 16 game, and his emotions as his time in a Bruin uniform closes.
“I’m more than happy to say that this program is going in the right direction,” he said. “I feel like I’m leaving a great program. UCLA has a great tradition, and these coaches have done a great job of laying a foundation.”
UCLA arrived in Houston last night, and shot around for about an hour or so this morning at NRG Stadium. Formerly known as Reliant Stadium, the football venue can seat up to 80,000 people — absolutely dwarfing any other place the Bruins have played this season.
“You get to go out there and you see how big the stadium is,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “The scoreboard is huge. The court is elevated. All that stuff. It’s what you dream of when you’re a kid, playing in a venue like this. …
“You got to get used to the shooting. It’s definitely different, but they’ve done a great job of making the background darker. There’s black (canvas) behind both hoops. So, I don’t think it will be too much different than shooting in a normal gym.”