Senior Bryce Alford says he prefers the reduced role he is playing for No. 2 UCLA
Bryce Alford feels like he can finally take a breath.
His first two seasons, the coach’s son was under constant scrutiny to prove his father didn’t unjustly gift him a UCLA uniform. Last season he was burdened with something even more stressful, trying to save Steve Alford’s job.
This season, Alford is finally playing the role he was meant for. He’s not a point guard. There are plenty of nights when he doesn’t even have to be a primary scorer. He has better defensive players around him to offset his deficiencies on that end of the floor. He’s mainly just a shooter…and the team’s vocal leader.
Alford finally seems secure enough in himself – and he has accepted that he can’t single-handedly save his father’s job – to play a reduced role. The thing he spoke most passionately about was how he perceives criticism of himself, which is detailed in this feature story I wrote about him. The turning point came during UCLA’s trip to the Sweet 16 in the 2015 NCAA tournament his sophomore year.
“The same voices that were bashing me my freshman year for playing over Zach (LaVine) or whatever it may be were the same voices that were praising me after I had a good game against SMU,” Alford said. “So I kind of saw it first hand, the same exact people that are going to bash you when you’re not doing well are going to praise you when you are doing well. That’s when I really started to realize the voices that I needed to listen to and not to pay attention to anything else.” Continue reading →
It’s not like they’re toppling the best teams in the country (Wait for it…UCLA plays at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday!) but these are major conference opponents that pushed the Bruins to provide answers to some significant questions. Most notably, could freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf answer the bell in close games? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Continue reading →
It’s not an exaggeration to say Steve Alford helped himself more than any college basketball coach in the country with the one significant opportunity provided to him since the debacle that was last season.
The UCLA coach didn’t just pull in a good 2017 recruiting class over the last week, he landed the consensus No. 1 group in the nation (rivals, scout, espn and 247sports each ranked UCLA No. 1).
For the coach with 4/9 odds to return to his team next season, Alford just gave Dan Guerrero five good reasons not to let him go, chief among them 6-foot-8 Indianapolis guard Kris Wilkes, who Alford gushes about in the video above. It’s not uncommon for incoming players to be released from their letters of intent should the coach that signed them be fired. UCLA brought in a pair of five-star players, two four-star players and the lone three-star recruit is the first of Lonzo Ball’s two brothers bound for UCLA.
UCLA was working on both classes at the same time considering its 2017 recruiting haul includes high school teammates – and in one case, a blood relative – of each of the three players from the 2016 class. Most importantly, the caliber of talent is similar too.
The headliner is freshman T.J. Leaf’s former teammate, point guard Jaylen Hands of El Cajon Foothills Christian, rivals.com’s No. 26 prospect. Ike Anigbogu’s former running mate in the front court at Corona Centennial High, Jalen Hill, is the espn.com’s No. 50 recruit and Lonzo Ball’s brother, LiAngelo, is a 3-star shooting guard from Chino Hills High. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon power forward Cody Riley, scout.com’s No. 30 prospect, is the fourth member of the class and one of the best rebounders in the country.
If last night’s exhibition game is any indication, the UCLA basketball team is going to be fun to watch. How many victories the new-look, fast-paced Bruins will augment their entertaining style with is very much to be determined.
But Lonzo Ball alone may be enough to begin to fill Pauley Pavilion again. The freshman point guard (14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) was must-see in every facet – he had a spectacular block, a tip-dunk, and was on both ends of ally-oops, to name a few highlights. “I think you saw a little bit of how much Lonzo can impact the game in every single way,” senior Bryce Alford said.
But it was classmate T.J. Leaf who led the dunk-fest with four authoritative throw downs. The 6-10 freshman was hardly overshadowed with 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 20 minutes.