Four-star shooting guard Prince Ali officially joins UCLA’s 2015 class

Prince Ali has officially signed with the UCLA men’s basketball team, the school announced Thursday, giving the Bruins a second top backcourt prospect in their 2015 class.

The four-star shooting guard is a consensus top-40 national recruit according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is a former Sagemont (Fla.) High teammate of UCLA freshman forward Gyorgy Goloman. Ali joins a class that includes four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, whose signing was announced Wednesday.

“Prince is an extremely talented player who has established himself as one of the premier backcourt players in the country,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He’s a big, athletic guard who has tremendous versatility and comes to our program with a strong understanding of a winning culture. Prince is a wonderful young man and a great addition to the Bruin family.

“When you factor in the signing of Aaron Holiday, our staff couldn’t be more excited about the start of this 2015 class.”

The Bruins do not currently have any other 2015 basketball commitments.

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UCLA signs four-star point guard Aaron Holiday

UCLA has officially signed four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of former Bruin and current New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Jrue Holiday.

Aaron Holiday is one of two commitments that UCLA currently holds in the class of 2015. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard is ranked the No. 58 best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 36 by Scout.com. A natural scorer with impressive athleticism, Holiday was named CIF Southern Section Division 4A Player of the Year after his junior season at North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall.

“Aaron is a very talented player who we know will really help our backcourt next season,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He is a quick, tough guard who possesses the ability to be both an efficient scorer and a lockdown defender. Our coaching staff is excited to add a player of Aaron’s caliber, both on and off the court, to our 2015 class, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the Bruin family.”

Older brother Jrue Holiday only spent one season with the Bruins, averaging 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds while playing out of position next to then-starting point guard Darren Collison. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball notes from Pac-12 Media Day

My story today from Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day focused on UCLA guard Norman Powell, but also touched on head coach Steve Alford’s reactions to an offseason that included a campus flood and the loss of not only three NBA draftees, but also two prospective newcomers.

Some more notes from the event:

» Whether or not big man Tony Parker can stay out of foul trouble will affect how successful UCLA will be on defense this season. Alford said he hopes to play the junior around 25 minutes per game this season, up from the 17.2 he averaged last year.

Parker was one of the most foul-prone players in the Pac-12, committing an average of 6.77 every 40 minutes. Earlier this week, he gave himself a D- for his sophomore campaign, citing those foul troubles. He added that he’s in better shape now, and is also learning how to adjust to officials more.

» Based on what Alford has said in recent weeks — as well as the realities of the backcourt depth chart — sophomore Noah Allen appears primed for a significant uptick in playing time. The former three-star recruit only played in 11 games last season, averaging 1.0 point in 3.5 minutes per outing. Continue reading

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UCLA picked to finish fourth in Pac-12 media poll

After losing four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad, UCLA men’s basketball was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12.

A preseason media poll slotted the Bruins behind Arizona, Utah and Colorado — but did give them one first-place vote. All 31 other first-place votes went to the Wildcats, widely considered a national title contender.

They lost guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon — the Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively — but return point guard T.J. McConnell and adds five-star recruit Stanley Johnson.

“There’s no better team than Arizona,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told USA Today last week. Continue reading

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UCLA extends basketball coach Steve Alford through 2020-21

After guiding UCLA to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2008, Steve Alford has signed a one-year extension to his already very lucrative contract.

The Bruins announced today that Alford signed a new agreement keeping as the head coach of the men’s basketball team through the 2020-21 season, adding an extra bit of security to his original seven-year, $18.2 million contract. That contract included an unusually large $10.4 million buyout if he quit the job before April 30, 2016; if UCLA fired him before that date, it would in turn pay him that amount.

The original contract also stipulated that he and athletic director Dan Guerrero would meet each April to discuss the “option to extend the employment agreement, in writing, an additional year.” Continue reading

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