UCLA center Tony Parker could see minutes at power forward

UCLA center Tony Parker backs down Long Beach State's Eric McKnight (12) during the Bruins' 77-63 win on Nov. 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

UCLA center Tony Parker backs down Long Beach State’s Eric McKnight (12) during the Bruins’ 77-63 win on Nov. 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

In his final season at UCLA, Tony Parker could be playing a new role.

Through 104 games — including 42 starts — the 6-foot-9 big man has primarily served as a true center, a rarity as stretch forwards continue to proliferate in basketball. As a senior in 2015-16, he could be playing stretches as a power forward.

“Probably so,” Parker said. “It’s one thing coach (Steve) Alford wants me to do, so I’ll do it.”

Moving the Atlanta-area native to the four would allow the Bruins to give more minutes to soon-to-be sophomore Thomas Welsh, a promising 7-footer who recently received an invite to the USA Basketball U19 training camp. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball finalizes 2015-16 nonconference schedule

UCLA men’s basketball released its upcoming nonconference schedule today, and the spot to mark in your calendar is Dec. 3.

That’s when the Bruins will host Kentucky, facing a team that dismantled them in an 83-44 blowout last December in Chicago — one that the Wildcats opened with a 24-0 run. UK will almost certainly enter Pauley Pavilion as the favorite, but this is also a team that lost seven players from its Final Four squad.

As has become customary under head coach Steve Alford — who is heading into his third season — UCLA has a loaded nonconference slate that also includes a visit to Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and a game against North Carolina on Dec. 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Both teams beat the Bruins by double-digits last winter. The Bulldogs also ended UCLA’s season with a 74-62 win in the Sweet 16.

“I’ve maintained all along that we want to upgrade our program’s schedule in hopes of playing tough and exciting marquee games,” Alford said in a statement, “and I’d say we’ve moved even further in that direction this year. … This non-conference schedule figures to be one of the strongest in the nation, and I know our players can’t wait to take on this challenge.”

The Bruins could also play Kansas and Indiana in November’s Maui Invitational, a tournament that also includes St. John’s, UNLV and Wake Forest.

UCLA’s first competition will come in an exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles on Oct. 30, and it will officially open its season against Monmouth on Nov. 13.

See the full nonconference schedule below: Continue reading

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Steve Alford talks state of UCLA basketball heading into 2015-16

UCLA head coach Steve Alford stands during the introductions before the Bruins' 72-63 win over Oregon on Feb.14, 2015. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA head coach Steve Alford stands during the introductions before the Bruins’ 72-63 win over Oregon on Feb.14, 2015. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

This morning, UCLA men’s basketball ran an instructional clinic with Special Olympic athletes at Pauley Pavilion. A group of UCLA students regularly run the clinics every Saturday, and had reached out to the team to collaborate this weekend. The Special Olympics World Summer Games will be held in Los Angeles from July 25 to August 2.

After the session on Saturday, UCLA coach Steve Alford talked about participating in the event and the state of his program — including thoughts on Jonah Bolden’s role, and whether or not point guard Bryce Alford might be taken off scholarship.

On being involved with the Special Olympics:

“The more you give, the more you get out. I’ve been involved with the Special Olympics since 1984, when I got back from Los Angeles being a part of the Olympics. … Every stop I’ve made, I’ve been involved with it. Anytime that they reach out to us, and we get a chance to be around the Special Olympians, we want to do that. Give them a chance to run down Pauley Pavilion. It’s not like any other court. It’s a special time for these kids to be able to do that. …

“The personalities come out. You get to see the ones that have flash. The ones that have swag. The ones that shoot threes. Ones that want to post up. Ones that want to guard. It’s a lot of fun seeing that. … The passion that they play with, that’s a very encouraging thing.”

On how he feels about state of UCLA’s roster heading into his third season:

“Good. Our freshmen get here about the 20th, 21st of this month. [Four-star guards Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali, three-star forward Alex Olesinski, JUCO transfer center Ikenna Okwarabizie] Once we get those guys in, it’s as full a roster as we’ve been able to have. We’ll have a minimum of 11 guys on scholarship, and I haven’t had that since I’ve been here. Continue reading

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NBA Draft: Norman Powell, Josh Smith work out for Lakers

Former UCLA players Norman Powell and Josh Smith worked out for the Lakers yesterday, and our beat reporter Mark Medina got the updates:

» Norman Powell sees himself as “NBA ready” after four years in college. He’ll work out with about 20 teams through the draft evaluation process.
» Center Josh Smith, who transferred to Georgetown six games into his junior year at UCLA, admits that he was “lazy” as a college player.

From late last month: Kevon Looney said he didn’t think he showed his full potential at UCLA.

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Center Thomas Welsh picked for USA Basketball U19 training camp

UCLA center Thomas Welsh  is one of 24 players participating in the USA Basketball U19 training camp. He is pictured here stretches before a practice on Oct. 14, 2014, at the Student Activities Center. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA center Thomas Welsh is one of 24 players participating in the USA Basketball U19 training camp. He is pictured here stretches before a practice on Oct. 14, 2014, at the Student Activities Center. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA center Thomas Welsh could have a chance to represent his country this summer.

The 7-footer was one of 24 players picked to participate in 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team training camp, which will take place June 12-26. Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the event will determine which 12 players are selected for the U19 national team, one that will play in Greece from June 27 to July 5.

Welsh, who will be a sophomore in the 2015-16 season, averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in his first season for the Bruins. A former McDonald’s All-American showed spurts of promise, scoring 14 points in UCLA’s season-opening 113-78 win over Montana State. In a round-of-64 upset of fifth-seeded SMU, he had six rebounds and four blocks, and was on the floor in the final minutes in place of junior Tony Parker.

Unsurprisingly for a young big man, Welsh struggled at times with foul trouble, committing 6.0 fouls per 40 minutes. The center also took 59.1 percent of his shots on 2-point jumpers, nearly double the team average.

The U19 team will be coached by Arizona’s Sean Miller. He will be assisted by his younger brother, Dayton’s Archie Miller, and Providence’s Ed Cooley.

See the full roster below: Continue reading

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