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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UCLA forward Jonah Bolden out 6-8 weeks after knee surgery

UCLA forward Jonah Bolden will be out for six to eight weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday morning.

Bolden, who is expected to start in 2015-16, had the operation to repair a slight meniscus tear in his right knee. He is expected to make a full recovery, according to a team spokesperson.

The former four-star recruit will need to fill a major void for the Bruins, who lost 6-foot-9 power forward Kevon Looney to the NBA draft. Bolden had signed as part of the 2014 class, but was ruled ineligible to play as a freshman due to issues with his high school transfer from Australia.

At 6-foot-10, Bolden could potentially play either forward spot for UCLA.

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Q&A: Former UCLA guard Darren Collison reflects on his NBA career

Darren Collison scrambles for a loose ball against Memphis' Antonio Anderson during UCLA's 78-63 loss in the 2008 Final Four. (Eric Gay/AP)

Darren Collison scrambles for a loose ball against Memphis’ Antonio Anderson during UCLA’s 78-63 loss in the 2008 Final Four. (Eric Gay/AP)

Four-year stars are rare in today’s college basketball landscape, which makes Darren Collison’s career seem like it belongs in a time capsule. The former UCLA point guard was the last Bruin to be taken in the NBA draft after exhausting his college eligibility, going 21st overall in 2009.

Now entering his seventh season as a pro, Collison took some time to talk about his NBA career, the growth of his youth basketball camp, and his thoughts on the state of UCLA men’s basketball.

Q: You’ve spent a lot of your career as a backup and journeyman. What did it mean for your career to sign a three-year contract with the Sacramento Kings and have a chance to be a starter?

It was a big step in my career. We all talk about stability, whether you’re working in the real world or you’re playing sports. I think stability was a part of my success this past season, because you kind of know where you’re going to be, you know who the coach is going to be, you know who your teammates are.

Q: The last time you had started full-time was with the Indiana Pacers. What was the difference in doing so again three years later?

I’m more confident than I was when I was in Indiana. I was still figuring out my way around (back then). I was ready to go (this time). I was ready to show the league that i was more than capable of starting. Not just starting, but being an above-average starter.

Q: You averaged a career-high 16.1 points as well as 5.6 assists before your injury. Do you feel like you proved people wrong?

Without a doubt, but at the same time, I knew my capability. People only came to that conclusion (that I couldn’t) because I’d been coming off the bench for a year and a half. They didn’t really do their research as to why I was coming off the bench. I knew I could start for any team. … I didn’t really care what team. Continue reading

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