Alford: LaVine took advantage of UCLA brand, system to raise draft stock

In Steve Alford’s estimation, it wasn’t just Zach LaVine’s freakish athleticism that vaulted the freshman into the elite lottery portion of Thursday night’s NBA draft.

Wearing the UCLA letters across his chest for his lone collegiate season had plenty to do with LaVine becoming the 13th overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves, not to mention the fast-paced offensive approach employed by UCLA’s first-year coach.

“(LaVine) came in and he used the brand and this system,” Alford said. “I’ve always said it’s a very, very powerful brand and I think our style of play getting up and down the floor allows somebody like that to flourish and he had a tremendous freshman year.”

Though LaVine played just 37 college basketball games before achieving such lofty status, Alford didn’t know he had a lottery pick on his hands when the freshman reported to Westwood last summer.

“I don’t think you ever think that,” Alford said. “The NBA is a whole different level and mind set. We saw him this summer and he had incredible athleticism.

“To say we saw him being a lottery pick last summer, no.”

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Post-NBA draft transcript from Zach LaVine, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders

Below are quotes from Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders and 13th overall draft pick Zach LaVine in their session with reporters, as transcribed by the team.

# # #

*ZACH LaVINE QUOTES*

Emotions that went through your mind when you were picked?
You know man, I’ve waited my whole life for this moment. It was just a rush of emotion that came through me, and I’m on cloud 9 still man, I’m ready, I put my head down and prayed to God, thank God, I just hugged my mom and I couldn’t believe this is happening. You think about this since you’re a little kid, and you just can’t believe it’s actually happening. I’m just ready to get to Minnesota and do my best.

Good impression the Wolves were high on you at No. 13?
You know, I know I had a really good workout with them. I talked to coach Flip Saunders and we had a great meeting. And then you know, I knew they were around my draft range so I was hoping for the best. When my name was called man, it was a jolt of energy through my body. It was amazing.

Did the Wolves promise they’d draft you?
No, you see it on Twitter, it was on Twitter a lot, and you know I didn’t want to confirm or anything like that or believe it until my agent or someone you know really close to me, the GM or owner told me. But you know, I knew it was a good thing no matter what, so I’m just ecstatic that it actually did come true.

Aware Twitter storm that you thought you were upset coming to Minnesota?
No man, I’m completely ecstatic. I couldn’t be more happy. I’m a very emotional person, so I might’ve uttered something completely wrong but I put my head down, thanked God, kissed my mom, kissed my dad, couldn’t believe this was happening to me right now. I’m going into Minnesota full-fledged ready to become a Timberwolf. Continue reading

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Zach LaVine is not excited* to join the Minnesota Timberwolves

With their 13th overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected UCLA’s Zach LaVine. He was not thrilled.

To be fair, LaVine isn’t headed into an ideal situation. The 6-foot-5 guard had predicted going to the Phoenix Suns –likely one spot later rather than at No. 18 — and he’ll instead join a franchise that ranks among one of the most inept in the league. With star forward Kevin Love almost certainly on his way out, the roster might only return three players who average double-digit scoring.

As a consolation (?), he could play alongside fellow former UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad, whom the Timberwolves picked 14th overall in 2013.

Also, I hear it’s cold in Minnesota. Good luck, Zach.

*UPDATE: Reporters asked LaVine whether or not he was aware that Twitter thought he was upset.

“No man, I’m completely ecstatic,” he said. “I couldn’t be more happy. I’m a very emotional person, so I might’ve uttered something completely wrong but I put my head down, thanked God, kissed my mom, kissed my dad, couldn’t believe this was happening to me right now. I’m going into Minnesota full-fledged ready to become a Timberwolf.”

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NBA Mock Draft roundup: Where will LaVine, Anderson and Adams go?

Thursday could mark a new milestone for UCLA basketball.

Guards Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams each have a chance to go in the first round — setting up what could be the program’s largest draft class in more than three decades.

The last time three Bruins were taken in the first round was 1979, when David Greenwood, Roy Hamilton and Brad Holland went second, tenth and 14th, respectively. UCLA came close to matching that in 2008; Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love went off the board at fourth and fifth on their way to All-NBA resumes, but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute slipped into the second round at 37th overall.

Here’s a roundup of where LaVine, Anderson and Adams are projected to go on various NBA mock drafts, in this order: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, Draft Express, ESPN’s Chad Ford, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, CBS, and Dick Vitale.

Bilas DX Ford Y! USA SI SN CBS Vitale
Zach LaVine 10 13 18 21 10 18 14 17 11
Kyle Anderson 24 25 21 17 15 27 18 14 26
Jordan Adams n/a 24 29 24 n/a 29 n/a 21 27

Average draft positions: LaVine — 14.67; Anderson — 20.78; Adams — 25.67 (out of six mocks)

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NBA combine roundup: Zach LaVine wows with athleticism

To understand just how well Zach LaVine did at this week’s NBA Draft Combine, take a look at these numbers: first, second, eighth, fourth, third.

That’s what he placed in strength and agility drills among 59 participants, doing so with — respectively — a 10.42-second lane agility drill, a 2.8-second shuttle run, a 3.19-second three-quarter sprint, a 33.5-inch standing vertical, and a 41.5-inch max vertical. No one else placed top-10 in all five.

The NBA combine doesn’t usually move draft stock as much as the NFL’s does, so top prospects often sit out of drills. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid all sat out completely this year, not even traveling to Chicago for interviews and measurements.

That said, this is exactly the type of environment LaVine was going to use to his advantage. Continue reading

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Kyle Anderson named UCLA’s most valuable player at team banquet

This was a no-brainer.

After leading UCLA to its first Sweet Sixteen since 2008, point guard Kyle Anderson was named the team’s MVP during Monday night’s year-end banquet at the Beverly Hilton. After averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists — leading the Bruins in the latter two — the third-team AP All-American is headed to the NBA along with former teammates Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine.

Adams, who led UCLA with 17.4 points per game, won the J.D. Morgan Memorial Award for outstanding “team” player. Continue reading

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Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine officially declare for the NBA draft

Guards Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine have officially declared for the NBA draft, UCLA announced today.

Anderson’s father, Kyle Sr., told numerous outlets at various points in before, during and after the Bruins’ Sweet Sixteen run that his son was bound for the pros after his sophomore season. LaVine’s decision was reported last month.

“My two years at UCLA were two of the best years of my life,” Anderson said in a statement. “It was a tough decision to make with my family since our last game, but I have decided to enter my name into the NBA Draft. I will still continue to embrace the UCLA community, and I hope they will do the same with me.”

The school did not release any information regarding leading scorer Jordan Adams, who led the team with 17.4 points last season. The 6-foot-5 wing is still considering going pro, and has until the NBA early entry deadline on April 27 to make a decision. Continue reading

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Notes: Adams’ career-high 31 points pushes UCLA past Washington

– Jordan Adams is hitting on all cylinders heading down the late stretch of the season. The sophomore guard lit up the Huskies for a career-high 31 points in UCLA’s 91-82 win — a total that could have easily been higher if not for a second-half bout with cramps.

Adams scored 10 of UCLA’s first 14 points to set the pace early, and established the offense by earning trips to the line. He also exited a good portion of the second half and didn’t score in the final eight minutes, but his last six points came when the Bruins only led by one point.

UCLA’s most natural scorer hitting his stride in March obviously bodes well for a team that’s angling for a top-five tournament seed. His free throw rate has dropped to 20th in the conference compared to 13th last season, but he his nine free throw attempts were his highest since Dec. 7. Continue reading

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What to watch: Oregon State at UCLA

Oregon State (15-12, 7-8) at UCLA (21-7, 10-5)
When:
Sunday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Rob Stone, Jarron Collins)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Will Zach LaVine handle the ball more? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are returning after their one-game suspensions on Thursday, so LaVine won’t get anywhere close to the 17 shots he took in the double-overtime loss to Oregon.

But it’s about more than just his point total. His father, Paul, has been long insistent that the 6-foot-4 freshman is a point guard. LaVine’s brief stint there against the Ducks didn’t disprove that argument. Late in regulation, Bryce Alford and LaVine swapped roles in the backcourt, with the latter taking the reins of the offense.

Alford has been serviceable as a backup point, but he could be even more effective as a two guard — where he can move off the ball and get better looks. The two 3-pointers he hit during the last 33 seconds of the second half were both assisted by LaVine. More importantly, though, is that giving the ball makes LaVine much more comfortable and better utilize his athleticism. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: Zach Lavine still stuck in scoring rut

Zach LaVine is just six of 29 in his last five games, a slump that has spotlighted the pockmarks on a once stunning freshman campaign.

Most glaring remains shot selection, something that was apparent even during his eight straight double-digit scoring games. It’s just that when contested 25-footers find net, forgiveness comes easy.

Lately, those tough jumpers have been clanking more often than not. His 1-of-6 showing during UCLA’s 92-74 win over Colorado even prompted Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs’ injured star, to chime in from his bed during the game:

Asked if LaVine’s drought was of any concern, head coach Steve Alford said no. Continue reading

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