LOS ANGELES - UCLA head coach Steve Alford and four of the Bruins' returning players spoke with members of the local media on Monday afternoon, prior to the team's third practice of the preseason.
Coach Alford, along with senior Travis Wear, junior Norman Powell and sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams spoke about the team's summer preparations, their expectations for the season, and the transition with the program's new coaching staff.
Single-game tickets for UCLA's upcoming men's basketball season will go onsale beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1 (click here). The Bruins open the 2013-14 campaign against Drexel in Pauley Pavilion the evening on Friday, Nov. 8. UCLA will host a pair of exhibition games on Oct. 30 (vs. Cal State San Bernardino) and Nov. 4 (vs. Cal State San Marcos).
QUOTE SHEET OF STEVE ALFORD (from Sept. 30)
on Jordan Adams recovering from his foot injury (suffered March 15)
“He’s shown no affects. Obviously, we’ve only had two days of practice but I think the medical staff and Laef [Morris] have done a great job of being overly cautious. His workload our first three months probably wasn’t anything at all. It was bike work, being able to dribble a basketball, shooting a little bit on it, but he looks really good. Obviously, he’s got to continue to get in better shape and those things, but we have plenty of time to do that. He and Kyle [Anderson] have a terrific feel. They have a great basketball IQ. So when you have both of them out there, that really helps.
on Jordan Adams’ practice schedule
“He was full-go on the first day. We backed him off a little bit on the second day, so we will try and do that pattern for maybe one to two weeks. After that, he will be full-go every day. We are trying to factor all that in. We are not going more than four or five days in a row. The way it looks like right now, through a six-week practice plan, we will probably have two days off each week the way it is. That works very well for Jordan. If he has to have a few more days off, then we’ll give him a few more.
on what he’s learned about his new job since being hired six months ago
“Well, I thought the weather was really good, but I had no idea it was going to be this good. Well, that’s where I work. So it’s a lot of fun, coming to work every day. I don’t worry about the rain and I don’t worry about bad weather, so that’s a little bit different. But nothing [significant], really. It’s my 23rd year. I’ve been doing this a long time. Other than the rules changing a little bit, and those seem to change a lot now, other than the rules changing here in September – it’s my fifth time taking over a new job. Getting my team ready, and organizing recruiting and getting people in line from academics to sports information to travel to just how you like doing things the first year, there’s always a transition period. I’ve done that five times already, so that is no different. It’s just it was six years ago, so I haven’t had to worry about this going into a season.”
on attracting top-level recruits and looking at the ESPN.com recruiting rankings
“We will look at that stuff. That’s one ranking. You can look at other rankings and they will vary. There are so many different rankings that will vary. One thing that we have been able to do in six months, is that we haven’t had any problem getting guys interested to look at UCLA. That’s what our brand is about. When you start looking at the history and tradition of UCLA, that’s a pretty easy brand to sell. The guys that we have been on, those are guys that we have really wanted to actively recruit. If there’s 10 guys on that list that aren’t interested in UCLA, you just move on. If you’re talking about rankings, the 15th-ranked guy might be more readily available and a better overall player than the eighth-ranked guy. So, we don’t pay a whole lot of attention to that other than getting names and seeing what will fit into the puzzle that we are putting together. Going into the first of October, we are really excited about how that puzzle is looking. There are still a lot of pieces that have to go into that. I like where recruiting is going, not just in ‘14, but also ‘15 and ‘16.
on exploring interest in UCLA from the nation's top-10 ranked players
“That’s hard. I don’t know how to answer that, because what rankings are you talking about? When I played in the ‘80s, they didn’t even rank players. Yet the Indianas of the world and Kentucky or Duke or UCLA, they still had success. We know what we want to do in recruiting and how we want to attack recruiting. Through six months, that has been a lot. Part of recruiting when you take a new job is making sure that you recruit your current team. When I arrived, we only had six guys on scholarship and all six of those guys stayed. To be honest with you, all six of them could have left. So we had to spend the first month just recruiting those guys. I’m very thankful for them, because they bought in and have trusted what we are doing. We are building trust in them. Then you just branch out from there. Those things have gone very well. With what you are mentioning, I don’t know if I could stand here before you and tell you who those 10 guys are you are talking about. I would know them if you told me their names, but I don’t look at it to where, ‘We are recruiting this guy who is ranked sixth, or this guy who is ranked 25th.’ Mateen Cleaves – there were a lot of guys who I played with and coached against in the Big Ten who were not ranked and they ended up being really good players. Sometimes those rankings they work out and sometimes they don’t. But I do think just in a short time, most of the top players in the country have got UCLA on their list of at least consideration and that’s been good.”
on the pending eligibility of Wanaah Bail and Isaac Hamilton
“As far as eligibility, no update. We are waiting to hear on Wanaah and hopefully get information on that really quickly. Isaac started class last Thursday [Sept. 26], so that process will probably take a little longer than Wanaah’s. Again, that’s on the NCAA. I don’t know the time frame on it. Obviously, for Wannah and Isaac’s case, I hope it’s sooner rather than later. [Regarding Wanaah Bail] When you look at some of these other cases that are coming forward and eligibilities are being restored, we are hopeful but again, that’s in the hands of the NCAA. We just have to wait and see.”
on Wanaah Bail returning to practice from knee surgery earlier this summer
“He’s probably three weeks away if I’m just reading into the doctor’s reports and talking to Laef [Morris]. He’s probably three weeks away from being released to do some things, and probably four to five weeks from being 100 percent. So, hopefully we can get a ruling on him. If it’s not a favorable [NCAA] ruling, the aggressiveness of it may back off a little bit. Hopefully, we can get a favorable ruling so that the rehab can aggressively take place. This happened right when he got to campus. I don’t know the date of when he got the surgery. He hasn’t done a lot since he joined our family because of the injury. We obviously know about him because we saw him play in high school and those types of things, and he adds to our inside. That’s where we have some concerns. We just aren’t that deep on the front court because you’ve got the Wear twins and then Tony, and Wanaah would really help with the depth of our front court. Very athletic. Very good presence. He can play mostly inside, but he can go to the perimeter and play. He gives you a big man like the Wear twins who is a little more versatile.”
on UCLA’s situation at the point guard position
“Kyle is somebody that can play that position. Of the freshmen, Bryce can play that position. Zach can play it, but Zach is a scoring guard and I want him to kind of be in that position. We don’t really label guys. If you look at my teams from New Mexico, you would say we played, some years, with three point guards. One year, we played Darrington Hobson at point forward. Last year, you would probably say we had no point guards in Kendall Williams, Tony Snell and Hugh Greenwood. None of those three are prototype point guards. And yet, the ball control end of it is pretty good. We don’t turn the ball over. We want to play up-tempo. We can go with a lot of versatility. We are very early into this process. The next six weeks will tell how combinations work in practice to see how things go. I’m not really worried about handling the ball and getting our offense started. I think that we will have plenty of guards that are able to do that.”
on where to expect Isaac Hamilton to play on the court
“We will just see. The plan is, he’ll do both. He will play all the guard positions. Just like if you asked me about Kyle, I’d tell you the same thing. With Norman, he probably won’t play a lot of point position. But he can bring the ball up if he rebounds, he’s got the freedom to bring it up. Bryce can play a lot of positions. Zach can play a lot of positions. Noah can play a lot of positions. Noah wouldn’t be a point guard, but he can play the other guard positions. I know that everybody likes labeling kids. I’ve never been a big labeler because I think then you take away from what they might develop into. I was a point guard coming out of high school. I played very little point guard in college. I was a shooting guard, you might say, and others might say I was a forward at times with as much time as I spent on the baseline. And then I went to the league and I got to be a point guard again. More than labeling, I want to see how these guys enjoy the offense and fit in the best. You take their skill set to see how you can use them the best and to make them look the best.”
on preference for a certain defensive style
“I’ve mostly been a man guy. We will be able to play some zone just because of some of the lineups we can put out there. If you look at the Wear twins and or Tony, any combination of those two bigs. And then guys like Norman, Jordan and Kyle – that’s a really big lineup. We have the versatility of going big, and the versatility of being long and athletic. We may mix things up more so that we work on zone defenses and zone offenses a little bit more. The Pac-12 has a little bit more of that going on than the Mountain West Conference. There are more teams that will play zone, so we will probably play for that a little bit more than what we normally do.”
on re-recruiting the current players on the roster last April
“Just getting to know them. Communicating with them. Spending time with them. They were in class at the time. Having them in the office, sitting down to talk with them and letting them get to know us. Everybody except for Tyus [Edney] was new. Just getting them to the office so we had a chance to get to know them, watching some tape. And thankfully, that trust has been built to where I think they’d tell you they are enjoying things to this point. Because things that were told to them six months ago, those things are happening. That’s how you build trust. We were on the floor for individual workouts. They got to see us through our development phase. If they like how we are teaching the game of basketball, if the style would fit. What we did in individual workouts, they were able to see that as well.”
on having a roster loaded with athletic wing players
“My last year’s team at New Mexico, again, I don’t know that you would say that any of those guys were true point guards. We had Hugh Greenwood at 6-3, about 205 pounds. We had Kendall Williams, who was more of an off guard. Tony Snell was more of an off guard. We had played four guards before. We have played the traditional two bigs that aren’t a true center. Like if you played the two Wears together, I don’t know that you say either one of those guys are a center, they’re two big forwards. Now if you put Tony Parker in there, that’s more of a legit center. So you’ve got a variety of guys you can play. That’s more of a benefit. I’ve probably had more teams along those lines than just your typical center, power forward, swing guard, shooting guard, point guard. I usually don’t label guys like that. The way we run our system like that, they don’t need to be labeled. If you look at veterans and you pick and choose the guys you want to put in there – you’ve got the Wear twins and Tony, and Kyle, Jordan and Tony, just your vets coming back – that’s a pretty big lineup. I like the matchup problems that could cause. And yet we have a lot of other different ways we can go with freshmen that are energized, freshmen that can score, freshman that can handle it. It’s just like a lot of freshmen, our freshmen are learning about guarding and playing against 22 and 23 year-olds, whereas the last couple years they have been going against 15 to 17 year-olds. That’s a transition period, and they are going through that.”
on the role that Kyle Anderson will play
“Big role. He will play any of four positions. He will play any of the three guard positions and we will play him at four as well because he’s arguably one of our best rebounders. Tremendous feel. Kyle will be on the floor a lot. We will be very versatile with what we do. He will have the ball in ball screens, be the screener in ball screens, he will bring the ball up some. He will run as a big guard, so we’ll post him. There will be a lot of versatility in the way we are going to use him.”
on the importance of recruiting in southern California
“Recruiting your home, and I think that’s what has been so exciting for us. It’s a change for us, having a place that has so much talent, and southern California has an incredible amount of talent. Building those relationships and continuing to build those relationships, whether it be with AAU coaches or high school coaches, and then letting those prospective student-athletes, those recruits, get to see who we are and meet who we are. You’ve got unofficial visits, they can come on campus and come to practice and then see our style. Those things are in place, and we will continue that through this year. Once we get to play in games and that becomes a little more evident you will see that. But even concluding the ‘14 class, and into the ‘15 and ‘16 classes, there is a heavy emphasis on that just because there is so much talent.”