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UCLA Career Stats: 127 GP, 16.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 46.8 FG%, 44.6 3PT%
While Baron Davis might have been the most exciting player Steve Lavin ever coached, with Earl Watson his best leader and Dan Gadzuric his best big, the best overall player of the Lavin years has to be Jason Kapono. One of the best shooters UCLA has ever had, Kapono is the only Bruin who has ever led his team in scoring for four consecutive years.
Few players in UCLA history have scored more prolifically that Kapono, a 6’8’’ forward out of Lakewood, California. Keep in mind this is a history that includes Reggie Miller, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Walt Hazard, Gail Goodrich, Bill Walton, Don MacLean, Sidney Wicks, Tracy Murray, Kiki Vandeweghe…I could go on. Of these names, only MacLean and Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) are higher than Kapono on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list. At 2095 points, he is tied with Miller, and NBA icon, for third.
Kapono’s career average of 16.5 PPG is only surpassed by twice by players who stayed at UCLA for four years or more (Abdul-Jabbar and Miller). His three-point percentage of 44.6 is second all time in school history, but the man he trails (Pooh Richardson at 46.4) made 265 fewer threes, and attempted 598 fewer than Kapono. And Richardson spent three years at UCLA, only one less than the man he’s directly ahead of.
Nationally, Kapono’s career three-point percentage is 25th all-time among Division I players who made more than 200 treys and averaged two or more per game.
It goes without saying that Kapono holds the Bruin record for threes made (317), and the gap between him and the next men (Arron Afflalo and Michael Roll) is 108. Watson and Davis, the two players proceeding Kapono on this list, attempted a combined 570 threes over their careers. Watson himself is seventh on the Bruin all-time three-point attempt list. But if you do the math, Kapono made one three for every 1.8 trey attempted by that duo.
But for all his three-point prowess, Kapono’s all-around game established him as more than just a perimeter specialist. From his sophomore year onward, Kapono averaged over five rebounds and two assists each year. During that time period, he also shot 86.8 percent from the line. When teams predictably came out to contest his shot, Kapono either made it regardless of the pressure, or faked and drove in for a better look.
Kapono came to UCLA as a freshman in 1999, the season after Davis turned pro. In search of scoring, the Bruins loaded Kapono up with minutes (he averaged over 32 per game that year) and let him loose. In his first game at UCLA, the young Kapono did not disappoint, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting and snaring seven rebounds. Kapono totaled a then career-high 27 points twice against USC and Arizona, finishing with 20-plus points nine times. As a freshman he would go on to average 16 points per game, a number only surpassed by MacLean and Kevin Love’s first year marks in Bruin history.
By the end of a sophomore year in which he was averaging 17.2 points per game, Kapono had broken the 1,000-point mark, only the third Bruin sophomore ever to do so. He set new career highs in points (28 three times), rebounds (13 against Oregon), and 20-plus games (14, six of which he scored 24 or more). His 21 points, 12 boards and six assists in a win over Hawaii marked the most complete game of his career. Kapono’s scoring was instrumental to the Bruins’ second straight appearance in the regional semifinals.
In his junior year, Kapono scored fewer than 16 points only 13 times in 33 games. UCLA went 7-6 in those games, including their season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 to Missouri. He would break into UCLA’s 35-point club in incredible fashion during his senior year, dropping 44 on a shell-shocked Washington State squad. In getting those 44 points (a UCLA single-game record only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has bested), Kapono shot 14-19 from the floor, making all seven of his foul shots and nine of his 10 threes. He also had six assists and five rebounds to round out the evening.
Regrettably, UCLA did not make the tournament in Kapono’s senior year, so the Bruin great never got a chance to right his subpar performance against Missouri the previous go. He was drafted with the 31st pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, and then proceeded to drift around six different NBA rosters over the next eight years.
Naturally, Kapono’s NBA claim to fame involved the three-point contest. In 2007 and 2008, Kapono displayed the shooting stroke Bruin fans knew so well, winning the contest both years.
He currently plays with former Bruin teammate Matt Barnes for the Los Angeles Lakers.