Head coach Ben Howland is gone, and Shabazz Muhammad could be next out the UCLA door, but one player has pledged his return to the Bruins program for the 2013-14 season.
Kyle Anderson will reportedly stick around for his sophomore season at UCLA, as reported by Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register.
According to Kartje's report, Anderson's father text messaged the Register and informed interested parties that his son "does not have plans to declare" for the 2013 NBA draft by the NCAA's April 16 deadline.
One of the highest-rated players coming out of St. Anthony High School in New Jersey, Anderson signed with the Bruins alongside fellow blue-chip prospect Muhammad.
Anderson had an up-and-down freshman season with UCLA, showing flashes of brilliance and extreme versatility while averaging 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He was also uncomfortable at times in a new position and struggled to adapt to playing off the ball in certain sets.
Master Tesfatsion, who covers basketball at Arizona State for The State Press and got to see Anderson firsthand this season, supports the freshman's choice to return:
Master Tesfatsion @MasterTes
No way Kyle Anderson is ready for the NBA yet. Would be a terrible decision.3/29/2013, 3:36:56 PM
His father spoke to Kartje on the topic in early March, when he told the Register that his son was mentally ready to return to school next season. The elder Anderson has high hopes for his son's sophomore season at UCLA, as noted in the early March piece:
If he were outside (pick number) 20, I’d say he has to go back. I think if he comes back a year, I think he’s an All-American, and I think he’s top five, I really do.
While those are big goals for a player that didn't average double figures during his freshman season, they are certainly achievable for a player that has the size, skill set and exposure that Anderson will have next year in school.
In any event, the uncertainty of Anderson's place in the draft pool and UCLA's unceremonious end to the 2013 NCAA tournament have apparently left the young forward hungry for more college experience next season.
It's great news for the UCLA program—especially for Steve Alford, UCLA's new head coach.