UCLA Basketball: Expectations for the Bruins' Incoming 2014-15 Class
While the floors of Pauley Pavilion are ripped out and replaced with a state-of-the-art court after damage from a burst water main destroyed the court UCLA played on last season, the Bruins are in a reconstructive phase of their own.
Although they had hoped to only lose point guard Kyle Anderson to the NBA, guards Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine elected to take their talents to the professional ranks as well.
This has left the Bruins facing a number of questions as they prepare for their second season under head coach Steve Alford.
Athletic director Dan Guerrero has assured that the new court in Pauley will be ready by the end of October, but Bruin fans will have to wait and see what kind of team will take that court this coming season.
The departures of Anderson, Adams and LaVine have opened a void in the UCLA squad, but Alford has lined up an incoming class—and a transfer guard—that may be able to not only fill that void but build upon what the trio created in Westwood last season.
Here’s a look at the expectations for the Bruins’ incoming class for the 2014-15 season.
Kevon Looney (F)
With the departure of a trio of talented players to the NBA, Kevon Looney has the potential to carry the Bruins in his freshman season.
The 6’8”, 215-pound five-star recruit from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, may just shape up to be the frontcourt talent UCLA has been longing for.
He’s a versatile forward who can both score at the rim and drain a mid-range jumper or three-pointer as well.
Looney’s also an excellent rebounder and brings the kind of team-centered mentality and unselfishness that could boost the Bruins to lofty heights in the Pac-12 in 2014-15.
He’s a lock for a starting position in UCLA’s frontcourt and is poised to be one of its biggest offensive contributors.
Stats per game prediction: 14 PTS, 9 REB, 2.5 AST, 1 BLK
Jonah Bolden (F)
Jonah Bolden is another solid addition to UCLA’s frontcourt, particularly in the absence of longtime forwards David and Travis Wear, who finished their last season in Westwood in March.
However, while the 6’8”, 195-pound forward has tremendous upside in college, he may take some molding before he becomes a great college athlete.
The Australian native has been compared to Kevin Durant because of his length and ability to beat defenders off the dribble, but he isn’t as physically strong as he needs to be to have an immediate impact on the front end of his freshman season.
Coach Steve Alford and his staff will no doubt be working Bolden hard in the weight room as the Bruins prepare for their upcoming campaign.
The four-star recruit will also need to fortify his mental toughness (i.e., aggressiveness) in order to make the transition to the college level.
He has the potential to work his way into a more active role on the team, but as it stands now, Bolden’s minutes won’t be substantial in his freshman season.
Stats per game prediction: 6 PTS, 4 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.5 BLK
Thomas Welsh (C)
At 7’0”, 245 pounds, Thomas Welsh is the type of physical specimen the Bruins need in the frontcourt.
For a big man, he has great hands and can finish in a variety of ways at the rim, from jump hooks to tip-ins created from offensive rebounds.
However, much like Bolden, the four-star recruit from Los Angeles will need to work on his strength in order to hold his ground against college forwards.
His quickness and athleticism have also been targeted as a transitional issue.
Nevertheless, Welsh will be competing with junior Tony Parker and sophomore Wanaah Bail for minutes in the UCLA frontcourt.
If he continues to develop at the rate he upheld in high school, Welsh will be a steady contributor to the Bruins by the end of his freshman season and almost certainly by his sophomore season.
As it stands, Welsh will take the court for Parker when he needs a breather.
Stats per game prediction: 7 PTS, 4.5 REB, 1 AST, 1.5 BLK
Gyorgy Goloman (F)
Gyorgy Goloman, who goes by “G.G,” is a native of Hungary who moved to Florida for his senior season.
As a three-star recruit who was only recruited by Alford’s former coaching post, New Mexico, and a handful of mid-majors, Goloman will likely take some time to acclimate to the college level or will be Alford’s greatest steal on the recruiting circuit.
All signs suggest that the former will come true for the 6’10”, 200-pound forward, but he is an excellent playmaker who can make an impact on UCLA—it’s just a matter of when.
Goloman’s upside is he can pass, shoot in the mid-range and is ambidextrous at the rim. His downside is that he is physically weak and isn’t aggressive in attacking the basket.
He’ll likely spend his entire freshman year—and possibly sophomore year as well—developing in practice with the Bruins and won’t see too much playing time in his freshman season.
With the amount of young frontcourt talent UCLA has this coming season, Goloman will likely be a garbage-time player.
Stats per game prediction: 2 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 0.5 BLK
Jon Octeus (G)
Considering the Bruins lost two guards and their starting point guard to the NBA draft this summer, the arrival of Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus is paramount to their success next season.
Octeus, who redshirted his first season at CSU, is expected to graduate in the fall and immediately be eligible to play his final season of eligibility for UCLA in the 2014-15 season.
Because the 6’4”, 170-pound guard’s decision to transfer is relatively fresh (announced in late June), it’s unclear exactly what Octeus’ role will be for UCLA this coming season.
As a redshirt junior last season, he started for the Rams at point guard.
With sophomore Bryce Alford and redshirt freshman Isaac Hamilton originally expected to share the point guard duties, Octeus might primarily be a shooting guard for the Bruins.
Considering his impressive season at CSU last year (13.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 APG), which included stellar performances against top-ranked Gonzaga and San Diego State, Octeus will find a way to etch himself into the starting lineup.
However, Octeus’ upcoming role will be more apparent as the season approaches and Alford gets a better feel for how he’ll fit into the program.
Stats per game prediction: 10 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST