As a junior this past year, Bryce Alford led the Bruins in assists and was the 2nd leading scorer. He averaged 16.1 PPG and 5.2 APG as the primary ball handler for the team. Alford has a knack for hitting clutch shots and his willingness to take and make big shots shone through once again this season when he made a game-winning 3 against #7 ranked Arizona in Pauley Pavilion on January 7th. On offense, Alford was respectable. However, his defense throughout the season was a different story. Alford struggled to defend opposing guards and his consistent lack of effort on the defensive end was a key reason why the Bruins surrendered a ghastly 76.7 PPG to opposing teams.
Aaron Holiday, the brother of Jrue Holiday, was a 4-star recruit ranked 88th in the 2015 ESPN 100 out of Campbell Hall High School. Holiday shot almost 42% percent from three point range as a freshman and played the third most minutes on the team. By being thrown into the starting lineup from day one, Holiday rapidly grew and matured throughout the course of the season. Holiday had a near triple-double with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists in the huge upset win against Kentucky in Westwood. Inconsistency plagued Holiday’s freshman year but that is expected for athletes transitioning from high-school basketball to the collegiate level. With the arrival of Lonzo Ball next season, Holiday will need to be a quality bench player for the Bruins to go back to the NCAA tournament.
Isaac Hamilton stepped up his game in a big way during his junior year. His FG% jumped from 40.9% to an extremely efficient 47.2% while Hamilton also raised his scoring average from 10.6 PPG in 2014-15 to 16.8 PPG in 2015-16. Hamilton took on a bigger role offensively and as a result his field goal attempts rose from 9.4 to 13.6. He became the primary scoring option. Hamilton will look to continue to develop into a bonafide scorer who can take control of the game and carry the team if others are missing shots.
The 7-0 center out of Redondo Beach, CA saw major improvement in his game during his sophomore season. As a freshman, Welsh was stuck behind Kevon Looney and Tony Parker on the depth chart and was the 6th man off the bench. This past year, Welsh was inserted into the starting lineup and he responded with 10 double-doubles including 21 points and 11 rebounds against Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere. Welsh shot 59% from the field and 76% from the charity stripe. A big who can shoot free-throws is a luxury for any team.
Parker capped off his UCLA career by averaging 12.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 1.0 BPG. Having entered UCLA as a highly rated high school recruit and McDonald’s All-American, Parker was expected to meet lofty expectations and become a special player for the Bruins. He ultimately failed to live up to his tremendous potential. Parker, nonetheless, did increase his scoring and rebounding numbers each year. Big men who could attack the rim posed a plethora of problems for Parker defensively as he lacked the lateral quickness to maintain position between the basket and the opponent.
The Bruins severely underachieved in 2015-16 and although the blame cannot be solely placed on one individual, Alford was the recipient of most of the criticism unleashed by fans and the media. UCLA finished last season with an under .500 record after reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the previous two seasons. Yet, Alford was still able to land a top 10 recruiting class that includes two 5-star players and for this he must be given immense credit. Alford is currently on the hot seat but with the talent he is bringing into Westwood next season, he may be able cool that seat off considerably.
UCLA Class of 2020