The 2016-2017 UCLA basketball team has taken some personnel hits recently.
Yesterday, UCLA announced that Jonah Bolden, the would-be junior forward, would return to his native Australia to play professionally, but our sources have indicated it was precipitated by Bolden not making it academically at UCLA.
Earlier in July, Prince Ali, the 6-3 sophomore guard, had surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee and the school said he’d be “re-evaluated in four months.” It’s likely that he’ll miss at least a portion of the start of the season.
Kobe Paras, the four-star small forward prospect who was actually enrolled for summer school as an incoming freshman, had to withdraw due to his high school academics not being sufficient to qualify.
That has taken the UCLA roster from essentially 14 scholarship players (Bryce Alford, who was previously on scholarship, was going to forego his scholarship this year to make room for an extra scholarship player) to 11.
Bolden was expected to compete to potentially start, while Paras was expected to be a bench player, and it’s still thought that Ali will come off the bench when he returns.
The loss of Bolden and Ali definitely affects UCLA’s rotation for the season.
But the Bruins should still have enough horses to be considered one of the most talented teams in the conference.
In the backcourt:
It returns two two-year starters in seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, who were also the team’s top two leading scorers a year ago.
Athletic sophomore guard Aaron Holiday had a good freshman season, and should benefit from the sophomore jump in development.
Along with Ali, another talented athlete, UCLA returns its backcourt intact from last season.
Then, it adds a once-in-every-ten-years talent in guard Lonzo Ball, the McDonald’s All-American from Chino Hills. Ball, ranked #7 overall by Scout in the 2016 class nationally, has been hailed as the best passer on the west coast since Jason Kidd. The 6-4 talent led his high school team to an undefeated season as a senior and the mythical national championship.
In the frontcourt:
Starting 7-0 center Thomas Welsh, a McDonald’s All-American out of high school, returns from a solid sophomore campaign and should be expected to be improved with another year in the program.
The loss of Bolden will be softened by the presence of freshman T.J. Leaf, the 6-10, five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American, at power forward.
There is also the #17-ranked prospect in the nation for 2016, Ike Anigbogu, the 6-10, 250-pound center.
Gyorgy Goloman, the 6-10 junior, has always been touted by the UCLA coaching staff as a clear contributor on this level. He was hampered by injury last season.
Also in the frontcourt are two more scholarship players in Alex Olesinski, the 6-10 sophomore power forward, who saw some time last season, and Ikenna Okwarabizie, the 6-9, 250-pound junior center.
The rotation projects to be Alford, Hamilton, Holiday and Ball in the backcourt (adding Ali when he returns), with Welsh, Leaf, Anigbogu and Goloman in the frontcourt.
The Pac-12 released the home/away schedule for the Pac-12.
UCLA’s Pac-12 Schedule – At a Glance
Week of Dec. 28-Jan. 1: at Oregon/Oregon State
Week of Jan. 4-8: California/Stanford (Pauley Pavilion)
Week of Jan. 11-15: at Colorado/Utah
Week of Jan. 18-22: Arizona/Arizona State (Pauley Pavilion)
Week of Jan. 25-29: at USC
Week of Feb. 1-5: at Washington/Washington State
Week of Feb. 8-12: Oregon/Oregon State (Pauley Pavilion)
Week of Feb. 15-19: USC (Pauley Pavilion)
Week of Feb. 22-26: at Arizona/Arizona State
Week of March 1-4: Washington/Washington State (Pauley Pavilion)