Steve Alford (USA Today)

UCLA Coach Steve Alford and Shooting Guard Isaac Hamilton Spoke at Pac-12 Basketball Media Day

Oct. 21 -- Read what UCLA head coach Steve Alford and senior guard Isaac Hamilton had to say Friday during their 10 minutes on the podium at Pac-12 Basketball Media Day...

Opening statement...

STEVE ALFORD: "Well, we're excited to be here. It's great being at Pac-12 Media Day and the enthusiasm around another college basketball season. We're right there with that enthusiasm. We've got a great blend of veterans like Isaac (Hamilton) who have been to a couple Sweet Sixteens and a lot of fun times, and then last year not so fun. So we've got hungry vets with a collection of freshmen that we're going to ask to do a lot for us that we're very excited about. We're pretty healthy at this point of the season, which is pretty good when you get to the third week of practices a little banged up but nothing serious. Things are progressing very well for us."

On the leadership of the older players...

ISAAC HAMILTON: "For the most part, coming in from high school to college, it's a big transition but I've told these guys to play their game. Coach is letting us read and react. These guys have have IQs so they're just playing like they did in high school. We'll instruct with coach and what I've told these guys is to play like they did in high school and talk on defense because that's what we're going to need this year."

ALFORD: "Yeah, and then we don't have Lonzo (Ball) shooting half-court shots. It's a style that is a lot of fun but conducive to what our talent is. It's not just Lonzo and T.J. (Leaf), who are obviously McDonald's All-Americans and have gotten a lot of hype, but Ike (Anigbogu). He's 6-9 and a half, 250 pounds and averaged a double-double down in Australia and two of those three teams were pro teams. He's doing that against grown men really early in his career and gives us a rim presence we really haven't had. These are three freshmen that are going to be in mix from Day 1 with a lot going on, so that leadership from our senior class of Isaac and Bryce (Alford) is going to be huge. They're going to be the ones that have the experience. The thing you worry about is that freshmen are going through things for the first time, whether it's a home opener, the NCAA Tournament or conference play -- it's all going through it for the first time, where Isaac and Bryce have been through these road trips and understood it. They've got to do a good job and continue to do it. They've created that culture in house because they are two really good men and are respected by their teammates. I really do think that Isaac and Bryce have done a good job of being the older ones and here come the younger guys, the younger guys feel like they're walking on egg shells for a couple months because they want to know if all of a sudden the older guys accept them. Bryce and Isaac have done a really good job of accepting those guys dating back to June when they first arrived on campus. That has eased the transition where they just do what they do. Bring your talents, bring what you brought in high school to Westwood -- that's why you're here and that's what we need as a team. That's been good leadership on Isaac's part."

On how different practices have been...

ALFORD: "We've probably talked enough about last year but we're always going to compare that because it's what you learn. When adversity hits and bad times hit, it's about what doors open, how you get better and last year's team was a really hard team to improve because they're not going against each other. We didn't have the depth. This year we've got incredible depth and I hope we stay healthy and that depth continues, but for most the practices Bryce and Isaac are going against each other, Lonzo and (Aaron) Holiday are going against each other, Gyorgy (Goloman) is going against T.J. and Ike is going against Thomas Welsh every day. When that happens, when you're going against guys that are your equal or very good players, you can't help but get better. That's what we're seeing. From what we looked like in June through Australia to now three weeks into practice, I just like our development. They've got to bring it every day because if they don't, the other guy embarrasses them. I think that's what's been the most benefit of having depth from the new guys joining the current team."

On how his letter after last season has been received...

ALFORD: "All we do is continue. All the booster functions have been tremendous throughout Los Angeles. It hasn't been talked about much I don't think from a team standpoint. I don't think our team is concerned about what money I make or what money I give back. I don't think that's an issue to our guys at all, so that part hasn't been talked about. It's about where that bar is. Coach Wooden, whether it's me, guys before me or guys after me in the future, same with players that played for Coach Wooden and guys that are playing in Westwood now, that bar was raised a long time ago by a guy that won a bucket load of games and championships, and established something that quite honestly hasn't been established anywhere else in the country. So when the bar is that way, there are expectations and when you don't meet or even come close to those expectations, we talk to our players all the time that there are going to be consequences. That's a great word I learned from coach Knight. If you're out of a stance, don't block out, you don't think the game, move the ball or make the extra play, there are going to be consequences. You're going to lose games. I wanted our players to see there are consequences when we as coaches don't perform well. Whether it was giving back an extension or writing a letter to the fan base that letting them know we care. Sometimes you get isolated as a coach whether you really care or if there is passion. Yeah, it's a reason why I came to Westwood -- to be able to coach guys like this at the level these players are at and have a chance to win championships, both in league and nationally. When you have a year when that doesn't happen, there is frustration. I want the fans to know there is frustration on our part just as much if not even more so."

On the parity in the conference...

ALFORD: "A lot of parity in the conference last year obviously with seven teams making the tournament. I think we're the only league in the country to go to three straight Elite Eights. We're getting more teams in and more teams are advancing in the tournament, more teams are getting ranked. We've got three in the top 25 to start this season. We're starting to get that recognition that this league deserves. It's an exciting league with a lot of head coaches that played the game long before we coached the game, we were having fun with the players in there during the photo shoot at 9:30 and the Network people asked that we have all the players up there and the coaches started walking. We were players first, and that's exciting. Because of that we've been able to recruit big-time players like the Isaac Hamiltons. We're scheduling better and playing in more national tournaments, we're getting a lot of big games home-and-home and starting to perform well in those games. That all breeds a lot of success and that parity will only continue this year. You're seeing a lot of great players moving on to the NBA from our league and yet there are a lot of guys that have been retained that are special. There's going to be just as much if not more parity as this season unfolds in January or February."


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