Steve Alford (USA Today)

UCLA Coach Steve Alford and Players Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh Preview Upcoming Road Swing to Colorado and Utah

Jan. 10 -- UCLA coach Steve Alford and players Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh spoke to the media ahead of the Bruins' road game at Colorado on Thursday...

STEVE ALFORD

On the emphasis moving forward...

"A little bit of pick-and-roll coverages, shaping up some things positionally like we want to do, board play -- it's a concern and we're going into this trip here to play two teams that are very physical and athletic on the glass. Those are the two biggest concerns that I think we'll begin teaching here in the next 48 hours."

On Colorado and Utah...

"I was in the Mountain West when Utah was in that league, so it's two schools that have had a lot of success, not just in basketball but it's rolled over into other sports. Both are on the verge or even beyond the verge of developing outstanding basketball programs, so I've got a lot of respect for both coaches for how they go about doing things and compete. They're having a lot of success. It's been a positive thing [for the conference]."

On Pac-12 scheduling...

"I like that better than the alternative of having to play 22 (conference games) -- that's a little too much if you're going to have 12 teams. I don't know if there is a better option than what we're doing now. I don't know if I'm in favor of playing more than 18 league games. We're starting league play now before the first of the year, so if you increase it you're looking at the middle of December. With football going on, I like the non-conference big games. That's fun and exciting for fans that can watch football and a non-conference game. ... When you hit January, I'm ready to watch those league battles across the country that have always been fun to watch."

On Colorado...

"The oldest and most experienced team in our league and a lot of fifth-year seniors. Really, you've got four seniors and a redshirt junior in the starting lineup. So you've got age, experience, and these guys have been in the tournament. They're tested and have played a great schedule -- they had just the misfortune of starting league play with three road games. They've got our attention. This is a well-coached team and a talented team. You'll probably see 10 or 11 guys that will play against us. Then you've got a very quick turnaround. We don't get into Salt Lake City until about 3 or 4 o'clock on Friday and we've got to turn around and play them Saturday. They're obviously playing very well. That's the road in the Pac-12. Every trip we take we're going to be saying that. These are two very god teams that we're going to have to play well to have a chance to win."

On Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf matching up against experienced opponents...

"These two have met all the challenges head on. I think their experience in high school and at the AAU level, as well as playing globally with USA basketball -- they are winners. You look at Chino Hills and they still haven't lost. Foothills Christian hadn't done the things before TJ got there. The imprint they put on their high schools in winning, they brought the same imprint here. There would be some freshmen I would be concerned with for that but those are not two freshmen I would be with that."

On team chemistry...

"It's not just one-sided. If the vets wouldn't have welcomed (the freshmen), this thing wouldn't be working either. It's 50-50 when you talk about chemistry. The guys that were here last year have done a good job and the new guys have come in and done a good job in the area of chemistry. We've had a really good blend."

We have a point guard that is the best in the country at pushing. You bring Aaron off the bench and he pushes. Our pace, regardless of whether we have Aaron running the point or 'Zo running the point, it's at a high level. You're running Isaac and Bryce to wings to stretch defenses with how they shoot the ball, and then you've got guys like TJ and Thom and Ike and GG who are running down the middle of the floor, and you've got to guard all those guys. It's the most impressive thing to date, what we do in transition. It's our strength. We're getting nearly 20 points a game, which is incredible. What we've got to be able to do when teams take that away, still go with pace in a 50-foot box instead of a 94-foot box. We're still learning to do that and we're getting better at it. We play multiple point guards. People were always wondering in my first three years on the point guard, so at least that has gone away this year. Really, a lot of times we've got three point guards out there. When we've got Aaron, Bryce and 'Zo out there, they can play point and combo. We've got ball-handling guards that share it and don't turn the ball over. We're playing eight guys and almost all of them have positive turnover-assist ratios. There are not a lot of teams that are doing that. We value the ball, we take good shots, and we've got guys that can shoot it. That lends to a lot of really good offensive efficiency numbers."

http://www.scout.com/player/174831-lonzo-ball

LONZO BALL

On what the team is working on...

"Just bringing what we do in practice to the games. We've got a road trip coming up so that's a big test. Rebounding and defense are up there."

On what he learned in first Pac-12 road trip...

"Every game is tough. Oregon was a tough game. Oregon State was a tough game. It's different than non-conference. You've just got to go in there focused and get a win."

On going up against experienced players...

"Obviously they know the game but everybody on the court knows how to play. I look at everybody the same."

On college road trips...

"You've got to take a plane instead of a bus. It's a farther travel but you've got to go in there with the same mindset to get wins."

On differences running the break in high school to now...

"I feel like fast-breaking is the same in high school, college and the NBA -- guys are just bigger, faster and stronger. ... We can run the lane, get a dunk a three, we can pass it and big guys can dribble. We have a lot of options on the break."

http://www.scout.com/player/157177-bryce-alford

BRYCE ALFORD

On what Colorado and Utah have brought to the conference...

"Adding those two teams has been a bonus to this conference. Watching my dad's teams in New Mexico, I got a chance to see Utah quite a bit and I always thought they were one of the best teams in the Mountain West. I've always thought they were a good team and Colorado has been good, so they've definitely added to the Pac something different."

On the freshmen going up against older players...

"Any time you go against experience that's a challenge. I've been very surprised, very encouraged with the way they've done it. They've played their share of guys that have been talented freshmen or guys that have experience. They have done what they do. They are gamers and go out there and compete. To those guys, it doesn't matter who they're going against. They're just going to play their best."

On how Ball responded to his first loss...

"He's a guy that goes about his business. He has a ton of fun doing it and does what he does. He's Lonzo Ball -- he wins games."

On the point guards in the transition game...

"Those two guys are key to what we do in transition. Their ability to play at the pace they do with the dribble or passing it ahead, they have done an unbelievable job of throwing the ball ahead. That's something that is very underrated -- how much faster you can push the ball through the pass. Obviously Lonzo is one of the fastest guys in the country, if not the fastest, with the ball. The pace they can bring to our transition game whether it be getting a rebound or one of us getting them the ball, it's incredible how fast they can get down the court."

http://www.scout.com/player/163757-thomas-welsh

THOMAS WELSH

On going up against physical players...

"As a center my job is to hold down the paint, get rebounds and block shots on the defensive end, and try to be big down there. With teams that are physical, it's about matching that physicality and getting into them a little bit, too. That's definitely one thing I try to keep working on."

On what makes playing Colorado difficult...

"The altitude is different there, but they've also got a great atmosphere there with a great team, so it's going to be a great test for us for sure."

On preparing for the altitude...

"There are altitude masks and that sort of thing, but we're a very well conditioned team right now so we'll play hard. Maybe it will affect us in the first couple minutes trying to get used to it, but we've got to stick to our game plan and keep it rolling."

On his own play since returning from injury...

"I thought the first game against Oregon I played well but since then I haven't really been making shots like I would like. But we've been doing well so if I can rebound and block shots when my shot isn't going to fall, I can have a good game on the defensive end. It's about playing defense for me. ... I've just been missing shots, really. I have a lot of confidence in my shot but they haven't been falling for me as of late so I've got to keep working at it."

On the team's transition game...

"It's completely different because all four (guards) can push the ball, make shots and create shots for others, so when you have that much versatility on the offensive end especially in transition, there is not much you can do to stop it. You can take one guy away, but he'll find the next guy and he is just as potent as the guy before. There are just so many options for us offensively and once we get running, it's hard to stop. ... It's great (for me). I'm usually in the back watching it. You don't usually get up to the front when you've got the transition players we have, but it's awesome because it produces easy baskets for us and gets guys to the line. It generates energy with the crowd, too, so it's a lot of fun."

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