On Wednesday, both Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine officially announced the decisions that had long been expected: they would be leaving UCLA early for the NBA draft. That left Jordan Adams, the Bruins' leading scorer in 2013-14 and the key element to their hopes of contending next season, to decide if he would follow in their footsteps or come back to Westwood for his junior season. On Thursday, Adams decided to return, ensuring that UCLA will still matter in 2014-15.
With Adams' decision, the Bruins' identity is set: They will revolve around a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 17.4 points on 48.5 percent shooting last season, leading the team with 52 three-pointers made. Eliminating the question of a go-to scorer eases the burden on everyone else, and UCLA should now be able to close the gap on Arizona in the Pac-12 given other key cogs who return and incoming freshmen who are both well-regarded and simply huge.
BY JABARI PARKER: Why I decided to leave Duke for the NBA draft
"I’ve had so much fun playing here at UCLA, and I’m really excited about the team we’re going to have next year,” Adams said in a statement released by the school. “Once the season ended, my family and I began carefully weighing all of my options. In the end, staying at UCLA for my junior year is a win-win situation."
How much the Bruins will win depends on how much help Adams gets. Anderson's emergence in running the team as a 6-foot-9 point guard -- and the mismatches he created -- cannot be replicated. LaVine could have developed into another wing scorer, but now it's left to Norman Powell (11.4 points per game) and Bryce Alford (8.0) to get first crack at offering balance on the perimeter with Adams. On the block UCLA will have promise and not a lot else. Tony Parker and Wanaah Bail return after playing bit roles this past season. The freshman class features five-star 6-foot-9 prospect Kevon Looney, the No. 13 player in the Class of 2014 according to Rivals.com, as well as top 100 prospects in 7-footer Thomas Welsh and 6-foot-8 forward Jonah Bolden.
If Looney can essentially approximate Anderson without the floor generalship -- by scoring, rebounding, running the floor and stretching defenses with his outside shooting -- the Bruins should have enough depth of talent to compete for a title in what should be a very deep Pac-12. The only decision that could have undermined that prospect belonged to Adams, and he gave UCLA the answer it needed.
"Jordan is the total package," Bruins coach Steve Alford said, "and we couldn’t be more excited to have him back.”
Kentucky might have had the same excitement about James Young, but it could not have had the same hopes. Young made his expected declaration for the NBA draft on Thursday, and there was really no other choice to make. He is a 6-foot-6 guard with range to the three-point line and beyond and should be snatched up before the end of the lottery, or shortly thereafter. In the announcement about Young's intentions, Wildcats coach John Calipari noted "the NBA people" who came to Kentucky practices even in the preseason and "raved" about Young. Scoring 14.3 points per game and hitting 82 three-pointers in 2013-14 probably just reinforced the inevitable. The Wildcats' fortunes in 2014-15, especially in the backcourt, still revolve largely around the tricker decisions Andrew and Aaron Harrison must make about their own futures. Because for Young, one season always seemed like it was going to be enough.
Likewise, Thursday's announcement that Rodney Hood would depart Duke for the NBA draft was not quite news, if you believed Mike Krzyzewski's recent comments about wishing he could coach Hood for another year. But the report from Yahoo! Sports at least confirmed the 6-foot-8 Hood hadn't changed his mind after averaging 16.1 points per game for the Blue Devils in 2013-14. It was expected, much like Jabari Parker's decision to go, and Duke's overloaded incoming recruiting class should replace the lost talent immediately and effectively.
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