Ball bounces out of UCLA to NBA; Alford stays on as coach
LOS ANGELES (AP) Lonzo Ball is leaving and Steve Alford is staying. The expectations at UCLA remain the same.
Ball said he planned to enter the NBA draft after the Bruins lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, dashing their national title hopes. The freshman phenom helped UCLA to a 31-5 record while averaging 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.6 assists.
Seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, two of six players who averaged double figures this season, also are headed out the door. Freshman TJ Leaf, who averaged a team-leading 16.3 points, could join Ball in the draft.
Speculation was rampant during the tournament that Alford could fill the coaching vacancy at Indiana, his alma mater. Instead, the job went to Dayton's Archie Miller, brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller.
''I'm very, very happy where I'm at, and hopefully that'll continue,'' Alford said. ''This is a pretty special place. We've got some special kids that are coming to join us.''
Among them is Li'Angelo Ball, Lonzo's middle brother and a 6-foot-6 guard. Also part of the highly touted class is guard Jaylen Hands and forwards Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, all plucked from the Southern California area, and guard Kris Wilkes from Indianapolis.
''We've just got to continue to build on it,'' Alford said.
Among the returnees are sophomore Aaron Holiday (12.3 points per game), junior Thomas Welsh (10.8 points per game), freshman Ike Anigbogu, junior G.G. Goloman, and sophomores Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski, who both redshirted this season.
Yet another Ball brother, LaMelo, has verbally committed to the Bruins, although he just finished his sophomore year at nearby Chino Hills High.
Also part of UCLA's future is a new practice facility adjacent to Pauley Pavilion.
''I want to see that through,'' said Alford, who has guided UCLA to three Sweet 16 appearances in his four years.
The Bruins finished third in the Pac-12 at 15-3. They beat Kentucky by five points at Rupp Arena in December, but offered little resistance in the second half of their South Regional semifinal in Memphis.
Ball had 10 points and four of UCLA's 13 turnovers in its 86-75 loss in his final game. Alford said one off-night shouldn't change the fact that he believes Ball will be the No. 1 pick in the draft.
''Sometimes those guys aren't real coachable, and he was phenomenal to coach,'' Alford said. ''Never had a bad practice, never showed up just to put in time. He was just the absolute perfect individual to coach. You don't see that a lot in the one-and-done era.''