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October 12, 2017
San Francisco, California
STEVE ALFORD: Happy to be here. Excited about our season. We're pretty healthy right now, which is always critical ten days in. But opened up a brand-new practice facility that we're absolutely excited about.
I have two gentlemen with me -- Thomas Welsh, one of the best bigs in the country, and Aaron Holiday, one of the best guards in the country. And both incredible young men, so I'm glad they're joining me here today.
Q. Do you practice with your guys? I know Coach Altman practices with his guys.
STEVE ALFORD: Who does?
Q. Coach Altman. He practices with his guys. It's like a scout team.
STEVE ALFORD: I want to see that. I want video of that.
Q. Yeah, we wrote a whole story on it.
STEVE ALFORD: Really? Coach Altman? I want to see a video on that, because they're taking it easy on him. If he's practicing with those guys, they're actually taking it easy on him.
Q. It's worked out pretty well.
STEVE ALFORD: No, I'm a lot smarter than that. I don't play with those guys. They're too big, too fast, too physical. I don't want to hurt the next day. So Dana must be in much, much better shape than I am.
Q. What did you think of you being picked third in the conference?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, you have two teams that were nationally ranked Top 10. So I'm sure there are a lot of question marks for all the other teams in the league, because there was a lot lost.
With us, we lost five key guys to an eight-man rotation. We played eight guys last year, and five of them are gone. Those five had a lot to do with our success.
So this year there are a lot of question marks because we've got a big freshman class. We've got six freshmen that we love and we think are going to have really special years, but there are six young guys.
Normally when you have a class this big, there is probably a transfer, a junior college transfer, a redshirt sitting out. But these are six -- if you count my walk-on, we have seven -- legit freshmen. So I know the experiences have got to happen a lot here in November and seven. With our schedule, that's kind of scary.
Q. Talk about your freshmen. They were working out with the NBA all summer. I was privy to a couple of those.
STEVE ALFORD: Yeah, not just our freshmen, but all of them. That's one of the unique things about UCLA that we're blessed by. Because the men's gym has about a six-week window from late July until the first week of September. We have about a six-week window where pros (indiscernible) our campus from noon to 2:00 every day, Monday through Thursday. Pros usually take long weekends, so it's usually Monday through Thursday. But for our guys to want to watch them, talk with them, play pick-up games with them, they're some of the best pick-up games anywhere in the country.
So our freshmen, as you mentioned, are probably more star-eyed than any of them because they're used to seeing LeBron, and they're used to seeing LeBron playing on 2K. So it's a little bit different controlling him with (indiscernible) than what it is actually trying to defend him.
Q. Hands and Jalen Hill, they've played together for many years. Is that chemistry transferring into your program, or do you have to break them down and teach them new things?
STEVE ALFORD: Yeah, they played together in high school. And Gelo is from the Chino area, so he's close to where J. Hill grew up. Cody Riley played for Sierra Canyon. Then you have Kris Wilkes who was in (indiscernible) basketball and he was a McDonald's All American, so he got to play with Jaylen through the McDonald's All-American stuff.
So a lot of these guys have really grown up in that same era. Chris Smith really reclassified. He should be in next year's class. So we've got six freshmen, and one of them should still be a senior in high school. So he's in that different class. But the other five of them played a lot of basketball together.
Q. Can you talk about the difference between Lonzo Ball and Jaylen Hands? They exhibit different styles of play at point guard position.
STEVE ALFORD: Yeah, they're different. Lonzo's 6'6", 6'7". Jaylen's more 6'3", 6'4". They both have similarities in that they play very fast. Jaylen is going through some of the same things of growing like Lonzo had to do. We had a foreign trip last year, and we saw that in Australia. And early season stuff with Lonzo of just how to play fast. And as Coach Wooden used to say, you can't get in a hurry. You have to make the right decisions. And not just him learning that, but players playing with him of learning to be ready when you cut and when you screen.
Because Lonzo was such a prolific passer, Jaylen has probably more scoring mentality, but can really get the ball up and down the floor. He's learning to watch tape of Lonzo and others and not getting the ball sometimes instead of the dribble but by the pass. So I think we'll be able to play at the same tempo just because Aaron's already played at that tempo and understands it, and Jaylen likes to play fast as well.
STEVE ALFORD: Like all freshmen, they're kind of working to find out what that role will be. But with Gelo, you get a shooting guard that's 230 pounds, so great strength. Like you saw last year, Lonzo, you don't see a lot of point guards that look like Lonzo, 6'6", 6'7", long, with an incredible ability to pass the ball. Gelo, you don't see a lot of guards that are 6'5", 6'6", and 230 pounds. So you can punch it to him, he shoots it with deep, deep lanes.
But I'm impressed with other parts of his game that probably doesn't get enough attention to, which is the physicality of how he defends. The position that he's always in. I've been very impressed with what he's been able to do here through ten days of practice. But he's like all the freshmen, they're trying to work themselves into a niche to find out what that role is going to be.
Q. You were a great shooter during your time. Is Gelo one of the best pure shooters that you've had during your time to come in as a freshman at UCLA?
STEVE ALFORD: We've got to wait and see. I think what Gelo's learning right now, there is a difference in volume shooting and efficient shooting. In the analytical world, we'll take last year's team, for instance, we had an eight-man rotation, and being an effective, overall effective field goal percentage shooter, you have to hit 45% or greater in effective field goal percentage.
All eight of our guys in the rotation last year shot 52% in effective field goal personal. So that's being efficient with the shots that you take.
So as a young player, Gelo's got to learn that. He is a very good shooter. And in answering your question, is he my best? That may be stretching it right now. I've been very blessed that I've had a lot of really good shooters over the history of my coaching career that have proven themselves at the collegiate level. So they were also great shooters in high school.
So I think Gelo's just got to play games. He's got to figure that out now. Not that he couldn't be that, but you have to prove that at the next level.
Q. Has Cody Riley grown a couple inches since high school?
STEVE ALFORD: What do we list him at, 6'9? Yeah, he's never been 6'9. I mean, I've had him 6'9", 6'9.5". But what we got with Cody is a left-handed post player that he's kind of a throwback in that you have a power forward. That is kind of a term going out of basketball, but yet shall look at Z-Bo, who's been in the league 16, 17 years, and he's been able to do great things being a left-handed power forward.
I think Cody kind of looks like that. Cody has the ability to be a force in the post and feed the post. Again, our versatility to where Cody could be fed in the post and Tom could be at the three-point line, that's unusual when you have a 7'1" guy out there spacing up the three-point line. But I think you'll see Tom doing that this year. But Cody gives us a legit low-post player.
Q. You mentioned a few different things with modern basketball and effective field goal percentage now. I know your son, Kory, is really big into analytics. Is that a situation where you've brought him into that or he's brought you into the world?
STEVE ALFORD: Oh, it's definitely him bringing me into that. Both Kory Barnett and my son, they're at a young age. They're in their 20s. They're the new era of just crunching numbers and figuring those things out. They have a lot to do with -- and obviously the rest of my coaches, but they have a lot to do with getting back the full-court motion. Dealing with things that we've always done with offense and basketball.
But watching the Warriors, in my mind, the Warriors are like a full-court-motion team. A lot of the things that I've done throughout my career has been half-court motion. Last year we kind of took our half-court offense and expanded it to make sure we were doing a full court.
A lot of it has to do with analytics. We were shooting more threes in more paint and less in between the paint and the three-point line, and it worked for us last year. This year, I don't know if we'd be the three-point shooting team we were a year ago because no team has ever shot the three like last year's team did.
But I think we can do more things in the paint than last year's team was able to do. Like last year's team, we didn't take advantage of the free-throw line last year. There wasn't a team that did that. I think this year's team can get to the free throw, and our motion has always done a very good job at the free-throw line, and something we didn't do last year.
So those young guys have had a lot to do with bringing that to our attention. Kind of the types of shots you want to get in today's game versus what it was 20 years ago.
Q. Yeah, I was going to say three years ago did you think you'd be there now, like where you are now?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, no, because that was never my era, you know? And most of the coaches on my staff that I brought with me, Coach Grace is my same age. Duane Broussard has been with me since New Mexico. He's a little younger than me. Ed Schilling was my age. Tyus, who is now on staff, is eight, nine years younger than me. So he didn't grow up in that era either.
So it's really been the two Korys that have kind of told us: Hey, this is where things are moving to when you look at offense.
I've always enjoyed seeing how the trends of offense has happened. And shooting the three, I'm okay with shooting the threes as long as you've got people that can make the three. I think we do. But I also think we've got a team that can get to the rim a little better than last year's team was.
Q. Does that change your recruiting off-season at all?
STEVE ALFORD: To some degree, yeah, as far as our more positionless team. I don't really recruit other than maybe making sure we have a point guard or that kind of thing. But I'd just as soon have a guard that can handle it and get us in things versus labelling him as a point guard.
But we're a positionless team. I want to put five guys out there that can play the game at once and know how to screen, cut, space. Obviously things we do defensively, I think we'll be a team this year that can do a lot more switching than what we've done in the past. So I think we'll be a little more versatile in that end too.
Q. You touched on it there in the last couple questions, but last year you were so skilled and had so many shooters. This year it seems you're longer, athletic, more versatile. Do you have to reinvent yourself a little bit, and how does that change the way you play?
STEVE ALFORD: The biggest change will be in sub-patterns. Because if we stay healthy, we're looking at 10, 11 guys, and I've not had that depth at UCLA. If we can do that, I think we can maybe extend what we're doing defensively. Not just offensively. Score a little bit more out of our defense. Be a little bit more aggressive defensively, knowing that we're not playing eight guys 25 or more minutes, but now we're going to play 10 or 11.
Then again, health has to do with that. But it is my tallest team. It's my longest team, and probably my depth-wise my most athletic team.
So I think overall the shooting team we were last year or the experience we had last year, we do have more bodies. So hopefully we can stay healthy and wear people down throughout the course of the season. Probably most worried now about this November and December scheduling because of the road trips we're taking. I think our coaching staff has to do a good job of managing the mile of travel that we have in the first two months of the season.
Q. What was your reaction to the F.B.I. indictment? Do you take a look in the mirror to make sure everything is okay?
STEVE ALFORD: We're always looking in the mirror to make sure things are right and you're staying status quo in what you believe in. That's something I've always been my own worst critic as a player and as a coach. How I can get better, how I can do things better. Whether it's teaching or whatever we're trying to challenge our guys -- spiritually, socially, athletically, academically. So how can I do that more efficiently.
The investigation that's now taken place just sheds some light. College basketball as a whole is as good as it gets. Do we have some issues that may look like they need to be looked at and concerned? Yes. I would think through a task force, the Pac-12 is one of the first to do that. I think you'll see other leagues do that as well.
If everybody takes a more serious, in-depth look of how we keep bettering our game. And reform is not a bad thing. I think we do have to look at different recruiting models, especially with summer basketball. I would be very in favor of looking at that model and getting more in depth on what can be a more pure area of how we go about doing things.
But with that said, I love my staff. I know who I've got on my staff. I know what kind of people they are. I know they know what I expect. It doesn't mean we're perfect. It doesn't mean there aren't mistakes made. But I like where our program is and how we're doing things.
Q. The fact that the F.B.I. is doing maybe some (indiscernible) maybe that alone is a concern for the future, regardless of the changes?
STEVE ALFORD: Yeah, I'm unsure on all that. Obviously it's the government that's involved in something, but different animals. So you're right. I hope, with anything, it just gets the right people in the room to talk about how we continue to better college basketball. I've been around it 30-plus years as a player and a coach. And it's meant the world to me. It's been a great game. I've met so many great people, just through a great game called college basketball.
So I would hope they're always looking to make it better. Players are bigger, stronger, quicker, more athletic. We're changing things. Analytics are in our game that weren't there ten years ago. So you're always tweaking things with the offense and defense to make it better.
So you would think whether it's recruiting models or summer basketball, or whatever it may be, you're looking at models that will better your game. And hopefully that will take place in the near future.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports