UCLA's youth movement taking shape
LOS ANGELES – Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson gathered at the adidas Nations tournament a couple of summers ago.
It was there the seed was planted.
When the three were placed on the same team, it didn't take long for things to click.
“It was instant chemistry,” Adams said. “Kyle ran the point. Me and ‘Bazz ran the wing just scoring and (Kyle) was distributing and getting rebounds.”
Added Anderson: “We all clicked. They had a knack for getting open. I had a knack for getting them open shots. It all worked out pretty well.”
Enjoying success and having so much fun playing together, the trio began to have talks about what it would be like to play together at the next level.
Adams spearheaded the movement, becoming the first to announce his pledge to UCLA. It was now up to the others to follow suit.
“(It wasn’t) until Jordan Adams committed (that) it all got in my head UCLA might be a good look and maybe I could get Shabazz there,” Anderson said. “Me and Shabazz are big fans of basketball. I threw out the negatives and positives about every school, just my input. I didn’t force him or want to ask him too much to come here. I just wanted him to make the best decision for himself.”
Muhammad said yes (and they were able to get Tony Parker to join in as well) and what has happened is something unlike anything they’ve seen at UCLA.
Muhammad (18.2 ppg), Adams (16.4 ppg), and Anderson (9.5 ppg) are three of UCLA’s top four scorers this season.
UCLA is one of four schools in Division I this season to have three of their top four scorers as freshmen, along with Furman, Kentucky, and Mississippi State, according to STATS.
The success hasn’t been shocking in the least to the parties involved.
“This is exactly what we envisioned,” Adams said thinking back to the conversations the trio had at adidas Nations. “I’m not surprised because I know we’re capable of doing it but I still think we’re doing better than anybody thought we would be.”
Adams’ production, in particular, has been much better than anticipated. Coming out of Oak Hill Academy, Adams was the least heralded of the freshmen who signed with the Bruins in the 2012 class.
Adams began the season with four straight games of 20 or more points, becoming the first freshman to do so.
His 26-point performance against UC Irvine included a 16-for-16 performance at the free throw line. He went on to make 33 consecutive free throws earlier this season.
Adams and Muhammad, the best scoring freshmen duo in school history, became the school’s first ever freshmen duo to score 20 or more points in the same game in the Bruins 89-70 win last month against Long Beach State. Adams scored 24 and Muhammad chipped in 21.
In the next game Anderson scored a career-high 20 points, making them the first UCLA freshmen trio to score 20 or more points in the same game in the 91-78 win over Fresno State. Muhammad led the scoring with 27 points followed by Adams’ 25, and Anderson’s 20 for 72 of the team’s 91 points in the game.
The consistent contributions have been somewhat eye-popping.
“It is a little crazy,” Anderson said. “It is a little mind-boggling but this is what we came here to do. We came here to produce, help our team win in whatever way possible.”
As “crazy” as it seems, it’s becoming the norm in college basketball.
Only Kentucky receives more point per game from their freshmen this season than UCLA. The Wildcats are getting 46.8 points per game from their freshmen. Howland’s bunch is scoring 43.4 points per game.
“I think the game is changing in college basketball now,” Muhammad said. “I think the freshmen are really doing a good job and learning how to really step up on a higher level.”
Muhammad attributes success enjoyed in the past as a major factor he and his teammates have been able to have the success they’ve enjoyed this season.
“I think it’s just with poise,” Muhammad said. “You look at Kyle, he’s coming from a winning program. You look at Jordan and myself, who’s won two state championships and we’re all comfortable playing on this level. It (has) a lot to do with confidence, actually. Freshmen are thinking they’re just as good as these college guys and going out and proving it.”