UCLA practices underway led by new coach Alford

LOS ANGELES — It’s a bold new world for UCLA basketball with the Bruins now officially practicing new head coach Steve Alford’s system. Changes are in store, but the attitude in Westwood is that the changes are good and fit the skill sets of the team a little more so than former head coach Ben Howland’s system did.

Here’s an early look at the Bruins after just seven practices.

Run and (Almost) Gun

Alford is opening up the offense, spacing the floor and making the Bruins run in a motion offense. While he does still plan to use some half-court sets similar to what UCLA ran under Howland, Alford promises this will be more exciting to watch.

“Our offense is a lot about reads,” Alford said. “I don’t want them getting hung up on – we’re not a go to point A, point B system. It’s giving you the freedom to play, just make the right reads.”

He also plans to have the Bruins run, but some guys aren’t quite ready to run full speed just yet.

Another aspect that will be new is a zone defense. It was employed last year a little, but it’s something they’re practicing much more now than ever before.

“We’ve been really breaking it down spot by spot,” said Travis Wear. “People think it’s easy because you’ve just got to cover a couple different spots but you’ve got to cover a couple different guys, you’ve got to work on situational formations.”

Personnel flexibility

The good news is that Tony Parker is in Westwood and he’s not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. A renewed sense of excitement, he’s benefited from a new strength coach, dropped weight and gained confidence.

There was no magic formula to getting Parker to stay, it was just Parker being comfortable with the new coaches and the new system.

“There was no pitch,” Alford said. “It was spending a lot of time with him and letting him trust us.”

Due to eligibility issues with Isaac Hamilton and Wanaah Bail, Kyle Anderson has had to play all over the court in practice. But his ability to play multiple positions and play them well hasn’t gone unnoticed. Although he will primarily play point guard, his natural position, Alford plans to utilize his flexibility.

“Kyle is very, very talented because of his versatility,” Alford said. “We don’t have as many bigs on the floor going against each other. Guys like Kyle, one day he’s a point guard and sometimes he’s the four. It’s a luxury, it’s a great luxury. Through 23 years I’ve never have I had a guy that I could put out there at 6-8 who’s a point guard.”

Buying in

There are some things that Alford recognizes that he can’t teach. That first lesson came with Parker. The second is a much more intangible aspect.

“A lot of these guys have had winning demeanors and I don’t think that’s part of the teaching that we’ve had to do,” Alford said. “Now it’s just instilling our system and letting guys play.”

Alford and the Bruins are all in for a new beginning.