Venerable Pauley Pavilion will sell beer and wine at UCLA basketball contests this season. Below, you’ll find the UCLA basketball projected starting lineup for this year.
With a talented freshman class, ranked as high as No. 13 in the nation by those weird recruiting service/evaluator types, plus the return of 6-foot-7 senior Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Bruins are a lock to be in the college basketball pre-season Top 25 and likely a Top 10 squad.
The Bruins will open the season (and crack a few cans in the stands) on Monday, Nov. 7 against Sacramento State.
This is the fourth season for Mick Cronin in the lead chair for the Bruins. He guided the team to the Final Four in 2021 and is 68-30 in his career with the Bruins. Remember, he came over to Los Angeles after a successful stint at Cincinnati and Murray State.
When We Last Saw The Bruins
UCLA was favored against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 and led the Tar Heels 60-56 with a little more than five minutes remaining.
Then Caleb Love happened.
Love went off for 30 points for the Tar Heels, who closed fast to knock out UCLA 73-66. North Carolina would reach the national final, losing to Kansas in New Orleans.
UCLA finished 27-8 and ranked 11th in the final AP poll. They were second in the PAC-12 behind Arizona. They went 1-2 against the Wildcats last season.
The Bruins return two primary starters from last season: Jaquez and point guard Tyger Campbell, but they lost a lot of minutes and points to graduation and other reasons.
Jules Bernard started 34 games last season and scored 12.8 points a night. He’s now trying to catch on with the Detroit Pistons. Johnny Juzang, who was a fun watch with UCLA, led the Bruins with 15.6 points was signed by the Utah Jazz and is in the G League for now. Cody Riley started 20 games last year as a forward. He’s over playing internationally. Myles Johnson, who started 15 games last season, has retired from basketball to pursue his engineering degree.
The two big returners are Jaquez Jr. and Campbell.
Jaquez Jr. has PAC-12 Player of the Year potential. He made 34 starts last year. He’s the returning team leader in scoring, rebounds and steals.
Campbell is a throwback to the old-time college basketball players. He’s entering his fifth year in the program. He missed 2018-19 with a torn ACL. He’s a classic point guard – which UCLA needs with so many other guys wanting the ball in their hands. He ranks 10th on the all-time UCLA list with 469 career assists.
Lastly, don’t forget about Jaylen Clark, now a junior. He’s the Bruins defensive stopper, who really emerged last year. He’s only made six starts. Clark is a decent offensive player, but not a threat from deep.
Meet The New Blue
Cronin brought in probably his best freshman class since taking over at UCLA, headlined by a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans:
Amari Bailey, a 6-foot-5 point guard from California, who is already on first-round NBA draft boards. The scouts like his size and speed. He scored 10 points in the McDonald’s All-American game.
Adem Bona, a 6-foot-10 Nigerian who didn’t start playing basketball until he was 13. He was listed as the second best prep player in California last year, and you know, it’s a big state. He didn’t play in the All-American game because of an injury.
The rest of the incoming class includes Dylan Andrews, “D.A.” is his nickname. He’s another point guard. 6-foot-2 from California. Not rated as highly as Bailey.
Abramo Canka is a 6-foot-6 wing player from Genoa, Italy. He’s like most international talents in that he’s fundamentally gifted with a weird game that makes him a defensive match-up problem. But he’s lean, so can he get under the boards and get a rebound in the PAC-12?
Projecting The Bruins Starting Five
This will hinge on just what Cronin wants to do. Does he want to play all the young guys, turn the keys over the Bailey and see what the freshman can do? Or does he want to use him as a change-of-pace?
Guard: Campbell probably starts at point guard. Bailey may have all the hype, but nothing trumps experience at the point. But nothing says you can’t have two good ball handlers out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bailey start too.
Jaquez Jr. is a definite starter. His size and athleticism make him a hard match-up and an offensive weapon.
Forward: I think Clark has earned the right to start, and on a team with a lot of offensive weapons, you need someone to play defense.
Center: Down low, it’s obvious Bona will be a starter. He’s too big and the Bruins will need a rim protector. They’ll have to live with his young mistakes.
Redshirt freshman Will McClendon missed all last season with a torn ACL. He’s a combo guard, only 6-foot-2, but he also fits into the rotation.