By Jon Rothstein
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Kyle Anderson is the type of basketball player that can dominate a game in a plethora of ways.
If you want him to score, he’ll score. If you want him to rebound, he’ll rebound. And if you want him to run your team, he’ll do it with precision at 6-foot-9.
But what about Anderson’s ability to lead?
That’s what we’re going to find out next season.
With the departures of leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad (17.9 PPG), and top assist man Larry Drew (7.3 APG), UCLA will lean heavily on Anderson to lead the Bruins in Steve Alford’s inaugural season in Westwood.
“It’s a tough task, but it’s something I’m ready for,” said Anderson, who averaged 9.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG last year as a freshman under former coach Ben Howland. “Things have been going really well under Coach Alford. He’s been telling us that we’re going to play at a faster pace, so we need to make sure we’re in great shape once the season begins.”
Last year, a faster pace worked wonders for UCLA.
With Drew leading the attack and Muhammad finishing on the wing, the Bruins turned into an innovative offensive team that punished opponents in transition. It resulted in 25 wins and a PAC-12 regular season title.
For things to repeat themselves next year, Anderson believes there’s going to have to be periods of incremental progress.
“Things are definitely going to take some time because we’re going to be a different team,” Anderson said. “We won’t have as much instant offense without Shabazz (Muhammad) and Larry (Drew). We’re going to have to shoot the ball later in the shot clock than we did last season.”
It remains to be seen what style works best for this specific team. Alford had tremendous success at New Mexico by using a slow, methodical approach, and never has been known to accelerate the tempo. Still, one could say the same thing about Howland before he cranked up the pace with the team he coached last season.
Nevertheless, a key story line to watch for UCLA moving forward is who winds up playing point guard.
Howland had always envisioned Anderson being used in a “point forward” type role with defensive ace Norman Powell defending the opponent’s floor general, but Alford could have a different plan. The Bruins bring in a Top 50 recruit in 6-3 freshman Zach LaVine, and fellow freshman Bryce Alford (Steve’s son) could also run the offense in a pinch.
Either way, Anderson says nothing has been discussed on that matter since Alford was hired in March.
“We’ve never talked about it,” Anderson said in terms of who will be UCLA’s starting point guard next season. “I’ve always looked at myself as a basketball player, so I’m just focusing on improving all aspects of my game. We’ll talk about who plays what position when the season starts in September.”
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