UCLA freshman Jaylen Hands may need to replace Lonzo Ball
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen hold a significant amount of star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA Draft, where the first top-class member was only selected from Duke’s second pick Luke Kennard with the 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact on the 2017-18 season, it’s important to know the new faces that could take center stage.
With that in mind, SI.com will introduce you to the top 25 freshmen in college basketball and analyze the impact these players could have this season. We move on to rookie # 22, Jaylen Hands from UCLA. (Note: Hands was ranked No. 21 in the composite before the reclassification of Marvin Bagley III brought down all freshmen nationwide.)
What it means for the UCLA recruiting class
The last time UCLA had a point guard, that dynamic was, well, last season: Lonzo Ball. And while Hands will be joined by Ball’s younger brother LiAngelo this season at Westwood, his game actually looks more like another famous NBA Bruin: Russell Westbrook. His ridiculous jumps and speed are reminiscent of, at least, and he should fit in well with the rest of UCLA’s ultra-athletic recruiting class, led by Kris Wilkes (No. 20 in the RSCI rankings), Cody Riley (No. ° 41), and Jalen Hill (No. 61). The trio of Wilkes, Riley and Hill are at least 6’7 “and 195 pounds – it’ll be up to Hands to feed them inside.
How he adapts
UCLA may have lost Ball to the NBA, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Hands will slip into the starting lineup. Former sixth man Aaron Holiday would have to start over from the point again, which could give Hands a shot as a first string shot guard – or Steve Alford could flip them around and experiment with different backcourt. He could also put Mains on the bench with the first wave of reinforcements, and let him dribble and lead and score as the leader of the second team. Wherever he ends up, there’s no doubt Hands’ strength converts his speed and bounce into points around the rim.
Thomas Welsh is the only returning Sweet 16 starter from last season, so for the second straight season the Bruins will be building on the production of an announced freshman class. Wilkes is almost certain to start at the small striker, while Hands and Riley will also have a chance in the first team. This year’s squad won’t be as proficient offensively as last season’s squad, but a solid mix of returning talent and intriguing rookies (plus even more LaVar Ball!) Should secure UCLA a fifth straight NCAA tournament. .