UCLA guard Bryce Alford came prepared for all the questions he’d inevitably get asked about his former teammate, Lonzo Ball, after his Memorial Day draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers. Alford spent his senior year at UCLA alongside Ball, where they finished their season 31-5, and made a push all the way to the Sweet 16, before being ousted by Kentucky.
“He can play anywhere,” Alford said when asked about how Ball might fit with the Lakers young core. “Obviously, I think this (the Lakers) would be a good fit for him, but that dude can fit in with just about anybody. He makes everybody around him better, whether it be a guard or a big or anybody. That dude is a special kid.”
“Their (the Lakers) biggest thing is to bring a winning mentality and if there is one thing that cat does, he wins,” Alford said after his workout. “He went undefeated his senior year in high school, comes to UCLA and wins 31 games. That dude wins. So I think he’ll be just fine here.”
When Ball came to UCLA fresh out of high school, ready to turn the UCLA program back around (they finished 15–17 the season prior), he also understood the pecking order. Alford, who switched over to shooting guard when Ball took over at point, had been the vocal leader of the squad for the past few years, and Ball respected that.
“He was good about that,” Alford responded when asked about how Ball took on a leadership role. “Me and him kind of tag-teamed that. Me, being a four year guy, I pulled him aside when we had our Australian trip in the summer, and I said, ‘Hey, do you, you’re here for a reason and we know what you can do. We’re going to follow you.'”
While Ball still found a way to lead, he did so in a different way.
“I’ll kind of be the vocal guy, cause he’s not real vocal on the court,” Alford furthered. “He’s a great locker room guy and he just leads by example, and he gets people to follow.”
Lonzo didn’t get his humble demeanor from his father, LaVar. Since Lonzo declared for the NBA draft, LaVar has found his way into just about every sports media outlet in the nation.
Which leads to the question, what about LaVar?
“It’s just an unfair thing for Lonzo, because I think he gets a rep he doesn’t deserve,” Alford said. “I don’t want to say anything poorly about LaVar. I think he’s done a good job of getting him ready to be where he’s at and he’s helped him become a great basketball player, so I don’t want to say anything about him that way, but he does get a persona that’s totally not him. He’s an absolutely great kid, great teammate and truly cares about what his teammates are doing more so than himself, so if anything I hope that in the NBA people can see that.”
As far as Ball’s biggest strengths, Alford pointed to his ability in transition.
“He plays so downhill,” Alford said. “When he’s pushing it, it may look like he’s out of control, but that dude is under control all the time and he finds you every time you’re open, so it makes you when you don’t have the ball, makes you cut harder, makes you always alert, always have your hands ready and that thing is going to be right in your shooting pocket.”
Since Alford is currently on the cusp of most draft boards, he knows he might need a little extra help to wind up a Laker. That’s where Ball comes in.
“I’ll probably hit him up after this…” Alford smiled. “Maybe he can throw in a good word or something.”
Alford knows teams are looking at him for his shooting. Alford leaves the Bruins as the fifth-leading scorer in school history and became the first player at UCLA to reach career totals of both 1,700 points and 500 assists.
“I know my ticket is my shooting ability, that’s the way the league is going,” Alford said. “If you can shoot the ball, there’s always a spot for you. That’s what everybody tells me. That’s what coaches have told me, that’s what GMs have told me. If I can shoot the ball and make open shots, there’s a spot for me.”
If that spot winds up in L.A., Alford has already prepared himself for the spotlight.
“When you play at UCLA for four years, nothing is really too much on your shoulders.”