The offseason discussion about UCLA has been about the NBA draft departures of Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee. And the much-anticipated arrival of transfers David and Travis Wear alongside big man Joshua Smith. And Jerime Anderson's suspension after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. Of course, the Bruins are already looking toward the future with top-100 guard Norman Powell arriving and a top-5 recruiting class coming to Westwood the following year.
The forgotten man has been point guard Lazeric Jones, the junior college transfer who stabilized the team when he arrived but then quietly struggled after spraining his left wrist on Feb. 2. The X-ray came back negative, but the shooting percentages fell. Jones didn't miss any games, but yet there was something missing. Those who weren't paying attention might have figured he had hit a wall. In fact, he played hurt and was still the only Bruin to start all 34 games as the team won 23 times and went back to the NCAA tournament.
Now Jones is telling BruinsBall.com he's been completely healthy within 10 weeks of offseason rehab for an injury that affected him greatly.
A whole lot. Really, my game is as a slasher, so it kind of threw me off a little bit as far as getting to the basket. Defensively it didn’t hinder me, but offensively it definitely did. It threw off my shot a little bit. I mean, it really was a freshman year, so that year kind of helped me mentally, and I feel having gone through that year and getting through it without quitting, without giving up, it definitely made me a stronger person.
Right now, my individual goal is to do whatever I have to do to get to the national title. I feel like we have a really great team and we need someone who can be the leader and do all the little things to get us there. We have great individual talent at every position, and backups at every position so I need to be the best I can be and be the best teammate I can be. I feel like if I can do that, this team is definitely going to win numerous championships.
While Jones beat out Anderson for the point guard job last fall, this year he'll work to cover for Anderson -- a veteran backcourt presence who is suspended for the team's season opener. Jones is the team's third-leading returning scorer and along with Anderson is the team's senior class of scholarship players.
In a backcourt thin on experience, suddenly Jones will be relied upon for his veteran leadership. He's already proven himself to be tough enough to take on the responsibility.