Sunday night was expected to be when the Bruins got all the answers for their roster next season, but there are a few pieces still up in the air.
The deadline to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft was Sunday at 8:59 pm Johnny Juzang, Peyton Watson and Jules Bernard all announced they had entered the draft pool before that cutoff – Bernard the lone one leaving the door open for a possible return – while Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell committed to coming back to Westwood for another year.
Several UCLA men’s basketball players did not make their intentions clear ahead of Sunday night, however – forward Cody Riley, center Myles Johnson and guard David Singleton.
None of the three Bruins have appeared in any notable mock drafts or are widely projected to be NBA-caliber prospects, and all three have one year of super senior eligibility remaining. For Riley and Johnson, the 2022-2023 campaign would mark their sixth year of college – both having redshirted the 2017-2018 season – while Singleton would be entering his fifth.
The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to every student-athlete as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting sports back in 2020, and all three upperclassmen are in line to cash it in should they choose to do so.
While that extra eligibility was automatically dished out, players returning for a bonus season are typically expected to announce that they are, in fact, returning. Walk-on guard Russell Stong did so over the weekend, telling the world that he would be coming back for his fifth year, even though the NBA and most other professional routes were presumed to be out of his reach.
That leaves UCLA’s coaching staff and fanbase waiting on word from Riley, Johnson and Singleton, with no standardized deadline for them to work on. In terms of scholarships, the Bruins can absorb them and remain under the limit of 13, with Jake Kyman transferring to Wyoming and Juzang and Watson going pro to make room for incoming freshmen Amari Bailey, Adem Bona and Dylan Andrews.
All three veterans – and Bernard – could come back and UCLA would have a full roster, or any one could leave and the Bruins would be able to add a transfer or extra freshman. With major players like USC’s Max Agbonkpolo, LSU’s Brandon Murray and St. Peter’s Doug Edert already committed elsewhere, transfers are flying off the board by the day.
Should any of the Bruins’ remaining vets leave – either to move on to other professional basketball leagues or to start their careers off the court – there will be plenty of minutes and production for coach Mick Cronin to replace.
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Riley and Johnson split time as UCLA’s starting big man, with Johnson stepping in mostly while Riley was recovering from an MCL sprain early in the season. Outside of some spare minutes from forward/center Kenny Nwuba, the two accounted for nearly all of the Bruins’ minutes on the block on their way to the Sweet 16.
Johnson transferred to UCLA from Rutgers last offseason, where he averaged 7.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game across the previous two seasons. After earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive Team in 2021, the 6-foot-11 big made the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team in 2022 by putting up 3.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 18.1 minutes per game for the Bruins.
Riley started his collegiate career by getting arrested for shoplifting in China on a team trip, leading to a full-season suspension his freshman year. After that season, Riley declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, only to wind up backing out at the last second.
Upon his return, Riley became a core piece of interim coach Murry Bartow’s rotation before emerging as an everyday started under Cronin. Through four seasons suiting up for UCLA, Riley is averaging 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game, and he helped lead the Bruins to the Final Four in 2021 before declaring for the NBA Draft and deciding to return yet again last July.
Singleton has been one of the Pac-12’s most efficient long-range shooters since he stepped foot on campus in 2018, posting a 3-point percentage above 45% in three of his four seasons. For his career, Singleton is averaging 4.7 points in 17.8 minutes per game while shooting 43.8% from deep and 70.0% from the free throw line. Singleton is just 19 triples away from surpassing Darren Collison and breaking into UCLA’s all-time top 10 in 3-pointers made.
The Bruins will need bodies down low and shooters on the perimeter for next season, but as of Monday, it is unknown whether they will get that from Riley, Johnson, Singleton or elsewhere.
Bona, a McDonald’s All-American center, appears primed to eat up minutes early, and Mac Etienne is set to return from a torn ACL he suffered last October, giving Cronin options for bigs.
As for the 3-point shooting, with Kyman and Juzang already gone, even more weight gets placed upon Singleton’s potential return to Westwood. Without those two, UCLA would not be returning any players who shot above 34% from deep last season.
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