Steve Alford appreciates UCLA’s depth especially now

Steve Alford was asked about Kris Wilkes after the sophomore guard scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in UCLA’s season opener against Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday.

The UCLA head coach stated what Wilkes had just proved, saying he was “a prolific scorer,” then in the same answer praised the performances of three other players. That’s what happens when a coach has as many options as Alford does.

A year after relying almost exclusively on one star, the No. 21 Bruins can now turn to several complementary options. Along with Wilkes, UCLA has center Moses Brown (19 points, 17 rebounds), Jaylen Hands (18 points, seven assists, two turnovers) and Chris Smith (13 points, eight rebounds).

The Bruins (1-0) aren’t even full strength entering their game against Long Beach State (0-0) at Pauley Pavilion at 8 p.m. Friday.

Forward Cody Riley is out for at least three weeks with a jaw injury and forward Alex Olesinski (foot) won’t be available until at least late December.

“Right now, I still like our depth,” Alford said after Tuesday’s season opener. “And during that I think a lot of young guys can get some minutes and learn.”

UCLA lost key young players before the season, including point guard Tyger Campbell (knee). Alford said the coaching staff would look at Smith to be a second ball-handler, but freshman shooting guard David Singleton said Monday he’s also been tasked with learning the point guard position. The Bishop Montgomery product said he hasn’t played point guard since his freshman year of high school, but seeks the advice of Hands and UCLA assistant Tyus Edney, an NCAA championship-winning point guard for the Bruins.

“It’s a new adjustment for me because due to Tyger’s injury. However, it’s a role that I have to take,” Singleton said. “I’m just here to fill my role.”

After a standout performance in the exhibition game with 14 points, four assists and no turnovers, Singleton had a quiet four points and one steal with one turnover and no assists in his official college debut.

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No. 21 UCLA vs. Long Beach State

Records: UCLA (1-0), Long Beach State (0-0)

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Pauley Pavilion

Watch/listen: Pac-12 Networks/AM 570

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