Life in the G League: Former UCLA guard Bryce Alford following in father’s footsteps now and in future
CHICAGO – When it comes to the Alford family, it appears that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Former UCLA guard Bryce Alford spent two days this week at the NBA G League Elite Mini Camp demonstrating that he is more athletic than some critics believe and he can definitely shoot the ball with the same proficiency as his Bruin coach and father, former Indiana University standout Steve Alford.
“I’ve got a body of work where I have shown that I can shoot the basketball,” Alford said. “It is just now proving other stuff. Proving that I can guard at this level, which is a difficult thing. Being undersized and not being the most athletic guy on the court, you have to prove that you have the little things, the intangibles to help a team win.”
Alford did that, just like his father did throughout his playing and now coaching career.
Bryce was on a team that won three of its four games at the camp and he shot the ball well in the final three games.
After opening the camp with a 1 for 7 performance from behind the 3-point line (2 of 8 overall), Alford hit 12 of his final 27 shots from long range. He scored in double figures in the final three games and was the third-leading scorer (13.5 points per game) in the 51-player contingent.
“I’m trying to prove that I am a good locker room guy,” Alford said, “a good teammate, and I play the right way.”
Alford is coming off a strong rookie season for the G League’s Oklahoma City franchise.
He started 27 of 50 games this past season and finished the year averaging nearly 16 points per game and over 30 minutes played each night.
Alford made almost four 3-pointers per game at a 40.4 percent rate.
All of those numbers improved later in the season and he hopes that development leads to an opportunity at the highest level.
“It’s the world I live in,” Alford said. “Being a fringe NBA guy, I’m just trying to make it in whatever way it can be. There are guys out here fighting for 2-way contracts, 10-day contracts but we’ll see.”
The participants in the camp were put through a series of athletic tests, in addition to the games in front of a horde of NBA scouts and executives and Alford tested out pretty well.
He registered a vertical leap of nearly 34 inches and his ¾ court sprint was the third fastest among the players.
In the four-way agility test, he was the third fastest participant and he was among the top 20 in the reaction shuttle test.
Like the rest of the camp participants, Alford has no idea what his future may hold.
He could continue to workout for NBA teams this summer in their mini-camps and the NBA Summer League in hopes of getting invited to an NBA Training Camp in September. However, after that, it could be the NBA, the G League for a second season or he may end up overseas.
“After one year in the G League,” Alford said, “I wouldn’t mind doing it again but obviously, I’m trying to move my way up however that may be.”
The Alford name and UCLA brand resonate a long way throughout the basketball world, so Alford is open to the possibility of playing internationally; however, it is something that wouldn’t be his first option.
“With the UCLA brand under my name,” Alford explained, “and what I have proven over my college career, and my first year in the G League, I could go over there and make a pretty good amount of money. But as a kid, my dream was the NBA. When you are over here, it is a feeling that you are really close.”
He spent the past season being “really close” to the NBA, literally.
He trained down the street from the Oklahoma City Thunder facility and that franchise’s leadership was in frequent attendance.
“If you go overseas,” Alford said, “I don’t think you feel quite as close. You might be as close, but you just don’t have that same feeling.”
Being adaptable helped
Alford spent his childhood growing up in Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and finally New Mexico, as his family chased after his father’s coaching dreams. However, when he graduated from La Cueva High School in Albuquerque his father accepted the coaching job at UCLA and the Alford family got thrust into the hyped-world of Los Angeles.
“LA is different,” Alford said. “It was cool but I’m a Midwest boy at heart. I don’t really like to do a whole lot, just hang out with my friends and chill at home. So I didn’t really get into the LA scene a whole lot.
“But it was definitely a whole different pace of life.”
Alford said his family loves the weather and his mom (Tanya) “plays tennis all the time.”
“You just walk outside and you don’t feel anything,” Alford laughed about the consistently beautiful weather. “I loved it.”
Challenges on and off the court
Alford put his time at UCLA to good use athletically and academically. He not only played well but he graduated with a degree in political science in less than four years.
The Bruin basketball program has a storied history of its own but not as well known is just how difficult it is to be a student at the university.
UCLA had over 100,000 applicants last year and accepted a record low 16.1 percent of those prospective students.
“It was very tough,” Alford said. “It was hard work.”
UCLA was ranked as the 21st best “National University” according to U.S. News and World Report and Alford said that the student-athletes were held to the same standards as anyone else by the university.
“You spend as much time on school as you do on basketball,” Alford said. “They are hard on you academically. When you go on a road trip, you are not excused from class. You have to make up that time with the professors by going into office hours and all kinds of stuff.”
Just like dad
Despite his academic major, whenever Alford’s playing days do end, he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and stay active in the game.
“I’ll stay in the game,” Alford said. “Whether that is coaching, being an analyst, scouting or front office (work), I think that I will stay in the game.”
Life with Lonzo
Alford’s senior season at UCLA coincided with the one year that heralded prep star Lonzo Ball also played for the Bruins and despite the media circus that surrounds Ball family, Alford said there really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about playing with the current Los Angeles Laker.
“It was a normal year,” Alford said. “There was more attention because our team was good and obviously he was a top 5 pick (in the 2017 NBA Draft), so there was more hype around our team. But as far as our locker room, he was a pretty down to earth, normal guy.”
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