Steve Alford's plan to build on UCLA's successful trip to the Sweet 16 last season got a little more difficult after a key newcomer was ruled academically ineligible.
Incoming freshman Jonah Bolden was deemed ineligible by the NCAA to play this year, the school announced Friday. He was determined to be a "partial qualifier," which means he will be allowed to remain on campus under an athletic scholarship, but will not be able to play immediately.
The 6-foot-9, 210-pound small forward was the No. 84 prospect in ESPN's rankings.
It seems as if Bolden's ineligibility stems from his decision to move early from his high school in Australia to play spring basketball in the United States.
Bolden decided to leave Australia after his senior year of high school had begun, joining Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. That decision seems to have drawn the NCAA's ire, according to ESPN sources, and it seems as if he will be allowed to practice, but not play, for UCLA this year.
Bolden finished his American high school career at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before stepping on campus this summer.
Alford was lauded by following up last year's return to prominence with a top-10 recruiting class that was expected to keep the Bruins competitive.
But with the loss of Bolden, a top-rated wing player, it looks like that class will be taken down a notch - although it still remains one of the better groups in the nation.
Milwaukee power forward Kevon Looney, a top-15 prospect by most scouting services, was the figurehead of that class.
Behind him is Thomas Welsh, a California native who was ranked No. 36 by ESPN.
The heralded class was especially important because of the heavy hits the Bruins took in the draft. They lost three players in two rounds: forwards Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, and point guard Zach LaVine.
It's unclear if the NCAA will let this issue linger past this year.
UCLA will certainly appeal the decision, but that has a low chance of being successful.
Still, it seems likely that Bolden will eventually be eligible to suit up for the Bruins — that is, unless he decides to take a professional contract overseas and then return as an NBA Draft hopeful.
That possibility remains. As an international recruit, it's not like Bolden would feel uncomfortable playing abroad. He would receive a salary for his services, though if the experiment doesn't go well he might not be able to count on being drafted when he returns.
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