Freshman Jordan Adams sent a clear message to the sold-out crowd at Pauley Pavilion on Friday night: Don’t forget about me.
The guard led the Bruins in scoring as the UCLA men’s basketball team inaugurated their newly renovated home arena with an 86-59 victory over Indiana State.
Much of the preseason hype surrounding the No. 13 Bruins has revolved around top recruits Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Adams was often left out of the conversation, labeled as a sharp shooter and not much more.
“It was exciting just to go out there and play my first game, and have the fans who really haven’t seen me play get a taste of how I play,” Adams said.
His 21 points was the most by a UCLA freshman since Reeves Nelson scored the same number on Dec. 27, 2009. Demonstrating impressive versatility, he also grabbed seven rebounds and recorded a steal.
“Jordan Adams had a huge game and he’s been playing like that since China. He’s very skilled. … He has played very well all the way since he got here,” coach Ben Howland said.
“I don’t think that it is a big surprise. He was very good at Oak Hill.”
Adams was one of the brightest spots in Friday’s game, helping the Bruins overcome a slow start against an overmatched Indiana State team. UCLA was 11-26 and committed nine turnovers in the first half of Friday’s game.
“We were hyped in the beginning and a little too fast, missing shots we would usually make. The players were too amped, it was the first time they saw the lights go down, the new introductions and the phenomenal crowd,” said Howland.
However, the celebration over Pauley Pavilion’s grand reopening and the debut of a much-hyped Bruin team was considerably dampened by the NCAA’s declaration of freshman Shabazz Muhammad’s ineligibility shortly before the start of Friday’s game. The news broke a little less than 90 minutes before tip-off, when UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero released a statement. The NCAA also released a statement soon afterwards.
“(I’m) very disappointed. I was alerted to that at 5 p.m. I feel terrible number one, for Shabazz because he is a great kid … and has had a phenomenal attitude with dealing with the NCAA,” Howland said.
“We are hopeful that it is something that is going to be worked out here in the near future.”
Despite the disappointment of Muhammad’s ineligibility, the electric atmosphere at Pauley was a far cry from last year’s season opener. Less than half of the 13,513 fans that showed up on Friday night came to UCLA’s first game against Loyola Marymount last season.
“The atmosphere was incredible. I mean the lights, the smoke, everything. It’s exciting just to be back here at home, especially since we see that everyone is excited to see us play this year,” said redshirt junior forward Travis Wear.
“(It was) one of the loudest that I have ever heard it in Pauley. It does not even compare to the Sports Arena. It’s pretty awesome. It’s definitely a step up from the Sports Arena.”