For much of the season, Tony Parker has found himself on the bench watching his fellow freshman teammates play extended minutes.
He’s expressed his disappointment before, but had to keep much of the frustration inside, waiting for a chance to contribute.
Throughout conference play, Parker’s minutes have barely broken double digits, but on Sunday against USC, the freshman center saw 17 minutes on the court. It was the most he has played in Pac-12 play.
“I’m really happy for the guy. He’s a guy who didn’t get to play as much as he liked, who stayed positive through everybody asking him questions about not playing,” coach Ben Howland said.
“I told him, there will be a time where there will be a huge game and you are going to be thrust in. … You can really see how much he has improved over the season.”
Parker and junior forward David Wear stepped up against the Trojans, filling the void left by starter Travis Wear, who sat out on Sunday with a sprained right foot. David Wear recorded a double-double while Parker added eight points, his most since scoring nine against Prairie View A&M in mid-December.
“Tony was definitely a major factor in the game,” said senior point guard Larry Drew II.
“Off the court, Tony (Parker) is a really nice guy but on the court, I tell him, ‘You have no friends.’ … He finally got some minutes and you see it starting to pay off.”
With Travis Wear listed as day-to-day, Parker may see increased playing time once again versus Arizona State on Wednesday.
Learning from mistakes
Two USC seniors, guard Jio Fontan and forward Aaron Fuller, combined for six points against the Bruins on Sunday.
Fontan and Fuller scored 15 points apiece when the two teams met in Pauley on Jan. 30. This game, Fuller only logged six minutes of playing time and Fontan struggled throughout the game, going two for 11 from the field. The senior guard fouled out with 1:31 left on the clock, finishing with four points.
“They were changing things. Picks and screen rolls. (Larry Drew) was tremendous for UCLA. They did a good job, and there are just going to be days when your shot is off,” said USC coach Bob Cantu of Fontan’s struggles.
Three in a week
After having a week off before the USC game, UCLA will now have to play three games in eight days.
“There is such a quick turnaround,” Howland said. “But we have got to be ready for the Sun Devils, who like us are fighting to get into the tournament. Everybody is bringing their best.”
The Bruins will have plenty of incentive against Arizona State, having lost to the team in Tempe, Ariz. by 18 points a month ago.
“It motivates me a lot. We want to get revenge on both teams that beat us. We got one already so we are going into this game with a focused mindset,” freshman guard Kyle Anderson said.
“We got some tough games coming up and every tough game, we have been there to play hard. The effort has been there. We are just going to prepare and try to do our best.”