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NBA Draft, transfer portal may shuffle UCLA men’s basketball’s roster

Sophomore guard Dylan Andrews rises above members of both UCLA and Oregon men’s basketball on a shot attempt. Andrews confirmed his return to the Bruins for next season following their Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals loss to the Duck. (Ella Greenberg Winnick/Daily Bruin staff)

By Joseph Crosby

March 16, 2024 12:59 p.m.

This post was updated March 18 at 9:41 p.m.

Endings give way to new beginnings.

The Bruins’ middling season – in which they went 11-11 against Pac-12 opponents across the regular and postseasons – came to a close with a two-point loss in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Now, March Madness will take on a different meaning for UCLA men’s basketball, as coach Mick Cronin will be forced to appeal to the hearts and minds of all players – including his own – entering the transfer portal in the pursuit of building his roster for the 2024-2025 season.

“It’s all crazy,” Cronin said. “Everybody’s a free agent.”

The portal will officially open Monday and will stay open for 45 days. Players could choose to seek greener pastures, or, in the case of coming to Westwood, bluer ones.

The Bruins, though, can already rest assured knowing that three of their guards are coming back – including a pair of top scorers.

Sophomore Dylan Andrews, junior Lazar Stefanovic and freshman Jan Vide all confirmed their return for next season to the Los Angeles Times after Thursday’s loss, with the first reaffirming his decision on social media Friday.

Andrews had the two best games of his career in the Pac-12 tournament, with 31- and 24-point performances in the first round and quarterfinals against Oregon State and Oregon, respectively.

After Thursday’s loss, he said his focus before next season is two fold.

“Working on being more of a leader, more vocal leader, and just being an extension of coach Cronin,” Andrews said. “And just working on my game 24/7, just being ready to – whenever my number is called, just be ready.”

Stefanovic didn’t quite muster the same contributions in the postseason, particularly due to foul trouble against the Ducks, but his 11.5 points per game were good for fourth on the team this year, and his 39% 3-point percentage was the best of any Bruin.

As for Vide, the former top European guard prospect garnered limited minutes until the end of the campaign. The freshman played 14 minutes in UCLA’s penultimate regular season contest against Arizona before adding 10 in the tournament opener against Oregon State and 24 the next day against Oregon.

“He’s a great example of what you want as a coach,” Cronin said. “You ask kids, ‘Hey, whether you play or not, come in and work your ass off and have a great attitude.’ Very few do that – he does. I was just rewarding him.”

Roster churn for the Bruins isn’t likely to be limited to graduations and transfers, however.

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona and freshman center Aday Mara are two players whose names may be called in the 2024 NBA Draft. Bona entered the draft process last year while retaining his eligibility before ultimately withdrawing at the May 31 deadline in order to return to UCLA. The former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year bolstered his scoring to the tune of 12.4 points per game – up from 7.7 last season – while adding a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year trophy to his collection.

Mara was limited in production and playing time, averaging 3.5 points across 9.6 minutes per game and starting just eight games. However, his 7-foot-3 stature and even longer wingspan have made him an attractive piece for NBA teams, with the Spaniard gaining buzz as a potential 2024 lottery pick before coming to UCLA. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has Mara as the No. 40 prospect for the upcoming draft, eight spots above Bona.

Currently, UCLA’s 2024 recruiting class consists of four-star guard prospect Eric Freeny – who hails from the same high school as freshman forward Devin Williams – and walk-on guard Christian Horry, son of seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry.

With likely gaps to fill in the coming weeks, Cronin will once more have a chance to make a splash in the transfer portal Monday.

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Joseph Crosby | Sports editor
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
Crosby is the 2023-2024 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and NIL beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the baseball and women's golf beats. He is also a fourth-year statistics student.
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