Incoming UCLA freshman Bryce Alford
has the memory of an elephant.
The recent La Cueva (Albuquerque, N.M.)
graduate, like all great athletes, uses any slight — intended or not — as fuel for motivation.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound combo guard is currently in Colorado Springs, Colo., trying to earn a spot on the USA Basketball U19 World Championship team. Alford, who set the New Mexico single-season state scoring record this past season with 1,050 points (37.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game), is out to prove all of the recruiting services wrong.
"You look at all of the player rankings (for the class of 2013), and I wasn't even in the top 100 overall players nationally," Alford said. "I was rated the 44th best shooting guard, and I don't even consider myself a shooting guard, so they don't even have that down right. No one knows about me."
That's why Alford can hardly wait to show off his game at the U.S. Olympic Center. Twenty-four players were selected to try out for the team, with Alford being just one of four players on the list without college experience. The camp will be held June 14-19, and the finalized 12-man roster will compete in Prague, Czech Republic, starting June 27.
"Trying out for the World Championship team and then later this fall playing for UCLA, it gives me an opportunity to put my name on the map," Alford said. "It gives me more exposure, and a chance to prove myself on a national scale. I actually like being under the radar. I don't think (former Michigan star) Trey Burke or (Golden State Warriors standout guard) Stephen Curry were rated in the top 100 in their senior year of high school."
Alford plans on replicating the success of the aforementioned players, and why would anyone doubt him? Despite being only a consensus three-star (out of five) recruit, Alford thinks he knows why he was selected to try out for the U19 team — because he can flat-out shoot. With a lightning-quick release and tremendous range, Alford can extend defenses and open up lanes and space for his teammates.
"I think (Team USA) picks the best players they can, obviously, but also guys who can help the team in a certain area," Alford said. "I think I have a legitimate shot to make the team because I can shoot the three-ball really well. Even if I don't make the team, it's going to be a great experience. I'm going to compete against the best and learn from the best coaches, and it's going to show me where I'm at. It's positives all around."
Alford has the athleticism, size, build, makeup and intangibles needed for success at the highest level. Often times, players go under the radar because, as cliché as it may sound, scouts can't measure the fighting ability of one's heart. Alford feels it's his competitive drive — always stuck in fifth gear — that will allow him to become one of the NCAA's best players.
"I'm very excited for what the future holds," said Alford, who will play at UCLA for his dad, Steve, a 1984 Olympian and former Indiana standout. "I'm about as competitive as it gets, and I haven't met anyone as competitive as me other than my dad."
Even though Alford plays and thinks about basketball around the clock, he doesn't fear any type of burnout. How much does he love the game? While on vacation with his family in Florida in the last week of May, Alford still played basketball — everyday.
"My passion for the game is strong," he said. "I cannot imagine it will ever go down."