It was an emotional evening for three young men who donned the UCLA uniform with dignity on and off the floor. Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Jerrold Smith were honored with their families by Bruin faithful prior to the season finale against Washington State.
After the dust had settled the Bruins had won their ninth game in a row and a program record 28 regular season games, UCLA head basketball coach, Steve Alford took the time to talk about his three seniors. He is obviously very proud of all three, not just for the way they conducted themselves on the basketball court, but in every facet of their lives.
“Jerrold [Smith] has gone from practicing on the women’s team, to walking on to our team, to earning a scholarship this year,” Alford said about the road Smith traveled during his time at UCLA. “Really gave him a scholarship to say ‘Thank you’ for what he’s done in the classroom, and because he’s just been excellent in the classroom since joining our team.”
A little closer to home, Alford talks about the travels of his son who has had some ups and downs during his career. The younger Alford took whatever was thrown at him and never let the noise from the outside get to him and it has paid off. Bryce Alford is in the program’s record books and will participate in his third March madness.
“Bryce and everything he’s been able to accomplish and not waver,” the proud father and coach said. “That’s been the thing I’m probably most proud of is, no matter what’s been thrown at him, he’s never wavered from doing what he does best and that’s be a great leader, be a great teammate, do everything he can to help his team.”
The pleased Bruin coach also heaped on praise to Isaac Hamilton, who comes to play night in and night out.
“Isaac has been phenomenal,” Alford said. “Had to give up a year to come here. Both Isaac and Bryce were really, a couple of our first guys on campus when we took over here. Isaac’s 98 or 99 games and all starts speaks volumes of his consistency and what he’s been able to do in his career.”
“Bryce and Isaac have meant a great deal to our program. Not just what they’ve done on the court, but what they’ve done off the court, how they’ve handled themselves.”
“Tremendous Christian young men that get it and serve others and do what they do very humbly. So I’m very appreciative of what our seniors have done and very appreciative of what this team has done. It’s not easy in this era to go 28-3 and do the things that this team’s done.”
Hamilton spoke on his last game at UCLA and his career at UCLA.
“The emotions were very high,” Hamilton said. “It got us out of sync. I think we fought back and settled down. In the second half, we were back to our old self. This is a great team. We had a lot of ups and downs through this career but this is a special team. We hope to go deep in March and continue playing great basketball.”
“I’ll miss the atmosphere, being in LA, and being home. My family is here, and it’s convenient for them to drive 20 minutes to get here. It’s an honor being here at UCLA, it’s a great institution. You’re part of the Bruin family, which goes beyond basketball.”
Bryce Alford was overwhelmed with emotion when he stepped onto Nell and John Wooden Floor with his family. It was a touching moment.
“Nobody really warned me it was going to be like that, to be honest. I was not ready for that at all,” Alford said”. It kind of got me out of rhythm. The amount of emotion drains you a little bit before the game and it is hard to refocus. It was good for us to stay in it during the first half until we could get the wind under our sails.”
“It’s the way that we wanted to end our careers [with a win]. I think it’s what Isaac and I deserve for all we had to go through here. It’s something that I know I’ll never forget. We have a lot of work left to do.”
“It’s been a blessing. I had the privilege to play for my dad. That will never happen again after this year and it’s something that I’ve cherished a ton. To be able to have my family with me out here, that’s been awesome too. It definitely helps being a coach’s kid. My four years here have been awesome.”