Star Interview: Arron Afflalo

November 20th, 2006
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If UCLA makes it back to the Final Four this year, it will be in no small part due to Arron Afflalo’s decision to return for his junior season. After flirting with the NBA draft (he declared, but didn’t hire an agent), Afflalo opted to come back and lead a talented young team reeling from the departures of Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins and Jordan Farmar.


CHN recently caught up with Afflalo, and asked him about his decision to return, what his role on this year’s team is, and whether the Bruins will have a little more offensive punch.



Tom Dalton (CHN): You had a stress fracture in your foot several months back. How is it healing?


Arron Afflalo (AA): It's healed and practice is going great.


CHN: After last season you flirted with the NBA draft. Many analysts had you projected in the second round. What was the overriding factor in your decision to return?


AA: I looked at it from a team standpoint. We were so close last year. It was a once in a lifetime situation. It just really hurt not to win. If I left I knew I would miss my coaches and my teammates. This city and this school just showed me so much love. At the time there were some people telling me I might go in the first round, but there weren't any guarantees. And that's what I would have needed to go. By returning I've given myself a chance to continue improving my game.


CHN: Last year you averaged nearly 16 points a game and were considered one of the best lockdown defenders in the country. What facet of your game would you like to improve most this season?


AA: I'd like to improve everything. This year I need to be able to create for myself and my teammates off the dribble. With Jordan gone, I just need to create plays for the team.


CHN: UCLA was one of the best defensive teams in the nation last year. Coach Howland’s clubs are renowned for intense defense. But you guys were also one of the lowest scoring teams in recent memory to advance to the title game.  Is that something Coach Howland is consciously seeking to improve this year, or is scoring in the 50s and 60s just par for the course when you’re expending so much energy on man-to-man defense?


AA: Our plan this year is to run more and score more. We have a lot of very good young athletes on this team who can get up and down the court. So I definitely think you’ll see us score more points.


CHN: Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins and Jordan Farmar are all gone, and now you’re charged with leading a pretty young bunch. What’s your role in molding them?


AA: My role is that I'm the elder statesman of the team. But we’ve got plenty of young leaders on this team as well, including Josh (Shipp) and Luc (Richard Mbah a Moute).


CHN: You have some pretty tough non-conference match-ups. One that stands out is the Dec. 9th game against Texas A&M and Acie Law at the John Wooden Classic. What others stand out to you?


AA: I just really look forward to every game. For me, I just have to win, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter who our opponent is. I want to win them all. Our non-conference schedule is very tough. From BYU to Long Beach State to Texas A&M, they’re all really solid. I think a lot of the non-conference teams we play are picked to win their conferences. … But I just have to go out and win, plain and simple.


CHN: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Arron. Good luck this season.     


AA: Thanks.