UCLA Basketball has fully gone the international route to fill out the roster, landing two more foreign pieces to round things out.
By the end of the NBA Draft deadline for players to potentially withdraw, UCLA Basketball had lost four starters, with bit man Adem Bona the only one coming back. Yet despite the many key departures, the Pac-12 program didn’t use the transfer portal much, only landing former Utah guard, Lazar Stefanovic.
But Coach Mick and the staff, which included former assistant Ivo Simovic (now with the Toronto Raptors) went the international route. The first two pickups were on the perimeter in Jan Vide and Ilane Fibleuil, four-star prospects. And in the past week, the Bruins were able to land two more overseas incoming freshmen as well.
The first is Berke Buyuktuncel, a 6’9 forward from Turkey. He’s a skilled power forward that was very impressive in this Summer’s FIBA U19 World Cup, including scoring 19 points in the upset win over the US in the 3rd-place matchup. He’ll be competing with a pair of top-100 incoming freshmen, Brandon Williams and Devin Williams, for minutes at the four-spot.
And joining Bona at center is Aday Mara, a 7’3 big man from Spain. He’s viewed not only as one of the top international prospects in the 2024 NBA Draft but potentially overall. Mara has some early 1st-round projections, thanks to his two-way ability as both a capable scorer inside and out, while also being an interior defender.
If Mara is as good as advertised, it’ll be interesting to see how the minutes work out with Bona since he started as a freshman and was an all-league defender. Ideally, they each play around 20 minutes and provide imposing defense collectively for the Bruins next season.
Considering both the youth and the fact that they’re coming from overseas, there’s no telling how good UCLA Basketball will be. The ceiling and floor respectively will be far apart and this could work well or have a ton of growing pains. There’s no question that the Bruins will be one of the more interesting teams to watch for the 2023-24 campaign.