- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Hiring Steve Alford as UCLA basketball coach saved at least one Bruins player.
Or, perhaps more accurately, firing Ben Howland did.
UCLA guard Norman Powell said Tuesday he was staying at UCLA after considering transferring, and the main reason for his decision was because coach Howland was fired. Powell, a sophomore from San Diego, said he would have looked into playing at San Diego State next season had Howland returned, but reconsidered after UCLA fired Howland last week and hired Steve Alford away from New Mexico on Saturday.
"I felt like my decision was based on if coach Howland was going to be here or if he wasn't going to be here," Powell said.
The 6-foot-4 athletic wing player began this season as a starter, but soon found himself coming off the bench, and his minutes dropped from 28.4 the first seven games to 19 for the next 26 games. He played 37 minutes per game when recalled to the starting lineup to replace an injured Jordan Adams.
"Hiring a new coach leaves open a chance, an opportunity for me to come in with a fresh start basically because we're under a new coach and see what he has to offer and see what he wants me to do," Powell said. "Now I'm just really excited to see where this program is headed. ... I was just optimistic about being able to play under a new coach."
It also helped that Powell is familiar with Alford, who tried to recruit Powell to New Mexico. Also, an assistant coach from Powell's high school team once played under Alford at Iowa.
"He's a good coach," Powell said. "He knows what he's doing and he expects a lot out of his players and that's what it's going to be. I expect for practice to be intense and for it to be up tempo and see how strict he is. I'm excited to see what he wants to do with this program."
While Powell is back on the team, there are still questions remaining about some other returning players. Shabazz Muhmmad is expected to leave for the NBA but hasn't officially announced his decision. Tony Parker is also thought to be a transfer candidate and Kyle Anderson is also a candidate to leave for the NBA.
Anderson was at Tuesday's news conference but did not speak with reporters. Muhammad and Parker did not attend. Parker has enrolled in classes and is expected to finish the school year, a school spokesperson said.
"I'm sure everybody is coming back," Powell said. "I haven't heard any news or rumors going around about everybody transferring."
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