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UCLA Basketball Scores Big with Acquisition of Aday Mara, Spanish Center in Recruiting Coup

UCLA Basketball Scores Big with Acquisition of Aday Mara, Spanish Center in Recruiting Coup

UCLA basketball maintains its trend of diversifying its roster significantly by securing the services of Aday Mara, a Spanish center and a prospective NBA lottery selection.

The memory of the 2023 NCAA Tournament will forever be tinged with a sense of missed opportunity for devoted UCLA basketball supporters. While UConn showcased unparalleled dominance throughout March, the Bruins, if not for Jaylen Clark’s unfortunate Achilles injury just before the Big Dance, could have posed a significant challenge to overcome.

Nevertheless, those dreams of a national championship, along with key team members, have faded into the past, paving the way for fresh aspirations in the upcoming season. Naturally, the groundwork for this rejuvenation starts in the realm of recruitment. Under the guidance of UCLA’s head coach, Mick Cronin, a rapid talent replenishment has occurred, primarily through forays into the global talent pool.

The signing of Spanish center Aday Mara is the most noteworthy triumph thus far. With his official commitment to the squad for the impending 2023-24 campaign, as reported by The Athletic, the monumental acquisition has been widely anticipated for a number of days. Now, fans can vividly envision the makeup of the Bruins’ frontcourt in the immediate future.

One word encapsulates it: imposing. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and highly-regarded defensive stalwart, Adem Bona, remains a fixture on the team, forming an intriguing and sizable tandem of big men alongside the towering 7-foot-3 Mara. While spacing could potentially present a challenge, opposing teams are sure to grapple with the task of generating points in the interior against this formidable barricade of protection.

Aday Mara’s Potential Impact: Enhancing UCLA’s Basketball Powerhouse

UCLA has officially secured the talents of Aday Mara, an impressive 7-foot-3 center hailing from Spain. Here’s a rundown of the key details:

  • Mara’s stature as a potential lottery pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft adds a significant allure to his signing.
  • During Spain’s notable second-place performance at the FIBA U18 European Championships held in Serbia, Mara showcased his prowess by maintaining an average of 14.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.7 blocks.
  • In joining the Bruins, Mara becomes the seventh addition to the roster for the 2023-24 season, a cohort that features six promising freshmen.
  • The backdrop of UCLA’s previous season includes an impressive 31-6 record, although Gonzaga halted the team’s journey in the Sweet Sixteen.

Mara stands out as a rising star in European basketball circles, showcasing remarkable skills at a towering height of 7-foot-3. With remarkable finesse and impeccable footwork in the post, this 18-year-old prodigy is tailor-made for the college basketball scene. In the Pac-12, his imposing size will undoubtedly grant him a considerable advantage over most competitors, presenting an enticing option for the Bruins to turn to when seeking a clutch score down low.

In terms of his background, Mara’s journey has already seen him perform at levels beyond the college arena. In the previous season, he secured a spot in the rotation for the Spanish ACB league’s Zaragoza, making impactful contributions off the bench. Averaging 5.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and nearly one block in just 11 minutes of play per game, he illustrated his prowess. Moreover, he showcased his prowess on the international stage in Serbia, representing Spain in the U18 European Championships, and his standout performances earned him All-Tournament accolades. Notably, scouts at the event observed Mara’s potential to be a coveted first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Integration at UCLA: Where Mara Fits

The most intriguing thing is this. The ability to score off a block is Mara’s finest trait, but his passing prowess is really his second-best trait. On the low block or in the middle of the court, Mara is an exceptional passer for a big man, finding cutters and kick outs anywhere and utilizing his length and ingenuity to create unusual angles. However, Bruins head coach Mick Cronin has never had a big guy who passes this well. Even returning to Cincinnati, he has never had a center position with an assist rate of more than 12 percent. With his abilities to score and pass, Mara should be able to serve as the offensive center for the Bruins.

The biggest chance is on Cronin finding out how to use him on offense to the fullest extent possible as he doesn’t receive nearly enough credit for playing to the players he has. However, watching how it turns out in practice will be interesting. The same is true on defense, as Mara’s 7-foot-3 frame doesn’t exactly give her the fastest feet. This year, I predict that UCLA will play a significant amount of zone defense around him for the 20 to 25 minutes he is on the court.

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