Lazeric Jones wants to make the rarest of transitions, from junior college player to UCLA starting point guard.
Standing in his way is Jerime Anderson, the Bruins' incumbent starter who intends to retain his job.
Somebody is going to be disappointed.
Or maybe not.
Said Jones: "Whoever's out there is going to be great."
Said Anderson: "I'm sure neither one of us will have a problem coming off the bench."
The politically correct discourse of media day has given way to a more spirited battle on the court in the Bruins' first five practices. Coach Ben Howland said Tuesday he had not picked a starting point guard, but it's clear Anderson must improve his play from a year ago if he wants to be on the court when UCLA tips off against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 12.
Howland acknowledged Anderson's struggles were the impetus for bringing in Jones, a 6-foot junior who is vying to become the first junior college player to play significant minutes for the Bruins since Jack Haley in 1986-87.
"I had counted on Jerime Anderson coming in and having a solid year, and he really had a season that was less than what he expected and I expected," Howland said of the 6-foot-2 junior, who averaged 5.8 points and 3.4 assists last season.
Anderson said he had improved the consistency of his jump shot during the off-season, and Jones said his counterpart's savvy and passing skills greatly exceeded his expectations based on what he had heard about Anderson before arriving on campus.
"All the critics that he's had," Jones said, "I don't see anything that they're talking about."
Asked to assess the point guards, sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt said Anderson was ahead as far as limiting turnovers.
"With Zeke, he's just getting into it," Honeycutt said, referring to Jones by his nickname. "He's new to everything, so he's learning how the bigs are hedging the ball screens and how he's supposed to read it and use the bigs to his advantage. Once he gets used to it, his turnovers will go down."
Jones has an impressive basketball pedigree. He was one of Derrick Rose's teammates at Chicago Simeon High and went on to become part of a freshman class at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill., that produced seven Division I players, including Arizona's Jesse Perry.
"He has, without question, worked himself into a major Division I college player," Logan Coach Mark Imhoff said of Jones, citing his improved strength and mental toughness.
Although he had several Division I scholarship offers from "pretty small schools" coming out of high school, Jones said he wanted to hold out for something better. Two years later, he will pull on the white and powder-blue jersey of UCLA.
"That's exactly why I went to junior college," Jones said, "to hopefully get somewhere at a higher level, not knowing that it would be a UCLA."
Honeycutt, slowed during the Bruins' first few practices by a tweaked hip flexor, has resumed participating in full practice sessions, Howland said.