UCLA basketball still waiting for NCAA to officially clear two international freshmen
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin told reporters on Friday that the Bruins still have two “ongoing situations” where international freshmen are waiting to be officially cleared by the NCAA. According to The L.A. Times’ Ben Bolch, those two freshmen are believed to be big man Aday Mara and forward Berke Buyuktuncel.
“We’re working through it,” Cronin said. “I anticipate everybody being ready.”
Asked if that meant ready by the opener, Cronin said they aren’t the ones dictating the timeline, but he’s hopeful. He declined to comment further.
Mara — a 7-foot-3 freshman from Zaragoza, Spain — was selected to the 20-man watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award on Friday, an award presented annually to the best center in college basketball. Though he’ll be playing just his first season of college basketball, Mara is expected to have a significant role for the Bruins.
He joined the program in September after a strong run of play in the international ranks. In July 2023, he averaged 14.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.7 blocks for Spain in seven contests at the FIBA U18 European Championships.
Once cleared, Mara is expected to start alongside Adem Bona in the frontcourt.
Bona won the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year award last season after averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 32 starts for a UCLA team that won the conference’s regular-season crown. He spent the offseason rehabbing a shoulder injury that limited him in the Bruins’ NCAA Tournament run.
Cronin was asked about Bona’s status on Friday as well.
“He plays every day,” Cronin said. “As far as when I put him in a game, we’ll see. We need him this year. But he plays every day, the whole practice.”
Asked if he expects to have a full rotation for UCLA’s exhibition game next Tuesday against Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cronin said, “I hope everybody will play. I do not expect everybody will play.”
UCLA opens its season on Nov. 6 against St. Francis (PA).