20 Feb 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
LOS ANGELES — David Singleton holds his hands in a heart shape over his eye, looking at Jules Bernard through the heart-shaped lens.
“I’ll see you at home, man,” Singleton calls out as Bernard walks through the practice facility door smiling.
The two local products went on their official visits to UCLA together, roomed together in a dorm during the summer and remain roommates in an off-campus apartment. They’re building toward becoming UCLA’s backcourt of the future.
Bernard, the Windward alumnus, is a slasher whose ever-present aggressive style has resulted in as many head-scratching turnovers as celebrated lefty layups. Singleton, a former star at Bishop Montgomery, is a deadly long-range shooter who has committed only one turnover in the past 10 games, but “can be robotic at times,” interim head coach Murry Bartow said.
Each freshman could use a little bit more of the other one as they progress into the rest of their careers.
“They’re very different types of players, but both are incredible young guys and good guys and they work really, really hard,” Bartow said. “Both of those guys are going to have great careers.”
When asked what he wants to improve in his game, Bernard answered his jumpshot. Singleton, who shoots a team-high 44.2 percent from 3-point range, said he asks Bernard for pointers on how to become a better driver.
The promising pair of freshman guards could have been part of a trio, if not for a preseason injury to Tyger Campbell. Campbell’s ACL injury altered UCLA’s season as it left the Bruins (13-13, 6-7 Pac-12) with only one true point guard. In his place, Singleton adapted to a combo guard role, learning point guard duties while still trying to make an impact off the ball.
Despite adjusting to a new position, Singleton hasn’t made many mistakes. He’s an extremely low-risk player, Bartow said, with just three turnovers in 13 Pac-12 games. But the coaching staff talked with Singleton about making more entry passes to the post to find Moses Brown, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill. The freshman said he knows how to make the passes, but just needs the confidence to make them.
“Sometimes he needs to play a little more wild energy to him, and I think it would help him,” Bartow said. “But he’s incredibly smart, probably the hardest worker on our team.”
Singleton’s extra practice habits have quickly become his trademark at UCLA. He shot 200 extra free throws after UCLA lost to Utah earlier this month. On Tuesday, he admitted he once slept on the court of Pauley Pavilion during the summer after an all-night shooting session. He barely had the energy to move let alone trek back to his dorm late at night. The coaching staff didn’t like that, last year’s Gatorade California State Player of the Year said.
“I was just so excited to be at UCLA, to be a Bruin,” Singleton said.
Singleton’s standout performance against Cal helped the Bruins come back from an 11-point second-half deficit as he scored 12 points on four made 3-pointers in the second half. Three days later, his freshman running mate Bernard scored a career-high 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting in UCLA’s blowout loss to Stanford.
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”]Bernard has scored in double digits in three of the past four games, committing five turnovers in the process. Maintaining a healthy balance of aggression while continuing to make smart plays has been his top priority this year.
“Coach (Bartow) always tells me ‘keep attacking, keep attacking, just try to make the right play,’ ” Bernard said. “So when I attack, look for the lob, look for the kick to the open 3, that’ll open up the driving lanes later in the game.”
Singleton said he calls Bernard “Jules Harden,” for Bernard’s dominant left hand and his preference to play as James Harden when they play video games together. Singleton doesn’t have a catchy nickname yet; Bernard just calls him David.
“It’ll talk to him about it,” Singleton said with a wide grin.
Add a matching nickname to the list of things the freshmen can work on together.