Q: So, how about an initial reaction of the hiring of Coach Alford?
NP: it's exciting, you know. I know I have a connection with Coach because one of my high school coaches played for him when he was at Iowa coaching. So, I mean, it's exciting, and I'm ready to see what he has to bring. Compared to Coach Howland, he has a totally different style of play, and we're just really excited to see what he wants and expects out of our team. So I'm just waiting for our meeting at 4 o'clock. And really get to know him. And we'll see what he'll try to do with the program.
Q: so you had a little background because your coach played… What did your coach tell you about him?
NP: oh, he's a good coach, you know. He knows what he's doing. He expects a lot out of his players. And that's what it's going to be. He's going to weigh a lot more on the older players coming back. And so I just expect for practice to be intense and for it to be up-tempo. And just see how strict he is. You know, my coach was saying that when he expects a lot out of his players, he's going to be a lot harder on them. When you mess up, you mess up and you're going to hear it. I'm just excited to see what he wants to do with this program.
Q: did you get recruited by New Mexico while he was at New Mexico?
NP: yeah, I did. That's something… I talked to him before about me going to New Mexico and everything like that. I knew Coach Alford a little bit. And got a chance to actually see him in that recruiting process. I was interested in New Mexico, but I didn't want to go too far from home so I came to UCLA but… I'm just glad I have a connection with him, and I'm just waiting to sit down and talk to him one on one.
Q: did you watch any New Mexico games all this year?
NP: yeah, I watched a lot of them.
Q: what was your impression?
NP: that he's guard-oriented because he used to play guard and he expects a lot out of his wing player. I like how they get up and down and the type of offense that he runs, you know. So what he does suits my playing style and a lot of people on this team.
Q: he's supposed to be a defense-first coach. I know, coming in from Coach Howland, that's what he emphasized too, but Coach Alford's supposed to be that. Do you appreciate that?
NP: yeah, you know, defense wins games. The fact that he is a defense-first type coach is really interesting for this team because we definitely lacked a little bit on defense so hopefully he can come in and pick that side up for us. Coach Howland was big on that, but last season, we weren't able to get many stops and everything like that so we'll see if his defensive strategies will better help this team.
Q: why was that? What happened with the defense? Why was it breaking down the last couple of years, do you think?
NP: I really don't know. It's hard to say. There's a lot of factors that go into playing defense in a game. I can't break down every single game about how/why it didn't work. But I don't know. I don't really have an answer to that. But hopefully we're able to pick it up this year and hopefully we can tighten that part of our team up.
Q: obviously, you're here. I assume you're enrolled in school. There was some talk that you might be leaving. That sort of thing. Was that ever an issue? And did the hiring of Steve have an impact of you being here?
NP: yeah, it was an issue at first. I definitely was thinking about transferring. Going back home to play for San Diego State. I really just sat down, talked to my people, had conversations with Coach Darson and all that and just felt like UCLA was the best fit for me. And hiring a new coach just leaves open, a chance. It leaves an opening for me. 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 me and what he wants me to do. So I just that as a challenge. I didn't want to miss out on a year with me transferring. So that was also a big part of why I stayed. But now I'm really excited to see where this program is headed.
Q: I mean, was it the case you were waiting to see who the coach would be that was hired?
NP: yeah, definitely. I don't know. I felt like, like my decision was based on if Coach Howland was going to be here, or if he wasn't going to be here. I was just optimistic that we were going to get a new coach so that was my big thing: about being able to play under a new coach.
Q: you said your high school coach is an assistant at New Mexico now?
NP: no, my high school coach played for him at Iowa.
Q: he played for him. Did you make that phone call to him right away and find out what he was about?
NP: yeah, when they hired him, when everything was official and everything like that, I woke up to his phone call. Talking about if I was excited. I didn't know what he was talking about at first. And he told me they hired Coach. And talked to me about like everything and how he was, coaching him and everything like that. And so, after that, Coach offered to call me a little later that day and we joked about how he talked to Coach Lane about me and everything like that. It's really exciting for me. Right now, I'm just really excited to get to meet him and see what he expects out of me.
Q: you haven't spoken to him at all? Coach Alford, have you spoken to him?
NP: yeah, on the phone.
Q: on the phone.
NP: when he called me. That was the first time he contacted me after he was hired at UCLA. That will be the second time today.
Q: what's your sense about some of the other guys on the team being back? Like Jordan [Adams].
NP: they're excited. They're really excited to see what Coach expects out of us because none of them have that close connection as I did with the recruiting process and with one of my coaches playing for him. So they're just really optimistic about what he wants. And ready to see where he wants to take this program.
Q: have you heard about what Tony Parker is doing? Is he enrolled in school?
NP: yeah, I believe Tony's enrolled in school. I haven't seen Tony since we've been back. Me being busy running around with new classes and everything like that, just trying to figure out the schedule. But I'm sure everybody's coming back. I haven't heard any news or any rumors going around the locker room about anyone transferring or anything like that. I feel like our team's going to be just as good as we were this year with all the returners coming back.