Two transfers leave UCLA basketball in biggest flux of the Mick Cronin era

FILE - UCLA forward Mac Etienne (12) shoots the ball during the second half of an NCAA basketball game.
UCLA forward Mac Etienne shoots during a game against Arizona State in February 2021. Etienne has entered the NCAA transfer portal. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

UCLA’s longstanding roster continuity under coach Mick Cronin has come to an end.

With Mac Etienne and Abramo Canka entering the transfer portal this week, the Bruins are assured of having more newcomers than holdovers next season, leaving their roster in the biggest flux of the Cronin era.

Kenneth Nwuba, Dylan Andrews and Will McClendon are the only scholarship players who remain on the roster from last season, though Adem Bona and Jaylen Clark could rejoin them should the latter two players opt for another college season over entering the NBA draft. Bona and Clark have until the end of this month to make their decisions.

UCLA has signed freshmen Sebastian Mack, Brandon Williams and Devin Williams (no relation); received a verbal commitment from French shooting guard Ilane Fibleuil; and landed a transfer from Utah in Lazar Stefanovic. The Bruins are also recruiting additional international prospects, including 7-foot-3 center Aday Mara from Spain.

Whatever the roster looks like on opening night, it will bear little resemblance to the one from last season that included seven returning players and four seniors. The previous season, UCLA brought back every player who participated in its run to the 2021 Final Four.

UCLA's starting lineup could be entirely new next season, depending on the decisions of Clark and Bona. Even if Clark and Bona returned, UCLA would bring back only 30.7% of its scoring production from last season. That figure would drop to 7.2% should Clark and Bona depart.

Canka and Etienne played sparingly last season and it was not assured their roles would appreciably increase amid the influx of newcomers. They become the third and fourth UCLA players to transfer since Cronin’s arrival in April 2019, joining Shareef O’Neal (Louisiana State) and Jake Kyman (Wyoming before transferring again to Eastern Washington).

Etienne, a redshirt freshman center, averaged 1.3 points and 1.9 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game after returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for the 2021-22 season. He sparked controversy while sitting out for allegedly spitting at hostile Arizona fans after a game at the McKale Center in February 2022. Etienne was cited by police for assault with intent to injure, insult or provoke before completing a diversion program to resolve the matter.

Canka, a freshman swingman from Genoa, Italy, showed promise that exceeded his averages of 1.5 points and 0.7 rebound in 5.5 minutes per game. He displayed confidence as a ballhandler and a shooter, making five of 10 three-pointers, though he sometimes struggled defensively as young players tend to do in Cronin’s complex defense.

There will be plenty of teaching anew in the coming months given the massive turnover.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.