UCLA could be at full strength for the first time when it opens the Maui Invitational.
Freshman forward Berke Buyuktuncel has been cleared by the NCAA after sitting out the first three games, a person with knowledge of the situation unauthorized to speak publicly said. Buyuktuncel’s debut will fortify the Bruins for their showdown against No. 4 Marquette on Monday night at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
Having arrived on campus in September from Turkey, the 6-foot-9 Bukuytuncel had to watch his new team beat Saint Francis, Lafayette and Long Island in street clothes. Now he’ll get to put on a UCLA jersey for the first time, significantly bolstering the Bruins’ frontcourt.
This summer, UCLA coach Mick Cronin compared Buyuktuncel to Jaime Jaquez Jr., the former Pac-12 player of the year who is now a rookie with the Miami Heat.
“Berke’s like Jaime, he’s just taller and left-handed,” Cronin said at the time. “And I say that because he’s a guy who can do everything. He’ll lead you in scoring one game, he can lead you in blocked shots another game, he can lead you in assists and he can lead you in rebounding.
“He did that this summer. He played for the Turkish national team in 19-under and 20-under, both championships this summer, and I charted him and there were many games where he led them in scoring but there were also games where he was assists leader, rebound leader or blocked-shot leader.”
It’s unclear whether Cronin will allow sophomore point guard Dylan Andrews to return against the Golden Eagles after holding him out against Long Island last week for unspecified reasons. The Bruins (3-0) struggled to take care of the ball in Andrews’ absence and committed 14 turnovers.
Marquette (3-0) opened the season with victories over Northern Illinois, Rider and Illinois. The Golden Eagles also likely haven’t forgotten that UCLA handed them a 67-56 loss on their home court in December 2021.