UCLA PREVIEW : Bruins Plan to Shoot Their Way Back to Top

College Basketball '86-'87: Coaches, Players, Teams And Trends To Watch This Season.

November 25, 1986|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

A new old era may be under way at UCLA, where these Bruins sniff at losing as a mere reminder of the recent past and the only Hazzard signs in sight are the two curving white lines painted down there on the court of Pauley Pavilion.

This is how the Bruins plan to return to glory: They will shoot themselves there.

If all goes as hoped, it may turn out that their reaching so lofty a destination will be principally traced to what seems an incredible piece of good fortune. For the very first time, a three-point shot will be used throughout Division I basketball this season.

The reaction? Bruins are blistering their paws doing high-fives at the prospect because, coincidentally, they have probably the top long-range gunner in the country, one Reginald Wayne Miller.

Actually, those threes may be a breeze for Reggie Range.

Said Reggie: "I'll shoot a 30-footer."

Said Coach Walt Hazzard: "I can't see from 30 feet."

Now a senior, Miller doesn't really have to shoot from anything more than his normal range anyway. The three-point stripe is only 19 feet 9 inches from the basket. In the NBA, the three-point line is 23 feet 9 inches.

Then why so close? Nobody seems to know, but few at UCLA are complaining about it, with the possible mild exception of one.

"I only wish they would have put in a four- point play," Hazzard said.

Even so, Hazzard pointed out, it will be necessary for Miller to show a little restraint, if that is possible, to resist temptation and not come down with white-line fever. The symptoms are found in the feet.

"Never do I want Reggie, or anyone else on our team, to have to look down and see if his feet are behind the line before he shoots," Hazzard said.

"Look, I like the line, but it's certainly not a difficult shot. Even I can make that shot."

Besides higher scores, Hazzard said that the three-point shot will mean that more teams are going to be forced to play man-to-man defense, which the Bruins like, and that the little guy who would ordinarily get crushed inside now will have a place in the game--shooting jumpshots from the fringe.

"Now, I ask you, how important is power basketball?" Hazzard said.

The Bruins should certainly be asking themselves this question because the answer they come up with might ultimately determine what kind of season they have.

Here is UCLA's real problem: The Bruins will score a lot of points, but are they going to be able to stop anybody, especially inside, and also get enough rebounds?

They couldn't last season, at least not consistently, and they suffered for it. UCLA finished 15-14 overall and 9-9 in the Pacific 10 Conference, and it bowed out in the first game of the National Invitation Tournament.

Miller averaged 25.9 points and shot 55.6%, but the Bruins were weak inside, where center Jack Haley had his problems.

This season, though, will be different, Hazzard said. Haley has inside help in the form of three very large freshmen, Miller has his comfortably distanced three-point stripe, Pooh Richardson is presumably a year better and Dave Immel is back from a redshirt season.

That all sounds like a good place to start, but there may be an even better one, and that's on the bench. THE COACH

The 1964 college Player of the Year insists that he is not the 1986 college Coach of the Year on the spot. You can be sure, though, that there will be a lot of attention paid to the Bruins this season.

Is that so unusual, Hazzard asks?

Hazzard, 46, is starting his third season at UCLA, but for the first time, primarily players he recruited are going to determine the team's success or failure, and ultimately, his own.

Hazzard, whose two-year record at UCLA is 36-26, is not one to shy away from what this season means to him.

"Being in this job is being in the spotlight anyway," Hazzard said. "But I'll never have any fear about my position. I'll always approach basketball in that I'll give everything I can to give us a chance to be successful.

"What happens as a result of this is going to happen anyway. So I'll be satisfied. I'll know I've done all I can. I've got a very healthy attitude about this year."

Those who have spent much time around Hazzard this fall believe his personality is much smoother around the edges than before, when he wore his emotions on the sleeve of his sweat shirt. Those emotions sometimes got the best of him.

Some may remember when Hazzard coached at Compton College and charged into the stands to get at some hecklers. They might also recall when he shot from the lip and complained after a crushing loss to North Carolina, that he wanted to cancel UCLA's series with the Tar Heels.

That Hazzard is not in evidence these days. Instead, there's a coach projecting an image of cool strength, of being perfectly together in a casual way, yet one who is firmly in charge. It's an interesting mix.

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