Picture Pauley Pavilion long after the last game of the season has been played. Picture the court under the dim security lights, surrounded by darkened paths leading to unseen exits.
Picture long, tall Reggie Miller loping across the court, with a basketball tucked under his arm, leaving center court, heading for the exits.
Disappearing. Leaving a void.
That's the picture that UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard must see whenever he discusses the difference between his current team and last season's Pacific 10 champions.
He says, sounding almost melancholy: "A lot of points walked out the door with Reggie Miller."
Or: "The guy who pulled out a lot of those games for us last year took all his points to Indiana."
Or: "We'll have to move on without Reggie Miller. How many times did he save us? He was my hero."
Or: "A lot of the magic walked out that door on draft day."
It's almost as if last year's super-shooting Bruin deserted to the Indiana Pacers instead of advancing naturally to his glorious destiny.
Obviously, Hazzard already misses Reggie. And he'll miss his 22.3 points a game and those three-point bombs.
The Bruins also will be without center Jack Haley and guard Montel Hatcher, but their spots are more easily filled.
And the picture brightens considerably when Pooh steps back into it. Pooh Richardson, the Bruins' multi-talented point guard from Philadelphia, is just a junior.
Plus, senior shooting guard Dave Immel is back from a redshirt year, working on a knee that is as strong as ever.
Richardson and Immel will be starters of course, the driving forces of a team seeking to repeat as Pac-10 champions, both of the regular season and the postseason tournament.
Greg Foster, who last year backed up Haley, has grown to be a 7-footer and will be the starter in this, his junior season.
Charles Rochelin, a 6-7 1/2, 206-pound forward who made his way into the starting lineup last season, is back to start alongside Trevor Wilson, a 6-8, 211-pound sophomore who played a strong role as a freshman.
Wilson won the spot in a close battle with Kevin Walker, a 6-10, 226-pound sophomore.
Figure in 6-7, 233-pound senior Kelvin Butler and 6-8, 206-pound senior Craig Jackson, and that's a big, deep front line.
"We'll still be a tough, fast-breaking team with more threats inside because of Wilson, Walker, Foster and Butler," Hazzard said. "We'll have a lot more depth on the front line.
"The backup center will be Kevin Walker. He'll play high, low, all over the place. He'll play all three positions on the front line."
For all of the talent possessed by Richardson and Immel, the guard position will be sorely lacking in depth.
Of the freshmen, Gerald Madkins has shown the most immediate promise, emerging as the third guard behind Richardson and Immel.
Darryl Morris will give the Bruins some experience among the backup guards and Hazzard said freshman Kevin Williams has athletic ability.
The questions are: How well and how soon will this new lineup come together? Will Richardson take it upon himself to do some more scoring and take over this team? Already one of the best guards in the country, Richardson could utilize his personality to make this his team, now that Reggie is gone.
"Pooh should do some more shooting," Hazzard said. "He's so good with the ball, he can get just about anywhere he wants to be as far as penetrating."
But Richardson says: "It's not my time, it's all of our times. We'll do it as a team."
Hazzard likes an improvement in Foster's attitude.
"He's a lot more poised," Hazzard said. "Last year, the word around the Pac-10 was, 'Put an elbow in Greg Foster's chest at the start of the game and you own him.' That short fuse, that knee-jerk reaction, is something we're working on."
But, Hazzard added: "I'd rather have a player who has fire, whether I have to control him and tune him down or not, rather than have to add gasoline. This team has fire."
Stu Meinert, a 6-6, 215-pound freshman from Salem, Ore., got a late start on the season after reconstructive surgery on his knee. . . . Rod Palmer, a backup guard last season, is attending Compton College for personal and academic reasons this year. He is expected to return in the summer of '88. . . . Coach Walt Hazzard was the conference coach of the year last season. . . . Hazzard is very high on Keith Owens, a 6-6 1/2, 190-pound forward from Birmingham High School in Los Angeles who walked on. Hazzard said, "I can't believe that kid wasn't recruited." . . . Jack Haley is playing in Spain and making more money, Hazzard says, than Hazzard ever made in his 10 years in the National Basketball Assn. . . . Montel Hatcher is playing in the Continental Basketball Assn.