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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT | UCLA NOTES

Hines' Move Not Too Sharp

March 20, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rico Hines, one of two contenders to fill Baron Davis' spot in the starting lineup, was not exactly full of energy after a long, delayed trip from Los Angeles to the Bruins' hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It was after 2 a.m. And UCLA was settling in for a late, late dinner.

"I was really tired--and I was hungry," Hines said. "I had a lot of things on my mind, and I just cut through my bread. I wasn't even thinking, I was just cutting my bread open and went through it . . . and I kind of kept going."

With that move, Hines slashed the index finger on his left (non-shooting) hand, slightly damaged a nerve and made fellow freshman Travis Reed the clear front-runner to get a starting nod tonight.

So Hines put a bandage on it and tried to participate in UCLA's light practice at Tropicana Field on Thursday.

"Blood was spurting out everywhere," Hines said. "Our trainer said, 'Let's just wrap it up and see how it is, see what kind of pain you're in in the morning.'

"[I] went out there and tried to practice, and blood was still gushing everywhere."

The 6-foot-3 freshman defensive specialist was ushered to the team doctor of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays--the expansion team set to begin major league play--and given four stitches.

When Hines was getting his stitches, Davis, who suffered a season-ending knee injury coming down from a dunk on Sunday, teased that Hines didn't know how to butter his own roll.

"Well, you don't even know how to come down on a dunk," Hines shot back with a laugh.

Though Coach Steve Lavin was not ready to make a final decision, the 6-6 Reed practiced with the first team even before Hines' injury, and Reed said his guess was that he was starting.

"It's not that dramatic a difference, because they're both going to play a lot," said Lavin, who added that three rarely used players--Billy Knight, Brandon Loyd and Kevin Daley--also could play tonight against Kentucky.

Hines said he will be ready to play and will wear a protective bandage.

*

Senior forward J.R. Henderson has fond memories of UCLA's last game against Kentucky--Dec. 3, 1994, in the inaugural Wooden Classic at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. It was Henderson's second game as a Bruin, back when he was considered a 6-foot-8 shooting guard-small forward.

"That was a terrific game--best game I probably ever played in besides the [1995] championship game," Henderson said.

In the game because Charles O'Bannon had fouled out, Henderson received a pass from Tyus Edney, was fouled and sent to the line with Kentucky ahead, 81-80, and 0.6 of a second left in the game.

"I think it was just luck that I was in that situation," Henderson said. "I wasn't supposed to be in the game. . . . They stuck me in there just as a fill-in."

Henderson, then 18, made both free throws, and UCLA won the game.

"I was looking for that start, kind of get the game that can help get your career going," Henderson said. "I was kind of surprised it was so early. But I was fortunate enough to hit the free throws.

"I think if I [had] missed them, it would have been a totally different career here at UCLA. I know it would have taken a while to get over that. It was a great confidence booster for me, personally."

Henderson, who threw off Michigan on Sunday by making two three-point baskets and pulling Wolverine center Robert Traylor away from the basket, will be leaned on heavily again tonight.

With Davis out, Lavin says he will look to Henderson to provide freshman guard Earl Watson plenty of support bringing the ball up against the Wildcats' harrying defense.

Also, Henderson will have to keep Kentucky big men Nazr Mohammed, Scott Padgett and Jamaal Magloire under relative control.

"What makes him invaluable in tournament play is his ability to make subtle adjustments in game plans," Lavin said.

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