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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

The Tickets Arrived Late, but He's on the Bandwagon

March 23, 2000|RANDY HARVEY

There was enough blame to go around when UCLA was the team nobody wanted in the NCAA tournament. Now that the Bruins have become the team nobody wants to play in the NCAA tournament, they should be able to share the credit.

Start with JaRon Rush. Not even his coaches knew that the Bruins would be this much better with him. He's playing like the McDonald's All-American he was in high school instead of the confused and homesick kid he was as a freshman.

One who did know Rush's potential was Earl Watson. He's much more comfortable at point guard now that he's teaming again with his former teammate from the infamous Myron Piggie's AAU team in Kansas City.

Dan Gadzuric, whose development has been hindered by tendinitis in his knees, is limping no more. Jerome Moiso is timid no more. Jason Kapono, the savvy freshman who already was playing like a sophomore when the season began, is playing like a junior.

Assistants Michael Holton and Jim Saia, criticized for not having enough experience to be of much assistance to Steve Lavin, are now being mentioned as candidates for head coaching jobs.

Saia has been particularly important.

He convinced Lavin after last season that the Bruins should adopt the 1-4 offense.

That's the offense that Oregon State's Ralph Miller used so effectively with less talent than the Bruins have and that Saia learned as an assistant to Gary Colson at Fresno State.

The Bruin players weren't sold on it because it's more structured than the motion offense they had been running under Lavin.

Lavin was less sold on it in midseason when the Bruins were a second-division Pacific 10 team.

But they all saw how potent the offense could be in the upset victory at No. 1 Stanford. With the wings, Rush and Kapono, playing high, the Cardinal was unable to sag in the middle on Gadzuric and Moiso.

Maryland saw the offense at its best. UCLA ran backdoor plays on the Terps the way teams used to do to UCLA in the tournament.

Then, of course, there is Lavin.

With a more structured offense, he needed to run more structured practices. He became more vocal and firmer after the disaster in the desert, the successive losses at Arizona State and Arizona. The players still call him "Lav," but they are sure now that he's the coach.

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It won't be a surprise if Moiso leaves UCLA after this season. He made a two-year commitment to the Bruins and has kept it. . . .

Although he might not be ready for the NBA next season, the Paris native wouldn't mind returning to Europe to play professionally. . . .

The Bruins are recruiting 7-foot center Josh Moore from Long Beach City College. . . .

They are trying to get inside Travon Bryant's door. The 6-8 power forward from Long Beach Jordan had narrowed his choices to Missouri, Kansas and California. . . .

Missouri was considered the favorite because one of his best friends, Wesley Stokes of Long Beach Poly, committed to the Tigers. . . .

Redondo Union's Andrew Zahn, who, along with Bryant, had been considered the best of the uncommitted players in Southern California, dropped off that list when he committed to Arizona. . . .

Travis Hanour of Laguna Beach committed to USC, but that might not be his final answer. He's visiting Utah this weekend. He already visited Arizona. . . .

Former Dodger executive vice president Fred Claire (Mt. San Antonio and El Camino), Olympic swimmer Susie Atwood (Long Beach) and former Cincinnati Bengal and UCLA lineman Max Montoya (Mt. San Antonio) will be inducted tonight into the California Community College Assn. Athletics Hall of Fame. . . .

Ed Yarnall, the Yankees' beleaguered rookie pitcher, hasn't had much success against hitters during spring training, but he has been able to keep Jim Edmonds inside the park. . . .

Edison Field, that is. As long as Yarnall struggles, there's no way the Yankees will trade Ramiro Mendoza for Edmonds.

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Tickets for the June 17 World Boxing Council welterweight title fight at Staples Center between Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley went on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Within 17 minutes, all 6,000 of the $50 and $100 upper-deck tickets had been sold.

By 3 p.m., Staples Center had sold 13,000 tickets, not including the 3,000 that promoter Bob Arum committed to buy. That left approximately 4,000 tickets, all in the $300-$900 price range.

Considering that it has been 17 years since the L.A. area was the site of a major fight (Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton at the Forum), it was considered a gamble when Staples Center guaranteed an estimated $5.5 million to bring this one here. That is Las Vegas-type money, but the casinos are used to gambling.

Now that ticket revenues have already surpassed $6 million, you've got to hand it to Staples Center officials Tim Leiweke and Bobby Goldwater. It looks like they have a full house.

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Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com

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