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Kapono, Gadzuric Aren't Finished Yet


Another UCLA basketball season started Thursday in typical fashion--an air of confidence.

That probably had a lot to do with sophomore Jason Kapono and junior Dan Gadzuric--two front-court stars who previously had indicated this would be their final season at UCLA--entertaining the possibility of coming back next season.

Their contributions have long been taken for granted this season, which begins for the Bruins on Nov. 9 against Kansas. But if Kapono and Gadzuric stick around, their supporting cast only figures to get better.

Guard Earl Watson is the only senior starter, with freshman forward T.J. Cummings expected to compete for a starting job immediately and freshman forward Josiah Johnson expected to contribute off the bench.

The Bruins believe they have assembled one of the nation's top recruiting classes, with 6-foot-5 guard Cedric Bozeman (Mater Dei), 6-6 wing Dijon Thompson (Redondo Union), 6-7 forward Andre Patterson (Washington) and 6-10 center Michael Fey (Olympia, Wash.) all offering verbal commitments. The Bruins still hope to land 6-10 center Jamal Sampson of Mater Dei.

"If Jason stays and Dan stays, that could be a monster team, top three in the country," Watson said.

Kapono filed for the NBA draft after his freshman season last year, then withdrew when he realized he would not be a high first-round pick. While the UCLA coaches expect him to depart, he said he is not approaching this season as the last of his college career.

"If I could be top-five or top-10 when I do come out, that would pretty much be stupid to turn down," Kapono said. "But I'm having a good time here. I'm definitely not coming into the season thinking I'm gone. At the end of the year, I'll do some thinking."

Gadzuric said reports that he already had decided to skip his senior season were erroneous.

"There's a good possibility I'll come back after this year," the center said.

This year's Bruins are widely considered a Top 20 team, with returning starters in Watson, Kapono and Gadzuric. Cummings could beat out junior Matt Barnes at power forward, with Ray Young and Billy Knight expected to compete for the shooting guard spot.


The latest trend in the Pacific 10 Conference is to name your home court in honor of a beloved coach. California plays on Pete Newell Court, named for the coach who led the Golden Bears to their only NCAA championship. Oregon State plays on Ralph Miller Court, named for the coach who turned the Beavers into a national power. Arizona last year named its court for Lute Olson, and Olson hasn't even retired yet.

John Wooden coached the Bruins to 10 NCAA titles. So, with Wooden celebrating his 90th birthday Saturday, have UCLA officials considered naming the Pauley Pavilion court for Wooden?

Not at this time, Athletic Director Peter Dalis said. When school officials considered how best to honor Wooden--and how to convince the marvelously humble Wooden to let them--they agreed the coach would be most appropriately honored by a recreation center that served all students, not just athletes. The Wooden Center opened in 1983.

"I think we were ahead of the curve by naming a major university facility for him instead of just a court," Dalis said.


The career of walk-on guard Jason Flowers, who transferred from UC Irvine so he could fulfill his dream of playing his senior season at UCLA, is on hold pending the results of heart testing.

Three recent echocardiograms indicated a heart irregularity, so doctors ordered Flowers to refrain from practicing until they can conduct a stress test. That test is scheduled today, with doctors expected to evaluate results next week.

Flowers, 21, said he is not concerned as much for himself as he is for his girlfriend and 3-year-old daughter.

"That's when it sinks in the most," he said.

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