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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | EAST REGIONAL NOTES

Duke's Boozer to Return

March 20, 2001|SAM FARMER

As if UCLA coaches don't have enough on their minds, now they have a new concern. Duke center Carlos Boozer was cleared to practice Monday, three weeks after breaking a bone in his right foot against Maryland.

It's likely Boozer, the Blue Devils' third-leading scorer, will play Thursday against the Bruins in the third round of the NCAA tournament at Philadelphia.

"He's very valuable," forward Shane Battier said at Durham, N.C., Monday. "He's five more fouls."

But many observers believe the Blue Devils are even better without Boozer, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore averaging 14 points and 6.5 rebounds, that they are quicker and more fluid with him on the bench. They are 6-0 since his injury.

"Carlos is a great presence for us . . . always in the paint, either posting up or setting screens down below," point guard Jason Williams said. "[But] when Carlos went down, it left the middle open for a lot of big-time drives and scoring opportunities, and we just took advantage of that."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he has no intention of starting Boozer against the Bruins, and instead plans to stay with 6-11 Casey Sanders, who is thinner and quicker.

"If, all of the sudden, [Boozer] comes into practice and tells Shane Battier to go take a hike, and tells Jason to quit shooting and, 'Just give me the ball, I'm taking over,' we may reevaluate that," Krzyzewski said. "I don't think that's going to happen."

Maybe not, but Boozer certainly is eager to contribute.

"I'm definitely excited to get back out there and see what I can do," he said.

*

It started with the University of Portland. Now, two more schools in search of head coaches are interested in UCLA assistant coach Michael Holton.

New Orleans and North Texas, both of which fired their coaches in the past week, have contacted Holton to gauge his interest. He also has been approached for a head-coaching job in the NBA developmental league. A former Bruin guard, Holton has been an assistant under Coach Steve Lavin for five seasons.

"I'm committed to the task at hand, which is playing the No. 1 team in the country," Holton said Monday evening when reached at the team's Philadelphia hotel. "It's not unusual at this time of year to be contacted regarding openings."

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