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College Basketball | UCLA REPORT

A Different Kind of Reunion

January 26, 2002|Steve Henson

Presumably, Steve Lavin has deleted Jamal Sampson's number from the memory on his cell phone. It's safe to say Cedric Bozeman has it stored.

For Lavin, dialing the number did nothing but cause embarrassment. For Bozeman, it enables two longtime friends to stay in touch, to reminisce about past championships and plan the future.

Sampson, a 6-foot-11 center, and Bozeman, a 6-6 guard, starred together at Santa Ana Mater Dei High School and had their pick of colleges. Bozeman committed to UCLA in his junior year. Sampson proved a tougher catch, vacillating on his choice until finally choosing California in November 2000.

However, he hadn't signed yet when Lavin had his friend and then-Dodger general manager Kevin Malone place a call from his cell phone to Sampson's AAU coach, Pat Barrett.

Sampson's home number was inadvertently dialed, and Malone left a message chiding Barrett for not steering the player to UCLA. Sampson's mother heard the message, and it became public.

The Pacific 10 Conference ruled that Malone had inserted himself into the recruiting process as a representative of UCLA's athletic interests and slapped Lavin with a secondary recruiting violation.

Now it's clear why UCLA wanted Sampson. He is one of several freshmen making an immediate impact in the conference, starting all 17 games for the surprising Bears, averaging eight points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

Bozeman wants UCLA to end its two-game losing streak and beat Cal tonight, but he will be glad to see his friend.

"We did everything together, man," he said. "We hung out, carpooled together at times. We went to school together. We were a one-two punch, on and off the court."

Bozeman said a large contingent from Mater Dei will be at the game.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," he said. "They will try to get down here and support me and Jamal."

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Like most Pac-10 teams, the Cal roster is full of Southland products who consider the trip to USC and UCLA a homecoming.

In addition to Sampson, brothers Solomon and Gabriel Hughes are from Torrance Bishop Montgomery High and brothers Ryan and Tashaan Forehan-Kelly are from Irvine (Ryan attended Santa Margarita High, Tashaan Woodbridge).

Guard A.J. Diggs is from Long Beach Poly, guard Shantay Legans is from Goleta Dos Pueblos, forward Brian Wethers is from Murrieta Valley and forward Joe Shipp is from Fairfax.

*

Rico Hines will probably sit out for the fourth consecutive game because of a concussion.

He did not practice Friday and will be evaluated by doctors during a pregame workout on an exercise bicycle today. He will play only if he has no headaches.

*

TODAY

vs. California, 5

Fox Sports Net

Site--Pauley Pavilion.

Radio--KXTA (1150, 850).

Records--No. 13 UCLA 13-5, 5-3; California 14-3, 5-2.

Update--The Bears are off to their best start since 1959-60, when they opened 15-1 under Coach Pete Newell and finished 28-2 and NCAA runners-up. Shipp is a consistent scorer, reaching double figures 13 times and averaging 15 points. Diggs replaced Legans as the starting point guard two weeks ago, although Legans played 35 minutes in Cal's overtime victory over USC on Thursday, making the winning shot. The Bears lead the Pacific 10 in most categories on defense. UCLA is in danger of losing three in a row for the first time since falling on the road to Syracuse, Arizona and Arizona State two years ago.

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Steve Henson

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