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UCLA REPORT

Thompson to Sit Out

December 08, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Three freshmen will start for the UCLA men's basketball team Saturday at Pauley Pavilion against Pepperdine.

Coach Ben Howland confirmed Tuesday what he had suspected after Sunday's loss to Boston College -- that his only senior starter, Dijon Thompson, will sit out after re-injuring the webbing between two fingers of his shooting hand.

The gash, which needed 13 stitches to close, will also mean Thompson, UCLA's leading scorer and rebounder, will need to have his index and middle fingers taped for the rest of the season. Thompson, who originally cut the hand during a preseason practice, took the tape off when the season began and said he didn't feel comfortable shooting with the fingers taped.

Howland said it was "a really, really bad piece of luck" that Thompson's hand was slashed in the same spot as the original injury. At best, Howland felt, Thompson will be able to practice late next week and be available for the Dec. 18 game against Michigan.

Josh Shipp, the 6-foot-5 swingman from Los Angeles Fairfax, will get Thompson's starting spot Saturday and will join fellow freshmen Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo at the tip-off.

Shipp, who scored seven straight points after a 13-0 Boston College second-half run Sunday, earned compliments from Howland for his "nose for the ball" and his willingness to hunt down rebounds, especially the offensive kind.

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Two men who are being mentioned as possible permanent replacements for fired USC coach Henry Bibby have close ties to Howland.

Rick Majerus, former Utah coach, and Howland have spoken publicly about their close friendship. And Jamie Dixon was Howland's top assistant at Pitt before getting the head Panther job. But Howland didn't want to address any speculation about either man. "I like Henry," Howland said, "and I feel for him. That's about all my comments on that. He's a good guy and I'm sure he'll continue to have opportunities in our profession."

Center Michael Fey, who was recruited to UCLA by interim USC coach Jim Saia, said he was surprised to hear Saia was named Bibby's immediate successor. When asked whether he thought Saia would do a good job, Fey paused for a long moment then said, "I guess we'll just wait and see. He's never been a head coach."

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