INDIANAPOLIS — At the end of practice, UCLA players normally fill the air with basketballs, trying to outdo one another with wild shots from midcourt.
Friday afternoon at the RCA Dome, center Ryan Hollins made one, his first of the season.
That brought cheers from his teammates and onlookers. Cheers of joy -- and hope.
Hope that Hollins will be able to take his regular spot in the starting lineup tonight when the Bruins face Louisiana State in an NCAA championship semifinal.
Hollins said he would be on the court despite suffering a bruise above his right knee in the first of two practices Friday.
"Yeah, I'll be there," he said. "Come on, I'm a senior and this the Final Four. There is no way possible that I won't be there."
Hollins sat out the second practice, a public workout mandated by the NCAA -- except for free-throw and midcourt shooting exercises.
He was injured when he collided with teammate Alfred Aboya.
"It swelled up pretty bad," Hollins said.
It was the second time in less than 48 hours Aboya had sent a teammate into the trainer's room. In practice Wednesday, the freshman forward inadvertently hit sophomore center Lorenzo Mata with an elbow, breaking Mata's nose.
Mata will play today wearing a protective mask.
Hollins said he didn't feel any pain while taking shots late during the late practice because the knee was tightly wrapped.
He was scheduled to be up much of Friday night with trainer Tony Spino, receiving treatment involving ice, periodic massaging and the use of a machine to stimulate the area.
"Whatever it takes," Hollins said.
On an LSU basketball team of almost exclusively Louisiana players, backup point guard Ben Voogd is from ... Florence, Ore.
Voogd, a 6-1 freshman with blond hair and the facial features of a high school freshman, isn't crazy about crawfish or gumbo or, especially, humidity -- three staples of life in Baton Rouge -- but he is thrilled to be playing in the Final Four, an accidental happenstance to hear Voogd tell it.
"I was playing on an Oregon AAU team in a tournament in Las Vegas," Voogd said Friday. "Coach [John] Brady and coach [Butch] Pierre were scouting Tasmin Mitchell and they saw me. After my game, they asked if I'd be interested in talking to them."
Since he hadn't heard from many other Division I schools -- Washington State had shown mild interest -- Voogd accepted when the Tigers offered a scholarship. "I thought it would be cool to get out of my comfort zone a little," Voogd said.
He has found a home away from home.
Voogd has played in all 35 LSU games, taking advantage of some of the minutes that opened up when junior Tack Minor, who was expected to be the starting point guard, was sidelined first by an academic suspension and then by a knee injury.
Voogd's job is to give Darrel Mitchell a rest and to not commit turnovers.
For now, he's happy with that.
"All the guys I knew that went to other schools, they're not in the Final Four," Voogd said. "I am."
LSU's Magnum Rolle, a reserve forward, is not named after the champagne measurement.
"My mom loved Tom Selleck and 'Magnum P.I.,' " Rolle said. "So that's who I'm named after. She'd dress me in Hawaiian shirts so I'd look like him, but I don't think it worked."
Glen "Big Baby" Davis, LSU's 310-pound center, is not averse to speaking about his weight-loss battles. Apparently, he is especially averse to oatmeal.
"You ever watch 'Fear Factor?' " he asked reporters at a news conference Friday. "You know how you're sitting there, you see this nasty food but you want to eat it because you can get a lot of money?
"That's how I look at it. If I can eat this, I can make a lot of money one day."
Florida forward Adrian Moss wasn't about to make the mistake one Connecticut player did and refer to George Mason as "George Washington."
"I don't know exactly what his contribution was, but I know he made it," Moss said of Mason, a Virginia statesman who helped write the U.S. Constitution.
"A point guard?" someone said teasingly.
"I don't think he was a point guard. They didn't play basketball in those days," Moss said.
The Gators' Joakim Noah, the son of former French Open champion Yannick Noah, said his father helps him with the mental side of the game, not the fundamentals.
"My pops knows the game, but not as well as a coach," Noah said. "He helps me with other things, handling distractions like the media, things he could relate to.
"There are certain things athletes share. That's why there's so much respect for each other from athletes in different sports."
Basketball in the South has long been considered the sport to fill time between the end of football and the start of spring football, but not this year.
The Southeastern Conference has two schools in the Final Four, Florida and Louisiana State, a team in the women's Final Four, LSU, and the South Carolina men this week won their second consecutive National Invitation Tournament championship.
"If I live 100 years, I'm not sure I could duplicate that," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said Friday as he stood courtside at the RCA Dome.
Some recall a time when the SEC used to be a football conference.
"We are!" Slive insisted. "We also play a little basketball. It's very gratifying."
Slive said the conference's basketball success has not dampened the usual interest in SEC spring football or poached any passion from the annual Alabama-Auburn gridiron brawl, which is waged "365 days."
"This tournament validates what we feel like is our mantra all the time," he added. "Which is we can do both."
Times staff writers Steve Springer, Diane Pucin, Chris Dufresne and Robyn Norwood contributed to this report.