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Shipp's Season Is Cut Short

UCLA forward decides to stop playing because of persistent pain related to hip surgery and won't return to the Bruins until next season.

January 11, 2006|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Josh Shipp's season is over. The UCLA starting small forward, unable to get relief from continuing pain after surgery on his right hip in September, has decided to quit playing until the healing is complete.

That could be by late March, but under no circumstances, Coach Ben Howland said, will Shipp be back in uniform this season. The school will petition for a hardship waiver that would give Shipp, a sophomore, an extra season of eligibility.

"He's done for the year," Howland said. "He will neither practice nor play in games. At this point, his pain levels are just unacceptable. This is too much to handle. He has constant throbbing during every practice and every game. It's not getting any better. That is the main concern."

Shipp said he had been assured by his doctor that he did no further damage to the hip by playing in four games.

"This is something that has been on my mind for a while," Shipp said of the decision he reached Tuesday morning when he and his family met with Dr. Carlos Guanche, who performed the surgery. "I just decided I couldn't do it the whole year. It was too much pain.

"The fact that the team is doing real well made it that much tougher. I think they have a chance to do something special. But the best thing for me is to sit out the year and come back 100%."

After winning a starting role as a freshman and then beefing up his 6-foot-5 frame in the weight room during the summer, Shipp figured this season would be special for him as well.

But those hopes were dashed on a court at West Los Angeles College in the summer when he was inadvertently knocked to the court.

When the pain persisted, Shipp underwent medical tests that revealed torn cartilage in a hip joint. There was no doubt who would perform the required arthroscopic procedure. Such a procedure had already been successfully performed by Guanche on Josh's older brother, Joe, a basketball star at California, whose hip injury was of a different nature.

Josh's surgery was performed Sept. 28 and he was given a possible return date of Dec. 29, the Bruins' Pacific 10 Conference opener against Stanford.

After Shipp was medically cleared and began to run up and down the court in practice, Howland suggested that Shipp return a week earlier, in nonconference games against Wagner and Sacramento State, in order to test the hip. Shipp believed he wasn't ready.

He still wasn't sure when it came time to play Stanford.

"I feel really bad," said his mother, Deborah. "I'm the one who encouraged him. He said, 'I just can't. I'm in pain.' I said, 'Go give it a try. Maybe you'll have a breakthrough.' As it turns out, it wasn't the thing to do. He wasn't ready."

To the courtside observer, Shipp certainly seemed ready. In the first minute of the game against Stanford, Shipp caught a long pass in stride, smoothly laid the ball into the basket, drew a foul and confidently made the free throw.

Shipp averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in his four games.

But because numerous other injuries have shortened UCLA's bench and because Shipp seemed to easily shake off the rust of inactivity, he played a lot of minutes, 29 in the first game and then 27, 31 and 32.

"Maybe it was the adrenaline or being out there with the guys," he said, "but I lost sight of the pain. But any time we stopped for a timeout, and after the game, I really felt it."

Said Howland: "According to the doctor, 90% of the healing process from the injury and the surgery takes place during the first 12 weeks. There's another 10 to 15% that is still occurring. There is still tissue hardening, developing, stretching and that has a lot to do with the discomfort."

Upon learning of Shipp's decision, his teammates were supportive.

"It's a very tough decision," guard Jordan Farmar said. "But it shows he has the intelligence and the maturity to do the smart thing, even if it's not the easy thing."

Now that Shipp has made his decision, Howland has decisions to make. With two key small forwards out -- Shipp joining Cedric Bozeman (shoulder injury) -- Howland could move guard Arron Afflalo to small forward and start Farmar and Darren Collison at the guard spots. But that would leave the Bruin bench weak.

Or Howland could move Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to Shipp's position and start Alfred Aboya at power forward. But Mbah a Moute is second in the Pac-10 in rebounding. Either way, with Shipp out, the Bruins will feel the pain of separation.

*

Sophomore center Lorenzo Mata suffered a broken nose against Arizona State on Saturday and will wear a mask against Washington State on Thursday.

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