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First opponent presents Bruins with the unknown

November 11, 2008|David Wharton | Wharton is a Times staff writer.

Fourth-ranked UCLA begins the basketball season Wednesday against a Prairie View A&M team that comes into Pauley Pavilion as something of a mystery.

The Panthers have yet to play a game, so UCLA must work off videotape from last season and perhaps from recent scrimmages, Coach Ben Howland said. UCLA officials added that the Bruins' first opponent has yet to produce a media guide or even an official roster.

"This time of year is very difficult," Howland said. "You have little to go on in terms of information."

The Bruins' opening games are part of the 2K Sports Classic tournament, with the second round taking place Thursday. With so little turnaround time, the Bruins spent the last few days preparing for potential opponents Weber State and Miami of Ohio. They planned to study Prairie View today. Forward James Keefe wasn't sure where the school is located. (It is in Texas.) "Doesn't matter where they're from, it matters how they play," he said. "We'll figure that out."

If the Bruins win their first two games, they will travel to New York for the semifinals and possibly the final next week. The tournament's 16-team field includes Duke, Michigan and Southern Illinois.

Dragovic practicing

Forward Nikola Dragovic has rejoined the team after being arrested last week for suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Dragovic was taken into custody hours before an exhibition game against Biola.

The junior from Belgrade, Serbia, practiced on Saturday and Monday.

"We will discipline him internally," Howland said. "And he will not be making any comments or anything regarding his case as per legal advice."

Dragovic, who allegedly pushed his former girlfriend to the ground during an argument, was in the process of hiring a lawyer.

Howland said he is still gathering information about the situation and did not know whether Dragovic's scheduled court appearance on Dec. 4 would be postponed.

UCLA plays at Texas that day.

Ready to go

A year ago, the Bruins began the season with numerous injury concerns.

Keefe was recovering from shoulder surgery, guard Darren Collison was nursing a knee injury and swingman Michael Roll was dealing with foot problems.

This time, the team appears to have overcome preseason injuries to begin the season physically sound.

"Knock on wood," Howland said. "No one had to go to the training room yesterday."


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