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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

Collison likes front-line physicality

October 20, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Here's what senior point guard Darren Collison has liked about the UCLA basketball team after three days of practice.

He likes the thud, crash, boom of young big men learning how to play elemental defense, of chasing after offensive rebounds and of, Collison said, "being physical. Real physical. I thought that would be our biggest problem, our physicality."

Collison and Coach Ben Howland spoke after Sunday's practice, the third this season.

There are five freshmen and two of them, J'mison Morgan and Drew Gordon, are being counted on to play significant, productive minutes at center and strong forward.

Howland, who can be sparse with praise in the preseason, said he was pleased with the offense of Morgan, a 6-foot-10, 248-pound center who had originally signed with Louisiana State.

"He scored a little better than I thought he would," Howland said of Morgan. "He has good hands, he's long. He has to get in better condition and he has to go against Alfred [Aboya] every day in practice, so we'll know how tough and hard-nosed he is."

Collison said Morgan's size alone is an attribute.

"He's so big and wide, just his presence alone is a help," Collison said. "And so far, offensively, any time he's got a guy behind him, he really capitalizes."

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Aboya mindful of fouls

Howland said at UCLA's media day Wednesday that because he needed senior center Aboya to play 25 minutes per game and because Aboya had a tendency to be in foul trouble, that any time Aboya committed a bad practice foul the team would run laps.

Collison said that in the last three days, the team hasn't had to run any punishment laps.

"Alfred's been real conscious of his fouls," Collison said. "He understands we need to have him on the court."

Collison said Aboya has shown a more confident offensive game.

"He's shooting the ball really well," Collison said. "Alfred knows that how well he plays, that's going to be the No. 1 thing in how far we go."

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Dragovic sits out

Howland said junior forward Nikola Dragovic, who is being counted on to play more this season, especially at power forward, has been unable to participate in practices because of foot pain.

Dragovic had a cyst on a foot drained last week and Howland said X-rays have shown no other damage.

Howland said that Gordon felt a "knee tweak" but had a new brace fitted and had his best of the three practices Sunday.

Swingman Michael Roll, a redshirt last season because of foot injuries, has been practicing. Roll has suffered from plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of a tendon in the foot, for more than a year. He sleeps with a device that keeps his feet arched.

Also, freshman guard Jerime Anderson, who didn't play much over the summer because of a groin injury, played 1 hour 10 minutes of UCLA's first two practices and 1:20 on Sunday, and Howland said Anderson was playing well.

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Fewer practices

Last year, UCLA had 20 practices before its first exhibition game. This year, because of the way the calendar falls, the Bruins will have 18 practices before playing Cal Baptist on Nov. 3 in the first of two exhibition games.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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