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UCLA BASKETBALL

UCLA's Nikola Dragovic acknowledges being distracted

The Bruins forward is awaiting arraignment for felony assault charges and is currently in a scoring slump, making only 24% of his shots.

December 15, 2009|By David Wharton

The last couple of months -- no picnic for anyone on the UCLA basketball team -- have been especially rough for Nikola Dragovic.

In short order, the senior forward has been charged with a felony assault, suspended and reinstated, and is now mired in a scoring slump, making only 24% of his shots.

Dragovic acknowledged that his pending legal problems -- his arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 21 -- have been a distraction.

"I had to worry about it for a while," he said, adding, "I'm not as worried about it anymore."

Since last weekend's loss to Mississippi State, when he missed all nine of his shots, going scoreless for 29 minutes, Dragovic has tried to focus on technique.

Coach Ben Howland wants him to stop watching the ball after he releases his shot, keeping his eyes on the rim. Dragovic practiced the change during extra shooting sessions Sunday and Monday.

"I'm having some shooting problems," he said. "But I'm doing everything I can."

His recent lack of rebounding and poor defensive play are more of a concern to Howland. But Dragovic's spot in the starting lineup remains secure, at least for the time being.

"If he continues to play at this pace . . . obviously he's going to play less minutes," the coach said. "But I don't expect that to happen."

Scouting report

Watching film of tonight's opponent, New Mexico State, Howland came away impressed by the backcourt of Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson.

"Those two guys are very dangerous," he said. "They can really score."

The Aggies also have center Hamidu Rahman, who is averaging 13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds.

Howland expects them to play a 2-3 zone for much of the game, switching to man-to-man occasionally.

Point of view

From where point guard Jerime Anderson stands, the Bruins' offensive production is suffering for a couple of reasons.

First, it seems, the shots that fall in practice keep bouncing away when game time comes around.

"People are a little bit more comfortable in practice and have more of a feel for what's going on," he said.

Also, Anderson wants to do more to create opportunities, which means penetrating to break down defenses, then either scoring or feeding teammates.

"I need to try to get to the hole a little more," he said, "and be a little more aggressive."

david.wharton@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesWharton

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