Dragovic's status remains unclear

His suspension is day to day after his arrest on suspicion of felony assault, and Coach Ben Howland says more information is coming to the appropriate people at the university.

November 23, 2009|By David Wharton
  • Bruins forward Nikola Dragovic blocks the shot of Oregon's Michael Dunigan in a game last spring.
Bruins forward Nikola Dragovic blocks the shot of Oregon's Michael… (Los Angeles Times )

Nikola Dragovic could be on the UCLA bench tonight, but he won't be in uniform.

Not only does the senior forward remain suspended for the matchup against Pepperdine, it remains unclear whether he will return for any of the four games the Bruins play over a tough seven-day stretch.

Dragovic was arrested Friday and faces a felony assault charge stemming from an altercation at a Hollywood concert last month.

Coach Ben Howland said Dragovic's suspension is day to day, adding: "We have to get more information that's going to be given to the appropriate people here on campus."

Dragovic was expected to attend UCLA's practice Sunday afternoon but would not be allowed to participate. Similarly, Howland said he would watch tonight's game in street clothes.

Team officials knew about the incident for weeks but seemingly did not expect formal charges.

The coach and the player spoke Friday night, Howland saying that Dragovic "was obviously very apologetic and felt terrible about this whole situation."

This is a second brush with the law for Dragovic, who was arrested last year and accused of shoving his former girlfriend during an argument. The city attorney decided not to prosecute but left open the possibility of revisiting the case within a year.

It was not known if the current charge would affect his previous case, though a city attorney's spokesman said Sunday that with a felony involved, his office usually defers to the district attorney.

At UCLA, Howland said he now feels confident that he knows all the details of the incident but declined to elaborate.

"This is a legal case," he said. "This is a case that is obviously pending."

Depth perception

Senior James Keefe will remain in the starting lineup at Dragovic's power forward spot.

Keefe made five of six shots against Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds.

"We don't know what the situation is," he said of his sudden promotion and Dragovic's legal case.

"We don't know how long he's going to be out."

The reshuffling also nudged freshman Brendan Lane into a backup role. Against Bakersfield, he had four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

Another newcomer, Reeves Nelson, played 16 minutes at backup center, scoring eight points.

"All these freshmen are going to make mistakes," Howland said. "As long as they're trying their hardest and playing with their hearts, that's something we have to deal with."

Scouting report

A tough field awaits at the 76 Classic over Thanksgiving, but first UCLA must deal with Pepperdine, a program trying to rebuild under Coach Tom Asbury.

Howland expects an opponent that will play both zone and man-to-man defense, an opponent that will show different offensive looks with Keion Bell and Mychel Thompson on the wings.

Bell became something of a YouTube hit this fall by leaping over five teammates to dunk at the Waves' preseason Blue & Orange scrimmage.

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