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UCLA BASKETBALL

Bruised Bruins team has Ben Howland worried

No fewer than six of his scholarship players have struggled with injuries in run-up to 2009-10 season.

October 21, 2009|David Wharton

The season opener is almost a month away, but Ben Howland has reason to be concerned.

This week, the UCLA basketball coach has watched no fewer than six of his scholarship players struggle with injuries.

Add center J'mison Morgan to the list of the walking wounded, the sophomore waiting for MRI exam results this morning after his left knee swelled.

Even more troubling is point guard Jerime Anderson, expected to miss another week with a groin injury that has persisted off and on since high school.

That's not good for a Bruins squad short on backcourt depth.

"Everybody should be worried," Howland said. "I am, most of all."

The coach insisted he will not hurry Anderson back onto the court: "We cannot afford for this to be a chronic thing, which means he's going to get off to a slower start."

When the Bruins resume workouts this afternoon, the team will rely on seldom-used junior Mustafa Abdul-Hamid to handle the point because off guard Malcolm Lee is still out with a concussion.

Among other injured players, freshman Mike Moser (sore lower back) is doubtful for practice and freshman Brendan Lane (ankle sprain) could miss one to two weeks.

There is some good news: Senior forward James Keefe, expected to miss four to six weeks after re-injuring his shoulder, has been cleared for moderate contact in practice.

"I've been working with the trainers," Keefe said earlier. "We're trying to get the muscles stronger."

Before the injuries began to pile up, sophomore Drew Gordon and freshman Reeves Nelson stood out in early practices, especially under the boards.

Freshman Tyler Honeycutt, who spent much of the summer recovering from a spinal stress fracture, has also looked surprisingly fit, Howland said.

With so many underclassmen on the roster, practices have focused on fundamentals. That means defense and rebounding, setting screens and properly executing the infamous jump stop.

"I would say we're going slower," Howland said. "It's more basic. I'm not going to assume that they know any particular thing."

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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