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UCLA FYI

Tyler Trapani talks about John Wooden as Bruins prepare for Wooden Classic

Trapani, a walk-on who might play in Saturday's game against Brigham Young, says he appreciated his great-grandfather's advice on life but regrets missing out on the legendary coach's basketball wisdom.

December 15, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Tyler Trapani didn't want to hear what John Wooden had to say.

The 8-year-old was shooting baskets outside his home when the coaching legend offered the boy a few pointers on rebounding and shooting free throws.

Trapani told him no thanks, only not as politely.

"I'm like, 'What are you doing? I know how to do it,'" Trapani recalled Wednesday.

Twelve years later, the UCLA junior winces at the thought of brushing off his great-grandfather.

"I thought he was just my great-grandpa," Trapani said. "I didn't realize he was one of the greatest basketball coaches. … It was one of my down moments."

Trapani could experience a high Saturday at the Honda Center when the Bruins play No. 16 Brigham Young in the Wooden Classic. Playing against the Cougars would be a tribute to Wooden, who died in June at 99, though Trapani said he's fine with supporting his team from the bench.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland has managed to get the walk-on guard from Simi Valley some playing time in each of the last two Wooden Classics. Trapani played in the final minute of a romp over DePaul two years ago and in the last minute of a blowout loss to Mississippi State last season.

What happens if the game against BYU goes down to the final minute?

"We'll play to win," Howland said.

Howland said taking part in the Wooden Classic without Wooden in attendance was "really going to be difficult," though he liked having a link to the venerable coach on the bench.

"It's really special for me to have that Wooden blood as part of the program," Howland said, "because it is his program and it will always be."

Trapani took one shot in each of his appearances in the Wooden Classic, missing a three-pointer each time. The first attempt was long and the second was short.

"So I feel this year, I'll be right in the middle and it should be good," joked Trapani, who has appeared only in those two games during his UCLA career.

Trapani said he grew closer to Wooden as he entered adolescence, spending many hours by his great-grandfather's bedside in his final days. Though they never talked basketball after the early misunderstanding, Trapani said he learned plenty of life lessons.

"I regret not taking his advice," Trapani said, "but I'm still happy with the advice I got about being a better person."

Still sick

Tyler Lamb said he was still having some trouble keeping food down four days after eating chicken chili cheese fries that may have led to gastrointestinal distress for him and fellow freshman Anthony Stover.

Lamb was among a group of UCLA players who on Saturday night ate at Fat Sal's, a deli owned in part by Jerry Ferrara of "Entourage" fame. Lamb said he woke up Sunday morning feeling weak and required intravenous fluids to regain his strength before playing eight minutes Monday against UC Davis. He has been eating mostly bland foods in recent days, including peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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