One misstep in practice and UCLA has lost point guard Cedric Bozeman for the rest of the season.
The 6-foot-6 senior who had led the Pacific 10 Conference in assists last season, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a routine drill Thursday.
“It was a freak accident,” Bozeman said Friday after an exhibition game UCLA won, 97-48, over Simon Fraser, an NAIA school from Canada. “I didn’t even feel much pain. It’s tough, really hard because all off-season I worked so hard. To have this happen the day before the first game, it’s tough.”
Bozeman accidentally stepped on the foot of freshman DeAndre Robinson and twisted his left ankle. Bozeman said he overcompensated for the twisted ankle by turning hard on his right knee.
Wearing blue jeans that hid the swelling in his knee, Bozeman was happy to see UCLA win Friday but determined he has not played his last game as a Bruin.
Bozeman will probably undergo surgery late next week, Coach Ben Howland said, and both Bozeman and Howland said there was no doubt Bozeman would be playing for the Bruins next season.
Howland said Bozeman’s injury was “a hard pill to swallow.” Howland called Bozeman “one of our top four basketball players.” He was the team’s best defender on the perimeter as well as the most versatile player on the team, the coach said.
“And,” Howland added, “there’s not a nicer kid than Ced.”
The Santa Ana Mater Dei graduate called his father, Rudy, Friday morning with the bad news. There were no tears and no whining, just a simple statement, Rudy Bozeman said. “He told me, ‘Dad, I hurt my knee. I’m done for the year.’ That’s all he said, but I’m his father. I know how he feels.”
“It’s not the end of the world because my son will graduate with a degree in history in the spring,” Rudy Bozeman said. “And he’ll come back next year stronger than ever, and he’ll play and he’ll get his master’s degree.”
Once hailed as the next Magic Johnson by former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, Bozeman missed significant playing time in his freshman and sophomore seasons with a cartilage tear in his right knee, which required surgery, and then with a right shoulder injury the next season, but he started every game at point guard for Howland last season. He averaged 7.5 points and led the Pacific 10 with an assists average of 5.5 per game.
Howland had said during preseason practice that Bozeman would get less time at point guard this season because of the arrival of Farmar.
On Friday, the freshmen were eager and full of spunk. Farmar and Arron Afflalo started at guard and they seemed to understand each other. Dijon Thompson’s shot was sweet, his movement smooth. Brian Morrison’s motor was turned up high and so was his shooting radar.
The 6-foot-2 Farmar, who is from Taft High, responded to the new pressure of playing without Bozeman by leading UCLA with 19 points and adding seven assists. Howland said senior Brian Morrison, who missed 15 games last season because of ankle and hamstring injuries, would pick up most of Bozeman’s point guard minutes, and Morrison contributed a team-high nine assists and 11 points.
Another freshman, 6-5 swingman Josh Shipp from Fairfax High, also has suddenly inherited more minutes. “He is going to have the opportunity to fight for much more playing time,” Howland said.
Along with Afflalo and Farmar at guard, the coach started Thompson and junior Ryan Hollins at forward and junior Michael Fey at center.
It took the Bruins nearly four minutes to score, a fact Howland pointedly mentioned after the game.
But it was also a team still reeling from the bad news Bozeman had received Friday when X-ray results came back.
“I didn’t expect to hear the news I heard,” he said. “It really hit me pretty hard.”
Howland said that if there were a silver lining, it was that Bozeman would be back next season. “He’ll be a year older, a year stronger, he’ll be a great addition next year,” Howland said.