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Hollins’ Return Nothing Fancy

Times Staff Writer

In the long and distinguished history of UCLA basketball, it appeared Bruin center Ryan Hollins might achieve an unprecedented distinction: first player to end his season in a layup line.

Hollins, a senior, strained his groin during warmups before the Sacramento State game on Dec. 23.

On a team plagued by injuries, this seemed like just another unavoidable mishap. But it was quite avoidable. Hollins wasn’t hurt just going through the line with soft layups. He was hurt trying a fancy dunk, according to Coach Ben Howland.

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Considering that Hollins had struggled on the court before the injury and Howland had three other options in the middle, Hollins’ prospects for meaningful playing time the rest of the season, or perhaps any playing time, appeared to be in jeopardy.

But because of the Bruins’ many injuries, Howland quickly ran out of options. After sitting out six games because of the strained groin, Hollins was ready to play and Howland needed a backup center for freshman Ryan Wright.

So back Hollins came, a markedly improved Hollins, playing 17 minutes against Washington, 21 against USC and 30 against West Virginia.

The West Virginia game was Hollins’ most impressive. He had season highs in points (11) and rebounds (eight) and was a defensive presence in the middle, effectively using his 7-foot, 230-pound frame.

What happened? Hollins realized the clock was ticking on his career.

“When I came back,” he said, “I wanted to make whatever time I have left on the court worthwhile. It’s crazy how fast time has flown since my junior year. I have a better idea now of what the coach wants and what I have to do to stay on the floor.”

*

TONIGHT

at Oregon, 7:30, FSN West 2

Site -- McArthur Court, Eugene, Ore.

Radio -- 690.

Records -- UCLA 15-4, 5-2 in Pacific 10 Conference; Oregon 10-9, 4-3.

Update -- UCLA wing Cedric Bozeman (torn cartilage in his left shoulder) and guard Darren Collison (sprained left ankle) looked effective enough in practice Wednesday to merit playing time tonight. Oregon is struggling to stay above .500 overall, but the Ducks are 9-2 at home, including 3-0 in conference play.


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