Howland will be careful with Collison

Times Staff Writer

Point guard Darren Collison probably won’t play until Nov. 28 against George Washington, UCLA Coach Ben Howland said Thursday.

Collison sprained his left knee on the first play of the Bruins’ first exhibition game against Azusa Pacific on Nov. 2.

After being optimistic last Tuesday that Collison would be available when second-ranked UCLA plays Maryland on Monday in the semifinals of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo., Howland revised his opinion after watching Collison work out Wednesday.


The junior preseason All-American did some running and cutting drills and caused Howland to say, “We’re going to be very, very conservative. Yesterday for example, he did three one-minute exercises, we told him to go this way or that way, sliding his feet, running back and forth.

“I came out of Pauley thinking it’s not the right thing to encourage him to come back Monday and Tuesday and come into a game with the adrenaline flowing. That’s the worst thing he can do, come back too soon.”

Collison said he is disappointed to be unable to rejoin the team in Kansas City, where UCLA will play either Missouri or 12th-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday.

“I was 50-50,” Collison said. “There’s some times I wanted to come back, some times I’d rather be safe about it. My reaction to the workout Wednesday, moving laterally, was to realize the best thing to do is remain healthy.”

Collison said he had “slight pain” after the workout. He also said he wasn’t totally comfortable yet with wearing a knee brace. “But Baron Davis got used to it,” Collison said. “So I can.”

Howland also said he hoped that swingman Michael Roll, who has missed all three regular-season games because of a foot injury, might be available Nov. 28 as well.

Freshman center Kevin Love, who has been eager to play with the guy he calls the best point guard in America, said he could be patient. “Darren’s going to come back when he’s ready and that’s all we can expect from him,” Love said.

Love had only 10 shots against Cal State San Bernardino on Tuesday and Howland said the center needed to touch the ball more.

Love said Thursday, “There are some times when I feel I’m open and I can get the ball. The more we play together, the more chemistry we have, the more the guys trust me, the more they start feeding me and they’ll realize I’m going to pass the ball when they double, triple-team me in the post.”

Junior Josh Shipp said it might be that Love will not get as many shots as expected this season. “We’ve definitely got to get the ball inside,” Shipp said, “but he’s going to draw a lot of attention so Kevin might not get as many shots as he wants. But he’s a great passer so that will be the difference.”

With all the injuries (sophomore forward James Keefe is also out with a shoulder injury), freshman forward Chace Stanback has averaged 13 minutes a game. Howland pointed to a sequence against Cal State San Bernardino as evidence of Stanback’s rookie mistakes.

“He had two turnovers in about four seconds, got a nice rebound, then threw the ball off Josh’s head,” Howland said. “They came down, missed a shot, we got the rebound and Chace traveled. And he’s way too erect when he plays. He’s got to play way lower.”