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Aboya ready to return

Times Staff Writer

Alfred Aboya was giddy Tuesday. He was eager to see what kind of goggles were coming his way. He said he can’t sneeze or blow his nose, but he can give, and receive, a shoulder to the back or a hip to the stomach, and he can set a screen and play some mean defense.

Aboya, UCLA’s 6-foot-8 power forward who broke a bone underneath his right eye last Friday, practiced Tuesday with his new goggles and will start tonight when the second-ranked Bruins (6-0) play host to George Washington (2-1) at Pauley Pavilion.

Two other wounded Bruins participated in practice Tuesday.

Preseason All-American point guard Darren Collison and junior swingman Michael Roll have sat out all six games. Collison sprained his left knee Nov. 2 against Azusa Pacific in an exhibition game and Roll injured his left foot Nov. 3 in practice.

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Roll had said Tuesday he hoped to get clearance to play against George Washington, but after 50 minutes of full-contact action, a post-practice report said Roll was doubtful.

Collison participated in the full practice Tuesday but was unavailable for comment. According to a UCLA statement, his status against George Washington will be a game-time decision.

“I think Darren looks great,” freshman center Kevin Love said before Tuesday’s practice. “You can tell he hasn’t been on the court for a while because he looks a little tentative, but he was feeding the ball well, running well and you guys all know he’s faster than anybody in the country.”

“Darren looked real good Monday,” said Russell Westbrook, who has been handling the point guard job since Collison got hurt. “He looked very close to coming back.”

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It was left for Coach Ben Howland to be noncommittal on whether Collison would play any minutes against George Washington or Texas this week.

“For Darren,” Howland said, “it’s just getting back into game condition. He’s been out over three weeks. You lose a lot of conditioning.”

Collison also must play with a knee brace for a couple of weeks and Howland said that’s a big adjustment for his speedy guard.

“Every person is different,” Howland said. “For him the biggest thing is gaining confidence. The brace does restrict you a little bit. You’re not as mobile as you’d like. As for when he comes back, ultimately that’s about how a player is feeling. I don’t decide. Doctors and trainers decide.”

Howland was ecstatic to have Aboya back. It was feared that Aboya might need surgery that could have sidelined him for at least four weeks.

At the moment he was hurt, Aboya said, “I couldn’t see. Even when I was walking off the court, I had to imagine where the bench was because I couldn’t see.”

Westbrook showed up Tuesday without his “flaming mohawk” haircut. He had surprised teammates and coaches last month when he had a basketball with shooting flames carved into his head. “No reason,” he said. “Just time to go.”

TONIGHT

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vs. George Washington, 7:30, FSN Prime Ticket Radio -- 570.

Site -- Pauley Pavilion.

Records -- UCLA 6-0, George Washington 2-1.

Update -- Howland scheduled George Washington to help the Bruins cope with an aggressive, pressing team. The Colonials have been in the NCAA tournament the last three years and are 93-5 under Coach Karl Hobbs when leading games with five minutes remaining. The Colonials, though, had a bad loss last Saturday, 89-79, to University of Maryland Baltimore County. Star guard Maureece Rice, the team’s leading returning scorer, served a suspension for breaking team rules. Rice is expected to play tonight. Forward Rob Diggs, a 6-foot-7, 187-pound junior, leads George Washington in scoring at 20.0 points a game.

diane.pucin@latimes.com


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