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Fans asked to give Wooden a break

Times Staff Writer

UCLA officials have a friendly request for all fans that attend Bruins games at Pauley Pavilion -- please let 97-year-old John Wooden watch basketball uninterrupted.

Before Wednesday’s weekly media session began, spokesman Marc Dellins asked that the word be put out that fans won’t be allowed to continuously walk up to the former coach during games and ask for autographs and that Wooden will no longer sign autographs during games at Pauley.

Wooden always finds it difficult to turn down requests and although most fans are pleasant and patient, it is not uncommon to see a line of 10 or 15 lined up in the narrow aisle at Pauley waiting for an autograph.

Dellins said the request came from Wooden’s family. “He’s coming to watch the game and enjoy the game,” Dellins said.

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Said UCLA Coach Ben Howland: “I think it’s long overdue. When Coach Wooden comes to a game, it would be nice if people respected the fact he’s there to enjoy the game and not just sign autographs.

“Here’s a living legend and it’s something he’s done for years and years. I suggested this a year or two ago. He’s got to have a little more protection. He’d be there all day just doing that because he’s so great. He hardly says no to anybody.”

While Wooden hasn’t been to a UCLA game in person since the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center last month, he is expected to attend Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. game between the fourth-ranked Bruins (16-1, 4-0) and USC (10-6, 1-3) at Pauley Pavilion.

Howland said that point guard Darren Collison suffered some significant soreness Monday and Tuesday in the hip he had injured against Washington last Thursday. “As of right now it feels a lot better,” Collison said Wednesday evening. “At the time it was a little sore, it was sore after Saturday’s game, but it’s something I have to get through. Coach Howland said I’m going to have a lot of injuries to get through in my career.”

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Collison, who has also dealt with a sprained knee that cost him six missed games this season, said he is massaging the hip, icing it and doing special stretching exercises.

He is also enjoying a week where the Bruins have only one game. He said he envied football players who suit up once a week. “That would be great,” Collison said. “That would be so great. Time for a lot more preparation and a lot more days to just rest.”

Howland was more terse about the recovery of swingman Mike Roll, who is serving his second injury rest of the season because of a foot problem. “It’s going OK,” Howland said, “but it’s going to be a while.” Roll, who was expected to be a major contributor off the bench in his junior season, has played in only six of UCLA’s 17 games and would be eligible to redshirt if he is unable to play again this season.

Howland bragged that his team had a 3.15 grade-point average last quarter. “As a team that’s the best we’ve done since I’ve been here,” Howland said. “Eight players were on the honor roll.”

According to CSTV.com, which is keeping a weekly prediction of which college player will win the Wooden Award as best in the country, UCLA freshman center Kevin Love has moved to fourth from seventh place.

North Carolina junior Tyler Hansbrough is first, followed by Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley and Indiana freshman Eric Gordon.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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SATURDAY’S GAME

USC at UCLA

at Pauley Pavilion,

12:30 p.m., Channel 2


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