Nikola Dragovic pleads not guilty
Appearing at a downtown courtroom Monday morning, UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic pleaded not guilty to a felony charge stemming from an altercation at a recent concert.
Dragovic is expected to claim he was acting in self-defense when he pushed the alleged victim into a glass case, causing injury.
“Now it’s all up to my lawyer,” he said. “So I don’t have to worry about it.”
The player’s roommate, Aleksandar Stanisic, was also charged and entered the same plea.
The incident occurred Oct. 24 at a Hollywood music venue when the alleged victim became upset, believing Stanisic was flirting with his girlfriend. Words were exchanged and the victim allegedly slapped Stanisic, at which point Dragovic stepped in.
The defendants subsequently walked away. Their attorney, Jon Artz, said the victim pursued them outside and made further comments.
“And Dragovic did charge him being reasonably in fear for his own safety,” Artz said.
The victim later acknowledged to a defense investigator that he was drunk and had made threats, Artz said.
The case now moves to a Feb. 1 hearing at which the court will set a date for a preliminary hearing.
Dragovic, mired in a slump on the basketball court, said he would try to put his legal problems behind him for a while and work on his shot.
“I didn’t have a chance earlier because I was busy with school and this court stuff,” he said. “Now that everything is over, I have time to really get in the gym.”
The case could stretch for another six months to two years before it reaches trial, if it goes that far, Artz said.
That raises the possibility Dragovic will have graduated and will need a judge’s permission to play professionally in Europe.
“First of all, he’s got to start making some three-point shots,” Artz said, “or he’s never going to play again.”
Guard Michael Roll sat out practice because of flu, his status for tonight’s game against Colorado State in doubt.
Roll complained of the same symptoms that recently forced Dragovic to the sidelines.
“Apparently, there’s a virus going around,” Coach Ben Howland said. “A stomach thing. He wasn’t able to eat last night.”
Coming off a loss to Notre Dame in which they showed signs of improvement, especially on offense, the Bruins face a Colorado State team that is off to one of its best starts in years.
The Rams (8-3) have a deep bench and will probably show a mix of zone and man-to-man defenses, Howland said.
Freshman guard Dorian Green, averaging 15.2 points, leads the team.
“He’s a really good shooter,” Howland said.
After tonight’s game, players will get two days off to visit home for the holidays.
“Typically, I like to give them three days,” Howland said. “But it didn’t work out that way.”
The team reconvenes for a practice on Christmas night, the coach eager to get in as much work as possible before the start of the Pacific 10 Conference season on New Year’s Eve.