Michael Roll’s legacy to UCLA will be steadiness

Michael Roll did all right by trading up in 2005.

Roll had committed to UC Santa Barbara early in his senior year at Aliso Niguel. But diverting to UCLA on signing day put him on the road to three Final Fours, two of which he played in, and a national title game.

Any regrets about his decision? “No way,” Roll said, smiling.

Roll, a senior guard for the Bruins, will play his final home games at Pauley Pavilion this week, starting Thursday against Oregon State.


His final tour might not be a jaunt through another NCAA tournament, as the 12-14 Bruins are struggling to get to .500, but Roll’s impact appears to be on those who are following him into the program.

Asked what part of Roll’s game he would like to absorb into his own, freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt said, “His court awareness. When the ball is in his hands, everybody on the court feels safe. Nobody is worried whether he is going to take a bad shot, or turn the ball over.”

Steadiness may be Roll’s legacy. This season, his first as a full-time starter, he has scored in double figures 21 of 26 games. And while others were handing out turnovers against Washington on Saturday, Roll hung on to the ball, finishing without a turnover.

“Mike was a scorer in high school; he actually had a little side spin on his shot,” Coach Ben Howland said. “He worked hard to make himself one of the best shooters. He has become a very good passer too. He has the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team.”

Roll’s passing skills were an important part of the Bruins’ game plan against Oregon State in Corvallis last month. He was asked to bring the ball up against the Beavers, with the idea to get the ball to point guard Malcolm Lee in the middle of the 1-3-1 half-court trap.

While the Bruins had 20 turnovers in the game, Roll had one to go with five assists. “Mike has been our most consistent performer this season,” Howland said. Roll is already thinking ahead to Saturday’s game, his last in Pauley Pavilion, against Oregon.

“Coming out of high school, I didn’t know what would happen with basketball and my future,” said Roll, who has already graduated, with a degree in global studies. “Being able to come to a place like UCLA has been awesome, with the teammates and success we’ve had here, I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Injury update

Forward Reeves Nelson, who underwent laser surgery to repair a slightly torn retina in his left eye, will not play in the weekend’s games. He will be re-examined early next week to determine whether he can play during the Bruins’ trip to Arizona.

Nelson is believed to have suffered the injury when he landed face-first on the court following a dunk Thursday against Washington State. The fall opened a gash over his right eye that required 15 stitches.

The retina tear was discovered during an examination Monday.

When Nelson returns, he will wear goggles.

“Dr. [Steven] Schwartz contacted the Lakers and got some goggles for him, the James Worthy [style] goggles,” Howland said.

Sophomore J’mison Morgan is expected to start with Nelson out. Meanwhile, freshman forward Brendan Lane (sprained ankle) remains a game-time decision.

Bad combination?

Oregon State leads the conference in steals, averaging 8.1 per game, while the Bruins have had 15 or more turnovers in their last four games. “A lot of times [with the turnovers] it’s poor decision making on our own part,” Howland said. “They are not being forced.”