Kris Wilkes stepped in front of a small group of reporters Thursday toting a bottle of water, the new necessity in his basketball life.
Dehydration has led to cramps that forced the UCLA small forward out of parts of two of his last four games. Wilkes missed more than seven minutes in the second half Saturday against Notre Dame after going to the locker room with calf cramps.
He returned and shook off the discomfort to make the three-pointer with 0.9 seconds left that lifted the Bruins to a 65-62 victory. With the pain intensifying when he took the shot, Wilkes limped into the backcourt and slid onto his backside in anguish while his teammates celebrated around him.
Wilkes said he started feeling the cramps in warmups before the second half.
“It just kept getting worse from there,” Wilkes said, “and then it came in both of my calves, which is the worst.”
Wilkes experienced cramps in the second half of the Bruins’ game against North Carolina last month, his grimace while holding his leg along the baseline sparking momentary fears that he had suffered a serious injury. He briefly left that game before returning in the final minute.
Wilkes said he’s trying to be more proactive in his approach to staying hydrated, acknowledging that he needed to take better care of himself.
“When they hand me something, I drink it,” said Wilkes, who’s averaging a team-leading 17.1 points per game. “Just overall trying to eat well, eat more vegetables and have a better overall diet.”
The hope is that Wilkes can ward off a condition that has bothered him since the eighth grade, keeping it from cramping his style in another game.
“Once you get it,” Wilkes said,” it doesn’t go away.”
Little big man
Since dominating overmatched opponents in the first three games of his college career, Moses Brown has pulled what feels like a giant disappearing act.
Over his last six games, he’s averaged 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds — unquestionably solid numbers for a freshman but way off the 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds the 7-foot-2 center averaged during his breakout start.
UCLA coach Steve Alford said Brown had been slower in getting the ball to the rim and needed to do a better job of using the right post moves. Brown’s teammates also needed to increasingly look for him on lobs, Alford said.
“More than how teams are guarding him,” Alford said of Brown, “it’s him getting adjusted to this level and the competition.”
Another big issue has been free throws. Brown has made only one of his last eight attempts and is shooting a team-worst 36.4% from the foul line, making him a potential liability late in games. Alford said Brown was not positioning the ball correctly before his release, something coaches are trying to correct.
“Just breaking some long-term habits he’s had of getting the ball in the middle of his head and almost to the left side of his head,” Alford said. “He’s got to keep it on the right side.”
Alford said the Bruins missed 18 shots inside the charge circle against Notre Dame. “That’s not characteristic of who we are, so we’ve got to do a better job, both guards and bigs, of finishing at the rim,” Alford said. “We can’t be missing 18 of them from point blank.” … Freshman power forward Shareef O’Neal underwent surgery Thursday to correct a heart problem.
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