Publish date:

11. UCLA Coming back after knee surgery and a burger binge, guard Baron Davis leads the best cast of young players in the land

Just in case third-year UCLA coach Steve Lavin was sleeping a
little too well, there was a half-facetious little ripple of
pressure that came his way at an October dinner roasting him on
behalf of the American Diabetes Association. Appearing on a
video monitor at Madison Square Garden, John Wooden noted that
the Bruins have had topflight recruiting classes for the last
two years. It's not enough to win, the Wizard said to Lavin, you
must win big.

With Stanford and Washington more heavily favored in the Pac-10,
Wooden probably didn't mean this year. But how many seasons can
Lavin hope to keep together this group of blue-chippers, which
includes four McDonald's All-Americas in sophomore Baron Davis
and freshmen JaRon Rush, Dan Gadzuric and Ray Young? Long
enough, Rush believes, to win at least one NCAA title. "This
year, the Final Four, at least," says Rush, "and next year, the

How far the Bruins can go will depend a lot on a healthy return
by Davis. One of the country's top point guards last year, Davis
hasn't played a game since tearing the ACL in his left knee in
UCLA's upset of Michigan in the second round of the NCAAs last
March. His off-season rehab was a series of willpower tests,
some of which he didn't pass. "All I did was eat," says the 6'2"
Davis, last year's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. "Fatburger,
In-N-Out Burgers--I ate everywhere, everything." It was no
surprise, then, that his weight shot up by 25 pounds, to 230.
"It was hard trying to get through the ups and downs, working
hard but not always getting any results," Davis says. "Feeling
like, Dang, I might not ever come back."

When he does come back--Davis, who has slimmed back down to 210,
should be at full strength by the end of the year--he and
backcourtmate Earl Watson will be feeding three freshmen: 6'11"
Gadzuric of the Netherlands, 6'11" Jerome Moiso of France and
Rush, an Anfernee Hardaway type whom roomie and fellow Kansas
Citian Watson describes as a "workaholic perfectionist." Rush
has been playing on AAU traveling squads since he was seven, and
the experience shows. "He has very advanced offensive skills for
a freshman," says Lavin, "and he is very quick."

If Rush is to keep UCLA on the ambitious schedule he has set, he
had better be.




SF JaRon Rush 6'7" Fr. 32.0 ppg*
PF Jerome Moiso 6'11" Fr. 18.9 ppg*
C Dan Gadzuric 6'11" Fr. 20.8 ppg*
SG [**]Earl Watson 6'2" So. 5.8 ppg
PG [**]Baron Davis 6'2" So. 5.0 apg

'97-98 record: 24-9 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 12
[**]Returning starter *ppg as high school senior ('96-97 for Moiso)