Nov. 19, 2001
However, the addition of freshman point guard Cedric Bozeman now has fans thinking of a trip to the Final Four as Steve Lavin's team begins what should be a promising season against Houston in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday.
Kapono averaged 17.6 points, and the 6-11 Gadzuric added 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds last season. Both players considered leaving for the NBA, but decided to return and be the core of a fifth-ranked Bruins team that returns four starters from a squad that went 23-9 and lost to eventual NCAA tournament champion Duke in the East Regional semifinals.
"I didn't want to be known as the guy who came here and played two years and never won a Pac-10 title," said the junior Kapono, who shot 46 percent from 3-point range last season. "I feel so good about this team."
Gadzuric, a senior who has yet to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival from the Netherlands three years ago, also had the same feelings of emptiness when it came to team achievement.
"The last three years I learned a lot, but we weren't Pac-10 champs and we didn't go all the way in the (NCAA) tournament," Gadzuric said. "This is my last year and I want to prove something."
Bozeman, however, may be the determining factor whether UCLA is a very good team or a great team. A true point guard at 6-foot-6, Bozeman is expected to log major minutes replacing the one lost starter to graduation - Earl Watson.
"That's why you go to UCLA, to play against the big-time teams," said Bozeman, the freshman from nearby Santa Ana High School. "I just want to take it one step at a time. I'm going to try to get better and learn from the seniors."
The Cougars are continuing to rebuild under second-year coach Ray McCallum. They lost their best player - center Alton Ford - after his freshman season when he decided to enter the NBA draft. The top player for Houston this year, forward Kevin Gaines, will not be available until December after his transfer from Michigan last year.
But Houston does return four starters, including senior forward George Williams (13.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and senior guard Dominic Smith (12.5 ppg, 3.8 apg). The Cougars went 9-20 and finished 6-10 in the National Division of Conference USA.
UCLA leads the all-time series 6-2, with Houston's last win a 71-69 victory in the Astrodome on Jan. 20, 1968. The winner of this game will play the winner of the game between seventh-ranked Kansas and Ball State in the semifinals Tuesday.