UCLA's Dragovic pleads not guilty

Updated: December 21, 2009, 10:22 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

UCLA senior forward Nikola Dragovic pleaded not guilty in a Los Angeles court on Monday morning to a felony assault charge stemming from a fight outside a concert in Hollywood on Oct. 24.

[+] EnlargeNikola Dragovic
Nick Ut / Associated PressUCLA's Nikola Dragovic, left, appears with attorney Jon Artz on a felony assault charge in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday.

Dragovic was initially suspended for two games but has been reinstated. He and his roommate, Aleksandar Stanisic, who was also charged in the case, are due back in court Feb. 1. At that time, attorneys will then set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Dragovic's attorney, Jon Artz, said Monday afternoon that he believes Dragovic acted in "reasonable self-defense'' when, according to police, he tackled a man and knocked him through a glass case, lacerating the man's Achilles tendon.

Artz said that in interviews conducted by his investigator, the man, Dragovic and Stanisic offered similar statements about threats being made during a heated exchange earlier in the night. The man, Artz said, also admitted to slapping Stanisic across the face during that argument.

Later, as Dragovic and Stanisic were leaving the club, the man came outside and confronted them, according to police. Dragovic charged into him, knocking him into the glass case.

"If you have a reasonable belief that someone that you care about could be harmed, you're entitled to defend against that,'' Artz said.

Dragovic is averaging 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in nearly 29 minutes a game. But the normally sharp-shooting Serbian has made just 26.7 percent of his shots and 20.5 percent of his three-point shots.

Asked whether his legal situation has been a distraction on the court, he said, "Of course it's not [easy]. I can't tell if I really do not think about it on the court, but I'm sure it can't help.

"But now it's over and I don't have to worry about it until the season is over,'' Dragovic said. "I'll have time to really focus on basketball. This is all up to my lawyer now.''

Dragovic was also suspended for a game last season after an incident with former girlfriend, but was never charged with a crime. The city attorney's office reserved the right to revisit that case for up to a year.

Also for the Bruins, coach Ben Howland said senior guard Michael Roll has the flu and is questionable for Tuesday's game against Colorado State.

Roll missed practice Monday evening. He has started all of the Bruins' games this year, averaging 14.5 points on 47.4 percent shooting.

Ramona Shelburne covers college sports for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

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