UCLA reinstates Dragovic
Coach Ben Howland cleared the 21-year-old senior to practice with the Bruins on Wednesday, and said he'll play in Thursday's 76 Classic opener in Anaheim against Portland.
"Based on the information we have right now and what we know about the situation, I sat down with [athletic director] Dan [Guerrero] and we've been discussing this," Howland said. "We just felt like he's been suspended for the two games, and based on what we know right now, it would be the right decision to let him play."
Dragovic hasn't been practicing with the Bruins since he was suspended last Friday. He missed games against Cal State Bakersfield and Pepperdine.
Howland said Dragovic won't yet reclaim his spot from James Keefe in the Bruins' starting lineup. Dragovic is the Bruins' only returning starter this fall.
Dragovic's lawyer, Jon Artz, said his client will plead not guilty after being arrested last week on a felony warrant which alleges Dragovic knocked a man into a glass case during a concert in Hollywood.
Artz says the other man was the aggressor, was drinking heavily and had slapped Dragovic's roommate. He claims Dragovic attempted to leave, but was followed from the third floor of the theater by the man, who said he had a knife and threatened to kill Dragovic.
"We're pretty confident that once we show what happened upstairs, the spin in this case that Nikola was the bad guy will take a different spin," Artz said.
Dragovic voluntarily filed a report with campus police a week after the incident, and believed the incident had been written off as a minor scuffle. He was "unpleasantly surprised" to be arrested the following month, Artz said.
Dragovic also was suspended for one game last season on suspicion of pushing his former live-in girlfriend to the ground during a dispute. He was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor battery, and though prosecutors decided not to file charges, Howland said the incident would be taken into account in determining Dragovic's punishment.
Artz said Dragovic's arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 21.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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