LOS ANGELES - UCLA should find out Tuesday whether senior T.J. Cummings is eligible. If so, he would play his first game the next day.
Cummings completed finals last week and the Bruins coaching staff was still waiting for one of his grades to be turned in. He had a passing mark going into the final, which counted for 70 percent of his grade, coach Ben Howland said.
“I’m very optimistic now that he is going to make it,” Howland said Monday.
The Bruins are 3-1 without Cummings, who likely would come off the bench if he’s able to play against UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday. After improving his conditioning, it’s expected he’ll start at power forward.
UCLA is averaging 42.2 rebounds — 8.8 more than its opponents. Last season, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Cummings averaged 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds.
“We need that presence inside of another really good rebounder and a big body,” Howland said.
Cummings has been practicing, but not with the starters. He worked out Sunday, and Howland said he was winded. The Bruins have two remaining non-conference games before the Pac-10 season starts Jan. 2.
Cummings has been under the 24-hour scrutiny of Chris Carlson, Howland’s director of basketball operations. He made sure Cummings attended tutoring sessions and met with professors and teaching assistants.
“We’re going to stay on him,” Howland said. “This will be without question his most productive quarter as a college student, which he should feel good about.”
The Bruins received positive news about center Michael Fey, who was poked in the left eye during Saturday night’s overtime win against Loyola Marymount. He left the game in the first half and went to the hospital to be treated for a scratched cornea.
Fey’s eye was red and sore Monday, and his vision was blurry after using eyedrops. But he expected to practice Tuesday and then play Wednesday.
“I’ve been poked in the eye before, but it hurt real bad,” he said. “I saw the blood, so I knew it was pretty bad.”
Fey chipped his tooth in practice a couple weeks ago after he caught an elbow from Ryan Hollins.
“I’ve been going to the doctor and dentist a lot lately,” he said.
Freshman Trevor Ariza had an X-ray to see whether his collapsed lung had reinflated Monday, and it came back normal. He scored 14 points in his first game Saturday, when he was forced to play 32 minutes after Fey got hurt.
Four of UCLA’s five starters have averaged 32 minutes or more because of the absences of Ariza and Cummings, and Howland’s short rotation.
“I’m playing guys too many minutes. That probably contributed to our giving the lead up,” said Howland, referring to how the Bruins blew all of a 14-point lead before Loyola Marymount forced overtime Saturday.
Ariza said he doesn’t think about his lung when he’s playing and expressed confidence that he won’t have any more setbacks.
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