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UCLA unsure about playing against injured Adem Bona in NCAA opener against UNC Asheville

To sit or not to sit, that remains the question facing Adam Bona.

Should the UCLA freshman center battle the sore left shoulder to play in the Bruins’ NCAA tournament opener against North Carolina Asheville on Thursday at the Golden 1 Center or rest in hopes of being more near his maximum strength in a more difficult matchup?

Bona’s level of pain and ability to contribute are the factors that will determine whether he plays against the Bulldogs, UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Wednesday.

“He’s going to have to play in some pain at some point if we keep playing,” Cronin said, adding that Bona continued to make progress in his recovery from the injury suffered against Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. “But he would never put himself in jeopardy for his career.”

Bona completed “a few things” at team practice Wednesday, according to Cronin, and participated in the informal session open to the public. She relied primarily on his right hand last practice, using it for a lane hook shot during a drill in which the rest of the team’s big men ended up around the rim left-handed.

The second-seeded Bruins could persevere without their main interior defender as senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. is expected to take on the big defensive assignment against North Carolina Asheville’s Drew Pember, a 6-foot-11 power forward adept at both shooting. triples and drawing fouls.

Pember has made 37.3% of his 3-pointers this season and leads all Division I players in free throws attempted (314) and made (262).

“For sure it will be a point of emphasis on the defensive end,” Jáquez said. “I’m excited to take on that challenge.”