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UCLA basketball player acknowledges the gamble of early entry into the NBA draft

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LOS ANGELES — In announcing his decision to forgo a senior season at UCLA and remain in the NBA draft, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute acknowledged there is no guarantee he will be selected and is unsure of what is ahead.

"There's obviously a gamble," he said.

But between weekend workouts with the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics, and before trips to Detroit and Boston, the former Bruins' forward said there also was risk in returning to UCLA.

Mbah a Moute said coming back for another season and likely playing power forward, when projected as a small forward in the NBA, would limit his opportunities to prove that he can be productive at the offensive end given the many questions he drags into the draft.

"I felt like going back to UCLA, the thing I have been criticized for, I was still going to be criticized for because I was not going to be able to play at the three (position)," he said. "I was not going to be able to convince people at the next level, who are questioning me at the three.

"That was the main thing, what's been said (about his proficiency at the offensive end). The other thing, the thing that was big in the UCLA balance, was my degree. Coming back to UCLA, I would have had a chance to get my degree. But what made me make my decision is I only have five classes left, so

I felt like why go back for another year just to finish five classes? I can leave right now and finish those classes later on, this summer or next summer."

The 6-foot-7 forward will be attractive to some NBA teams because of his strong defensive play and his ability to defend 2-pointers and 3-pointers on the perimeter. Portland, which kept Mbah a Moute for two days, is said to be in need of a perimeter defender. He also has worked out for Chicago,

Milwaukee, Charlotte and Dallas. But the knock on Mbah a Moute is at the offensive end — and not limited to an inconsistent jump shot.

Mbah a Moute lacks dribble penetration moves and is limited when trying to post up defenders. In his freshman year he scored the majority of his points off a team-high 8.2 offensive rebounds per game and by working his way into gaps around the basket, taking advantage of defensive lapses.

Since then his shooting percentage has dipped every year, going from 53.8 percent to 49.2 percent as a sophomore and 47.8 percent last season.

At the 3-point line, he hit 21.5 percent of his shots in his UCLA career. Last season, he made 20 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

Even with an open look, there were times that Mbah a Moute would miss.

"I have to get better on my shot, because that's what going to get me to the next level, what's going to make me a better player," he said.

He has tried to work his way through those shooting woes — and convince NBA scouts and executives that he can continue to improve given opportunity. That has been Mbah a Moute's focus since the

Bruins lost in the Final Four for the third consecutive time, this year to Memphis in a national semifinal at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

He has put up 600 or 700 shots a day, split between two workout sessions.

"That just helps build your confidence, once you put in all that work in," Mbah a Moute said. "I just shoot the ball a lot better. My whole thing, it's just confidence.

"Some of those shots I was taking during the season, I was not confident on my shot. Some of those shots I was taking, I was kind of like doubting myself — why am I taking this shot? This offseason, I just feel more confident."