Aging Pauley Pavilion still has significant meaning to college basketball players.
For Arizona State junior guard Steve Moore, playing UCLA tonight means the Santa Monica, Calif. native is home and anxious to show the neighborhood fellas home boy is making good.
For ASU freshman forward Wilfried Fameni, it will be like going to basketball's mecca.
"Even back home in Cameroon everybody knows what UCLA was," Fameni said. "Everybody knows UCLA is one of the greatest colleges in the United States.
"When I go there, it's going to be like, ‘Wow, I can't believe I made it this far.’ ’’
Moore, who graduated from Dominquez High School, is familiar with the Bruins.
He played on the same AAU team with Bruins starters Cedric Bozeman and Dijon Thompson. He has a close friendship with budding Bruins star freshman Trevor Ariza, from Westchester High School.
"There are a lot of guys on that team I'm real close to," Moore said.
"Arizona State and Arizona is a rivalry. UCLA and USC is a rivalry for me."
Pauley Pavilion has 12 national championship banners. Former Bruins greats regularly attend games. Bruins patriarch John Wooden, now 93, still attends as many games as he can, sitting behind the UCLA bench. "If I have a chance, I'd like to see him," Fameni said. "I might go there with my camera, so I can take a picture."
Moore, Fameni and their teammates will be playing a rejuvenated Bruins squad under first-year coach Ben Howland.
The Bruins (8-3, 4-0 Pac-10) share the Pac-10 lead with third-ranked Stanford.
ASU had some success against UCLA while Steve Lavin was coaching the Bruins, winning the last three games.
But Howland, former coach at Northern Arizona, has reined in the loose-playing Bruins and has them pointed toward postseason play.
"Ben's got them playing a lot harder defensively," said Rob Evans, the ASU coach. "I think they're a little better at shot selection."
The Devils (6-6, 0-3) face a tall team with a 6-foot-6 point guard in Bozeman, a 7-foot center in Michael Fey, a 6-7 off guard in Thompson, a 6-9 forward in T.J. Cummings and 6-7 small forward Ariza.
Ball-handling was a problem during the non-conference season for the Bruins, who are still last in the Pac-10 in turnover margin. But UCLA has shown some improvement recently during its four-game winning run.
Having lost three straight at home to start the Pac-10 season, the Devils are close to replicating the last season in which they opened conference play in Wells Fargo Arena.
In 2001, getting swept by the Bay-area schools started ASU on a skid that didn't end until the team had lost seven straight.
"We have to stay positive and keep our heads up," Moore said of ASU's four-game losing streak. "We know we're not going to get the calls we do at home.
"We have to put two halves together and keep our energy going."
Evans is looking for more patience from the offense. Too often, he said, shots are being taken with 20 or more seconds left on the shot clock.
"We take 26 threes (against Cal). We're not good enough to shoot 26 threes," he said. "We have to be more patient to take good shots.
"It's a very very difficult thing to get young kids to do."
The Devils hit the road for the first time since losing Dec. 17 at Northwestern.
Perhaps Pauley Pavilion can bring a better effort from ASU, which has won two straight in the building.
"I'm going to be thrilled to play in that arena," Fameni said.
"Everybody's been calling me, wanting tickets," Moore said. "I can't wait."
BONUS SHOTS: Ariza has thrown his hat in the ring for Pac-10 freshman of the year. He's third on the team in scoring (12.9) and leads in rebounding (7.5).. . . ASU is seventh in the conference in field goal percentage (42.9), fifth in field goal percentage defense (43.5), fifth in free-throw percentage (71.5), fifth in rebounding margin (plus 2.8), second in blocked shots (53), fourth in assists (17.1), and ninth in steals (61).