SEATTLE -- Cameron Dollar inherited the UCLA point guard position one game earlier than he anticipated.
It was the biggest game of his life.
Dollar, who played prep school ball for two years in Maryland, is a sophomore guard who has spent most of the past two seasons getting ready to take over at the point once Tyus Edney's college career ended.
That moment came last night, in the NCAA championship game against Arkansas, when Edney didn't have the strength in his right wrist to deal with the pressure applied by the defending champion. Edney injured the wrist in Saturday's semifinal win over Oklahoma State.
Edney was pulled after 2:37 and didn't play again. He was replaced by Dollar, who was a money player in the 89-78 win that brought the Bruins their first NCAA title in 20 years.
Dollar missed his first three shots and had only one basket, off ttTC steal and breakaway in the last minute, but his value went beyond his six points.
He played 36 minutes, a career high, and matched his career high for assists, eight. He had four steals and a block, and though the Bruins' best offensive play was the put-back after a miss, did a commendable job running the offense and dealing with an assortment of Arkansas defenses.
"Late Saturday night, after the Oklahoma State game, Tyus told me to be ready for this," Dollar said. "I was, but at the same time, it's the national championship game, and I really thought he'd be ready to play.
"I was sad that he wasn't able to play. It's like the running back who gets the team downfield, and then the fullback goes in for the touchdown and gets all the glory."
Two months ago, Dollar had been in a similar position, but the stakes weren't quite as large when the flu forced Edney to miss a game with cross-town rival USC. Dollar had nine points and five assists in a 73-69 win.
Edney's mad -- to the basket rescued UCLA in the second round against Missouri, and he made some incredible drives over Oklahoma State's Bryant Reeves in the semifinals. Along with fellow senior Ed O'Bannon, he was as responsible as anyone for getting the Bruins this far.
"I think he [Edney] had the best tournament of any player of the 64 teams up until tonight," coach Jim Harrick said. "I knew before the game that he couldn't dribble or handle the ball. I was certainly very concerned when we couldn't have our most valuable player, but sometimes these things work in your favor.
"I'm speechless to see the way he [Dollar] ran our team. He's played a lot of games for us."
"There's no question that Dollar did a good job of taking care of the ball and leading his team," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "He controlled the game from that position. I really don't think Edney's absence had an effect on the game. Sometimes guys play a lot better when another guy is not around."
Dollar, 6 feet 1, had sounded supremely confident in Sunday's media sessions, playing down Arkansas' full-court pressure as a gimmick. He had three of the Bruins' 20 turnovers, but he wasn't all that bothered by Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel and Alex Dillard.
UCLA is Dollar's fourth team in five years. His father was a high school coach in Atlanta, and when Donald Dollar got out of coaching, Cameron moved to Maryland and played for Stu Vetter at Harker Prep in Potomac. When that school closed for financial reasons, Vetter and his team relocated to St. John's Prospect Hall, where Dollar was one of the nation's top guard prospects two years ago.
Minus Edney last night, UCLA was down to six players, but Dollar wasn't concerned against the deepest team in the nation.
"They were shocked that we were able to play at their pace," Dollar said of Arkansas. "We kind of laughed at their pressure. They had so many holes in their defense. They couldn't continue to do the things against us they had done to other teams. At the same time, we knew they were capable of making a run at us."