LOS ANGELES — It shouldn't be a great surprise that Stanford senior Dan Grunfeld has made such a quick physical comeback from a major knee injury he suffered nine months ago.

After all, it took him practically no time at all to begin the psychological healing process after tearing his ACL against Cal last Feb. 12.

"I moved past that pretty quick," Grunfeld said Thursday at Pac-10 Conference media day. "By the night I got hurt, I was looking forward to this season."

This season is almost here, and Grunfeld appears to be on track to help the Cardinal

compete at the top of the Pac-10 again. He's not ready to play 40 minutes every night, but ask him if he can be the player he was last season — when he averaged 17.9 points through 22 games — and his answer is emphatic.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "People might think you can't move any more after this injury, but that's not the case."

Coach Trent Johnson said it helps Grunfeld, a 6-foot-6 wing, that "his game is played on the ground." In other words, Grunfeld thrives more through skill, strength, shooting ability and basketball IQ than raw explosiveness, which could stress his knee.

Still, both Grunfeld and senior forward Matt Haryasz, slowed by plantar fasciitis in his heel, have been kept on a short leash during early scrimmages. The Cardinal's "biggest question and biggest concern," Johnson conceded, is health.

"Dan's such a highly motivated, driven individual, we have to be careful," Johnson said.


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"His conditioning and his stamina arefrom Sports 1

excellent. It just takes time."

Grunfeld, who said he is comfortable with the prospect of wearing a brace on his right knee all season, doesn't feel any special motivation in his comeback.

"I feel pretty prepared," he said. "I don't have to prove anything to anyone."

UNIVERSAL PAIN: All but a few Pac-10 coaches lamented injury issues, led by UCLA's Ben Howland, who said all four of his returning starters currently are sidelined, leaving him with just seven available scholarship players.

All are expected back soon, except sophomore forward Josh Shipp, out until late December after hip surgery, although center Michaey Fey's groin injury is lingering.

Cal coach Ben Braun said seniors Rod Benson (foot) and Martin Smith (pelvis), both resting stress fractures, are expected to resume practicing in 10 more days but may not be ready to play in the Nov.18 season opener at Eastern Michigan.

Washington State sophomore Robbie Cowgill, the team's best big man, is out one more month with a broken collarbone.

'CATS FAVORED: For the fourth straight season, Arizona was picked to win the Pac-10 by media who cover the conference. Stanford was tabbed second, followed by UCLA, Washington and Cal.

"I would be shocked," Oregon State coach Jay John said, "if anybody wins the league with 15 wins." Perhaps, but only once in the past 11 seasons has the Pac-10 champ won fewer than 15 of 18 league games.

TIP-INS: Arizona sophomore wing Jawann McClellan has filed a second appeal with the NCAA to regain academic eligibility and expects a ruling Tuesday. McClellan became ineligible after dropping out of a summer-school class following the death of his father in June. As it stands, McClellan is ineligible until Dec.17. ... This year's inductees into the Pac-10 Hall of Honor include Andy Wolfe of Cal, Adam Keefe of Stanford and UCLA's Don Barksdale, an Oakland native who later became the first African American chosen to the U.S. Olympic team and to an NBA all-star team. ... Tickets for the Pete Newell Challenge, Dec.21 at the Arena in Oakland, go on sale Monday through Ticketmasters outlets and at the Arena box office. The doubleheader features Stanford facing Princeton and Cal taking on DePaul.