As Debbie Shipp listened to her son on the other end of the phone, she knew things were not well. Josh Shipp was talking about the pain in his right hip, how it hurt to walk, and sometimes even move. “He’s not a complainer,” Debbie said. “For him to pick up the phone and call me and say, `Ya’ know, I’m hurting. It hurts.’ You know he’s in pain.” Now healthy, Shipp said he has better explosion on his first step and is better at slashing to the basket than before his surgery. He is averaging 13.4 points per game, and his innate basketball instincts often allow him to track down loose balls and errant shots and put him in position for easy baskets. Bruins junior guard Arron Afflalo said Shipp’s value was noticeable last month, when the UCLA needed Afflalo’s last-second jumper to beat USC at Galen Center. Shipp sat out with a hamstring injury, and the Bruins struggled offensively. “I think Josh is kind of our X-factor,” UCLA sophomore power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. “He does everything.” Shipp’s jump shot has failed him lately, which he attributes partly to a lack of “pop” in his legs. He is shooting 29.6 percent from 3-point range, and his percentage has dropped to 17.6 in Pac-10 games. “I think it’s a little from the surgery because I picked up bad habits just playing around, shooting, because I wasn’t able to jump for a while,” Shipp said. “I was doing a lot of set shots and picked up on the habit. I’m trying to break it right now. I’m not jumping.” Shipp is averaging 3.7rebounds per game, and his defense is lagging, although it is not costing him playing time. Shipp is averaging 29.8 minutes per game, including 29 minutes in Pac-10 play. “The one thing he’s not doing as well this year as (he did as) a freshman is rebounding, in terms of his numbers,” Bruins coach Ben Howland said. “We need him to get better in that area, but also part of it is probably we’re a better rebounding team, so there’s a few less rebounds.” The road back was not easy, particularly because Shipp can be stubborn. He injured his hip on a fall during a summer-league game in 2005, but let the injury linger for a month before getting his hip examined. Shipp had a piece of loose cartilage, which was catching in his hip socket when he walked or ran, and had a ridge on the bone. The ridge was shaved down and the tear repaired. Although his doctors told him the hip would have improved flexibility, the recovery would take a year. But Shipp tried to return in less than three months. He played four games last season before deciding the pain was too great to continue. Playing on it was bad enough, but the next day the pain was excruciating. That is where Shipp’s stubborness took over. In the months after the surgery, even as Howland and the training staff pleaded with Shipp to be diligent in his rehab and to take his medication, Shipp did not always follow through. “I try not to take medicine,” Shipp said. “It’s the natural approach. (UCLA coaches and trainers) get on me about that. It hides the pain. I don’t want to mask it. If I have the injury, I don’t want to hide the pain. I want to fix, make it stronger. I don’t want to take pills every day of my life.” It wasn’t until the spring, Howland said a month ago, Shipp took his rehab seriously. Now, after a morning workout, Shipp spends 15 to 20 minutes being stretched out by the training staff. The same thing takes place after practices, and games. “My mom kept my spirits high whenever I was down,” Shipp said. “She knew what to say. We’re Christian, so she’s really religious. She said sometimes you’re going to have to go through adversity, but I’m on God’s plan, so that’s just part of it, and never question. Because I would question it a lot, say, `Why me?”‘ He no longer has a reason to ask that question. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Rather than watching UCLA run through the Pacific-10 Conference and NCAA Tournament dressed in slacks and a sweater – or button-down shirt – from the end of the bench, he is the second-leading scorer for No. 2 UCLA, which plays host to No.19 USC tonight at Pauley Pavilion. “I just enjoy being out here now, more so than ever before,” said Shipp, a 6-foot-6 red-shirt sophomore wing. “My freshman year, I kind of wasn’t a practice player. I was all about the games. But even last year, just sitting and watching, I couldn’t wait to get out and practice. That’s all I had.” Shipp, who red-shirted last season, said he does not feel as if he missed out on last year’s run to the title-game loss to Florida because he practiced with the team late in the season and also traveled with the Bruins. His former roommate, Jordan Farmar, who is now a rookie with the Lakers, said not playing took a toll on Shipp. “His thinking was that he was going to let down the team, he was going to lose a year and fall back,” Farmar said. “(I told Shipp) just to stay confident and keep working. Everything happens for a reason. He did just that.”
The pain was physical, as he battled hip surgery, and mental, an anguish felt from not being on the court to help his team. A year later, Shipp still experiences occasional soreness, but he can live with it.