Sports

West Coast Conference Falls Back On Tradition

WCC basketball preview

Three coaching changes, a rash of early season injuries to key players and unprecedented balance from the top of the league to the bottom has made this year’s West Coast Conference men’s basketball race a nightmare to predict.

As a result, many WCC coaches are retreating to safe ground and going with perennial power Santa Clara, which has earned at least a share of the regular-season title each of the last three years.

Most of the preseason college basketball publications opted for San Francisco and Pepperdine, feeling the loss of last year’s WCC player of the year, Marlon Garnett, might be too much for SCU to overcome.

But USF has lost senior forward Gerald Zimmerman for the year with a knee injury and two other starters - senior guard M.J. Nodilo (foot) and senior forward Damian Cantrell (mononucleosis) - won’t be available when the Dons open league play tonight at San Diego. And there are those who still doubt whether second-year Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar can develop a championship chemistry with his rosterful of talented transfers.

“I think those two are going to be contenders,” first-year Gonzaga coach Dan Monson said of USF and Pepperdine, “but I don’t think anybody’s a favorite until they go win it.

“And I don’t think our league can be won without going through Santa Clara.”

Coach Dick Davey’s Broncos open league play tonight at Saint Mary’s after going 9-3 in a tough nonconference schedule that included losses to Kansas, Stanford and Hawaii.

Davey, like Monson, doesn’t think there is a clear-cut favorite for this year’s title, but he doesn’t mind the attention being focused at his veteran team.

“I think we have a chance,” Davey said of the Broncos’ title possibilities. “I hope I’m right, but I think we could also end up last.”

Gonzaga, which opens league play Friday night at Loyola Marymount, played as well as anyone in the early season, but the Bulldogs (11-4) have lost two of their last three games. Still, Monson would like to think his team benefited from its tough nonconference schedule.

“What I hope our preseason did for us is to give us the confidence to compete for the league championship,” he said. “I certainly think we need to challenge for it. Hopefully, we’re not just going to give it to somebody else.”

Friday’s other WCC opener finds Portland at Pepperdine.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WEST COAST CAPSULES In predicted order of finish

Santa Clara 1996-97 Record: 16-11 overall; 10-4 in WCC, tie for 1st. No postseason play. Coach: Dick Davey (6th year overall, all at SCU) Record: 89-53 overall Top returnees: G Brian Jones, 6-3, 185, So; G Lloyd Pierce, 6-3, 184, Sr.; F Todd Wuschnig, 6-7, 209, So.; G Craig Johnson, 6-4, 185, Sr. Top newcomers: C Alex Lopez, 6-9, 250, Jr.; G Delano D’Oyan, 6-0, 160, Fr.; F David Emslie, 6-11, 210, Fr. Outlook: For some reason, the Broncos didn’t get much respect from the preseason college basketball publications, most of which picked coach Davey’s club to finish no higher than fifth. But SCU has earned at least a share of the last three regular-season WCC titles and is off to an impressive 9-3 start with four players averaging between 10 and 13 points per game. Look for the Broncos in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga 1996-97 Record: 15-12 overall; 8-6 in WCC, tie for 4th. Coach: Dan Monson Record: 1st year Top returnees: F Bakari Hendrix 6-8, 225, Sr.; G Matt Santangelo, 6-1, 170, So.; C Axel Dench, 6-11, 245, So.; F Mike Leasure, 6-7 220, Jr. Top newcomers: G Quentin Hall, 5-8, 165, Jr.; F Casey Calvary, 6-8, 215, Fr. Outlook: The Bulldogs’ 11-4 start suggests they did not miss a beat when Monson stepped in to replace Dan Fitzgerald. Hendrix has emerged as one of the league’s top inside threats and Santangelo continues to improve at the point. Hall brings a new dimension to the offense with his quickness and has shown he is capable of giving Santangelo a break. Barring key injuries there should be spot for the Zags in the postseason.

Pepperdine 1996-97 Record: 6-21 overall; 4-10 in WCC, tie for 6th. Coach: Lorenzo Romar (2nd year overall, both at Pepperdine Record: 6-21 overall Top returnees: G Gerald Brown, 6-4, 210, Sr.; C Bryan Hill, 6-7, 230, Sr. Top newcomers: G Jelani Gardner, 6-6, 205, Jr.; C omm’A Givens, 6-11, 235, Jr.; F Kelvin Gibbs, 6-6, 245, Fr. Outlook: The Waves’ roster features five Division I transfers, including three Gardner, Givens and Tommie Prince who were good enough to sign originally with Pacific-10 Conference schools. No one in the league can match the talent Romar has amassed in only two years at Pepperdine, but chemistry could still be a problem. Postseason chances probably hinge on WCC tournament.

San Francisco 1996-97 Record: 16-13 overall; 9-5 in WCC, 3rd. No postseason play. Coach: Philip Mathews (3rd year overall, all at USF) Record: 32-24 overall Top returnees: F Hareem Ward, 6-6, 230, Sr.; F Zerrick Campbell, 6-5, 205, Sr.; F Damian Cantrell, 6-6, 205, Sr.; G Jamal Cobbs, 5-9, 160, Sr.; G M.J. Nodilo, 6-4, 185, Sr. Top newcomers: G Ali Thomas, 6-2, 175, Fr. Outlook: The Dons were nearly everyone’s preseason WCC favorites, but early season injuries to Nodilo (foot) and Gerald Zimmerman (knee) have muddied the outlook. Nodilo hopes to be back in a week or two as does Cantrell, who has been battling mononucleosis. But Zimmerman, who averaged 10.1 points and 4.3 rebounds last year, is out for the season. Hurtin’ Dons will need to win WCC tournament to play in the postseason.

San Diego 1996-97 Record: 17-11 overall; 8-6 in WCC, tie for 4th. Coach: Brad Holland (6th year overall, 4th at USD) Record: 65-72 overall, 42-41 at USD Top returnees: F Brian Miles, 6-8, 230, Sr.; F Ryan Williams, 6-6, 215, Jr.; G Alex Parker, 5-11, 170, Sr. Top newcomers: G Deldre Carr, 6-4, 190, Fr.; F Sam Luke, 6-5, 220, Sr. Outlook: The Toreros return talented starters in Miles and Parker and should benefit immensely from the return of WIlliams, who missed the 1996-97 season with a knee injury. Still, Holland needs some lesser-known types to step up and replace Sean Flannery and Brian Bruso, who each started all 28 games last year. Postseason chances look bleak, unless USD can run the table in the WCC tournament.

Saint Mary’s 1996-97 Record: 23-8 overall; 10-4 in WCC, tie for 1st. Coach: Dave Bollwinkel (6th year overall, 1st at SMC) Record: 57-70 overall Top returnees: G David Sivulich, 5-10, 160, Sr.; F Eric Schraeder, 6-9, 220, Jr.; G Eric Knapp, 6-5, 200, Jr. Top newcomers: F O’Neil Kamaka, 6-5, 190, Jr.; G Dorian Williams, 6-4, 190, Fr. Outlook: The Gaels expected to be right there in trying to defend the regular-season title they shared with Santa Clara last season. But the loss of 7-foot-3, 345-pound junior center Brad Millard to a season-ending foot fracture has all but eliminated them as legitimate contenders. Without Millard, Bollwinkel’s first SMC team can’t afford the mistakes it is bound to make. Postseason chances are dismal.

Portland 1996-97 Record: 9-18 overall; 4-10 in WCC, tie for 6th. Coach: Rob Chavez (6th year overall, 4th at Portland) Record: 77-64 overall, 49-37 at Portland Top returnees: G Dionn Holton, 5-10, 185, Sr.; G. Jason Franklin, 6-4, 180, So.; F Jimmie Rainwater, 6-6, 185, Jr.; G Chivo Anderson, 6-5, 180, Sr. Top newcomers: F Philip Dejworek, 6-9, 225, Fr.; G Travis Andrews, 6-3, 190, Fr. Outlook: As usual, the Pilots are loaded with productive perimeter players, but Chavez needs someone to provide some muscle inside. Dejworek looks like the most promising of several low post prospects, but the native of Ulm, Germany, is still raw and untested at the collegiate level. Replacing scoring leader Greg Klosterman will be difficult, even though Rainwater can fill it up when he’s hot. Postseason chances only a dream.

Loyola Marymount 1996-97 Record: 7-21 overall; 3-11 in WCC, 8th Coach: Charles Bradley (4th year overall, 1st at LMU) Record: 37-43 overall Top returnees: F Ben Ammerman, 6-7, 210, Sr.; C Kenny Hotopp, 6-10, 230, Sr.; C Peter Cornell, 6-11, 245, Jr. Top newcomers: G Haywood Eaddy, 5-6, 140, Jr.; C Jay Knollmiller, 6-10, 250, So. Outlook: The Lions, with four players 6-foot-10 or taller, are huge inside but inexperienced in the backcourt. Eaddy, a junior college transfer, is the smallest player in the league, but he has shown he is capable at the point. Beyond him, however, there seems to be few productive prospects on the perimeter. Bradley’s first year in the WCC will be a bust, with his Lions having no shot at postseason play.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WEST COAST CAPSULES In predicted order of finish

Santa Clara 1996-97 Record: 16-11 overall; 10-4 in WCC, tie for 1st. No postseason play. Coach: Dick Davey (6th year overall, all at SCU) Record: 89-53 overall Top returnees: G Brian Jones, 6-3, 185, So; G Lloyd Pierce, 6-3, 184, Sr.; F Todd Wuschnig, 6-7, 209, So.; G Craig Johnson, 6-4, 185, Sr. Top newcomers: C Alex Lopez, 6-9, 250, Jr.; G Delano D’Oyan, 6-0, 160, Fr.; F David Emslie, 6-11, 210, Fr. Outlook: For some reason, the Broncos didn’t get much respect from the preseason college basketball publications, most of which picked coach Davey’s club to finish no higher than fifth. But SCU has earned at least a share of the last three regular-season WCC titles and is off to an impressive 9-3 start with four players averaging between 10 and 13 points per game. Look for the Broncos in the NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga 1996-97 Record: 15-12 overall; 8-6 in WCC, tie for 4th. Coach: Dan Monson Record: 1st year Top returnees: F Bakari Hendrix 6-8, 225, Sr.; G Matt Santangelo, 6-1, 170, So.; C Axel Dench, 6-11, 245, So.; F Mike Leasure, 6-7 220, Jr. Top newcomers: G Quentin Hall, 5-8, 165, Jr.; F Casey Calvary, 6-8, 215, Fr. Outlook: The Bulldogs’ 11-4 start suggests they did not miss a beat when Monson stepped in to replace Dan Fitzgerald. Hendrix has emerged as one of the league’s top inside threats and Santangelo continues to improve at the point. Hall brings a new dimension to the offense with his quickness and has shown he is capable of giving Santangelo a break. Barring key injuries there should be spot for the Zags in the postseason.

Pepperdine 1996-97 Record: 6-21 overall; 4-10 in WCC, tie for 6th. Coach: Lorenzo Romar (2nd year overall, both at Pepperdine Record: 6-21 overall Top returnees: G Gerald Brown, 6-4, 210, Sr.; C Bryan Hill, 6-7, 230, Sr. Top newcomers: G Jelani Gardner, 6-6, 205, Jr.; C omm’A Givens, 6-11, 235, Jr.; F Kelvin Gibbs, 6-6, 245, Fr. Outlook: The Waves’ roster features five Division I transfers, including three Gardner, Givens and Tommie Prince who were good enough to sign originally with Pacific-10 Conference schools. No one in the league can match the talent Romar has amassed in only two years at Pepperdine, but chemistry could still be a problem. Postseason chances probably hinge on WCC tournament.

San Francisco 1996-97 Record: 16-13 overall; 9-5 in WCC, 3rd. No postseason play. Coach: Philip Mathews (3rd year overall, all at USF) Record: 32-24 overall Top returnees: F Hareem Ward, 6-6, 230, Sr.; F Zerrick Campbell, 6-5, 205, Sr.; F Damian Cantrell, 6-6, 205, Sr.; G Jamal Cobbs, 5-9, 160, Sr.; G M.J. Nodilo, 6-4, 185, Sr. Top newcomers: G Ali Thomas, 6-2, 175, Fr. Outlook: The Dons were nearly everyone’s preseason WCC favorites, but early season injuries to Nodilo (foot) and Gerald Zimmerman (knee) have muddied the outlook. Nodilo hopes to be back in a week or two as does Cantrell, who has been battling mononucleosis. But Zimmerman, who averaged 10.1 points and 4.3 rebounds last year, is out for the season. Hurtin’ Dons will need to win WCC tournament to play in the postseason.

San Diego 1996-97 Record: 17-11 overall; 8-6 in WCC, tie for 4th. Coach: Brad Holland (6th year overall, 4th at USD) Record: 65-72 overall, 42-41 at USD Top returnees: F Brian Miles, 6-8, 230, Sr.; F Ryan Williams, 6-6, 215, Jr.; G Alex Parker, 5-11, 170, Sr. Top newcomers: G Deldre Carr, 6-4, 190, Fr.; F Sam Luke, 6-5, 220, Sr. Outlook: The Toreros return talented starters in Miles and Parker and should benefit immensely from the return of WIlliams, who missed the 1996-97 season with a knee injury. Still, Holland needs some lesser-known types to step up and replace Sean Flannery and Brian Bruso, who each started all 28 games last year. Postseason chances look bleak, unless USD can run the table in the WCC tournament.

Saint Mary’s 1996-97 Record: 23-8 overall; 10-4 in WCC, tie for 1st. Coach: Dave Bollwinkel (6th year overall, 1st at SMC) Record: 57-70 overall Top returnees: G David Sivulich, 5-10, 160, Sr.; F Eric Schraeder, 6-9, 220, Jr.; G Eric Knapp, 6-5, 200, Jr. Top newcomers: F O’Neil Kamaka, 6-5, 190, Jr.; G Dorian Williams, 6-4, 190, Fr. Outlook: The Gaels expected to be right there in trying to defend the regular-season title they shared with Santa Clara last season. But the loss of 7-foot-3, 345-pound junior center Brad Millard to a season-ending foot fracture has all but eliminated them as legitimate contenders. Without Millard, Bollwinkel’s first SMC team can’t afford the mistakes it is bound to make. Postseason chances are dismal.

Portland 1996-97 Record: 9-18 overall; 4-10 in WCC, tie for 6th. Coach: Rob Chavez (6th year overall, 4th at Portland) Record: 77-64 overall, 49-37 at Portland Top returnees: G Dionn Holton, 5-10, 185, Sr.; G. Jason Franklin, 6-4, 180, So.; F Jimmie Rainwater, 6-6, 185, Jr.; G Chivo Anderson, 6-5, 180, Sr. Top newcomers: F Philip Dejworek, 6-9, 225, Fr.; G Travis Andrews, 6-3, 190, Fr. Outlook: As usual, the Pilots are loaded with productive perimeter players, but Chavez needs someone to provide some muscle inside. Dejworek looks like the most promising of several low post prospects, but the native of Ulm, Germany, is still raw and untested at the collegiate level. Replacing scoring leader Greg Klosterman will be difficult, even though Rainwater can fill it up when he’s hot. Postseason chances only a dream.

Loyola Marymount 1996-97 Record: 7-21 overall; 3-11 in WCC, 8th Coach: Charles Bradley (4th year overall, 1st at LMU) Record: 37-43 overall Top returnees: F Ben Ammerman, 6-7, 210, Sr.; C Kenny Hotopp, 6-10, 230, Sr.; C Peter Cornell, 6-11, 245, Jr. Top newcomers: G Haywood Eaddy, 5-6, 140, Jr.; C Jay Knollmiller, 6-10, 250, So. Outlook: The Lions, with four players 6-foot-10 or taller, are huge inside but inexperienced in the backcourt. Eaddy, a junior college transfer, is the smallest player in the league, but he has shown he is capable at the point. Beyond him, however, there seems to be few productive prospects on the perimeter. Bradley’s first year in the WCC will be a bust, with his Lions having no shot at postseason play.



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