Before the season, Loyola Marymount University basketball Coach Ed Goorjian appeared to have a nearly set lineup, with four returning starters and two all-leaguers.
But a week before West Coast Athletic Conference action begins, Goorjian has become an equal-opportunity employer, having been forced by injury and circumstance to use numerous lineups.
When all-conference forward Forrest McKenzie was declared ineligible and 7-foot recruit Lawrence Irwin failed to impress at center, Goorjian was left with two established players--guard Keith Smith and center/forward Steve Haderlein--and a lot of unknowns.
The latest lineup--which will be on display tonight against Colorado--has three freshmen: Guard Steve Haney and forwards Mike Yoest and Mark Armstrong are starting and Goorjian says they'll be there for a while, even though they sometimes affect his blood pressure.
Example: In Monday's victory over U. S. International University, Haney, the team's second-leading scorer, got 18 points in the first half and 22 for the game, but Goorjian was unhappy because of Haney's errant ball handling late in the game.
"He hasn't been able to run the club yet," Goorjian grumbled. "He had to play the point and we had a 24-point lead and he couldn't hold it."
Still, Haney shot 11 for 19 and his baseline-to-baseline drives and long-range accuracy provide an offensive lift for the team. He's averaging 13.3 points and shooting 49.6%.
His roommate, 6-6 Armstrong, goes hot and cold offensively but has been the top rebounder after Haderlein. He pulled down nine against USIU. At a solid 210 pounds, Armstrong, though raw, is a handful for most opponents. He has started seven of the team's 13 games and is accounting for four points and 4.7 rebounds a game.
The least-heralded but possibly most consistent freshman has been 6-6 Yoest from Crespi High in the San Fernando Valley. Yoest, who missed almost a year of playing in high school because of an injury, looks puny compared to some of the major college forwards he has to cover, but the scrappy freshman does a lot of little things that endear players to coaches.
"He's a great kid. He means too much to our club" not to start, Goorjian said. "(Physically) he's like a high school senior now. You can see his (lack of stamina). But he's got great hands. And he's very smart." Yoest hustles, gets his hands on a lot of loose balls and picks up more than his share of floor burns.
Against USIU, Yoest made noticeable contributions in the box score: season highs of 17 points (6 of 7 shooting) and 11 rebounds, plus three assists. He's shooting 58% for the year.
With Haderlein nursing a sprained ankle--he missed Monday's game and may not play tonight--Goorjian has been trying to find a replacement for the power forward-center spot. So far he has tried junior Fred Bradford, sophomore Darryl Carter and Irwin without favorable results.
"I keep trying to give somebody that spot and nobody's taking it," Goorjian said.
Goorjian may experiment again Saturday night when the Lions (6-7) host Azusa Pacific, but Goorjian said that when WCAC play begins next week "we'll have seven people."
The leader remains Smith, who leads WCAC teams in scoring at 23.9 per game. He had 12 assists against USIU to raise his average to 5.6. How valuable is Smith? He scored only 11 and 14 points in road games in Montana over the weekend and the Lions lost both by double figures.
Colorado (6-5), coming off Tuesday's game at Pepperdine, provides the week's major competition at 7:30 tonight. The Buffaloes' talented front line features 6-8 Alex Stivrins, averaging 17.4 points and 13 rebounds; 6-9 center Randy Downs, averaging 16.5 points and 6 rebonds, and 6-9 freshman Torin Williams out of Verbum Dei High.