Loyola Marymount University begins its busiest week of the basketball season Friday when the Lions take on Cal State Fullerton in the first game of the Utah Classic Basketball Tournament.
That will be the first of four games in six days and five in nine for the Lions, whose main exercise so far has been licking their wounds.
The 6 p.m. Loyola-Fullerton game precedes the 8 p.m. contest between Utah and Houston Baptist in Salt Lake City. Friday's losers play at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by the championship game at 8.
The Lions return home after the Thanksgiving weekend to play UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday and Bemidji (Minn.) State on Wednesday, then hit the road again to play at University of the Pacific on Saturday. Both home games begin at 7:30 p.m. in Gersten Pavilion.
5 Hurt, 1 Quit
By then Coach Paul Westhead's Lions will either be close to full strength or will be asking alumni to build them a hospital ward.
Westhead had about as impressive a team on the disabled list last weekend as he had on the floor as Loyola won its opener over Azusa-Pacific, 92-72. Star forward Forrest Walton-McKenzie (cast on shooting hand) and center Vic Lazzaretti (back spasms) were in street clothes. Forward Mark Armstrong suited up but Westhead decided not to play him and risk aggravating a strained arch. Two other reserves were in street clothes and Steve Haney, a part-time starter last year, quit the team and went home to Lansing, Mich.
That left Westhead with seven healthy bodies, and he started at least three players who don't figure to start normally--senior forward Fred Bradford, sophomore forward Mike Yoest and junior center Darryl Carter. However, all played well, as did junior guard Dennis Vogel off the bench, and guards Keith Smith and Enoch Simmons supplied the firepower in the high-scoring victory.
"It might have been a ho-hum opener (with everyone in uniform) but it wasn't," Westhead said. "The guys knew we had to play hard, and well, and they did."
As Always, Smith Sharp
Smith, a senior and a pro prospect, picked up where he left off last season, hitting 12 of 22 shots for 29 points and passing off for 11 assists. He averaged 25 points as a junior but expected to score less with the addition of McKenzie and Lazzaretti to the lineup. So far that hasn't happened.
Smith's scoring support so far has come from the freshman Simmons, who had 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists against Azusa-Pacific. He also showed great natural athletic instincts that emphasized why the coaches are so high on him.
Loyola should be close to full strength for the weekend and will need to be. Lazzaretti and Armstrong are listed as probables. McKenzie is scheduled to have the cast removed from his broken right thumb this week, and doctors have said he will not need further surgery. So he could be back in the lineup soon after an absence of more than a year.
Fullerton, whose coaching staff includes former Loyola Coach Ed Goorjian, takes a 1-1 record into the tournament. The Titans have an athletic lineup with good, though not overpowering, size, with former Serra High star Kerry Boagni, 6-8, and Carl Pitts, 6-7, at forward, 6-8 Vincent Blow at center and 6-4 Kevin Henderson and 6-3 Richard Morton at guard. Henderson and Boagni have been the leading scorers, averaging 17.5 and 16.5, respectively.
The Lions will play Fullerton again Dec. 14 at Loyola.
Utes Are Young
Tourney host Utah (1-1) is led by guard Manuel Hendrix (18.5 average) and forward Jerry Stroman (13.5), the only seniors in the Ute lineup. Sophomore Bobby Adair, 6-8, out of Santa Monica High plays center and is averaging 11.5 points and 10 rebounds.
Houston Baptist (2-0) features two players from Central Africa, 6-8 Bruno Kongawoin, averaging 14 points, and 5-9 Fred Goporo, averaging 12 points and 11 assists. The top scorer is guard Arthur Walton, averaging 19.
UC Santa Barbara has won three straight games from Loyola. The Gauchos return four players who averaged double figures--forwards Scott Fisher and Khris Fortson and guards Conner Henry and Mauryc Carr. Their top recruit is guard Carlton Davenport from Santa Monica.
Bemidji State, a Division II school, is led by sophomore guard David Lee, who averaged 13.6 points as a freshman.