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Notebook / Alan Drooz : Deon Richard, a So-So Prep Cager, Blossoms in College, May Make Pros

February 06, 1986|ALAN DROOZ

Some athletes are not recruited by major colleges because they lack a certain "big-time" aspect--size, quickness, jumping ability.

Then there are the ones like Deon Richard, a late bloomer out of Gardena High who was overshadowed in high school by two star guards. Richard, now a senior at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego, may end up going further in basketball then either Jeep Jackson or Ontario Johnson, who were All-City players at Gardena while Richard was just another promising forward.

Richard has emerged at the small parochial school as perhaps the best player in NAIA District III, which covers California. His coach, Ben Foster, said the 6-6 Richard has legitimate pro prospects. In the latest District III statistics, Richard is second in scoring with a 21.4 average, second in rebounding (8.36 average) and fourth in shooting (60.5%). Beyond that, Richard has been Nazarene's star and a dominant player in the district from the time he walked on the floor as a freshman.

"He's got unbelievable quickness and leaping ability," Foster said. "That sets him apart from other small-college players. He's a Division I player. He's got the best hands I've ever seen on an athlete."

Foster attributes Richard's late rise to stardom to the fact that "he got into basketball a little late. But he's a hard-working player, very coachable, very dedicated. He's made tremendous improvement."

With his great leaping ability, Richard generally plays in the low post. But Foster said he's "a legitimate threat from 15 to 20 feet," enhancing his pro prospects. And he plays defense. "He's a great defensive player--he can really get after it on defense," Foster said.

The coach said Richard, who went by his first name, Louis, in high school, would have a shot at the National Basketball Assn. as a role player in the right situation. Richard also has drawn interest from foreign pro teams and from Athletes in Action.

One athlete who was a star in high school and has continued to shine in college is soccer player Carin Jennings, the all-time CIF scoring leader at Palos Verdes High. She just completed her junior season at UC Santa Barbara and last week was named one of the 10 best players in the country by Soccer America magazine.

Jennings, who led Santa Barbara to the NCAA quarterfinals this season, is a three-time All-American at Santa Barbara and has scored 78 goals and 33 assists in her collegiate career. She had 22 goals in 23 games this season. Santa Barbara men's soccer Coach Andy Kuenzli told a reporter, "She's probably the best forward in the United States--man or woman."

The groundswell is building at Loyola Marymount University where the basketball team has not led the West Coast Athletic Conference this late in the season in 25 years. After Saturday's dramatic 72-70 victory at the University of San Diego, where a high percentage of the crowd was rooting for the Lions, Loyola rooters streamed onto the floor and chanted "L-M-U" for several minutes until Coach Paul Westhead appeared. The happy partisans hoisted the coach onto their shoulders.

The San Diego victory, which came on Keith Smith's last-second basket, gave Loyola a 6-0 record in the WCAC and an eight-game winning streak--two short of the school's all-time record. Streaks: When the South Torrance High boys soccer team received no votes in the CIF 4-A Top 10 last month it marked an occasion: It was the first time the Spartans had not received at least one vote in the weekly coaches poll since it began in 1970. South was the only school to have received a vote in every poll. The streak ended with the poll of Jan. 19.

On the girls side, the highly rated Torrance girls soccer team has allowed only one goal in its last 10 games.

The West Coast Athletic Conference, which will hold a basketball post-season tournament after the 1986-87 season, has already modified the format. Opening round games will be played at campus sites depending on the final standings in the eight-team conference. However, league officials announced that the semifinals and finals will be held at the University of San Francisco.

Conference Commissioner Michael Gilleran said the league felt this action would produce more of a "final four" atmosphere "and would be more advantageous in attracting corporate sponsorship and television. . . . The San Francisco Bay Area was the logical site for the event since it is a major media market, has a large population base, Memorial Gymnasium seats 5,300 spectators and because the West Coast Athletic Conference has its deepest roots here."

Teams will be seeded, with the No. 1 seed playing No. 8, No. 2 playing No. 7, and so on. The tournament champion will be considered the conference winner and will get the WCAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The conference hopes the tournament will produce enough interest and media coverage for the league to earn more than one NCAA bid.

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