Life has gotten a little more lively at Christ College Irvine since the arrival of an all-around character named Derwin Appleberry, the best basketball player in the history of the program--all five years of it.
Appleberry, a 22-year-old junior, has attended Christ College six months, but he already has made his marks--both athletic and culinary.
On the court, he owns single-game school records of 47 points and 19 rebounds.
In the campus cafeteria, a sandwich has been named in his honor. The double cheeseburger (with everything on it) is officially known as the "Derwin Burger."
Just the arresting name and corresponding 6-foot 6-inch, 238-pound frame could qualify someone for BMOC status at pastoral Christ College, a 400-student campus so quiet that you can hear a chorus of frogs croaking on rainy nights.
And that doesn't take into account Appleberry's personality.
"I'm into glamour," he said. That concept covers his red BMW 535i, surfing, Marilyn Monroe, the idea of playing basketball in Europe and the progressive rock music he plays on his guitar.
This week he wore tortoise shell sunglasses and Italian espadrille shoes to give a class speech on the dangers of smoking?
You get the impression he's casually waging a personal battle against conformity.
"Imagine a world where everyone had to be alike," Appleberry mused. "It would be a drag. I think H.G. Wells wrote a book about that . . .
"I'm a free-flowing type of guy. I like to be different. I'm very different from most people, not just athletically, but as far as my attitude."
That also goes for his style on the basketball court, perhaps best described as Charles Barkley joins the Harlem Globetrotters.
With the addition of Appleberry's average of 24 points and 10.5 rebounds, a good 18-7 team that placed third in the Western Christian Athletic Assn. last season has turned into a 22-5 team and potential conference co-champion.
The Eagles (10-1) will try to earn a share of the Western Christian Athletic Assn. title tonight when they play host to defending-champion West Coast Christian (11-0) at Irvine.
The last time the teams met, Appleberry set the school single-game scoring record as the Eagles lost by four points.
"He's an offensive scoring machine," said team co-captain Darren Kelso, a senior guard.
Said the other co-captain, senior forward Tim Surridge: "He can score anytime he has the ball, from anywhere."
The rims in Christ College's new $2.3-million gym have taken a beating this season from Appleberry's repertoire of dunks, which includes a double-pump reverse.
"A lot of times, it's like watching the NBA on a Sunday afternoon around here," Eagle Coach Dave Wild said.
A measure of Appleberry's agility is that he leads the team in steals with 40. His teammates say he could actually play guard.
"Looking at him, he has a really outstanding talent, that's the only way to describe it," Wild said. "He's a very big, strong power player with a lot of finesse. He does things you wouldn't expect from a guy that size.
"His body movement and control for his size are very unique, particularly at the level we're at."
Said Kelso: "Nobody will take a charge against him. Nobody wants to set up. It's not worth it."
Former NBA all-star Paul Westphal, the coach at Southwestern Baptist Bible College of Phoenix, saw Appleberry score 24 points as Christ College beat his team, 110-86.
"I don't think there's anybody who can compete with him inside in this conference," he said. "He really doesn't have to extend himself. We'll never know how great a player he could be because he's playing below his level. You have to have competition to bring out the best in a guy."
Some of Christ College's opponents have wondered how the Eagles attracted a player such as Appleberry.
In fact, he has only played four years of organized basketball, starting with his senior year at Fairfax High in Los Angeles.
He played at College of the Canyons in Ventura for two years, and although many Division I schools expressed interest in him, he could not be admitted because he had not finished the community college degree.
He spent two years taking classes at Santa Monica College and going to "the beach, the beach and the beach."
He still wanted to play basketball and try to get his degree, so he followed the lead of a College of the Canyons teammate, Brian Beal, who had attended Christ College for a year.
"Derwin came to us with some academic difficulties in his background," Wild said. "We're trying to work with him, trying to develop his (academic) abilities and he's responding real well.
"We've been trying to get him some solid coursework, things he needs to move toward the point of getting his degree. A big part of his difficulties in the past have been more motivational than anything else."
Said Appleberry: "Right now, I'm doing quite well in school and last quarter, I did OK, (although) I could have done better.