Alan Gindlesperger started playing basketball in grade school, annoying the older and bigger players who could only grumble as his 25-foot jump shots slipped through the net. Maybe their grumbles got to him--he spent a lot of time alone on the court.
"I liked playing basketball when I was younger, because I could play it by myself," Gindlesperger said. "There are a million different games you can play."
There's only one game he plays now, and that's the waiting game.
"It's an all-round game, you have to play mentally as well as physically," he said. "I play my same game, but you have to concentrate harder because they play better defense in college."
He began to direct a greater amount of concentration toward basketball after attending a summer basketball camp in Moscow, Ida., while still in high school.
Jim Halm, an assistant basketball coach from the University of Idaho, introduced Gindlesperger to a form of meditation similar to visualization. The seminar combined positive thinking and achieving one's own potential. Gindlesperger now relaxes for 15 minutes before each game to meditate and think about what Halm taught him.
"I picture the team winning, not necessarily myself doing well," he said. "It's helped in school and basketball."
As a freshman on the Cal State Northridge basketball team, Gindlesperger averages fewer than 10 minutes a game in Coach Pete Cassidy's system, playing behind junior Paul Drecksel.
"It's better than I expected because I've played more than I thought I would," he said. "It's just hard because I want to play, but I keep thinking it'll pay off."
In his senior year at Reseda High, Gindlesperger averaged 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals on a 16-6 team that lost to San Pedro in the City 3-A quarterfinals.
The 6-1, 175-pound guard was named to the All-City 3-A teams in 1985. He also was voted most valuable player at Reseda.
The year before, the Regents won the City 3-A championship with Gindlesperger playing the sixth man. They beat Wilson in the title game, 51-39. Gindlesperger was seldom used as a sophomore when Reseda won the 3-A championship in 1983.
"I didn't score a lot of points in that game," Gindlesperger said of the 1984 final, "but I went in and threw my body around. I got some steals."
The following season, the only time he sat on the bench was during timeouts. He was appointed team captain, as much for his offensive abilities as his leadership.
Gindlesperger is a shooter. In his senior year at Reseda he shot 55% from the field 80% from the free-throw line.
He was as accurate in the classroom as on the court, honored three times in high school as a scholar-athlete. The award combines academic achievement with athletic excellence.
"I've always thought of working hard at whatever I do," Gindlesperger said, "but especially in basketball."
"I don't have the talents of a Tom Lewis or Rich Grande," he said about two of USC's freshman standouts, "but I play just as hard."
Most of Gindlesperger's hard work is done in practice and, with limited playing time, he is often thrust into the game after cooling off for a time on the bench. "It's hard to get warm in that amount of time," he said. "I just go in there and try to get my feet in the flow."
Unfortunately, he is having difficulty with the flow of his shooting touch. Gindlesperger has made just 32% of his shots, for an average of three points per game. He has remained steady at the free-throw line (85%).
But not even Gindlesperger's visions have helped the CSUN basketball team this year.
The Matadors have struggled in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. The explanation is simple for Gindlesperger: "Compared to other teams, we don't have a lot of talent."