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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: THE POSTSEASON : He's Gone From 1-A to Division I in a Big Way

March 13, 1986|RICH TOSCHES | Times Staff Writer

The dusty, tumbleweed Texas settlement of Lubbock saw more than its share of this-town-ain't-big-enough-for-the-two-of-us confrontations back in its Wild West days. These days there's a new guy in town, and Lubbock is barely big enough for the one of him.

He's Kent Wojciechoski, and he's as big as his name. He was a giant of a basketball player for Division 1-A Moorpark High from 1979 to '83, and now he's an even larger player for Texas Tech, measuring just a fraction under 7-1 and crushing the scales down to 250 pounds.

Tonight, Wojciechoski and the Red Raiders get an opportunity only crazy people would welcome, taking on talented Georgetown, last year's dominant college team that was upset by Villanova in the national championship game. The opening-round game of the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional will be played in Dayton, Ohio. Texas Tech, fresh from its Southwest Conference tournament championship, is 17-13. Georgetown enters the game at 23-7.

Said Wojciechoski: "Georgetown wasn't really our first choice. But with our record we knew we'd draw a top team. Actually, we're pretty excited about it. Just playing against that kind of talent is exciting. And they might be overlooking us."

Perhaps. But you can bet no one will overlook Wojciechoski. Not without a long ladder.

He was 6-6 as a freshman center at Moorpark High and grew to 6-11 by his senior year. Playing at the lowest high school level, Wojciechoski was a Buick among sports cars. In his senior year, he averaged more than 20 points and about 14 rebounds a game. He led Moorpark to a 21-2 record and the Tri-Valley League championship and was named the league's player of the year.

"He could just dominate a game," said then-Moorpark Coach Paul Paquette, who has since retired. "When he wanted to, he could just take over."

But that was due mostly to his enormous size, not any remarkable skills.

"He was a real challenge to get around on the court," said former Moorpark assistant Anthony Smith. "He blocks up the middle. He's so difficult to get around. And he was so strong. You just couldn't move him."

Unfortunately, Wojciechoski has trouble moving Wojciechoski, too.

"You'd have to rate him as average to slow in the speed department," Smith said. "He definitely wasn't in the fast category."

According to those who have watched him play in nearly 30 games this season, Smith's assessment is very kind.

"He is slow, real slow," said Dallas Morning News sports writer Kevin Sherrington, who normally covers Southwest Conference basketball games. "He's probably the slowest center in the Southwest Conference. Well, there's a center at Southern Methodist who might be just as slow. It might be a good race, if anybody had the time."

Wojciechoski is the backup center to senior Ray Irvin on the Red Raider team. Playing about 15 minutes per game, he averaged 3.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game this season.

Patrick Ewing, the center Wojciechoski would have faced had tonight's game been played a year ago, used to have better numbers than that while the final notes of the national anthem were still drifting through arenas.

Wojciechoski knows he is not Patrick Ewing, who was the top National Basketball Assn. draft pick this season by the New York Knicks. He also knows that he was nowhere near the same level of skill as other Southwest Conference centers he has faced, including Houston's Akeem Olajuwon, SMU's Jon Koncak and Joe Kleine from Arkansas.

"Those guys just killed him," Sherrington said. "It was merciless."

Wojciechoski did have one big game this season. He scored 16 points and had eight rebounds against Baylor.

"I had a great game," Wojciechoski said. "Baylor didn't have a center that night." He was serious.

Next year he will return for his senior season because he red-shirted as a sophomore. Wojciechoski feels he has the starting center spot for Texas Tech locked up.

"I assume I'll be the starter. I better be the starter," he said.

By the tone of Wojciechoski's voice, if he is not the starter next season--and Sherrington said Texas Tech has two freshman redshirts that are considered significantly better than him--Red Raider Coach Gerald Meyers had better become very good friends with the National Guard.

Texas Tech will probably not retire Wojciechoski's number when his collegiate career ends. But Wojciechoski did make the highly unusual jump from a 1-A high school program to a Division I college team and is getting a free education in the process.

He better savor those thoughts, because it doesn't appear his critics are about to lighten up.

Said Sherrington: "Texas Tech played Texas Christian early in the season and Wojciechoski played for awhile against Christian's Greg Grissom, who stands 6-11 and weighs 265 pounds.

"When they walked down the court together, they looked like Romanian labor camp guards."

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