A deep, veteran UC Riverside team is favored to win the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. basketball title, and is seen as the top small-college team in the Southland going into the season.
The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference hasn't had a repeat champ in seven years. Pomona-Pitzer won its first title in 63 years last season but this time around could be Poetry in motion at Whittier--or a Stag party for Claremont-Mudd.
In NAIA District III, Dave Holmquist at Biola and Chet Kammerer at Westmont hope to add to their victory totals, which rank in the top 14 nationally over the last five years.
In the CCAA, UC Riverside is favored, but several teams have veteran lineups and star players back, and the league appears too balanced for a runaway. Conference coaches and sports publicists overwhelmingly picked Riverside to win, followed by Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Northridge and Chapman College.
UC Riverside Coach John Masi has the league's top front line returning from a 24-7 team--and probably its most dominant player, 6-8 forward Robert Jimerson, the league's co-MVP last season. His numbers as a junior, 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, earned him preseason All-American status in Street & Smith's magazine. Jimerson is flanked by 6-9 center Paul Kapturkiewicz and 6-6 freshman Jason Ricks. Starting guard Anthony Holt, who averaged 10 points, also is back.
Cal Poly SLO has the CCAA's other co-MVP, 6-3 guard Sean Chambers, who was good for 15 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4 assists a game. Forward Melvin Parker and 6-8 Center Darren Masingale also return. The backcourt will be new, as is Coach Steve Beason.
Cal State Bakersfield has a strong frontcourt featuring 6-9 Paul Phifer, who averaged 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds, 6-8 Neil Stephens and 6-5 Tony Brooks. In the backcourt, starter Karl Finley, who had briefly left the team, is back. Also on hand is 6-8 junior college transfer Lyndon DeYoung.
Cal Poly Pomona has two solid starters back: 6-7 forward Gregg Brofer (14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds), guard Darron Suttle (13.8 points, 3.6 assists) plus 6-8 letterman Mark Bray. The Broncos also recruited Cypress College All-American guard Bill Dobbs, who at 27 is only seven years younger than his coach. But the most M-inent newcomer may be 6-7 senior Zenon M, who red-shirted last season after transferring from Bakersfield.
Cal State Dominguez Hills could have the league's top small forward in William Alexander. The 6-4, three-year starter, who averaged 17.6 points as a junior, needs 188 points to become the CCAA's all-time leader. The Toros are strong up front with 6-7 center Anthony Blackmon, 6-4 forward Brian Edwards and 6-6 forward Tony Akins (16.5 points) all returning. If redshirt sophomore guard Vico Nomaaea provides outside shooting, the Toros could be a contender.
Cal State Los Angeles probably lost the most to graduation--All-American guards Sam Veal and Shawn Holiday and Tony Brown, CCAA rebounding and blocked shots leader, but has 6-7 forward James Stewart (9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds), 6-7 forward Cary Brooks and zone-buster Marty Heede back. Curtiss Bradley (6-7) and Rodney Moore (6-3) are highly-regarded junior college transfers.
Cal State Northridge has four starters back, led by 6-5 Pat Bolden (12.8 points), 6-4 Paul Drecksel (13.7 points) and point guard Troy Dueker to go with 6-7 freshman Todd Bowser, a high scorer at Montclair Prep.
Chapman was picked last but also has four returning starters, including standout 6-6 forward Jon Samuelson (12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds), 6-6 Kelly Huston (12 points, 5.3 rebounds) and 6-8 Karl Tompkins (10.6 points, 5.9 rebounds).
Claremont-Mudd, with nine lettermen and four starters back, stands a good chance in the SCIAC. The Stags boast All-SCIAC guard Todd Thomas (17.5 points, 5 assists) and All-SCIAC center 6-8 Scott Lammers (10 points, 7.8 rebounds) as well as guard Chris Dibble and forward Brent Dill. Sophomore Mike Dawe lends more size up front at 6-7.
Whittier would find it poetic justice to win after four straight years as runner-up. The Poets have the league's top post man in 6-8 Dave Weida, an All-American candidate who averaged 23.8 points as a junior. Also back are 6-7 forward Jim Pursell and guards Brad Harker (11.2 points) and David Schuessler.
Occidental Coach Bill Westphal is returning for a second stint after taking a break from coaching. His last stop was as an assistant with the then-San Diego Clippers. Up front he has 6-6 senior Jeff Lowe, who led the Tigers in scoring at 15 points a game, plus a double-post combo of 6-5 Craig Kirkland and 6-6 Dexter Jenkins.
Pomona-Pitzer has two starters and seven lettermen back from last year's championship team. All-confererence choices Gordon Lewis (9 points, 5.5 rebounds) and sophomore Rick Duque (10 points, 5 rebounds) return up front along with Gavin Bradley at forward and Rick Caragher at guard.