"I'd like to have this year's schedule with last year's team," Jim Harrick, Pepperdine basketball coach, was saying the other day.
This year's schedule includes Saturday's afternoon home opener with Oklahoma State and a Monday night home game with McNeese State. It doesn't have a Southern California College or a Bethany Nazarene--teams that Pepperdine used to play and could have beaten after spotting them 20 points.
Instead, non-conference opponents include DePaul, Marquette and Chicago State, stiff tests for any squad with NCAA Tournament ambitions.
However, Harrick won't have six seniors from last year to take the tough tests, six who helped the Waves to a 25-5 record last season and to their fifth West Coast Athletic Conference championship in the last six years.
Three of the six--Grant Gondrezick, Dwayne Polee and Anthony Frederick--were drafted by NBA teams, and Gondrezick made the roster of the Phoenix Suns. A fourth, sharpshooting guard Jon Korfas, is playing professionally in Greece.
If Korfas and Gondrezick were still in Malibu, Harrick could have sat back and watched them make three-point shots with ease from 19 feet, 9 inches under a new rule in college basketball this season. And Pepperdine would probably breeze to another WCAC title and another post-season appearance.
Instead, Harrick has six newcomers, none of them with major college experience, and only two returning starters in top forwards Eric White and Levy Middlebrooks. And the coach will be on his feet a lot, trying to mold a winner from promising but raw material.
Three of the newcomers, junior guards Donnie Moore and Ed Allen and junior high-post center Michael Cumberland, will go into the grinder immediately, filling starting spots for the opener. Two of them--Moore and Cumberland--are starting by default.
The 6-0 Moore, from West Valley Junior College in San Jose, is taking over for injured junior letterman Marty Wilson. Wilson injured his back doing aerobics and will be sidelined for at least three weeks with protruding discs.
Cumberland, a 6-7, 200-pound transfer from Rio Hondo College, will be at center because he looked good in an 82-69, exhibition win over the University of Alberta.
But he will start because 6-11 sophomore Casey Crawford did not do well in his first college game against Alberta and because 6-10 freshman Antonio Martin, who played for Spain's junior national team, is recuperating from a knee injury. Martin hurt the knee before he came to Pepperdine and is not expected to play until January.
The 6-2 Allen, who was at City College of San Francisco last season and made the same all-conference team as Moore, has shown a nice, left-handed shooting touch from three-point range. Moore, better known for deft passing, had 13 assists while Moore scored 20 points in last week's intrasquad game. In reserve is Harrick's son Jim, a 5-10 junior letterman at guard.
Top men off the bench include redshirt freshmen Craig Davis, a 6-3 guard from Hueneme High School and a good outside shooter, and Dexter Howard, a 6-7, 205-pound forward from San Francisco's McAteer High. In the Alberta game, Davis saw limited action but scored 11 points, and Howard scored 17 and rebounded well in only 24 minutes.
Crawford, the Leuzinger High graduate who sat out last season with academic problems, is the first backup at center. Harrick said that the 220-pound Crawford earned a start against the Canadians because he played well in practice.
"I think his inexperience showed," the coach said, "but he plays as big as anyone we've had in the program, and we don't forget those things."
So much for those who haven't been under fire. Senior White (6-8, 215), a two-time all-conference selection who has been mentioned for some pre-season All-American teams, and Middlebrooks (6-7, 235), the conference freshman of the year in 1984, have returned enemy fire, often with expert marksmanship.
Of the two veterans, White has been more consistent than Middlebrooks and has had some of his best nights in big games. Middlebrooks, the battleship who walks like a man, has been more up and down, sometimes a terror and other times a puzzle.
Against Alberta, White scored well (18 points) but didn't rebound much, and Middlebrooks didn't do much of either. Harrick said he showed his team a tape of that game, and it must have made an impression on his returning starters. In last week's intrasquad game, White had game highs of 33 points and 13 rebounds and Middlebrooks added 23 points and nine rebounds.
Harrick said he hopes that the Waves "can reload and not have to rebuild." That task could be accomplished if White and Middlebrooks keep their powder dry and the newcomers come through.
The Waves' debut against Oklahoma State, at 3 p.m. Saturday at Firestone Fieldhouse, also will be the debut of the Cowboys' first-year head coach, Leonard Hamilton, long an assistant to Joe B. Hall at Kentucky.