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Time Helps to Heal Chapman : Panthers May Not Win Title, but They've Already Improved on Last Season's Woeful Record

January 09, 1987|LISA DILLMAN

In the case of the 1986-87 edition of the Chapman College Panthers, more is better.

The more basketball games Chapman plays, the better. Because, after a while, comparisons won't be made to last season's dismal standards.

It is like driving away from an old ghost town, watching it recede in the rear-view mirror.

Time eases the memory of such records as 7-20 overall and 2-12 in the conference last season. And it doesn't hurt that the Panthers, who open California Collegiate Athletic Assn. play tonight at Cal State Dominguez Hills, are 7-6 so far.

Already, a few things have been established after nonconference play. Barring a collapse, Chapman won't be as bad as CCAA watchers expected. After being picked to finish last in the preseason conference poll, Chapman won its tournament, defeating Sacramento State in the final. It lost by two points to Minnesota, which isn't quite as bad as everyone in the Big Ten expected.

The Panthers already have defeated four teams they lost to last season--Sacramento, Point Loma Nazarene College, San Francisco State and UC Davis.

Chapman Coach Kevin Wilson prefers not to take stock in the rankings, pointing out that UC Riverside was picked last two years ago and went on to win the conference.

"Before the season, I thought we'd be in the top four, talent-wise and with our experience," Wilson said. "And our three main guys are back."

The trio Wilson speaks of are senior Jon Samuelson, junior Kelly Huston and senior Karl Tompkins. The new Jon Samuelson, minus 20 to 25 pounds, is flourishing as a 6-foot 6-inch point guard. He leads Chapman with a 16-point scoring average and has scored more than 20 points in four of the last six games.

Tompkins, a 6-8 center, has established himself inside. In six games, he has scored and rebounded in double figures. Though Huston has had lapses of inconsistency, he is averaging 14.3 points.

"Everywhere we have gone this year, a lot of people have said how much Kelly and Karl have improved," Wilson said. "And they always talk about Samuelson."

As the floor leader, it isn't surprising that Chapman's success quite often is contingent on Samuelson. For example, his team-high 18 points helped lead the Panthers to an 80-76 overtime victory against Davis. In the next game, Samuelson went 4 of 14 from the field and Chapman lost, 80-71, to Cal State Stanislaus.

But the blame can't rest solely on Samuelson. Wilson was unhappy with the Panthers' defense, and has put extra emphasis depending opponents leading up to tonight's game.

"I think what it will take to win it is the little things," Wilson said. "So many of the games in the conference are so close. If our defense comes around, I think we'll be among the top couple of teams."

So, what is in store for Chapman?

The 1986-87 Panthers seem destined to finish in the middle.

At this point, Riverside still is favored, and Cal State Bakersfield has been a surprise with an 11-2 start. Riverside is 9-3, with two of the losses coming against Division I schools.

Some look at Dominquez Hills (10-3), which finished 3-11 for seventh place in the CCAA last season, as the conference's biggest surprise.

Panther Notes Chapman and Dominguez Hills have played two common opponents during the nonconference season. The Toros defeated San Francisco State, 86-69, and Azusa Pacific, 64-57. Chapman beat San Francisco State, 74-69, and Azusa Pacific, 77-72. . . . Jon Samuelson has been battling the flu most of the week, but Chapman Coach Kevin Wilson said he will be able to play. Senior forward Paul Rollins, who had knee surgery during the off-season, continues to practice with the Panthers. Wilson was unsure whether Rollins would play tonight.

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