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After Shake-Up, Erbst Finds He's Starting for USC : He Didn't Plan It This Way

January 15, 1987|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

As a 17-year-old senior at Anaheim's Katella High School, Bob Erbst was systematic and organized through the recruiting process.

The 6-foot 9-inch forward started with a list of 70 schools, then carefully pared them down to five for official home visits.

He finally decided on USC and became an early signer in November 1985. He eliminated UCLA, he said, because he didn't feel comfortable at the school. He passed on Syracuse because of the distance from home and the weather. He liked Arizona but figured he wouldn't get much playing time there because the school was stocked with forwards.

"I didn't choose USC necessarily for its program because it isn't the greatest basketball school on the West Coast," Erbst said.

But he said USC appealed to him because of the coaching staff, the alumni and the players he would be associated with in his four years there.

"At the time, Tom Lewis, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers were here, and it looked like I was stepping into a building program," Erbst said. "I figured I'd be playing behind Gathers for a couple of years."

But Erbst hadn't planned on Coach Stan Morrison being forced to resign last March, or on Lewis, Kimble and Gathers transferring to other schools. George Raveling, the new coach, revoked their scholarships because the three freshmen failed to meet his deadline for telling him whether they wanted to remain at USC.

Erbst got his first hint that there was trouble in River City when Morrison called him from Oregon last March.

"He started to tell me something was wrong, but he terminated the conversation really quick," Erbst recalled.

A few days later, Morrison was out as USC's coach.

"I felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me," Erbst said. "He was like a father figure. I had my life planned out for four years, and then, boom, everything is done and gone."

But the events over which he had no control ultimately worked out to his benefit.

He established a rapport with Raveling and told him that he intended to stay at USC. And with Lewis, Kimble and Gathers no longer on the team, his prospects for more playing time were enhanced.

Not only is he playing, but the freshman forward has been starting since the opening exhibition game against Poland.

Erbst is a mainstay of a basically young team. In conference competition, he's averaging 35 minutes a game, more than any other USC player.

And, of course, he'll be starting again tonight when USC plays Oregon State at the Sports Arena.

"Morrison gave me a great piece of advice after the whole thing went down," Erbst said. "He said the diploma says USC, not Coach Morrison, and the jersey says USC, not Morrison, or Raveling. He also said you sign with the school, not with the coach, because any coach can go in two years."

Erbst said he avoided getting involved with Lewis, Kimble and Gathers when they were pondering whether to stay at USC, or go elsewhere.

"I figured (the situation) was between them and Coach Raveling," Erbst said. "I still back up the coach's decision because he needed to know whether he had the scholarships or not. They had plenty of notice and warning and, after a year, they should have known whether they liked it here or not.

"So I moved into a program where we lost a lot of players. Either way, I didn't care. If Lewis, Kimble and Gathers had stayed, we would have a great team now. But, by their leaving, I got the opportunity to play, which everybody wants to do. So it was an advantage to me personally that they left.

"In the long run we might be better off that they left because there were some problems with personalities and things."

Erbst figures it will take about two years for USC to rebuild into a contending team. The Trojans are 6-8 overall and 1-5 in the Pacific 10.

"We have three great players red-shirting now--Dave Wiltz, Alan Pollard and Anthony Pendleton--and we have Ronnie Coleman coming in from Dominguez High in Compton. Those four players could start and we have a good nucleus now of freshmen and sophomores."

Even though Lewis, Kimble and Gathers didn't return this season, Erbst said he hadn't expected to become a starter.

"I expected Chris Munk to be the Pac-10 freshmen of the year, as everyone had him rated," Erbst said. "I was just hoping to get a little bit of playing time and some experience. That's all anybody can ask as a freshman."

Erbst, an all-state selection at Katella High, has benefited from sound high school coaching.

He started learning the fundamentals of the game from Katella Coach Tom Danley as a third grader attending a basketball camp.

"By the time I was in the seventh grade, I knew the entire Katella offense and defense," Erbst said. "I've been able to coordinate some of the fundamentals I had when I got to college."

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