His team may be off to a disappointing start in its first "real" season, but Marymount Palos Verdes College basketball Coach Jim Masterson insists it will soon be competitive.
"It's been pretty disappointing," Masterson said. "But anytime you're starting, you've got to start from the bottom to attract the quality players. I just thought we had some talent and were going to do a little better than we have."
The Mariners broke an eight-game losing streak Saturday against Caltech and were 4-13 overall and 0-1 in the Southern California Conference before Wednesday's game against College of the Desert.
Still, Masterson said he is confident the team can qualify for the conference playoffs with a third-place finish. "We're starting to turn the corner," he said. "We were starting to wonder if we'd ever win another game. Now we have a goal of making the league playoffs. We're pretty far down, but we have a lot of time to make it back."
Basketball was a club sport at the college before this season. The school often played junior varsity teams of NCAA Division III schools. So the competition may be a little tougher, and the losing something to get used to, Masterson said.
"We're a Catholic school so we try to teach faith and persistance and that everything is going to get better. Through work, things can only get better."
Along with the school's Catholic influence comes a strict academic standard. Three players recently received three-game suspensions for failing to meet a 2.0 grade-point requirement, including center Lance Malveaux, the team's top rebounder and second in scoring. "We have a stringent academic code. He would be eligible at any other JC, but not here," Masterson said.
Malveaux is one of four players scoring in double figures for the Mariners. Sophomore point guard Theron Gilmore, from St. Bernard, is averaging 14.6 points a game. Gilmore is being recruited by Cal State Northridge, Masterson said. "He'll be tough to replace."
Other Marymount standouts have been Craig Gehr, from Rolling Hills, who has been averaging 16 points and has hit 29 three-pointers, connecting on 48% of the shots, and Andre Jackson, out of Chadwick School, who Masterson said "is the exciting player who gets us going. He has a 32-inch vertical (jump). He can really get off some exciting dunks." Jackson is also averaging 8 rebounds a game. Then there's Chris Stallworth, from Gardena, who grabbed 16 rebounds in place of Malveaux at center against East L.A. College. "He's sort of our utility man," Masterson said of the 6-3 Stallworth. "He's played every position from point guard to center."
Despite the poor start, Masterson said support from students and faculty has been encouraging. "I was out scouting Harbor and they had only about 50 fans in their gym," Masterson said. "The next night we played there and had about 75. To outdraw a school that's been around a long time is good for a school with only 700 students."
So the basketball program appears to be safe for now at Marymount Palos Verdes, Masterson said. "President Thomas Wood has been real supportive. He's a big sports fan," the coach said. "I think we're safe."
El Camino College has proved it is a serious contender for the South Coast Conference basketball title, taking a 16-3 overall record and 4-0 conference mark into the week. A key to the Warriors' attack has been point guard Otis Livingston, who has impressed Coach Paul Landreaux with his ability to lead the Warrior offense.
Livingston had 17 assists recently against Golden West, the 10th time this season he has reached double figures. "He's doing a good job in the assist area and taking charge, leading the team," Landreaux said. "A lot of Pac-10 schools and schools back East are interested in him. He has the potential to be one of the finest point guards in the country."
The success has caught on at the college, where Landreaux said the stands are often packed. "We've been filling those babies up really good. We're big time again and the kids are enjoying that."
Around the Horn: Roland H'Orvath has helped Santa Clara's basketball team get off to a 10-6 start by stepping into the starting lineup and averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds. The 6-4 junior out of Redondo Beach was Metropolitan Conference co-most valuable player last season at El Camino College.