Two key basketball players will not return to Cal State Dominguez Hills this season, and that means Coach David Yanai has only one returning starter, junior Anthony Blackman, a 6-7 center.
Missing are 6-5 forward Tony Akins, who transferred to UC Santa Barbara, and 6-3 guard Vico Nomaaea, who is on a two-year mission for the Mormon Church.
Akins ranked second on the team in rebounding and scoring last season and was considered essential to the Toros' hope of defending their California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title. Rumors that he was "shopping around" on the Division 1 level surfaced last spring. Akins informed Yanai in July that he would not return to the Division 2 school. He must redshirt this season according to NCAA transfer rules.
"I hope he doesn't get lost in the shuffle (at Santa Barbara)," Yanai said.
Without the pair, Yanai says the Toros probably will use a three-guard offense and run more.
"We have excellent people coming out for this team. They have a good work ethic and cohesiveness you don't see this early in the season. I feel very good about this season," he said.
Barry Johnson, a guard, returns, as does sophomore forward Mike Rudberg. But Rudberg has a fractured toe and cannot practice until November.
The Toros will play an exhibition at home against a team from Australia on Nov. 13 and open the regular season at home Nov. 25 against Grand Canyon College of Phoenix.
A year ago Loyola Marymount basketball Coach Paul Westhead took a chance on a Banning High string bean named Marcus Slater and gave him a scholarship. Slater hadn't played much at Banning but Westhead and his assistants saw talent in the 6-7 youngster.
Slater was redshirted last season, has grown to 6-9 and, as college practice opened today, he is expected to see considerable playing time. Coaches say he looks so promising that, had he shown the same potential in high school, Loyola would have had trouble recruiting him.
"It's a great situation," Athletic Director Brian Quinn said. "We've got a 6-9 freshman whom Paul saw something in, and now we've got a kid Paul thinks can help, and he's had a year to settle into school."
Slater's emergence creates the possibility that another player might be redshirted. Sophomore Marcellus Lee, who didn't play as a freshman and wasn't allowed to practice with the team due to academic ineligibility, has reportedly been discussed but it's a tough choice not to use a healthy 6-10 player even though he may be rusty. And if he were to redshirt he will have gone two years without college competition.
More likely choices are 6-8 freshman Chris Knight, considered another dark-horse recruit, and 6-9 sophomore Jeff Roscoe, who saw limited action as a freshman and figures to see less time this season behind Hank Gathers, Mike Yoest, John Veargason and Slater.
Knight's situation wasn't helped by the discovery this week that he has a stress fracture in his left foot. The freshman out of Los Angeles High probably was injured over the summer. A bone scan confirmed the fracture.
Knight will be out two to four weeks but probably will practice before there is a decision on whether to redshirt.
Loyola will play two preview games before officially opening the season over Thanksgiving weekend. The Lions will play their annual Crimson-Gray public intrasquad game at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 and an exhibition against an Australian all-star team at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21. Loyola opens the season Nov. 28 and 29 in the Joe Lapchick Tournament at St. John's in New York.
This column was compiled by staff writers Paul McLeod and Alan Drooz.