This week's preseason signing period for high school basketball recruits will probably pass without Cal State Dominguez Hills collecting any signatures.
But Toros Coach Dave Yanai said the early signings can have a positive effect on his and other Division II programs although most of the players who sign commit to big-name schools.
"For us, as a Division II school, we definitely have an advantage," Yanai said. "We don't have to recruit kids who are committed (elsewhere). We can recruit kids who are legitimate prospects to sign with us."
Yanai said his position is also helped because once the early signing period is over--in this case, through Wednesday--there are fewer Division I scholarships to go around, and some of them have been given to players who may go on to have disappointing senior years.
"They (Division I schools) make a commitment early. Those scholarships are gone," Yanai said. "We have a shot at a lot of kids who blossom during the season. I think Division I schools make some mistakes, and they're committed."
Yanai, coming off a championship in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. and an appearance in the NCAA Division II regionals and sporting a career record of 153-114, has a limited budget and recruits mostly in the Los Angeles area but has made a career spotting raw nuggets and late bloomers.
In the past, that has included William Alexander, Tim Watson, Kevin Burrell and John Nojima, who weren't highly recruited out of high school but set records for the Toros.
"We kind of look very closely as they play during the winter," Yanai said. "Late bloomers, so to speak, surface. Maybe they're kids who are up from junior varsity or didn't play much in 11th grade, or maybe they grew two or three inches over the summer. I look for those--kids in whom you can see the athleticism--and it's a situation of teaching them the game and working on fundamentals so they help you down the road as juniors and seniors."
Yanai has on occasion coveted a recruit for early signing. So far he has never gotten one. Still, Yanai said the week of early signings "helps us more than hurts."
Yanai will go after a player in the early signing period if he thinks he has a chance to sign him. But generally, "We kind of have to wait for Division I. We have to save our bullets so we don't waste time."
As expected, Dominguez Hills' kiddie-corps soccer team finished tied for third in the tough California Collegiate Athletic Assn., a pretty fair accomplishment for 10 freshmen and five sophomores. Coach Marine Cano, who expected to start slowly and have trouble scoring, was 0-5-1 opening the season but went 5-5-3 in the last 13 games.
The season also saw the emergence of Joe Flanagan, who finished fourth in the CCAA in scoring with 13 goals and 4 assists. The sophomore out of South Torrance may be the next dominant scorer in the CCAA, because the three who finished ahead of him--Johnny Lima of Cal Poly Pomona and Joey Kirk and Rodney Batts out of Cal State Northridge--graduate. Flanagan may have turned the season around for the Toros when he booted a school-record four goals in a 4-0 victory over Metro State.
Also returning next season is Ryan Oshima, second on the team in scoring with 4 goals and 2 assists. In recruiting, Cano will concentrate on shoring up the defense.
Where Are They Now: Former Loyola Marymount stars Forrest McKenzie and Keith Smith have dropped out of the NBA, at least for now. McKenzie is playing for a pro team in Israel. Smith didn't survive the final roster cut of the Milwaukee Bucks last week. Chris Nikchevich, the Lions point guard last season, is finishing his degree at Loyola and is coaching the sophomore team at his alma mater, Crespi High. He's hoping to catch on in the new International Basketball Assn. for players 6-foot-4 and under next spring. Another IBA hopeful is former Cal State Dominguez Hills star William Alexander. The all-time CCAA scoring leader is working for Toys-R-Us while waiting for the league to start.
Nikchevich, meanwhile, has been hanging around Loyola Coach Paul Westhead in some practices but said he does not foresee a future in coaching. "When you think about it, all the coaches I've known, I've liked very few of them, Coach Westhead excepted," he noted with a laugh."
UCLA all-time great basketball Coach John Wooden will speak at a fund-raiser for the Cabrillo Marine Museum in San Pedro on Dec. 4. Wooden, who won 10 NCAA titles in 12 years before retiring in 1975, will speak on his "Pyramid of Success" starting at 7 p.m. at the museum, 3720 Stephen White Drive.
The Wooden pyramid emphasizes principles of success in sports that can be applied to business. The museum will open at 6:30, and Wooden's talk will be followed by refreshments. Admission is $25, a contribution to the museum.