Keith Billingslea, a 6-foot-2 guard-forward from South Gate High School, has left the basketball team at the University of Northern Arizona and says he will enroll at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
A starter at Northern Arizona, Billingslea confirmed last Friday that he has asked the university for his outright release so he can begin practicing with Dominguez Hills. He would become eligible to play for the Toros next December, according to Toros Coach Dave Yanai, if he passes the NCAA-required 24 semester units of class work. Billingslea said he will begin classes at Dominguez Hills when the spring semester gets under way Monday.
Reached at his home in Los Angeles, Billingslea cited his desire for a better educational setting as the major reason for the change.
"It was nothing bad," he said. "I just felt that in this time in my life education was more important than anything."
Billingslea said Northern Arizona did not provide enough classroom tutoring for his needs. He also criticized Lumberjack Coach Pat Rafferty for a "lack of consistency" in coaching style.
Rafferty was unavailable for comment, and university officials said only that Billingslea had quit the team for "personal reasons."
Billingslea said he chose to transfer to Dominguez Hills in Carson because it is within driving distance of his Los Angeles home, he has heard favorable things about Yanai and the university offers better educational services than he was receiving in Arizona.
The 215-pound power player is considered a pleasant gift for Yanai, who is struggling to get the Toros (5-12) back on the winning track after several successful years.
"He is a very, very good player," Yanai said. "We're happy to have him."
Once he enrolls, Billingslea can practice with the Toros, but he cannot receive any financial aid until he receives a written release from Northern Arizona.
A graduate of South Gate High School, Billingslea was chosen by The Times as Southeast area Player of the Year in 1986 and earned a scholarship to Fresno State, but after his freshman season he became homesick and quit the team. He transferred to Harbor College in Wilmington and last year averaged 18.8 points a game, earning first-team all-conference honors.
At Northern Arizona, Billingslea started 11 of his 12 games at off-guard and averaged 13.5 points a game.