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Occidental's Newhall Upbeat About Team's Up-Tempo Style


During the past two seasons, the Occidental basketball team utilized an offensive attack that was as predictable--and deliberate--as the sunrise.

With 6-foot-9 center Chris Anderson as the focus, the Tigers plodded the length of the court and passed the ball until Anderson got free for a shot.

The result was an all-conference performance by Anderson but only a 26-25 record for Occidental.

Anderson has graduated and taken his 17 points-a-game average to Belgium, where he is playing professionally.

And now that he is gone, the Tigers will be traveling at a faster pace.

Buoyed by the addition of freshmen Hung Duong, Blair Slattery and Ryan Kombrink and junior Sandy Brown, a transfer from Cal State Northridge, Coach Brian Newhall has a team that will attempt to make up for its lack of size with speed and selflessness.

"I would say this will be more of an up-tempo team with the key word being versatile," said Newhall, who is beginning his third season. "We have more players that can do more things.

"The emphasis, clearly, will not be on the post. We'll shoot more three-point shots early and also (run the) fast break."

The Tigers, who will play in a tournament at UC San Diego this weekend, have six players back from a team that finished 10-15 overall and 6-6 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Brett Dennis, a 6-2 senior forward who averaged eight points and seven rebounds, is co-captain and the Tigers' most experienced player.

Senior center John Crawley, junior wings Jeff Muir and Nate Thompson and sophomore guards Everette Hill and Phil Engebretsen return. Senior guard Ryan Cartnell also is back after a two-year layoff.

But the Tigers' revamped playing style clearly is a reflection of the newcomers.

The 5-8 Duong averaged 24 points a game last season at Alhambra High. While he is not the ballhandler that All-SCIAC guard Ethan Caldwell was last season, Duong gives the Tigers a legitimate three-point threat from the point.

The 6-5 Slattery averaged 22 points a game last season at San Marino High where he was voted co-MVP of the Rio Hondo League. Slattery, an excellent shooter from the perimeter and inside, probably will guard the opposition's tallest player.

Kombrink, a 6-0 guard from Lakeside School in Seattle, probably is the Tigers' best outside shooter.

"None of those guys are arrogant, but all of them believe they can play--and play right now," Newhall said of the freshmen. "With them, we're not really talking about rebuilding."

The most intriguing addition to the Tigers' program is Brown, a 6-6, 175-pound forward. Brown played at Manual Arts High and was a backup at Northridge, which moved from the NCAA Division II level to Division I this season.

Brown suffered a broken finger in practice two weeks ago and will miss the first three weeks of the season. But he figures to be among the Tigers' scoring leaders when he returns.

"He's an excellent player," Newhall said. "His only problem is I'm asking him to guard bigger post players, which creates some matchup problems."

Brown, however, is not the only Occidental player who will be outsized.

When Brown returns, Newhall projects a starting lineup that will include Duong, Dennis, Hill and Slattery.

Newhall said the Tigers' height disadvantage will be offset by aggressiveness.

"This team is stronger and quicker to the ball," Newhall said. "They play hard and we have better jumpers than we've had in the past."

Occidental has not has not been to the playoffs since 1983 when it won the SCIAC championship.

Last season, Claremont, La Verne and Redlands tied for the conference title and all three teams will be formidable again.

Claremont, led by 6-6 senior center Henry Albrecht--the SCIAC player of the year in 1989--and 6-6 junior guard Chris Greene, is favored to repeat.

La Verne is led by All-SCIAC forward John Jackson and Redlands features All-SCIAC guard Jeff Sofro, a former standout at Glendale High.

Four starters who averaged in double figures last season return for Whittier.

Cal Lutheran, awaiting official membership in the conference, will play a full SCIAC schedule but its games will not count in the standings.

"The conference is way up," Newhall said. "Claremont and La Verne are at the top, but anyone else is capable of surprising someone."

Occidental will prepare for its Jan. 9 SCIAC opener against Pomona by playing a schedule that includes its own tournament.

The Tiger Cage Classic, to be held Jan. 4-5, features Menlo, Colorado College and Millikin University (Ill.).

Newhall is hoping the Tigers' smaller, quicker lineup and change in pace result in a change of fortune.

"I much prefer the smaller lineup because we have more guys that can do more things to create shots," Newhall said. "We're a little bit wilder. And I think we can knock some people off."

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