Let the game come to you.
Cal State Fullerton basketball Coach John Sneed preaches this to all his players. It's a vague cliche that means players shouldn't try to do too much; they shouldn't try to create baskets when scoring opportunities aren't there.
For the first two weeks of the season, the game came to and went right past Titan forward J.D. Green.
In five games, the 6-foot-6 junior transfer from Southern Methodist led the team in fouls (17), several of them charging calls after an out-of-control Green steamrolled opponents on drives.
Green was third in turnovers (12) but eighth in minutes played. He forced many of his shots and made only 31%. He had only 13 rebounds and was pulled from the starting lineup by Fullerton's third game.
But Saturday night against Mississippi Valley State, the game came to Green like a Nolan Ryan fastball--very quickly. Green swung and got all of it, scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 20 minutes to help the Titans defeat the Delta Devils, 109-100.
Clearly, the game's hectic pace--the teams combined for 209 points, 176 shots and 106 rebounds--contributed to Green's revival. Rarely did the Titans set up a half-court offense, so rarely did Green have time to ponder moves or shots.
Green's instincts carried him to his best game of the season. His outside shots came from the natural flow of the offense. He scored two fast-break baskets and converted three offensive rebounds into baskets. He turned the ball over once, had three assists and committed two fouls.
"He's a much better player in a spread-court game," Sneed said. "A lot of his plays came in the open court. If he can play like that, it will be a big plus for us."
As furious as the action was, Green said patience had a lot to do with his performance.
"I had been rushing things, I wasn't letting things come to me," he said. "When Coach Sneed took me out of the starting lineup, he told me to take my time. This feels good. It took me six games to play the way I know I can."
The Fullerton athletic department, miffed at Freedom Bowl organizers in 1984 over a perceived snub of the Titans' 11-1 football team, will reap some financial benefits from the Anaheim Stadium bowl game this year.
Colorado State will play Oregon at 5 p.m. Dec. 29, the same day the Fullerton basketball team was scheduled to play Colorado State, at home at 7:30 p.m. The Titans moved the game to 1 p.m. so Ram fans in town for the Freedom Bowl could attend the basketball game.
It was a prudent financial move.
Fullerton sports information director Mel Franks said Colorado requested 2,000 tickets for the basketball game "and I don't think they would have asked for them if they couldn't sell them."
A big crowd is expected and Franks has received credential requests from six Colorado newspapers, four radio stations and one television station to cover the basketball game.
"There's going to be an army of media," Franks said. "I don't know where I'm going to put them."
Franks will find a way. He filled 90 media requests for Fullerton's Feb. 24, 1983 game against Nevada Las Vegas, when the Titans upset the No. 1-ranked Runnin' Rebels, 86-78, in Titan Gym.
Trivia time: Which basketball player had the highest scoring game against Fullerton in the past 10 seasons: Joe Dumars, Kevin Johnson, Kevin Magee, Byron Scott, Charles Barkley, Rich Anema, Larry Johnson or Alphonso Ford?
A hint: He hasn't played a minute in the NBA.
Answer: Rich Anema, who scored 42 points for the University of the Pacific in an 85-77 overtime victory during the 1985-86 season. Mississippi Valley State's Ford (Saturday night), Pacific's Matt Waldron (1981-82) and UC Irvine's Magee (1980-81) each scored 39 against the Titans.
The much-awaited battle between Fullerton center Genia Miller and USC center Lisa Leslie will take place Friday, when the Titan women's team plays the Trojans in USC's Lyons Center.
Miller, a 6-3 senior, is averaging 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.1 blocked shots. She's shooting 61% from the field and 79% from the free-throw line. Leslie, a 6-5 freshman from Morningside High School, is averaging 20.7 points and 13.7 rebounds.
"Even before the season, players were saying they couldn't wait for the USC game because they think Genia is a better player," Fullerton Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah said. "I don't want it to come down to a showdown between those two. I just want to win the game."