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Cal Poly Pomona's Mobley Catches His Second Wind : Basketball: After completing his eligibility at Division I Portland, a loophole in NCAA rules allows him to play another season at Division II Cal Poly Pomona.

December 20, 1990|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For Eric Mobley, a forward for the Cal Poly Pomona men's basketball team, this season has been like an unexpected bonus.

As a senior at the University of Portland last season, Mobley, 22, thought his career had come to an end when his team lost in the West Coast Conference tournament in March.

It was after the season that Mobley, who sat out his freshman season because he didn't meet the NCAA's Proposition 48 entrance requirements, learned about the possibility of playing another season.

As a result of an interpretation of the Proposition 48 rule at the 1988 NCAA convention, Mobley was told by his coaches at Portland that he would be eligible to play another season. The only stipulation was that it would have to be at a Division II or III school instead of Division I.

The Portland coaches were initially informed about the ruling by Pomona Coach Dave Bollwinkel, who was interested in having Mobley play for the Broncos. Portland Coach Larry Steele said he was surprised when he first heard about the possibility.

"I didn't know it was a possibility," Steele said. "That point had been brought to my attention by an assistant (Art Wilmore), who had spoken with the Pomona coach, and he told me about it. When he told me, I think my first words were, 'Are you sure?' "

Bollwinkel, who had confirmed the interpretation of the Proposition 48 ruling with an NCAA official, was considerably more certain about the loophole that existed.

"It's not so much a loophole as it is an unexpected avenue for some people to play a fifth year," he said. "It really only goes for one more year because that's when Prop. 48 came into affect for us (in Division II)."

Once Mobley was informed about the ruling, Bollwinkel didn't have to say much to persuade Mobley to transfer to Pomona. That's because Bollwinkel had previously recruited Mobley when he was a senior at Helix High in San Diego and the coach was an assistant at San Jose State.

"When he found out who the coach was at Pomona, that was all he needed to hear," Bollwinkel said. "He didn't even make a visit here before he committed to the program."

Mobley said he made his decision after a phone conversation with Bollwinkel.

"I knew Coach Bollwinkel as far as his coaching and discipline went and I knew he would be a good coach for me," Mobley said.

For Mobley, his second senior season makes up for the season he missed as a freshman.

"I look at it as a bonus year and it's like a fourth year for me," he said. "Last year was my senior year but this is my real senior year."

It is apparent that Mobley is not about to waste this opportunity. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound forward, who has started four of Pomona's seven games, is third on the team in scoring at 12.3 a game and second in rebounding with a 7.9 average.

Not that Mobley's contributions are unexpected. Last season Mobley started every game at forward for Portland and averaged 7.3 points and a team-leading 5.8 rebounds. He was also a high school star at Helix, the same school that produced former UCLA and NBA star Bill Walton.

"I think he just developed over the summer before his last year here," Steele said. "That's when he really started to come into his own. He started to make a big contribution to our program last year and he really needed another season to show what he could do."

It didn't take Mobley long to make a significant contribution since he joined the Broncos. When All-California Collegiate Athletic Assn. forward Terry Ross suffered a broken hand in preseason practice and missed the team's first four games, Mobley stepped in and led Pomona in rebounding and was second in scoring.

"He gives us significant depth on the front line," Bollwinkel said. "We obviously have increased our front-line depth, which helps us in the case of injuries."

Bollwinkel said Mobley also provides invaluable experience as a former Division I player.

"Probably his greatest assets are his long arms," Bollwinkel said. "He has very long arms and that helps us inside. But he also gives us a lot of experience and playing ability.

"He has a lot of savvy on the court. In a game against Biola, he knew how to slough off a guy and create a lane for us. It's the little things like that he does."

But the move to Division II has been more difficult than Mobley first thought it would be.

"I thought it would be (easy) in the beginning," he said. "I thought it would be a breeze but after seeing some of the players in the league, I've seen it isn't. I have to work just as hard to keep up with them as I did at Portland."

On the court, Mobley has had to become accustomed to Pomona's tempo of play, which is faster than Portland's.

"At the University of Portland we played more like a slowdown team and we would only fast break when we could," he said. "Here it's more of a transition game like Loyola Marymount."

There was also the additional roles that he has had to assume with the Broncos.

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