It was supposed to be a memorable season for forward Terry Ross of the Cal Poly Pomona men's basketball team.
After a junior season in which he was fifth in the NCAA Division II in rebounds and made the All-West Region first team, Ross was listed among the top 25 small-college players in the nation by the Sporting News before this season.
But Ross, 24, would prefer to forget the way it started.
Ross was battling for a loose ball in an intra-squad scrimmage in early November when he slipped and fell on his left hand, breaking it in two places.
The injury forced Ross to miss the first four games. But since returning, he has quickly regained his All-American form.
In his first 10 games this season, Ross has averaged a California Collegiate Athletic Assn.-leading 23.5 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds.
Ross said it was frustrating to start the season with an injury--the first broken bone he suffered in his career--but it was easier knowing he wouldn't miss too many games.
"I knew I could come back from it, but it was disappointing at the time," he said. "It was hard not playing, but, after sitting out the first few games, it's great to be back."
Ross says the injury may have provided him a good lesson in the long run.
"It allowed me to see that injuries can occur at any time, and I was able to sit on the sideline and see how the coaches see the game and watch the other players to see how they perform," he said. "So it was kind of a learning experience."
Ross said it was difficult adjusting to playing with a protective wrap around his hand, although it didn't appear to be a problem when he scored 27 points in his first game against San Diego State. But he says he is nearly fully recovered from the injury.
"It's 100% now and I've played two games without the wrapping," he said. "It feels good that I don't have to play with any padding."
The only lingering side effect is the weight Ross lost because he couldn't lift weights while he was injured.
"I lost about seven or eight pounds because I wasn't able to lift anything, but I'm trying to get the weight back now," said Ross, who still has a muscular build at 6-feet-6 and 205 pounds.
Aside from the physical adjustments, Ross said he also has tried to make changes in his game from last season, when he averaged 21.1 points and 11.5 rebounds.
"I'm trying to do a little more this year, not just my scoring," he said. "I'm trying to show (people) more aspects of my game. Last year I came in with athletic ability, but this year it's athletic ability combined with mental toughness."
Ross said it has helped that the Broncos have added Division I transfers such as forward Eric Mobley from Portland and Marcellus Lee from Loyola Marymount on their front line.
"Right now I'm just trying to be a smarter player," Ross said. "I don't feel like I have to do all the scoring or do everything out there. I'm not the big man on campus anymore. I'm just one of them, but that serves me pretty fine. I know my role and it's to do anything to win and take my game to a higher plane when I have to."
With the addition of Mobley and Lee, plus all-state junior college transfer Andre Harrell at guard, Ross said the team has made strides from last season, when it tied Chapman for last in the conference.
"I think we have more athletes, and we just have stronger rebounders," he said. "The problem is finding consistency, but we have more potential than last year."
Ross is hoping the potential will develop enough for the Broncos to reach the CCAA postseason tournament for the first time. Pomona will begin conference play Friday with an 8-6 record.
Ross was an all-city player at McClymonds High School in Oakland in 1984 and played briefly at Contra Costa Community College in San Pablo the next season before leaving school and working in a supermarket.
"I sat out about three years, and at the time I felt like basketball wasn't for me," he said. "I went to a JC, but basketball just wasn't my bag."
He felt much better about the game when he returned to play at Merritt College in Oakland as a sophomore in the 1987-88 season and made an immediate impact. He averaged 25.9 points, fourth among state community college players, and was second in the state at 16.2 rebounds.
"When I came back this time it was because I wanted to do it," he said. "I got a second chance and not everyone gets a second chance in life."
With the start of play in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this week, it is shaping up as an outstanding year for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
Claremont has emerged as the favorite in the men's and women's divisions.
In men's play, Claremont has a 10-0 record--the only undefeated college basketball team in Southern California. The Stags are off to their best start and are approaching the school's record winning streak of 14 games established in 1983-84.
They figure to receive strong challenges from La Verne and Redlands, which finished in a three-way tie for first in the SCIAC with Claremont last season.
Claremont (9-3) is picked over Redlands (7-3) among the women.