Jeff Herdman and Ricky Butler, who were honored as UC Irvine's most valuable players at the basketball banquet Tuesday, have played their last games for the Anteaters. But they are still working out, in hopes that their careers aren't over.
Bill Mulligan, the Anteaters' coach until his retirement at the end of the season, said all year that Herdman and Butler would be playing somewhere next year.
The question is where.
This weekend, Butler will be playing in Tokyo as one of 32 college seniors selected for the Japan Classic, a four-team, round-robin tournament. The call came about two weeks ago.
"They told me to have my passport and meet them Sunday at the L.A. Hilton," Butler said before he left. "I'm looking forward to it."
Among players selected for the tournament are Oregon State's Teo Alibegovic, Arizona State's Isaac Austin, New Mexico State's Randy Brown, Alabama's Melvin Cheatum, USC's Ronnie Coleman, Oregon's Richard Lucas (formerly of Katella High School), Purdue's Jimmy Oliver, Louisiana State's Wayne Sims and Utah's Walter Watts.
The field usually includes some NBA prospects and last year included No. 2 pick Gary Payton, formerly of Oregon State and now with Seattle.
Red Rocha, director of the tournament, expects about 16 or 17 NBA scouts, and said a European scout attended last year's games.
Butler, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound center who has been disappointed that he hasn't been invited to other all-star games or camps, was chosen on the recommendation of "a friend," Rocha said.
"(Butler) got caught in a situation where people didn't know who to contact," Rocha said. "When a coach resigns, sometimes kids get lost. It's worthwhile to take someone like him, a big body. You can't tell; he might look good."
Butler averaged 17.8 points, and his 8.4-rebound average was second in the Big West Conference only to Nevada Las Vegas' Larry Johnson. He was fourth in the Big West in field-goal percentage, hitting 56.1%.
Herdman, a three-point specialist, has signed with agent Jim White of Basketball Players International. While Herdman works on his skills, White is looking for a place for him to play.
"If the options look good, I might try out for NBA teams, but it will probably be overseas," said Herdman, who averaged 18.1 points and made 42.7% of his three-point attempts, taking an astonishing 262 shots, nearly 100 more than any other player among the Big West three-point percentage leaders. His average of 3.7 successful three-pointers per game was among the nation's leaders.
"I'm working out every day," Herdman said. "Basically, I'm playing a lot and leaving it in the hands of my agent to get me a job. He says everyone needs a three-point shooter."
White said Herdman has received a letter from the Sacramento Kings asking if he would be interested in playing in their summer pro league, in order for the Kings to "get a good look at him."
"Jeff's a shooter, so he always has an opportunity to make the NBA. Obviously, that would be his first choice," said White, who has represented several players who are in Europe.
"We've also taken tapes of a few of his best games and sent them to Germany, Spain, France, Holland and Belgium. What we're trying to do is see if anybody in the NBA is sincerely interested in him, then if not, we hope to find a place in Europe."
The other awards at the basketball banquet honored sophomore forward Craig Marshall as the team's best defensive player, and junior point guard Gerald McDonald as Newcomer of the Year.
The 1991-92 tentative schedule for the men's basketball team includes a home game against Colorado, the team of former Cal State Long Beach Coach Joe Harrington, and a game at Utah against the Utes, who beat the Anteaters early last season before going on to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. Other nonconference opponents include Pepperdine, San Diego State, Loyola Marymount, Bradley and Lafayette.
Rod Baker, hired last week as Irvine's coach, brings more than one new aspect to the Anteater basketball program--or so says Cal State Long Beach Coach Seth Greenberg, who once worked with Baker when both were assistants at Columbia.
"It will \o7 definitely \f7 be the most harmonious situation Irvine and Long Beach have had in about four years," said Greenberg, who was an assistant to Harrington, no bosom buddy of Mulligan's. And Greenberg never endeared himself to Mulligan either.
"Rod's a very driven guy, very demanding and will work very, very hard," Greenberg said. "I think his players will like him. He's a great person. I think he'll do a good job."
Baker was at Columbia from 1979-82.
It came down to the 1,600-meter relay, and it came down to the final runner, but Shelly Tochluk passed two runners on her anchor leg to give Irvine a victory at the wire--and, for the first time in school history, a victory over the Fresno State women's team in a regular-season, multi-team meet.
Irvine's 72 points edged Fresno State's 67, and San Diego State finished third with 42 Saturday at UCI Stadium.