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Matadors Need a Few Tall Ones : Northridge Basketball Team (8-20) Must Add Height to Become a Winner

March 15, 1995|MIKE HISERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Wanted: Males with college athletic eligibility. Must be at least 6-foot-8. Must be able to run and chew gum simultaneously. Ability to jump and shoot a basketball preferred.

Interested parties should contact Pete Cassidy, Cal State Northridge basketball coach. Those who qualify could earn a free college education.

OK, so maybe a help-wanted ad is overdoing it a bit.

A little bit.

Point is, Northridge needs a few basketball players. Tall ones.

When the buzzer sounded Saturday night at the conclusion of the American West Conference tournament championship game, the eligibility of Northridge's tallest players--centers Shane O'Doherty and Peter Micelli--also ran out.

The tallest players left on the roster are Tom Samson and Ruben Oronoz, both of whom are listed at 6-7, but in reality are closer to 6-5.

"We need some size," Cassidy said, "a couple of inside guys who can bang and play."

Sound familiar? Yep, every other basketball coach in America wants the same thing.

The difference is, most of those other coaches can recruit out of their back yard.

Cassidy is, for the time being, limited to California. The money he is able to spend on recruiting--a figure he estimates as $5,000 to $7,000--doesn't allow him to venture outside state lines.

"Most of the guys of any size and worth are seen and noted and gobbled up" by larger and more established Division I programs, Cassidy said.

Of course, the pickings improve when there is a bumper crop.

So how does it look with the April 12 NCAA letter-of-intent day rapidly approaching?

"Lean," Cassidy said. "Very lean."

At this point, the coach said Tuesday, he would settle for a couple of 6-7 or 6-8 players who can run, are aggressive and can jump.

He has the prototype, only a bit smaller, in Mike Dorsey. Cassidy would like a couple more Dorseys with a few more inches.

"I like everything about Michael except his free-throw shooting," Cassidy said.

Picky, picky.

Dorsey, a 6-4 junior, made 57.6% of his free throws in his first season with the Matadors, but that was the only dent in his game. He led the team with averages of 12.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

In his last seven games, Dorsey reached double figures in rebounding and scoring five times. In the American West Conference tournament title game, he had 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, after which he disconsolately sat on the floor following an 83-82 defeat to Southern Utah.

"That's another thing I like about Mike," Cassidy said. "He hates to lose."

Unfortunately for Dorsey, he had to get used to it. Northridge finished with a record of 8-20, 4-2 in the inaugural American West campaign.

Northridge got beat up early in the season by a schedule that included No. 1-ranked UCLA and NCAA tournament teams Cal State Long Beach, Cincinnati and Xavier.

Cassidy has promised to back off a little on next year's schedule, but already games are tentatively set against three tournament teams--Oklahoma State, Brigham Young and Tennessee Chattanooga--with a fourth against Tulane possibly to come.

Northridge has five scholarships to give after having promised one of its original six to Kevin Deal, a guard who helped College of the Sequoias reach the State junior college tournament.

Trenton Cross, a freshman from Reseda High who came on strong late in the season, probably will start at point guard with Deal in reserve. Robert Hill, who started at point guard, is likely to play mostly shooting guard next season as a senior.

Samson and Oronoz are Northridge's returning forwards, with Eric Gray capable of playing shooting guard and small forward.

Whether Cassidy can improve this season's record--and keep his career record (327-317) above .500 will depend on his recruiting success the next few weeks.

News this week that Northridge is being considered as an addition to the Big Sky Conference might help. So too might the passage last week of a student fee hike for athletics.

The Matadors will, in the future, probably have a better arena in which to play. Now Northridge needs the players to fill it.

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