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Oates Looking for Masterstroke

Basketball: Mustangs have achieved everything but an NAIA title in his three seasons as coach.


NEWHALL — In three years under Coach Bill Oates, The Master's College men's basketball team has an 87-17 record and three trips to the NAIA Division I tournament.

The next goal: A national title, of course. But to realize that, the Mustangs will have to improve their defense and rebounding.

Master's, which has averaged 87.8 points per game over the last three seasons, gave up 98, 91 and 108 points in NAIA tournament losses the past three seasons.

The Mustangs, ranked third in last season's final NAIA poll, were eliminated in the second round of the 32-team national tournament by eventual champion Oklahoma City, 108-85.

"It's the teams who can really rebound and play great defense that always have a chance to win in the national tournament," Oates said. "If you can do those two things well, you always have a chance."

Master's, which plays at Westmont in a season-opener at 7:30 tonight, should again score points in bunches. A nine-man rotation that includes four players 6-feet-7 or taller should help the Mustangs rebound.

Guard Mike Penberthy and center Leo Gorauskas are the only two returning starters from last season's 28-7 team, but a mixture of freshmen, returning players and a talented transfer give Oates a nice blend of what he describes as "youth and experience."

Penberthy, a 6-foot-3 senior, led Master's with 23.2 points and 4.3 assists, in addition to leading the team in three-point shooting by making 127 of 290, 43.8%. He earned All-American honors and says he is in "the best shape" of his life.

Penberthy can concentrate even more on scoring since he will no longer be required to play point guard. That position will be rotated between Jerome Joseph, a 6-foot freshman from Chatsworth High, and reserves Jon Ordonio and Joey Penberthy, Mike's brother.

Gorauskas, a 6-9 senior center, led the Mustangs with 7.5 rebounds a game and was the team's third-leading scorer at 14.8. He will be joined on the starting front line by 6-7 Sean Davis and 6-5 Joclin Julmist.

Davis is a sophomore transfer from Lambuth University in Tennessee, where he averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Julmist is a redshirt freshman from Freeport, The Bahamas, who missed last season to rehabilitate a knee injury.

Reggie Robinson, a 6-8 senior who attended the same high school in Tennessee as Davis, and Jeff Mobley, a 7-foot junior, should also play pivotal roles for Master's.

"We have a team that has a lot of versatility," Oates said. "We can use a lot of different combinations of players and that should help."

Although Master's might be more versatile, that might not translate into more success.

The Mustangs have their toughest schedule yet under Oates and they must win the Southwest District tournament in Dallas in March to get an automatic berth in the NAIA tournament in Tulsa.

Master's won the Far West Region Independent tournament each of the past three years to qualify for the NAIA playoffs. But that loosely affiliated conference disbanded after some member schools moved to the NAIA Division II level.

The Mustangs have joined a nine-team district that includes Arkansas Tech and Harding (Ark.), teams that played in the NAIA tournament last year.

"I think this is going to be one of those teams that improves a lot as the season goes on," Oates said. "The schedule is the most difficult we've had by far, but I'm hoping that will make us tougher by the end of the season."

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