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COLLEGE BASKETBALL 1996-97 | UC IRVINE

Anteaters Mending Broken Promise

November 21, 1996|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Coach Rod Baker didn't realize it at the time, but he might have defined UC Irvine's upcoming season.

After seeing the Anteaters lose to Global Sports All-Stars, a club team of former college players, in an exhibition game Nov. 6, Baker finished evaluating his team's performance with a brief statement.

"We [stank] tonight, we'll [stink] less tomorrow," he said.

Humble aspirations for a team beginning a season that once held promise.

If things had gone as expected, freshman center Andrew Carlson might have sat out and matured as a redshirt. Instead, he will play . . . a lot.

Under different circumstances, forward Paul Foster would be a hard-working, yet overlooked, post player. Instead, he will be the team's centerpiece.

In another season, freshman forward Brian Johnson could have had time to acclimate himself to college basketball. Instead, he will carry a heavy load.

Of course, it was supposed to be another season. That was before juniors Kevin Simmons and Brian Keefe, both 1996 second-team All-Big West selections, transferred to higher-profile Division I schools. That was before guard Clay McKnight, a member of the conference's all-freshman team, left Irvine and transferred to Pacific.

The time, though, has come to stop looking back.

"Nothing has changed [from last season]," Baker said. "Every day I want us to be a little better than the day before. I want us to go onto the floor and compete. If we do that every night, we'll be successful."

Even then, it might be difficult to chart their improvement using wins and losses.

The Anteaters, at times, had what amounted to a community college team on the court in their last exhibition game. Not in ability but in experience.

Johnson and guard Juma Jackson, both freshmen, will start. Carlson, a 6-foot-10, 248-pounder, will get a lot of minutes.

Guards Damion Pugh, Anthony Delacruz and Jeremy Lee, all freshmen, also might be used. All were good high school players, but making the jump to becoming good college players will take time.

Even the term "veteran" is being used liberally. Sophomore Lamarr Parker is the team's point guard, replacing Big West player of the year Raimonds Miglinieks. Parker averaged five minutes in 1995-96.

There will be little time to grow into their roles. The Anteaters play Utah (currently ranked fourth in the nation), Nevada Las Vegas, USC, San Francisco and Washington State before conference play.

"I don't know how it will help us, we just have to play the games," Baker said. "If we go 10-0, then I bet everybody will be happy."

Baker is an optimist and there are some positive aspects to be sure. First, the nonconference opposition will be tougher than anything Irvine sees in the Big West.

Foster, a 6-8 senior, averaged 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in seven starts last season. He averaged 7.4 and 5.6 overall. Baker said Foster, who is nursing a sore shoulder, will be among the best inside players in the conference.

Wendell Robinson, a 6-8 transfer from Santa Monica College, has shown signs of being a solid post player. He averaged 10.9 points and 6.5 rebounds last season.

Carlson, who has dropped 15 pounds since the school year began, played poorly in the first exhibition game, but was solid against Telecom, a club team from Portugal, a week ago. Dan Augulis, a 6-10 center who started 22 games last season, is out indefinitely because of a knee injury. Even without him, the Anteaters should hold their own inside.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

UC Irvine Facts and Figures

ROSTER

*--*

No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 3 Jeremy Lee G 5-10 165 Fr

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Comment: Averaged 24 points as a prep senior .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 4 Lamarr Parker G 6-1 180 So

*--*

Comment: Limited action at point guard in '95-96 .

*--*

No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 11 Damion Pugh G 6-2 165 Fr

*--*

Comment: 11 points, 5 assists a game in high school .

*--*

No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 12 Brian Johnson F 6-6 205 Fr

*--*

Comment: A key newcomer who will have to score .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 13 Juma Jackson G 6-4 180 Fr

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Comment: His outside shooting will be needed .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 21 Ken Simpson G 6-3 175 Sr

*--*

Comment: Walk-on played six games last season .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 25 Boris Reznik C 6-9 215 So.

*--*

Comment: Played only six minutes last season .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 32 Phil Negrete G 6-5 180 Fr

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Comment: 24 points, 7 rebounds a game in high school .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 34 Dan Augulis C 6-10 220 Sr

*--*

Comment: Returning starter; averaged 1.7 points .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 35 Anthony Delacruz G 6-4 190 Fr

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Comment: Walk-on averaged 10 points in high school .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 50 Paul Foster C/F 6-8 220 Sr

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Comment: Must improve last season's 7.4-point average .

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No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. 52 Wendell Robinson F 6-8 230 Jr

*--*

Comment: His inside play will be a key factor .

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