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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Southland Players Make for a Shipshape Team

March 11, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

Today's trivia question: Which of 64 NCAA men's basketball tournament teams has the most players from greater Los Angeles?

Hint: It's neither UCLA nor USC.

The answer is the Naval Academy, which has enough Angelenos to field a starting lineup. Actually, only Hassan Booker from University High and Michael Green of Brentwood start, but Terrell Hickmon from Playa del Rey and Skip Victor of Cerritos are playing significant minutes as the Midshipmen (20-8) prepare to play Utah (26-3) Friday in the first round of the West Regional.

Navy assistant coach Doug Wojcik says the L.A. area is fertile ground for recruiting good players (but not so good that they have NBA aspirations) who are looking for a less frenetic environment and whose parents want to know where their children are each night. Curfew is at 1 a.m. on Saturdays but no later than 10 p.m. on other nights.

The best example is Booker, who even at 6 feet 3 holds his own with college power forwards but realizes he won't be the NBA's next Karl Malone.

Booker, a junior, was raised in the city by his aunt and uncle. After his aunt died of cancer when he was 14, he helped his uncle, a California Highway patrolman, raise two younger sisters.

He had the grades but not the SAT score to attend Navy. So the school enrolled him at Naval Academy Prep for a year and told him to earn a place in the freshman class. Not only did he do that, he has become a serious student.

That doesn't mean he's always a serious guy. With 25 points and 13 rebounds in the Patriot League championship game, he was named the tournament's most valuable player. Upon receiving the trophy, he thanked his teammates.

"If they didn't miss shots, I couldn't get the rebounds," he said.

*

Bill Nepfel, who along with wife Mary coaches the University of San Francisco women's basketball team, doesn't see the NCAA's logic in sending the Lady Dons to Gainesville, Fla. in the first round to play USC.

"Why can't we just drive down to San Luis Obispo and play?" he asks. "Maybe save a little money?" . . .

Jim Harrick, analyzing the men's tournament for Fox Sports West, said Arizona will lose in the first game to South Alabama. . . .

He also said UCLA will advance to the Final Four, the players having put the early season controversy behind them. "They've forgotten their old coach," he said. . . .

The old coach could have a future in television. He's as candid--but mercifully not as loud--as Dick Vitale, who also sees the Bruins in the Final Four. . . .

Long Beach State baseball Coach Dave Snow lost one game last week without putting on his uniform. Further research discovered that he has won only 498 games instead of 499, meaning he'll have to wait until this weekend's series at UC Santa Barbara for a chance at 500. . . .

That could fall on the same day Long Beach State women's softball Coach Pete Manarino wins his 500th. He has got 496 victories going into doubleheaders Friday and Saturday. . . .

Who needs the media to stir up a rivalry between the Ducks and Kings when we have Ron Wilson? Upbeat now that he's coaching one of the NHL's hottest teams, Wilson hit his season low after a Feb. 20 loss at the Forum. "I kinda thought, 'We're dead if we can't beat the Kings," he says. . . .

I wonder if Wilson would do us a favor and declare next week's game at the Pond against the Kings a "Guaranteed Win Night." . . .

That's what Long Beach Ice Dog Coach John Van Boxmeer did Sunday night. The 3,500 spectators were guaranteed free tickets to the Ice Dogs' next home game if they lost to the Detroit Vipers. Trailing at the end of two periods, the Ice Dogs saved some of owner Barry Kemp's money with a 5-3 victory.

With Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson and Jim Edmonds, General Manager Bill Bavasi boasts the Angels have baseball's best outfield. "Other GMs say their guys are the best," he says. "They're wrong. I'm right." . . .

I appreciate Bavasi's loyalty. It's certainly a good outfield. But I'm not sure it's even the best in the division. Let's compare numbers at season's end with Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and a left fielder to be named later and see who's right. . . .

The Angels allowed pitcher Mark Langston's friend, musician Bruce Hornsby, to appear in a game Saturday as a pinch-runner. But he's not a prospect now that he no longer has the Range.

*

While wondering which Carolina is finer, I was thinking: Stanford will win the women's tournament, I know Jamaal "Silk" Wilkes and Malik "Silk" Sealy is no Jamaal Wilkes, the NFL should bring back instant replay, a team to the Coliseum and mean, snarling, toothless middle linebackers.

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