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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Despite Setbacks, Northridge Exudes Confidence

Women's basketball: Stricken team, with turmoil behind it, looks toward special season.

November 14, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — The shock, the tears, even the stunning catharsis of scoring 103 points in an exhibition game--it's all behind the Cal State Northridge women's basketball team now.

Confident and hopeful despite enduring three weeks of unimaginable turmoil, the Matadors open tonight at home with a nonconference game against Oakland.

"We are nothing but ready," said Edniesha Curry, a freshman All-American guard last season and the Matadors' best hope to transform tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Michael Abraham, the coach who recruited every current player, has repaired to Portland with his family and attorney, bracing for a legal battle against federal charges that he distributed more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. He was arrested Oct. 28 after practice, setting off a series of events that included the resignation of Athletic Director Paul Bubb and his top assistant, Judith Brame, who also had replaced Abraham as basketball coach.

At that point, Northridge President Blenda J. Wilson allowed the players to decide on a new coach. They went with Frozena Jerro, 28, who was about to begin her second season as an assistant.

In three often-excruciating seasons, Abraham lifted Northridge from a perennial loser to an entertaining, up-tempo team that went 14-14 last season and finished tied for third in the Big Sky Conference with a 9-7 record.

"We turned the corner last year and have great confidence," Curry said. "There is a feeling among us that this will be a special season."

Curry led the Big Sky with a 17.1 scoring average and appeared improved in the exhibition game, scoring 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting. She also had seven assists.

If Northridge indeed is better, the largest reason probably will be its smallest player, 5-foot-4 point guard Tina Greer, who sat out last season after transferring from Xavier.

Greer, a sophomore, exudes as much confidence as Curry and has similar skills. She had 10 assists, 14 points and eight steals in the exhibition.

"We've just been waiting and waiting to get the season going," Greer said. "Everybody is anxious."

More quickness in the backcourt comes from junior Jamilah Jones and sophomore LaShaunda Fowler, a left-handed shooter who posted the second-highest times in three sprint events for the Northridge track team last spring.

Rebounding was a weakness last season. Neda Milic, a 6-1 sophomore forward from Serbia, led the team despite wearing a heavy brace on her left knee while recovering from ligament surgery. Milic, healthy now, is expected to regain her form of 1993-94 when she was chosen Yugoslavian player of the year.

Also at forward are Lynda Amari, a 6-1 junior from Ventura College, and Natalia Jonas, a 5-10 sophomore who helped San Jose City College to the state junior college championship.

At center is Viveca Lof, a 6-3 junior from Sweden who averaged 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, Keisha Harris, a 6-3 junior transfer from Cerritos College, and Leah Rice, a 6-2 freshman from Sacramento.

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