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CSUN Still Rates With Coaches

October 30, 1998

Interesting timing.

On Thursday, two days after Cal State Northridge women's basketball Coach Michael Abraham was arrested on federal drug charges, the Big Sky Conference announced its preseason women's basketball poll.

And there was Abraham's team--er, former team--right near the top.

Northridge was picked by the conference coaches to finish second, behind defending co-champion Montana, and by the media to finish third.

That's high praise for a team that last season finished 14-14, 9-7 in conference, and was a doormat for many years before.

Abraham turned around the program after taking over four seasons ago and Big Sky coaches obviously anticipated he would further boost Northridge's level of play this season.

Oops!

Judith Brame, a senior Northridge athletic administrator, has taken over as coach of the Matadors on an interim basis. She last coached basketball in 1983.

Hmmm. Anyone care for a revote?

*

Some friend. Lure your team 2,000 miles from home, beat it to a pulp and send you on your way.

Of course, that's not the idea. Friendship really is at the root of the Northridge men's basketball team's game at Tennessee on Nov. 17.

Jerry Green, second-year coach of the No. 7-ranked Volunteers, gave Bobby Braswell a big break in 1993, hiring him as an assistant at Oregon the day Green was selected head coach.

Both have moved onward and upward. Braswell will begin his third season as Northridge coach, and Green brings back a loaded lineup from a team that finished 20-9 and qualified for the NCAA tournament last season.

"This will be a good trip for our guys to travel to Tennessee and play one of the best teams in the country," Braswell said. "This is the best team we've played in three years. We'll give it our best shot. And afterward, I'll have a chance to pick Coach Green's brain a little bit."

The Matadors will return a bit richer as well as wiser. Tennessee is paying a $40,000 guarantee to Northridge.

But Braswell said his friendship with Green can't be measured in greenbacks.

"He is the nicest man I've met in this business, I mean that from the bottom of my heart," Braswell said. "There is not a more genuine, caring person around."

*

The $40,000 guarantee from Tennessee is Northridge's largest of four that total nearly $100,000.

The Matadors will get $25,000 each for a game at UCLA on Dec. 19 and for participating in the Brigham Young tournament Dec. 11-12. They also will be paid $5,000 for playing in the Hawaii tournament Dec. 3-4.

"Hawaii doesn't pay much because everybody wants to go there," Braswell said. "The UCLA guarantee is very generous for us just taking a bus ride down the freeway."

The money goes to the Northridge athletic department, not specifically to the basketball program.

*

Northridge, led by high-profile transfer Rico Harris and five returning players, will take the court for the first time Sunday for an exhibition against the California All-Stars, one of four touring teams of former college players assembled by Dana and David Pump of Chatsworth.

The Matadors will have had only two weeks of practice, but Braswell is anxious to see his team compete. The game begins at 4 p.m. in the Northridge gym.

"All we want to do is find out where we are as a team so that we can go back to practice and have a clear idea of what we need to work on," he said.

The California All-Stars include guard Brooklyn McLinn, a former Northridge player, and recent Loyola Marymount products Jim Williamson, Ime Oduok and Ken Hotopp.

Northridge doesn't play its second exhibition until Nov. 10.

*

All-state running back Darrell Durham returned to action last week for the Glendale football team, rushing for a meager 33 yards in 14 carries in a 41-22 loss at Hancock.

Durham, who rushed for 1,600 yards last season, needs to return to form for the Vaqueros, who play first-place College of the Canyons on Saturday night in a Western State Conference Northern Division game at Canyons.

Durham took a week off because of personal reasons. Coach John Cicuto said the matter was family related and excused Durham.

"He's confided in me a bit about things," Cicuto said. "But he is a very private person and would rather not discuss it. I understand."

Durham ranks third among WSC rushers with 750 yards.

*

Chuck Sandlin and Melkon Melkonian will represent Moorpark on Saturday in the annual North-South all-star wrestling dual meet at Fresno City College.

Sandlin (184 pounds) and Melkonian (197) will be among 10 competitors for the South, one in each weight division.

The tournament, patterned after NCAA rules, began in the late 1970s with the site alternating each year between north and south. The meet has taken place in Fresno since 1991.

*

The Northridge women's soccer team plays its regular-season finale and final Big Sky Conference game today at noon against host Northern Arizona (7-9, 3-3 in conference play).

With a victory, the Matadors (6-12, 3-3), currently tied with Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington for third place, could secure a berth in the conference's four-team postseason tournament.

A loss would not necessarily eliminate Northridge, which finished last in the conference in 1997 with a 1-4 record.

Staff writers Fernando Dominguez, Steve Henson, Vince Kowalick and Tris Wykes contributed to this notes column.

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