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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / 2000-2001 PREVIEW

Lions Aren't Close to Roaring

Loyola Marymount: After 2-26 season, things probably won't get much better, even with new coach Steve Aggers.

November 16, 2000|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How bad did it get for Loyola Marymount last season?

Consider that when coach Charles Bradley resigned two weeks before season's end, the Lions simply stopped practicing. It was the final blow to a 2-26 season that didn't include a single victory over a Division I team.

"It was worse than you can imagine," said Pablo Machado, the team's Venezuelan-born senior center. "As bad as it could get, that's how it got."

As the losses piled up, the Lions began to lose the students, the administration and their own sense of pride.

A program that had once regularly appeared in the NCAA tournament and had arguably the most exciting team in college basketball had crumbled.

Steve Aggers is in the midst of the rubble. Hired in April from Eastern Washington, the former Pepperdine assistant believes Loyola can again become the jewel of the West Coast Conference.

It will take time.

"Our emphasis is on making this team as good as we can make it this year," Aggers said. "I say, 'Judge us not on where we've been, but where we're going.' "

Aggers knows what it's like to rebuild a program from scratch. In five years, he took Eastern Washington from cellar-dwelling status to the Big Sky Conference championship last season.

It could take more than a year to get the Lions out of the WCC basement. Seven players left the program after last season and Machado and forward Elton Mashack are the only returnees.

But Mashack, a 6-foot-5 senior who averaged 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, said there is hope, something that wasn't evident during the 1999-00 disaster.

"Coach [Aggers] has come in and turned the whole system around," said Mashack, who has shed 12 pounds and is down to 205. "It may not show a lot in wins this year but for the future, I know we're going to be successful."

With a late start in recruiting after being hired, Aggers brought in several junior college transfers to immediately shore up the roster.

Eurskine Robinson, from Palisades High and College of the Canyons, will start at point guard. Shooting guard Robert Davis returned to the program after attending Chandler Gilbert College in Arizona last year.

Other transfers already in the program--6-8 forward Greg Lakey from USC and 6-6 forward Philipp Czernin from Hawaii--are now eligible to play and will support Mashack and Machado. Czernin will start and Lakey figures to be the Lions' sixth man.

The future looks promising. Last week, Loyola signed 6-1 point guard Charles Brown of Concord De La Salle and 6-9 forward Andy Osborn of Longmont, Colo. Loyola will also have Kent Dennis and Keith Kincade, both transfers from West Virginia, next season.

The reality this season is that the Lions will be outmanned. At 6-10, Machado is the team's only true inside presence. The regular rotation will be only eight or nine deep after Aggers held back two scholarships for the current recruiting season.

But Machado said no matter how many or how few games they win, nothing can be as bad as what he went through last year.

"From spring to this point, I feel like I've improved more than in all the time I've been here," he said. "Coach Bradley was a great guy, but . . ."

Said Mashack: "I will be disappointed if we end up in the same condition we were in last year."

Aggers said most of his time has been spent building morale. He has to be optimistic. When everything has fallen, you've got to start somewhere.

"The program had slipped so far in so many areas," he said. "It's a tough, tough job but I'm excited to be at LMU.

"We have a program that was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1990. We want to restore the roar."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Loyola Marymount / Lions at a Glance

Date: Opponent, Time

Friday: VANGUARD, 7

Tuesday: at UC Irvine, 7

Nov. 25: at USC, 7

Nov. 28: at Colorado, 6

Dec. 2: at Idaho State, 6

Dec. 5: CAL STATE FULLERTON, 7

Dec. 9: at Sacramento State, 4

Dec. 16: PORTLAND STATE, 7

Dec. 18: LONG BEACH STATE, 7

Dec. 21: at Loyola Chicago, 5

Dec. 30: at UC Santa Barbara, 7

Jan. 3: at Nevada Las Vegas, 7:30

Jan. 6: SAN DIEGO STATE, 7

Jan. 12: *SAN DIEGO, 7

Jan. 13: *SANTA CLARA, 7

Jan. 17: *PEPPERDINE, 7:30

Jan. 20: *at Pepperdine, 7:30

Jan. 25: *at St. Mary's, 7

Jan. 27: *at San Francisco, 7

Feb. 2: *PORTLAND, 7

Feb. 3: *GONZAGA, 7

Feb. 8: *at Santa Clara, 7

Feb. 10: *at San Diego, 7

Feb. 15: *at Gonzaga, 7

Feb. 17: *at Portland, 7

Feb. 23: *SAN FRANCISCO, 7

Feb. 24: *ST. MARY'S, 7

March 3-5: WCC tournament, TBA

Home games in CAPS; all times Pacific; *--Conference game

ROSTER

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 3 Elton Mashack F 6-5 210 Sr.

*--*

In better shape and is team's go-to guy.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 5 Greg Lakey F 6-8 220 Jr.

*--*

USC transfer expected to contribute.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 10 Marcus Smith G 6-0 180 Jr.

*--*

Should be second guard off the bench.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 11 Eurskine Robinson G 6-0 180 Jr.

*--*

Pass-first point guard the Lions need.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 12 Guy Vernikovsky G 5-9 160 Sr.

*--*

One-time walk-on will back up Robinson.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 14 Tyler McClenahan G 6-0 170 Jr.

*--*

Could get some minutes here and there.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 20 Philipp Czernin G/F 6-6 200 Jr.

*--*

Sparkled offensively in exhibition.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 24 Robert Davis G 6-2 195 Jr.

*--*

Needs to provide outside shooting.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 31 Pablo Machado C 6-10 235 Sr.

*--*

Lone inside threat averaged 9.7 points.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 34 Sean Mollins F 6-7 215 Jr.

*--*

Will spell Mashack and Czernin.

*

*--*

No. Player P Ht Wt Yr 33 Sherman Gay F 6-7 190 Fr.

*--*

Inexperienced but body is needed.

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