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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | NORTHRIDGE NOTEBOOK

Matadors Plan to Work Their Way Up

October 19, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK

It's back to business as usual for the Northridge men's basketball team, sweating through three-hour practices in anticipation of its Nov. 19 opener against Howard at the Matadome.

What is unusual this season is the Matadors' role of favorite.

Northridge, coming off a 20-10 record and its best season ever, was an overwhelming choice by coaches and media to win the Big Sky Conference title in its final season before joining the Big West. The Matadors are also picked first in at least two national publications.

Such lofty expectations are unprecedented but not over-emphasized.

"If anything, that's what's getting them to play hard," Coach Bobby Braswell said. "People talk about the pressure, but I don't believe in putting pressure on ourselves. We know we have to play the games."

Northridge has four returning starters and a roster filled with familiar names.

"It's exciting and it feels good to be picked No. 1 in conference," said guard Carl Holmes, a returning starter. "I've been here four years and that's never happened. We know we're the team with a target on our backs. But this year, going in, we have a lot of confidence."

The Matadors appear beefier, too. Senior center Brian Heinle, an all-conference selection last season, has added 10 pounds to his 6-foot-9 frame. Heinle, along with 6-5 forward Jeff Parris should provide Northridge with inside muscle the team has lacked in recent seasons.

"A lot of the guys worked hard in the off-season," guard Markus Carr said. "The coaches emphasized that. I'm not too high on the rankings or any of that stuff. If we work hard at practice every day, everything will be fine."

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Shon Tarver, former UCLA and Santa Clara High guard, is an addition to the Northridge coaching staff. Tarver replaced Andre Chevalier, who resigned.

Tarver played professionally in Japan last season before approaching Braswell.

"I was looking for a [coaching] job and I am just very happy to be here," Tarver said. "It's a great opportunity and I'm really starting to learn a lot."

Braswell said he has been considering Tarver as an assistant for two years.

"He's been getting ready to make that transition to coaching," Braswell said. "He needed to make sure he was finished [with his playing career]."

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Dust off the ol' "Twin Towers" moniker and tag it to the Northridge women.

The Matadors, picked to finish third in the Big Sky, stand tall in the post with Kristi Rose and Jennifer Shetters.

Rose, who sat out last season after transferring from Utah, is 6-4. Shetters, a freshman from Portland, Ore., is listed at 6-3 but seems taller when next to Rose.

Coach Frozena Jerro plans to capitalize on what will be one of the tallest Northridge teams in memory.

Rose, a senior, led Palmdale High to three consecutive Golden League championships and Utah to three consecutive Western Athletic Conference titles.

"We're going to use everything we've got," Jerro said. "Kristi, with her experience, she's seen it all. Her versatility and size is key for us. Jenny, being a freshman, has things to learn, offensively. But she doesn't seem to be confused about much."

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Defensive end Joseph Roberson will sit out the first half of Saturday's game at Montana State, the consequences of being ejected during the fourth quarter of a 34-30 loss to Montana last weekend.

Big Sky bylaws require an ejected player for fighting to sit out a half. Coach Jeff Kearin of Northridge said he has asked conference officials to investigate allegations that Roberson was the target of a racial slur by a Montana player.

Roberson, who is black, claimed an opposing lineman used the slur and spat on him. Roberson retaliated by spitting and was ejected.

Roberson said he does not recall which player was involved in the altercation. Nor does he care to relive the incident.

"I thought of going back and looking at the film, but I figured I'll probably never see him again," Roberson said. "I've learned to deal with the consequences of my actions. I accept that."

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