Already in Use by Women's College Teams : Panel Favors Downsized Basketball for Use by CIF High School Girls

Times Staff Writer

An advisory council to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section has recommended the use of a smaller ball in girls' high school basketball.

Meeting in Norwalk last week, the Southern Section Council, composed of high school principals, has authorized its delegates at this weekend's state CIF meeting in San Diego to vote in favor of a proposal that would adopt the use statewide of a ball that is one inch smaller in diameter and two ounces lighter than the one now in use. If passed, the smaller balls would be put into use this fall.

The state CIF Council earlier had asked each of the 10 CIF sections to respond to a recommendation that a smaller ball be used in girls' games. About 270 high school girls' programs in the Southern Section would be affected by the decision.

Use of the smaller ball would follow similar moves by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. and the California Community College Athletic Assn. Those groups now use the smaller ball in women's games.

Because the Southern Section has more members than any of the other sections, its vote is expected to carry a lot of weight at the state meeting. The section covers all of Southern California, except the City of Los Angeles, San Diego County and the southern San Joaquin Valley.

The NCAA is in the midst of a one-year test of the ball after a recommendation by the U.S. Girls' and Women's Basketball Committee. The USGWBC oversees rule changes for four-year colleges and universities. The group will vote on permanent use of the smaller ball in April.

Proponents of the smaller ball say it is much easier to handle and that it may cut down on the number of turnovers and increase team shooting percentages.

The only opposition comes from those who say that use of the small ball would hurt the image of women's basketball because men's programs will continue to use a regulation-size ball.

"Girls have smaller hands and can grip it much better," explained Southern Section Administrator Dean Crowley. "We voted to recommend to our state delegates to vote for the measure at the state council meeting, and we think it will pass."

Principal Moe Chavez of Downey High, who presided over the Southern Section Council meeting, agreed with Crowley.

"It's been going on for a couple of years, I think," Chavez said of the discussion. "Somewhere along the line someone thought that girls could handle the ball a little easier and that it would improve the game."

Coach Karen Peterson of Cerritos College is the tournament director of the community college women's state basketball championships. The smaller ball will be used at that event in March at the Norwalk school.

"I think the high schools should use the ball," she said. "They need it even more than we do. The smaller ball fits females a lot better."

Cal State Long Beach women's coach Joan Bonvicini believes that a move by the CIF to the smaller ball would be in its best interests.

"I'm definitely in favor of the small ball," she said. "I used it exclusively in my basketball camp, and the kids really liked it. When I told the players we would use it this year, at first some of them thought that women were being slighted because it was smaller than the one used by the men. But now all of them seem to like it."

But the 49er coach, who takes a 13-1 record and a third-place national ranking into tonight's game against No. 6-ranked Louisiana Tech, was quick to point out some differences.

"As far as our team is concerned, we're shooting (53% from the floor) better. It (the small ball) is a positive force on the high school level, and it will help significantly," said Bonvicini, who added that she has not seen any yearly statistics to support the argument.

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