CSUN Basketball Team Now on Steep Grade

Times Staff Writer

"Don't Cry For Me, Cal State Northridge": In his 19 years at the school, CSUN basketball Coach Pete Cassidy has lost his share of players to graduation and to other schools. But this is the first time he has lost a player to another country.

Rafael Meza is his name, and shooting was his game. He would have been a senior at CSUN this year, and was being counted upon heavily as the point guard and the team's best shooter. Meza will still be shooting, but he'll be doing it for a professional team in Argentina.

A bit of advice for Meza: He should never, ever tell his new teammates that a year ago he was a Matador. He might find himself in a dirt ring some night wearing sequined gold tights and facing 2,000 pounds of top sirloin with horns.

Meza played two seasons at the College of the Desert in Palm Springs, and his coach at that school contacted him this past summer about playing in Argentina. Meza checked it out, liked the team and signed a contract.

The reason he liked Argentina so much was that CSUN didn't like him. Or at least the folks who keep track of things like grades didn't like him.

He was ruled academically ineligible during the summer, and instead of not playing basketball for a season, he sought other options.

Meza's roommate during the 1984-85 season, power forward Dale Brandsberg, was also ruled academically ineligible for this season. He is still on campus, but won't participate in sports.

"In all my time here, these are the first two meaningful players I've ever lost like this," Cassidy said. "Now we've lost our top seven players from last season, five to natural attrition (graduation) and two prematurely.

"I think the world of both Rafael and Dale. They only had partial scholarships, Dale had no transportation to school and both of them were trying to find jobs just to survive. They fell behind and just didn't get the grades."

Attempting to claim Meza's starting slot are sophomores Troy Dueker and Pat Bolden, and Alan Gindlesperger, a freshman from Reseda High.

Cassidy said Brandsberg's position will be filled by transfer Paul Hobus of El Camino College or James Carr, a transfer from Saddleback.

CSUN opens its season Nov. 22 at Wyoming and plays Colorado State the following night.

Jan, Dean of the Titan Offense: Kevin Jan, a former Granada Hills High and Pierce College quarterback who replaced the talented Damon Allen at Cal State Fullerton, turned in his finest performance of the season last weekend in leading the Titans to a 32-30 victory over Utah State. His performance earned him the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. Offensive Player of the Week award.

Jan completed 21 of 35 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. With 90 seconds remaining in the game, he marched Fullerton 54 yards to set up Len Strandley's game-winning field goal in the final seconds.

Just a few hours earlier, Allen had made his professional debut for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. He is Raider running back Marcus Allen's brother.

Cal Lutheran Medical Center: A shoulder injury suffered Saturday in Cal Lutheran's 24-3 victory over St. Mary's is keeping quarterback Tom Bonds from practicing this week. Bonds, who is the Western Football Conference's leading passer, most likely will start against Cal State Northridge, however. It will be the conference opener for both teams Saturday night at CSUN's North Campus Stadium.

Senior Victor Wilson, who has seen limited action for two years, will play quarterback if Bonds reinjures his shoulder. Freshman Mike Sanders, who was impressive in the Kingsmen's intra-squad scrimmage in September, will suit up for emergency duty.

"We would like Mike to redshirt this season," Cal Lutheran Coach Bob Shoup said. "But if he has to play, he has to play."

Linebacker Chris Heintz, a senior and CLC's leading tackler, was lost for the season after breaking an ankle against St. Mary's. There was good news mixed with the bad. Junior linebacker Earl Bentancourt, who recorded 19 sacks last season as a defensive end, is nearly 100% after being hampered by a knee injury, suffered in the first week of the season.

"We lost a leader and our most consistent defensive player in Heintz," Shoup said. "But with Earl back and Sean Demmon and Ken Wood playing well, our linebacking corps remains strong."

Starting center Eric Reigert suffered a broken bone in his hand last week. He will wear a flexible cast that will enable him to snap the football. Guard Scott Innis, a senior and two-year starter, has left school because of personal problems.

CSUN has been remarkably injury-free. Quarterback Chris Parker sprained an ankle last week in practice and missed last week's 40-14 win over Sonoma State as a precautionary measure. He is expected to start Saturday.

The Numbers Game: CSUN is averaging 376 yards per game, a total of 600 on the ground and 1,283 passing, and ranks second in the Western Football Conference in total offense behind Portland State. Cal Lutheran ranks fifth in the six-team conference with an average of 347 yards per game.

On defense, Lutheran grabs the No. 2 spot behind Sacramento State, having held opponents to an average of 297 yards per game. CSUN is the conference's fourth-ranked defensive team, owing mostly to a talented but overworked pass defense that has allowed 1,223 yards in five games. Simon Goss leads the WFC with four interceptions.

Mike Kane, CSUN's all-time leading rusher who piled up 147 yards last week in his best performance of the season, is the top Division II scorer in the nation with 62 points on 10 touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Kicker Mike Doan leads the nation in field goals and is right behind Kane in the WFC rankings. Doan has hit seven of 10 field goals in addition to 15 PATs.

Portland State, behind quarterback Terry Summerfield, dominates the passing and receiving stats with four players in the top eight. CSUN's Kenny Garrett is No. 3 on that list and Richard Brown is fifth.

Kane leads the WFC rushing list with 410 yards in five games. Tracy Downs of Lutheran is fourth with 272 yards.

Around the WFC: Although Cal Lutheran and CSUN begin WFC play this week, Santa Clara has already notched two conference wins. The Broncos, 4-1 overall, defeated Sacramento State (3-2) and San Luis Obispo (1-4). In the only other WFC game played so far, Sacramento downed Portland State (2-4), which was voted as the conference favorite by the coaches before the season started.

Don't Bet On It: CSUN and Cal Lutheran both defeated San Francisco State and both lost to Cal State Hayward. So San Francisco was buried by Hayward when they met last week, right?

Nope. Hayward, ranked sixth in the nation before the game, was beaten, 34-24.

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