Jim Huckaby is leaving after only two years as coach of the Christian Heritage College men's basketball team, but he leaves a program with a solid foundation.
A cornerstone was added when Brad Soucie, a 6-foot 6-inch guard from Eastern Michigan, decided to transfer to the small NAIA school in El Cajon.
Soucie will play on a team that includes his brother Bill, a starter last season, and Mark Kraatz, a teammate from Inner City Christian High School in Allen Park, Mich. That team won the state title under Ray Slagle, now a co-coach at Christian Heritage.
Soucie averaged 9.6 points per game for Eastern Michigan, which won the Mid American Conference title and played Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA tournament. An excellent three-point shooter, he had the best game of his career, scoring 26 points--including eight three-pointers--in a 108-90 loss to the Panthers.
Because Soucie is transferring to an NAIA school, he will be eligible to play immediately as a junior.
Christian Heritage, which will return five starters, signed only three freshmen--Steve Carr, a 6-8 forward from El Camino High School; Pete Ruth, a 6-8 forward from Norco in Riverside, and 5-10 guard Doug Coyle from Las Cruces, N.M.
Huckaby leaves the program in good hands. Swen Nater, who played for UCLA and in the National Basketball Assn., will join Slagle as a co-coach.
Huckaby, who started basketball programs at The Master's College and Baptist Bible College, added Christian Heritage to his list just two years ago.
Christian Heritage qualified for the eight-team NAIA District III tournament last year, losing to Southern California College in the first round. The Hawks finished 15-16.
"Twenty-eight years (of coaching) is long enough," Huckaby said. "The truth is, I can distinguish between a burnout and a growout. I've just grown out of coaching and want a chance to use my administrative skills, whatever they may be."
Huckaby will be vice president for institutional advancement at Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, Pa.
He said he decided before the season that this would be his last as a college coach.
"My wife says I've been heading in this direction for five years and didn't know it," Huckaby said.
Competing for NCAA Division III national championships is nothing knew for UC San Diego, but the Tritons may be outdoing themselves this spring.
UCSD has a good chance to compete for national titles in four sports.
The baseball team (22-12) has a crucial game against Cal State San Bernardino (27-5-1) today at 2:30 p.m. at UCSD.
San Bernardino is ranked fifth in Division III and is the top-ranked team in the West region. UCSD is No. 8, Cal State Stanislaus is No. 7 and Claremont Mudd No. 10 in the national poll. Only two teams from the West will be selected to play in the West Regional, so the Tritons need a victory over San Bernardino to have any chance at advancing to the West Regional.
UCSD defeated La Verne in the West Regional last year to earn its first appearance in the Division III World Series.
As usual, the women's tennis team is strong. The Tritons, led by sophomore Christine Behrens, have been ranked No. 1 all season. UCSD is 15-4, and all of its losses have been to non-Division III teams. The Division III championships are May 10-14 at Emory University in Atlanta.
Two teams that have not had recent success also are good bets to advance to NCAA championships.
The softball team is 28-7-1 overall and is 19-2 against Division III teams. The Tritons are battling Cal State Stanislaus and Cal State San Bernardino for one of the two regional berths. The selection will be made May 8; the regionals are May 13-15.
The Tritons swept Stanislaus and lost 2 of 3 to San Bernardino. UCSD also is making a bid to play host to the West Regional.
The men's tennis team is trying to do something that it has never done--advance to the NCAA team tournament. The Tritons have an excellent chance, as they are tied for sixth in the national poll with Rochester University in New York.
The top 10 teams advance to the team tournament May 9-15 at Washington & Lee in Lexington, Ky.
The Tritons are one of just two teams that are undefeated against Division III opposition. That number will be reduced to one this weekend when UCSD (19-9) travels to play UC Santa Cruz, the other undefeated team.
Sophomores Hunter Galloway and Sig Huber should advance to the individual tournament. Galloway is ranked No. 14 in singles, and Galloway and Huber are No. 16 in doubles.
UC San Diego is hosting an eight-team women's college water polo tournament Friday and Saturday at Canyonview Pool.
The tournament includes UCSD (A and B teams), UC Berkeley, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and Stanford.
Matches will be played from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, noon to 7 Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The final is at 2 p.m. Admission to all matches is free.
San Diego Mesa College is ranked No. 6 in the state among community college baseball teams. Palomar is No. 20.
Mesa (24-5) is led by .470 hitter Mike Thomas. Palomar is led by Billy Dunckel, who played at Fallbrook High School. Dunckel is third in the state in batting with a .495 average.
San Diego Mesa's Jackie Anderson, who competed at Mt. Miguel High School, is the state leader in the women's long and triple jumps. Anderson has a mark of 18-feet 11 1/2-inches in the long jump and 41-3 1/2 in the triple jump.
Anderson is also 12th in the state in the 200 meters with a time of 25.7 seconds.
Chris Vincent of MiraCosta is third in the men's 800 meters (1:52.1) and Mark Danni of Grossmont is fifth in both the 1,500 meters (3:51.9) and 5,000 meters (14:45.6).