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Colleges /Alan Drooz : Soviet Cage Stunner Could Sell Westhead’s 3-Point Shot

In the wake of the United States’ shocking Olympic basketball loss to the Soviet Union, the question arises whether it’s time to get away from the traditional approach that has always characterized the American program and try a maverick who appreciates--and even likes--some of the aspects of international play.

Someone like, say, Loyola Marymount Coach Paul Westhead.

This is the prime recruiting period for college coaches, so Westhead wasn’t able to watch the 82-76 upset Tuesday. He was at the home of a high school star noted for his three-point shooting.

Westhead’s Loyola teams have drawn some strange looks for their mad-bomber, never-met-a-shot-we-didn’t-like approach. But there was also growing appreciation for Westhead’s system last season when his team won 25 straight games, often looking for a three-point shot as the first option. Westhead said some of his approach is based on international style and at times has confounded many of his counterparts.

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“We’ve been in a pattern--as a country--where we’ve been successful, so most people saw no reason to change. I’ve never totally agreed . . . so it wasn’t hard for me to change. In the early ‘70s I was a more conventional coach (at LaSalle in Philadelphia). Much of my turning to this way of playing came when I spent eight summers coaching in Puerto Rico, coaching their national team. That’s where I first saw the running and shooting from outside distances. That is the international game. That (experience) is probably one of the major things that turned me to this style. Everyone (in the U.S.) thought I was crazy. Still do.”

Maybe not so crazy in wake of Brazil’s upset of the U.S. last year in the Pan American Games and the Soviet win this week. Both times, the opponents’ better three-point proficiency was a major factor. The three-point circle at 20 feet, 6 inches was installed in international rules in 1985. “The rest of the world plays with a higher priority on the three-point shot,” Westhead said.

Last week Brazilian Coach Ary Vidal, whose team lives by the three-pointer, told The Times’ Scott Ostler, “New philosophy--every shot is a good shot,” and, “Our best shot (to win) is to run and shoot.” Westhead noted with a laugh, “All those statements, you could’ve put in ‘LMU’ for ‘Brazil’ and they’d still be true.

“The stark reality is the level of international play has risen and they play (international style) all the time. We play it a few weeks and hope our better talent will win out. When we’re 30 points better it doesn’t matter. When it’s fairly even, it was a matter of time before it catches up.”

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Westhead, who coached the Lakers to an NBA title, said it may be time for the U.S. to send professional players to the Olympics. “If they change the (Olympic) rules, it’s time to send our very best,” he said. “That would be logical.”

The Cal State Dominguez Hills men’s soccer team has rediscovered the art of scoring, after notching only 25 goals in 19 games a year ago. Coach Marine Cano’s Toros, off to a 5-3 start, have scored 23 goals, with 10 players finding the net. Junior Willie Ayala, a junior college transfer, leads all California Collegiate Athletic Conference players with 15 points on 7 goals and 1 assist. Without scoring, freshman midfielder Matt Swindle has been a major contributor to the improved offense, assisting on 6 goals.

Meanwhile, the defense has gotten a boost from the offense. In an attempt to thwart speedy San Diego State last week, Cano shifted the Toros’ fastest player, Martin Mira, to defense. Though the Toros lost, 3-0, Cano was so pleased with Mira’s defense that it appears he will move from forward to stopper for the season.

Records can be deceptive, so the numbers don’t tell the story as eight women’s volleyball teams open West Coast Athletic Conference play this week.

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League favorite Pepperdine has the WCAC’s worst record at 1-7 but is still the heavy favorite. The Waves, who have a 15-match winning streak in the WCAC, have played seven teams in the top 15, five of them in the top 10.

Loyola and the University of San Diego, who have played competitive schedules--though nothing approaching Pepperdine’s--both started conference play at 4-6. The WCAC’s best records belong to Santa Clara (7-5) and Gonzaga (6-5). Santa Clara is considered one of the WCAC’s better teams. Gonzaga, 5-1 in its last 6 matches, could be a surprise but its schedule is suspect.

One thing that is clear is Loyola is improving. The Lions play host to St. Mary’s (0-7) at 7:30 tonight. The young team, 1-6 a week ago, won the Georgetown Tournament in Washington, winning three straight five-game matches against George Washington, Northern Iowa and the host Hoyas.

“Every time we’ve stepped on the court we’ve gotten better except against Santa Barbara,” Lions Coach George Yamashita said. “Everyone thinks East Coast volleyball is not that tough, but we had to play well to beat ‘em. They had some good athletes. It was good for us to go five games (in all the matches), to know we can win those kind of games.”

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The Lions continue to be led by seniors Leslie Wohlford and Seham Khalaf, who earned all-tournament honors. But Yamashita credited stronger defense and improved middle hitting for the team’s rise, with young players Dawn Moon and Stacy Trapp starting to make an impact.

Yamashita said that “on paper, we should be” in the conference’s top half.

College Notes

Loyola senior Leslie Wohlford was named West Coast Athletic Conference volleyball player of the week. She led the Lions to a 3-0 record in the Georgetown Tournament and leads the WCAC in kill average at 4.3 per game . . . Freshman Shawn Simmons scored his first collegiate goal for the Cal State Dominguez Hills soccer team last week in a 3-1 victory over Biola . . . The Cal State Dominguez Hills volleyball team set school records when Maria Romero recorded six service aces in one game and the Lady Toros had 17 total in a four-game victory over The Masters College . . . The Loyola cross-country team will travel to South Bend, Ind., for the Catholic Invitational today at Notre Dame. The men’s team placed third in a seven-team meet at San Diego State last weekend . . . Carson resident P. J. Wnek has transferred from Biola to Cal State Dominguez Hills and has a year of basketball eligibility. The former Bishop Montgomery star will sit out this season. He was a starting guard at Biola . . . Miraleste High graduate Tom Carey, a defensive lineman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has made 10 tackles totaling 62 yards in losses in three games.

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