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Confident Player Faces ‘Big Void’ Without Basketball

Times Staff Writer

In elementary school, Kathy Goggin was so tall she played on boys’ basketball teams and towered over her male counterparts. She entered the seventh grade as a precocious redhead at 5-foot-9 and by the time she got to Long Beach Wilson High School she was “not huge, just a thick” 6-foot-2.

Goggin, now 6-foot-3, lumbered onto the basketball court at Cal State Dominguez Hills for the last time Saturday night, the fourth-ranked rebounder and ninth-highest scorer in the university’s history. She is one of the few student-athletes to complete four years of basketball at Dominguez Hills, and university officials point proudly to the fact that she is their first Rhodes Scholarship candidate. In the fall she will enroll in a doctoral program at USC.

But now she faces life without basketball, a scary part of the game that all athletes reach sooner or later.

“The big void,” is what Dominguez Hills Coach Van Girard called it.

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It is a time when the future seems a bit frightening to a 22-year-old senior who admits to being “a big baby” when it comes to everyday things.

‘Led a Sheltered Life’

“I have led a sheltered life.” she said. She lives with her parents in east Long Beach. Her father is a high school teacher in Costa Mesa.

Basketball is a great equalizer that teaches young people to overcome obstacles, according to Girard. In Goggin’s case, her love for basketball grew despite discomfort in both knees, a dislocated shoulder, surgery to correct tumors on toes and bone spurs in both feet. She overcame those obstacles, so Girard suggests she will adjust to “the real world.”

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“She already has the knowledge and ability to be successful,” he said.

Not that life without basketball won’t mean a little adjustment on Goggin’s part. Early on she discovered that playing a sport was an easy way for a plump and gangly freckle-faced youth to win a little respect in a society that often pokes fun at physical abnormalities.

“By high school it was no easy picture for me,” she said of her increasing height, which often drew rude comments. “Going through that made me stronger. I believe I can handle just about anything now.”

Girard agreed: “What Kathy will find is that there will come a transfer of commitment from what she has done on the floor and what she will have to do in the real world.”

By her own admission, Goggin has had an average career, playing on a series of teams from high school to college that had difficulties just finishing .500. This season Goggin had a disappointing time. She averaged only 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.

“I haven’t had the productive year I would have liked,” she said.

Girard, a successful high school coach who just completed his first-year at Dominguez Hills, believes Goggin did not get proper training during her college career.

“If I had had her for four years, I feel her statistics would have been much more impressive,” he said.

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Goggin, however, is not so sure. “I am not a phenomenal player,” she said.

Phenomenal in Classroom

She has been phenomenal in the classroom, however. At Wilson High she received just one grade below a straight-A average. It was a borderline B that came as a sophomore in a beginning Spanish class. At Cal State Dominguez Hills she has faired almost as well, posting a cumulative 3.895 GPA.

“I am not brilliant,” she said. “I just work hard.”

Goggin received quite a bit of attention in high school, ironically, she says, because of her height. Her college choices, oddly enough, boiled down to UCLA or Dominguez Hills. UCLA was not interested in her as a basketball player so she chose Dominguez Hills because “I wanted to play” more than for its academics.

Four years later she has become one of the university’s brightest spokespersons and its most vocal critic. Because the enrollment is small for a state college, she said, class sizes allow for a more personal relationship between instructors and students.

Goggin picked at a blueberry muffin during breakfast the other day at a Long Beach restaurant. Weight, like height, has been a constant in her life.

“I’m just the Goodyear blimp in hiding,” she joked.

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She was contemplating the answers to questions about her life after basketball. Among her worries, she said, would be the little things in life.

“This may sound stupid,” she said. “But I haven’t paid a rent in my life. How do you get a telephone anyway? I don’t know.”

The tone of the conversation sounded serious enough, but somehow it was hard to believe that Goggin would have any trouble surviving--with or without basketball--when she faces her real world.


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