SCC Finding Success Without Numbers : College basketball: Coach Bill Reynolds leads team to the NAIA tournament, despite a meager budget.


In the grand scheme, maybe it's better that almost no one knows where Southern California College is located.

Take the college's brochure, for example. Nowhere is there a photograph of the campus. There are plenty of shots of students walking on the beach, golden sunsets and even a panoramic view of the Newport Beach area.

So just where is Southern California College?

It's a question often asked SCC basketball Coach Bill Reynolds.

"People in Costa Mesa don't even know we're here," he said. "I've recruited players from Costa Mesa, kids who grew up here, and they always ask me where we're located. I tell them we're right across the street from the swap meet."

Perhaps it's fitting that SCC, a college of 980 students affiliated with the Assembly of God, is located across from the largest swap meet in Orange County--approximately 15 minutes from the beach. It's certainly appropriate for Reynolds, who has spent the last nine years peddling the school to prospective recruits.

In one of the small clusters of buildings next to city hall in Costa Mesa is a dimly lit, time-worn gymnasium, better suited for the sequel to "Hoosiers." It hardly seems like the home of the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics District 3 champions.

But it's fitting.

With a meager budget and a word-of-mouth reputation, Reynolds has built a respectable program. The gymnasium, called "Pit Pavilion" by the players, fans and coaches, has become a difficult place for opponents to win.

But then, the Vanguards have been difficult to beat wherever they play.

During the previous eight seasons, the Vanguards have averaged 22 victories and have reached the district finals three times and, this season, finally won it.

SCC defeated Christian Heritage last week to qualify for the NAIA national tournament. The Vanguards will play Washburn, Kan., in a first-round game at 6:30 tonight in Kemper Arena at Kansas City, Mo.

This is a typical SCC team--a few transfers, a couple of projects and one or two surprises. After a 5-5 start, the Vanguards finished the season 25-8.

Only one of the Vanguards' players came to SCC out of high school. The rest transferred from other colleges.

Rick Witmer came from the University of San Francisco. Terry Scruggs came from Alabama Hunstville, a Division II school. Mike Henjum came from Linfield (Ore.), another NAIA school. And Elbert Davis transferred from Golden West College.

In all, there are nine players on the roster who have transferred from other schools. Only Jeff Bickmore has been in the program throughout his collegiate career.

"We certainly have a potpourri of players," said Reynolds, 47. "We have enough credibility now that we get a few calls from other coaches. They are starting to send us kids that they use to point to schools like Biola and Westmont."

It was Mike Hess, a UC Irvine assistant coach, who pointed Witmer to SCC.

After playing two seasons at San Jose City College, Witmer went to USF. However, midway through his first season, he was unhappy about his lack of playing time and left the school.

"I told Mike I was thinking about hanging my sneakers up," Witmer said. "He said, 'Don't. There's an NAIA school near us that you'll love.' He gave me Coach Reynolds' number."

Scruggs, who played for the Vanguards last season, also was told about SCC by a friend of Reynolds. Scruggs had been a standout at Alabama Huntsville as a freshman two years ago. He was fifth in the nation among Division II players in scoring, averaging 20.3 points a game.

However, the team won only five games and Scruggs wanted to be a part of a winning program. Brad McNamara, an assistant coach for Alabama Huntsville told him about SCC.

"He said that they averaged 21 wins a season and they played an up-tempo game," said Scruggs, who is SCC's second-leading scorer this season, averaging 17.8 points a game. "It didn't matter that it was NAIA. The team I was on lost to five NAIA teams my sophomore year. I wanted to win."

Reynolds hasn't relied completely on the old-boy network. He recruits high school players, although budget limitations make it difficult.

The program runs on $14,707 and that's for everything--uniforms, officials, road trips, per diem and coaches' salaries. There's even a hefty $156 for advertising and publicity.

Even the scholarship money is not what it would be for an NCAA school. NAIA schools offer only tuition, books and room and board.

SCC has nine scholarships, one less than the district maximum. The money is distributed according to each player's needs.

"We could probably be very competitive on the (NCAA) Division II level and have a bigger budget," Reynolds said. "But it's a matter of philosophy. We're not here to be a basketball factory. We're here to give students a quality education. The NAIA level is perfect for us."

Reynolds does have money for recruiting. There's $312 allotted for mailing, which is used for recruiting letters, and another $1,250 for telephone bills.

"My wife keeps telling me I have this growth on my ear," Reynolds said. "That's how much time I spend on the telephone."

Reynolds and his assistant coaches, Randy Hawkins and Bob Pierce, spend hours on the telephone. They work off reports from two recruiting services and also call players whom they've heard about.

It's not the most elaborate recruiting system, but it works to a degree. The biggest problem is explaining what school they represent.

"I called this one player and his mother answered the phone," Reynolds said. "I told her I was from SCC. She hollered to her son, 'The USC coach is on the phone.' When I told her that I was from Southern California College , there was about 10 seconds of silence on the other end."

In his nine years, Reynolds has made only three recruiting trips. Two were to the Chabot College tournament in Northern California. The third was to Portland, but Reynolds never got to see the recruit play because of a blizzard.

The player, Kenny Davis, did play for SCC in the mid-80s, but injured his knee and played only two seasons.

"We took a chance on him," Reynolds said. "We do that a lot. We usually don't get to see a kid play more than once. We have to make a quick judgment."

Bickmore was such a player. At Southern California Christian High School, he was an awkward, 6-foot-7 center, but Reynolds thought Bickmore could develop and offered him a scholarship.

Bickmore, who was 5-6 when he entered high school, has become a dominant center. He is the team's leading scorer (19.2) and rebounder (7.6).

"Recruiting at this level is very competitive and sometimes frustrating," Reynolds said. "But a kid like Jeff can make it rewarding."

For the most part, the players are happy competing on the NAIA level, even proud of it.

Earlier this season, the Vanguards played two NCAA Division I schools. It's something Reynolds will do from time to time because Division I schools will help with expenses. In return, those schools are almost guaranteed a victory.

The Vanguards were routed by Austin Peay, 98-73. Two nights later they had to play Murray State, which went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

That game became a point of honor for the Vanguards.

"We walked onto the court and the crowd started chanting, 'NAIA Go Away,' " Scruggs said. "We didn't like that too much."

SCC led by three points with less than a minute remaining before losing by three.

"They stopped chanting about halftime," Scruggs said.

Said Reynolds: "I think the people at Murray State developed a greater appreciation for the NAIA level after we left."

And they didn't even read the brochure.


RECORDS--Southern California College 25-8, Washburn (Kan.) 20-11

SITE--Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo., 6:30 PST

SCC UPDATE--The Vanguards are making their first trip to the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics national basketball tournament. SCC reached the tournament by defeating Christian Heritage, 90-77, in the District 3 final. The Vanguards are led by 6-foot-7 center Jeff Bickmore and 6-2 forward Terry Scruggs. Bickmore averages 19.2 points a game and Scruggs 17.8. However, the Vanguards are not a two-man team. Bryan Moore, Mike Henjum, Elbert Davis and Rick Witmer give SCC plenty of depth for its up-tempo style. The Vanguards do lack size, however. Other than Bickmore, they use no one taller than 6-3. If the Vanguards defeat Washburn, they will play Philadelphia Pharmacy or Wisconsin Eau Claire in the second round. Wisconsin Eau Claire is the second-seeded team in the tournament.

WASHBURN--The Ichabods won the NAIA championship in 1987 and have two players remaining from that team, guards Mike Dickerson and Joe Becker. Washburn struggled early in the season, but has won seven of its last 11 games after Becker replaced Maurice Lamar in the starting lineup. The Ichabods present matchup problems for SCC. Jeff Markary (13.8-point average), a 6-7 center, and Doyle Callahan (10 points), a 6-5 forward, are strong inside players. Washburn's record is a bit deceiving. The Ichabods were 7-9 in the Missouri Intercollegiate Conference, which is made up of NCAA Division II schools. Washburn will move to the Division II level next season.

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