Two-and-a-half years ago, Crissy Mills--then of Campbell Hall High, now at USC--was on the verge of becoming one of the most recruited high school track and field athletes in the country.
This spring, she will not compete for the Trojans because of what she calls differences with the USC coaching staff. Instead, Mills, who cleared 6 feet as a high school junior, will compete in the high jump for Advantage Athletics, a track and field club based in Northridge.
"Things just haven't worked out there," said Mills about USC. "I've had personality conflicts with the coaching staff."
Mills, the state high school champion in the high jump as a sophomore and junior in 1988 and '89, was heavily favored to win an unprecedented third consecutive title as a senior before suffering torn ligaments in her left knee while playing volleyball during the fall of '89.
Although her stock dropped because of the injury, she attended USC as a walk-on, hopeful of earning a scholarship. However, she did not compete for the Trojans, citing a dispute with USC assistant Mike Bailey, who had recruited her out of high school.
Mills said the rift with Bailey arose because she wanted to train with Advantage Athletics Coach Charlie DiMarco--who had coached her in high school--rather than with USC walk-on assistant Milan Tiff, who wasn't on campus consistently enough to coach her, Mills said.
"They wanted me to work with him, but he was never around half the time in the spring," Mills said. "So I decided to get my act together and train with Charlie."
DiMarco said Mills' training is going well in preparation for the upcoming season. He believes that she is capable of clearing the automatic qualifying standard of 6-2 1/2 for the Olympic Trials. Still, he wants to see Mills compete at the collegiate level.
"I think she has the capability to win an NCAA title," DiMarco said. "And I know she could be an All-American. I'd like to see her do that."
Mills does not envision that happening, at least not this season.
"I love (USC), and will continue to go there," Mills said. "But jumping for them is out this season."
For the returning players on the Cal State Northridge basketball team, Saturday's 78-72 victory over visiting Eastern Washington brought back a winning feeling that had been absent since Feb. 20, 1991, the date of CSUN's last victory, a 92-80 victory over Idaho State. CSUN (1-10) snapped a 13-game losing streak, dating to last season.
But for Matador Coach Pete Cassidy, CSUN's first victory of the season sparked memories of a different sort.
Cassidy, who missed the final eight games of the 1990-91 campaign because of intestinal surgery, said Saturday's win reminded him of the way he felt after being given a shot of Demerol in the hospital.
"Demerol puts you in a state of euphoria," Cassidy said. "That's the way I feel right now. It (the victory) has been a long time coming."
During Northridge's victory over Eastern Washington, Matador forward Keith Gibbs was literally all over the court en route to totaling 14 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals.
Gibbs' hustling play so frustrated the Eagles that Eastern Washington's Kemo Patrick actually took a swing at Gibbs after Patrick fouled him on a drive to the basket.
Order was quickly restored and Eagles' Coach John Wade immediately pulled Patrick from the game. Both players were assessed technical fouls.
During pregame warm-ups at the Northridge-Eastern Washington game, a fan walked up to the press table and inquired about one of the Eagle players. It seems the player looked familiar.
He should have. The player was Eastern Washington junior Shawn DeLaittre, a three-time All-Southern Section player from Simi Valley High who teamed with current UCLA senior Don MacLean to lead the Pioneers to a Southern Section 4-A Division title in 1988.
DeLaittre (6-foot-5, 205 pounds) is in his second season at Eastern Washington since transferring from Valley College after the 1989-90 season.
Against the Matadors and former Valley teammate Shelton Boykin, DeLaittre came off the bench to score 15 points (including three three-point shots) in just 21 minutes of action.
A starter last season, DeLaittre is a sixth man this season. He began the season with just 15 points in five games but entered the week with double-figure scoring totals in each of his past three games.
Chad Danowsky, who had a notable freshman season for the Cal State Northridge track and field team last season, attended Pierce College during the fall semester and will transfer to USC for the spring semester.
Danowsky is unable to compete this season for the Trojans because Northridge failed to give him a written release. Danowsky must establish residency--be a full-time student--for a year before he can compete for USC.
According to USC assistant Dan Lange, a former NCAA Division II All-American in the hammer throw at Northridge, CSUN would not release Danowsky because the Matadors have a policy of not releasing athletes to schools that are either in their conference or on their schedule in the upcoming season. Northridge will compete against USC in the spring.
Northridge Coach Don Strametz could not be reached for comment.
"It's ironic that Northridge won't release him," Lange said. "Because they were in the same position last year when John Gallagher transferred to Northridge, and USC released him."
Gallagher threw 175-8 in the discus as a Matador sophomore last season to move to fifth on the all-time Northridge list.
Danowsky's best of 167-11 moved him to ninth on the list.
TOON ON TRACK
After struggling at the start of the season in the scoring department, Valley College center Stacie Toon hit her stride in the Fullerton tournament with 61 points in four games as the Monarchs concluded the 16-team tournament Monday in third place.
Toon, a former All-City player at Van Nuys High who missed most of last season because of a knee injury, made 25 of 31 free-throw attempts and averaged seven rebounds to earn all-tournament honors.
Valley (15-3) beat Antelope Valley in the third-place game despite a 31-point effort by Marauder forward Paula Page.
Page, a 6-1 sophomore and a returning All-Foothill Conference player, was also selected to the all-tournament team.
The Master's basketball Coach Mel Hankinson expected tough times as 1991 faded into the new year because of a difficult late December schedule. His fears proved well-founded. The Mustangs (6-7) have lost four of their past five games.
Master's beat Albertson College, a National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II school, 63-60, Dec. 16 in the first of the tough five-game streak. But the Mustangs have lost four in a row since, including two losses to NCAA Division II opponents.
The new year might bring new fortunes for the Mustangs. Master's visits Fresno Pacific College on Friday, then plays host to Western Washington University on Saturday and Ambassador College on Monday.
MISSING THE BOAT
Hankinson and senior guard Damon Greer came down with the flu and missed a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, last week for the BYU-Hawaii Christmas Classic.
Assistant coach Mike Huff coached the team during the tournament. Master's lost to Hawaii-Loa on Friday and to BYU-Hawaii on Saturday, although David Humphreys, a junior guard, was selected to the all-tournament team.
"Our styles are just a little bit different and I'm sure that was a factor," said Huff about the team's performance. "I know the system pretty well, but I'm not (Hankinson)."
Greer and Hankinson are expected to return for the Master's game at Fresno Pacific on Friday.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
UC San Diego got a belated Christmas present when one of its players hit a 35-foot shot with 12 seconds left to beat Cal Lutheran, 67-65, last Friday night, the Kingsmen's only game in two weeks.
Despite the loss, the Kingsmen (2-6) showed improvement.
"We played as well as we've played all year long," Coach Mike Dunlap said.
Guard Dewayne Chatman, who was promoted from the junior varsity, contributed to the marked improvement.
Chatman (6-3) scored 12 points and had two rebounds in his varsity debut.
"We brought him up because he can play," Dunlap said. "He had been doing well at the JV level and it was time to give him a shot. He had that dimension that we desperately need."
Wendy Witherspoon, Ron Twersky and staff writer John Ortega contributed to this notebook.