COLLEGE BASKETBALL: 1994-95 PREVIEW : WOMEN'S BASKETBALL / THE SOUTHLAND : USC, UCLA Hopeful Despite Major Losses

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For Cheryl Miller at USC and Kathy Olivier at UCLA, it's a season of transition.

Lisa Leslie and Natalie Williams, the dominant players in Southland women's college basketball the last four seasons, are gone.

Yet both Miller and Olivier say they can't wait to see what post-superstar life will be like.

Miller, in her second Trojan season, has major tasks at hand as she readies her team to defend its Pacific 10 Conference championship.

Gone with Leslie, a four-time All-American, is point guard Nicky McCrimmon, perhaps the best in the Pac-10 last season at taking the ball up the court through pressure.

USC, 26-4 overall and 16-2 in the Pac-10 last season, knocked Stanford off its Pac-10 perch for the first time in five years. USC came within a game of the Final Four, losing in the Mideast Regional final to Louisiana Tech, 75-66.

Olivier, also in her second season, has to replace Williams and Amy Jalewalia, who ranks ninth on UCLA's all-time scoring list.

UCLA seemed headed for a tournament berth last season until Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in March. Without her, the Bruins lost their last three games, finishing 10-8 in the Pac-10 and 15-12 overall.

In a season in which Stanford looms as the favorite to reclaim its Pac-10 dominance, USC should finish the race closer to Stanford than to UCLA.

Tina Thompson, freshman of the year in the Pac-10 last season, is the Trojans' best player. She averaged 14.2 points and 10.5 rebounds a game last season.

In the Mideast Regional, she had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Virginia and 17 and 12 against Louisiana Tech.

Another key player for the Trojans will be 6-5 sophomore Michelle Campbell.

There were games last season when Miller sent Campbell in for two- and three-minute stretches to spell Leslie when it was sometimes hard to tell Leslie was out of the game.

Although not a starter, Campbell was seventh in the Pac-10 in blocked shots.

There is some expectation at USC that with game experience, she could develop quickly into a major contributor.

Jody Anton is a versatile swing player who was a 39% three-point shooter last season and is a strong, physical rebounder when asked to play underneath.

At point guard, Miller must decide between Audrey Gomez, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame, and sophomore Erica Jackson. She said this week that the position was "up for grabs."

Guard Karleen Shields is a starter after finishing strong last season after overcoming early season knee troubles. Shields is the team's fastest player--she is a triple jumper for the track team--and had 26 steals last season.

Forward-center Rashida Jeffery figures to start after apparently recovering from two years of nonstop knee problems.

At UCLA, Olivier has roughly the same high hopes for junior post player Zrinka Kristich as Miller does for Campbell.

Kristich has improved steadily in two years, and Olivier recently said she had had a great first three weeks of practice.

"Z was our most improved player last year and I want her to improve this year by the same margin," Olivier said. "She won't have great stats, but she does so many good things on the floor the players are now looking to her."

Olivier has the same hopes for another junior, Kisa Hughes, who will start up front and who finished the season averaging in double figures in scoring and rebounding. Kristich and Hughes "are a good mix for us," Olivier said.

"Kisa did a good job after Natalie went down," Olivier said. "It was tough for Kisa to play her game with Natalie in there, but now we expect her to really show us something."

The guard starters figure to be Ricarda Kuypers and Nikki Hilbert. Forward Allison Arredondo is UCLA's best three-point shooter--unless freshman Jamie Oenning claims the title. Olivier said Arredondo has improved markedly after playing in a summer league.

Olivier said defense will be emphasized far more this season, in an attempt to make up for Williams' departed numbers: 23.4 points and 13.1 rebounds. To that end, she wants more shots off opponents' turnovers.

"Our defense will be our best offense," she said. "We want to score a lot off our defense. I want more shots by our guards. We're going to surprise some people."

*

At San Diego State, fifth-year Coach Beth Burns is building a championship program with defense, defense . . . and defense.

Fifth in NCAA team defense last season, the Aztecs were the West Coast's surprise team, posting a 26-5 record and winning the Western Athletic Conference regular-season and conference tournament championships before losing its second game in the NCAA tournament.

Heading the returnees is leading scorer Falisha Wright, who is backed up by her twin sister, Lakeysha.

Key early game: San Diego State plays host to USC on Dec. 6.

USC Facts and Figures

1994-95 ROSTER

No Player Pos Hgt Yr Hometown (High School) 4 Shannon Kartz G 5-8 Fr Tracy (Tracy) 5 *Erica Jackson G 5-8 So Milwaukee (Washington) 14 *Tina Tompson F-C 6-3 So Los Angeles (Morningside) 22 *Shanika Porter F 5-10 So Pensacola, Fla. (Paramount) 24 Audrey Gomez G 5-7 Jr Keyport, N.J. (Univ. of Notre Dame) 25 *Karleen Shields G 5-7 Sr Snyder, Tex. (Contra Costa College) 42 *Rashida Jeffery F-C 6-2 So Tucson (Tucson) 44 *Jody Anton G-F 6-0 Jr Brea (Brea-Olinda) 50 Michelle Campbell C 6-5 So Carson (Banning)

*Lettermen returning (6)

Coach: Cheryl Miller, Fred Williams.

Assistants: Frank Scott.

1994-95 SCHEDULE

Date Opponent Time Nov. 26 vs. Marquette* 11 a.m. Nov. 27 vs. Iowa/J. Madison* TBA Dec. 3 UC Santa Barbara 5:30 Dec. 6 at San Diego State 7:30 Dec. 9 at Houston 7:00 Dec. 11 at Stephen F. Austin noon Dec. 28-30 USC tournament TBA Jan. 5 Oregon State 7:30 Jan. 7 Oregon 7:30 Jan. 12 at Washington 7:00 Jan. 14 at Washington State 7:00 Jan. 19 Arizona 7:30 Jan. 21 Arizona State 7:30 Jan. 26 at California 7:30 Jan. 28 at Stanford 7:30 Feb. 4 at UCLA 2:00 Feb. 10 Washington State 7:30 Feb. 12 Washington 2:00 Feb. 16 at Arizona State 6:00 Feb. 18 at Arizona 6:00 Feb. 23 Stanford 7:30 Feb. 25 California 2:00 March 3 UCLA 7:30 March 9 at Oregon 7:00 March 11 at Oregon State 7:00

Unless noted, times are p.m. and PST.

*Prairie Lights Hawkeye Classic.

UCLA Facts and Figures

1994-95 ROSTER

No Player Pos Hgt Yr 5 *Ricarda Kuypers G 5-8 Jr 10 Chrystal Pakootas F 5-11 Fr 21 Jamie Oenning G 5-7 Fr 23 *Nikki Hilbert G 5-7 So 30 Tawana Grimes G 5-9 Fr 31 *Zrinka Kristich C 6-5 Jr 34 *Laura Collins F 6-0 Sr 35 Aisha Veasley F 5-9 Fr 42 *Allison Arredondo F 6-2 Jr 45 *Kisa Hughes C 6-4 Jr 50 Kellie Bennett F 6-2 Sr

No Hometown (High School) 5 Aachen, Germany (Langen) 10 Inchelium, Wash. (Mead) 21 Irvine (Woodbridge) 23 Long Beach (Millikan) 30 Norwalk (Lynwood) 31 La Habra (La Habra) 34 Torrance (North) 35 Carson (Valley Christian) 42 Los Alamitos (Gahr) 45 Riverside (North) 50 Arkadelphia, Ark. (Long Beach State)

*Lettermen returning (6)

Coach: Kathy Olivier.

Assistants: Willette White, Pam Walker, Cori Close.

1994-95 SCHEDULE

Date Opponent Time Nov. 25 North Carolina State 7:00 Nov. 28 UC Irvine 7:00 Dec. 3 at Boise State 7:00 Dec. 8 at San Diego 5:15 Dec. 19 vs. Georgia Tech* 10:30 Dec. 28 Kentucky 5:00 Jan. 2 N.C. Charlotte 7:00 Jan. 5 Oregon 7:00 Jan. 7 Oregon State 2:00 Jan. 12 at Washington State 7:00 Jan. 14 at Washington 3:00 Jan. 19 Arizona State 7:00 Jan. 21 Arizona 2:00 Jan. 26 at Stanford 7:30 Jan. 28 at California 7:30 Feb. 4 USC 2:00 Feb. 10 Washington 7:00 Feb. 12 Washington State 1:00 Feb. 16 at Arizona 6:00 Feb. 18 at Arizona State 1:00 Feb. 23 California 7:00 Feb. 25 Stanford 2:00 March 3 at USC 7:30 March 9 at Oregon State 7:30 March 11 at Oregon 2:00

All times are p.m. and PST

* Northern Lights Tournament at Anchorage, Alaska, Dec. 19-21.

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