COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEWS : Losses Kept Cal Lutheran From Winning SCIAC
As disastrous 72-hour periods go, Cal Lutheran’s Rich Rider had never experienced anything like it as a basketball coach.
Derrick Clark, a senior forward averaging 20.8 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, announced that he was leaving to play in Australia’s Continental Basketball League the day of Cal Lutheran’s Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener last season.
Two days later, starting point guard Dave Ulloa (13.8 points, 5.7 assists) broke a bone in his hand during practice. Although he played the next game, Ulloa missed the next eight games because of the injury.
Just like that, Cal Lutheran lost 35 points a game from its lineup.
The Kingsmen were 6-2 without Ulloa, but one of their losses was to SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer, which finished two games ahead of Cal Lutheran (17-8, 10-4) in the conference standings.
“He’s the engine that makes us get up and go,” Rider said of the 5-foot-9 senior from Hoover High. “We’ll definitely depend on his ball-handling skills and his leadership this [season].”
Cal Lutheran, which opens tonight against Albertson (Ida.) in the Menlo College tournament, has three returning starters.
Senior swingman Jon Rider (6-3), the coach’s son, and senior guard Mark Heerema (6-2) are the others, although Heerema is expected to miss the first few games due to a sprained ankle.
Rider averaged 12.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and shot 56.1% to earn second-team all-conference honors. Heerema, who averaged 10.6 points, will be replaced in the starting lineup by Christian Dunbar, a 6-3 junior.
Nick Athanassakis, a 6-6 senior, and Andy Saint, a 6-6 junior transfer from Oxnard College, fill out the Kingsmen’s starting lineup.
“We’re not blessed with overwhelming height, but we feel like depth is one of our strong points,” Rich Rider said. “So we’re going to run and pressure the ball a little bit more than we did last season.”
Cal Lutheran could have a 10- or 11-man rotation. Returners Greg Nagle (6-1) and Rob Beckerley (6-0), and newcomers Mike McGill (6-6), Brian Capella (6-6) and Raycean Campbell (6-0), have earned playing time.
Nagle, a junior, and Beckerley, a senior, played sparingly early last season, but did an admirable job in SCIAC play following the departure of Clark and the loss of Ulloa.
Aside from Heerema, the Kingsmen are relatively healthy as they begin a 25-game regular season.
“We got the usual bumps and bruises, but I can handle that,” Rider said. “I just don’t want to go through a week like last [season]. That was unbelievable.”