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COLLEGE BASKETBALL 1995-96 : PACIFIC 10 / THE OTHER TEAMS : Stanford and Arizona Getting the Conference’s Respect

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Stanford point guard Brevin Knight cannot understand why the Pacific 10 Conference does not get more respect.

After all, the Pac-10 has sent strong messages the last two seasons, what with UCLA winning the national championship last spring after Arizona had reached the Final Four in 1994.

And last season, five conference teams made the NCAA tournament, three of them making it beyond the first round. Knight’s Stanford team was among those three.

“Look at us, we finished 20-9 and made it to the second round of the tournament,” said Knight, an All-Pacific 10 selection. “We have every starter back, plus our top two guys off the bench, and we’re not even favored in our own conference because of UCLA.”

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In a preseason media poll, UCLA finished first, Stanford was second and Arizona third.

Here is a look at the Pac-10 teams other than UCLA and USC:

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ARIZONA

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* 1994-95 Record:

23-8 overall, 13-5 Pacific 10.

* Conference Finish: Second.

Coach Lute Olson has won with a variety of styles in his 12 seasons at Arizona. He has succeeded with a backcourt-dominated team (Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire), a frontcourt-oriented team (Sean Rooks and Chris Mills) and a versatile perimeter team (Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr).

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This season, the Wildcats will try to win with a balanced team that has only one player who averaged double figures in scoring last season, center Joseph Blair. He averaged an even dozen.

The Wildcats will start Reggie Geary at point guard and Miles Simon at shooting guard, giving them a backcourt of former Santa Ana Mater Dei standouts. Geary has played a key role for Arizona the last two seasons as a defensive stopper, and Simon averaged 8.9 points in an injury-limited freshman season.

The key for Arizona will be how well Blair and senior forward Ben Davis play inside. At times last season, Blair was one of the conference’s dominant players. Davis, one of the most recruited high school players in the nation in 1991, may finally play up to his potential.

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ARIZONA STATE

* 1994-95 Record: 24-9, 12-6.

* Conference Finish: Third.

After putting together their best season in 20 years and reaching the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, the Sun Devils find themselves without much experience this season. They lost Mario Bennett, Isaac Burton, Marcell Capers and James Bacon. Coach Bill Frieder will need time just to get to know the seven new players on his team.

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Bennett’s inside presence and 18.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a game will be missed the most because of the Sun Devils’ lack of size. Quincy Brewer, a physical 6-foot-5 guard from Riverside, may have to play inside, leaving forward Ron Riley and guard Jeremy Veal the main scoring threats from the perimeter.

Riley, a 6-5 senior, averaged 16 points last season. He has improved his scoring and rebounding averages in each of his three seasons at Arizona State.

Veal started as a freshman at both the point and off guard, but much of the ballhandling will fall to junior Lenny Holly and freshman Duane Davis this season.

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CALIFORNIA

* 1994-95 Record: 13-14, 5-13

* Conference Finish: Eighth (tie).

Todd Bozeman will get a chance to silence his critics. The Bears are loaded with talent--even considering the recent loss of standout forward Tremaine Fowlkes, declared ineligible for accepting money from an agent.

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Cal still has guard Jelani Gardner, who averaged 10.7 points and 6.5 assists, and forward Alfred Grigsby, who sat out most of the last two seasons because of a back injury after leading the Pac-10 in shooting percentage as a sophomore and averaging 10.1 rebounds as a freshman.

The Bears, who handed UCLA its only home conference loss last season, also have four other players who made considerable contributions--shot blocker Michael Stewart, forward Tony Gonzalez and guards Anwar McQueen and Randy Duck.

Highly touted freshman Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a 6-10 forward, and Ed Gray, a 6-3 guard who transferred from Tennessee, figure to challenge for starting roles before conference play starts.

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OREGON

* 1994-95 Record: 19-9, 11-7

* Conference Finish: Fourth.

Coach Jerry Green lost his top scorer from the last three years, Orlando Williams; his top rebounder from last season, Zach Sellers, and top reserve Henry Madden, who will miss this season because of a knee injury. That pretty much leaves guards Kenya Wilkins and Jamal Lawrence to build the team around.

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Wilkins helped Oregon to its first NCAA berth in 34 years by averaging 12.1 points and 6.1 assists. Lawrence, who averaged six points as a reserve, will be counted on for his outside shooting, as will freshman Terik Brown, the son of former NBA guard (Downtown) Freddie Brown.

Newcomers Kyle Milling and Rob Ramaker, both transfers from UC Santa Barbara, will have to give the Ducks inside play.

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OREGON STATE

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* 1994-95 Record: 9-18, 6-12.

* Conference Finish: Seventh.

Eddie Payne replaces Jim Anderson as coach after leading East Carolina to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 25 years. He may be in for a long season.

For the last two seasons, Brent Barry did it all for Oregon State, and now he is with the Clippers. Double-figure scorers Mustapha Hoff and Stephane Brown are gone as well.

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That means the Beavers will rely heavily on their three-guard offense of Markee Brown, Rob Williams and J.D. Vetter, the team’s only returning starter. Sonny Benjamin is the lone experienced player up front.

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STANFORD

* 1994-95 Record: 20-9, 10-8.

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* Conference Finish: Fifth (tie).

Knight averaged 17 points, seven assists and three steals while playing most of last season with a bad ankle. He will be even tougher after improving his outside shot during the off-season.

Backcourt mate Dion Cross is Coach Mike Montgomery’s main offensive weapon. He averaged 16.8 points and made 48% of his three-point shots last season. On most teams, David Harbour would be a starter, but he will continue to be a reserve after averaging 9.6 points.

Center Tim Young will no longer surprise teams this season after a freshman season in which he averaged 12.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. Andy Poppink and Darren Allaway return at forward.

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WASHINGTON

* 1994-95 Record: 9-18, 5-13.

* Conference Finish: Eighth (tie).

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Coach Bob Bender had hoped to be contending for the conference title by his third season when he took over in 1993. Washington will be better with the return of guard Bryant Boston and forward Mark Sanford but will still have to battle to stay out of last place.

Boston led the team with a 14.7 scoring average and came on strong down the stretch of the Pac-10 season as the Huskies opened up their offense. Jason Hamilton is an underrated point guard who averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 assists.

Sanford led Pac-10 freshmen in scoring with a 14.5 average and was the Huskies’ top rebounder and shot blocker. He is expected to get help inside from sophomore Alex Lopez and freshmen Todd McCulloch and Patrick Femerling.

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WASHINGTON STATE

* 1994-95 Record: 18-12, 10-8.

* Conference Finish: Fifth (tie).

If the Cougars stay physically sound, they could challenge nationally, what with all five starters from last season’s team, which reached the third round of the NIT. Coach Kevin Eastman also has his top two reserves back.

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Leading the Cougars will be senior forward Mark Hendrickson, who averaged 16.1 points and nine rebounds, and stretched his starting streak to 85 games. Tavares Mack is the other forward.

Donminic Ellison returns as point guard after averaging 11.3 points and 6.9 assists. He will be joined in the backcourt by the Pac-10’s top returning scorer, Isaac Fontaine, who had an 18.5-point average, and Shamon Antrum, who averaged 13.7.


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