The Master’s College hopes to build on a strong foundation in men’s basketball, while Cal Lutheran optimistically points to last season’s fast finish as a starting point.
Winning is rarely a problem under Coach Bill Oates at Master’s. After all, he has a record of 732-293 in 35 years, including 134-41 in five seasons at the Newhall school.
When his team returns three starters from a squad that went 23-12, another 20-victory season is a near certainty.
That knowledge was all that could comfort the Mustangs (3-1) on Wednesday night when they returned home from a humbling 90-62 loss to Westmont, ranked No. 14 in the NAIA.
“We didn’t rebound, shoot or defend well,” Oates said.
Most likely the loss will be only a bump in the road to the NAIA national tournament, which Master’s has qualified for every year under Oates.
Master’s will have to fill a major void left by the transfer of Jerome Joseph to Azusa Pacific. Joseph, a Chatsworth High graduate, averaged a team-high 17.3 points.
Called upon to replace at least some of the offense is Joey Penberthy, a 6-foot-3 junior guard who averaged 12.7 points playing opposite Joseph. The point guard is Damon Lanier, a 6-3 transfer from West L.A. College.
Other returning starters are forwards Joclin Julmist and Chad Bell. Julmist, a 6-5 junior who jumps well and is a tenacious rebounder, averaged 8.7 points and 10.7 rebounds last season. Bell is a 6-7 senior who averaged 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds.
The center is Brian Wilson, a 6-10 junior who averaged 9.3 points and shot 57.4% in a reserve role. Wilson averaged only 5.2 rebounds and worked during the off-season on improving his strength.
Several newcomers are challenging for playing time, including Kelly Haynes, a junior from Merritt College in Oakland who is starting ahead of Bell.
Advancing to the national tournament will be somewhat easier than in recent years. Master’s, an independent, will need to win only a four-team regional instead of the six- or eight-team format of recent years.
At Cal Lutheran, a strong finish in 1997-98 triggered hard work during the off-season, resulting in better players and a healthy outlook.
The first day of practice was like Christmas morning for Coach Rich Rider. Players he hadn’t seen since the Kingsmen won 11 of their last 13 games last season were bigger and better.
“These guys are self-motivated,” Rider said. “They played in summer leagues and lifted weights. When they showed up, I was pleasantly surprised.”
Rider, who begins his fifth season with a record of 68-32, said returning starters Mike Dulaney and Chris Whitfield are “vastly improved.”
Only a slight improvement on a 15-10 record, 11-3 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will be necessary to earn a Division III playoff berth.
The conference champion qualifies for the postseason and Cal Lutheran finished second, one game behind Pomona-Pitzer.
Dulaney, a 6-5 senior forward, was an All-SCIAC pick after averaging 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Whitfield, a 6-foot senior swingman, averaged 8.4 points and two three-point baskets a game.
Jake Stewart, a 5-11 sophomore from Westlake High, is the point guard, making a transition from off guard. Gavin Taylor, a 6-foot junior described by Rider as “a rock-solid performer,” will play opposite Stewart.
Sophomore guard Richard Iskenderian is a three-point specialist who can come off the bench to provide an offensive spark. Iskenderian made 21 of 37 three-point shots last season.
Replacing center Mike Salser, who averaged 16 points and eight rebounds, is the Kingsmen’s biggest challenge. Mike McGill, a 6-6 senior, will start.
Cal Lutheran opens today against Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills, and in the next two weeks plays UC San Diego and NAIA power Westmont.