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COLLEGES:UCI fans wait till next year

March 13, 2007|By BARRY FAULKNER

It likely was not a spike in the Anaheim Convention Center temperature that prompted UC Irvine men's basketball coach Pat Douglass to shed his jacket during the Anteaters' 77-63 loss to Long Beach State Friday in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament.

Perhaps it was a gesture aimed at his players, that he was willing to give unprecedented effort to try to advance past the semifinals for the first time in his 10-year tenure at the helm.

Though UCI fell to 2-9 in conference tournament semifinals, and extended its streak of not making the NCAA Tournament to 30 seasons, UCI fans have plenty to look forward to next season.

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The lone seniors on this team — Mark Kelley, a 6-foot-8 center, and Nic Campbell, a 6-6 three-point specialist (134 threes in his career) — will be missed. But Kevin Bland, a 6-8 forward who redshirted this season after earning Northern California Community College Player of the Year honors at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, should step in for Kelley.

Based on reports that he was the best player in the teams' practices, Bland could be a go-to scorer next year.

Campbell, whose sound play and consistent effort made him more valuable than his 10.3 combined scoring average the last two seasons, could still be seamlessly replaced by Adam Templeton, a junior next season.

With juniors Patrick Sanders and Darren Fells back, along with the starting backcourt of junior Chuma Awaji and freshman Michael Hunter, the Anteaters have enough talent to challenge for one of the conference's two byes into the conference tournament semis.

What is most needed, however, is a dominant personality who can lead and inspire this group of quiet competitors. Even if that role is filled by a reserve, I believe the program needs an injection of dynamism to ring every ounce of potential out of next year's squad.

  • The best thing about the 2006-07 season for the UCI women's basketball team is that it's over.

    And even though senior Angie Ned — whose progress in the program from borderline Division I talent to a consistent standout her final three seasons was monumental — the prospect of junior Stephanie Duda combining with a healthy Kelly Cochran and Christina Zdenek, as well as emerging freshman point guard Keyonna Johnson, should be enough to raise expectations significantly for next season.

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