The Week Ahead ...
The Week Ahead at Cal State Northridge ...
Success in basketball, and kudos to a great Matador men's volleyball team ... Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations, offers his weekly insights on the accomplishments of the teams, coaches, and student-athletes who compete for Cal State Northridge ... The weekly report includes upcoming key games, and a report on what other activities are happening in the Matador Athletic Department ... For more information on Matador Athletics, go to www.gomatadors.com
Hoops Hysteria ...
The success of men's basketball this year may have started simply enough in a conference room at a hotel in Irvine back in late October.
There, senior forward Calvin Chitwood and head coach Bobby Braswell sat at the table at the annual Big West Media Day, and were virtually ignored by the media. Coming off a 14-17 season in 2006-07, and a fifth place finish in the conference, losing teams don't attract much attention or respect. The lack of attention disappointed Chitwood, but he understood the situation. Braswell noticed Chitwood's disappointment and reassured the starting forward that the situation would be alright.
"I think Calvin did a good job of taking it all back (the media inattention) to the team and they have used it to help motivate themselves to have a good season," said Braswell.
The Matadors were picked to finish a lowly sixth in the Big West which further fueled the fire of Chitwood. He informed his teammates of the media's slight. Normally a soft-spoken person, Chitwood, without hesitation, wanted to make sure that in 2007-08, Cal State Northridge would get the respect it deserved. Chitwood felt the team would work extremely hard, compete as a team, buy into the coaches' game plan, and be proud of wearing of a Matador red and black jersey.
"We're a very humble team, but I think we wanted to show what we are made of," said Chitwood. "I know it hurt the team when we were picked to finish sixth in the league. To come out and prove everybody wrong is the sweetest thing in the world."
The Matadors have had to weather several adversities through the 2007-08 campaign. Three players have been sidelined for the remainder of the season due to injuries, and a fourth player, Chitwood is out of action for the next three weeks due to a high ankle sprain suffered in the recent 78-61 win over Pacific. But as Braswell explains, injuries are a part of any team's journey through a long season. That's why you have reserves who need to step up and compete when called upon.
So why the sudden change in fortunes for Matador basketball in only one year? It began with an overhaul of the roster from a year ago. Eleven new players were recruited. Not just any players, but good players at every position. The list included two new point-guards, including Josh Jenkins, who was a first team junior college All-American last year, and two shooting guards including Deon Tresvant, who set a California state junior college record last year with a 63 point game. Jenkins is the team's starting point-guard, and leads the Big West in assists. Tresvant is the team's leading scorer and one of the top three-point shooters in the conference. Another new recruit, center Tremaine Townsend, leads the conference in rebounding.
"We knew that when we brought this number of new players in, that it would take awhile to get acclimated to our system," said Braswell, who is in his 12th season as head coach at Cal State Northridge. "But one of the pleasant surprises is how competitive these guys are and how much they really want to win. They listen. They are coachable. It's made it easier for us."
With eleven new players and the return of six players from a year ago, depth became a strength. There are three quality point-guards (Josh Jenkins, Paul Wayne, Rai Colston), three quality shooting guards (Rob Haynes, Deon Tresvant, Rodrigue Mels), and a solid front line (senior all-conference candidates Jonathan Heard and Calvin Chitwood, Tremaine Townsend, Jayme Miller) and a quality group of reserves who have stepped up when called upon including Therin Taylor, Tony Osunsanmi, Michael Lizarraga.
Team chemistry is an intangible that has been a blessing for the Matadors this year. Led by the leadership of seniors Jonathan Heard, Calvin Chitwood and Jayme Miller, the team has worked hard, paid attention to the goals set forward by the coaching staff, and everyone has contributed to the success of the team be it as a starter or reserve. The team has focused on their daily tasks whether it's practice or a game.
"We are fighters, not quitters," said Jonathan Heard, a four-year Matador veteran. "From the first day of practice, we have been a dedicated, hard-working team."
Braswell takes it a bit further. "Our younger players depend on our veteran players. Guys like Calvin Chitwood, Jonathan Heard and Jayme Miller have done a great job in educating their teammates, and showing these guys the way."
Because the team has enjoyed success, skeptics have traded their words of doom to words of praise. Attendance at The Matadome is growing, and the media has taken notice of the team's success. The Matadors are ranked in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll, and have national rankings in the RPI and Sagarin polls which would mean inclusion into the NCAA Tournament. That has never happened before in the 50-year history of Matador basketball.
"Since I have been here at Northridge, we have cherished the position of being the underdog," said Braswell. "But our team has worked hard and has taken advantage of the opportunities they have been handed this year."
Of course, there is still another two months of the season yet to play, but for now, the success of the Matador basketball team has been a breath of fresh air.
"I'm extremely blessed to have a group of guys who continue to listen and continue to try to get better," said Braswell.
Matador Moments ...
There have been many team and individual highlights this year ... Here are just a few.
* The 13-3 record is the team's best start since the 1981-82 season when the Matadors started 15-2.
* The 5-0 conference start ties the best mark in school history.
* Three of CSUN's five conference wins have been against teams that were picked in the pre-season to finish 1-2-3 in the Big West, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and Pacific.
* Cal State Northridge has notched nine of its 13 wins by double-digit margins.
* Three of CSUN's 13 wins came after the team was down by ten points (twice) and 13 points.
* The Matadors lead the Big West in eight offensive and defensive categories while three players are ranked #1 in several conference
categories including assists (Josh Jenkins), rebounding (Tremaine Townsend) and blocked shots (Calvin Chitwood).
* No reserve in school history has ever led the team in scoring or rebounding ... That could happen this year with Deon Tresvant leading the team in scoring, and Tremaine Townsend leading the Matadors in rebounding.
Volleyball Volumes ...
A part of building a strong tradition is maintaining contact with the alumni ... That will take place on Friday, Jan. 25, when the Cal State Northridge men's volleyball program honors the 1993 Matador team that went further than any men's volleyball team in school history ... It's part of its All-Alumni Night festivities which begins at 5:30 p.m. with an Alumni, family and friends mixer in the Northridge Athletics Conference Room ... CSUN will honor the 1993 Matador team that played for the NCAA championship, and members of that NCAA runner up team are expected to be in attendance along with many former Northridge players from the 31 years of Matador men's volleyball ... This will be a great night to remember some of the great moments in CSUN men's volleyball history ... In addition, the current Matadors team will take on Pacific in a key MPSF match starting at 7:00 p.m. ... Between games two and three of the match, the '93 CSUN team will be honored ... For information regarding All-Alumni Night, contact Ellie Odenheimer at 818-677-7245 or at email@example.com, or head coach Jeff Campbell at 818-677-4512 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, January 22.
ATHLETIC EVENTS AT CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE ...
Monday, January 21, Noon, Men's/Women's Swimming at Cal Poly
Tuesday, January 22, 7:00 p.m. (ct), Men's Basketball at Chicago State
Thursday, January 24, 7:00 p.m., Men's Volleyball vs Stanford, The Matadome
Friday, January 25, 7:00 p.m., Men's Volleyball vs Pacific, The Matadome
Saturday, January 26, 11:00 a.m., Men's/Women's Swimming vs Washington, Matador Pool
Saturday, January 26, 4:00 p.m., Men's Basketball vs Long Beach State, The Matadome
Saturday, January 26, 5:00 p.m., Women's Basketball at Long Beach State
Saturday, January 26, All Day, All Comers Track & Field at CSUN
Go Matadors !!!