Remember Cal State-Fullerton? Cal State-Who? That's what a lot of folks were saying in 1978 when Cal State-Who came within an eyelash of advancing to the NCAA Final Four. But when George McQuarn became coach in 1980, a few wise guys were calling the school Cal State-Disneyland. It was as much a reflection of the Titans' basketball ineptitude as it was the campus' proximity to the amusement park.
McQuarn's first team in 1980-81 finished 4-23 and was so bad that any five of the Seven Dwarfs could have given it a run. But instead of wishing on a star, McQuarn, a master recruiter in his days at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, went out and corralled a few. As a result, the Titans last season went 18-14, won 10 of their last 13 games and improved their record by 11½ games, the most dramatic turnabout in the country. They did it despite an inside game so weak that passing the ball to the post men was futile. "A lot of people thought that we won 18 games with three players," says McQuarn. That's in fact what the Titans did.
Two of that threesome, junior Leon Wood and senior Ricky Mixon, form as potent a backcourt as there is. Wood, who spent a fitful freshman year at Arizona, averaged 19.7 points and 7.4 assists per game. "He can penetrate and dish it off as well as half the guys in the NBA," says Golden State scout Pete Newell. Mixon scored 13.9 points per game, all from the outside. There's also a chance that sophomore Gary Davis, who is bigger (6'6") and quicker than Mixon, could start beside Wood, leaving Mixon to bring his hot shot off the bench. The Titans will be tougher underneath this year, thanks to 6'11" Ozell (Hoppy) Jones, who left Wichita State when grade problems made him ineligible for the 1981 NCAA tournament, and NCAA rules violations put the Wheatshockers on probation. Jones gives the Titans the mobile, hostile big man they have long needed and frees Tony Neal, Cal State-Fullerton's leading rebounder and the PCAA's top freshman in 1981-82, to play a more comfortable forward spot.
The other forward will be drawn from among all-star juco transfers DeWayne Shepard (if he's fully recovered from arthroscopic surgery to his right knee), Craig Fuller or Johnny Wilkes, the brother of former UCLA forward James Wilkes. You wouldn't be living in Fantasyland if you expected this team to have an outstanding season.
Center Jones fully fills the Fullerton bill.