Inland college notes: UCR’s Dominick Pickett gets extra motivation from death of Kobe Bryant – Press-EnterpriseFebruary 5, 2020
At several points late in UC Riverside’s 77-69 victory over Long Beach State last Thursday, UCR guard Dominick Pickett was flirting with a 24-point, eight-rebound night. His shoes, however, were doing more than flirting with those two numbers.
Pickett took those numbers out for a date with a career-high 20 points and six rebounds. He had those numbers — synonymous, of course, with Lakers legend Kobe Bryant — along with “RIP Mamba” inked on his sneakers. The redshirt junior and Rancho Verde High product knew before the game where the motivation came from.
“I had a little more juice tonight. The whole Kobe thing kind of motivated us to go out there and leave it all on the floor,” Pickett said, referring to the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the life of the Lakers’ icon, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven other people. “I think I’m speaking for everyone that growing up in SoCal, we looked up to Kobe. That’s all we really knew growing up and he’s a big reason why a lot of us play and how hard we play.”
UCR coach David Patrick knows his team so well, he was one step ahead of them here. He had the Highlanders come out in purple warmups with the number “24” and #Mambamentality on the back, where the player’s name would go. Surrounding the number on the back were nine stars — one for each person who perished in the crash.
Earlier in the week, Patrick addressed the tragedy with his team, many of whom were still in shock trying to process it.
“I have to remember we’re older than they are and this may be the biggest thing (they remember),” Patrick said. “They were babies when 9/11 happened and I don’t know what they remember in terms of Michael Jackson and Prince. They don’t know those guys. This was someone I knew they were close to them and someone who was close to the basketball world, so I addressed with the team and hit it front-on.
“For me personally, I have two little girls: 13 and 10. Just imagining what that would be for Kobe’s wife, his family and all the other faimlies who were unfortunately in that tragedy, I wanted to address it. I wanted to pay homage to not only Kobe and Gigi, but the stars on the back of our shirts represent the other victims and their families.”
A Titan-ic game awaits
Cal Baptist’s baseball schedule in Year 2 of its NCAA Division I campaign is an eclectic one, to be sure, with games against UCR, Fordham (which has the oldest college baseball program in the nation, dating to 1860), UNLV, BYU, Long Beach State and Nevada. But there is one game that stands out for coach Gary Adcock and at least 10 of his players.
March 24 — at Cal State Fullerton.
It’s the first time the Lancers will play the four-time national champions and one of the West Coast’s dominant programs, albeit one that missed the NCAA playoffs last year for the first time since 1991. That, however, doesn’t faze Adcock, nor the 10 players on his team who played in Orange County, where Cal State Fullerton is the desired collegiate stop for many O.C. baseball players.
“Probably 90 percent of them dreamed of playing at Fullerton, not CBU,” Adcock said. “This is a game circled on the schedule for a lot of our guys, to be sure. I doubt Fullerton would say the same thing.”
For his part, Adcock, who played and coached at UCLA, is grateful for the opportunity. He is quite aware of some of the region’s bigger schools and their reluctance to play the pesky Lancers.
“I’ve known (Cal State Fullerton coach) Rick Vanderhook for years and he’s the type of guy not afraid to play anyone, which you can’t say about some of the others because there is a low-reward/high-risk element in playing CBU,” Adcock said. “But Rick is a guy you want to play and I appreciate everything about him and the opportunity to play a storied program like Fullerton.”
Who can stop MSJC?
Mount San Jacinto’s women’s basketball team won its 20th consecutive game in boat-race fashion last Wednesday, dismantling Barstow College 120-30 behind a 36-8 first-quarter run and a 31-4 fourth-quarter finish. This is not to be confused with the 86-30 beating the Eagles administered to Copper Mountain for consecutive win No. 19 earlier that week.
With their win streak reaching 20 after beating their last two opponents 206-60, it bears pointing out the 21-2 Eagles opened the season 1-2 after losses to Moorpark and Palomar. MSJC hasn’t lost since that Nov. 8 setback to Palomar.
It also bears pointing out the Eagles’ dominance in Inland Empire Athletic Conference games has reached video-game status. MSJC is winning conference games by an average of nearly 50 points a game (90.3-40.5). Its closest IEAC game was a 71-62 victory over San Bernardino Valley College on Jan. 22.
Ranked second, with a bullet
That the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s tennis team would open the season ranked No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Division III preseason poll is natural. That the Athenas would find themselves staring up at Wesleyan — which beat them in an epic Division III final, 5-4 last year — is understandable.
That CMS could find the No. 1 spot by the end of the season is also understandable. The Athenas graduated only one senior (Jessie Cruz), return senior Catherine Allen and turn loose freshman Justine Leong, who won the ITA Cup in the fall after Allen withdrew before their finals match. That tandem won the ITA Division III doubles title in the fall.
The Athenas are so deep that senior Nicole Tan, who played No. 1 singles on CMS’ national championship team two years ago, is playing No. 3 now, behind Allen and Leong. That displaces Rebecca Berger, who was merely 15-0 and an All-American playing at No. 3 last year. Allen, meanwhile, paired with junior Caroline Cox to win the NCAA Division III doubles title last year — where they beat teammates Tan and Sarah Bahsoun.