Men’s basketball players “chill,” joke around on Photo Day

There were a lot of new faces last Wednesday when the Matadors had an appointment with a camera at Matador Hall. There were new, better-looking uniforms, too. What hadn’t changed, though, was some of the players’ knack for finding the chance to poke some friendly fun at their teammates, or ex-teammates.

“That kid Heard, man,” said last year’s leading scorer, Deon Tresvant, recalling an anecdote from the 2007-08 season in which then-senior captain Jonathan Heard missed two free throws towards the end of a road game at Pacific. After the play, the Tigers stunned the Matadors with a desperation heave and a catch-and-shoot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Pacific prevailed over Northridge in the extra session.

Tresvant spoke without malice of the moment. Heard is unarguably one of the greatest players to ever have put on a CSUN uniform. The swingman scored 1,362 points in his four-year Matador career, good for third-best all-time; he was also the team’s second leading scorer and was named to the All-Big West First Team last season. On that night, though – one in which he scored 11 points – things couldn’t have gone much worse.

The game at Stockton was, at the time, one of frustration and disappointment not only for the way it was lost, but also because Pacific was one of the teams the Matadors were fighting off to preserve their top spot in the Big West Conference. However, more than eight months later and while waiting for a photographer to call you into a room, it became a memory, one even Tresvant – who had 19 points in the recalled outing – could find some humor in. As he sat surrounded by teammates waiting for his turn at the shoot, he retold the final moments of the game.

“We’re up two and we got the final stop, right?,” said Tresvant. “Heard grabs the rebound and I’m like ‘over here Heard’ and he’s like ‘No, I got it, I got it.’ He gets fouled and he’s walking to the line and he’s all like ‘yeaaah, yeaaah’”

Tresvant was a 75 percent-free throw shooter last season. Heard wound up making only 55 percent of his attempts.

“So he goes up (to the free throw line),” resumed Tresvant, beginning to smile. “He airballs the first one. He airballed it. He missed the second one. Badly, too.”

Tresvant wrapped up the story with a teasing shot at another ex-teammate, Calvin Chitwood. The forward’s crime: trying to box out Pacific players as the ball was being heaved from one end of the court to the other instead of swatting it away to make sure no Tiger got his hands on it…

Obviously Tresvant made no mistakes during the game. Either that or Heard and Chitwood are too far away to remind the guard of anything wrong he did that night – the forwards are playing professionally in Finland and Japan respectively. That didn’t matter Wednesday, however. Players just had a few hours of “chilling” before practices officially began Friday. Tresvant found his fun on reminiscing for a while, but then he got serious. Asked about the Matadors’ chances and all the hoopla around the team this year, he lowered his voice.

“It’s nice. It’s really nice,” he said, talking about being voted No. 1 in the conference by four pre-season polling magazines. “We’re going to live up to (the expectations).”

Tresvant along with point guard Josh Jenkins and forward Tremaine Townsend, all All-Big West selections last year, are big reasons for people jumping on the Matador bandwagon so early. Townsend was also there and said to be ready. Jenkins got there last because of class, according to a teammate. The core of the team, joined by the new supporting cast went in and out of the photo room in groups. The rest waited along, cracking jokes. Among the topics of conversation: predictions for the upcoming NBA season, a Big West player whom Tresvant referred to as “weak,” another one whom he referred to as “strong,” and the then-still-playing Dodgers,

“I’m going for the Phillies,” said newcomer, guard Mark Hill, who must have been glad that very night as Philadelphia eliminated Los Angeles in Game 5 of their NL Championship Series.

And just like the Phillies, the Matadors want to have a shot at a championship. They’re heavily favored, but it’s obvious they’re going to need more than just magazine polls to achieve the task. They already began conditioning. Practices are under way under the guidance of Head Coach Bobby Braswell.

Wednesday was just about relaxing before the intense times began though. The target was reached. Now the Matadors move on to the real goal.