M-Bball: Freshmen learning to deal with disappointment of first-year ban

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M-Bball: Freshmen learning to deal with disappointment of first-year ban

Alonso Tacanga

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CSUN freshman Allan Guei signs his letter of intent to play for the Matadors at an April event at Compton High School. (Photo courtesy of Gazettessports.com

CSUN freshman point guard Allan Guei’s letter-of-intent signing was a huge event back in April at Compton High School. His head coach was there. His classmates were there. Even NBAer, Toronto Raptor DeMar DeRozan, a former Compton standout himself, was there, proud to see him sign.

And as the point guard committed his name onto a piece of paper to play for CSUN for the next four years and everyone cheered, not many imagined Guei’s college-playing career would get a noteworthy bump on the road in as early as a few weeks later.

“The day I was going to sign, (CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell) called me and said we’d probably be ineligible for the postseason,” Guei said.

Though the news of the Matadors’ one-year ban from postseason play due to poor APR scores (grades) weren’t official yet, Guei knew of the possibility. Yet he chose to go ahead and sign anyway. The next month, the NCAA made it official.

“(Braswell) said it wasn’t for sure yet, but I figured … it didn’t really matter. CSUN was the right place for me,” he said.

Guei signed the forms warned. Fellow freshman Stephen Maxwell did not.

Maxwell, a 6-foot-5 small forward from 2011 City-section champion Taft High School, didn’t hear of the sanctions until after he had signed and was attending summer school already. He was eating with teammates when he got the call.

“I was really hurt by it, but I wasn’t going to let it slow me down,” Maxwell said.

Guei, who at 5 feet 9 averaged 13.9 points and 3.7 assists per game in 2010-11, was at lunch at Compton when his high school coach approached him and said to him: “bad news, man.”

“I was like, ‘are you (serious)?’ I wanted to call the coach, but I was like, ‘nah, he already gave me the heads up.’” Guei recalled. “I didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to get here and focus on what I need to do.”

Though CSUN won’t be able to play beyond its regular-season finale at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 29, Guei and Maxwell said there’s more to being Matadors than just competing for titles. Maxwell cited academics as well as the opportunity to play close to home as a top reason for signing with CSUN while Guei feels the Matadors are the program that needs him the most and that he’ll get a chance to get considerable playing time right off the bat.

And it helps that the sanction is not projected to go beyond this season, Guei said.

“It’s not like it’s for four years,” he said.

Athletics is doing its part so that doesn’t happen, according to the freshmen. Tutoring, study hall and constant checking on student-athletes’ class punctuality are some of the measures applied to make sure the team complies with NCAA APR guidelines, a sighing Maxwell said.

It seems to be working for him so far. Earlier this month, Maxwell posted on his Twitter account that he earned a 3.0 GPA for the summer.

While the freshmen have accepted the reality of the 2011-12 season and seem to be coping with it just fine, it remains to be seen what emotions the actual season will bring to them. Both are excited for the season opener at USC on Nov. 11 and said they believe that “everything happens for a reason.” However, they are also keeping frustration words – if any – bottled up for now. According to them, no one has even brought up the topic of the banning in the locker room at all.

“At a time, it’s going to really hit us. Like ‘OK, this is our last game and after this we’re just going to have to watch.’” said the candid Guei. “I know I get emotional, and stuff like this might make me emotional … but not for now. Not right now.”