Winter Doesn't Freeze Sports

While most students spend their holiday vacation stuffing their faces with holiday leftovers or slaving away at their "9 to 5" to pay for the upcoming semester, the Cal State Fullerton winter sports teams will be fighting and clawing to position themselves for successful runs at conference titles in the heart of their schedules.

For students looking to catch up on Titan sports, the six-week layoff is the perfect time to make your way over to an on-campus sporting event. It's a clever way to avoid that aunt who loves to drop by without calling or at the very least it's a cheap date.

But for those of you who prefer to waste away on the couch watching Real World reruns, there will be a whole lot to look forward to when you return for the beginning of the spring semester.

Men's basketball: No one could be more excited about final exams than CSUF men's basketball Head Coach Bob Burton. It's not because he's taking the latest Wushu class or anxious to attend an all-night study session, it's because he will be getting two important additions to his team just in time for the conference opener.

Ralphy Holmes and Jamaal Brown will be added to the team's roster at the conclusion of the exam week and will make their season debuts against San Diego State on Dec. 21. The duo will make an enormous impact on the injury-laden team that only managed to suit up nine players for its most recent contest.

Holmes will likely provide the biggest boost. He missed all of last season when he was suspended for disciplinary problems, but he has the potential to be one of the top players in the Big West Conference.

Holmes led the Titans in scoring in the 2002-2003 season with 17.4 points per game and added 6.2 rebounds per game, while earning conference first-team honors. His leadership will help a largely inexperienced team in the clutch and he should be a perfect fit in Burton's up-tempo offense. His presence should also help to solidify the team's early defensive problems.

Brown, a transfer from Western Kentucky's 2002-2003 NCAA Tournament team, has big-game experience and is a proven scorer. The 6-foot-7-inch forward should make a smooth transition onto the team's rotation and will be a factor immediately.

The team will have two tuneup games after the pair's arrival before it opens up conference play on the road against Cal State Northridge.

Then they face a critical stretch in which they play league opponents nine out of 10 games before the beginning of the Spring semester.

Women's basketball: Last year the women's basketball team lost its first nine contests before opening up conference play with a win over CSUN. The team has struggled in the early going this season (1-5 record), but it managed to pick up its first win a lot sooner.

Second-year Head Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah has invigorated the team and loaded it with experienced recruits who have made immediate contributions. They will look to jump out to a much better start this year.

It will be tough. After opening league play with two straight home games, they'll hit the road in six of their next eight games. If they plan on making a late-season run in the conference, they'll have to stay afloat during that crucial stretch.

Amber Pruitt will be the key. The Titans depend on her for inside scoring and rebounding. Her inside presence changes opposing defenses, but the center must stay out of early foul trouble

Baseball: Even though their season-opener against Stanford is about two months away, all eyes are on the CSUF baseball team. They have been since the team upset Texas in the College World Series last summer.

The ecstasy from winning the school's fourth national championship is slowly fading as the realization of the upcoming season approaches and questions of a repeat begin to creep in.

The team will be among the favorites to make a return trip to Omaha, but it has to fill some big shoes. It has yet to be seen who will step up to complement the dominance of southpaw pitcher Ricky Romero, and who will fill the offensive void left by catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the recent MLB draft.