Fans of college basketball in Los Angeles, certainly those in Malibu, know how good Pepperdine’s team is. For a resident of Bloomington, Ind., however, the defeat of Bobby Knight’s powerhouse squad by the Waves in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in Buffalo March 17 must have seemed incredible. Think how the Philistines probably felt when word reached them of David’s defeat of Goliath; you get the idea. It was also only the first appearance of the Pepperdine team in the playoffs since 1994, and its first win since 1982 (the Waves would subsequently lose in the second round to Oklahoma State).
What made this victory possible? The in-depth talent of the team certainly played a major part. Among those players, few are more visible and valuable than the team’s point guard, Tezale Archie.
Archie, a 25-year-old senior and business administration major, interviewed recently on campus, avoids talking much about the personal wear and tear imposed by a six-hour-a-day commitment to basketball added to a demanding academic schedule. Instead, he credits most of the team’s success this past season to the present coach, Jan van Breda Kolff, who came on board at the university only last April. “He has a philosophy of giving the players the ball and let them play,” Archie says. “He lets everybody who is capable of making plays, do that — not just one or two people. It gives everyone more freedom and creates a more uptempo game.”
Certainly, Archie’s stats prove his capability for making plays. In the 1999-2000 season, he not only posted 18 double-figure scoring games, he led the team in scoring seven times; averaged 9.6 points per game; set a single season school record with 208 assists; shot 83.8 percent from the free throw line, 45 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from the three-point range, and led the team and the West Coast Conference in steals per game. Says van Breda Kolff: “Tezale was the glue that held our team together throughout the course of the season. He is a leader on the floor and his attitude and style of play set the tone for our ball club. He excelled in all phases of the game — distributing the ball to his teammates, playing hard-nosed defense and stepping up to make clutch shots.”
For the 6-foot-1-inch, 175-pound, five-year senior from Fresno, the experience was the high point of his athletic career. Nevertheless, basketball was not his first choice as a sport. “Soccer was my first love,” says the affable, laid-back star who credits “everything” to his upbringing and his mother, Angelea. “She raised us right,” he says of himself, his two brothers and two sisters.
“I didn’t really play basketball until I was in the eighth grade,” Archie says. “But I knew about it. My daddy, Terence, used to watch it on television Sunday afternoons when I was just a little squirt running around. We used to cheer for the different teams, especially the Celtics and the Pistons. I started watching, and there was just something about it I really liked, especially back in the ’80s … Danny Ainge, Bird, all of them.
“I quit soccer and concentrated on basketball when I was in the tenth grade and realized I might be able to do something with it.”
So far he’s done a lot. Says Dr. John Watson, Pepperdine athletic director: “Tezale has represented himself, the university and the West Coast Conference extremely well all season … We are all pleased that he was able to complete his collegiate career in such an impressive manner.”
But this could just be the beginning. Although Tezale is attracted to the marketing side of his major, professional agents are calling. And, now that his final season is over, Archie can talk to them about a professional career. “I just want the opportunity,” he says, “just the opportunity. If it doesn’t work out, I know I want to coach down the line.”
In any event, you can pretty well bet that you’ll hear more from Tezale Archie.