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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
June 3
1855 - Ship leaves New York harbor bound for Tunis to acquire animals for the United States Camel Corps [story]
Camel Corps

| Thursday, Feb 4, 2016
Courtesy CSUN Athletics Courtesy CSUN Athletics

NORTHRIDGE, CA —As a child gets older and begins to take her first steps, there are a lot of customs and traditions associated with the moment. Before the advent of camcorders, parents might dip the tyke’s shoes in bronze or hold on to them as a keepsake of a time that goes quickly but is cherished forever. Today, video cameras, and the phones they most nearly all come with, are engrained and ubiquitous in our culture. Sharing a toddler’s first steps is as easy as the click of a few buttons.

More than 20 games into their rookie season in NCAA Division I women’s basketball, the four freshmen members of the CSUN women’s basketball team are beginning to show signs of improvement and maturation. The first steps have come with some bumps, bruises, slips and falls, but the quartet is starting to move with confidence and coordination on the court.

This far into the season, the stereotypical thing to say would be that they are not freshmen any more but that is not really the case. Each of them admits to having more to learn about the game and what it takes to play for CSUN head coach Jason Flowers.

“This group of freshmen have faced challenges and adversity, just like the classes before them,” Flowers said. “They’ve been challenged physically and, more importantly, mentally and have made the decision to show grit and perseverance. Because of that, they are starting to see the results of their hard work. This is just the beginning of them becoming who they can become while helping our program reach its full potential.”

Nautica Morrow came to CSUN after a highly successful prep career at Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, CA. She earned all-city and and all-league honors during her time there, but even that did not prepare her for the pace of the game at the Division I level.

“The speed of the game is a lot faster than in high school or travel ball,” Morrow said. “I have had to do extra conditioning to be able to get up and down the floor at the speed the game is played at in college.”

Morrow has had her moments as a freshman guard this season. In just her second career game as a Matador, she exploded for a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds in a contest at San Diego. However, the playing time waned after that as she began to understand what Coach Flowers was looking for in a guard.

Since the start of the Big West season, Morrow has seen an uptick in her time on the floor. She has played at least nine minutes in all seven games and is shooting 40.0 percent from the field, roughly 60 points higher than her percentage for the season. In CSUN’s victory over Hawai’i on Jan. 23, Morrow scored seven of her nine points after halftime as the Matadors snapped a seven-game losing streak. She then added 12 points in CSUN’s home victory over Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 30.

“We are starting to play better as a team and that is carrying over from having better practices,” Morrow said. “We are coming together as a team and after a bumpy start, we are starting to understand what coach wants and what it takes to win at this level.”

Another guard, Cheyenne Allen, has experienced those same growing pains in her journey as a freshman. Originally from Lakewood, CA, Allen spent time on two of the top high school girls basketball teams in Southern California and even that was not enough to make the leap to Division I hoops less drastic.

“The speed of the game is much quicker and you have to be constantly thinking,” Allen said. “I think as we’ve continued to improve this year, we have began to understand how Coach Flowers wants us to play. Earlier in the year, I do not think we were all buying in, but now our team chemistry is very good and we are like a family and sisters.”

Allen has appeared in 20 games thus far and made 12 starts for Flowers and the Matadors. A point guard like Morrow, she gets a lot of attention from her head coach, himself a point guard at UC Irvine and UCLA, during practice and in games.

She has scored in double-figures three times this season, recording a career-high 12 points in a game at Portland State. Allen opened conference play with 10 points against UC Davis and then pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds in a home game against UC Santa Barbara. In CSUN’s home victory over Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 30, Allen added 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. She is second on the team with 39 assists and is second on the squad with 19 steals.

“Earlier in the season, I had a tendency to get down on myself and get frustrated. Now, I am working on that with Coach Flowers and am a much more confident player. I have learned to play within myself and that helps create better team basketball,” Allen added.

One of the keys to Morrow and Allen’s proficiency at point guard is their ability to create quality scoring chances for their teammates. Two more freshmen, Claudia Ramos and Channon Fluker, have had their own unique journeys throughout the 2015-16 season.

Fluker has been a different player for CSUN since the turn of the calendar year. In eight games in 2016, Fluker is averaging 17.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. In seven Big West games, she is averaging a team-high 17 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and has produced four-straight double-doubles.

“Although I knew it would be hard working for Coach Flowers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Division I basketball,” Fluker said. “I knew it would be tougher because it is a higher level, but you get used to that.”

After averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in games against Cal Poly and Hawai’i, Fluker was name the Big West Conference Player of the Week. Included in that week was a 31-point, 11-rebound performance in a win over the Rainbow Wahine just 10 days after CSUN had sustained a 27-point loss to that same Hawai’i team in Honolulu.

Fluker followed that performance against the Rainbow Wahine with an even bigger week in games against UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton. Against the Anteaters, she finished with a career-high 33 points on 15-of-22 shooting from the field to go with 13 rebounds. Two days later, she added 21 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots in a home win over the Titans. She earned her second-straight Big West Conference Player of the Week honors on Feb. 1 and was College Sports Madness’ National Mid-Major Player of the Week for her performances against the Orange County rivals.

“It was time to give the best I could every game and to go out and play as hard as I can for my teammates,” Fluker said. “The four freshmen have definitely become closer over the past few months. We are all about the same age and are going through the same experiences together.”

Ramos is the final of the four freshmen and also one of four international players on the Matadors this season. Originally from Zapopan, Mexico, a suburb of Guadalajara, Ramos has had to make one of the biggest adjustments of any of her teammates. From American culture to basketball, everything was pretty new and pretty different for the 6-0 guard.

“This year has taught me a lot and I have grown as a basketball player and a person,” Ramos said. “This season has been full of ups and downs and it has taught me to work harder for what I want to accomplish. It feels good to have the support system of the three other freshmen. They are three good friends and we started this process together and have grown to understand how tough it is and will continue to be. We have seen each other grow so much and we are motivated to see where we can all go with this.”

Still, she has shown a knack for putting the ball in the basket, a skill that has not been lost on her coaches or her teammates. In CSUN’s win over Penn State, the program’s first win ever against a Big Ten opponent, Ramos scored a career-high 18 points and knocked down all four of her 3-point attempts. She added four steals against the Lady Lions and has been one of the team’s top perimeter shooters this season. She added 10 points and a career-high nine rebounds in a contest with Seattle and is third on the team with 17 3-pointers.

“I feel we are finally realizing that no one is going to give us anything and we have to work hard and play together to get a win,” Ramos added. “As the season has gone on, we have become more connected as a team and that shows itself on and off the court. We are playing for one another, playing together and we are becoming a pretty good team.”

On a team with six of the 13 members being completely new to Division I basketball, growing pains were expected for CSUN this season. However, those experiences have hardened and forged a group of Matadors primed for the stretch run of conference play and the Big West Tournament. With the freshmen leading the way, it is hard to predict what March Madness will entail for the Matadors, but since all their games have been filmed in one format or another, don’t expect Coach Flowers to do anything with their shoes.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023
CSUN's David Phillips, Jr. and Brianna Kelpis have been named to the 2023 Academic All-District Men's and Women's Track and Field teams, selected by College Sports Communicators.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
College of the Canyons standout forward Rebekah Brooks will be transferring to San Diego State University to continue her soccer career at the NCAA Division I level as an Aztec. 
Monday, May 29, 2023
The College of the Canyons women's volleyball program invites girls and boys ages 8-14 to participate in the 2023 COC Volleyball Camp, with registration now open for two sessions beginning in July.
Monday, May 29, 2023
Caleb Pouliot's win in the pole vault was the highlight of the final day of competition for The Master's at the 2023 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Track & Field Outdoor National Championships at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind.
Friday, May 26, 2023
In a thrilling finish, The Master's University's Davis Boggess out-kicked St. Mary's Emad Bashir-Mohammed to win the 10K title at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Marion, Ind. on Wednesday, May 24.

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