Thursday, November 7, 2013.
As Boise State opens the basketball season tomorrow night against Texas-Arlington, what are the expectations for a team that returns all five starters? Pretty high if you think of how the Broncos might progress. Ryan Watkins should be a little better, Jeff Eloriagga a little better, Derrick Marks a little better, Anthony Drmic a little better—and Igor Hadziomerovic a lot better. It’s Hadziomerovic who could be the catalyst for a leap by Boise State this winter. The junior Australian hasn’t played a full season yet, having been hampered by foot problems. Hadziomerovic averaged 5.2 points per game last season and shot just 25 percent from three-point range. Expect significant improvement in Iggy’s numbers.
The core of this Boise State team has been together three years now. “We’ve grown together,” said Hadziomerovic on KTIK's Bob & Murph Show yesterday. “We know each other’s games on the court.” And Hadziomerovic’s game has improved. He spent the summer in international competition with the Australian national team and got invaluable experience at the World University Games in particular, where the Aussies finished second to Russia. It could have been seen as a gamble considering the danger of aggravating the foot injuries. But all systems are go now. “I definitely feel better,” Hadziomerovic said. “My foot’s flared up over the past couple of years, but it hasn’t this year, so that’s good.
Idaho opens its hoops season Saturday night in Memorial Gym against Western Illinois. The Vandals’ situation is 180 degrees removed from that of the Broncos. Idaho returns two starters from last season, senior Stephen Madison and junior Connor Hill. There’s only one other player on the roster who so much as suited up for the Vandals in 2012-13, senior Joe Kammerer. Coach Don Verlin has 10 newcomers this season.
The focus on Boise State’s second football bye week of the season has been on healing a hurting squad. But in the win-loss column, well, bye weeks have been a winning proposition under coach Chris Petersen. There are two kinds really—the full byes that go from Saturday to Saturday, and the “mini-byes” that Boise State used to encounter a lot when it would play those Thursday or Wednesday…or even Tuesday games. The Broncos would leave the weekend preceding and following those games blank. In games after the mini-bye weeks, Petersen has gone 10-0. Following full byes, he's 7-0, including the win over Nevada three weeks ago. In all, Petersen is 17-0 after the Broncos have extended time off.
There’s something beyond the injury list that has created a rollercoaster this year at Boise State. It’s recruiting. The Broncos’ recruiting class of 2014 is back down to nine players after tight end Dimitri Flowers de-committed and flipped his verbal to Oklahoma yesterday. The 6-3, 220-pounder from San Antonio was as enthusiastic as could be when he committed to Boise State in June. But the Sooners came calling. Same thing happened with wide receiver Shay Fields two weeks ago when USC got in his ear. Running back Squally Canada decommitted at the end of August but still hasn’t verbaled anywhere else. One-time Borah standout Hawkins Mann did the same last month and went with San Diego State.
The Tampa Tribune reports that Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin is hoping to delay surgery on his injured left shoulder until after the season and return to the lineup before it’s over. “Everything is looking good,” said the former Boise State running back. “I’m doing everything the trainer’s telling me and it is improving. The pain’s decreasing and the range of motion is increasing.” But Buccaneer coach Greg Schiano says the team has to determine what’s in Martin’s best interests before putting him back out there. Doesn’t sound like he’ll be back for Monday Night Football against Miami as he had hoped. Martin suffered a torn labrum versus Atlanta October 21.
Chicago’s Shea McClellin has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack game Monday night in the 27-20 win at Green Bay. His first sack of the game is well-documented, the one that resulted in a fracture of Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone. But McClellin had the best overall game of his career, doubling his career sack total. Researchers say it’s the first time a Bears players has ever had three sacks in a game at Lambeau Field.
Old Dominion doesn’t have a lot of experience as a football school—the Monarchs have been playing the sport since only 2009. But on the field they have massive experience as they transition to the FBS. Old Dominion visits Idaho Saturday after a 66-14 win over Rhode Island. The Monarchs have a running back, Cam Boyd, who rushed for 119 yards, and another, Colby Goodwin, who became the school’s career rushing leader in that game. They have a quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, who threw six touchdown passes and had a 70-yard TD run, the longest rushing play in school history. Heinicke has thrown 91 career TD passes. That’s enough of a resume to keep the Vandals up at night.
After a defensive day that felt a lot like 2012, Idaho State tries to get that 2013 feeling back Saturday when it hosts Portland State. What Eastern Washington did last week was in line with the Bengals’ historically bad defensive numbers last season, 55 points and 743 yards, the most in EWU history. ISU did put up 34 points against the Eagles, with former Skyview High star Luke Austin pulling in 10 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown. Austin is sixth nationally in the FCS with 56 receptions for 844 yards and seven TDs.
The Alaska Aces skated into town last night brandishing a lethal combination: lots of shots on goal, and very few allowed at the other end. The Aces led the ECHL in both categories, putting up 37½ shots per game and yielding fewer than 19. The trend held true at CenturyLink Arena as Alaska blanked the Idaho Steelheads, 3-0, outshooting them 35-21. Incredibly, it was the Aces’ third consecutive shutout—they have not allowed a goal in their last 11 periods of hockey. All three Alaska goals came within a seven-minute stretch of the second period. The rivals face off again tomorrow night and Saturday night.
The PGA Tour is back on the mainland, and Troy Merritt is set for his second start of the season. The former Boise State star, who made it back to the big circuit with his performance in the Web.com Tour Finals in September, tees off this morning in the McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, GA. Merritt missed the cut in the PGA Tour season opener four weeks ago. Graham DeLaet is not playing this week. In fact, according to his website, DeLaet will be off until the Franklin Templeton Shootout December 13-15.
The Idaho Stampede open their training camp Saturday and will get a first look at their newest acquisition. The Stampede picked up rookie guard Steven Pledger from the Reno Bighorns last weekend in exchange for the returning player rights to Mikki Moore and Mohamed Fall. Pledger averaged 11.6 points per game for Oklahoma last season. The Stamps also have Jason Ellis back. The former Boise State standout is on a quest to get one more season out of a body that turns 31 on December 15. Ellis has played five different seasons for the Stampede, including the D-League championship team in 2007-08.
This Day In Sports…November 7, 1959:
Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain play against each other for the first time as the Celtics beat the Philadelphia Warriors, 115-106, at Boston Garden. The numbers? Chamberlain had 30 points and 30 rebounds—Russell scored 22 points and pulled down 35 boards. It’s still probably the greatest man-to-man rivalry in the history of pro basketball.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)