Wednesday, February 29, 2012.
It’s been a wild ride through the first season of Mountain West basketball in Taco Bell Arena. The home schedule ends with a crescendo tonight as 22nd-ranked San Diego State comes to town for the first time. It’s a fitting finish—a game Boise State isn’t expected to win, but one that can go in the “you never know” category considering how close the Broncos came four weeks back at Viejas Arena. Sure, BSU is limping to the finish with a 3-9 conference record. But from the big crowd that came to mark Boise State’s Mountain West debut against Air Force, to the flash mob in the BSU student section that went viral in the UNLV game, to the heart-stopping last-second victories over Colorado State and TCU, the Mountain West experience has been a good one all-in-all. There’s one season to go, but it’ll blast by in a blur next winter.
Boise State’s home finale tonight doubles as Senior Night for Westly Perryman and Tre’ Nichols. Perryman is the only holdover from the Greg Graham era that ended less than two years ago. Perryman’s minutes had fallen off since his suspension for the road win at Air Force 2½ weeks ago—until he put in 28 minutes last Saturday at Wyoming. Perryman has had no more than two assists in a game since dishing out nine versus Idaho on New Year’s Eve. Nichols, the transfer from Texas State by way of McClennan Community College, has been an energy-producer during his two seasons with the Broncos. His best stretch as a Bronco came in late January and early February when he posted double figures in four straight games, including a season-high 17 points against tonight’s opponent, San Diego State.
The Aztecs don’t have the core they did last season when they won 34 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. But they do have senior Tim Shelton, who’s been a rock when San Diego State bears down on defense. Shelton has become a legend at SDSU, to the point that when the team is introduced at home, the public address system plays a rap music video called "Aztec Motto" that was written, produced and performed by Shelton. It’s been interesting the way coach Steve Fisher has built his roster (Shelton, a fifth-year senior, notwithstanding). San Diego State has transfers from LSU, Virginia, Utah, St. John’s, Santa Clara and Washington State.
Here’s that speed issue again. For all his “measurables” and his strong showing in the bench press, former Boise State star George Iloka is left with a liability after yesterday’s performance at the NFL Combine. Iloka ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds. Yes, that’s three-hundredths of a second slower than Shea McClellin’s time Monday. But wait—what about agility? How many times do you run in a straight line in the NFL? Iloka turned around and posted the fastest 20-yard shuttle among safeties. With that, the Broncos’ seven representatives have completed the Combine process. Next stop is Pro Day at the Caven-Williams indoor facility on March 22.
Maybe this is a hint for April—maybe it isn’t. But maybe Kellen Moore could stay on the West Coast later this year. Because a couple NFL general managers appear to be seeing through Moore’s almighty measurables. John Schneider of the Seahawks and Trent Baalke of the 49ers were looking beneath the surface at Moore during the NFL Combine. “His football intelligence is off the charts,” Schneider said in the Tacoma News-Tribune. “His instincts are off the charts.” Added Baalke: “What’s the most important thing for a quarterback to do? It’s to win games, find a way to win, and lead their team to victory. And Kellen’s done it better than anybody in the history of college football. And so that has to mean something.” Baalke said the past can be a pretty good indicator of a player is going to do in the future.
An unusual partnership has been forged for CenturyLink Arena’s big function in September. Get ready for the Project Filter Dallas Stars Training Camp in Boise. But why not a title sponsorship from Project Filter? The organization does good work in helping people quit tobacco when they are ready. The highlight of the Stars’ stay will be an exhibition game against the Minnesota Wild September 25. Tickets could go on sale as soon as this week.
The one former Idaho Steelhead regularly appearing among NHL leaders is still the one who camps out in the penalty box. Ottawa Senators center Zenon Konopka, who helped lead the Steelheads to the 2004 Kelly Cup championship, is second in the NHL in penalty minutes with 168. Konopka led the NHL in that category last year, amassing 307 while playing for the New York Islanders. One other guy to point out: Mark Olver, son of former Steelheads coach John Olver. Mark is getting steady ice time with Colorado after recovering from an injury earlier this season and is centering the third line for the Avalanche. Olver, who turned 24 on New Year’s Day, has two goals and two assists this season.
When Sean Marshall was starting his pro career with the Boise Hawks nine years ago, the suggestion of a $5.5 million a year contract down the line had to sound like Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. But that’s what it has come to for one of baseball’s premier middle relievers, who has agreed to a four-year, $22 million contract with the Reds after being traded from the Cubs. And some are calling that a bargain for Cincinnati. Catching up on other significant player movement involving former Boise Hawks during the offseason: shortstop Ronny Cedeno signed with the Mets as a free agent, the Indians acquired one-time Hawks single-season home run leader Russ Canzler from Tampa Bay, and Tyler Colvin was traded from the Cubs to the Rockies.
Tonight the Idaho Stampede pick up where they left off before the NBA All-Star break, playing the L.A. D-Fenders. This time it’ll be in CenturyLink Arena instead of in El Segundo, CA. One player who might not be a Stamp much longer is Mikki Moore. It seems like NBA every team needs a center, especially as rosters wear down during this shortened, compacted season. NBA clubs have been paying attention to Moore, and a 10-day contract could be beckoning soon. The 36-year-old 7-footer is in great shape and has been around the NBA block, so he knows the game. Moore has averaged 11½ points and eight rebounds since joining the Stampede in early January.
This Day In Sports…February 29, 1952, 60 years ago today:
All-American Dick Groat scores 48 points to lead Duke to a 94-64 rout of rival North Carolina. It was Groat’s third 40-point game of the month. He finished second in the nation in scoring that season at 26 points per game before turning his attention to baseball. Groat would become a star shortstop for Pittsburgh and St. Louis, winning the National League MVP award in 1960 and leading the Pirates to their first World Series title in 35 years.
(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.)