Tuesday, February 23, 2010.
A followup to something I touched on last week: Matt James of the Fresno Bee imagining that the Pac-10 should invite Boise State and Fresno State. Something he said should strike a nerve around here: “Admittedly, Boise State is pretty bad in most other sports, but the football success will eventually spill over.” That “pretty bad in most other sports” theme is unfortunately not an uncommon thread when the subject of conference realignment is discussed. And the perception is out there because the first non-football sport everybody looks up is men’s basketball. But in the last academic year, Boise State had five teams win conference championships and had a school record six sports ranked in the Top 25 in the nation. Top to bottom, the BSU athletic program is strong, and whatever problems it has can be solved.
Roderick Flemings is the WAC Player of the Week in men’s basketball. That’s a very interesting choice. Not that there’s a better one, but Flemings comes from a team that lost its BracketBuster game at home to Cal Poly, 102-89. Sound familiar? The Warriors are definitely that, as they’re tied for last in the conference with Boise State. They are as big a mess as the Broncos are right now. Sure, Flemings scored a career-high 39 points against Cal Poly. But listen to this from columnist Ferd Lewis in the Honolulu Advertiser: “Flemings scored 39 points—the most by a (Hawaii player) on this home court—but ignored the coaches' commands not to foul with 31 seconds remaining to help find time to do it. He seemed to glance up at the scoreboard that showed him with 36 points, one below his UH career high, before (fouling).” March 4 will be fun.
The NFL Combine begins tomorrow in Indianapolis, but the interviews and testing are portioned out by position. Boise State’s Kyle Wilson doesn’t go through physicals and interviews until Saturday, with the rest of the invited cornerbacks and safeties. Defensive linemen start the process Friday, and it’ll be interesting to watch how things develop for TCU’s Jerry Hughes. The standout defensive end, responsible for the Broncos’ only turnover in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, is projected by most services as a second round pick in April. I like Hughes’ quote in the Sporting News Today online edition: “My family is more excited about me graduating than playing in the NFL.”
Jeret Peterson said last month he’d make up his mind the night before he competed whether or not to dust off his cutting-edge Hurricane jump, which combines three flips and five twists in a 3.5-second leap. Speedy has decided to do it—but it wasn’t going to be in last night’s qualifying. He didn’t need it to make the finals, finishing fifth in the prelims. But look out Thursday night. Peterson’s “off-snow” behavior has certainly taken a 180 since the unfortunate turn of events in Torino. But his attitude toward competition hasn’t as he sizes up his chances of making the Hurricane happen. "It's definitely going to be a challenge," Speedy said. "I don't have to (land it) but I want to; that's just my personality. Go big or go home, baby."
KTVB’s Mark Johnson has done a number of interviews with U.S. women’s hockey player Hilary Knight since arriving in Vancouver. Seems that Knight’s family moved to Sun Valley last fall, across from Dollar Mountain. And that’s what she calls her home base these days, almost a year after helping Wisconsin to a national championship. Now Knight and the Americans have moved on to the gold medal game at the Winter Olympics after a 9-1 rout of Sweden yesterday. Knight, the youngest player on the U.S. team, registered two assists in the victory. The finale will be Thursday against none other than Canada, which has won the last two gold medals. Knight told Johnson her post-Olympics goal is to start up a hockey school for girls in Sun Valley.
It’s very rare for an Idahoan to pop up in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces In the Crowd” feature. But I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone from Idaho quoted in SI’s “They Said It” box. Hailey snowboardcrosser Graham Watanabe makes the cut this week, though, for this gem of a response on how it felt to be an Olympian. “Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That’s what it feels like.” You can see why I use that in the column version of today’s Scott Slant—and not on the radio side. So you can read it again. I wouldn’t dare try that on the air.
The Idaho Stampede need to relearn the art of winning after last night’s come-from-ahead loss to Dakota. The Stampede were rolling in the third quarter in Bismarck, leading by as many as 13 points with 3½ minutes left. The Wizards caught and passed the Stamps in the fourth, but Idaho clawed back to go up by five with under four minutes remaining on a Coby Karl three-pointer. Then Dakota’s Curtis Withers produced a layin with four seconds left to give the Wizards a 106-105 win. Since a five-game winning streak to start the new year, the Stampede have lost 11 of their last 15 games. They play a pair at Albuquerque Thursday and Friday.
The ECHLwas a 31-team circuit when the Idaho Steelheads joined it in 2003. The league will be down to 19 teams from the current 20 for the 2010-11 season. But at least this time the contraction is not because another franchise has folded or suspended operations. The Charlotte Checkers will be moving up to the AHL this fall. All appears to be well on the Western front, where eight franchises currently operate (including the Steelheads). The Steelies return to Qwest Arena tomorrow night against the Alaska Aces.
This will tell you an era is ending—or make you feel old—or both. As spring training gets underway, only one former Boise Hawk remains on the L.A. Angels roster, Scot Shields. The Hawks became a pipeline to the Angels when they were affiliated with California/Anaheim through the 1990’s, and there were eight Boise alums on the Angels team that won the 2002 World Series. Shields is the only one left, and he’s looking for a comeback year in 2010. Last season ended in June with a knee injury that required surgery, But Shields says he’ll be ready to go when the regular season starts. The 34-year-old righthander’s highest ERA prior to last season was 3.86; last year it ballooned to 6.62 in 20 appearances before the injury. Shields spent his first pro season with the Hawks back in 1997, going 7-2 with a 2.94 ERA.
This Day In Sports…February 23, 1989:
Boise State makes its first national TV appearance in the Pavilion, hosting Idaho live on ESPN. Senior Chris Childs led the Broncos to an intense 63-61 victory before a sellout crowd of 12,422—still the second-largest in school history. BSU was defending Big Sky champion and would win the conference regular season title, but the Vandals would topple the Broncos in the championship game of the Big Sky Tournament in the Pavilion to earn a trip to the NCAA’s the following week to play UNLV…in the Pavilion.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)