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Boise State basketball: Broncos playing with a full deck

Man, the Boise State athletics program needed some good news. The Broncos got it yesterday from Derrick Alston, who made the right call.
Credit: Isaac Brekken/AP Photo
UNLV's Amauri Hardy shoots as Boise State's Derrick Alston and Abu Kigab defend during the Mountain West tournament Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Las Vegas. Boise State won 67-61.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, July 9, 2020.

Derrick Alston’s decision came 10 years to the day after “The Decision” by LeBron James. Okay, I’ll stop right there. But Alston gave Boise State athletics a much-needed mood alteration when he announced yesterday he’s withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to the Broncos for his senior year. On Twitter and in his Zoom call with the media, Alston talked a lot about winning a Mountain West championship and making the NCAA Tournament. “I have unfinished business at Boise State and still have tremendous room for growth in my game,” said Alston. The journey continues for a guy who arrived at Boise State in 2016 as a 6-9, 147-pound walk-on. He scored seven total points as a redshirt freshman before becoming a force the following year.

FROM THE “GROWTH IN MY GAME” DEPARTMENT

Alston was confident that had he stayed in the NBA Draft, he would have been a second-round pick. “But I want to be a first-rounder, that's my goal," he said. It will come down to consistency and dependability night-in and night-out. Alston was Boise State’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, but the season was a tale of two calendar years. Before New Year’s Day, he logged 10 20-point games in 14 tries. In the 18 games from that point forward, Alston scored 20 or more points just three times. His explosive sophomore year was much more even-keeled. If he can replicate that while co-existing with the mounds of talent surrounding him, he can get there.

LEON’S CHEMISTRY LAB

Coach Leon Rice called Alston a “front-runner” for Mountain West Player of the Year honors yesterday. Now Rice, a master at creating chemistry, has to do it with the best roster of his 11 seasons at Boise State. Alston will have to happily share the ball with transfers Emmanuel Akot and Devonaire Doutrive from Arizona, Marcus Shaver from Portland and Mladen Armus from East Tennessee State. And there’s more where that came from. Plus, there’s returning talent like Abu Kigab and RayJ Dennis and newcomers like Naje Smith and Pavle Kuzmanovic to fit into the equation.

THE IVY EFFECT?

The Ivy League has done it. Fall sports have been canceled—or at least postponed—until after the first of the year. Now, who will follow suit? Most experts feel FBS conferences will stick with football in the fall, but there’s a lot at work here. The Mountain West’s California schools remain in serious limbo. According to the Fresno Bee, Fresno State had planned to convene this week, take COVID-19 tests, quarantine for seven days, and hit the floor running next Monday when the NCAA allows official team activities to start. But the Bulldogs, along with San Diego State and San Jose State, still don’t know where they stand. The California State University system and state officials haven’t yet approved plans to get student-athletes back on campus.

NO ARMANI SUITING UP IN VEGAS

UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers, who was seen as a catalyst for a Rebels turnaround a few years ago, has entered the transfer portal and will play his senior season elsewhere. Rogers was an electric dual-threat performer when he was on-point, but his career completion percentage at UNLV was under 50 percent. Rogers never played against Boise State—Kenyon Oblad went all the way against the Broncos in last year’s 38-13 loss at Sam Boyd Stadium. Presumably, it’ll be either Oblad or Cal transfer Max Gilliam calling the signals if and when the Rebels visit the blue turf on Halloween.

THE TALENT WAS TELLING

While fundraising continues in an effort to save the Boise State baseball program, two more Broncos players have found new homes. KTVB’s Jay Tust reports that pitcher Brayden Spears has transferred to Oregon after posting a 2.53 ERA in four appearances during the shortened season. Fellow hurler Stuart Flesland is headed for Washington. Flesland went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA, striking out 15 batters in 10 2/3 innings. It’s a testament to coach Gary Van Tol’s recruiting that two of his players have already ended up in the Pac-12.

MERRITT’S A LOT MORE COMFORTABLE

Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, OH, is hosting back-to-back PGA Tour events the next two weeks. A week from now it’s the tournament founded by Jack Nicklaus, The Memorial. Today the Workday Charity Open tees off on the Nicklaus-designed course, and former Boise State star Troy Merritt is in the field. Merritt is coming off his best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. He earned 78 FedExCup points with that result, moving up 30 places in the Cup standings to No. 120. Normally, the top 125 at the end of the season qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs and automatically earn their PGA Tour cards for next season. But because of the coronavirus, golfers who are exempt this season and fall outside of the top 125 FedEx Cup points earners will not lose their spot in the 2020-21 season.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…July 9, 2002:

Baseball’s All-Star Game controversially ends in a 7-7 tie when both teams run out of available pitchers. The game was played in Milwaukee, coincidentally the home of commissioner Bud Selig. The crowd booed loudly when Selig decided in the middle of the 11th inning that if the National League didn’t score in the bottom of the frame the game would be declared a tie. With the All-Star Game in danger of becoming totally irrelevant, it was decided that beginning in 2003, the winner of the Midsummer Classic would be awarded home-field advantage in the World Series. In 2017, the rule was changed, giving the home field edge to the team with the best regular season record.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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