A good time to pay attention

San Jose State still has a big hill to climb to become relevant in Mountain West basketball. San Jose State still has a big hill to climb to become relevant in Mountain West basketball, but the Spartans have come a long way in the past year. Last season they were 2-28 overall and 0-18 in conference. The only two wins were over NAIA schools. This season San Jose State is 6-12 overall and 1-5 in Mountain West play, and the league victory came just one week ago over Wyoming, snapping a 28-game conference losing streak. And how about this? One of the Spartans’ non-conference wins was 64-61 over Montana, just three days after Boise State lost to the Grizzlies in Missoula in November. I’m sure these nuggets have been drilled into the Broncos by coach Leon Rice going into tonight’s game in Taco Bell Arena.

This will be the third time San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik has returned to Boise since serving as Leon Rice’s associate head coach with the Broncos from 2011-13. The last time Wojcik was here his team absorbed an 86-36 pounding. That 50-point margin of victory last year was the largest in a conference game in Boise State history—by 10 points. But it’s worth noting that in their last outing, the Spartans dug their way out of a 19-point second half hole to cut the deficit at Fresno State to just one before falling 71-64. The catalyst was Ryan Welage, who hit seven of his eight shots after halftime, including all five from beyond the arc.

It looks like what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get this season from Anthony Drmic, and you have to feel badly for him. The grind seems to be wearing on the surgically-repaired ankle of the popular Boise State senior, who against San Diego State was held scoreless for the third time in his career—and second time in the last four games. Drmic was a preseason first-team All-Mountain West pick, but that was before anyone knew how difficult the healing has been from last January’s operation. “You’ve got one of the leading scorers in school history,” said Rice. “He’s frustrated. An injury is what it is. There’s nothing he can do about it, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s hard to watch. He’s not as quick as he used to be, and that hurts him.”

The news came out yesterday on John Bates coming to Boise State. So I googled “John Bates,” and who came up? Lord Grantham’s valet on “Downton Abbey.” But seriously folks, Bates is a tight end from Lebanon, OR, who has flipped his commitment from Oregon State to Boise State. The 6-6, 210-pounder materializes at a time when the Broncos have lost both coordinators in the past week. Bates reportedly was slated to grayshirt with the Beavers. He told Idaho SportsTalk yesterday he’s originally from Nyssa and grew up as a Boise State fan. Bates is a good athlete—he won the javelin and 110-meter high hurdles and finished second in the triple jump at the Oregon 5A Track & Field Championships last spring, leading Lebanon High to the state title.

This is not a surprise, unless you figured David Lucero’s plea-down to misdemeanor battery would allow him to rejoin the Boise State football team. It didn’t. Lucero has been dismissed from the Bronco squad. He was originally charged with attempted strangulation, a felony, in a November incident involving a Boise State female athlete he was dating. “This type of behavior does not align with the core values of the athletic department at Boise State,” Athletic Curt Apsey said. Lucero, a redshirt freshman, had four catches for 6 yards last fall before his November suspension. He almost turned two of the receptions into touchdowns—one at BYU and the other on the blue turf against Wyoming.

Boise State made the hiring of new secondary coach Ashley Ambrose official yesterday, once all the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed. You know that Ambrose played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Colts, Bengals, Falcons and Saints. But did you know? He played college football at Mississippi Valley State from 1988-91 (he missed the great Jerry Rice by about five years) and intercepted 17 passes. In other coaching news, it sounds like coach Bryan Harsin is indeed looking outside the program for his new offensive coordinator. The Fresno Bee reports that newly-hired Eric Kiesau is staying put at Fresno State after being approached by the Broncos.

One thing about Dirk Koetter: he never forgets where he came from, be it Pocatello or a backup quarterback spot with Idaho State or a head coaching job with Boise State. The new Tampa Bay coach was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday, and it was as if he never left Boise. In fact, he said he can’t wait to get back to McCall this summer. One of his front office’s tasks is retaining free agent running back Doug Martin, the former Boise State star. “I’m pretty confident in saying Doug’s going to be playing for the Bucs,” said Koetter. “We’ll have to spend money to get him.” That’s a certainty after Martin rushed for 1,402 yards and finished second to Adrian Peterson in NFL rushing this season. “If Doug’s as smart as I think he is, he’ll stay with the Bucs.”

Who drew up this schedule? It’s the calm before the storm for the Idaho Steelheads this week, as Neil Graham has his players in the weight room when they’re not catching extra Z’s. The Steelies have three games in Alaska on consecutive nights this weekend, one at home next Wednesday against Rapid City, and three more the following weekend in Atlanta. At least Boise’s on the way to Georgia.

Pierre Jackson is still getting his hoops legs back under him as the Idaho Stampede head to Santa Cruz tonight. The former College of Southern Idaho and Baylor star has played four games since returning to the Stampede, averaging 16 minutes and eight points per game. Jackson is hitting just 34 percent from the field in the early going. Two years ago his points-per-game was in the upper 20’s for the Stamps.

Boise State coach Greg Patton has moved into fourth place all-time in college men’s tennis victories. The General nabbed his 777th win yesterday when the Broncos blanked Southern Utah 7-0 at the Boas Bubbles. Patton, now 777-359 in his career at UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Bakersfield, UC Irvine and Boise State, passed Stanford legend Dick Gould, who went 776-148 from 1966-2004. Patton is still all about what likes ahead, though, riding a bevy of new freshman this season. “I’ve got to create our future, and I’ve got to do it now,” he said. “You don’t create a future by having guys sit around.”

This Day In Sports…January 20, 1969:

In a game that many consider the birth of modern-day college basketball, Houston upsets UCLA, 71-69, in the Astrodome. A crowd of 52,693 watched, and millions more joined them on TV, as Elvin Hayes’ game-winning free throws capped a 39-point performance and snapped the Bruins’ 47-game winning streak—second-best of all-time.

(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.)