The question moving forward for Boise State hoops: was the win over San Diego State last Saturday the turning of the corner Leon Rice has predicted? Is Derrick Alston the difference-maker the Broncos have been waiting for? We’re talking leadership as much as points, rebounds and assists. When Chandler Hutchison left, there was a void in leadership, and nobody has really grabbed ahold of it yet. But against the Aztecs, Alston looked like he would fit that role and embraced it with the energy he brought. We’re talking an unheralded 6-8, 185-pound guard from Houston. But why can’t Alston be a “glue guy” for Boise State? Remember Jeff Elorriaga? Rob Heyer?
Alston’s 30-point night jumped his season scoring average into double digits at 10.3 points per game. He’s also averaging 4.1 rebounds. The CBS Sports Network crew tried to make comparisons between Chandler Hutchison’s freshman year beginnings and Alston’s, which produced a grand total of seven points in 26 minutes. Hutchison averaged 3.1 points as a freshman and 6.8 as a sophomore before exploding as a junior. But these guys are apples and oranges. Hutchison was one of the highest-rated recruits in Boise State history. Alston is a walk-on. Which makes him potentially a much better story down the line.
The Broncos head for San Jose State Saturday. The Spartans had the pleasure of facing Nevada Wednesday night, four days after the Wolf Pack was handed its first loss of the season—by 27 points—and fell 92-53 in Reno. Nevada outscored ‘em 50-20 in the second half. The Pack, incidentally, has sold out six of its final seven home games in the Lawlor Events Center, including the matchup against Boise State February 2. Going into conference play, Fresno State and Utah State looked like they were poised to battle for second behind the Pack this winter. The two teams faced off Wednesday night in Logan, and it was an epic joust. The Bulldogs’ Braxton Huggins hit a three-pointer with five seconds left to nail a 78-77 win over the Aggies.
AN UNEXPECTED LOCAL TIE ON THE K.C. STAFF
It’s amazing what you’ll find sometimes in NFL team directories. One of the guys preparing for Kansas City’s AFC Divisional Playoff showdown with Indianapolis Saturday is Joe Bleymaier, the Bishop Kelly grad and son of former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier. Joe Bleymaier is in his third season as the offensive quality control coach for the Chiefs, and the quality has been pretty good this season with Patrick Mahomes at the helm at quarterback, leading K.C. to a 12-4 record and an AFC West title. Bleymaier was on the Colorado staff from 2013-15 in the same capacity. He got into coaching as an intern for three years under current Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia a decade ago. Bleymaier played college ball at Delaware and was part of the Blue Hens’ 2003 Division I-AA national championship team.
One former Boise State star suits up for Kansas City Saturday. Orlando Scandrick is in the twilight of his NFL career, but he’s proved to be a good value for the Chiefs. Scandrick had signed with Washington with a free agent last year after leaving the Dallas Cowboys, but his future was in limbo after he was cut by the Redskins during training camp in August. Scandrick caught on with K.C., though, and has logged 38 tackles with one interception and a forced fumble this season. His playing time decreased late in the year—it’ll be interesting to see if and how the Chief utilize him against the Colts’ Andrew Luck.
ROBB AKEY’S LANDING SPOT
You may have heard that former Idaho coach Robb Akey has landed on Jim McElwain’s new staff at Central Michigan as defensive coordinator. Akey, who went 20-50 with the Vandals from 2007-12 but won that thriller of a Humanitarian Bowl in 2009, has been well-traveled since leaving Moscow. He had NFL coaching stops in defensive line positions at Minnesota and Washington before working as McElwain’s D-line coach at Florida in 2017. Akey did not coach this past season. He has defensive coordinator experience on his resume at Northern Arizona from 1996-98 and Washington State from 2003-06. You old-timers will remember Akey as a Weber State linebacker 30 years ago.
BACK IN BOISE AND ONTO THE SCORE SHEET
Steve McParland missed most of the Idaho Steelheads’ long road swing while on a professional tryout with the San Diego Gulls. McParland was returned to the Steelheads last Sunday, and last night things fell right back into place for the 27-year-old forward in CenturyLink Arena. McParland scored two goals to lead the Steelies past Toledo 4-2 in the opener of a three-game series. His tally less than a minute into the third period broke a 2-2 tie with the Walleye and was the ultimate game-winner. Defenseman Jeff King was the other Idaho sparkplug, contributing three assists.
MERRITT HARKENS BACK IN HONOLULU
Troy Merritt returns today to the scene of his first event as a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour. It was nine years ago that Merritt teed off at Waialae Country Club near Honolulu in the Sony Open and finished impressively in a tie for 20th. Interestingly enough, the former Boise State star has made only one of six Sony Open cuts since (he tied for 30th in 2015). Merritt’s coming off a tie for 16th last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
STOCK RISING FOR NNU AND C OF I
And circling back to basketball, Northwest Nazarene tries to keep it rolling tonight against Western Washington at the Johnson Sports Center in Nampa. The Nighthawks, 8-2 overall, are tied for first in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with a 3-1 record. College of Idaho will go into its weekend road trip to Portland as the No. 2 team in NAIA Division II. Oklahoma Wesleyan holds the No. 1 spot in the poll but lost Monday night after it the rankings were released, so (theoretically) the Coyotes could regain the top spot with a sweep of Warner Pacific and Multnomah.
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January 10, 1984: A sigh of relief for Payette’s Harmon Killebrew, who is finally elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in his fourth year of eligibility. Killebrew hit 573 home runs in his 22-year major league career, tops in American League history at the time among right-handed hitters. He was the first Minnesota Twins player ever to make the Hall. Killebrew joined two other patient guys that year—Don Drysdale had been on the ballot 10 times and Luis Aparicio six before being voted in.
(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.)