If you’re a betting person, you’re probably putting something down on Boise State playing without James Webb. If you’re a betting person, you’re probably putting something down on Boise State playing without James Webb III tomorrow. Yesterday’s update on the injury Webb suffered Tuesday night against UNLV said the star junior forward has a bruised knee and a sprained MCL and is “day-to-day.” Coach Leon Rice says he won’t put Webb back on the floor until he’s 100 percent, and it sure doesn’t sound like that’ll be at 4 p.m. Mountain Standard Time tomorrow at San Diego State. Rice isn’t merely “saving’ him for the Mountain West Tournament—he just doesn’t want Webb out there at anything less than full strength. Webb’s early departure to the NBA is seeming less likely all the time, but should it happen, he could have played his final game in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos have one home date left, next Wednesday versus Nevada.
In Webb’s absence, four different players come into focus. If Rice feels Boise State needs size against San Diego State, there’s Zach Haney and Robin Jorch. But Haney, after showing signs of emergence early in the Mountain West season, has lost that momentum and has averaged just four minutes per game the past four games. Jorch’s floor time has increased—he has averaged nine minutes per outing over the same stretch. The 6-10 German fouled out of two of those games though. Nick Duncan, who’s been coming off the bench lately, would give Boise State some Webb-type versatility, but not Webb-type athleticism. The closest clone to Webb might be Chandler Hutchison, but he’s two inches shorter. And Hutchison hasn’t been the sparkplug he was earlier in the season. He hasn’t scored in double figures in any of the last nine games.
Creativity was going to be required from the get-go on both ends of the floor tomorrow, with or without Webb. Offensively, why not send Mikey Thompson to the hoop early and often and try to get him to the free throw line? Because, as Boise State found out last month in a 56-53 loss in Taco Bell Arena, the Aztecs don’t allow that. “I think what we present sometimes when you drive in is length,” Fisher said recently in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “ We don’t foul you. The layups are not normal layups. They’re hard layups when you drive in there.” Thompson was 2-for-7 from the field in the first San Diego State game and shot just one free throw.
Last year’s momentous Boise State win in Viejas Arena has come to be appreciated. The Broncos took the sellout crowd of 12,414 out of the game in their 56-46 victory, and that rarely happens. The student section, known as “The Show,” keeps the energy level high. It wasn’t that way before coach Steve Fisher arrived. “We had a core group of students who came to me and said ‘how can we help?’” Fisher said. “I said you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to get more students there. And all of the sudden it mushroomed into what it is now. That got started before we got really good. And then when we got really really good, everyone wanted to be in The Show. They fought to get into the first 10, 20 rows. How exactly did it happen? You have to win some, but you have to get people to say ‘this is fun, this gives us pride, we’re good and we’re helping you be good.’ Our fans have helped us win games.” Amen. It could happen at Boise State, too.
Boise State product Rees Odhiambo won’t be able to go in front of the hundreds of scouts and team personnel people as offensive linemen grind through their on-field drills at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis today. But former Bronco defensive end Kamalei Correa will dive in head-first on Sunday, and safety Darian Thompson will do the same on Monday. Correa, of course, skipped his senior year at BSU to make himself available for the NFL Draft. This is the third straight year the Broncos have had someone declare early. It’s worked out well for Demarcus Lawrence, who left following the 2013 season and was Dallas’ leader in sacks last year with eight. Jay Ajayi, who departed after the 2014 campaign, was serviceable once he was healthy, rushing for 187 yards and a touchdown for Miami last season.
Philippe Desrosiers it is. The AHL’s Texas Stars have reassigned the 20-year-old netminder to the Idaho Steelheads after calling up star goalie Jack Campbell. Desrosiers began the season with the Steelheads, appearing in 20 games and going 8-6-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a save percentage of 90.7. Those numbers pale in comparison to Campbell’s, but Desrosiers was between the pipes before the Steelies found their mojo. Idaho hosts Utah tonight and tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena, with the Steelheads cradling a two-point lead over the Grizzlies atop the ECHL’s West Division. Idaho is 8-2 against Utah this season.
Scroll, scroll, scroll. If you were looking for Graham DeLaet and Tyler Aldridge on the Honda Classic leaderboard yesterday, that’s what you had to do. DeLaet managed only a two-over 72 in the first round at Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge struggled to a six-over 76 yesterday. DeLaet could make the cut today with a sizzler of a round, while Aldridge is probably out of it.
There’s never been a better time to play for the Idaho Stampede. Not in terms of wins and losses certainly, but in chances of making the NBA. There have been five NBA call-ups from the Stampede this season, two of them belonging to Phil Pressey (Sixers and Suns). The others are J.J. O’Brien (Jazz), Jeff Ayres (Clippers) and Bryce Dejean-Jones (Pelicans). Pressey, Ayres and Dejean-Jones are still in the Show, although Dejean-Jones just suffered a broken wrist. Then you have the guys sent down for seasoning under the tutelage of Stamps coach Dean Cooper, who is increasingly proving to be a respected developer of talent. Former Duke star Tyus Jones (Timberwolves) and the yo-yo man, Tibor Pleiss, fall into that category. The Stampede visit Bakersfield tonight and the L.A. D-Fenders tomorrow night.
Around the hoops horn: tomorrow night’s game could be a table-setter for Idaho with the Big Sky Tournament looming. The Vandals, who already have a winning season in the bag, are jockeying for a top four spot in the conference and a first-round bye in the tourney. Idaho has moved into a fourth-place tie, courtesy of Idaho State’s 90-77 loss to Montana last night. One game separates the Vandals and third-place Eastern Washington, who they host in Cowan Spectrum tomorrow night. The Bengals, now part of that fourth-place tie, are home against Montana State tomorrow night. Elsewhere, the NNU men lost at home to Alaska-Anchorage 74-61 last night. And the Boise State women, mired in a four-game losing streak, play San Diego State tomorrow in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos are trying to hang onto bye status in the Mountain West Tournament.
When I emceed the inaugural Idaho Youth Sports Commission banquet and auction last year, I was struck by one of its themes, which basically was: kids giving up on team sports when they hit junior high. That’s where things get serious, and the superior athletes start specializing in a singular sport year-round while the less talented athletes stop participating. Tomorrow night’s second annual IYSC affair features Kellen Moore. I’d say he’s one of the most level-headed sports stars of all-time. Can you argue?
Last year’s guest speaker was Jake Plummer, who said playing multiple sports growing up in Boise, some of them just made up—including dodging nerf balls thrown by his brothers while jumping on the trampoline—prepared him to become an NFL quarterback. His message was a perfect fit. Plummer will be in the audience this time. The Capital High grad says he’s looking forward to talking to Moore. “I’m excited as a fan to get to meet him,” Plummer said the other day on Idaho SportsTalk.
This Day In Sports…February 26, 2004:
Boise State kicks off a key WAC road trip by racking up its biggest margin of victory in a road game in school history, routing SMU 89-50 in Dallas. The Broncos had shot 2-for-27 from three-point range 26 days earlier against the Mustangs in the Pavilion—on this night, they hit 15 treys in 24 attempts. The victory came in the middle of a seven-game winning streak, a late-season run that would land BSU in the NIT.
(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.)