If he ain’t broke, don’t start him

Over the past three games, Boise State’s Paris Austin has averaged almost 26 minutes and 18.7 points and has shot 65.5 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line. Austin rarely shoots the three, but he’s gone 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. Pretty good numbers for a starting point guard. Only, he’s not. Austin has been coming off the bench for those three games, with the last two falling in the Mountain West Player of the Week window. The sophomore from Oakland earned that honor yesterday for the first time in his career. Let’s say that’s a pretty nice accomplishment for a reserve.

Austin poured in a career-high 25 points a week ago at Colorado State, including 19 in the second half. He was 10-for-10 from the free throw line at Fort Collins, with all of them coming in the second half—and six in the final 26 seconds of a 79-76 victory. It was only the ninth time in Boise State history a player has been perfect from the charity stripe with at least 10 attempts. In Saturday’s 72-70 win over Utah State, Austin scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. He was 6-for-9 from the field after going 1-for-10 in the first game between the two teams December 28 in Logan. The Broncos don’t play again until Saturday versus Air Force in Taco Bell Arena. The only thing Austin is missing is that big spotlight blasting through the darkness during pregame introductions.

Chicago Bears radio sideline reporter Zach Zaidman tweeted this yesterday: “Shea McClellin is the first Bears first round pick this millennium to win a Super Bowl.” There was backlash from fans of Da Bears. Most said something to the effect that it’s irrelevant, and that McClellin was just lucky. The final count on the former Boise State star’s evening in Houston shows that he started for New England—but played only eight defensive snaps. “Please. No more,” said one commenter. These two responses may have some merit, though: “The Bears are their own worst enemies.” And: “bears dont know how to use 1st round picks.” Despite his light load in the Super Bowl, McClellin was maneuvered in and out deftly during his first year with the Patriots. He can’t worry about whether or not people think he has underachieved.

The football season is over, and here’s a Jay Ajayi postscript. Ajayi is nothing if not creative. To thank his offensive linemen and tight ends in Miami for helping him top 1,200 rushing yards this season, Ajayi gave them drones as gifts. “Hopefully we can have a drone party,” Ajayi said, according to Joe Schad in the Palm Beach Post. Writes Schad, “Ajayi selected the Yuneec Breeze drone, a flying camera controlled by an iOS or Android phone and weighing just under one pound. According to Yuneec, the device can be used to capture aerial photos and video in 4K Ultra High Definition. It is unknown if the Yuneec Breeze can fly over a New England Patriots practice and return to Dolphins camp in Davie unnoticed.” The NFL is on alert, no doubt.

Former Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox knew he was up against it on the recruiting trail as he took the Cal head coaching job less than three weeks before National Letter of Intent Day. Wilcox signed just 14 players last week, and the Bears’ recruiting class was ranked at or near the bottom of the Pac-12. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Wilcox “didn’t want to rush and hand out scholarships to players who weren’t good fits.” He wants to keep local players at home—that will be an urgent priority after Cal signed only one player from the Bay Area, linebacker Kyle Harmon.

Coach Neil Graham will be behind the bench tomorrow night as the Idaho Steelheads open a three-game series against the Wheeling Nailers in CenturyLink Arena. That’s news, because he was missing on Saturday. According to the ECHL, Graham was “suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount as a result of actions at the completion” of last Friday night’s loss to Utah. Graham apparently threw a water bottle on the ice at the end of the game in frustration, and reportedly the officials felt it was directed at them. The league takes a dim view of that. Idaho’s Travis Walsh was also fined for his part in the incident. Six-game losing streaks are not fun.

The Boise State women’s gymnastics team has its highest national ranking ever. The Broncos moved from No. 11 to No. 8 yesterday in the Road To Nationals team rankings. The previous best of No. 9 was achieved on two occasions last season. Boise State is the only team from a non-Power 5 conference in this week’s top 10. “Road To Nationals” is an appropriate name for this list. The Broncos are hoping their decades-long quest to make the NCAA Championships is finally realized this year.

A big league note a couple weeks out from the time pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. Jason Hammel, the one-time Treasure Valley Community College Chukar, has agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract with the Kansas City Royals, with an option for a third year. Hammel was solid for the Chicago Cubs last season, going 15-10 record with a 3.84 ERA and 144 strikeouts. Even so, he did not throw a single pitch during the Cubbies’ historic postseason run. The Cubs had promised Hammel they wouldn’t pick up the option on his contract if they couldn’t guarantee that he’d be a member of the roster in 2017, allowing him to go on the free agent market. Hammel was—and is—appreciative.

This Day In Sports…February 7, 2009:

Sports Illustrated drops a bombshell on baseball, reporting that the game’s highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, tested positive for steroids in 2003. At the time of the test, Rodriguez played for the Texas Rangers and was en route to his third straight American League home run title and first Most Valuable Player award. Later in the month A-Rod would admit using steroids during his three-year stint with the Rangers, casting suspicion on what was assumed to be a clean run to baseball’s career home run record held by the already-tarnished Barry Bonds. Rodriguez, forever tainted, was suspended for the 2014 season and finished his career last year with 696 home runs.

(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.)