What are the expectations now that Nevada men’s basketball appears to have completed the best recruiting class in Mountain West history? Well, here’s what they were surmising in Reno if McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown came aboard (and he did come aboard). Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal wrote unabashedly, “if Nevada does land Brown and the Martin twins (Caleb and Cody) and (Jordan) Caroline return to school—Caroline almost certainly will—it would have one of the nation’s top-five rosters and be a legitimate national title contender.” You heard right. Plus, “the Wolf Pack’s second string would win the Mountain West.”
And how about Murray’s headline on Saturday, the morning after Brown’s announcement: “Final Four or bust for the Nevada basketball team?” Hard to dispute that, really. “The experience. The talent. The depth. The versatility. The coaching. It’s all there for Nevada to be one of the best teams—if not the best team—in the country,” Murray wrote. “It sounds outlandish, but it’s really not. If everybody returns, Nevada should go into the season with the goal of winning the national title. That’s how good this team will be.” On the subject of coaching, it seems the Wolf Pack’s Eric Musselman will be in line for a gargantuan payday somewhere next spring. That may cause consternation among Pack fans, but what a nice problem to have.
Portland Trail Blazers fan site BlazersEdge.com wonders aloud: “Will the Trail Blazers consider Chandler Hutchison’s ties to Damian Lillard on draft night?” The angle is obviously Phil Beckner, the now former Boise State assistant who helped develop Lillard at Weber State and was instrumental in Hutchison’s huge surge as a junior and senior with the Broncos. Lillard has become the face of Portland’s franchise and an NBA superstar, and he and Hutchison practiced together in Boise during the past two offseasons. Writer Steve Dewald predicts that Lillard will advocate for the selection of Hutchison next month. The Blazers choose No. 24 overall. Hutchison has been counting down to the draft on Twitter. For the record, it T minus 37 days. The NBA Draft Combine? It starts tomorrow in Chicago.
Idaho’s Victor Sanders has been invited to a secondary event called the 2018 Professional Basketball Combine next week in Bradenton, FL. In addition to evaluation from NBA teams, participants will be able to showcase their talents in front of G-League and overseas scouts. Four players earned two-way NBA/G-League contracts out of this event last year. Sanders led the Vandals at 19 points per game last season as Idaho finished second in the Big Sky standings. His 1,804 career points are the second most in UI history.
Four-star recruits come along only once in a while for Boise State football. But, two in three days at the end of last week? On the heels of quarterback Hank Bachmeier’s commitment came the one Saturday from linebacker Casey Kline. Bachmeier and Kline join three-star recruit Alec Pell in the Broncos’ 2019 class. BroncoCountry.com points out that all three Boise State commits not only had multiple Power 5 scholarships on the table, they also had offers from Ivy League schools. That’s a good omen for football IQ, no doubt. Kline is already well-versed in NFL talent out of Boise State. “Watching Kamalei Correa highlights gets me so damn hyped!” Kline tweeted over the weekend.
Before he even stepped on the field last Friday for his first minicamp with the Dallas Cowboys, Leighton Vander Esch became the richest man in Riggins. You’d think so, anyway. Vander Esch signed a four-year contract, fully guaranteed, worth $11.8 million, plus a signing bonus of $6.7 million. Then he put on his new No. 55 jersey. “He certainly carries himself the right way,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He picks things up quickly. He understands what we are asking him to do and goes out there and does it comfortably. We did get to see him move around a little bit and he looks like the guy we drafted.” For his part, Vander Esch said, “At this point, expectations are so high there is no time to relax. There are no days off. You have to keep trucking away.”
This, of course, is a local column. So it’s hard to tie in yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that allows sports gambling nationwide. We live in Idaho. It’s probably going to take a long time for it to happen here (although it eventually will). Voters will have to pass a referendum—and the referendum will have to make it to the ballot in the first place. Nevada is still right next door until then. Then again, you don’t have to feel guilty now about spending all the money you want on your NCAA Tournament brackets before you rip ‘em up.
Two former Boise State golfers have advanced to US Open Sectional Qualifying after each fired a six-under 66 yesterday in Local Qualifying at Timberstone in Caldwell. Kyle Mitsunaga and Nick Travers move on to the Sectional at Portland Golf Club on June 4. And they’re both truly local—Mitsunaga graduated from Boise High and Travers from Borah. The 118th US Open will be played at Shinnecock Hills east of New York City a month from now.
This Day In Sports…May 15, 2003, 15 years ago today:
In the midst of a national hubbub over Annika Sorenstam’s upcoming appearance in a PGA Tour event the following week, the Albertsons Boise Open announces a sponsor’s exemption that September for 13-year-old Hawaiian phenom Michelle Wie. The eighth-grader with the 290-yard drives would be the first female ever to play a Nationwide Tour event. Now 28, Wie has five career wins on the LPGA Tour, including the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
(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.)