SWR’s senior season sneaks up on you

It first trickled out via NFL.com that Boise State’s Shane Williams-Rhodes was on watch list for the 2015 Paul Hornung Award. This first trickled out via an NFL.com “15 for ‘15” feature—the fact that Boise State’s Shane Williams-Rhodes was named to the preseason watch list for the 2015 Paul Hornung Award. The honor is given annually to “the most versatile player in college football,” and it reminds us how Williams-Rhodes’ career has flown by. SWR earns a second straight spot on the Hornung Award watch list thanks to a 2014 season that saw him lead the Broncos and finish fourth in the Mountain West with 68 receptions and register a team-leading seven touchdown catches, second in the conference. He also logged 585 receiving yards and 179 rushing yards, plus an average of 8.5 yards per punt return.

It was 2012 that Williams-Rhodes made his debut as a true freshman, wearing No. 11 the year after Kellen Moore completed his career. By the end of September he had scored his first college touchdown after doing a 360 on an unsuspecting New Mexico defender following a quick pass from Joe Southwick. As a sophomore, SWR was neck-and-neck with Matt Miller in a race for the Boise State single-season receptions record until having to sit out the season’s final two games with an injury. He “settled” for 77 catches. Williams-Rhodes opened the 2014 campaign with 14 grabs in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Ole Miss, equaling the third-most in a single game in Bronco history.

The problem for Williams-Rhodes has been those nicks at the end of the past two seasons (he went without a catch in the Fiesta Bowl last December). Such is life for a 5-6 wide receiver. Yet with a switch to jersey No. 1 this year, he has a chance to be No. 1 all-time at Boise State by living up to his standard. The reality is, Williams-Rhodes needs 75 catches to break the Bronco career record of 244 set just last September by Matt Miller.

Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt have made their marks on the PGA Tour as Boise State alums, but neither grew up here. Could Graysen Huff become a true homegrown talent on the tour? The former Eagle High golfer and Cole Valley Christian graduate has an invaluable experience waiting this week as he plays on a sponsor exemption in the Albertsons Boise Open. Huff, the reigning Pacific Northwest Golf Association Junior Player of Year and Idaho Junior Player of the Year, is headed to Auburn this fall. He credits his dad, longtime local club pro Rob Huff, for his love of the game. “My dad has been my swing coach since day one,” Graysen said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. “My mental coach, my swing coach, and occasional caddy.”

Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge, the former Bronco who comes into the Albertsons Boise Open as one of the featured players this week, was the last PGA Tour player actually from the valley. Aldridge played 17 events in 2009, making the cut in only three of them. Kevin Burton, the former Boise State golf coach, played a full PGA Tour season in 1997 and made 10 cuts in 26 starts.

Rodney Hamblin of White Bear Township, MN, led a group of 12 golfers advancing out of the Boise Open Monday qualifier yesterday at Ridgecrest in Nampa. Hamblin fired a nine-under 63, one shot ahead of Wes Heffernan of Calgary. The top Idaho finishers were Joe Panzeri of Boise and Preston Otte of Twin Falls, both in at five-under 67, one stroke short of the cut line.

Australia’s Uniroos (as they are called) played their third game at the World University Games today (South Korean time). The Aussies downed Japan, 73-58, with Boise State’s Nick Duncan going scoreless in 11½ minutes of playing time. Former New Mexico standout Hugh Greenwood led Australia with 19 points. In a 93-47 win over Chinese Taipei Saturday, Duncan scored six points, hitting a pair of three-pointers on three attempts. He also added seven rebounds in 23 minutes. Duncan went scoreless and grabbed three boards in a 61-45 loss to France Sunday. The Uniroos will face Finland and Lithuania the next two days to wrap up pool play. The top two teams in each of the four pools qualify for the quarterfinals.

The Boise Hawks were right on the heels of the Spokane Indians last night—until another late-inning collapse by the Hawks bullpen sent them to an 8-2 loss at Avista Stadium. Cesar Villaroel and Hayden Jones allowed a combined five runs over the seventh and eighth innings. Notable for the Hawks was David Dahl, currently tabbed as the Colorado Rockies’ top minor league prospect. Dahl began a rehab assignment with Boise by leading off and playing centerfield. He went 1-for-3 and singled in the Hawks’ second and final run. He was hitting .269 with 16 RBIs for Double-A New Britain in May when he injured his spleen in an outfield collision.

How is former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson doing in his new digs? Donaldson, now a Toronto Blue Jay, was merely the top vote-getter this year for next Tuesday’s All-Star Game. He garnered more than 14 million votes, the most in history. When Donaldson was surprisingly traded from Oakland to Toronto last November, it seemed he was going from one anonymous team to another. But fans sure seem to have found him. Donaldson, in his fifth big league season, is batting .296 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs. Then there’s former Hawk Kris Bryant, selected yesterday as a National League reserve. The Cubs’ rookie sensation is hitting .278 with 12 homers, two of them on the 4th of July in an 8-2 win over Miami. And one of those was Bryant’s second grand slam of the season.

The 5th annual River City Classic baseball tournament is set for tomorrow through Sunday at Rocky Mountain, Mountain View, Timberline, and Jack Acree Field at Fort Boise. There’s a field of 15 teams this year, including three international entries. One of them is the Perth Heat from Australia, managed by former Boise Hawk Steve Fish. After his minor league career ended, the Portland native went to Australia and created a baseball development program in 2008. In 2010, Fish formed a travel team to tour in the U.S. to gain more exposure for Australian baseball players in front of college and pro scouts. There’ll be a welcome party for the international teams (another from Australia and one from Singapore) tonight at 8:30 at Jack Acree Field. Fish, incidentally, pitched for Tom Kotchman’s Hawks in 1997, going 5-2 with a 4.08 ERA.

This Day In Sports…July 7, 1978:

Martina Navratilova wins her first Wimbledon singles title, rallying from 2-4 in the final set to beat Chris Evert 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. And on this day in 1990, Navratilova would take her final Wimbledon singles crown, downing Zina Garrison in straight sets. It was Martina’s ninth singles championship at the All-England Club, breaking a 52-year-old record.

(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.)