Back in spring 2002, Seamus Boxley was as good as gone.- He had quit the Portland State basketball team, disenchanted with his role under coach Joel Sobotka, and was planning to simply finish spring classes and move on. Then Sobotka resigned, and the Vikings hired Heath Schroyer.
'The first thing I wanted to do,' Schroyer says, 'was convince Seamus to stay.'
Athletic Director Tom Burman did his part, 'begging and begging' Boxley to reconsider, knowing the solid kid could be pretty good on the court, and even better in the locker room.
They succeeded. Boxley changed his mind, and stuck with it.
This season, he and the Vikings see the benefits: The 6-7 junior leads the Big Sky Conference in rebounding (9.5 per game) and ranks second on the team and seventh in the Big Sky in scoring (13.9).
He explains his better numbers by thanking Schroyer's post-oriented system and reliance on man-on-man defense, which puts him in a better position to rebound.
'The system is really flexible, as far as what he allows me to do,' Boxley says. 'He allows me to play basketball, to play to my strengths.
'Coach has a lot of confidence in my ability and potential, and holds me to a higher standard. He believes that I can do more than I actually can. We're the same kind of guys. We love the game of basketball.'
Boxley is exactly what Portland State needs: a stable personality amid many new players, and somebody who really takes pride in being at PSU. 'This is my home,' he says. 'We're about as tight as any team I've played on.'
The Vikings (8-9), who play Big Sky leader Eastern Washington at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Stott Center, have their eyes on winning the league tournament this year, and the whole league next year.
Remember, the PSU job came down to Schroyer and Jamie Dixon, then an assistant at Pittsburgh. Burman picked Schroyer.
Schroyer chuckles about it today. So does Burman, who watched as Ben Howland left Pittsburgh and Dixon got -promoted to head coach. The Panthers are 18-1 in Dixon's first season.
Of course, nothing says Dixon would be more successful than Schroyer; there's quite a bit of difference between Pittsburgh, which has been a Big East Conference juggernaut for three years, and Portland State.
Setting the record straight
Dean Stepp calls to debunk the 'myth' in Eugene that Blake Stepp, featured in last week's Tribune, did not go to Oregon because the Ducks did not show much interest in him. To the contrary, the elder Stepp remembers:
'They recruited him harder than Luke Ridnour,' says Stepp, whose son's team, Gonzaga, plays against Portland tonight in the Chiles Center. 'They thought they were going to get him. They were heartbroken' that he had chosen the Zags.
Blake Stepp chose Gonzaga in July 1999, before the Ducks beat out the Zags for Ridnour and Luke Jackson. So it turned out pretty well for the Ducks.
Jackson and Stepp also talked privately about going to Oregon State together. But Stepp just wanted to get away to play; 'he wanted to get out of town rather than play six blocks away from his high school,' says Dean Stepp, who coached Blake and his brother, Bart, at South Eugene High.
Pios post eye-popping stats
Lewis & Clark big men Colin Oriard and Kristofer Speier may have graduated, but the Pioneers have not slowed down on -offense.
Senior John Mietus has record double-digit points and rebounds in 11 of 12 games. He leads the Northwest Conference in points (22.9) and rebounds (11.8) per game. He has been the Northwest player of the week three times already. He ranks in the top 10 in NCAA Division III in scoring.
Senior Danny Winchester averages 4.38 3-pointers per game, which also ranks in the top 10 -nationally.
And guard Ryan Wells, a sophomore from Oregon City, set the school record for 3-pointers made (12) and attempted (24) in a game Jan. 12 against Whitman. The Pioneers shot 46 3-pointers, breaking the record of 45 set earlier in the year against Cascade; they made a record 22 against Cascade, with seven players making a trey.
The Pioneers (9-4) play league-leading Puget Sound (12-1) on Saturday at Pamplin Sports Center. The Loggers average 107.6 points, third in the country, but have hit only eight more 3-pointers than the Pios (169 to 161) -entering the week.