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Boxley-led Vikings reload for next year

Coach Heath Schroyer chooses to remain positive about the performance of Portland State and not dwell on any unrealized potential.

The Vikings finished 11-16 overall and 5-9 in the Big Sky Conference. They dropped their final three games and failed to earn one of six league playoff spots.

The Viks improved by six wins overall and two in the Big Sky from last season. They will return five starters, eight lettermen and four redshirt players next year.

'When you consider we had so many new players Ñ basically an entire team Ñ and they're new to each other and the level and me,' Schroyer says, 'I think we've made significant strides and gained ground on the rest of the league.'

Seamus Boxley, Antone Jarrell, Blake Walker and Will Funn will be returning senior starters, along with sophomore starter Marshal Hartman.

The only key senior this season, Seth Scott, quit the team two weeks ago for 'personal reasons,' and he clearly failed to meet expectations. Had the Vikings received consistent play from the foul-prone Scott Ñ he had his best games against Oregon Ñ things could have been different.

PSU did get star performances and much more from Boxley, the 6-7 junior who averaged 14.8 points per game and led the Big Sky in rebounding (9.4). Boxley, who made the all-conference team and was Big Sky defensive player of the year, ranked in the top five in the conference in field-goal percentage and blocked shots.

'A phenomenal year,' Schroyer says. 'Now the onus is on him to see if he can take it to another level.'

Walker, a guard from the JC ranks, averaged 16.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. He had some great games (41 points against Tennessee State) and many good ones, but also some stinkers. 'It was a big learning year for Blake, learning the mental aspect of game,' Schroyer says. 'He went through a slump in the middle of league play, but the last two weeks the light bulb went on for him.'

Expect Funn to be better in his second year at point guard. Hartman probably will play more facing the basket because the Vikings will insert ballyhooed 6-11 Marier Angui into the lineup at center. Athletic forward Keith Sconiers, who played in 2002-03, will return from a knee injury.

Schroyer's main emphasis in recruiting is finding a shooter; he'll probably sign one player and bring in two walk-ons. The Vikings established this year that they can defend and rebound, leading the Big Sky in opponent field-goal percentage (.427) and rebounding margin (+5.4), but they only shot .307 from the field.

Still, Schroyer had said all season he thought the Vikings could get into the Big Sky tourney, and maybe even win it. And he said the Vikings should be one of the favorites for the 2004-05 Big Sky title. Other coaches have told him the same thing.

'I don't look at it as must-win,' he says. 'It's important to take another step in rebuilding the program. The pieces are there to make a serious and legitimate run at the conference championship.'