Things may look up this year for taller Vikings
Late recruits bring PSU height as well as higher hopes in Big Sky
To get substantially better, Portland State had to get substantially bigger.
The Vikings did it, thanks to some late recruiting pushes by new coach Heath Schroyer. They plan to enter the year with eight players 6-foot-6 or taller. They had three last year, which largely explains why they finished last in the Big Sky Conference in rebounding and defense.
Portland State went 12-16 last year, including 6-8 in the Big Sky, and the Vikings enter this season with new hope. High hopes, actually, what with the addition of 6-foot-10 Seth Scott from Utah, the arrival of Oregon prep star Marshal Hartman and the eligibility of Ben Coffee.
Scott purportedly can score, rebound and block shots, and Schroyer already considers him an impact player. There are murmurs about Scott's coachability and temperament, but Schroyer assures fans that he can coach the kid.
Schroyer will just be careful not to expect too much from Scott.
'He's been great,' the coach says. 'He expects a lot out of himself. Hard on himself. A lot of times people may read it a certain way when he gets frustrated.'
Hartman, from Westview High, put up a consistent 22 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game last year. Coffee sat out the season Ñ starring in practice sessions Ñ after two years at Washington. Both are athletic forwards who can score; they will take the role held by former Viking Anthony Lackey.
Another newcomer, Brandon Haughton, from Howard JC in Texas, has some girth on his 6-7 frame.
Portland State also has size and experience in 6-7 swing forward Seamus Boxley, although he underwent surgery on his left hand in September and hasn't been cleared to practice.
In the backcourt, the Viks don't have a true point guard returning. Aaron Fitzgerald, who quit during the 2001-02 season, opted to transfer. Jeb Ivey finished the year at the point and is likely to share minutes with reserve John Glaser and JC transfer John Giannoni. Ivey, however, needs to shoot; he was .545 from the field in league play last year, including 58 percent from 3-point land. He also made 50 of 51 free throws while averaging 13 points per game.
Senior Kevin Briggs and Troy DeVries also return in the backcourt.
Schroyer, 30, was a successful assistant in recent years at Wyoming and Brigham Young. He recruits well and emphasizes defense, defense, defense Ñ a word not in PSU's vocabulary last season.
'Our intensity has been good,' he says after early preseason practices. 'Guys are really trying to grasp the new system. I'm impressed with team chemistry.'
NOTES: Recruit Nick Morales from Salt Lake City, who planned to walk on at PSU, opted to go to Snow JC in Utah. É In all, the Vikings have eight new players and six returnees. É 'Brutal' describes Portland State's nonleague schedule, Schroyer says. It includes games against Oregon State, Oregon (Jan. 15 at Memorial Coliseum), Portland, UNLV, Boise State, New Mexico and Gonzaga (Jan. 2 at Memorial Coliseum). É Stott Center has undergone a $1 million renovation, with new chairback seats, retractable baskets, a new floor and overall upgraded aesthetics for the 1,500 capacity. É Portland State led the Big Sky in field-goal shooting (.478), 3-point shooting (.409) and free-throw shooting (.743), and also assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. The Vikings just couldn't stop anybody, or rebound.