A tough, demanding coach enters the picture, and you expect Jeb Ivey to wilt? Never.
'I love it,' says Ivey, a Portland State senior and unquestionably the glue holding the basketball program together in the first few months of Heath Schroyer's coaching regime. 'I love him. I've seen the worst, every day.'
Anyone watching PSU games these days couldn't miss Schroyer, the
31-year-old whippersnapper trying to make the Vikings an NCAA Tournament team. The guy can stomp his feet, grit his teeth and bellow with the best of them. Ivey calls the style 'urgency.' Schroyer calls it 'passion.'
Two players, Ben Coffee and Troy DeVries, have left the team because they didn't like Schroyer's coaching style and decisions. But other players have embraced him: Seamus Boxley, Seth Scott, Kevin Briggs É and Ivey.
Ivey has played point guard for the Viks, even though he excels at shooting and at taking passes rather than making them. Intangibles have made Ivey the Vikings' most valuable player.
Ivey has played all 40 minutes in nine of 13 games and leads PSU in scoring with 15 points per game.
'We've pulled through,' Ivey says. 'We've gone through a lot of adversity. When adversity hits you, you have to stick it out. Of course I'm going to stick it out.'
Portland State won its third game Monday, beating Sacramento State Ñ another team expected to inhabit the bottom of the Big Sky Conference standings. Road games, and any other home games against Big Sky foes, will be much harder to win.
Ivey won't quit, however. He had a tough upbringing, as both of his parents went wayward on him. He leaned on his stepfather, and he came north from the Bay Area to establish life with his girlfriend.
'He's the captain and the heart and soul of this team,' Schroyer says. 'He competes hard every day. He's a throwback in that respect. Tough as nails.'
A convincing road win Monday against Montana State, last year's Big Sky champ, seems to indicate the Portland Pilots are on the right track. Win or lose Thursday against Pepperdine and Saturday against Loyola Marymount, the Pilots should be delighted with their 7-6 preseason. If they go .500 in the West Coast Conference, it would be a breakthrough; they were picked to finish last.
Headed into Thursday's game, the Pilots led the WCC in free-throw shooting (76.1 percent), steals (8.54 per game) and turnover margin (+3.92). Adam Quick was leading the WCC in assists for the third consecutive year after notching 14 Monday.
Coach Michael Holton likes the development of his guards and wing players Ñ Quick, Donald Wilson and Eugene Jeter, who team with Casey Frandsen. Holton will get yeoman's work from his guys upfront. Now, if only 6-10 post Tim Frost hadn't decided to transfer two years ago.