States sports stars step right up
Drexler is again a big hit; he still hopes to acquire the Portland Fire
The stars were in the house Sunday night at Nike's Tiger Woods Center, presenting and receiving awards and helping make the Oregon Sports Awards a righteous celebration of the state's top athletic achievements in 2002.
None was bigger than Clyde Drexler, who flew in from Houston. Drexler served as celebrity co-host, honoring the winners and greeting and signing autographs for many of the 800 in attendance.
'You people are spoiled,' Drexler said over and over. 'This is such a great city, a great state.'
Drexler told the crowd he had learned that Marla Runyan, the Eugene distance runner who won the Harry Glickman Award as the state's top pro female athlete, trains at 120 miles a week.
'I run about 20 miles a week,' Drexler remarked to the event's emcee, Bill Schonely. 'Can you cover the other 100, Schonz?'
Drexler, who spends summers in Portland with his wife, Gaynell, and their three children, would like to return to the City of Roses full time. The former perennial NBA All-Star and business partner Terry Emmert continue to negotiate for the purchase of the WNBA's Portland Fire.
If it happens, Drexler will serve as coach and managing partner.
Drexler and Emmert are waiting for a return call from Bob Whitsitt, the Trail Blazers' president and general manager.
'We should have an answer within the week,' Drexler said.
nÊThe WNBA was well represented at the awards ceremony. Fire guard Jackie Stiles was a presenter, and Lindsey Yamasaki and Felicia Ragland were finalists for the Hayward Award, which goes to the state's top amateur female athlete.
Yamasaki had an injury-plagued rookie season with the Miami Sol, averaging 3.5 points and 9.8 minutes in 15 games. The former Oregon City and Stanford standout shot .442 from the field, including .529 (9 of 17) on 3-point attempts in a season abbreviated by ankle and shin injuries.
The Miami franchise has folded. Yamasaki and the rest of the Sol players will enter the WNBA's dispersal draft, hoping to land with another club for next season.
At Stanford, Yamasaki played both basketball and volleyball. Might she continue in volleyball É and even look at a 2004 Olympics bid?
'I wouldn't completely rule it out,' she said. 'After my sophomore year at Stanford, I was trying to put it in my past, but I have realized I want to play again at some level. I don't know Ñ I seem to change my mind every week.'
Ragland started three games but mostly came off the bench as a rookie with the Seattle Storm, averaging 4.5 points and 13.9 minutes in 31 games. The former Oregon State star shot only .384 from the field but .400 on 3-pointers and .821 from the foul line.
This winter, the 5-foot-9 guard is in Seattle doing an internship in juvenile rehabilitation administration.
'I'm in the office, learning a lot, doing ride-alongs with parole officers,' she said. 'It's something I want to do after my playing career is over.'
nÊOregon Athletic Director Bill Moos, a finalist for the Slats Gill Award for the state's top athletic administrator or coach, said the San Francisco 49ers have not yet asked permission to speak to Moos about the Ducks' Mike Bellotti as a candidate for their vacant head coaching position.
'That's speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised,' Moos said. 'He hasn't mentioned anything, and Mike would tell me if there is anything to it.'
nÊGolf star Bob Gilder, recipient of the Harry Glickman Award for the top pro male athlete, flew in with his family from Hawaii, where he is preparing for the 2003 Champions Tour. Gilder, second on the Senior PGA Tour money list last season, will open his season at the MasterCard Tournament of Champions next week in Kona.
The Corvallis native is using a prototype Ping driver and makes no secret of his goal for the year: 'To win everything I can win and get off to a good start. You never know how it's going to go, but you want to be ready when it's time.'
nÊAfter a 2002 hampered by multiple surgeries, distance-runner Mary Slaney is hoping to run her first competitive marathon sometime this year. The Eugene resident, 44, is training under a new coach, Mike Manley.
'I'm healthy at the moment,' said Slaney, who helped Rudy Chapa present the Nike-Steve Prefontaine Award to Lauren Jespersen of Klamath Union. 'By April, we should know how long it will take to get to where I need to be.'
nÊCollegiate track and field fans will get their first look at Jordan Kent this spring. The freshman redshirt on father/coach Ernie Kent's Oregon basketball team will compete for the Ducks in relay events, the 400 and long jump.
'That's exciting,' said Jordan, winner of the Johnny Carpenter Award as the top prep male athlete for the second year in a row. 'The competition is going to be a lot tougher. Any way I can help the team, I'm up for it.'
Kent, who has grown an inch to 6-5, has found his redshirt basketball season more difficult than he expected.
'When you are on the bench watching games, it's really tough,' he said. 'I don't know how much I could help the team, but you want to compete Ñ that's the one thing that really hurts. You can compete in practice, but the games are a whole different setting.'
nÊPresenter Jonathan Stark, the recently retired ATP tennis pro from Medford, is living in Seattle and coordinating the junior program at the Seattle Tennis Center. With a 3-year-old son and another child on the way, it's a perfect fit for the former Davis Cupper and top tennis player in the state's history.
'I wanted to stay in tennis and didn't want to travel, so it has worked out well,' Stark said.
nÊLinfield coach Jay Locey, a finalist for the Slats Gill Award, was bubbling over the fact that three of his players earned NCAA Division III first-team All-American status. Honored were guard Daryl Agpalsa, defensive back Ray Lions (from Sunset High) and running back David Russell. The Wildcats have never had more first-team All-Americans in a single season.
Russell won the Ad Rutschman Award on Sunday as the state's top small college male athlete in 2002.
And Locey said the cupboard is not bare at Linfield, with 13 starters returning from last year's team that reached the national quarterfinals, including quarterback Tyler Matthews.
'I don't think it will be a building year Ñ a reloading year, hopefully,' Locey said. 'I don't know if we can contend for a national championship again, but it's something we always work toward.'
nÊBenson's Deborah Jones, winner of the Johnny Carpenter Award as the top prep female athlete in the state, will attend Texas Christian on a full scholarship next season after considering Arizona, Washington and Washington State.
'I visited and liked the school, and the program is up-and-coming,' said Jones, who will study to become a physical therapist.