Peripatetic guard still in the game
Two days before Jack Wolfinger's D-Day Ñ or C-Day, in his case Ñ the coach at Southern Vermont College summed up the Portland guard's quest to play one more season of college basketball.
'He's an amazing cat of nine lives,' SVC coach Ryan Marks said. 'He needs a 2.0 (grade-point-average) to be eligible, and I think he's going to get a 2.00000.'
Marks hadn't heard official news Wednesday. But after the player took fall semester classes and finals, and after talking with Wolfinger's professors, Marks is '90 percent sure he's OK. He should be eligible.' His first game would be Jan. 6.
It would be the latest step in the nomadic existence of a player with the prototypical center's body (6-11) and freakish guard's skills. Wolfinger played at Wilson High and then spent the next four years hopscotching schools. He played at St. John's (N.Y.) and Ventura (Calif.) Community College, signed a letter of intent to USC before backing out, practiced with Cascade College and then tried to go to Point Loma (Calif.).
Last year, a volunteer assistant for Marks who had seen Wolfinger play at St. John's told the coach about him. Marks then recruited him to play for the small NCAA Division III school in Bennington, Vt.
Marks also had heard about him through former Trail Blazer assistant coach Herb Brown, who had watched Wolfinger scrimmage against NBA players.
Wolfinger played briefly at Southern Vermont last season. Plantar fasciitis, a disorder stemming from overuse of the foot, limited his action. But then he was academically dismissed and had to attend summer school and pass fall classes to become eligible again.
'Hopefully, he can put a predominately full year together and get a chance to play pro,' Marks says.
That's the plan, says Wolfinger, who turns 23 next month. Mostly, he just wants to leave the myriad of injuries behind him.
'It's been a while since I've been healthy,' says Wolfinger, who had a bothersome quad injury while preparing to play at USC two years ago. 'I'm excited to see if I can stay healthy.'
Playing in spite of an injury has helped Wolfinger develop an all-around game. 'I didn't always have my quickness, so my mental part has grown,' he says. 'I'm getting my speed and motion back, and now I can apply some smarts.'
Marks will have Wolfinger play mostly point guard and small forward, or anywhere the team can find mismatches.
'Jack is a unique talent and player Ñ 6-11 and his finest attributes are ballhandling and passing,' Marks says.
Says Wolfinger: 'I'm healthy, and I'm in a good position. I'm going to be putting up some big numbers, you can count on that.'
UP goes down
Don't expect to see Portland coach Michael Holton lobbying for Duke, or any other top 10 program, on his schedule anytime soon. Duke and its devastating defense routed the Pilots 84-43 on national TV Ñ a borderline embarrassment.
'People tell me the way I'm scheduling is occupational suicide,' Holton says.
The Duke game, however, was set years ago.
It was an ugly loss, although Holton took one positive out of it.
'When you're 5-1, teams get up to play you, even if you're Duke,' he says. 'Their team stepped up their effort to play the Pilots. That says something.'
Did the loss do more damage than good?
'No, nothing about playing badly in that forum impedes our program,' Holton says, adding, jokingly, 'I got a couple calls and -e-mails from recruits, saying, 'Hold on, we're coming to help!' '
The second RiverCity Rivalry men's game between Portland and Portland State takes place at 7 tonight at the Stott Center. É The Pilots have made just 14 of 44 3-point shots in losses at Duke and Weber State (58-51 Tuesday); they shot 24 percent overall at Duke, 37 percent at Weber State. 'Our high-octane offense is having a fuel problem,' Holton says. É UP's Donald Wilson and Pooh Jeter have played major minutes, and 'we expected to go deeper into our rotation to combat (fatigue),' Holton says. É PSU's Blake Walker leads the Big Sky Conference in scoring (17.3) and ranks fifth in rebounding (6.1). He had 27 points and seven rebounds Tuesday at Boise State (75-74 overtime loss). É Seamus Boxley leads the Big Sky in rebounding (7.8). É Viking center Seth Scott did not play for the third consecutive game Tuesday.