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Glory days hang over young Pilots

On College Hoops
by: ©2008 WILL CREW, Nik Raivio (left) is following in the footsteps of dad Rick, a star from 1976-80, in playing for the University of Portland. Sherrard Watson (right), a slashing 6-6 forward, plays a different style then Sidney, his father, who was the banger on Portland Pilot teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

As far as eras go, the late 1970s and early '80s stick out as the best years of basketball at the University of Portland.

In five seasons, starting in 1977, the Pilots went 88-49 under coach Jack Avina. They have had only three winning seasons since then, all under Rob Chavez in the 1990s.

But two sons of Avina players are trying to help turn around the Pilots' fortunes.

Nik Raivio's father, Rick, played at UP from 1976 to 1980, along with future NBA player Darwin Cook. A 6-4 shooting guard, Nik Raivio doesn't play inside like his father did with the Pilots, but he has been trying to establish his own name and game after prepping at Mountain View High in Vancouver, Wash, and playing junior college ball.

Sherrard Watson's father, Sidney, played on the Bluff from 1978 to 1982, the same years as the great Jose Slaughter, and never suffered through a losing season. The 6-6 Sherrard, a slasher, hardly resembles his father, a banger, in playing style, but he has made the most of a career that started as a walk-on from Sunset High.

The younger Raivio and Watson hardly talk about their family connections, but they have heard the stories of yesteryear.

'They had an old school coach (Avina), I heard he was a Bobby Knight-type,' Raivio says. 'They had bigger guys, and it wasn't always the prettiest of play. They weren't the kind of guys who were trying to make friends out on the court. They left it on the court.'

Watson, a senior, wants to help the Pilots reach .500 this season - UP was 6-13 heading into tonight's nonleague home game against Cal State Bakersfield.

Raivio, a sophomore, wants to help the program regain the status it had when his father played there. 'That's why I'm here,' he says. 'I definitely wish we had a better record right now. It could easily be .500, or 10 or 11 wins. This year is definitely preparing us for next year and the year after. We've got all but one guy (Watson) coming back, and we got a lot of pieces, everyone is learning plays and systems, and young guys are buying in.'

Raivio is the leading scorer at 12.7 points per game. Watson is second with 11.1.

The Pilots have a nice mix of players under second-year coach Eric Reveno, but they are not yet athletic enough and don't have a lights-out shooter or scorer. Reveno has been building around defense, rebounding and offensive execution.

Portland has lost the past three West Coast Conference games by a combined nine points and dropped five preseason games by seven points or fewer. They are still losses, though and Reveno's career record is 15-36.

'I have two views of our program,' Reveno says. 'One is from my nose to the grindstone, and I see three feet in front of me, game to game. Then I have my 10,000-foot view, and I'm very happy with where we are.'

Watson has made the most of his career.

'Just kept learning,' he says. 'Coming from high school, you have habits to break. It's way more physical in college. Defensively, you tend to get tired, and the coaching staff says you've got to push through.'

Raivio says he doesn't feel pressure to perform in his father's shadow. And fans at Monday's Pilot-Gonzaga game in Spokane probably will let him know he doesn't stack up to his brother, former Bulldog point guard Derek Raivio.

'I'm not as much a finesse player as Derek; I'm a little more rugged,' Nik Raivio says. '(Dad) got a lot more done inside than I do. But I try to mix it up.

'I've been hearing the Derek brother thing growing up, but it hasn't bothered me. As far as being Rick's kid, that doesn't bother me - that was like 30 years ago that he played here.'