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Payton yet to make good on OSU gift

by: ISSAC BALDIZON, Oregon State officials say that dozens of calls and two certified letters to Gary Payton’s agent about his purported promise to help finance a Gill Coliseum annex have gone unanswered.

NBA veteran Gary Payton and his agent, Aaron Goodwin, consistently parry questions about the player's alleged promise to Oregon State to contribute big money - the figure always floated out is $3 million - to help finance a Gill Coliseum annex. Here is the way then-Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, now working the same position at Kentucky, recalls it:

'There was nothing signed, nothing specifically pledged, but Gary was pretty committed to helping us get the project off the ground. We met with him and Aaron on several occasions, and we talked about a seven-figure gift to get it kick-started.

'Gary was excited about being a leader for Oregon State. He's very proud of being a Beaver. He wanted to put his signature on something special to get the basketball program back to where he wanted it to be. When I left to go to Kentucky (in 2002), the conversations were strong and he wanted to be supportive. I wouldn't think that much has changed.'

OSU officials have made dozens of calls and sent a couple of certified letters to Goodwin that have gone unanswered. Maybe he and his client just want to be left alone.

Barnhart, by the way, visited Oregon this month with his family and made a stop in Bandon, where he tested the town's golf courses. 'Played all three and enjoyed the beautiful Oregon summer weather,' he reports.

• After visiting Haiti last year with a friend who was adopting a child, Seattle's Jesse Johnson was moved by the plight there. He resigned his position as pastor of the Auburn (Wash.) Free Methodist Church and dedicated himself to working toward the betterment of Haitian children. That's why he'll arrive in Portland on Saturday in the Seattle-to-Portland bicycle event. It's the first leg of his personal 40-day, Seattle-to-Miami ride to raise $1 million for the cause.

'I'd studied Haiti and knew it was an impoverished nation,' says Johnson, 31. 'Once I got there and saw the level of poverty, I recognized there were great needs and we could do lasting work.

'It doesn't take $1 million to do great work in Haiti. We can do a whole lot with very little. But we want to raise awareness and hope ordinary people might have $5, $10, $20 or whatever to contribute. Together, we can make a difference.'

Those who want to help can do so by consulting Johnson's Web sites (www.bikeforhaitikids.org or haitikidsfoundation.org). He says 100 percent of proceeds go straight to the Haitian kids.

Johnson, incidentally, is an accomplished enough cyclist that as an additional fundraiser next spring, he will attempt to break the ultramarathon coast-to-coast record of eight days, three hours.

• Hillsboro's DeMarini Sports got plenty of exposure with Oregon State's College World Series championship. Nike supplies OSU baseball with shoes and apparel, but the Beavers use DeMarini bats and equipment.

'The DeMarini bats were good for us,' OSU coach Pat Casey says. 'Our guys really liked them.'

'Those are my favorite bats,' says Cole Gillespie, who went from no home runs as a sophomore using other bats to 13 taters using DeMarini as a junior. 'If I could choose any bat, I'd choose DeMarini. I like the weight distribution, and the barrels are huge. They have pretty good pop in them.'

Runner-up North Carolina, incidentally, used Nike bats.

• Ex-OSU standout Jacoby Ellsbury's batting average with the Class A Wilmington (N.C.) Blue Rocks has slipped, from a Carolina League-leading .335 to .300 through 59 games. But Ellsbury, who participated in the league's All-Star game two weeks ago, still ranks second in the league in hitting and third in stolen bases (25).

'The biggest challenge is playing every day, being mentally prepared and keeping your body in shape,' says Ellsbury, 22, who hit .317 in Rookie League with Lowell (Mass.) last year. 'I'm working on being consistent at the plate, squaring up on the ball and hitting it hard.'

Some observers consider Ellsbury next on the list of Boston Red Sox center fielders. He knows that isn't going to happen overnight.

'If you ask me, I say yes,' he says. 'It's a process. (The Red Sox) stress to me not to look too far ahead. But I'm preparing to be at Fenway Park as soon as tomorrow.'

• Oregon State football has a verbal commitment from Michael Cole, a 6-7, 295-pound offensive tackle with Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Cole, a Lake Oswego High graduate who started his college career at Portland State, is the younger brother of Travis Cole, a former quarterback at Minnesota now playing Arena football.

The Beavers also are close to getting another receiver, Chris Johnson (6-1, 180) of Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif.

• Portland State's defensive coaching staff has undertaken a major face-lift. With Rick Anderson and Vince Alcade going into private business and Jamal Fountaine attending to personal matters, defensive coordinator Greg Lupfer and line coach Saga Tuitele are all that remains from last season's staff on the defensive side.

Former Vikings Ryan Wells and Nick Chenault will handle the secondary, and Josh Fetter, with three years of experience as defensive coordinator at Division II Western State in Gunnison, Colo., will fill the holes.

The new faces will work with what coach Tim Walsh regards as potentially the best defense in his 14 years at PSU.

'If we're not the best defense in the league, I'm going to be quite upset,' Walsh says.

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