Getting close to men’s basketball

Maybe you know ’em and maybe you don’t, but they surely exist. The men’s basketball team is playing their way through what is proving to be a damn good season so far.

The Vikings will take on Eastern Washington this Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the Stott Center. PSU began conference play with a 6-7 record in the regular season, and are currently 2-2 in Big Sky.

With six wins in season games, and Big Sky games still being played, PSU is well beyond last year’s disappointing record of 5-22. The team’s improvement in a few areas is greatly apparent and welcomed.

In the 2002-03 season, men’s basketball endured some tough times. With the loss of six players due to coaching changes and injuries, you would think that Head Coach Heath Schroyer would have lost heart. That didn’t happen.

Even with the loss of players and the upsetting record, the Vikings gained a few things in Schroyer’s first coaching season at Portland State; they became the leading defensive and rebounding team. This was an excellent achievement considering the rocky season.

The rebounding and defense that Coach Schroyer brought to his team has not slipped away. It seems that the Vikings have continued to play strong defense and bring in the rebounds. PSU has improved in points allowed, opponent field goal percentage, opponent three-point percentage, and rebounding margin. The gradual improvement in these key defensive stats keeps PSU at the top of their defensive reign.

Offensively, Portland State has gained more ground. With top scorers like Juniors Blake Walker, Seamus Boxley, and Antone Jarrell, the Vikings consistently add points to their scoreboard at game time. Efficient scoring has added up to victories for Portland State. The Vikings have shown that the mixture of offense, defense and rebounding provides a well-balanced game.

Some key players to watch for are: junior guard, Blake Walker, junior forward Seamus Boxley, junior guard Will Funn and senior forward, Seth Scott. Why? Here is the brief skinny on these guys:

Blake Walker is the leading scorer in the Big Sky Conference (18.4), and he ranks third in rebounding (6.4). Walker has already been named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week twice this year.

This season, Walker has had six 20-point games and two double-doubles. Walker’s most stunning game this season was played against Tennessee State on December 30. He scored 41 of PSU’s 74 winning points. The majority of his scoring was in the second half where Walker brought PSU up from behind scoring 33 of the 46 second-half points. Wow! Either he has good shoes or he knows how to play basketball. Whichever it is, I am sure his team is glad to have him as a player.

Seamus Boxley is no small character himself. Boxley seems to have “basketball Magic” in his fingertips. Boxley leads Big Sky Conference and the Vikings in rebounding (9.4). He is ranked second on his team for scoring (13.2). These are career marks for Boxley, who also recorded his sixth double-double of the season against Montana on January 10.

Against Montana, Boxley posted 16 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots. On January 17, PSU beat Northern Arizona 71-65. Boxley contributed 23 points to the win and a career high 15 rebounds. He could be considered Portland State’s most consistent player.

Commenting on Boxley, Head Coach Heath Schroyer said, “Seamus is our rock in there, and he has been every game for us. He is really stepping up and he’s a tough match up for anybody. When he can rebound and run he really ignites us”.

Will Funn has also shown fans that he too has basketball magic in his fingers. On January 10, Funn added 15 points, 10 assists to four steals and six rebounds. These were big numbers that added to the victory over Montana. He scored his first double-double of the season in this game, and he is a smart player. With box-scores likes these, it shows he uses his playing time well.

Seth Scott is no spring chicken. With an average of 25.7 minutes off the bench, Scott has also used his time on the court wisely. He is averaging nine points and bringing in 6.7 rebounds per game. In the recent win over Northern Arizona, Scott gave 11 points to Portland State’s grand total of 71. He also contributed five rebounds. Scott has been playing good basketball this year, and it appears that he has made his way into the string of key players.

When Coach Schroyer was hired in 2002 as Head Coach for the Vikings, he said, “I have a vision for this program. I have a vision that a lot of people might not share, but that is where we’re going. When I look to the future, I see us winning the Big Sky and going to the NCAA Tournament. I’ll be honest with you, I love ring ceremonies and I love hanging banners in gyms.”

Big statements like that often receive big skepticism, but the Vikings are playing as if they truly believe what their coach has says. We’ll see! If we keep up the good

basketball, then maybe PSU will indeed hang a banner in the gym this season! Go Vikings!