The slender forward slips into the gym 20 minutes before the start of practice. He methodically makes his way around the perimeter of the key, raining jump shots down on the rim, working himself into a rhythm. He shoots until he misses and then goes beneath the goal to rebound for his teammate.
How do you ward off a sophomore slump?
For Portland State sophomore Seamus Boxley, the Big Sky Conference’s co-Freshman of the Year in 2000-01, the answer lies in hard work and preparation.
“Coach Sobotka told me about the sophomore slump after I won Freshman of the Year (Big Sky Conference co-honor) last year, and I was totally unaware of it,” Boxley said. “I was a little unsure of whether I could play at this level when I came in as a freshman, but last year I proved that I could compete up here. Now the challenge is to make sure that I can sustain my level of play, and the fear of that slump has pushed me to spend some long days in the gym.”
Based on the numbers he’s registered throughout the Vikings’ preseason schedule, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward’s work habits have paid dividends. After averaging 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, Boxley is 29-42 (.690) and is averaging 11.7 points per game this year. In the season opener against Brisbane, Australia, Boxley made seven of eight field goals en route to 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds his senior year at Washington’s Mountlake Terrace High School, numbers that led to a distinction as a Seattle Times first team All-State player. And while reaching double figures in two categories is a realistic circumstance any time Boxley steps onto the court, the modest player doesn’t evaluate his play in terms of statistics.
“I try to bring an energy to the court, and I usually do okay statistically if I’m staying active. This year, we have a lot of players who can score the ball and so I’m basically focusing on my defensive rebounding,” Boxley said. “If the team is playing well together and we’re executing our game plan and it all results in a win, then that’s the way I evaluate my play.”
It’s the type of attitude that Viking head coach Joel Sobotka appreciates in his athletes.
“Seamus provides our program with great leadership as one of our co-captains (forward Anthony Lackey is the other). He also gives our team energy and enthusiasm with his great personality and tremendous toughness.”
Boxley’s off the floor commitments keep him busy. As a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Board, Boxley works in concert with athletes from PSU’s other varsity sports in raising awareness in the community of Viking athletics and increasing student involvement with athletics on campus.
“Because we are overshadowed by Oregon and Oregon State, our goal is to get out into the community and work with local groups and high school students in promoting PSU athletics,” Boxley said.
Boxley also represents the Big Sky Conference on the Student Basketball Council, a national organization with a strong impact on the complexion of NCAA basketball. The council meets periodically to discuss and offer suggestions on some of the current issues facing men’s intercollegiate basketball. To have a voice in a national forum that shapes the landscape of college hoops is an honor Boxley takes seriously.
“It’s really an honor to represent our conference,” Boxley said. “The organization is unique in that the athletes are trying to take an active role in the direction of the national program.”
With his eyes on a degree in business administration with a minor in community development, Boxley hopes to someday operate his own business. He spent last summer working full-time for a law firm in Seattle. And while he devotes most of his time to academics and hoops, he makes time to sing.
“I really enjoy singing and dancing,” Boxley said with a smile. “I love it. All types of music, with friends and family, just cutting loose and having fun. Love it.”
Boxley served the Big Sky Conference notice with his play as a freshman. With a retooled team that includes a large freshman class and some key junior college transfers, Boxley will invariably figure in the team’s success during his second season also. Sobotka would love to have more like him.
“Seamus is an amazing person,” Sobotka said. “He emulates all the principles which define our program. He is very humble, unselfish, hard working and just a genuine person. He is exactly the type of person we want in our program and he is a huge reason we are able to continue to recruit and attract student-athletes to PSU.”