Vikings finish season with win at Seattle

It’s been a tough year for the Portland State men’s basketball team, especially on the road, but in the final game of the 2010–11 season, the Vikings finished in feel-good fashion with a 81-71 victory  against Seattle University at Key Arena.

It’s been a tough year for the Portland State men’s basketball team, especially on the road, but in the final game of the 2010–11 season, the Vikings finished in feel-good fashion with a 81-71 victory  against Seattle University at Key Arena. Senior guard Melvin Jones, in the last game of his college-career, scored a season-high 25-points to lead the Vikings past Seattle in front of his hometown crowd.

“I was happy for Melvin Jones,” head coach Tyler Geving said after the game on March 10. “He had one of his best games of the season in front of family and friends, so that was great to see.”

Jones not only lit it up for 7-11 from the field, including 4-6 from three-point range and 7-8 at the line, but also added four rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes of play.

“This season didn’t go as exactly planned, but getting a big win at Seattle was good for everybody,” senior Phillip “Tree” Thomas added. “It meant a lot to us to end the season on a good note.”

All five Portland State seniors were able to play and contribute in their final game against Seattle, including Thomas, who despite being limited by foul-trouble managed to score four points in 11 minutes. Senior Phil Nelson ended his career with a solid performance, including three straight three-pointers during one stretch in the second half, on his way to 12 total points, two assists, and two rebounds. Senior Paul Guede added nine points on 3-5 shooting and senior Alonzo Brandon scored three points on his only field goal attempt from distance. Truly, a fairy-tale last chapter.

“I’ll remember the people,” Thomas reflected. “The fans, the staff, the coaches, my teammates—everybody was great. This was one of the best experiences of my life and the people I met really contributed to the player and person I’ve become this year.”

Still, it was certainly a challenging season for the Vikings and second-year coach Geving for various reasons, not in the least because of injuries to a handful of key players, causing the team to miss a total of 33 games for health-related issues. The Vikings were also penalized for a low Academic Progress Rate (APR) score in the previous season and thus deemed ineligible for NCAA tournament play in 2010–11.

“Thanks to the seniors for everything they’ve done,” Geving said. “When it’s your senior year and you know there’s no carrot at the end of the tunnel with the Big Sky Tournament, that’s really hard, but to still go out every night and compete and have a good attitude, it says a lot about their character.”

Despite the adversity, Portland State finished the year with a 14-16 record overall, placing seventh in the Big Sky with a 5-11 mark in conference, and managed to improve on last season’s record of 13-19.

“It feels really good to finish better than last season,” Thomas said. “I could have contributed to the team more last season, but unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to play. I just wanted to prove to everybody—prove to myself, coaches and family—that I could have contributed more last year, so it means a lot for me to finish better than last year, even if it’s only a game.”

“It was just a fun win,” Geving said. “And hopefully, it gives us a little momentum heading into next season and into the off-season as we start workouts.”

Portland State will have plenty to look forward to next year. The Vikings should bring back three starters and six letter-winners next season, as well as three new recruits and five redshirts. Highly-touted transfers Renado Parker and Michael Harthun, who have been practicing with the team already this season, will join the Viking’s top three returning scorers in Charles Odum, Chris Harriel and Chehales Tapscott.

“Renaldo Parker is a beast inside. He’s a big man, a really big, big man,” Odum said. “And Michael Harthun has just been tearing it up ever since he got here.”

The Vikings have two scholarship spots still available on their roster and are looking to sign more talent sometime this spring.

“We could use another guard and another inside guy, but you always can,” Geving said. “So we’re kind of looking the [junior-college] route for that.”

“I’m really excited to start working for next year,” Odum said. “It’s about attention, focus and will to win. Practice is where everything starts. When there aren’t any fans around in the gym, that’s where all the focus and hunger comes from.”

“Remember how losing felt and don’t accept that next year,” Thomas offered to the players who will still be at Portland State next year. “And I want to emphasize that it’s important to never stop listening because we can never learn too much about anything. Once you stop listening is when you stop getting better.”

Odum, the team’s returning leading scorer and a second-team all Big Sky selection, understands that the road to improvement isn’t an easy path and that success comes with hard work.

“Leaders have to lead by example,” Odum said. “You can’t sit there and talk about attention, focus and will to win and then not show it in the workouts or even in the classroom. Being on time to practice, all that stuff matters when you’re looking at a leader.”

Added Odum, “That’s something that Chris, Chehales and I are going to have to keep growing at and gaining that trust. Just because you’re coming back or what you did last year, doesn’t mean anything, there are new guys coming in and you always have to earn that respect.” ?