The Vandals still have three more WAC regular-season games to play, but all are on the road. So tonight is it -- the final home date of the season. Portland State is in Moscow for a BracketBuster matchup (7:05 tip). And four Idaho seniors will be honored, including one who has lived in Nigeria, Quebec, New York and now North Idaho.
We've got more on Djim Bandoumel and the Vandals after the jump.
For this morning’s paper, I profiled Bandoumel, the Vandals’ 6-foot-7 forward who speaks four languages (French, English and two African languages) and has wowed his college coaches with his athleticism. He's also made an impression with his smiley demeanor. As I mentioned in the story, Bandoumel started to grin on the court after watching Magic Johnson and the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics.
Here’s what he said about watching Magic have fun the court just after he and his family had moved from Africa to Canada as a child:
“It was cool to see them have fun and smile all the time. It’s a thing that I try to duplicate when I cross the line. I try to have fun all the time,” Bandoumel told me. “... I was pretty young but I just remember it was something crazy because that was the first time NBA players were coming back to the Olympics. The Dream Team. It was crazy to see that. … I still have that image, that imprint.”
Back in Africa, Bandoumel has a huge extended family – he has so many cousins that it “would be crazy to count them,” he said. His family is very close, and he’s also tight with several of his Idaho teammates. He shares an apartment with Landon Tatum, and said he often hangs out with Deremy Geiger (another one of the Vandal seniors), as well as Kyle Barone and Stephen Madison.
Those five are Idaho’s starters, a group that has started to mesh on the court in the last few weeks. The Vandals have won four straight and stand at 15-11 coming into tonight. This game isn’t as meaningful for the postseason as the Vandals' final three WAC games, but it still means a lot to UI players and coaches. They have yet to lose a Senior Night game in Don Verlin’s previous three seasons and want to stay on a roll heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Tonight, along with Bandoumel and Geiger, fellow seniors Tatum and walk-on Sheridan Shayne will play for the last time at Cowan Spectrum. They’ll go against a Portland State team that is 12-12 overall, 6-6 in the Big Sky. The Vandals are 1-2 on the year against Big Sky teams – they beat Montana State and lost to Eastern Washington and Montana.
Beyond Senior Night and keeping UI’s late-season momentum going, Verlin thinks this game is important for another reason.
“I love to play regional games,” he said. “It’s a regional game for us. Another Big Sky opponent. I think it’s a good game for us, a good matchup. I know the Big Sky is good this year with what Weber State and Montana are doing in conference. It’s a really good conference.”