A GRIP ON SPORTS
The wind is blowing in Scotland today. That's not surprising. And either is Gonzaga's basketball team being in the national news. But one aspect of it is. Read on.
• There was a time when a player transferred from a power conference school to GU it was big news. In Spokane. I'm thinking back to Jeff Brown or Errol Knight or Dan Dickau bouncing to Gonzaga from Washington, along with others. Such news earned a note, maybe, in the national media and that was about it. But yesterday's news Kyle Wiltjer (pictured) would transfer from Kentucky to GU was met with headlines and commentary from CBS to USA Today, from Kentucky and, well, also from Kentucky. And it got me wondering why. Wiltjer is a decent player, sure. A 6-foot-10 stretch four, in modern-day basketball parlance (meaning he's a player who can stretch the defense with long-range shooting), Wiltjer averaged 6.9 points a game in his two Kentucky seasons. In other words, a contributor, but not a huge contributor, to the Wildcats. Of course, he was part of Kentucky's 2012 national title and had games of 19 points against Penn State as a freshman and 26 last season against Mississippi, helping him win the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year award. But Wiltjer struggled in the Wildcats' pressure defensive scheme, something that shouldn't be a problem at GU, which plays a lot more zone and uses pack principles in its man defense. The former Jesuit High star in Portland should be better fit when he becomes eligible for Gonzaga in the fall of 2014. And, if he follows in the footsteps of the last Zag big to redshirt a season, Kelly Olynyk, he should be in better shape with a leaner, more flexible body. That will take hard work, sure, but it's part of the reason Wiltjer gave for transferring. I guess the most surprising aspect of the transfer, and what has triggered the national reaction, is Wiltjer's decision to leave Kentucky in the first place. The school is one of the blue bloods of college basketball, up there with Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and UCLA. Then, to leave it for that Jesuit school in Spokane? The response seems to be “really?” Around here, though, no one is surprised. Not the GU fans, not the Gonzaga folks and certainly not coach Mark Few. They are all content in the knowledge the program is at such a level it can attract anyone from anywhere. And this is just another example of it.
• WSU: Yep, people noticed Bill Moos' name was missing from the Oregon piece linked yesterday. A pretty big oversight. … It's Saturday so that means I can link Ted Miller's mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog along with his preview of the conference's offensive lines. … Meant to pass this along earlier but a former WSU student, who I spent some time with on the sidelines at Cougar practices, has a new radio gig with Montana State. … Oregon released some documents related to the NCAA investigation.
• Gonzaga: As can be expected, Jim Meehan was all over the Wiltjer news and talked with the young man for this story.
• Shock: What a dominating win for Spokane. The Shock almost shut out San Antonio in the second half – the Talons did not score until the final seconds – of a 77-30 victory. Jim was there and has more in this game story and blog post. And there is also a whole bunch of photos from Tyler Tjomsland. … Who knew the Arena Football League had bowl games?
• Mariners: Brad Miller (pictured) hasn't been with the M's all that long, but the shortstop has made his presence felt. But his previous impact had nothing on last night's game, a 10-7 win over Houston. Miller hit two home runs and drove in five as the M's returned from the All-Star break. … Though the M's will listen to trade offers, one guy who would like to finish the season here is Raul Ibanez. I'm pretty sure most of the youngsters would too.
• Sounders: Seattle wants to start off the second half of the MLS season with a hot streak and what better way to jump start it than with a match with Colorado, the Sounders traditional whipping boy. The teams will meet tonight in Seattle, with both dealing with injuries. … DeAndre Yedlin is healthy and has a healthy head of air. I hate that. Jealousy is the reason.
• Seahawks: According to Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers are all about character. Yesterday, the 49ers traded for Eric Wright. Those two things don't compute.
• Have a good weekend. We will. Until later …