A GRIP ON SPORTS
College basketball is a year-around sport these days. There is the regular season, March Madness, recruiting and, this time of year, transfer season. Read on.
• While taking in some mottled sunshine and even more mottled basketball downtown yesterday, my phone delivered the news Gonzaga University would be the home of another transfer player next season. Eric McClellan, a shooting guard from Austin, Texas, by way of Tulsa and Nashville (fixed from earlier), says he is headed to Spokane. He will become, by my unofficial count, the sixth major-college transfer to join the Zags in the past three years. So what's wrong with that? Nothing, except it's a bit of a sea change for GU. Oh sure, the Zags have always been a spot for the tempest-tossed of college basketball, even back in Dan Fitzgerald's day. Jeff Brown, a member of Fitz's NCAA team, was a bounce-back player from the University of Washington. And Dan Dickau, now a fixture among Zag alums in Spokane, also began his career in Montlake. But the sheer number of transfers joining the program recently is what's so eye-opening. In a way, it's just part of a cultural phenomenon in college hoops. Transfers are a common occurrence – and becoming more so each year. ESPN's Jeff Goodman keeps a list these days and the number ballooned over 400 this offseason. That's more than one per Division I school. So Gonzaga isn't alone in losing players or accepting new ones. Last year, Gerard Coleman (Providence), Angel Nunez (Louisville) and Drew Barham (Memphis) contributed in various degrees. Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky) spent a redshirt year as per NCAA rules. He will play this season along with USC transfer Byron Wesley and, quite possible, McClellan. In the wheel of fortune that is college basketball these days, Barham has used all his eligibility – you can say he's graduated but he already did that, in three years, before he left Memphis – while Coleman has left the program. Freshman Luke Meikle also left, though his landing spot is thus far unknown. That's quite a turnover. But, as we said, not all that out of the ordinary for most major colleges. It's just that there has always been this perception of Gonzaga as different. It's always been the little school that could, and could by using talent it developed. Guys like Matt Santangelo, Blake Steppe, Cory Violette, Casey Calvary, Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison, Robert Sacre, Kelly Olynyk and fellows on the current roster like Kevin Pangos. Come to Spokane, develop your game over four years, play each season in the NCAA tournament and make a home. That's the old model. College basketball has changed and Gonzaga is changing with it. It's nothing to lose sleep over. It's just different, that's all. And different takes some getting used to.
• Indians: If there is one cliché that is more true in minor league baseball than any other it is, you can't win them all. Spokane has come close but even the Indians fail occasionally. They did yesterday, losing 4-2 at Eugene. But that's nothing compared to what a member of the Hillsboro Hops lost yesterday.
• Hoopfest: We mentioned Violette and Steppe above partly because we knew we would mention them here. They were runners-up in the elite division yesterday. Tom Clouse has this story on all the elite divisional winners.
• Ironman: Jim was pulling double duty yesterday, having to complete his Ironman story before working on the McClellan piece.
• Seahawks: Michael Robinson might be one of the most beloved players in Seahawks history. Though he hasn't retired just yet, it's obvious he's ready to become part of the franchise's history these days. … Defensive lineman Jesse Williams' knees seem ready to help him write his own story, starting this year. … Even Joe Montana thinks the Hawks can win more than one Super Bowl.
• Mariners: What more can we write about Felix Hernandez? He's just plain dealing these days. He did it again Sunday, giving up one hit over eight innings. Tough. Robinson Cano made sure that “tough” didn't turn into “tough luck” with a two-run home run as the Mariners won, 3-0. Those two are among the best in baseball but they need some help if the M's are to make the postseason. … Help is on the way in the form of Taijuan Walker, who will start this evening in Houston. To make room, the M's optioned Stefen Romero.
• Another Monday morning. It started really early for me – after being up well past 11 p.m. last night, which corresponds to, like, 4 a.m. for most people. The reason I rose so early? There was an owl outside hooting away. In almost 30 years living in the same house, I don't recall ever hearing an owl. There's a first for everything. By the way, it's not my first time but I will be on the radio this afternoon for an hour before the M's game. It starts at 3 p.m. and you can listen here if you like. Until then …