Gonzaga’s Laney calls it a career
Enough is enough.
Juliann Laney didn’t expect her season to end Thursday night, but there was no question this was the end.
The fifth-year Gonzaga senior from Gonzaga Prep missed two seasons with injuries, which opens the door for a potential medical redshirt sixth season.
“I never thought about not playing my fifth year and never considered a sixth year,” she said.
As a freshman, the G-Prep grad, who only missed one game in four years as a starter, started six games and averaged 5.7 points a game. But just before her sophomore season started she blew the ACL in her right knee. A year later she was diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right hip.
“I couldn’t avoid the ACL. Who can?” Laney asked. “The stress fracture, looking back, I know I didn’t listen to my body. Coming off that missed year all I wanted to do was play. I kept pushing it. I think it was stubbornness.”
When she returned last season, the Zags had become a dominant team and Laney’s role changed dramatically.
“I was not asked to fill an offensive role,” she said, reflecting on her 1.2 scoring average. “I was put in to be a defensive stopper. I think I lost a little of my offensive confidence, not that that wasn’t a role I was glad to play, being put on their best player. I think it took a while for that confidence to come back. (But) I’ve never really been a great (offensive threat). I’ve always been the type of player to make a great pass rather than a great shot.”
Even with the unsatisfying end to her fifth year and third season, Laney is ready to move on.
“I know I’m going to miss it, the competitiveness,” she said. “I don’t plan on playing basketball competitively after this. I’m really loving my master’s program and I’m really enjoying school. When you’re in athletics you’re always playing catch-up – you’re always behind. I’m really looking to put all my focus on school and my career.”
Gerrity returns, struggles
Pepperdine scoring leader Michael Gerrity returned to the starting lineup for the tournament opener against San Diego after missing six of the Waves’ last seven regular-season games with a stress reaction in his foot.
But the freshman point guard played only 11 minutes – all in the first half – and finished with just one point, two assists and three turnovers.
“He probably shouldn’t have played,” Waves coach Paul Westphal said of Gerrity, who averaged 14.8 points during the year. “But you can’t tell him no, because he’s worked so hard.”
Westphal added that his decision not to use Gerrity in the second half was based how he was playing, rather than any excessive pain he was feeling.
“I didn’t think he was able to be effective,” Westphal said.
A vote for Tashaan
Westphal took a moment following Pepperdine’s opening-round loss to USD to put it a few words of praise for senior forward Tashaan Forehan-Kelly, who scored a team-high 21 points in his final college game.
“If our team would have been a little better, I’d have been really upset with him not making first-team all-conference,” Westphal said of his 6-foot-4 wing, who was named to the WCC’s honorable mention list earlier this week after averaging 15.3 points and 5.8 rebounds during the regular season. “But when you’re in last place, you can’t say anything.”
Portland’s 72-68 loss to Santa Clara in the first-day nightcap extended the most gruesome streak of futility in WCC tournament history. The Pilots have been eliminated in the first round in the last 10 tournaments – a drought that started after they beat Gonzaga 76-68 to win the tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAAs in 1996. Of course, only twice in that run have the Pilots been the higher-seeded team.
Pepperdine finished 7-20 – the first 20-loss season for the Waves since 1997 and only the fourth in their history. “I really like our group of young kids,” said coach Paul Westphal. “It’s been a roller-coaster year for them physically. I think we have a good young nucleus. I’m hoping this year getting their brains beat out will motivate them in the future.”
First-night attendance at the men’s tournament was 4,053 in 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center. The tournament was officially announced as a sellout back in midsummer.
Single-session tickets for today’s games, both men and women, will go on sale at 10 a.m. at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gonzaga freshman Jami Bjorklund, injured early in the first half of Thursday’s loss to San Francisco, spent the night in the hospital although preliminary X-rays did not reveal a break or knee problem in her left leg. She was scheduled for a MRI late Friday afternoon. … Montana beat the Gonzaga women earlier this year, the Zags’ only loss in McCarthey Athletic Center in two years until San Francisco pulled the first-round tournament upset. The last time Gonzaga lost a home game to a WCC team was during the last game in Martin Center – against, of course, the Dons. … Portland senior Rose Sauer’s career came to a premature end when she suffered a knee injury late in the WCC season. That knocked her out of the tournament in the venue closest to home for the Newport grad.