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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Now you will have this tune stuck in your head all day

A GRIP ON SPORTS • If you qualify for the super senior discount at your neighborhood restaurant, then you will remember a song called "The Name Game." We play a version of it today, though we're not using the bananas. Read on.


• There were some names in the news the past few days we thought we better not gloss over. Each will probably play a big role around here over the next few years, so today seemed like a good day to shed some light on them.

• Conor Clifford: It's hasn't been often recently that WSU can beat out the likes of Oklahoma State, Utah and Pitt for a big man, but that's what Ernie Kent did yesterday. Clifford, a 7-foot center, signed a letter-of-intent with the Cougars and will be in Pullman soon. Why is this important? Well, besides the fact Clifford (pictured) spent a year at the best school on the West Coast, UC Irvine, he's a big man who can contribute right away. Clifford exceled last season for Saddleback College, just down I-5 from UCI, and if you know anything about junior college basketball in Southern California, you know it's pretty darn good. So Clifford, who played sparingly as a freshman at Irvine before redshirting a year and then leaving, should be able to step in and play next season. That's crucial for the Cougars, who are trying to build up enough inside presence to compete with the big guys of the Pac-12 as well as improve their rebounding to fuel the fast break. And there is one other thing. Kent needs to show he can attract the occasional highly sought recruit. While under the radar some, Clifford fits that bill. And if Kent can attract one, he can attract others.

• Taijuan Walker: Is there any pitcher in the Mariners' organization with more potential than Walker? I'll answer my question. No. But up until now, potential has been all that Walker, 22, has delivered. Maybe it's because the expectations have exceeded all possible outcomes. When you are 6-foot-4 and throw BBs with the ease of a guy tossing a Coke can away in his living room, then a lot is expected. Walker has had his moments in his three season with appearances for Seattle – think about that; he's 22 and he's already spent parts of three years in the Bigs – but has shown an inconsistency that has riled manage Lloyd McClendon before. Which is why last night's start (and to a lesser degree the one before) was so important. Walker dominated. It's as simple as that. Only a poor throw by Brad Miller kept Walker from shutting out the Rangers over seven innings. The 3-1 win, Walker's first of the season, included five strike outs, six hits and 92 mostly well-located pitches. This is the Walker the M's see in their future. This is the Walker if the M's actually have will help pitch them into the postseason. This is the future.

• Bruce Barnum: You may not know this name very well, but you will. Barnum is a former Eastern Washington middle linebacker who turned to coaching, starting at the high school level (he once assisted at Central Valley) and now back in the Big Sky. He's the interim head coach for 2015 at Portland State, which is basically giving Barnum a year-long tryout for the job. After this weekend's spring game, Barnum made like P.T. and assured Viking fans their team was going to win games. I wouldn't bet against it. After all, former Eagles have been doing pretty well in the coaching ranks recently, with Jim McElwain, now head coach at Florida, at the head of the list.


• WSU: Though Clifford's signing is a big deal, Jacob Thorpe had more on his plate yesterday. He has a story and blog post on Clifford, but also has a piece on the Pac-12 golf championships. The Cougars were tied for third after the first day. ... Jacob has a morning post today with links, including one to a big baseball win over the Huskies. ...'s Pac-12 blog has a post on Alex Grinch and the Cougar defense. ... The Seattle Times has a piece on Connor Halliday's wait for the NFL draft. ... Jon Wilner begins a week-long look at next year in Pac-12 basketball.

• Preps: Jim Allen takes center stage today with a nice feature on a Mead student who took a long journey to the GSL's soccer fields and his weekly notebook.

• Hoopfest: There will be a new option this year for team on Friday evening. There will be practice courts available. Tom Clouse has the story.

• Seahawks: It's all draft all the time today, starting with the reminder everyone lies about who they might take. We do know the Seahawks have needs, including holes on the offensive line, gaps at receiver and some reserves in the defensive backfield.

• Mariners: The M's get to be part of the bumpy ride that is the Fernando Rodney Experience whenever a game is on the line in the ninth, as it was last night in the 3-1 victory. But they didn't sign up for the bumpy ride they experienced Sunday night heading into Dallas. ... The Angels traded Josh Hamilton back to the Rangers yesterday. Nelson Cruz, a former teammate, understands why Hamilton wanted to return to Texas.

• Sounders: The Timber/Sounders game was the outlier this weekend in the MLS.


• Actually, there may never have been a more annoying song than the one I referenced in the beginning of this column. If you can think of one, let me know. Until later ...

Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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