SALT LAKE CITY – While Gonzaga is the only men’s team from the Inland Northwest to earn an NCAA Tournament berth, the field abounds with players who have regional ties.
Anyone who watched North Idaho College play the past two years remembers a 6-foot-6 Colombian guard by the name of Braian Angola-Rodas who averaged 21.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists to lead his team to 55 wins during his time in Coeur d’Alene.
Now Angola-Rodas plays for Florida State, the No. 3 seed in the West region and a potential Elite Eight opponent for the Zags. Angola-Rodas averages 11.9 points per game for the Seminoles coming off the bench and is an exceptional outside shooter, canning 43.5-percent of his 3-point attempts.
When asked to describe Angola-Rodas’ impact, NIC coach Corey Symons told Seminoles.com, “Braian is a true leader on and off the court. His passion for the game is second to none. I look forward to following Braian and his successful career at Florida State. His athleticism and ability to not only score but get others involved is unmatched. He is a high-IQ guy that can play multiple positions at the next level. We at NIC are excited to follow Braian throughout his time at FSU as well as beyond.”
The Seminoles junior is familiar to at least one GU player. Zags point guard Nigel Williams-Goss played with Angola-Rodas at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada, during the 2012-2013 academic year. The pair led Findlay to a 35-1 record and an appearance in the Final Four of the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Basketball Tournament.
Angola-Rodas could prove to be a key contributor of his team’s deep March Madness run. But he’s just one of many players and coaches in the tournament with ties to the Inland Northwest. Here are the others:
Southern Methodist – Head coach Tim Jankovich
Before Jankovich led this year’s Mustangs to a 30-4 record and a No. 6 seed, he was one of the best point guards in Kansas State’s history. Before that, he was one of the most promising in Washington State’s. Jankovich played one year (1977-1978) for the Cougars, starting at point guard for George Raveling and leading WSU to a third-place finish in the Pac-8. Jankovich was never expected to sign with the Cougars and transferred to KSU after the season.
“George Raveling basically would not take no (for an answer),” Jankovich told Gary Bedore of KUSports.com. “He did a tremendous job recruiting me. Also, I was a little rebellious. I was tired of everyone assuming things. It was like, ‘I’ll show you. It’s not a foregone conclusion that I go there (KSU).’”
Middle Tennessee State – Head coach Kermit Davis
Davis was an assistant at Idaho from 1986-88 and head coach from 1988-1990, taking the Vandals to the NCAA Tournament twice before leaving for Texas A&M. He didn’t last long in College Station after committing some NCAA violations in his only season at A&M, and eventually returned to coach Idaho for the 1996-1997 season before leaving to take a job as an assistant at LSU.
Saint Mary’s – guard Stefan Gonzalez
Gonzaga fans recognize Gonzalez as a common West Coast Conference foe, but others may recall his days as a star at Highland High in Pocatello. Gonzalez was the Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior and averaged 20 points and 6.4 rebounds. He led Highland to a 23-4 record and scored 31 points in an overtime loss to Post Falls in the 5A State final, and was named MVP of the 5A State tournament. Gonzalez averages 3.6 points per game and has a season high of 14 points.
Saint Mary’s – Head coach Randy Bennett
Joining Davis at Idaho was Bennett, who was also an assistant coach in Moscow from 1986-1988.
Saint Mary’s – Assistant coach David Carter
Carter was an assistant coach at Eastern Washington from 1995-1997.
Baylor – Assistant coach Alvin Brooks III
Brooks played at Idaho State after transferring from Midland College and graduated in 2002. As a senior he played in 28 games, started three and averaged 4.5 points per game.
Butler – Assistant coach Terry Johnson
Johnson played Western League professional baseball with the Tri-City Posse in Pasco for two years.
South Dakota State – Head coach TJ Otzelberger
Otzelberger was an assistant coach at Washington from 2013-2015, where he coached starting Zags point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who subsequently transferred to GU.
Virginia – Head coach Tony Bennett
Bennett has turned Virginia into an ACC power, and it’s not the first time he’s turned a traditionally mediocre program into one to be feared. Bennett took the reins from his father, Dick Bennett, at WSU and led the Cougars to their best years in school history. Bennett was an assistant coach at WSU from 2003-2006 and then head coach until 2009.
During that time, WSU won a school-record 26 games in back-to-back seasons. During the first of those seasons, the 2006-2007 campaign, WSU was a No. 3 seed and made it to the NCAA Tournament’s second round. The next year the Cougars advanced to the Sweet 16.
Virginia – Associate head coach Ron Sanchez
Sanchez was an assistant coach under Bennett during his last three years in Pullman, and prior to that was the coordinator of men’s basketball operations for three years.
Kent State – Assistant coach Bobby Steinburg
Steinburg was an assistant coach at Idaho for the 2000-2001 season. He was 25, making him one of the youngest assistant coaches in the country.
East Tennessee State – Head coach Steve Forbes
Forbes was an assistant coach at Idaho from 1998-2000
UCLA – Parent LaVar Ball
Freshman UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be one of the first players selected in the upcoming NBA draft, but lately it’s his dad making headlines. LaVar Ball has recently claimed that his three sons should be given a $1 billion shoe contract, and that he could beat Michael Jordan, badly, in a game of one-on-one.
To be fair, this Ball did play some ball back in his day. He played at Washington State for one season, 1987-1988, during which he averaged 2.2 points per game.
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