Don Bauder 9:40 p.m., May 21
Tonight the Aztecs are honoring their senior basketball players: DeShawn Stephens, James Rahon, Jeremy Castleberry, Aaron Douglas, Narbeth Ebrahimian, and Chase Tapley (the Rock of Ages on the mesa).
I played one year of junior college basketball, many moons ago (my credential: Pete Newell wanted me to be the next Denny Fitzpatrick. But I had nowhere near the grades for Cal, and barely enough for Foothill College). I injured my back the following summer on a salmon boat, so by rights I should have three years of eligibility left.
If so, and since these days I have a four-inch vertical leap, I want to donate two of my remaining years to DeShawn Stephens.
He joined the team last year, as a junior, after two years of JC ball and almost zilch high school experience. In his two seasons here he's grown leaps and (re)bounds.
This happens a lot under Coach Fisher's tutelage: he and his staff can turn a bad shooter around in two, and if they have four years can sculpt complete players.
Need examples? If you saw Aerik Sanders gallumph as a freshman, you'd never believe he'd grow into the team captain in 2003-04. Brandon Heath streamlined his game each year and became one of the most efficient guards in SDHS history.
(Jamaal Franklin could use one more season to shed the last of his ornate impulses; he'd enter the pros far more polished than he will come spring).
So give Stephens two more years at state, on me! I'd love to see what he'd do with them.
And speaking of seniors.
This year college basketball has a rarity: senior centers. In the age of one-and-done, most freshmen who turn pro are 18-year-old seven-footers (for whom money, and not having to write another term paper, are a win-win situation). The game has become much more perimeter-oriented: three guards (even two point guards on some teams), two forwards, and ball-screening.
But Indiana has seven-foot Cody Zeller, Kansas has San Diegan Jeff Withey, and Duke, Mason Plumlee, senior centers all - which is giving armchair bracketologists fits trying to make a sane pick for the madness of March.