Glad you asked …
More national hype for Dynamite Damian: You know about Weber State point guard Damian Lillard being named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award given annually to the top point guard in college basketball. You know he’s the reigning Big Sky player of the week, USBWA Oscar Robertson national player of the week and the country’s leading scorer. You know he could move into third place on Weber State’s all-time scoring list tonight and you know there are NBA scouts watching him at every game.
More national sports writers are taking notice.
The Sporting News said this about Lillard’s 38-point performance last week at Portland State:
It’s possible no one will put up a better box score line than Weber’s 6-3 junior guard, Damian Lillard, achieved against Portland State in his most recent game: 12-of-23 field goals, 8-of-14 3-pointers, 6-of-6 free throws, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 turnover … 38 points.
College basketball needs a Jimmer, especially after college football wraps up Monday night and the sports world turns its attention toward the better sport.
You know a likeable stat-machine with a cool backstory (catchy name optional) who doesn’t hail from a traditional powerhouse. Well, a few players from off-the-radar, yet successful programs have put up some impressive numbers thus far. If they could only change their names …
Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan are on the list and then there’s Damian:
America’s leading scorer had impressed NBA scouts by scoring 19.7 ppg for Weber State last season. And then, a foot injury changed everything by sidelining him for the bulk of the season. But Lillard (26.3 ppg) bounced back with strenuous rehab that he documented through a video diary. Today, top NBA minds list Lillard as a first-round prospect for the 2012 NBA draft. The Wildcats are 12-3 and 4-0 in the Big Sky. Come Big Sky tourney time, Lillard’s hype will explode.
Q: We’ve seen your twitter account @The_Mahoner, and noticed someone tweets during your basketball games for you. What type of responses have you gotten from this, and can you tell us if anyone has asked if it’s actually you sending Tweets from the bench?
A: I don’t have twitter so I’ll get updates from teammates about what The Mahoner is saying and they think it’s pretty funny. A few people have asked my friends how I tweet during the game.
Big game tonight for Weber State against Montana State (7 p.m., Dee Events Center).
The Wildcats are hoping to get some reinforcements this week with the returns of forwards Kyle Bullinger (elbow injury) and Frank “Mook” Otis (knee injury).
Both have practiced this week and Weber State coach Randy Rahe said Mook may see some time as soon as tonight, while Bullinger might be able to play Saturday against Montana. With sophomore center James Hajek now out four to six weeks with a dislocated kneecap and WSU’s bench down to eight, WSU needs all the help it can get.
The Bobcats are also shorthanded, with the Gidal Kaiser of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reporting that junior guard Jamie Stewart is officially off the team:
Stewart played in 12 games this season, with seven starts, and averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and one steal. He played nine minutes in the Big Sky Conference opener against Eastern Washington Dec. 28 in Bozeman (an 82-66 MSU loss), Stewart’s lowest amount of court time all season. The junior has not played in a game or been a part of practice since.
“I made some poor decisions, I made some poor choices over the year and I’m reaping the consequences right now,” Stewart said Tuesday night. “I wish my team success in the future. They’re my brothers and I wish them well. I look forward to spring practice.”
Stewart did not elaborate, but implied he will attempt to return to the team before next season.
Gidal Kaiser’s preview of tonight’s game: Is it possible to stop Damian Lillard? Montana State is going to try.
Jonathan Reed (@bigskybball) of the Big Sky Basketball blog breaks down tonight’s game (and predicts a Weber State win).
And in case you missed the other links I’ve hidden in this blog, here’s my preview in today’s Standard-Examiner.
If Weber State wins, it could set up a battle of Big Sky unbeatens on Saturday night against Montana. The Sporting News listed it as one of two “little-guy tilts” to watch this week.
Reed ranked the Big Sky last week for the Rush the Court website here, and no surprise, he had Weber State at No. 1 and Montana, No. 2.
So, if Weber State takes care of Montana State and Montana handles Northern Arizona tonight, there’s a showdown coming …