This preview and more on Boise State and the Mountain West are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Boise State Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-11 (9-7 Mountain West)
Postseason: NCAA First Four
Coach: Leon Rice (56-41 at San Diego State)
Mountain West projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
There’s a buzz surrounding the Boise State basketball team that normally is reserved for the university’s wildly successful and popular football program. But fresh off a 21-victory season that included two road wins over a ranked teams and the school’s first NCAA Tournament at-large bid, it’s easy to understand why Boise could turn into a basketball town.
Coach Leon Rice returns all five starters and the majority of production in every statistical category — 92.4 percent of its scoring, 96.7 percent assists and 83.9 percent rebounds). Eight of the nine players who regularly saw action last season are back.
“I like the expectations,” Rice says. “I like being talked about as one of the better teams in the conference. Our guys have a healthy attitude about that. They know how hard we have to work to accomplish that, how much better we have to get to go from where we were to where we want to get to. I think our guys are in a very good place about all of that.”
The Broncos run a four-out offense, leaving forward Ryan Watkins as the man in the middle. The 6-9 senior is a threat facing or with his back to the basket, as his 61.7 shooting percentage attests. He was the team’s leading rebounder last season at 6.8 per game and also contributed an average of 8.4 points. Watkins has been starting since his freshman season.
Perhaps the most important addition to the roster is 6-9 sophomore Edmunds Dukulis, a talented Latvian who sat out last season. He’ll be counted on to score and rebound on the interior. Freshman Nicholas Duncan also should carve out a niche in the frontcourt; Rice loves the Australian’s nose for the ball and ability to rebound.
Junior college transfer James Webb III and redshirt freshman Joey Nebeker also are available and could work their way into small roles.
There aren’t many backcourts that pack the offensive punch of the Broncos’ crew. Point guard Derrick Marks was a second-team All-Mountain West pick last season when he had three 30-point performances en route to averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists. Marks is a physical guard who can get to the basket or pull-up and score. He shot 46.6 percent and a cool 83.7 percent from the line.
Marks has plenty of weapons at his disposal, most notably fellow junior Anthony Drmic. The wing led the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game and should eclipse the 1,000-point barrier before conference play begins. Drmic is a high-energy offensive player who can shoot from long range (39.2 percent from three) or create with penetration.
Senior Jeff Elorriaga is the team’s undisputed leader. He’s a calming influence on offense and the team’s stopper on defense. The former walk-on hit a school-record 10 3-pointers in a game last season and shot 44.7 percent from behind the arc on his way to averaging 10.2 points. He missed three games with a concussion, and the Broncos lost all three.
Junior Igor Hadziomerovic serves as a second point guard on the floor. His presence allows Marks to play on the wing at times. Hadziomerovic is a heady Australian with the knack of finding the open man. He makes everyone around him better.
Off the bench, the Broncos have explosive sophomore Mikey Thompson. The 6-3 guard had 11 double-digit games last season. Senior Thomas Bropleh is versatile and can play a number of positions. Junior Joe Hanstad is a solid shooter.
Edmunds Dukulis, a 6-9 forward from Latvia who sat out last season per NCAA eligibility rules, will be counted on to score inside. Junior college transfer James Webb III, a 6-9 forward, arguably will be the most athletic player on the roster. Freshman forward Nicholas Duncan hails from the Australian Institute of Sport — the same school that produced starters Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic — and should be a factor. Redshirt freshman forward Joey Nebeker and freshman guard Dezmyn Trent will add depth.
Factoid: 5. Boise State returns five starters. The Broncos are the only team that competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament that brings back all five starters from last season.
Boise State should contend for a Mountain West championship in its third season in the conference. The Broncos are tough to guard because of their ability to spread the floor with 3-point shooters, and that gives Marks space to operate. Scoring won’t be an issue, but defending and rebounding will determine how this season plays out — teams with size and superior athleticism will cause Boise State trouble.
Taco Bell Arena has become one of the tougher courts in the West, as Rice’s squad went 14–1 at home last season. A nonconference game at Kentucky and a December trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic are tests that should give Boise State fans an idea of whether this season will be as special as they are hoping and expecting.
*photo courtesy of Boise State athletics