SCOTT SLANT: Derrick Alston Jr., 2021 edition

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

Is Derrick Alston Jr. different this year? You’d better believe it. All you have to do is rewind the clock one year and see what was going on last February. After scoring 24 points against Nevada on the first day of the month, Alston didn’t hit the 20-point mark again all season. He notched just nine points over his next two games and went almost 60 minutes of floor time without making a basket. Let’s compare it with February, 2021. Alston has topped 20 points in four of six games, including the last three in a row (during which he’s averaged more than 25 per game). His 27 points in Game 2 versus UNLV carried Boise State on an otherwise difficult night. Alston kept the Broncos in the game in the first half against Utah State last Wednesday and helped them win it in the second half Friday. This is his time.

With that said, Alston has been named Mountain West Player of the Week for the job he did in the Utah State series. It’s Alston’s second award of the season and third of his career. The honor could have gone to USU’s Neemias Queta after his 62 points in the two games, but Queta’s team didn’t win, and that’s what Alston’s effort was all about. He took over when the game was on the line in Game 2 Friday, scoring all nine points during Boise State’s 9-2 run down the stretch that gave the Broncos the lead for good. For the week, Alston shot 47 percent from the floor, 46 percent from three-point range and almost 92 percent from the free throw line. He leads the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game.

LOOKING UP AT THE AZTECS

There was no love in the polls for a Boise State team that swept what had been the first-place team in the Mountain West. The Broncos garnered just five points in the AP Poll and eight in the Coaches Poll on Monday. This week’s formidable foe, San Diego State, jumped three spots to No. 22 in AP and entered the coaches’ list at No. 25 after its expected two-game cruise past Fresno State. The Aztecs, who have won eight straight games, have a couple quality wins Boise State doesn’t have—at home over UCLA and on the road at Arizona State. The table is set for the series at Viejas Arena Thursday and Saturday.

CAN WILLIAMS SNEAK IN ON DAY 3?

If former Boise State star Avery Williams is to make it in the NFL, it’ll be as a kick returner first. Is that enough to warrant a draft pick? James Johnson of USA Today thinks it’s possible and notes a report from the Draft Network that Williams has met virtually with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Teams search the draft every year for a gem kick returner who can give them the edge in a time where two or three plays could decide an NFL game,” writes Johnson. “When looking at the prospects in the 2021 class, no player might be able to do this for a special teams unit like Williams.” According to the Draft Network, Williams has also spoken with New England and the L.A. Chargers. If any of those teams prioritize an electric return man, Williams “could end up being a Day 3 pick or undrafted free agent,” writes Johnson.

IUPATI WRAPS UP A SOLID CAREER

Peter Harriman of the Spokesman-Review profiled former Idaho star Mike Iupati in a cool Sunday column. Iupati retired from the Seattle Seahawks at the end of last season after an 11-year career that included four Pro Bowl selections. “My body was telling me it was time to close the door,” Iupati told Harriman. More specifically, it was a chronic neck condition. Iupati was a consensus FBS All-American for the Vandals before being drafted in the first round by San Francisco in 2010. He also played for the Arizona Cardinals before finishing with the Seahawks the past two years.

Iupati now lives on an acreage in Star. “I’ve got four boys (ages 8, 6, 3 and newborn) and I’m taking care of them every day,” Iupati said in Harriman’s piece. His legacy at Idaho lives on through his funding of the Vandals’ Fueling Center that provides healthy snacks and beverages and sports nutrition information to Vandals athletes. The gift will support the center’s ongoing operations and will fund a major upgrade of the facility that opened in 2019.

15-MONTH CARRYOVER

College of Idaho men’s and women’s basketball has come to an end, but a quick, intense and long-awaited football season is around the corner. The preseason NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll is out, and the Coyotes are ranked No. 5, the only Frontier Conference team on the list. It seems like forever since the Yotes last played in the NAIA Playoffs in November, 2019, to cap a landmark 11-1 season. C of I opens two weeks from this Saturday in Caldwell against Montana State-Northern. All the while, baseball continues. The Yotes and Northwest Nazarene split a doubleheader Monday after NNU had taken both ends of a twin bill from C of I on Saturday. It’s the first time the Canyon County rivals have met on the diamond in six years.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business.

February 23, 2006, 15 years ago today: Probably the most anticipated Olympic day ever in Boise, as native son skier Jeret Peterson goes for a gold medal in freestyle aerials at the Winter Games in Torino. Speedy would unveil his signature “hurricane” jump, with the highest degree of difficulty in the history of the sport. It was awesome in the air, but Speedy would be late on his landing, dragging his right hand. The markdown cost him a medal, and he finished seventh. Peterson’s Olympic experience ended abruptly less than 24 hours later when he was asked to leave the Games after a public fistfight with a friend. And 5½ years later, his life would tragically end.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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