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Wednesday Weekly: May 11, 2022.
Khalil Shakir leaves today for Buffalo as his NFL journey begins. The Bills’ rookie minicamp is coming up Friday and Saturday, as the former Boise State star will be joined by Buffalo’s other seven draft picks, as well as undrafted rookie signees and players invited in for a tryout. It’s the first step in assembling the 90-man roster for training camp this summer. Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News projected the Bills regular season 53-man roster over the weekend, and he has Shakir as one of seven wide receivers making it. Skurski mentions the value Shak will bring on special teams and writes that he will compete with Isaiah McKenzie and Marquez Stevenson for return duties. One of the projected cuts, by the way, is Josh Allen’s old favorite receiver at Wyoming, Tanner Gentry. You remember him.
AVB STILL ON THE LOOKOUT FOR A LANDING SPOT
Former Boise State Bronco Andrew Van Buren is still in the transfer portal, but he has hopes of coming out. A website called The Portal Report has him as the third-best running back left in the transfer barn and says he “has had recent interest from Virginia, Eastern Michigan, UConn, Fresno State, Kansas State and SMU. Van Buren just has to see if there’s a place he can play any more than he did at Boise State. The Portal Report says AVB has “countless” FCS schools showing interest, including Idaho State and Portland State.
FAIR OR NOT, THE SEAT IS HOT
A few days after Boise State’s 2022 profile at The Athletic, it was Auburn’s turn. According to David Ubben, those in Bryan Harsin’s program are powering forward after a bizarre winter that saw the former Broncos coach fight to keep his job. More important than Xs and Os is this. Said one SEC coordinator: “I don’t know if there’s anybody in the country that doesn’t think Bryan Harsin is a dead man walking unless he somehow wins 10 games. It’s gotta be tough,” he said. “I felt bad for him. I just think it’s ridiculous. I know what we sign up for, but to drag people’s families and marriages into it is ridiculous. I don’t think he’s really been given a chance. There’s a witch hunt out for the man.” The coordinator added that all this stuff is being used against Harsin on the recruiting trail.
Harsin talked often about blocking the outside noise during his Boise State days, and that’s the recurring theme now. “From the outside looking in, you’d probably think the house was on fire,” said linebacker Owen Pappoe, a three-year starter who’s returning from an injury-plagued 2021 season. “But honestly, man, we’ve been fine. Just trying to control what we can control. Rumors are rumors. People will go online and say whatever, but all that matters is what we have going on inside.”
LOOKING FOR LONG-RANGE REINFORCEMENTS
The NBA announced last week that 283 players have declared for the draft. Marcus Shaver Jr. and Emmanuel Akot out of Boise State are two of them. There are 64 spots available in the two rounds of the draft. So neither is likely to stick. We won’t know for quite a while, but what will Boise State do from deep if Shaver and Akot aren’t back next season for whatever reason (Akot’s in the transfer portal)? The Broncos were seldom a threat to bury a rash of three-pointers this past season, hitting double-digits just six times. They shot less than 35 percent overall from beyond the arc. One guy to watch will be redshirt freshman RJ Keene, the 6-6 guard from Texas. Does Keene really take after Justinian Jessup as coaches have said? That would be huge.
LEON RICE’S NETWORKING EVENT
I saw a tweet from Mike Prater Tuesday linking to USA Basketball’s U18 training camp invitation list. This is why a spot on the USA coaching staff is a great, uh, networking opportunity for Boise State’s Leon Rice. Of the 27 invitees, 11 players have not yet committed to college programs. Just in case you’re wondering (with Mladen Armus having departed from the Broncos), there are two uncommitted 6-10 prospects, Xavier Booker of Fishers, IN, and Carter Lang of Charlottesville, VA. Hmmm. Rice will help fellow assistant Mike Boynton Jr, of Oklahoma State and head coach Thad Boyle of Colorado prepare the squad at the training camp in Houston beginning May 26 before heading for the FIBA U18 Americas Men’s Championship next month in Guadalajara, Mexico.
LA’SHARD TAKES A CHERISHED WALK
Last Saturday was Graduation Day at Boise State, and this was one of the great stories out of the sports corral. Remember La’Shard Anderson? He was a guard on the Broncos men’s basketball team. Rice inherited Anderson when he took over as head coach in 2010. He was the key in the longest game in school history, scoring 31 points and making a steal with one second left in the fourth overtime of a 102-101 Broncos victory at San Jose State. Anderson was close to his degree, but he embarked on an overseas pro career that took him to the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus and Africa. COVID helped end that journey, and when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant, that spurred him to action (with help from Rice). Anderson walked in last Saturday’s ceremony at Albertsons Stadium.
MERRITT’S NEXT MAJOR IS ON THE DOCKET
Former Boise State star Troy Merritt has been a grinder this season on the PGA Tour. And he doesn’t get the exposure he deserves locally. Merritt has played his way into the 2022 PGA Championship next week in Tulsa, as he is No. 49 in the FedExCup standings. He’s made 12 of 16 cuts this season with a pair of top four finishes, earning $1.44 million. This will be Merritt’s sixth appearance in the PGA Championship and his 11th overall in a major. Over the weekend, Merritt finished three-over on a tough-playing TPC Potomoc course outside Washington, D.C, but he still tied for 35th at the Wells Fargo Championship, picking up $47,925. He’ll be skipping the AT&T Byron Nelson this week.
CATCHING UP ON THE SHIELDS STORY
Luke Shields has come full circle, and he’s excited about it. Shields, probably the best men’s tennis player Greg Patton ever had at Boise State, is now serving in Patton’s old post as head coach of the Broncos. Shields had led Fresno State to great heights before the Bulldogs dropped the program a year ago. As he put it, Fresno State “really went from worst to first in four years” after he arrived in 2015, winning the Mountain West championship in 2019. As a player at Boise State, Shields won a school-record 119 career matches and was ranked as high as No. 5 in the country in 2005, reaching the round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament. Shields spent this season as associate head coach at Oklahoma. And oh by the way, he’s also part of the next induction class into the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame.
A FORMER YOTE IS NOW A MARINER
There’s another local in the majors, and it’s not a Boise Hawks alum. Former College of Idaho pitcher Riley O’Brien was called up from Triple-A by the Seattle Mariners last Thursday—and last Saturday he made the second big league appearance of his career. O’Brien threw one inning of relief in an 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay at T-Mobile Park, allowing just one hit while striking out one batter and walking one. The 6-4 Caldwell native was acquired by the Mariners from Cincinnati on April 16. O’Brien made his debut in a start with the Reds last September. He was drafted by the Rays in the eighth round out of C of I in 2017. O’Brien earned his promotion by throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings for Tacoma this season, going 1-1 with seven strikeouts.
THE VALLEY’S BIG SOFTBALL SPRING
Today we talk about Treasure Valley softball destinations. For Northwest Nazarene and College of Idaho, having a destination right now is a win. The Nighthawks, GNAC champions, go to the Opening Round of the NCAA Division II West Regional, facing host Cal State San Marcos Thursday. The Yotes, Cascade Conference runnersup, found out their NAIA Opening Round landing spot Tuesday afternoon. C of I will play in the Chickasha, OK, bracket, facing Ottawa University of Kansas next Monday. Boise State has one more Mountain West road trip to Colorado State in its quest an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON BOISE…fresh breakfast and brunch every day!
May 11, 1972, 50 years ago today: One more Willie Mays item if I may, as this is the day he was traded from the San Francisco Giants to the New York Mets at the age of 41. It may have been better if he had retired. Mays hit just 14 home runs over his final two seasons and batted in the low .200’s. The last image we had of him was in the 1973 World Series against the Oakland A’s, badly misplaying several balls in centerfield. Mays was still the best ever, though.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)
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