WHAT WE'VE LEARNED - WCC BASKETBALL - CONFERENCE WEEKEND NO. 6
There’s nothing like an inspirational story to make people feel good, especially at the beginning of a work week. In terms of the West Coast Conference, news that SANTA CLARA’s Andrew Papenfus was able to return to the court following surgery on Oct. 6 to remove a benign brain tumor should reverberate from Spokane to San Diego and points in between.
Thanks to Santa Clara’s director of communications, Michelle Schmitt Young, for enabling the story to be told.
During a timeout with 3:58 left in what would be a 78-57 loss at BYU on Saturday night, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating asked Papenfus, who had recently been cleared to return to practice but had yet to see game action, if now was the time or if he wanted to wait until the Broncos returned to the Leavey Center.
“When he asked me, I said, ‘Yeah, I want to play. Of course I do,’ “ Papenfus said in a video interview posted to the school’s athletic web site by Young, who clearly knows a story when she’s presented with one. “I was stoked to be able to have that opportunity. … I didn’t know if I’d have the opportunity to play again, so being able to get in the game and close the book, I’m excited and looking forward to the opportunity to help my teammates in whatever capacity I can.
“Hopefully, that’s more minutes.’’
In those final four minutes at Provo, Papenfus did not score but he had one rebound and one steal. Just seeing him walk onto the court was enough for his teammates and coach.
“It wasn’t the most ideal circumstances but that really didn’t matter,’’ Keating said. “It was more important that we gave Andrew a chance to complete his journey back. It’s been well documented how strong he’s been and his willingness to do whatever he needed to do. I wanted to make sure he had that option to make that choice whether he wanted to do it here or wait until we got back home.’’
Santa Clara’s next home game is Thursday night against No. 3 Gonzaga, 22-1 overall and rolling along undefeated in conference play. The Leavey Center should be rocking for that 8 p.m. ESPN game, with the added possibility of Papenfus playing in front of his home fans for the first time this season.
“I’m so blessed to even be in this position,’’ he said. “I can’t thank everyone enough. All the love and support helped me get to this point. I’m just so thankful. I’m speechless. It’s amazing.’’
Papenfus will want to make the most of the minutes he gets the rest of the season. As a senior, this is his last go-round at Santa Clara.
“It’s such a remarkable moment to cross that line and step on the floor with my brothers, especially with everything I’ve put in,’’ he said. “I beat this thing. I accomplished my goal. It’s been remarkable.’’
When Papenfus checked into the game at BYU, his teammates reacted with predictable emotion.
“I had to hold the tears back a little,’’ said sophomore Nate Kratch. I’m excited for Andrew to fight through this adversity. Everyone was excited.’’
Added teammate Kai Healy, “It was pretty emotional for me and the rest of the team. It was a special moment.’’
Other than the feel-good provided by Santa Clara and Papenfus, What We Learned about the WCC now that the second half of the conference season is under way is:
- Two games into the second half of the conference season, it looks like it will be difficult for PORTLAND (3-7), USF (3-8), LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (3-8) and Pacific (2-9) to move into the top six in order to secure a bye into the quarterfinal round of the WCC Tournament next month. The Pilots and Dons are two games behind SAN DIEGO (5-6) and SANTA CLARA (5-6).
- Speaking of Santa Clara, Keating’s team has gone a good job of cobbling together wins here and there as it hovers around .500. This, despite major shortcomings in the front court. The Broncos would be bottom-feeders without the sterling play of guards Brandon Clark (16.0 points per game, 3.7 assists) and Jared Brownridge (14.4 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.7 three-point shots per game, .865 free throw percentage).
- If it can close out the conference season strong, SAINT MARY’S should have a good chance of making the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels are 17-5 and in second place in the WCC with a current RPI of 53 despite a loss to Pepperdine on Saturday.
- Maybe potential fans are out surfing or caught in a traffic jam on the Pacific Coast Highway. Regardless, PEPPERDINE is playing well enough that it deserves to be seen by more than 1,416 fans, its average attendance at Firestone Fieldhouse.
The Fab Five
Does San Diego’s Johnny Dee have enough time left in the regular season to move up in the national rankings among the top free throw shooters in Div. I? He’s currently fifth at .922 and trails these fellow marksmen:
Riley Grabau, Wyoming, .941
Jarekious Bradley, Southeast Missouri State, .931
Four McGlynn, Towson State, .931
Joseph Young, Oregon, .922
Of the five, Dee (95 of 103) and McGlynn (94 of 101) have attempted the most free throws.
Odd stat, namely...
Players named Tyler are 1-2 in NCAA Div. I scoring per game. Eastern Washington’s Tyler Harvey is first at 23.4 points per game while BYU’s Tyler Haws is second at 22.6. To complete the theme, Davidson’s Tyler Kalinoski is 99th at 16.7.
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He once ate 3 Chipotle burritos in one sitting. He also says he can cook ANYTHING. He is... http://bit.ly/1JIWMqx
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Mike Dunlap @CoachMikeDunlap
All those quiet soldiers who support LMU hoops: we thank you for your kind thoughts & continued support!!!
Follow the three dots
BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth, a strong candidate for WCC Player of the Year, has four triple-doubles this season, an NCAA single-season record. No one else in the country has more than one this season. … Although still woeful from the free throw line, USF is “up’’ to 338th at .606. … Portland’s Alec Wintering leads the conference in 3-point shooting percentage at .511 but has not made enough treys per game (minimum 2.5) to qualify nationally. If he did, he’d be No. 2. … One reason why Gonzaga is undefeated in conference play and 22-1 overall – its scoring differential is +20.7. … Why it’s important: Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, 1-2 in the WCC, are both at +8.0 or better in rebounding margin per game.
A limited number of all-session passes were just released by the West Coast Conference Monday, Jan. 26 for the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas March 5-10 at the Orleans Arena. All-session passes are now available for sale online at WCCHoopsInVegas.com. All-session passes for the event at the Orleans Arena in the casino of the same name cost $175 for all nine men's games and all nine women's games, 18 games in all.
Breaking it down, that's $9.72 per game for the $175 package. Further ticket information is available below: HERE or log on to WCChoopsInVegas.com.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.