Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times has picked up a new assignment. He is going to be the beat writer for Seattle University basketball this season. Percy Allen who formerly covered the Sonics will now cover men's basketball for the University of Washington.
I think Bob was pretty happy covering both football and basketball for Washington in the past but with the loss of the Sonics the Times is shuffling around staff just to keep these guys working. The Seattle University gig may just turn out to be a blessing for Bob and the school.
I have said it time and time again that Bob is one of the best sports writers and reporters in the country and now he will play an integral part in the rebirth of Seattle U. basketball.
Today's story on Charles Garcia is a good case in point. Garcia was a Washington commit who fulfilled all the acadmic requirements to transfer to Washington that were asked of him by the school. For some reason the admissions board decided to turn him down anyway which is a bit of a mystery. They felt that even though he had passed all the requirements for entrance to UW they felt he wasn't a good candidate to graduate once he got into school.
The case of Charles Garcia shines a spotlight on the problem UW athletic teams have getting JC's admitted into the school. I find it pretty interesting that even if a kid does everything required to qualify the admissions board can still turn the kid down without a solid reason for doing so.
Another point of Husky interest when it comes to Seattle University is Coach Cameron Dollar who was a major cog in helping Lorenzo Romar build the Huskies into a top 20 basketball program. Replacing a longtime assistant like Cameron Dollar won't be easy for the Huskies. Dollar had a lot more power than most assistant basketball coaches. Like Nick Holt over on the football side of things he solely ran the defense. Romar thought of him more as an assistant head coach rather than just an assistant.
This will be Seattle U's first full season in division one since 1980. The Redhawks as they are called now won't play in a conference for the forseeable future. They will play an independent schedule. Putting together that type of schedule can be difficult but Dollar has done a magnificent job. The Redhawks will play 14 home game at Key Arena this season.
Another point of intrigue in the scheduling is that Gonzaga is absent from the schedule. The Zag's are SU's sister Jesuit school in the state of Washington. The two schools have a long history on the basketball court. In fact Gonzaga has assumed Seattle U's former role and stature in Northwest basketball. Some may even say that the Zag's have surpassed that legacy.
When Gonzaga started gaining national attention in basketball the folks up on First Hill took notice and felt more than a little envy. The SU alumni never felt good about the decision to leave the WCC and Division One in 1980. Seemingly down the drain was an incredible run that started with the O'Brien Twins and Elgin Baylor in the 1950's and solid performances throughout the 1960's when UCLA, and Seattle U were the top basketball programs in the West.
The attention that Gonzaga has received on the basketball court has had a huge side benefit. It was placing a spotlight on the University as a whole which was making it much easier for the Gonzaga to recruit academically. Currently Gonzaga is very close to overtaking Seattle University in overall enrollment which would make them the largest Jesuit University in the state.
When Seattle U applied to be re-admitted into the WCC they were told the league was not interested in expanding at that time. Their were two stumbling blocks. One was the all important RPI ratings. A new basketball program is prone to having a low RPI which can hurt a conference at tournament time. Seattle U. put together an RPI in their first season back that would have ranked them fourth in the WCC. So RPI going forward shouldn't be much a of a problem.
The second stumbling block is Gonzaga. Keep in mind that these are two in state Jesuit Universities that have had a long history of working together on a very friendly basis. The emergence of basketball at Seattle U. threatens Gonzaga to a certain extent. The Redhawks will play all their games in Key Arena which is a big draw for recruits. The Key seats over 17,000 while the new McCarthy Center on the Gonzaga campus seats only 6000.
Seattle U sits right in the middle of a basketball recruiting hotbed that the Zags have dipped into liberaly to help build their championship program. The Zag's even play a game or two each year in Seattle against a national caliber opponent. The addition of Seattle U. means competition for the same type of players the Zags are going after in the area. It also means competition for fans and dollars coming out of the Puget Sound area.
We all know the history between UW head man Lorenzo Romar and Mark Few. The Gonzaga coach recently said he would rather marry Big Foot than play Washington every season on neutral court in Seattle. He went on to say if the Gonzaga/UW series were ever to be re-established the series would have to start in Spokane first since UW ended the series in the first place.
If there is a guy out there that Mark Few dislikes more than Lorenzo Romar it is new SU Coach Cameron Dollar. That just happens to be one of the things that made Dollar the perfect choice for the job at Seattle U.. Publically Dollar says that Gonzaga will be on future Seattle U. schedules. Few is mum on the subject. Chances are the two teams won't meet unless Seattle U. rejoins the WCC or unless Mark Few gets engaged to Big Foot.
An eight team WCC means that Gonzaga can schedule 16 out of conference games which is very important when it comes to building RPI which relates to placement in the tournament. Add two more teams to the WCC and that chops the total of OOC games down to only 12 which is a legit concern. Even though the WCC is a perfect for Seattle U. they may have to look elsewhere unless one of the current members drops out.
It is going to be an interesting year for college basketball in the Pacific Northwest. The four Pac 10 teams all are strong this season. Washington and Gonzaga are picked to be among the national elite. Finally Seattle U is about to make some noise in their first full season of division one play.
Cameron Dollar feels that Charles Garcia is an NBA type talent. That is the type of immediate building block that can give a team looking for a conference home a little bit of traction. SU's goal this season is an NIT invitation. If the Redhawks can achieve that in season one they can use it as a serious springboard to the future.
Historically Seattle U has gone through all this before. The basketball program was started on a shoestring after World War II and quickly achieved national prominence in a sports starved city with the arrival of the O'Brien twins
SU's performance earned coverage in national magazines and an invitation to the team's first NCAA tournament the following season while the O'Briens were named All-American players in 1953. Johnny O'Brien became the first NCAA player to score more than 1,000 points in a season, and racked up a college career total of 2,733 points -- despite standing only 5-foot-nine.
SU remained a major force in the NCAA for many years thanks to the skill of players such as Joe Pehanick, Elgin Baylor, Charlie Brown, Eddie Miles, Tom Workman, Gary Ladd, and Clint Richardson. Baylor's team even played Kentucky for the National championship in 1958.
Can Charles Garcia end up having the same type of impact for this current Redhawk team?
As former SU star Johhny O'Brien said last year all it takes is a few difference makers in basketball to put you on the map. The only challenge of course is finding those difference makers. It isn't like Garfield's Tony Wroten is trying to knock down the door to play at Seattle U..
Nobody is ever going to confuse Charles Garcia with Elgin Baylor but I think he may do enough this season to help earn SU that NIT invitation which would put the program back on the map and pave the way for entrance into a conference.
It is going to be a great year for college basketball in the Northwest.