|Seattle faces obstacles in return to Division I|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 December 2008 06:31|
Ask someone who stumbles into a Seattle game this season and they're likely to snicker at the name of their center - Austen Powers.
No, he's not an International Man of Mystery. He's part of the Redhawks transition to Division I basketball after nearly three decades of play at lower levels.
That transition figures to be rough. The Redhawks will play a nomadic schedule, traveling across four time zones - including games in Puerto Rico and Alaska - and racking up thousands of frequent flyer miles. No conference would take them in their first year back in Division I, leaving them as one of a handful of independents in the country and giving coach Joe Callero a long-term scheduling headache.
on I schools enjoy. For example, there are no team managers; assistant coaches and freshmen do the team's laundry.
Other obstacles loom much higher. Most experts don't consider the Redhawks' talent Division I-ready. Division I teams are reluctant to play non-league games in Seattle without a guarantee of two road trips by the Redhawks. Seattle's only home game this season against a Division I team is Loyola Marymount on New Year's night.
Yet, there are few complaints. This is a challenge they sought.
At the Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving weekend, an Associated Press reporter spent time with the Redhawks as they began their return to Division I.
Seattle played four games in five days, its first contests as a Division I program since the university dropped Division I sports in 1980.
Seattle was one of a handful of schools to sneak in before the NCAA's latest moratorium for schools moving from Division II to Division I. But no one in that group can match the Redhawks for history.
``I wish I could stay here and be part of Seattle U growing,'' says senior Shawn Burl. ``I wish I could see the progression. That's the part I'm jealous about.''
Wednesday, 4 p.m.
The weary-legged Redhawks gather in the hotel lobby waiting to climb into rental vans.
heir first game with a Division I opponent 79-58 at Fresno State, then faced a 5:15 a.m. wakeup call for the long trip to Anchorage.
Total miles: 2,200.
Total time: 6 1/2 hours.
Most of the other tournament teams arrived at least two days before their first game. The Redhawks had to rearrange their game with the Bulldogs and come to a settlement on the financial guarantee Fresno State was paying Seattle for the game.
Although most teams at the tournament use a charter bus, the Redhawks ride in three rental vans driven by assistant coaches and a trainer. The money saved will be used instead for recruiting trips or other needs later in the year.
The Redhawks are Division I in name but not in amenities. There's no entourage. No sports information director. No team managers who make sure uniforms and warmups are washed and ready.
True to the school's Jesuit roots, the team did make room for Father Dave Anderson, who will wear his priest's collar on the bench.
At practice, Callero barks, trying to break through the lethargy. ``This event is not just a casual thing,'' he says.
Thanksgiving, 9:30 p.m.
The Redhawks are back at their hotel, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
There is laughter and smiles to go along with the turkey and stuffing.
Seattle 61, Louisiana Tech 46.
It's a landmark for the Redhawks - even though the public address announced called them ``Seahawks'' - their first win as a Division I team over a Division I team in 28 years.
It certainly won't be remembered as a beautiful effort. It's ugly and scrappy, based on defense, where Seattle frustrates La Tech.
It's 22-all at halftime, despite Seattle going cold for nearly 10 minutes. Leaning against a wall decorated with hockey pictures, Callero and his assistants lament the scoring problems. They are realistic: beating the taller, more athletic Bulldogs will come down to effort.
``We've got to come back with the same energy we started the game with!'' Callero implores his team in the locker room.
Adds assistant Dan Freeman before they leave, ``Don't settle on this!''
Midway through the second half, they aren't settling; Seattle is up seven.
``They are getting tired and we're in the lead,'' Callero says during a timeout. A few minutes later, the lead is 10, and it's apparent the Redhawks are going to win.
pen and draws an X on the whiteboard signifying an accomplishment on their goal sheet back home - winning once. Now comes exceeding it.
That is how the entire season is broken down, into realistic expectations the Redhawks can meet and then possibly better. Exceeding all expectations will lead to a winning season, but Callero is trying to stay realistic.
``In the last 48 hours we were watching more game tape than practicing,'' Callero says in the postgame press conference. ``And we improved tremendously.''
Friday, 3:30 p.m.
``Family'' is the final call when the Redhawks break their huddle. It's not something specific to them. But it certainly fits their personality.
The reason: the balance and counterbalance of forward Mike Boxley and Burl, the loudmouth and the silent leader, the joker and the levelheaded tactician.
``It's something the last couple of years we've developed,'' Burl says. ``We feed off each other. When he needs me to talk, I'll talk. And when I need him to quiet down, he'll do that.''
Burl grew up in Berkeley, Calif. watching Jason Kidd's exploits at California and dreaming of playing for the Golden Bears.
n progresses and the Redhawks lead their nomadic life.
``I wanted to jump up and down,'' Burl admits of the win the night before. ``But it's a long season. This is my fifth year and there are going to be a lot of ups and downs.''
Friday, 10 p.m.
The downs arrived - in the form of San Diego State.
Freeman gave a playful headshake a night earlier when the Aztecs edged Western Carolina.
Now the Redhawks are the victim, playing scared for 20 minutes before showing well in the second half of a 19-point loss. It's a painful in many ways. Boxley spent the second half with a handful of surgical stitches in his mouth and lip after a shot to the face.
When Boxley goes down, the task of slowing SDSU star Kyle Spain - and his NBA-ready physique - goes to freshman Aaron Broussard. Powers fights inside with 6-foot-8, 257-pound Ryan Amoroso, a talented, but bullying brute on the low box. The Aztecs guards are quicker and stronger. SDSU is a postseason caliber team, and the Redhawks get an idea of how far they have to grow.
Saturday, 8 p.m.
The brutal stretch of four games in five days is over.
and struggles in the first half.
The players sit in the stands at the far end of the arena preparing to watch the championship game. A few get chicken strips and fries from the concession stands. Callero is at work on his Blackberry checking e-mails and sending text messages. A few others give tips to fan sitting next to them who is about to attempt a three-quarters court shot for $1 million. It's not even close.
But it's a successful trip for the Redhawks and an experience that helped on and off the floor.
``To be able to go through the experience here was first class,'' Callero says.
Welcome back to Division I.