The Stark Truth

Former Kitsap Sun sports editor Chuck Stark shares insight, laughter, news, views and analysis of Kitsap sports and beyond.
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Archive for January, 2010

Steven Gray Playing His Best Basketball for Zags

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I got a chance to watch the full Gonzaga game Thursday night. And the Zags, for the most part, weren’t all that impressive against Santa Clara. Senior All-American candidate Matt Boldin and 6-8 freshman sensation Elias Harris both had off nights as the No. 8-ranked Bulldogs tried to mount a comeback. They trailed by as many as 13 in the second half.

They finally got it going, thanks to Steven Gray, the 6-foot-5 junor guard from Bainbridge. There are players who jump higher and have more flash to their game, but not many collegians are as well-rounded on — or off — the court as Gray. On Thursday night, he always seemed to be in the right spot, hustling for a loose ball or a rebound, or making a big shot. He hit a 3-pointer that got the Bulldogs to within one late in the game and made a simple, but beautiful cut to take an inbounds pass and score the bucket that clinched the 71-64 win. Gray finished with 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal. Not spectacular, yet his stats don’t tell the story.

You can tell that Gray’s enjoying himself. The former Metro League MVP, who led the Spartans to the Class 3A state title game his senior year, was all smiles after Thursday’s win. Even during heated moments of the game, he’s smiling. The demeanor, the athleticism, the engery, combined with a high basketball IQ, makes him an NBA prospect. Dime Magazine recently called him the Biggest Sleeper on the West Coast, and they might be right.

In his last five games, Gray has averaged 17.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s made 53.8 percent of his shots and 85.7 percent of his free throws. Gray had 14 points and 14 rebounds in a win at St. Mary’s during that stretch.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Bouldin said prior to the Santa Clara win. “When he looks to score and plays aggressively he’s tough. He’s definitely shown he can guard just about anybody in the country.”

The former Bainbridge star is showing that he’s one of the most complete players in the country.


Sounders Cap Season Tickets at 32,000

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The Seattle Sounders have capped their season ticket sales at 32,000 for their second MLS season — and, once again, they’re going fast. As of this morning, there were 1,000 left.

For ticket information visit www.soundersfc.com or call 877-MLS-GOAL.

Here’s the AP story:

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Already having set new Major League Soccer standards for attendance in their inaugural season, the Seattle Sounders FC are taking it up a notch in year No. 2.
The Sounders said Wednesday that they will cap season ticket sales at 32,000 for the 2010 season. That’s 10,000 more than their first season, when the Sounders averaged a league-record 30,943 per match.
Seattle says its season ticket package includes 15 regular season MLS matches and three international friendlies yet to be announced. The team says less than 1,000 season-ticket packages remain.
The Sounders will kick off the 2010 MLS season when they host the expansion Philadelphia Union on March 25.



Update: Wagner 3rd at Figure Skating Championships

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

UPDATE: Ashley Wagner had a strong performance but finished third at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night in Spokane. The top two earned Olympic berths. NBC is broadcasting the event on a delayed basis as I type.

 Earlier Report: Ashley Wagner, the figure skater who considers Kitsap County home, is reporting from Spokane on YouTube.  Wagner should be on the ice, or just finishing about now. Her peformance in today’s long program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be televised tonight at 8 p.m. (Universal) and 9 p.m. by NBC.


Huskies Missing Brockman … a Lot

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The Washington Huskies knew they’d have a hard time replacing Jon Brockman. The pride of Snohomish brought it every game — heck, every practice — and the current team wasn’t doing that until last week’s impressive sweep of Stanford and Cal. 
For the most part, you can’t fault the Huskies’ effort in Thursday’s 62-61 loss at UCLA, but it’s becoming clear that the team doesn’t have anyone they can count on inside. The “bigs” were MIA again in the loss to the Bruins.
These Huskies are a puzzling bunch. Remember, these sub.-500 Bruins are not the powerhouse Bruins we’ve come used to watching. And they weren’t even at full strength, yet they beat the Huskies, who are still looking for a road win.
Speaking of Brockman, did you seethe rookie’s line the other day in Sacramento’s 105-103 loss to the Chicago Bulls? 30 minutes, 0 points on 0-1 FG shooting and 14 rebounds, 7 of them offensive boards.
In Sacramento’s next game, the bullish Brockman made his second start of the season at center in place of former Husky and good buddy Spencer Hawes. Brockman had six points, three rebounds and four fouls in 23 minutes in a loss against Atlanta. He didn’t make it to the end of the game. In typical Brockman fashion, he struck his head on a camera while tumbling out of bounds and he had to be treated for a cut over his left eye.
Brockman was inserted into the lineup to give the Kings some toughness.
Here’s what the Sacramento Bee had to say about Brockman:
The 6-foot-7 Brockman played 20 of his 30 minutes in the second half against Charlotte. He grabbed 10 of his career-high 14 rebounds while overseeing a major upgrade in frontcourt defense. After tallying 38 points in the paint before the break, the Bobcats had 16 points there in the second half.
The Kings won the other game in which Brockman started (102-100 over Denver on Jan. 9). The rookie from Washington said he is looking forward to setting a tough-guy tone at the start.
“If we’re the ones back on our heels from the start, it’s going to take a lot more for us to rear in and start pushing them back,” Brockman said. “(Huskies coach Lorenzo) Romar always talked about the first punch … If you come out and you’re the more physical team, the refs are going to let you play a little more physical and it’s just going to be a lot easier throughout the night.”

This is what Romar said after Thursday’s loss to UCLA:

“I think overall, we have to grow up, regroup and mature as a group.”




Watching Kitsap’s Olympian — and Olympic Hopeful Wagner

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I ‘m at home right now, watching the replay of Saturday’s World Cup bobsled race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on the Universal Sports network. Wonderful network if you’re into Olympic sports. Bremerton’s Bree Schaaf is coming up soon. Of course, I know she finishes 11th and qualifies for the Olympics, but I’m anxous to see her second run — one where she nearly crashes her sled. The crash could have cost her dream, but she kept it upright and was able to celebrate at the end.

Watching that run, even though I knew the result, was pretty cool.

Now let’s turn out attention to another local Olympian.  If you haven’t read our story about Ashley Wagner, the figure skater who calls Seabeck home, you should — especially if you’re a fan of figure skating and the Olympics. Her parents, Melissa and Eric, grew up in Kitsap County. Her grandfather, Mike James, was the head park ranger at Scenic Beach State Park for years. Freelance writer, Meri-Jo Borzilleri, is covering Wagner for The Sun at this week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane. It starts Thursday night with the short program. The long program is Saturday. Here’s another really good read on Wagner from Ron Judd of the Seattle Times, the former Kitsap Sun reporter who still kicks around the wide world of outdoor sports with Seabury Blair, Jr., Kitsap’s outdoors writer.

The women’s short program is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday; the long program starts at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Here’s the TV schedule for the women’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships: 

Today: 7:30-11:30 p.m. (ladies short), Universal; Saturday, noon-3 p.m. (free dance, ladies short) and 6-8 p.m. (ladies long), NBC; Sunday: 6-8 p.m. (exhibitions), NBC


NWAACC Athletics: OC Hired Pumas’ Assistant Ritchie to Coach Men’s Soccer Team

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

This just in: Olympic College just hired James Ritchie to coach the men’s soccer team.
Ritchie’s an assistant with the Kitsap Pumas. That gives the Pumas two assistants in the NWAACC. Andrew Chapman, head coach at Peninsula CC, also works with the Pumas.

Here’s an interview with Ritchie when the Pumas were kicking things off. Ritchie’ s also currently coaching the Pumas U17 Academy team. We’ve also heard that Ritchie is in the running for the South Kitsap boys soccer position. If he lands that one, he’s going to be one busy Scotsman.

The Scotsman is an interesting guy and well respected by the Pumas’ ownership group. The folks in the soccer community who don’t know him are going to like him. Here’s a video with James talking to GOALKitsap.com.

* OC’s also close to naming a new volleyball coach. They’ve got some excellent candidates from within the community, said athletic director Barry Janusch.

* Don’t know if you’ve picked up on it, but the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges cut 10 percent of the schedules for its member schools this year to help with the challenging economic times. Basketball teams, for instance, are playing 26 games instead of 23, this season.
You might also notice that OC is playing matinee doubleheaders on Saturdays. Instead of the usual 5 p.m. (women) and 7 p.m. (men) start times, they’re playing at 2 p.m. (women) and 4 p.m. (men). From a marketing standpoint, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Then again, OC doesn’t do a lot to attract crowds anymore. They throw the ball up and let ‘em play. I’m surprised they even charge admission.
They used to have halftime shoots and give away sodas or pizza. They don’t even sell popcorn anymore.
Too bad they can’t get that place packed. It’s the best homecourt advantage in the NWAACC when it’s rocking.
The Rangers are home tonight. Next home games are Saturday against Edmonds. Game times, I repeat, are 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

* You want to follow the NWAACC? Here’s the link to the conference Web site, where you’ll find roster, standings, scores and schedules.


Where Are They Know: Neil Fryer’s Settling Into Life After Basketball

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I caught up with Neil Fryer recently. The former Central Kitsap basketball star played professionally in Costa Rica after finishing up his senior year at Eastern Oregon a year ago.
He’s now in Montana, where his family moved. His dad, Tim Fryer, coached boys basketball at Central Kitsap and was a golf pro at Gold Mountain for a while. Tim and his wife, Candy, now live in Miles City. Neil Fryer was living in Billings when I talked to him, but was preparing to move to Helena, where he was excited about going to work as an accountant.
The high-flying 6-foot-4 guard/forward could have gone back to Costa Rica or pursued other pro basketball opportunities overseas, but Fryer said it was time to get on with his life.
“It went well,” he said of playing overseas. “I had a good time. … I wasn’t tired of basketball per se, but I was ready to experience different things. It’s a good time to catch up on what I’ve missed out on. I’ve been spending as much time with my family as I can and just trying to get established.”
Fryer said the 10-team semi-pro league in Costa Rica was “a bigger deal” than he thought it would be.
Fryer helped the Mountaineers, from La Grande, Ore., advance to the Sweet 16 in 2009 and to the elite eight at the NAIA national tournament in 2008 and 2009.
His college coach, Ryan Looney, is now the head coach at Seattle Pacific. Fryer was recruited to Eastern Oregon by then-assistant Isaac Williams, a Central Kitsap grad who played at Olympic College and Eastern. Williams replaced Looney as the head coach of the Mountaineers.
“He’s a great guy,” Fryer said of Williams. “He knows basketball as well as anybody I’ve met as far as X’s and
O’s. … As long as he keeps pulling pepole from CK he’ll keep winning.”
Cody Thurmond, a freshman from CK, is currently on the Mountaineers’ roster and guard J.R. Gordon, who played with Fryer at CK, is red-shirting after transferring from Lewis-Clark State.
Eastern Oregon traveled to Costa Rica during Fyrer’s junior season, which is the connection on how he ended up there.
One of four Americans in the league, he signed with Coopenae Liceo de Costa Rica in May and left in July. Liceo reached the league finals and was one of two premier clubs in the league.
“They took care of me pretty good,” Fryer said when asked about the pay. “I couldn’t really complain.”
His sister, Lindsey Fryer, a standout middle blocker in volleyball, recently graduated from Concordia College in Portland, Ore. She also attended Central Kitsap High School.


Hot Stove Links, Kitsap Style

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Spring training will be here before we know it. Here’s some links to get you in the mood:

Aaron Cunningham’s got a start on a helluva baseball cap collection. The former South Kitsap standout was just traded to his fourth organization in five years. In case you missed it, Cunningham was sent to San Diego along with outfielder Jerry Hairston for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and a minor leaguer. Cunningham, an outfielder, was orginally a sixth-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2005, which traded him to the Diamondbacks, who packaged him with five other players in a deal with the Athletics for pitcher Dan Haren. While Oakland remained high on Cunningham, they needed a third baseman and they have a glut of outfielders so it wasn’t all that surprising that they moved him along.

Cunningham’s a career .309 hitter in the minor leagues and has a couple cups of coffee in the majors with Oakland. Check out his career numbers.

Jason Hammel, another SK grad and part of the Rockies’ starting rotation, filed for arbitration.

Royals utility player Willie Bloomquist, and yet another South Kitsap grad to make it to the majors, had this to say about Mark McGwire in a story in mlb.com: ”I respected Mark McGwire when I watched him when I was a kid, and I think he’s a tremendous talent with or without steroids,” Bloomquist said. “But it’s just unfortunate that one of the greatest years of our game happened to be when he broke the home-run record on a performance-enhancing substance.”

Speaking of McGwire, his confession was coordinated by Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, who as this Santa Rosa Press Democrat blog points out, helped sell us George Bush’s war on Iraq. Is there any remaining doubt about the connection between the sports world of fun and games and the hardball real world of serious spin, revisionist history and expert damage control?

The M’s get a lot of love in this week’s issue of the Sporting News. This P-I blog sums it up pretty good.

Not everybody is bullish on the Mariners. Read Rob Neyer’s ESPN.com blog.

What’s going on with Russell Branyan, who’s still in limbo. Here’s a recent post on the power-hitting IB from the U.S.S. Mariner.

Here’s all you need to know about the Mariners’ Jan. 30-31 Fanfest.

That’s all for now folks. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Schaaf’s an Olympian: ‘I Dreamed About This But Now It’s Really Real.’

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Bree Schaaf’s 11th place finish in a World Cup bobsled race on Saturday in St. Moritz, Switzerland was good enough to clinch a spot in next month’s 2010 Olympics. We’ll do our best to contact the Bremeton athlete. For now, here’s the the press release from the USA Bobsled and Skeleton team, which quotes an obviously happy Bree:

Rohbock Leads U.S.; Schaaf Earns Olympic Berth 

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland- Shauna Rohbock (Park City, Utah) led the U.S. women’s bobsled team in today’s St. Moritz, Switzerland World Cup event with a fifth place finish. Bree Schaaf (Bremerton, Wash.) maintained her status as the second ranked third sled among nations with an eleventh place finish to earn her first Olympic berth.

“Today’s race was won by only one-hundredth of a second,” said Rohbock.  “The competition is definitely picking up as we get closer to February.  Every week is a challenge, and next month won’t get any easier.  I’m excited that we qualified three sleds, because I think all of us are competitive and have a chance to do well.”

Germans swept the podium in a closely contested race today.  Cathleen Martini teamed with Romy Logsch to lead the field by only one-hundredth with a combined time of two minutes, 14.89 seconds.  Reiginig Olympic Champion Sandra Kiriasis partnered with Christin Senkel for a total time of 2:14.90 to claim silver, while Claudia Schramm and Berit Wiacker slid a combined time of 2:15.07 for bronze.

“I’m a little nervous going into the Olympics because I think the Germans are gaining momentum,” said Rohbock.  “Their push times are getting faster, they have aerodynamic sleds, and they will be tough to beat.  But, you never know what will happen at the Olympics.  It’s always unpredictable.”

Rohbcok teamed with Michelle Rzepka (Novi, Mich.) for identical start times of 5.64 seconds and runs of 1:07.87 and 1:07.70.  The duo clocked a combined time of 2:15.57 seconds on the naturally refrigerated course for fifth place.

Only two nations are granted three sleds in the women’s bobsled 2010 Olympic competition.  Germany locked up the first spot earlier in the season based on points, but the second nation to qualify a third sled was a battle between Canadian Amanda Stepenko and U.S. pilot Bree Schaaf (Bremerton, Wash.) today.  Schaaf entered this weekend with an 80-point lead over Stepenko, but still needed to post two solid runs to secure her qualification. 

“Stepenko is one of my favorite people on tour,” said Schaaf.  “I can always count on her to laugh at my jokes, and she’s been a great friend.  Last week she told me I’ve been doing an amazing job this year and driving really well.  I almost cried.  Here we are battling to qualify, and she takes the time to let me know I’m doing a good job.”

Schaaf slid to the finish with a combined time of 2:16.46 for 11th place, while Stepenko crossed the line with a two-run total of 2:17.49 for 15th.  Schaaf surpassed the Canadian pilot on a track she’s never driven a bobsled on to earn her Olympic qualification as the third sled for the U.S.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” said Schaaf.  “Nothing compares to the amount of anxiety I felt over the last two races.  Going to the Olympics will feel like going home, but I had to get there first by driving a new track every week. I can’t believe I get to walk in opening ceremonies.  I dreamed about this, but now it’s really real.”

Schaaf teamed with Emily Azevedo (Chico, Calif.), who helped push the pilot to start times of 5.79 and 5.74 for runs of 1:08.01 and 1:08.45, respectively.  The U.S. pair was in seventh after the first heat but fell back into 11th after Schaaf made a driving error exiting the pivotal corner named Horseshoe. 

“I was one-hundred times more nervous for that second run than I was for the first,” said Schaaf.  “We were excited and ready to go for the first run, but the second run I felt a wave of fear.  I don’t know where it came from, but I almost blew up out of Horseshoe.  I’m surprised I still have bunks on the left side of the sled.”

Nation quotas and the Olympic roster will be officially announced tomorrow, but the U.S. has secured a third sled for women’s bobsled at the 2010 Olympics based on world-rank points.

Erin Pac (Farmington, Conn.) had some difficulty with the natural-made course in her first run, posting a run of 1:09.04 for 17th position.  Teamed with Elana Meyers (Douglasville, Ga.), team Pac burst off the start in 5.64 seconds and bettered their finish time by over one second with a run of 1:08.03 to move up four places.  The duo clocked a total time of 2:16.95 to finish 13th.

Visit www.UniversalSports.com to find local television listings for the St. Moritz event as well as additional information, including video and photos, about bobsled and skeleton. 

The USBSF appreciates your support.  Please visit www.SharetheRideUSA.com to make a donation and have your name on a national team sled for one season.  For updates on the team throughout the season, follow USBSF on Twitter or log onto www.USBSF.com.  Please contact Amanda Bird, USBSF Marketing & Communications Manager, at (518) 523-1842, ext. 106, or at abird@usbsf.com for any questions regarding the U.S. team.

Results:

1. Cathleen Martini and Romy Logsch (GER) 2:14.89 (1:07.56, 1:07.33); 2. Sandra Kiriasis and Christin Senkel (GER) 2:14.90 (1:07.41, 1:07.49); 3. Claudia Schramm and Berit Wiacker (GER) 2:15.07 (1:07.59, 1:07.48);…5. Shauna Rohbock and Michelle Rzepka (USA) 2:15.57 (1:07.87, 1:07.70);…11. Bree Schaaf and Emily Azevedo (USA) 2:16.46 (1:08.01, 1:08.45);…13. Erin Pac and Elana Meyers (USA) 2:17.07 (1:09.04, 1:08.03);


Six Things Totally Kitsap: NK Babes, NCAA Golf, Duzenski, Olympics, Dunn and Villopoto

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

1) A group of dedicated and passionate youth baseball leaders in Poulsbo are trying to decide if there’s enough interest — and volunteers — to put together a bid to be a possible host for the 2012 Babe Ruth World Series for 14-year-olds. They’re meeting Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Poulsbo Yacht Club (18129 Fjord Drive NE). North Kitsap Babe Ruth did such a good job hosting 2000 and 2008 regional events that they’ve been asked to consider hosting a World Series.

2) While on the subject of bids, Gold Mountain Golf Club and the University of Washington have been asked to re-submit a bid to host an NCAA Golf Championship. The course hosted the 2007 NCAA West Regional and will do it again this year. If the NCAA awards the championship to the Bremerton facility, it would likely be in 2012 or 2013, said Scott Alexander, director of golf at Gold Mountain.

3) If you put together a list of top men’s fastpitch pitchers from Kitsap County, Don Duzenski would be on it. Duzenski recently passed away. Here’s his obit. Duzenski, like his brother Bernie “Punk” Duzesnki, had a nasty drop. It was the kind of pitch that broke catcher’s thumbs and left batters wondering why their hands hurt so much after making contact — if you made contact — with his pitch. I never had the pleasure of playing with Don Duzenski, but he was still one of the top pitchers and a feared hitter when he came out of a long retirement to pitch for a season in the 1990s.

4) Bremerton bobsledder Bree Schaaf’s not our only possible Winter Olympian. Lindsay Wagner, one of the top figure skaters in the country, isn’t a native, but the 18-year-old used to spend her summers in Kitsap County. Her grandfather, Mike James, is the former head ranger at Scenic Beach State Park. An Army brat, she still considers Kitsap County as close to a permanent home as she’s had even though she’s listed from Alexandria, Va. Wagner will compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane next week (the men compete this weekend) with the top two earning berths to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

As for Schaaf, she’ll know her Olympic fate after Saturday’s World Cup bobsled competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. If my math is right, the U.S. currently holds a 21-point lead over Canada in the team race. Whoever finishes on top will qualify three sleds to the Olympics; the other country gets just two. Germany’s all but wrapped up the No. 1 spot. Schaaf is currently 8th overall. Teammates Shauna Rohback and Erin Pac are 4-5. Canada has the Nos. 2, 3 and 10 bobsledders going into St. Moritz.

5) Wonder where Kasey Dunn lands after all of the Seahawks’ shuffling? Here’s hoping the former three-sport star from North Kitsap winds up back in Seattle, where he’s been the running backs coach the past two years after coaching college football for 15 years. His former high school quarterback, Kirk Parrish, is the Seahawks college scouting coordinator.

6) Ryan Villopoto, who also hails from Poulsbo, has a new Kawasaki teammate (Chad Reed) as he begins his quest for a Supercross title. Villopoto, coming off knee surgery, was fifth in the season opener at Anaheim and Reed had mechanical problems. Here’s the Kawasaki racing report.


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