Feb. 11, 2003
By Bruce Martinez
The Santa Clara
The second dance around the floor has brought many challenges for sophomore point guard Bakari Altheimer. His sophomore season he has suffered injuries, been forced into a full-time role and, along with his teammates, suffered one of the worst road trips in Bronco history.
Altheimer, who has been touted as one of the Broncos best floor leaders, began the season on the bench suffering from a stress fracture in his foot.
"It's been a little more difficult this season than last," said Altheimer. "I've never really dealt with an injury before - not in high school or even last year. It was my fourth metacarpal, and that is a rest injury. The trainers really took their time with me."
Just as Altheimer was returning to the lineup and starting to other monkey wrench was thrown into the machine. All-West Coast Conference junior point guard and team leader Kyle Bailey announced that he would redshirt the season to rest his injured back. This forced the starting point guard role on Altheimer - who averaged only 3.6 points and 1.5 assists in 17 minutes per game as a freshman - just as he was returning. It is a role his teammates say he has responded to well.
"We had no true point guard. His return took the pressure off of the other guards," senior forward Cord Anderson said. "He is a good leader on the court and really calms us down."
Returning from his injury and beginning conference play were daunting challenges for Altheimer, but his history suggests he can meet them.
He practically became a Bay Area legend after leading tiny St. Elizabeth's High School to the Division V state championship game his senior season. He averaged 22 points and 4 assists during his high school career under Bob Howard.
Altheimer has played well so far this season, averaging 9.4 points, 2.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. He has played particularly well in several big games, including a close call against Pepperdine on Jan. 17 in Malibu, Calif., where he scored 18 points to lead Santa Clara in its attempt to come back from a 24-point first half deficit.
For the Broncos to return to the highs of earlier this season where they started 10-4, Altheimer will have to be at his best - scoring clutch baskets, distributing the basketball and limiting turnovers.
He struggled this past weekend (11 points, five assists and 33 percent shooting in two games) and the Broncos ended up playing dismally, losing to Portland and Gonzaga by a combined 60 points in their annual Pacific Northwest road trip. This brought their midway conference record to 2-5 which, after the promising start to the season, is nothing short of a disappointment.
"The team was a little down, but this team is close," said junior small forward J.R. Patrick, who led the team with 16 points against Gonzaga on Saturday. "We're all family and we are going to stick together."
The Broncos agree that if their ship is to be righted, a sophomore will lead them.
"Bak has done way more than expected," Patrick said. "Losing Kyle and having Bak step in even after the injury isn't a loss at all at the point guard. Bak plays so well and is a leader."