April 8, 2004

Annual Team Banquet Relives Great Memories

April 8, 2004

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    It may sound sappy to call the annual basketball banquet a night of laughs and tears, but for the head coach that is always the case. Dick Davey freely admits to being emotional when talking about his departing seniors and Wednesday night was more of the same. He expressed his pride in what Jim Howell, Alex Kargbo, J.R. Patrick and team manager Lizandro Carrasco meant to the program.

    Team manager Carrasco was the first to speak and told the crowd he was more commonly known as "Lizard." The nickname became commonplace due to the difficulty people had saying his name. Carrasco noted that Davey had more trouble than others, often calling him "Leandro, Leando, Alejandro and Lorenzo but never Lizandro."

    Center Jim Howell, like the others, expressed his admiration for the team's former manager, D. J. Frandsen, a multiple-times surviving cancer who is once again undergoing chemotherapy. Howell called Frandsen an inspiration and put something so trivial like Howell's season-ending broken foot into perspective.

    The senior from Newport, Ore. told the story of how he came to Santa Clara, a dream he didn't know would come true. Howell thought he wouldn't get his chance because the program was looking at a power forward from Chemeketa C.C. in Oregon and Howell thought he would go the same JC route to get to Division I. The staff lost interest in the recruit, who ended up at Saint Mary's, leaving a spot for Howell to become a Bronco.

    Thanking strength coach Steve Schultz for making him "feel sexy," off-guard Alex Kargbo went "off" on many tangents during his speech. Kargbo felt he matured during his experience and is now a man ready to go out in to the world. He thanked the coaches for developing his game along with his teammates, some chided for being lousy housekeepers. Davey credited Alex for his work in the classroom and took great pride in announcing that he will graduate this summer. He's a credit for anyone who waits for the opportunity and makes the most of it. Despite going through a long stretch of the season barely playing, Kargbo got a chance late in the year and was a major factor in the tourney wins over USD and USF.

    Making it clear that all Canadians don't use a word that sounds like the letter "A", J.R. Patrick did identify teammate Sean Denison as one who does. Patrick said growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, he played hockey like all kids but acquired his dream to play college basketball in the states in the 9th grade. He says his injuries have made in grow stronger as a person and thanked everyone in the room for playing a role in him being where he is. Right or wrong, some of his junior college classes weren't accepted and Patrick worked diligently in the classroom, overcoming numerous obstacles to get on track to graduate in the fall. He noted the "upsides" of his teammates who are coming back and also identified Linden Tibbets and Scott Borchart as the messy roommates who did not hold their own in terms of housekeeping.

    Davey expressed his excitement about next year's team, saying individual workouts have already begun. He said the team has the ability to do something special but much of the success will be determined by how hard the returning players are willing to work.

    Among those who will be player of the year candidate is guard Doron Perkins. Claiming the team's defender of the year and MVP awards, Perkins became a force in the conference and is the best athlete to play at SCU since Lloyd Pierce. When presenting the defender award, Steve Seandel noted Perkins' competitive nature and how effective he was in containing WCC Player of the Year Blake Stepp of Gonzaga.

    One of the top candidates for the WCC player of the year may very well be on the same roster. Kyle Bailey received a captain's award with Howell and Davey expressed his thanks to Bailey for fighting his way back through a serious back injury. By the end of the year and in the conference tourney, Bailey was once again one of the top players in the league and showed a glimpse of things to come with a 30-point game against USF. If they get another crack at the Zags or whomever in the tourney, I'll live with him taking the shot to win it every time.

    No surprise with Howell taking the team's most inspirational player award. He's the very definition of "team guy." Jim never cared about his stats; always about winning and was more than willing to do the little things to make that happen. Howell's parents from Oregon beamed with pride and mentioned at the end of the night how they blessed they are to have such a fine young man in their lives.

    Normally the most improved player makes a big jump from one year to the next, making it somewhat of a surprise that Sean Denison won the award as a freshman. However, in watching him from the beginning of the year to the end as a starter, one can see the great promise he has. In my nine years, I've never seen a big guy with his ability to use either hand and with added strength he will be force to be dealt with.