Dec. 29, 2001
Those new to following the Santa Clara basketball program may need some reassuring. Just a little pat on the head to know everything will be alright. All you have to do is look back at another recent Dick Davey team to know that hope is still alive for the struggling Bronco basketball team.
During the first week of July, 1998, Adam Anderson a former player and now a stock broker at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter called with a hot tip (which didn't pan out) and news that point guard Brian Jones ripped up his knee and would be lost for the year.
The first thought that came to my head was "The season's already over." After all, B.J. was the guts of the program during his first 2 years. He had been the WCC co-freshman of the year and first team all-league as a sophomore. Jones' mere presence willed the team to many wins and although he didn't always make the game-winning shot, you always wanted him to take it.
Davey knew the season could be very difficult: "We had been in Europe the summer before. It was apparent we had some shortcomings. Things had to change for us to have a chance in conference play. During the season, we made some real strides defensively."
SCU would have to go with Delano D'Oyen at the point. The previous year he averaged a little over 2 points a game and really struggled with the adjustment to major college basketball. One game that year stands out in particular. Against USF at home, Jones picked up a couple of fouls in the first half and D'Oyen came in and turned the ball over 5 times in the half. The Dons smelled blood and continued to press, eventually forcing 31 Santa Clara turnovers in an 83-75 win in overtime. That game on January 24th set the tone for the whole season. The Broncos were exposed as a team that could not deal with pressure.
In '98-'99, The Broncos started 3-4 and ended the non-conference play at 5-7. While they beat UOP and hung tough with UCLA on the road, the Broncos scored just 44 against Illinois-Chicago at Syracuse, were blasted to 45 at Stanford and lost both games at the Cable Car to Harvard and USF. In the 66-52 loss to the Dons, D'Oyen made just 3 of 15 shots and the Broncos were a horrible 1-13 from three-point range.
In league play, the team was solid, if not spectacular. Nathan Fast was forced into a leadership role and responded. Once a timid redshirt freshman, Fast earned first-team all-league honors averaging just under 16 points a game. He always played his best in the big games, 25 at UCLA and Syracuse and 24 against Gonzaga at home in a tough two point loss.
Center Alex Lopez and slasher Darrell Teat provided double-figure points and tremendous leadership. Lopez bounced back after a sub-par junior season to earn honorable mention league honors and Teat led the conference in free throws attempted and made. The transfer from West Valley JC won the Pepperdine game with a huge 20 point, 13 rebound double-double.
"He was a competitor and lead by playing hard type guy," said Davey. "The more times you have people like that in your program, the better off you're going to be. You could go back through the years, guys like Steve Kenilvort and Steve Nash demanded the best from their teammates. We could certainly use some of that with our team now."
At 8-6 in the WCC, two games below .500 overall and the 4th seed in the WCC tournament, the Broncos pulled away from Loyola Marymount in the first round at Toso. Fast scored 21 and D'Oyen scored 19 points, making 4 three-pointers. The next night would be the highlight of D'Oyen's season and career at Santa Clara.
D'Oyen saw the Pepperdine game as his biggest challenge. In the regular season game in Malibu, D'Oyen felt Jelani Gardner nailed him with an elbow in the throat on purpose and carried that with him the rest of the season.
By the late 1990's, Pepperdine established itself as a consistent post-season team. The Waves won 19 games and were led by transfer Gardner and power forward Kelvin Gibbs, the league's number two rebounder. The teams split the regular season series, setting up a semi-final showdown and a berth in the title game against Gonzaga.
It was a grinding game where each possession was as valuable as a family heirloom. No team could pull away. The other wouldn't allow it. But each time the Broncos needed a big shot, Fast or D'Oyen would deliver. Delano hit 5 of 7 threes for a game-high 19 points, including the game winner off an on-ball screen from the top of the circle. Gardner's three to tie was an airball that went wide left. Fast made 1 of 2 free throws to ice the 58-54 win.
But, the needle hit empty the next night. Todd Wuschnig was in street clothes (after suffering an irregular heartbeat before the LMU game) as was Jamie Holmes and Brian Jones, both out with knee injuries. Also, Fast rolled an ankle in the first 2 minutes on a night when Gonzaga made an opponent-record 17 threes to earn a trip to "The Dance." Dick Davey's team ended the year at 14-15 after going just 4-12 on the road and shooting the lowest percentage since '63-'64.
"Some of the circumstances that surrounded the tournament were not positive for us in terms of injuries. At the same time I don't think any of our players felt demoralized like we didn't have a good year. It was a fun and I was very proud of them."