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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Chasing More Than A Number



                         A Look Back At 2,000 Points...

By Harry Cummins

     On the first full weekend of this New Year and with only a smattering of loyalists on hand as witnesses, something significant is about to unfold in Portland, Oregon.

     Perhaps not the kind of tumult a "Hillary on The Summit of Everest" event would elicit but no less laudable will be the exact moment when Zach Richardson, an unassuming 6'0"small college basketball player from Multnomah University, reaches the rarefied air of 2,000 career points. At this writing, he is a mere 23 points away.  At present, he tops the Cascade Collegiate Conference in scoring at 20.3 ppg and is among the Top 25 sharpshooters in national statistics.

     Richardson will soon become the first player in Multnomah's NAIA era to ever reach such a coveted (2K) career milestone and only the 3rd Lion all-time to ever do so. Earlier this year, he also became the  school's all-time leader in 3 point baskets made.  That number, currently at 409, continues to climb and comes at a free-shooting school that once sank a record 38 3's in a single game and produced a back to back national scoring champion in the form of Justin Martin.

     The rocky ascent to 2K for a modern-day collegiate basketball player is fraught with missteps and the absence of guard rails.  COVID-19 outbreaks; debilitating injury; alluring transfer portals; eligibility issues; incongruous teammates, and pro ball opportunities for the elite few, all conspire to form a slippery slope.  Over the course of his career at Multnomah, Richardson has been sidelined a portion of every season by injury, capped by major foot surgery following last season. The 2020-21 season saw his team suffer thru the indignities of a calamitous 1-24 season in which Zach still averaged 27.6 ppg to finish runner-up in the national scoring chase. 

     Richardson's head coach at Multnomah, Curt Bickley, has experienced all the ups and downs of his senior leader's lengthy career.  The private conversations in Bickley's cramped office, Richardson's mammoth single game scoring explosions of 49, 50, and 51 points, along with shared moments of frustration and disappointment.  Ironically, Bickley will exit the sport this year, along with his cornerstone player, after 30 years of coaching, the last two decades spent at Multnomah.

     It is Bickley, perhaps, who can best explain the true worth of his 2K man armed with both staying power and scoring prowess:

     "In all my years of coaching, Zach Richardson best personifies what I have found to be the perfect basketball player" states Bickley.

     "He shows up each and every day with energy and respect. He puts in tons of time on his game on his own and is trustworthy in all things.  He will be a lifelong friend and I could not be more proud of a player or his accomplishment."

     Zach Richardson, a rapidly maturing man of deep spiritual convictions, knows one must also continue to til the soil to bring forth abundance. He already has several career options in place to utilize his advanced degree. He realizes it will always be about the work, a work in progress if you will, in which you never arrive and find no other place to go.

     After this weekend set of games with Walla Walla University and Lewis Clark State College, Multnomah will still have 13 games remaining in the 2022-23 regular season, with high hopes for a few more come post- season.   Plenty of opportunity remains in which to experience what every craftsman and seasoned coach already knows:

     The exclamation point to any game, career, or a life, should only be placed following the finishing touch.

     2,000 points ..and more importantly...still counting.




Sunday, October 23, 2022

Multnomah U. Basketball 2022-23 Season Preview

 By Harry Cummins

     Seeking to bring order out of the chaotic forces that concern every basketball coach, seasoned mentor Curt Bickley at Multnomah University has experienced a recent metamorphosis in his methodology.

     Bickley arrived at unheralded Multnomah Bible College in 2003, on the wings of a decorated 10-year high school coaching career that netted him nearly 200 wins, 2 Iowa state championships and 4 Coach of the Year honors. 

     At Multnomah, Bickley found himself saddled with limited financial resources, few scholarships, and only the promise of playing time at a no-name school in which to attract future players.  As a result, Bickley soon adapted an offensive scheme dominated by the 3 point shot and a school identity was soon formed on the feats of undersized practitioners of basketball's most celebrated shot.

     The landscape was altered in 2015 when a renamed Multnomah University joined the NAIA as a member of the Cascade Collegiate Conference. In 2018, a 5'9" shooting guard, Justin Martin, catapulted Multnomah into the national spotlight with his whirlwind heroics and back-to-back national scoring crowns. His 70 plus point games became the stuff of legends. Still, the team continued to lack any roster depth to support a starting five.

   One by one, the Lions began enticing taller and more skilled players to their Portland, Oregon campus, culminating in their current 2022-23 roster that now features no less than 8 players ranging from 6'6" to 7 feet.  Bickley no longer will live and die with the 3 point shot and can now deploy a deep bench that can be maneuvered in shifts much like an ice hockey coach does with changing lines. The coach also has the 'upward mobility' backing of  new university President Eric Anthony Joseph, himself a former triple- jump champion, along with Michael Anderson, a personable VP of Athletics, who comes with impressive power lifting credentials of his own.

    Propelling the Lions into the new season will be returning cornerstone players Zach Richardson and Tyrese Taylor.  Richardson is a 5th year graduate senior whose 27.6 ppg scoring average was runner-up in 2020-21 to NAIA National  Player of the Year Kyle Mangas.  Richardson has registered 50 and 49 pt single-game scoring outbursts in past seasons. Taylor is an all-conference center nightly posting double-double performances.

     Charles Jones, an NAIA pre-season All-American and a former Juco Player of the Year transfers to Multnomah this season from cross-town NCAA D1 Portland State. Quentin Jones is an athletic 6'9" transfer from North Carolina A&T and LSU Shreveport.  Containing the Jones boys will be an essential task for Multnomah opponents this year.

     Returning for his senior season, Taylor Peppinger is back as the leading returning 3 point shot maker in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.  6'9" forward Dante Sofia from Liverpool, England looks to collect a cluster of rebounds for the Lions in their journey down the yellow brick road that hopefully will lead to the 2023 NAIA National Basketball Championships in Kansas City come next March. 

     Filling up the stat sheet every game along the way will be Jr. guard Neyland Block, whose all-around game resulted in 10 pts, 6 reb's and 5 assists per game last season in a limited capacity. His emergence in pre-season workouts stamp him as a serious breakout candidate

     Key contributions are also expected this season from steadying veteran guard Wallace Ungwiluk discovered in an Alaskan outpost on the edge of the Bering Sea, and from explosive Texan Amande Uchime, while other NCAA transfers 'Squeaky Wilkins and Zen Goodridge bring much more than their colorful names to the party. Mix in Nigerian Michael Okoye and talented Pacific Northwest natives Will Casebolt, Leonel Gallegos, Alex Newkirk and Brady Grier and this team is loaded.  

     So much so that rapidly developing 7 foot post Will Kietzmann and heralded San Diego prep star Derrien Carter-Hollinger may be forced to take a red-shirt season when they could well start for most teams.

     Coach Bickley will celebrate 20 years as the Lions head coach this year, poised on the threshold of the journey that is the 2022-23 season.  A new basketball theology, so to speak, has evolved at the small college with spiritual beginnings.  A new reading of traditional text is emerging and Bickley and assistant coaches Tayo Gem and Quinn Curry will be deeply challenged to unify this treasure- trove of scattered talent.

     Interdependence cannot be an elective study . Sacrificial integration must be quickly cultivated and forged thru the crucible of one game at a time.  

     Game 1: October 29   Multnomah University vs  Pacific Union College (Calif.)

     P.S.   Fallback plan still remains... 22ft, 1 3\4 inches away

Nomah Nation





Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Hoops 2022-23


    Please support your local high school and college basketball teams this 2022-23 season.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Astonished Onlookers Report Local Phenomenon



     Reports keep filtering in from what shall remain, for now, an unidentified Portland, Oregon track. Sources close to the scene have reported seeing a man closely resembling Craw's Corner founder Greg Crawford circling the cinders at speeds that are simultaneously turning heads and stopping timing devices.  

     At present, accounts of this phenomenon are not completely verified.  However, late this afternoon I received a phone call from both the National Masters News and the USA Senior Track and Field Federation, both asking for confirmation of the recently reported mile time for Mr.Crawford.  They also requested media credentials along with copies of the upcoming workout schedules of Mr. Crawford.

     They also asked for his birth certificate.  



Monday, September 12, 2022

Oregon High School Varsity Girls and Boys Basketball Soon Will Have a Shot Clock

Oregon high school boys and girls varsity basketball in all classifications will implement a 35-second shot clock starting with the 2023-2024 season.

The vote was unanimous when the Executive Board of the Oregon School Activities Association took action on it during its meeting this morning.

In an Oregon Basketball Coaches Association survey, 220 were in favor of the shot clock, while 48 were against it and 28 expressed no preference.

Momentum for the shot clock has been building since last year after a rule change by the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS).

The state of Oregon isn't along in implementing the shot clock. California and Washington already use it for its high school games.

In the next two years, Idaho, Montana and Utah will join Oregon in shot clock usage.

OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber stated that cost will be a hurdle for some schools. He noted that athletic directors will find a way to make it happen so that the necessary equipment can be purchased and that people would be recruited to run the new shot clocks.


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Non-Podium Performance Deemed 'Best Moment' at World Championships

Lost in the headlines surrounding one of the greatest 1500
meters ever run, was a 4th place finish by a college runner
from Ole Miss, Mario Garcia Romo

By Harry Cummins 

     After spending 10 days lodged in Eugene, Oregon at the recent World Athletics Track and Field Championships, I am now in possession of a dazzling disarray of milliseconds and memories from one of the greatest athletic competitions in history.  It was the kind of far-reaching event that both demands yet defies one's summation.

     To attempt to name a best performance of the meet is a fool's errand, of course. Record breaking performances by Noah Lyles, Sydney McLaughlin and Tobi Amusan top most such lists.  Instead, I choose here to highlight what persists thru the filter of my own definition of 'awe-inspiring'. 

     On Day 5 of these Championships, set in the evening gloam, the world was treated to a scintillating stretch duel in the men's 1500m final. Great Britain's Jake Wightman shocked Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen to grab the gold in a spectacular time of 3:29.23, the fastest time ever run on U.S. soil.

     Closing fast in 4th place, but narrowly missing the podium, was Mario Garcia Romo, a 23 year-old college runner from the University of Mississippi and representing Spain. With 200 meters to go, Romo ran 27.9 for the last 200m and 13.70 seconds for the last 100m to move from 7th place to 4th, just missing the podium by three hundredths of a second to countryman Mohamed Katir.  Garcia Romo's final 200m split was identical to that clocked by the hard charging winner, Wightman.

     Converting to a spectacular 3:46.8 mile, Garcia Romo's final clocking of 3:30.20 was the fastest 1500 meters ever run by a collegiate runner and would have won every Olympic Games since the modern Games began, except for the 2021 Games in Tokyo.

    Thru the eyes of this old miler.... I saw nothing quite like it all week.