Severson making his mark in final year at Western
Jan. 19, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By ANDREW LANG -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Western Washington University senior guard Cameron Severson has navigated through peaks and valleys during his five-year WWU basketball career.
He's helped the Vikings earn their first national title in program history. He also worked his way out of favor with Western's coaching staff early in the same season.
But for all the setbacks Severson has faced during his half decade in blue and white, he's always bounced back. He's proving it once again during his final season.
"Cam is a very calming player for our team," Western coach Tony Dominguez said. "He's always in the right place at the right time. He's always getting the big rebound. Nothing ever is flashy. He is kind of a lunch-pail guy. He's always getting a lot done."
Severson, who grew up in Alaksa, was discovered by WWU, he believes, after he helped Petersburg High School win a state title and was selected Class 3A Player of the Year following his junior season. He finished high school averaging 21 points per game, 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
"Getting recruited is a process," Severson said in a phone interview. "There's not a whole lot of exposure up there."
Dominguez never saw Severson play in Alaska. He was found playing in "big time" AAU tournaments in Las Vegas, Houston and Los Angeles.
It didn't take long for Severson to make an immediate impact once he arrived at Western. The plan was to redshirt his first year on campus, but Severson played right away after former WWU standout Derrick Webb suffered a season-ending injury.
That year Severson averaged 14.1 minutes - the seventh most on the team - and five points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Impressive minutes for a true freshman. Solid production, too.
"I was playing right away and fairly well for a freshman," Severson said. "I was getting some good minutes. It was a good way to start the career."
The graduation of Webb, Anderson and Ready left a gaping hole at the guard position. It was Severson's time to shoulder a lead role.
"I was really looking forward to my junior year," Severson said. "It was going to be a breakout year for me."
But roughly a month before the 2010-11 season, Severson learned some devastating news. A pain he developed in his right foot turned out to be a stress fracture. He decided to put off surgery, but after eight weeks, the injury hadn't healed. He was forced to use a walking boot for four to five months.
"That was a real tough year," Severson said.
WWU added John Allen, Rico Wilkins and Zach Henifin during Severson's missed season. Richard Woodworth, who also missed 2010-11 with a wrist injury, returned for the start of the 2011-12 season. The additions created a log jam at Severson's guard and small forward positions.
Severson was still in line to earn solid minutes before last year's championship season began, but he fell further down Western's bench after being suspended a few games due to disciplinary issues.
"The beginning of last year, he had a couple of incidences that kind of threw him off a little bit and put him behind," Dominguez said. "He went from the seventh-eighth guy to the ninth guy because he was distracted."
Severson admitted there were times last year he struggled to stay motivated with his role on the team.
"I got behind from the start," Severson said. "I struggled to get minutes and was left out of the rotation. It was tough to kind of stay motivated. For me personally, it was a tough season all around."
Severson averaged only five minutes last year and played in 19 of Western's 36 games. The Vikings went on to win a national title, and the redshirt junior entered his senior season ready to make his mark.
"He is really focused in now and dialed in," Dominguez said. "He is just a really mature young man when it comes to the mental aspect of the game. He isn't as hyper as he was as a kid. He is more physically tough."
Severson's proved Dominguez's words all year.
"So far it has been great," Severson said. "It's definitely been a long road, especially the last couple of years. I really enjoyed last year, but it was long as far as personal success goes. It's been a blessing. I've been waiting a long time to be playing on a team and getting significant minutes. Contributing feels the best."
He's contributed plenty. Severson has played in all 15 games this year and is averaging 17.1 minutes, 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He's had scoring outputs of 18, 17, 14, 11, and 10 three different times. He recorded his season-high 18 points during WWU's 86-85 win against Central Washington University Jan. 10 on ROOT Sports.
"I was struggling a bit to start the season, but these last four games I've been getting back into a little groove," Severson said.
During the last five games, Severson is averaging 23.6 minutes, 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds. Defensively, Dominguez said he's made a complete 180.
Before the season Dominguez told the team he was looking for a new player to take over the enforcer, do-everything role Henifin embraced last year. This season, Severson has owned that responsibility.
"I put it out to a lot of guys that we need to find a Zach or someone even tougher, and that's hard to do," Dominguez said. "Cam said, 'That's my role, Coach.' He kind of took it and ran with it. He's kind of struggled in the past on defense, but this year he is doing great. We've even had him play other teams' best players at times. He has really embraced that enforcer role. That's really what he's done for us."
Because of Severson's length (6-foot-5) and tremendous athletic ability, Dominguez uses his versatility to play the No. 2, 3 or 4 spot. The flexibility has helped Western unload its deep bench during games.
"As a basketball player, I would say I've matured a lot," Severson said. "I came in at 18 and have definitely matured as a person. It was tough at times, and it taught me about perseverance, and, you know, kind of sticking with it. Basketball is something I've always loved."
Severson, who is studying business and is a marketing major, plans to head back to Alaska once he graduates to join his dad's commercial fishing company.
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