June 2, 2004
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Behind a high-powered offense, the Western Washington University men's basketball team posted its fifth consecutive winning season, but narrowly missed out on a berth in the West Regional of the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
The Vikings finished 17-10 overall, and were third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference with an 11-7 record. They were in and out of the NCAA II West Region rankings much of the season, and were probably just one victory short of earning one of the eight regional berths.
Western played with an especially young lineup. The roster had just two seniors, and the Vikings' top two scorers were both sophomores - forward Grant Dykstra (Everson/Lynden Christian) and guard Ryan Diggs (Victorville, CA/Silverado).
"We were within a game or so of the top eight in the West, and a good portion of the time, we were playing mostly freshmen and sophomores," said Western coach Brad Jackson (19th year, 353-210), the first coach in team history to reach 350 victories. "Probably the only frustrating thing about our season is that you can see some games here and there where we had chances but didn't come out on top. All in all, it was not a great year, but it was a pretty good one."
Dykstra, a second-team all-GNAC pick and the only Viking to start every game, shared the team lead in scoring (15.4) with Diggs, and paced Western in rebounds (5.9) and steals (2.0), ranking fifth in the GNAC in steals. He was also ninth in the conference in free throw percentage at 79.7 percent (59-of-74), shot 42.1 percent (56-of-133) on 3-pointers, and contributed 3.3 assists a contest. He had four double-doubles and scored 20 or more points eight times, pouring in a career-high 30 points in a 107-100 victory over Western Baptist. Through two seasons, he is on pace to finish in the top 10 in school history in four statistical categories, a distinction currently held by just two players.
"Grant is the same every day - he gives his best effort and plays with intensity," said Jackson. "He's playing with more and more confidence, and that's been fun to watch."
Diggs averaged 15.4 points, scoring in double figures 23 times, including each of the last 12 contests. He was an honorable mention all-conference pick. Diggs had a career-high 27 points in a 91-69 victory over Seattle, part of a string of four consecutive games where he had 22 points or more. He also had 11 assists in a 111-90 triumph at Saint Martin's, the most by a Viking all season.
"Ryan is an incredible athlete and had a fine season," Jackson said. "As a sophomore, he's really started to smooth out some of the rough edges in his game. His perspective on the game this year was much better and he's worked to recognize areas where he can still grow."
Dykstra and Diggs were far from the only weapons in an offense that led the GNAC and ranked ninth nationally in NCAA II in scoring at 88.1 points a game and reached 100 points five times. The Vikings showed the balance that has been a hallmark of Jackson's teams - despite leading the conference in scoring, no player was among the top 12 individually. Instead, Western players occupied four of the slots between 13th and 18th.
Senior guard Jason Burrell (Ontario, CA), another GNAC honorable mention selection, averaged 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and a team-best 4.6 assists despite being hampered by a groin injury in the final weeks of the season. He shot 53.8 percent (93-of-173) from the field, the second-best mark among league guards, and a team-best 88.3 percent (128-of-145) from the foul line while shooting nearly twice as many free throws as any other Viking. The free throw percentage ranked second in the conference and 13th nationally in NCAA II. For his career, Burrell scored 1,032 points, becoming the 18th player in school history to reach 1,000 points, and ending up 14th on the school career scoring list. He also finished ninth in career assists with 349, and third in free throws made at 408, shooting 83.8 percent (408-of-487) from the line.
"The injury definitely impacted his season, which was unfortunate, but he still had a very good year," Jackson said. "He started out the season playing great basketball, and he did a good job as captain of being smart and vocal."
The other player in double figures was junior forward Craig Roosendaal (Shoreline/King's). He averaged 13.2 points and 3.4 rebounds a game and was Western's top long-range threat. Roosendaal was 77-of-162 on 3-pointers, leading the Vikings in attempts, makes and 3-point percentage (.475). He ranked fourth in the conference and 15th nationally in 3-point percentage, and second in the GNAC and 26th nationally in 3-point makes per game (3.1). After a bit of a slow start, he hit 52.2 percent of his treys over his last 17 games, and had a season-high 25 points in a 102-100 double overtime loss to Humboldt State, which eventually reached the national semifinals.
"That's why we recruited him, we wanted a bigger guy (6-foot-7) who could be an outside threat," Jackson said. "He is a shooter, he likes to take big shots, and he can also put it on the floor, which makes him difficult to guard. We asked him to do some different things, but he got more and more confident as the season went on."
The Vikings used a number of players at center. Junior Rod Picou (Oakland, CA/Castlemont) was the usual starter and contributed 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds, but two freshmen also saw extensive time. Grant Assink (Lynden) averaged 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds, and shot a team-best 61.9 percent (78-of-126) from the field, including 10-of-14 (71.4 percent) on 3-pointers. He would have been second in the GNAC in field goal percentage, but was nine short of the minimum attempts to qualify. Lukas Henne (Bremerton/Central Kitsap) averaged 5.7 points and 2.9 rebounds, and led the team in blocked shots (1.0).
"It was our biggest question coming into the season because everybody there was new," Jackson said. "We played it by committee and we had some guys who did a good job for us. It was an ongoing process for us to develop consistency, and it showed against some teams."
The first guard off the bench was usually sophomore Kyle Jackson (Bellingham/Sehome). The son of the head coach, he averaged 6.6 points and 2.2 assists. Senior Stefan Dickason (Kent/Kentridge) provided even more backcourt depth, averaging 4.2 points and often drawing the toughest perimeter defensive assignment.
"Kyle did very well," the elder Jackson said. "He's gained strength and confidence and he makes other players better. With Stefan, you knew you'd get great effort. He really improved in his time here and he brought a spark that was really noticeable. He endeared himself to his teammates."
Sophomore forward Darrell Visser (Lynden) played in 22 games, averaging 1.5 points and 1.1 rebounds. Junior forward James Laurence (Kent/Kent-Meridian), who also played wide receiver on the Western football team, and junior center Rubens Martinelli (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) also saw time on the front line.
Sophomore guard Preston Vermeulen (Sumas/Nooksack Valley) made the most of limited action. He was in 16 games, scoring 29 points in 39 minutes of play.
Opponents scored 97 or more points eight times, and the Vikings won just one of those games. Conversely, Western was 16-3 when holding the opposition to 90 or less, including a 12-1 mark at 80 or less. Western opponents shot 49.6 percent from the field.
The Vikings were an outstanding shooting team. They ranked 12th nationally in 3-point percentage (.413), 21st in 3-point makes (8.9) and 25th in free throw percentage (.742). Western also took care of the ball, committing just 14.9 turnovers a game while forcing 18.0.
"We played together well, so we were able to score at a pretty good clip," Jackson said. "We were really fun to watch, and we were never out of a game."
Jackson also said he was pleased with the effort the team gave throughout the season.
"We were a very good practice team. There were only maybe two or three days all year where we had to get after them. The guys came in with a sense of purpose every day, and they enjoyed playing with each other."
Western Washington Vikings Sidebar Links
|Email this article||Printer-friendly format|