Vikings open season at West Coast Disney Tip-Off Classic

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Head Coach Brad Jackson
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Head Coach Brad Jackson
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Nov. 3, 2011

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BELLINGHAM, Wash - Making its second appearance in three seasons, the Western Washington University men's basketball team opens its 2011-12 campaign this weekend, competing in the fifth annual Disney West Coast Tip-Off Classic at Anaheim, Calif., in the 9,100-seat Anaheim Convention Center.

The Vikings, who won two of three games to claim the tourney title in 2009, meet Dominican University of California on Friday (7:30 p.m.), UC San Diego on Saturday (2:30 p.m.) and Chestnut Hill (Penn.) on Sunday (4 p.m.). All games can be heard live via internet radio on Radio Sports America at www.GoToros.com/live.

"It's a nice way to start the year," said WWU head coach Brad Jackson, who is beginning his 27th season just 13 wins shy of the 500 milestone. His 487 wins rank 13th among active NCAA Division II coaches and 44th overall.

"It's in a beautiful place, with great weather, and we're able to get the team together for a few days, have a chance to do a couple things outside basketball. Plus, from a coaching standpoint, we get to play early and get a good measure of where we're at. It's a win-win across the board."

WWU returns four starters from last year's squad that finished 16-11 and reached the first round of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament. Leading that quartet are 6-foot-1 junior point guard John Allen (Brier/Mountlake Terrace) and 6-6 senior forward Rory Blanche (Ashland, OR).

Allen earned second-team GNAC all-star honors last season, averaging 14.3 points a game, including 43 in a victory over Simon Fraser, the second highest point total ever by a WWU player and a school record at Sam Carver Gymnasium. The Washington State transfer also led WWU in assists (4.1) and steals (1.7), and shot 91.5 percent at the free-throw line (65-of-71), which ranked second nationally.

Blanche, a three-year letter winner, received honorable mention all-GNAC recognition in 2010-11, averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 62.8 percent from the field to rank 14th nationally.

Another returning first stringer, 6-5 senior center Zach Henifin (Bellingham), will start at center.

Completing the Vikings' first five are 6-3 junior guard Richard Woodworth (Bellevue/Newport), who was a redshirt last season while recovering from a wrist injury, and 6-4 junior forward Paul Jones (Kent/Kent-Meridian), who was not eligible last year after being an all-region pick at Whatcom CC in 2009-10, averaging 13.0 points and 8.7 rebounds.

Also expected to see significant action are 6-8 junior forward Chris Mitchell (Everson/Nooksack Valley), 6-3 senior forward Shedrick Nelson (Tacoma/Wilson), 6-3 sophomore guard Dane Thorpe (Bellingham/Sehome), 6-0 junior guard Rico Wilkins (Dallas, TX/DeSoto), and 6-10 senior center Dan Young (Federal Way/Lakewood).

Wilkins averaged 7.6 points and 4.4 assists in the first five games of 2010-11 before a ruptured Achilles' tendon ended his season. Mitchell averaged 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, Nelson 8.7 points, Young 4.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and a team-leading 1.0 blocks, and Thorpe 1.7 points.

Dominican, 4-22 last season, is a member of the Pacific West Conference. The Penguins are in their first year under coach Booker Harris.

UC San Diego is making its second straight Disney tourney appearance and third overall. The Toros, who are coming off an 11-17 season, represent the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).

Chestnut Hill, a member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC), has the longest trip as it travels from Philadelphia, Penn. The Griffins were 12-16 in 2010-11.

VIKING NOTES: Last year, three Vikings were named GNAC Academic all-stars - Blanche, Mitchell and 5-11 senior guard Anthony Wiederkehr (Lakewood). Blanche and Wiederkehr were both honored for the second time ... Two seasons ago, the Vikings finished 26-6, being host and top seed in the West Regional of the NCAA II National Tournament. They reached the regional semifinals before losing 76-75 in overtime to eventual national champion Cal Poly Pomona.

COACH JACKSON: Brad Jackson is in his 27th season, the longest tenure of any coach in WWU history in any sport. He is the most successful men's basketball coach in school history, both in total wins (487-274) and winning percentage (.640). Prior to this season, Jackson ranked No.13 among active NCAA II coaches in victories and No.44 overall.

Jackson has directed the Vikings to 19 post-season appearances and 11 20-win seasons during his tenure. Western reached the regional semifinals in 2009-10, losing 76-75 in overtime to eventual national champion Cal Poly Pomona.

The Jackson-led Vikings also have gotten to the NCAA II tournament in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2009. In 2001, they finished 27-4 record and reached the national semifinals, Jackson being named NABC/NCAA II West Region, Northwest small college and Pacific West Conference Coach of the Year.

RADIO BROADCASTS: Selected Western games are being broadcast this season on KBAI Radio (930 AM) with Doug Lange handling the play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing the color commentary. They also can be heard on the internet at www.wwuvikings.com.

ON THE WEB: All Viking home games are being video streamed live and are available free at http://wwu.nmtvsports.com. For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the Western Athletic web page at www.wwuvikings.com. Up-to-date league standings and statistics can be found on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference web page at www.gnacsports.com.

PROBABLE WESTERN STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:

G John Allen, 6-0, *Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace/Washington State
G Richard Woodworth, 6-3, **Jr., Bellevue/Newport
C Zach Henifin, 6-5, *Sr., Bellingham/Whatcom CC
F Paul Jones, 6-4, JC-Jr., Kent/Kent-Meridian/Whatcom CC
F Rory Blanche, 6-6, ***Sr., Ashland, OR/Ashland

F Chris Mitchell, 6-8, **Jr., Everson/Nooksack Valley F Shedrick Nelson, 6-3, *Sr., Tacoma/Wilson/Highline CC C Dan Young, 6-10, *Sr., Federal Way/Lakewood/Highline CC G Dane Thorpe, 6-3, *So, Bellingham/Sehome G Rico Wilkins, 6-0, Jr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto/Yakima Valley CC *letters

CARVER GYM CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY: Dedicated on March 30, 1962, WWU's Sam Carver Gymnasium is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season ... It is named for Sanford E. Carver, a NAIA Hall of Famer who was Western's first director of athletics and the chairman of the physical education department from 1914-55 ... Carver Gym was an addition to the existing physical education facility. It added 54,233 square feet of floor space at a cost of $1.04 million. The most significant addition was the present main gymnasium ... The facility opened in time for the 1961-62 basketball season, although it wasn't named for Carver until the dedication ceremony the following spring. Dr. James L. Jarrett, then Western's president, and Dr. E.V. Pullias, a professor at the University of Southern California, were the main speakers at the gathering ... Basketball has been one of the primary activities at Carver Gym. The Seattle Pacific men were Western's opponent in the first game played on the new floor on Dec. 6, 1961 ... The Viking men have racked up an impressive record during their time in the building, going 484-156 (.756) in 49 years.