Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three Exemplary Seniors

Ryan Watkins
Without Watkins’ offensive rebounds and second-chance points, Boise State would not be 19-10 but would be a .500 team.  His improvement from his freshman year has been amazing, so much so that he is being talked about not only as an All-Mountain West Conference player, but an NBA player as well.  Ask a Bronco fan which Boise State basketball player has ever given more effort than Watkins, been more of a workhorse, and helped his team out more, and they are hard-pressed to come up with an answer. 

This season, Number 0 has started all 29 games, connecting on 127 of 227 shots (55.9%).  He has hit 78 of 105 from the free-throw line (74.3%), pulled down 311 rebounds (10.7 average) and is credited with 26 blocked shots, 27 assists and 23 steals.  Ryan is the all-time Mountain West Conference leader in single-season rebounds, and his intelligent placement of his body and fierce tenacity have resulted in an incredible 145 offensive boards.  They do not keep that statistic in the Bronco record books, but if they did, Ryan very well might have a single-season record. 

In fact, Watkins leads the nation with 145 offensive rebounds this year.  That is the 29th-most in a season since 1996-97, and only 22 players have reached 150 in a year in that time.

With three more rebounds, Watkins will tie Bruce Bolden for third-place all-time in career rebounds; Ryan currently has 764.  Should he maintain his season rebounding average of 10.7, Watkins would rank fourth behind Steve Wallace (11.0) in single-season rebounding.  With four more points, Watkins will join the 1,000-point career club at Boise State.  

Last year, Ryan started in 32 games and averaged 8.4 points.  He hit 61.7% of his shots (111-180), eighth-best in Boise State history.  He averaged 6.8 rebounds a game to rank eighth in the Mountain West, with 3.16 a game coming on the offensive glass (third in the conference).  Watkins scored in double figures 11 times and posted double figures in rebounding seven times.  Ryan had five double-doubles on the season—his 18 rebounds against Fresno State  were tied for the best in the conference.  He had 10 offensive rebounds and 17 total in Boise State’s dominating win over LSU of the SEC. 

In the 2011-2012 season, Watkins started 16 games, averaging 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds.  He scored in double figures nine times, and ranked seventh in the MWC with 1.90 offensive rebounds a game. 

Watkins started 23 games as a freshman, setting a school record for games played (35) as a freshman.  Ryan averaged 5.7 points and 3.5 rebounds a game, and hit 74 of 141 shots (51.8%). 

Thomas Bropleh 

The same that can be said about Watkins can be said about Bropleh.  Boise State very well could be a .500 team, as Thomas has won three or four games for the Broncos with his clutch shooting. 

Bropleh has blossomed into a force this year in the Mountain West, both offensively and defensively.  Thomas has done everything asked of him and more.  When called upon to guard one of the “twin towers” of New Mexico, he performed admirably, despite giving up five inches and more than 50 pounds to his opponent, enabling Boise State to score a win in Taco Bell Arena. 

Bropleh has started four games this season, improving his game dramatically down the stretch.  He has hit 73-147 (49.7%) from the field, including pinpoint three-point shooting (38-85 for 44.7%), and is the team’s best free-throw shooter at 86.1% (31-36).  In addition, Thomas has 70 rebounds (2.4 per game), 35 assists, 10 steals and two blocked shots.  Bropleh has averaged 7.4 points a game this year, but he is just coming off a game in which he singlehandedly brought Boise State back from a double digit deficit with 20 points as the Broncos defeated Wyoming. 

Last year, Bropleh played in 30 games and averaged 3.5 points.  As a sophomore, Bropleh played in all 30 games with 11 starts.  He averaged 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, and hit 29-86 three-point attempts (33.7%).  Against #12 UNLF, Bropleh had 17 points and 13 rebounds.  Thomas was named to the Mountain West Academic All-Conference team. 

As a freshman, Bropleh played in 34 of 35 games, including a start against #20 Utah State.  He averaged 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. 
Jeff Elorriaga
Elorriaga is another sharpshooter, putting up career three-point shooting numbers that will be hard for many ahead of him to catch.  Bothered by nagging injuries, most the result of his desire to put the team's needs ahead of himself (such as taking charges and diving for loose balls), Elorriaga has still started 22 games and played in 26, averaging 7.2 points a game.  He has been successful on 61-of-133 shots (45.9%), shooting nearly that well from behind the arc (53-116 for 45.7%).  Jeff has also contributed in other phases of the game, pulling down 54 rebounds (2.1 avg.), while dishing out 30 assists and getting 16 steals. 

In 2012-13, Elorriaga started 29 games and was the third-leading scorer on the team with 10.2 points a game.  He led the Mountain West Conference and was sixth in the nation in three-point percentage (44.7%), hitting 84 of 188 tries.  It was the fifth-best single-season percentage in school history.  Jeff’s 84 three-pointers are tied with Tyler Tiedeman (2007-08) for the second-most in single-season history.  Elorriaga rained in 10 treys against Corban to set a school and conference record.  It was just the 23rd time that a college player had hit 10 three-pointers in a game since the NCAA moved the line back in 2008.   

Elorriaga scored in double figures 13 times his junior year.  He led his team with 33.86 minutes per game.  Jeff nailed two three-pointers in the final 31 seconds against #25 Wyoming, including a buzzer beater that gave the Broncos a 63-61 win. 

Jeff started 16 games and played in 26 his sophomore season, averaging 6.0 points and 2.4 rebounds a game.  After the season, Jeff was named All-Academic by the Mountain West Conference. 

Elorriaga started 11 games as a freshman, and his importance to the team was evident in Boise State’s 9-2 record with him in the starting lineup.  Jeff averaged 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds in his first season in Boise.  Elorriaga led the team in steals five times, including a career-high four in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship Game against Utah State.  

Elorriaga now has 204 three-pointers in his Bronco career, having recently passed Eric Lane (199) for fourth place all-time.  Jeff needs seven to tie Paul Noonan (2007-2011) for third.   

Three Broncos, three exemplary seniors who have poured everything they have into making themselves and Boise State better.  Ryan Watkins, Thomas Bropleh and Jeff Elorriaga will be saluted on Senior Night prior to the big basketball game with Nevada tomorrow night in Boise. 

Ryan, Thomas and Jeff:  Bronco Nation is blessed to have watched you the past four years at Boise State!