Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bronco Seniors, First and Foremost...

What these five student-athletes have brought to Boise State has been nothing short of amazing.  Playing without their leading scorer, and shorthanded by as many as five players during one stretch of the season, these five seniors led the Broncos to one of the best seasons in school history, accomplishing many "firsts" along the way.

This season, Boise State:

  • set a school record with 13 conference victories to tie San Diego State for the lead in the Mountain West Conference.
  • set a school record with 23 regular season victories.
  • became one of only eleven schools in the last 35 years to win 10 regular season games in football and 20 regular season games in basketball.
  • set a school record by holding five conference opponents under 50 points.
  • set a school record by holding nine opponents under 50 points.  The existing record, set by the 1987-88 team, was six.
  • became currently one of 35 teams in the nation to win 20 games in three consecutive seasons.
  • became the first Boise State team to win at San Diego State.
  • became the first Boise State team to win at UNLV.
  • became the first Boise State team to win at New Mexico.
  • became the first Boise State team to win at Utah State.
  • became the first Boise State team to sweep each of the above four schools in a season.

The 2014-15 Broncos also have a shot at two more records.  Boise State has never won both a football and basketball regular season championship in the same school year.  The football team did its part last fall, and now the basketball team can accomplish the same.  The current Broncos also have a chance to tie or beat the existing school record for wins in a season.  The 2007-08 Boise State team won 25 games, including postseason play. 

It truly has been an historic basketball season.  But Coach Rice and the Bronco players would be the first to tell you that what's past is past.  They are hoping to accomplish even greater things Saturday night and beyond.  And to help them do that, these five great Boise State seniors!

Igor Hadziomerovic
6-4 Guard
Hadziomerovic became one of the first players of the famous Boise State-Aussie Connection.  Igor played for the Australian Institute of Sport, and led the Australia U-19 National team to a sixth-place finish at the World Championships.  Right away, his shooting, driving to the basket, and pure hustle made him a favorite among Bronco fans.  He played in 15 games as a freshman, and Coach Leon Rice inserted "Iggy" into his starting lineup four times, making Hadziomerovic the first freshman to start at Boise State since Coby Karl in 2003-04.  Hadziomerovic averaged 4.9 points and 1.5 rebounds that first year, including an 18-point performance against Cal State Northridge, a season-high of seven assists against Indiana State, and a team-leading five rebounds against LSU.

Iggy continued to get better and improve his overall game the following year.  He was a key factor in helping Boise State begin its streak of 20-win seasons in 2012-13, starting 26 games.  Hadziomerovic averaged 5.2 points, 2.0 assists, and nearly 3 rebounds per game.  Once gain, Iggy picked a game with LSU to register his season high in rebounds with six.  He had at least four assists in seven games in helping the Broncos to a 21-13 record, fifth place finish in the Mountain West, and Boise State's first-ever at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, Hadziomerovic played in 32 games, including 17 starts, grabbing a career-high eight rebounds against South Carolina (there's an SEC theme here).  Iggy had 13 points and six assists at New Orleans.  Playing a reduced role on an increasingly talented Boise State team, Hadziomerovic never failed to give 110% to do everything possible to make the Broncos a better team, diving for every loose ball, hitting open teammates, and doing everything he was asked to do and more.  Iggy averaged 3.7 points, 1.5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds last year.
In this amazing season, Hadziomerovic has done more of the same:  hustle, unselfishness, an uncanny ability to drive to the basket, hitting the open jumper, and feeding the ball to open teammates.   With 15 starts so far this year, Iggy has 139 points and is just 13 away from his career high of 152 as a sophomore.  Hadziomerovic has hit double figures three times, including a 10-point performance in helping the Broncos defeat Colorado State.  Iggy is averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds a game for 23-7 Boise State.  Hadziomerovic is enjoying his best shooting season, going 49-105 (46.7%) and making opponents pay with his long-range bombs (15-33 3-point shooting for 45.5%).  He is three rebounds shy of a career-high in that department as well.

For his career, Hadziomerovic has played in 105 games, hitting 177-of-438 field goal attempts (40.4%), going 43-137 from behind the arc (31.4%), and 87-145 (60.0%) from the free-throw stripe.  Iggy has scored 486 points, an average of 4.6 per game.  But his contributions go far beyond that.  Iggy has 293 career rebounds, 212 assists, 64 steals, and 14 blocked shots.

Joe Hanstad
6-4 Guard
Hanstad came to Boise State from Dickinson High School in North Dakota, where he was a four-time all-conference selection and averaged over 25 points a game his senior season.  Joe played in 18 games in his freshman season, including 5 starts.  Hanstad averaged 3.3 points and 1.2 rebounds, and in his first collegiate start, led Boise State with 19 points and 5 rebounds against Air Force, including four 3-pointers.  He also paced the Broncos with 13 points against Wyoming.  At the conclusion of the season, Joe was named Mountain West Academic All-Conference and received the conference's Scholar-Athlete Award.

The following season, Joe played in 22 games, including two starts.  He scored 10 points and had five assists and three steals against Corban, then matched the three steals against Utah.  Hanstad finished the year averaging 1.4 points a game.

As a junior, Hanstad played in 15 games.  Once again, Joe received the Mountain West Scholar-Athlete Award, and he was named to the NABC Honors Court.   

This year, Joe has played in 19 games, providing a spark off the bench with his shooting ability.  Hanstad is averaging 2.3 points a game with nine 3-pointers, two shy of his career high. 

In his Boise State career, Joe has played in 74 games, going 47-117 from the field (40.2%), sinking 26-of-81 three-point tries for 32.1%, and hitting 75.8% of his free-throw tries (25-33).  Hanstad also has 56 rebounds, 42 assists, 18 steals, and 3 blocked shots.

Rob Heyer
6-3 Guard
What a find this guy has been.  Coach Leon Rice found a diamond in the rough with Heyer, who transferred to Boise State after playing two seasons of junior college and a year at Texas-Permian Basin.  Heyer also quickly became a crowd favorite with his all-out hustle, basketball I.Q., great shooting ability and intense defense.  His ability to snare offensive rebounds has given the Broncos numerous second-chance opportunities, and Boise State would not be in the conference lead without him.

While redshirting last season as a transfer, Heyer was named to the NABC Honors Court. 

This year, Rob has played in 30 games, and has been one of Boise State's best shooters at 50.5% (46-91).  He has also canned 38.3% (18-47) of his three-point attempts and 84.4% of his free throws (27-32), along with the aforementioned knack of pulling down rebounds (94), 23 assists, 14 steals, and 7 blocked shots.  To date, Heyer is averaging 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.  He is a huge and vital cog in the Bronco basketball machine.

Jake Ness
6-8 Forward
This homegrown talent from Coeur d'Alene helped Billings West High School in Montana to a state championship his junior season, and a runner-up finish at the state tournament his senior year, in addition to lettering four years in tennis and twice in football. 

Ness enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy for two years, helping his team to a 22-0 record before falling in the semifinals of the 2011 National College Preparatory Basketball Tournament. 

In 2012-13, Ness played in 14 games, and posted a career-high three steals against Walla Walla, as well as giving his team 17 minutes in Boise State's 63-61 victory over #25 Wyoming. 

Last year, Ness contributed in 14 games off the bench, grabbing four rebounds and blocking a shot.  At the conclusion of the season, Jake was named to the NABC Honors Court.

For his career, Ness has 12 points, 28 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals, and 4 blocks.

Derrick Marks
6-3 Guard
Marks has always been a great playmaker, and one of Boise State's top scorers.  But this season, it is safe to say that after teammate Anthony Drmic went down with a season-ending injury, everyone from coaches to teammates, fans, opponents, and the national media have marveled at the complete basketball player that Derrick has become.  His long-range shooting has improved immensely.  While without question carrying the team on his shoulders at times, he has at the same time proved his unselfishness, using opponents' strategy of keying on him and double-teaming him against them by dishing the ball off to open teammates for scores.

While Marks has always been great driving to the hoop, he has perfected that art, finding the ability to kiss the ball high off the glass for highlight reel baskets.  He has also perfected his defense, fitting right in with Boise State's new-found ability to shut down opponents.  Derrick is arguably the most talented basketball player in school history, as evidenced by his four Mountain West Player of the Week honors this season--that's the most by anyone in the conference since Jimmer Fredette of BYU.

Marks showed his offensive ability at Plainfield Central High School in Chicago, Illinois, where he averaged over 25 points as a senior, including a 42-point outburst in which he connected on 22-22 free throws.
As a freshman, Marks was one of two Broncos to appear in all 30 games, including 13 starts.  Once Derrick broke the starting lineup against TCU, he was a fixture for Coach Rice.  Marks averaged 9.4 points a game, second on the team, and second amongst freshman in the Mountain West.  He also averaged 3.4 rebounds per contest, and led the Broncos with 63 assists (fifth all-time for a Boise State freshman).  Marks netted 21 points against #12 UNLV, and with two 20-point games, is one of only five Broncos with multiple 20-point games in the last 24 years.  For the season, Derrick was 96-194 (49.5%) and pulled down 102 rebounds and posted 24 steals and 12 blocked shots.  At the conclusion of the season, Marks was named Honorable Mention All-Mountain West Conference.

The following year, Marks and the Broncos began to climb the ladder in the Mountain West Conference.  Derrick started all 31 games, and averaged 16.3 points a game, sixth in the conference.  He also ranked third in the MW with 3.94 assists per game.  Marks was a three-time Mountain West Player of the Week, tied for most in the league.  Derrick's 504 points rank 16th on Boise State's all-time single-season list.  He scored in double figures 24 times, including eight 20-point games and three 30-point games, a school record.  Marks ranked fourth in the conference in field goal percentage (46.6% on 169-363 shooting), and second in free throw percentage (83.7% on 144-172).  The latter is sixth-best in school history.  Derrick also led the conference in steals, averaging 1.81 per game. 
He scored a career-high 38 points against Colorado State, including 33 in the second half, the fifth-highest point total ever at Boise State.  Marks then poured in 35 points as Boise State defeated #11 Creighton.  He also posted a career-high nine assists twice, a career-high six steals against Seattle, and a career-high nine rebounds against San Diego State.  Marks finished the year with 118 rebounds, 122 assists, 56 steals, and 14 blocked shots.  Derrick was named to the All-Mountain West Second Team at the end of the season.

Last year, Marks started 33 games and appeared in all 34, averaging 14.9 points a game.  He was third in the conference with 1.5 steals a game, and led Boise State with 2.6 assists per game.  Marks also averaged 3.4 rebounds a game.  During the year, Marks became the 24th Bronco to top the 1,000-point mark.  He blitzed Idaho with 39 points, with 27 of those coming in the second half.  In the game, Marks set a school record with 21 free throws (21-23).  Derrick had a season-high eight rebounds against Nevada, scored 23 points against #14 Iowa State, and dished out seven assists against Hawai'i.  Marks joined teammate Anthony Drmic as the fourth and fifth Broncos to score at least 500 points in a season twice.  Derrick also had 114 rebounds, 89 assists, 51 steals, and 10 blocks.  Marks was once again named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention.

This year, Derrick has enjoyed a season for the ages.  Stepping up his scoring, passing, defense, and overall play with the injury to Drmic, Marks is shooting 50.7% (204-402) from the field, nearly unheard of for a guard.  At least as remarkable, if not more so, is his three-point percentage this season, which is at least five points higher than his best season coming into 2014-15.  Marks is shooting a remarkable 47.8% from behind the arc (64-134), an even more impressive statistic when one considers that he is shooting nearly three times as many 3-pointers as he did as a sophomore.  Derrick's 204 field goals currently rank seventh on school history.  

Once again, Marks has been "money" at the free-throw line.  Shooting 79.6% this season (82-103), Derrick has a chance to record a third straight season over 80% in that area.  Marks is averaging 19.8 points and 3.6 rebounds a game, all the while having to also play a considerable amount of time at point guard.  He has 554 points (eighth-most for a single season at Boise State)102 rebounds, 84 assists, 52 steals, and 14 blocked shots so far in the season.    

Marks leads the Mountain West in scoring (19.8 ppg) and three-point percentage (47.8%), and is second in free throw percentage (79.6%) and three-pointers (64), third in steals (1.9 per game), fourth in field goal percentage (50.7%), sixth with a 1.4 assists to turnover ratio, and eighth in assists (3.0). 

With his 554 points this season, Marks joined legendary Tanoka Beard as the only two Broncos to score 500 points in a season three times.
For his stellar Boise State career, Derrick has hit 642-of-1,351 field goal attempts (47.5%), 112-271 (41.3%), and 449-565 (79.5%) of his free throw tries.  He is averaging exactly 15 points a game, and has 1,845 points (third in school history), 436 rebounds, 438 assists (sixth all-time), 183 steals, and 50 blocks.  Marks ranks third in career field goals,second in field goal attempts, and second in both free throws and free throw attempts.

Those are the five young men whose ability and leadership have catapulted Boise State to the top of the Mountain West Conference and in the discussion as one of the best basketball teams in the country.  A sellout crowd will be on hand Saturday against Fresno State to give these seniors their just due.  It's a moment not to be missed.

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