At the start of the season, folks thought the Big Sky conference would play out as usual - last year's Dancers Eastern Washington
, traditional powerhouse Weber State
, maybe one of the Montana schools would be in the mix. Nobody - and I mean nobody
- saw Portland State
coming. The Vikings had only 11 wins last season, and that six-game upswing from 2002-03 stood as the biggest improvement
in the league. They now stand at 16-6 overall and 8-2 in conference, have won 12 of their last 14 games, and are locked into one-seed position headed down the stretch. A big reason for PSU's surprise surge is the increasingly hands-down Big Sky Player Of The Year. Seamus Boxley is our thirteenth Mid-Majority Baller Of The Week.Boxley
is a 6'7", 220-lb. fifth-year senior forward for the "Viks." In a 84-81 win at Northern Arizona
last Thursday, number 42 in green lit up the Lumberjacks for 32 points on 12-for-16 shooting, adding 13 rebounds (seven of which were of the offensive variety). PSU completed a southern-swing sweep on Saturday, beating Sacramento State
at the Hornets' Nest 71-66; Boxley dub-dubbed again, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 boards.
He's averaging 20 points a game and 7.5 rebounds this season; on the national charts, he's hovering in the top 25 for scoring and in the top 15 for field goal percentage. But his calling card is a leaping, thrusting blocked shot; Seamus' swats fire up his teammates and the increasingly large home crowds, many of whom are Trail Blazer ex-pats hungry for a winning team. Foreseeing that national journalists may be coming to call as the Vikings become increasingly likely Tournament participants, the PSU athletics office is putting out "Meet Seamus Boxley"
news releases. He's all over the school's front page
"Seamus Boxley is probably the best player in the league right now," says
Mick Durham, head coach of current second-place Montana State
. "Portland State has so much experience back from last year, with Will Funn and Antone Jarrell and Blake Walker."
And it's true, the Vikings are not all about the big guy. Boxley is surrounded by solid senior support: the BSC's leading assist man Funn; a forward with explosive leaping ability in Jarrell; and Walker, a 6'5' guard with a 13.7 PPG who picks up the scoring slack when Boxley has a rare off-night.
Seamus hails from the Seattle area, where he was a two-time hoops letterwinner at Mountlake Terrace High. Upon arrival at Portland State in 2000-01, he was named co-frosh of the year in the conference. He then took a redshirt during his junior year to nurse a surgically-repaired left hand. "I learned a lot that year and matured mentally as well as physically," he told
the Idaho State Journal
last month. "I was able to focus on my game with no real pressure of having to win or perform."
Last year, Seamus came back strong to earn a spot on the All-Big Sky first team and locked up Defensive Player Of The Year honors. And Seamus puts the "scholar" in scholar-athlete - he's got himself a 3.5 GPA
. He's not all about the books, though - when he's not working on his Business Administration degree or serving up Wilsonburgers to frightened Big Sky opponents, you can find him relaxing with music, friends, and/or NBA Live 2005. I seriously recommend that Seamus pick up ESPN College Hoops from his local Blockbuster, so he can start researching possible first-round Tournament opponents.