When the Mid-Majority Baller Of The Week award made its debut last week, I never expected that it would be argued about in sports bars across the nation, become the target of intense lobbying by athletic directors, or gain a cherished place in college basketball fans' hearts. At least, not right away. So there will be no scrap-heap for this honor, which is intended to showcase superhero-like performances by mid-major stars.
This week's MMBOW nod goes to 6-7 junior forward Travis Niesen
of the Santa Clara
Broncos, a team that did their part in perpetuating the Sports Illustrated cover jinx by thrashing ACC powerhouse North Carolina
77-66 on Friday night at the Pete Newell Challenge.
Broncos coach Dick Davey says of Travis, "He is a bit undersized for his position and relies a great deal on taking the ball to the basket."
And on Friday night, take it to the basket he did. Niesen scored a career-high 26 points on torrid 10-for-14 shooting, and went 6-for-8 from the line. He scored six of the first nine Bronco points in the second half, as his team started pulling away in those all-important first five minutes.
Travis was the team's third-leading scorer last season, averaging nine points a game. Remember that this was the Santa Clara team that pushed Gonzaga to within a point of its life
in the West Coast Conference semifinals, a game in which he scored what could have been the winning bucket with 25 seconds left (Ronny Turiaf ruined that a few seconds later). He's followed the standard trajectory of limited action during freshman year, appearances in all games during sophomore year, so his junior season could be his chance to shine.
According to Santa Clara's website
, Travis likes surfing, volleyball and playing the guitar - sounds like a pretty normal kid from Mission Viejo. And, look! His favorite superhero is Superman... an apt choice for someone so deserving of this honor: Mid-Majority Baller Of The Week.