By Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson is a desk editor for The Seattle Times who also covers golf and horse racing. He was born in Seattle and went to Rainier Beach High School and the University of Washington.
I grew up in Seattle and have lived in this city for about 35 of my 50 years, but until Thursday night I had never been to a Seattle Pacific University men’s basketball game. In fact, until a couple of weeks ago, I am not sure if I had ever stepped on campus, which is odd since SPU is one of three colleges I applied to before deciding upon Washington.
I admit that I didn’t have huge expectations when I took my 6-year-old daughter to see Seattle Pacific play Alaska Fairbanks. I am working on a story on the Falcons’ 6-foot-8 senior, Patrick Simon, who years ago made headlines when he committed to Washington State – as a ninth-grader.
Simon told me about great team chemistry, how unlike most college teams that have cliques, this group was completely together.
Players like to say that, so I didn’t think much of it, but then I saw it on the court. This was no stand-around offense. It’s motion, motion, motion, and invariably a Falcon would finally break free for either a layup or come off a screen for an open three-pointer.
Either way, the Falcons didn’t miss often. They shot a remarkable 61.9 percent (26 of 42) from the field and even better from three-point range (9 of 13). In one game this year, the team was 19 of 24 from three-point range.
Brougham Pavilion is a great place to watch a game. You’re close enough to hear what coaches are yelling, and I thought it was a mistake when I bought a 20-ounce Diet Pepsi and popcorn and was told it cost $2.75. It wasn’t a mistake.
But the biggest surprise was the quality of basketball. While most of the top players at the Division II level may lack the athleticism to be Division I stars, I saw shooters that any Division I coach would envy.
David Downs, the senior point guard from Bellevue Christian, was the coaches’ preseason player of the year in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. He is averaging about 21 points, and I was expecting to see a player who would be jacking up shots at every opportunity.
What I saw was a player who could make a shot from 27 feet if left alone for even a second, but never took a bad shot. He got his points all right, 23 of them, but on just nine shots. He made eight of them, including 4 of 5 on three-point attempts. He was 3 for 3 from the foul line, and he had no turnovers in 26 minutes.
Count me as impressed. So was my daughter Elizabeth.
“If you ask me, Dad, it’s a good thing No. 2 is on Seattle Pacific’s team,” she said.
Elizabeth had a great time. She talked with the cheerleaders at halftime, ate the cheap but tasty popcorn, loved chanting “S-P-U! S-P-U!” and got mad when her dad didn’t join in.
She wants to go to another Seattle Pacific game.
And so does her dad.
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