Sports Roundup: Sputtering Husky b-ball teams, ex-Dawgs, M's

Northwest Sports Blog: Mike Henderson looks at the events, trends, and the games around the games.
Northwest Sports Blog: Mike Henderson looks at the events, trends, and the games around the games.

The Husky basketball teams seem to be taking mid-season breathers, blowing four recent games in Los Angeles, banking, perhaps, on being rested for the post-season Pac-10 tournaments. Neither the men's nor women's team is likely to win the March events, ergo, neither would seem to be headed for NCAA tourney berths.

It doesn't mean there isn't a lot of good college basketball left to watch in the Northwest. It just means there won't be much in the way of greatness, unless you count the Tuesday clash between the Dawg men and the Seattle University Redhawks. The latter, back playing major college hoops, will mount the initial challenge for the 12-7 Huskies.

The Husky men and the 8-10 UW women will take on their co-equals from Wazzu later in the week. All the above games are televised.

Emerging ex-Dawgs: Brockman, golfer Alex Prugh

In the absence of greatness associated with Husky sports lately, it'ꀙs worth noting that two fair-haired boys from the UW are distinguishing themselves in the world beyond our provincial confines.

One is Jon Brockman. Many mused after his four-year Husky playing days that the burly forward would be an odd fit for the NBA. Drafted last year to be a teammate of one-time Husky Spencer Hawes of the Sacramento Kings, Brockman saw limited play time off the bench earlier this season. Lately, though, he'ꀙs been starting for the unremarkable (unmonarchical?) Kings, 15-28 through Saturday.

The other emerging star from Dawgland: Alex Prugh, lingering at the top of the leader board at the Bob Hope Classic, the latest stop on the PGA tour. The 25-year-old Spokane native won the New Zealand Open on last year'ꀙs Nationwide Tour. Northwest viewers would have loved seeing him compete in the Sunday leg of the five-day Hope pro-and-amateur pageant, but the coverage directors for Golf Channel preferred interviewing B-list thespians (Kurt Russell, John O'Hurley, e.g.), that and showing Alice Cooper hitting sand-trap shots.

Maybe Monday (11:30 a.m.) channel officials will deign to feature the tourney co-leaders (Prugh and Bubba Watson), and perhaps even Puyallup'ꀙs Ryan Moore, just four shots from the lead.

Ain't Seattle great?

Greatness has eluded many Seattle-area sports organizations, mainly those of the professional variety and specifically where game performance is concerned.

But "great"ness has been in abundance the past fortnight at glam press conferences introducing new personnel or, perhaps more importantly, reintroducing Felix Hernandez after the prized right-hander signed to a five-year, $78 million contract extension. It means much more than a princely sum for King Felix, who probably will play for the Seattle Mariners at least until the team has won the World Series the next five years.

It also means the reiteration of the "G" word. Hernandez said at the press conference what new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Hawks fledgling G.M. John Schneider had mouthed recently at similar press events: This is all happening because Seattle is a "great" place and its sports institutions themselves are, well, "great."

As a 38-year resident, I agree about the merit of the city, especially when there's no accumulated snow. As for the sports orgs, the only local "great" one claimed the 1979 N.B.A. championship and now plays in Oklahoma. Great, right?

Could be that Hernandez, perhaps destined to be the, er, greatest pitcher in baseball going forward, signed to stay with the M's simply because it could help assure domestic tranquility. The American League Cy Young '09 runner-up repeatedly said at the Jan. 21 press bash, that is, that his decision was heavily influenced by the opinion of his wife. She wants to stay in Seattle, thinks it's "great."

The clad hatters

The greatest golfer born in Washington state is, of course, Fred Couples but that undisputed truism could soon change. Couples, he of the sweetest swing since Don Bies reigned as the state'ꀙs best, turned 50 last year and said the other day that he plans to play selected PGA Tour events this season, along with engagements on the Champions (nee, Seniors) Tour.

Within a few years Freddy may be remembered as second best. Ryan Moore, seemingly healthy after a nagging hand injury, won a late-season tournament last year and started the 2010 campaign by placing sixth in Hawaii at the initial PGA event, banking about $200 grand.

Moore, 27, who played his formative-years pasture pool at The Classic (a layout his dad owns and runs in Spanaway) is the rare golfer to have gone straight from college to the PGA Tour. Like prior Washington links prodigies, he already has displayed a few endearing quirks. One is a Jim Furyk-like hitch in his golf swing (it lacks the elegance of those of Bies and Couples).

Another is the hat thing.

Bies often played without sporting a chapeau. Couples has usually preferred a visor on top of his thick, graying thatch. Then there'ꀙs Kirk Triplett, the Pullman-bred pro who duffs under a 'ꀜbucket'ꀝ hat, dubbed by one online wag as 'ꀜthe Gilligan look.'ꀝ

Moore mostly has preferred a Fidel Castro-style cap, disparaged by golf commentators as 'ꀜa painter'ꀙs hat.'ꀝ He also, unlike most golf pros, eschews NASCAR-style logo endorsements on his clothing.

That'ꀙs why it was surprising to see him on TV earlier this month wearing a more traditional ball cap. Perhaps the recent public acceptance of the Castro cap (stroll most university campuses and you'ꀙll see about a hundred of them per minute) will result in Moore seeking other sartorial unorthodoxy.

What he'ꀙll mostly be seeking this season is more tournament victories. Many believe he'ꀙll at least be in contention during one or more of the four PGA majors this year and could even become the first state-bred player to win one since Couples prevailed in the 1992 Masters. If it happens, Moore could probably start wearing a diamond-studded tiara to tournaments without having his head-gear savaged by golf'ꀙs fashion mavens.

Who's on second?

Some baseball execs publicly talk a lot and privately swap a little. Jack Zduriencik is just the opposite. The Seattle Mariners general manager has quietly but relentlessly rebuilt the franchise, so that the only remaining starting player from the end of the 2008 season may be Ichiro Suzuki when the '10 season commences. That would happen if, as many believe, Jose Lopez isn'ꀙt long for the second-base starter'ꀙs job.

Jack-Z already has brought in three surrounding infielders, including Chone Figgins (from the Angels) at third and Casey Kotchman (from the Red Sox) at first. The shortstop presumably will be Jack Wilson, injured after having been acquired last July from the Pirates.

One hopes the GM is on the honker for the immediate future trying to talk some gullible front-office boss out of a quality catcher: the one position that remains utterly suspect going into spring training next month. Those of us who wanted something better that Kenji Johjima behind the plate the past four seasons may live to regret that Joh took his American League .268 batting average and went back to Japan.


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