By Colin Zalewski
In case you weren’t sure, we’re in a golden age of Whitworth basketball. If you weren’t in the Fieldhouse last Saturday night, you had better have been on your honeymoon, otherwise there is no excuse for missing the last and the biggest home game of the season. As the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and once again No. 1 in the country, all I can say is, let’s go Bucs!
This is Whitworth’s fifth consecutive year in the NCAA tournament, and we’ve been spoiled. Some schools have to deal with watching some terrible teams and players. What does it take to be a successful basketball team? Good team basketball. What about the No.1 team in the country? Amazing players playing amazing team basketball, and that’s what we’ve got in our Bucs.
Coach Jim Hayford has brought in and developed some incredible players over the past five years. I believe in giving credit where it is due, so here is a list of the top five players of the past five years:
5. Ross Nakamura (’09) – Ross will go down as one of the best point guards in the Whitworth basketball history. He transformed the point guard position for the Pirates with his ability to pass and shoot from anywhere on the court. Alongside honorary mention, center Calvin Jurich (’09), Ross was the turning point in the establishment of the Pirates’ Northwest Conference dynasty.
4. David Riley (‘11) – The best three-point shooter in school history, David has been a keystone player his entire career. He is averaging nearly 17 points per game in his senior season and is almost 43 percent shooting from behind the arc. David’s contribution as a lights-out shooter has transformed the Whitworth offensive attack into a dynamic, nearly unstoppable force.
3. Nate Montgomery (’10) – A Second Team All-American in his senior season, Nate’s play at the center position led Whitworth to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. Along with another honorary mention, point guard Eric Beal (’10), Nate established Whitworth on a national level. His contribution to Whitworth basketball is perfectly indicated by the fact that Whitworth went to the NCAA tournament every year of Nate’s career.
2. Ryan Symes (’08) – Ryan was a First Team All-American and averaged more than 28 points per game in his senior year. As a small forward, he was the LeBron James of Whitworth with his incredible ability to shoot from the outside, get to the hole and sky for rebounds. Ryan Symes is quite simply the greatest four-year basketball player in Whitworth history.
1. Mike Taylor (’11) – Known by his teammates and coaches as “Extra Crispy,” Mike is without argument the best player in school history. As a Division I transfer this year, the only downside of Mike Taylor is that he will have only played one season for the Pirates. Mike averages more than 36 minutes per game, nearly 20 points per game, almost five rebounds per game and is shooting well over 50 percent from the floor on the season. Quite simply, Mike is arguably the best point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward in Pirate basketball history. Mike’s play is best described by senior Colin Sanders, “Every time he gets the ball, I just know everything’s going to be okay.”