Diamond Head Classic notebook: NCAA vetoes Boise State Christmas gift exchange

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 24, 2013 

— Leon Rice was planning a gift exchange between his players Tuesday, an off day at the Diamond Head Classic.

However, the Broncos were told it’s against NCAA rules, even if each player spent the same amount. Instead, the team will hold a team dinner, with players and coaches’ families there, too.

Of course, they have to pay — NCAA rules.

“It’ll be great. It’s my first time here, and my parents’ first time, too,’’ sophomore Mikey Thompson said. “It will be good to celebrate with my family and my Bronco family at the same time.’’

The Broncos likely will attend the Hawaii Bowl on Tuesday before having their Christmas Eve get-together. A majority of the players’ families made the trek to Oahu, but for those whose didn’t, the gathering will be the next best thing to being home for the holidays.

“It’s my first time not being able to make it home for Christmas, so I’m looking forward to it,’’ senior Thomas Bropleh said. “We always have a good Thanksgiving celebration, and we’re all tight-knit. It’ll be a good time.’’

What they would give

Boise State’s players won’t be giving gifts to one another Tuesday, but a few weighed in on what they could give if they had the chance. Some are comical.

• “I’d give (214-pound forward) Jake Ness a buffet every day for the rest of his life,’’ senior Thomas Bropleh said.

• For fellow senior Ryan Watkins, guard Jeff Elorriaga’s response was completely serious, albeit fairly funny. “Whatever Pokemon game he doesn’t have — he loves Pokemon,’’ Elorriaga said.

• Coach Leon Rice’s gift is a bit more magical. “I’d give every player on my team 6 inches of height,’’ he said.

Bropleh making big plays

The last time Boise State played in Hawaii on Jan. 8, 2011, Bropleh had 14 points and eight rebounds as a true freshman off the bench.

In his final season with the Broncos, he’s again a key bench player, and has made an impact at the Diamond Head Classic.

On Sunday against Hawaii, he pulled down a rebound, had an assist and madea 3-pointer in a 2-minute span. His 3 gave the Broncos their largest lead of the second half, 54-48 with 6:27 to play.

On Monday against South Carolina, he had nine points and a career-high five assists as the Broncos defeated the SEC program 80-54.

“I’ve always got to be ready, come in and do whatever the team needs,’’ Bropleh said. “I love my team, so I never get upset or stressed out if I’m not in.’’

More tourneys ahead?

Boise State hopes to play in more tournaments like the Diamond Head Classic in the future, though not always around Christmas.

Rice is hoping to get into tournaments earlier in the season, like Gonzaga has done for the better part of the past decade. The Diamond Head Classic is the first major nonconference tournament the Broncos have appeared in since 2000.

“It’s huge, and that’s what we’re going to keep building toward, more of these, getting into the cycle of getting into the higher-level ESPN ones,’’ Rice said. “We’re going to keep pushing to get more of these and more single-game, neutral-site, event kind of situations.’’

Dave Southorn: 377-6420,Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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