Before this season, Boise State mens basketball coach Leon Rice said he hoped his three seniors would go out on top.
How the Broncos season ends remains to be seen, but Ryan Watkins, Thomas Bropleh and Jeff Elorriaga are doing their best work as their college careers wind down.
The trio will be honored on Senior Night prior the Broncos matchup against Nevada at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena.
You probably couldnt script it better. I know how I want to script the end for them, but what theyve done to this point is so impressive, and as a coach, youre really proud of what theyve accomplished, Rice said.
All three were part of Rices first recruiting class, pulled together in the spring and summer before the 2010-11 season. They have 75 wins, tied for sixth-most of any senior class in school history, but its their final season that has been the best.
Watkins is having an all-Mountain West caliber season, setting the league record for rebounds in conference play (199) Saturday at Wyoming. Averaging 11.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, hes in line to be the first Bronco to average a double-double in a season since 1971-72.
Bropleh has 114 points in the past nine games after scoring 101 in the 20 games prior. Seven of his 23 career double-digit scoring games have come in the nine-game span.
Elorriaga, the teams glue guy, has inspired the Broncos simply by playing, averaging 18.5 minutes per game the past four games with a broken bone in his back.
Its been great, because I think weve stepped up when the team needed us, Watkins said. We wanted to have big years and help the team, which I think weve done. Toms left it all out there, and thats all you can do your senior year. Jeff, he brings it every day. Hes pushed through some injuries, and that energy, were different without him.
After the Broncos 73-62 win at Wyoming, Rice said his seniors were the cornerstone of the program he is hoping to build at Boise State. Naturally, a cornerstone is the first stone set at the beginning of a laborious, sometimes stressful, but ultimately rewarding project fitting for this trio.
Weve all worked really hard to get here. Hopefully were remembered as a blue-collar group, said Elorriaga, who initially joined the program as a walk-on.
Ryans a rebounding machine, Thomas has fought through a lot to have a great finish, and I just want to be known as someone who played hard.
Watkins and Bropleh (7.4 ppg) are on pace for their career-best scoring averages. Elorriaga, hampered by his injury, is averaging 7.2 ppg, 3.0 less than last season, but his 45.7 percent shooting from 3-point range is on pace for his best.
Definitely all the hard work youve put in, to see it come to fruition, its great, Bropleh said. It shows you that theres hope in anything you do.
On the verge of back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89, all three earned their stripes. Watkins has lost more than 30 pounds since his arrival, Bropleh fought through a wrist injury last season and confidence issues as a bench player, and Elorriagas battles with back, head and ankle injuries.
I think I can use all three of those guys as learning examples for our younger guys now and in the future for all the resilience they have, Rice said.
As much as Wednesdays game means, the seniors hope its their last at home. Winning the Mountain West Tournament would mean an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. If not, they may return to Taco Bell Arena for another postseason tournament game. But the only certainty is taking on Nevada, a win that would clinch a bye in next weeks conference tournament.
Its been a long ride, but also a fun one, Bropleh said. Weve had a good, solid year this year. The last home game, Id like to go out on a good note.