Boise State Basketball

‘Worst’ part of the job comes at ‘crucial’ time of year for Boise State basketball

Boise State’s Justinian Jessup averaged 11.6 points per game as a sophomore, and he’ll be the Broncos’ top returning scorer for the 2018-19 season.
Boise State’s Justinian Jessup averaged 11.6 points per game as a sophomore, and he’ll be the Broncos’ top returning scorer for the 2018-19 season. The Associated Press

The official start of the 2018-19 Boise State men’s basketball season is more than six months away, but much of what happens between now and then will play a key role in the Broncos’ success.

“This is a crucial time of year,” coach Leon Rice said.

Roster losses and staff turnover are an inevitable part of the college basketball landscape, and the Broncos are no exception.

Sophomore Casdon Jardine announced his intention to transfer last week, opening the door for as many as six new players this fall.

“You’ve always got a million things going on, both for the staff and players, but I always want what’s best for the guys and what’s best for this program. We’re always trying to work towards that, to better ourselves,” Rice said. “Casdon’s an unbelievable kid, a great student and great person, but it’s plain and simple, there’s a finite number of minutes, and he wants to play a lot more. I understand that.

“... He was great in his role this year and did an awesome job for our team and was a great teammate and everybody loved him, but I understand. Competitors want to play and they want to play a lot, and he’s a great competitor.”

Before Jardine’s decision to transfer, the Broncos planned to welcome four true freshmen – Mikey Frazier, Jaycson Bereal, Riley Abercrombie and Max Rice (walk-on) – as well as junior college transfer Patrick Dembley.

Last season, the Broncos didn’t land a commitment from senior graduate transfer Lexus Williams until late May, so Rice isn’t worried about finding another recruiting gem to replace Jardine.

“You’re always looking and always recruiting. Even when you don’t have scholarships, you have to have your eyes open and you’re recruiting guys, because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Rice said. “You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have a scholarship and you haven’t been recruiting guys.”

‘Worst’ part of Rice’s job

Scheduling is a necessary but not always fun part of the coaching job.

The Broncos want to build a strong NCAA Tournament resume with favorable nonconference matchups, but securing those games can be a challenge for schools outside the so-called power conferences.

“The schedule just takes so long to do nowadays. ... There’s a lot of things in discussion that would be exciting, but it’s one thing when coaches agree on something, and it’s another thing to get the contract and get it done,” Rice said. “Scheduling is one of the worst parts of my job. The better you get, the harder and harder it is to get people to come here, and that’s where we are now.”

Rice said the team is still working on finalizing its nonconference slate, which includes an invitation to play in the Cayman Islands Classic Nov. 19-21. The eight-team field for the preseason tournament has not been announced, but a Cayman TV station has reported that Illinois State, Akron, Creighton and St. Bonaventure also have committed to play.

What was Hutch doing with Kobe?

On March 26, Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison posted a picture of himself with former NBA great Kobe Bryant on Instagram.

Rice said Hutchison and his family were in the process of interviewing agents, including Bryant’s, as he prepares for the 2018 NBA Draft.

“I talked to (Hutchison) yesterday, and he was working on his school work. He’s going to graduate in a few weeks, so he’s finishing up strong,” Rice said. “He and his family, we helped him there with a list of agents, and he and his family interviewed them ... They did a great job with it.”

The draft is June 21 in New York.

Rice on Loyola Chicago, Gonzaga

As 11th-seeded Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean made their run to the Final Four, Rice and his team couldn’t help but lament what might have been.

The Broncos’ 87-53 win over the Ramblers on Nov. 28, 2017, at Taco Bell Arena was Loyola’s worst defeat of the season. The Ramblers lost only five times prior to the Final Four.

“You look at every Final Four team in the last 30 years, and I don’t know if they have a 34-point loss. Any of them,” Rice said. “We were so close, so it’s a why-not-us kind of situation. You find a way to get in the tournament and then nowadays with the parity, you get playing right at the right time and you win a couple close ones. You look at Loyola’s run, that’s what it came down to.”

A few days after Loyola’s magical run ended, Gonzaga announced that it would stay in the West Coast Conference after considering a jump to the Mountain West.

The decision left Rice with mixed feelings; he and Gonzaga coach Mark Few are close friends.

“What’s best for the league and what’s best for some of the programs might not be what’s best for a friendship. In that aspect, I think it’s great, but it doesn’t mean it’s never happening,” Rice said. “... We go on vacations together. We’re always talking about things like recruiting, and we talk about X and O stuff all the time and help each other out. Then all of a sudden you’re competing against each other. That’s not good.”

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts