No Boise State basketball player has experienced intense highs and lows quite like Anthony Drmic.
Thrown into the fire as a freshman from Australia more than five years ago, the guard/forward often thrives in his starring role thanks to a competitive streak that borders on the insane.
But as he sat on the bench watching the Broncos win the Mountain West regular season title last year, and as he struggled physically and mentally with injury this year, something changed.
Drmic, still fiery as ever on the floor, picked up a different perspective over the past 16 months. Boise State’s No. 4 all-time leading scorer, who still has a chance to be No. 1, is now finding success as the team’s second, third or fourth option.
“It took a big adjustment on his part, a lot of toughness and a lot of unselfishness to do what he’s doing this year — kind of reinventing himself,” coach Leon Rice said. “When it doesn’t go the way you want it and the way you expect it, that’s hard on a kid.”
After obtaining a medical redshirt last season, which was supposed to be his senior campaign, Drmic returned for a fifth year, and will play in possibly his final home game Wednesday against Nevada.
Ankle surgery in January had some complications, as some nerve damage prevented his left leg from fully healing. Only recently has he been able to dunk again in warmups.
“I’d always been a Debbie Downer, and even worse at first with the leg, it was terrible early on, frustrating not being able to do what I had been before it,” Drmic said. “But I understood pretty quickly I wasn’t going to win games by myself. I needed everyone around me, needed to step out and help them, along with myself.”
The effort to be a positive influence, even when things weren’t going well for himself, was noticed by teammates.
“I don’t think very many players in his shoes wouldn’t have handled it all the way he has,” senior guard Montigo Alford said. “Just to see him be happy in the locker room, that’s great. He never really used to talk to anyone, but all year, he’s been real talkative, such a big part of us doing well that not everyone can see.”
Twice in four games in January, Drmic was held without a point. He went scoreless in only one other game in his career, and that was in December 2011. He was averaging 9.6 points per game in Mountain West play before Rice decided to take him out of the starting lineup and bring him off the bench Feb. 10 at Colorado State. In the five games since, Drmic is averaging 17.6 points a game.
“Life throws you some tough curveballs sometimes, and he’s really grown in being able to handle a difficult situation,” Rice said. “It was really hard on him, because a lesser competitor might have dealt with it better at first, but he just really, really wanted to help this team and he couldn’t.”
Needing 50 points to break Tanoka Beard’s school record of 1,944 career points and 18 to surpass former teammate Derrick Marks for third, Drmic hasn’t shied from talking about it, often thinking team first, saying “The more we win, the more games we play, the more chances I have to break the record.”
Rice said “if he becomes the all-time leading scorer in school history, his jersey needs to go up in the rafters. ... I can’t really remember life before Anthony. I think he’s even underappreciated for all he’s sacrificed.”
Drmic had a recent nerve test, which he said made him uneasy, but it came back showing improvement. He said with some rest after the season, it may be back to around 90 percent. He’s looking at beginning a pro career in Australia or Europe.
“I’m still learning what I can and can’t do,” Drmic said. “I just had to forget ‘that’s what I used to be able to do.’ Back in the day, I might’ve forced myself to do something, which would’ve hurt me and the team. I’m feeling a lot better these days.”
A look at three other seniors being honored Wednesday:
From maddeningly inconsistent to a portrait of reliability, Thompson has finished his career with an exclamation point. After shooting 28.7 percent in MW play as a junior, he’s shooting 46.2 percent this season, averaging 14.4 points in conference games. He has 11 or more points in 20-of-29 games.
Thompson: “My commitment and my focus were a lot different this year. When you’re a senior, you want to go out with a bang, and I let my team down last year, so I just wanted to do everything I could to help them.”
Rice: “To have a guy like him have the sort of year he’s having, you really are proud as a coach to see it. He puts his nose to the grindstone, keeps working, is seeing the rewards and I still think he’s going to have some big games these last few.”
The Broncos’ pinch hitter, Alford has seen inconsistent minutes, but has produced big games when called upon. Fourty-four of his 102 points this season have come in four of the last five games since moving into the starting lineup.
Alford: “I’m just enjoying each day, be positive, whether the result is good or bad. You don’t get these days back. I’ve matured a lot my (two) years here. I maybe haven’t played the best, but I’ve enjoyed seeing the other guys succeed, too.”
Rice: “Everything for him has been up and down, but he’s always had a good attitude, and that shows you a lot about who he is. A lot of good lessons for everyone on the team for how he handled that.”
The Boston College transfer has provided leadership and a strong outside shot in his lone season in Boise. Five of his eight double-figure scoring games against Division I teams have been in Mountain West play. He’s shooting a team-high 40.3 percent on 3-pointers.
Jackson: “This year’s been awesome. It’s been a process, but a great one. I’ve grown as a person and a player, and it’s been up and down, but I think I can finish my career strong and this team can finish strong.”
Rice: “He’s been able to step right in and help. He’s got a good competitive spirit, the right kind of attitude, and he’s been a great addition to the locker room.”
Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420
Nevada (18-10, 10-6 Mountain West) at Boise State (19-10, 10-6)
- When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena
- TV: None (streaming online at Broncosports.com/videos and TheMW.com)
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM
- Tickets: $7-$18 juniors, $8-$19 seniors, $9-$20 adults ($4 balcony seats) at the Taco Bell Arena box office or BroncoSports.com/tickets
Boise State seniors in the record books
- Anthony Drmic: First in career 3-pointers made (271), fourth in points (1,985) and free throws made (398), eighth in rebounds (588).
- Mikey Thompson: Tenth in career assists (290), 14th in points (1,117).