Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Kigab & the court-storming (kind of)

Abu Kigab made the most of his Senior Night. And at the end of the game he was cutting down the nets Tuesday night in ExtraMile Arena as Boise State won its first outright conference championship since 1988 with a 73-67 win over Nevada. Kigab went 9-for-12 from the field and scored a game-high 23 points, and when it was over he was surrounded by frenzied fans and went on the mic to thank Bronco Nation. It was a rare storming of the court at Boise State, although security tried to prevent it, much to the displeasure of the crowd. The attendance was a season-high 11,954, and tackling and shoving males and females alike—mostly students—was a bad look. But the rims in the arena are now bare, and the twine is draped over the Mountain West championship trophy, and that’s all that matters to the Broncos.


We’ve been talking about Boise State’s rebounding all season, and man were we talking about it Wednesday night. For much of the game, it just wasn’t happening. Nevada outrebounded the Broncos by six in the first half and pushed the advantage on the boards to double digits early in the second half. The Wolf Pack kept the pressure on as they trimmed Boise State’s lead to one point with less than five minutes remaining. But as so often occurs with this team, the light went on. The Broncos grabbed the last six rebounds of the night, including two on the offensive glass in the final minute. The biggest one of all was an offensive rebound from Mladen Armus with 30 seconds left and Nevada still within two possessions. That one effectively ended the game.


With the regular season crown in hand, Boise State has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament next week in Las Vegas. The Broncos are now 24-6 overall—one victory short of the school record—and have won 21 of their last 23 games. They have also won 15 conference games for the first time in their history. This Boise State team is deserving of a spot in the Top 25 (it’s first in line to get in the AP Poll). A win at Colorado State Saturday night would do it.


Only one of Boise State’s six seniors was honored during Senior Night. It was Kigab, the only one who doesn’t have a COVID year at his disposal. And what a climb for the reigning Mountain West Player of the Week—from anonymous transfer to undisputed leader of a team that is just about a lock for the NCAA Tournament. At the team’s banquet Sunday night, he told his story: of being born in Sudan. Of pretending to play basketball in a place that had no courts, wadding paper into a ball and shooting into a garbage can. Of his family moving to Canada for its safety when he was nine years old. Of being bullied for a year and a half after he arrived because he was just learning to speak English. Of things not working out at Oregon, but how happy he is to be in Boise. The ovation for Kigab was loud and long.


After a successful run through Senior Bowl practices a month ago, Boise State’s Khalil Shakir has his next test (literally) now at the NFL Combine. Shakir is in Indianapolis and will wrap up his team interviews today, followed by the bench press and on-field drills on Thursday in Lucas Oil Stadium. Shakir comes in with a great portfolio. His draft profile from Lance Zierlein at calls him a “coach’s dream, combining competitive nature, exciting versatility and elite character on and off the field.” Apparently scouts have an issue with the length of his arms—something I haven’t heard much about before. Writes Zierlein, “For a short-armed player with average explosiveness, Shakir puts an emphatic stamp on games. He should become a valuable piece for a creative play-caller.”

Shakir is one of 324 prospects to receive a Combine invitation this year and is one of 40 wide receivers selected to attend. He’s coming off a career-high 77 receptions and 1,117 receiving yards last season, and his streak of 15 games with at least 65 yards receiving was the nation’s longest. Shakir’s invitation marks the 18th consecutive NFL Combine featuring a Bronco. Since 2010, at least one Boise State Combine attendee has been picked in the NFL Draft.


And just like that, spring football begins Friday at Boise State. I think the headline position is running back. Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Andrew Van Buren are gone, so how will the Broncos back up George Holani? There are exactly four running backs on the roster right now: Holani, Taequan Tyler, Tyler Crowe and early enrollee Ashton Jeanty. Tyler (as in Taequan) is intriguing—he still hasn’t had a chance to shine but showed some shake during the few times he carried the ball last year. Crowe, the Skyview High grad, is a solid downhill runner, but can he carry a steady load? And Jeanty is the guy everybody’s waiting to see after being named second-team all-state in Texas 5A football last season. But Boise State hasn’t grabbed anyone out of the transfer portal yet. The Broncos are definitely lacking depth here.


After a week off, former Boise State star Troy Merritt is back on the PGA Tour beat as he tees off Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. Merritt had one of the best weeks of his career on the Bay Hill course in 2016, tying for the third in the Palmer. He tied for 24th there two years ago just before COVID hit. Merritt missed the cut at the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago after a bogey-filled 75 in the second round at Riviera Country Club. It was only Merritt’s third missed cut of the 2021-22 season. He’s still top 50 in the FedExCup standings.


Now that March is here, it would be timely for the Idaho Steelheads to make a move. With fewer than 20 games left in the regular season, the posturing for the Kelly Cup Playoffs is underway. The Steelheads are 29-21-3 and still stuck in a second place tie with Rapid City in the ECHL’s Mountain Division, four points behind the Utah Grizzlies. The Steelies are coming off a home series with Worcester that saw them lose two of three games and now head for a Friday-Saturday set in Texas against the Allen Americans. Captain A.J. White still leads Idaho in most offensive categories. His 10 power play goals are also second in the ECHL.


College of Idaho is the 2021-22 Cascade Conference champion after dispatching Southern Oregon 78-55 Tuesday night in the league title game in Caldwell. Next stop is right back on the floor of the J.A. Albertson Activities Center, one of 16 sites selected for the NAIA Men’s Championship Opening Round, next week. The Coyotes will host the four-team pod, with the winner advancing to the final site in Kansas City. Elsewhere, Northwest Nazarene starts its stay at the GNAC Tournament Thursday evening in Seattle. The second-seeded Nighthawks will face the winner of the first round game between Simon Fraser and Alaska-Fairbanks.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!

March 2, 1982: The birthday of Big Ben. Coming out of Miami of Ohio, Ben Roethlisberger was the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, going to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’d be the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year his first season. And in his second, at the age of 23, he became the youngest starting quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh captured another one three years later over the Arizona Cardinals. The newly-retired Ben Roethlisberger…40 years old today.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *