Inside College Basketball

June 08, 2003

High-Stepping
With his scintillating all-court game, Gonzaga guard Blake Stepp
shone at the Pan Am Games trials

Before last weekend, the last time Gonzaga junior guard Blake
Stepp was on a national stage was in the 2003 NCAA tournament.
There he was, on the court in Salt Lake City, anguished and
drained at the end of double overtime after missing a five-foot
bank shot that would have beaten top-seeded Arizona and sent the
Bulldogs to the West Regional semifinals.

On Sunday in Colorado Springs, at the USA Basketball trials for
the Pan Am Games team, Stepp did, at last, advance. He was chosen
as one of the 17 finalists for 12 berths to be awarded in July in
Orlando for the international tournament, to be held in the
Dominican Republic in August. Matched against quicker foes, the
6'4" Stepp, listed as an off-guard but also playing the point,
was dazzling. In one session he had 13 points, six steals, 10
assists and only one turnover--exhibiting the court savvy USA
Basketball (and Michigan State) head coach Tom Izzo was looking
for.

"He's a better point guard than I thought," said Izzo. "As a
passer, Stepp has a great ability to put the ball right in front
of you."

Stepp's virtuoso performance at a U.S. national team trials
continues a Gonzaga guards tradition. In 1984 a Bulldogs senior
named John Stockton dished his way to prominence at the Olympic
trials even though he was one of the last cuts. Two years ago Dan
Dickau raised his profile by making the World University Games
team.

Does Stepp, the 2002-03 West Coast Conference player of the year,
use that missed shot against Arizona as a motivator? "Nah," he
says. "I watched that game on ESPN Classic once; I don't think I
need to watch it again."

Surprising Spartan
Davis Plays Big

One court over from Izzo's auditions, Oregon coach Ernie Kent was
seeking a few good big men for the Junior World Championships in
Thessaloniki, Greece, beginning on July 10. Standing particularly
tall was one of Izzo's own: Paul Davis, a 6'11", 245-pound
sophomore-to-be at Michigan State. The Spartan was most
impressive in the paint, grabbing a trials-best 8.3 rebounds per
session. Davis, who has worked on his post moves and outside
shot, also averaged 12 points. "I like that he can defend in the
post and on the perimeter, and can score from the post and the
perimeter," says Kent.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (2) Stepp's passing and heady play drew raves from Izzo. COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (2) Josh Pace

The Replacements

With several of last season's stellar underclassmen leaving for
the NBA, their college teams have big sneakers to fill. Here are
the players who are penciled in to try.

NBA-BOUND REPLACEMENT,
TEAM PLAYER POSITION '03-04 CLASS

GEORGIA TECH CHRIS BOSH* F THEODIS TARVER, SOPH.

NOTRE DAME CHRIS THOMAS* PG CHRIS QUINN, SOPH.

OREGON LUKE RIDNOUR PG AARON BROOKS, FR.

SYRACUSE CARMELO ANTHONY SF JOSH PACE, JR.

TEXAS T.J. FORD PG ROYAL IVEY, SR.

SKINNY

[CHRIS BOSH]
A late bloomer last season, the 6'9" Tarver had 4.2 blocks per 40 minutes

[CHRIS THOMAS]
The 6'2" Quinn had a superb 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio in
2002-03

[LUKE RIDNOUR]
Heralded 6-foot recruit from Seattle's Franklin High is billed
as T.J. Ford with a jump shot

[CARMELO ANTHONY]
The opportunistic 6'5" Pace has an ugly shot but can fill out a
stat line

[T.J. FORD]
Rugged 6'3", All-Big 12 defender needs to get a better handle

*Has not signed with agent; eligible to return to school

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)