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April 3, 2007Fresh off helping the Washington State University Cougars to a school record-tying 26-win season and NCAA Tournament appearance, seniors Ivory Clark and Antonio Chavers were in Montana throwing down some jams for the Northwest Cougars at the Wayne Estes Basketball Tournament in Anaconda, Montana.
The Northwest Cougars finished third in that competition but Clark did take time out to clarify comments questioning his teammates and head coach Tony Bennett attributed to him last month in a newspaper article. Clark did express some disappointment with Bennett, but he was quite intent on clarifying and qualifying some of his comments.
"First off, I want it known that I never questioned my teammates' efforts in our game against Vanderbilt - that was a misquote. I thought that some of them looked fatigued, but I never said that they weren't playing hard, I love everybody on the team and they always go all out." Ivory shared. "Do I think that Coach Tony made a mistake by not having me on the floor more against Vanderbilt - absolutely. I know that I could have locked down Derrick Byars in the second half. But that doesn't mean that I don't have a lot of respect for Coach and the opportunity the Bennetts gave me here at WSU. And, I do think that it was cool that Coach Tony was the national coach of the year - everybody on the team feels like they are part of that award."
From the many anecdotes recounted during the weekend, it was more than obvious that both Clark and Chavers hold both Tony and Dick Bennett in very high regard
"Both Coach Tony and Coach Bennett know so much about basketball - especially defense and you can't help but play hard with how intense they get. One time last year Coach (Dick) Bennett got so mad that somebody didn't dive for a loose ball in practice that he actually rolled the ball out and dove across the floor to show us how to do it. He must have gone five feet - a 60-year old man with a fake hip is diving on balls in practice - wow, I'll never forget that," shared a smiling Antonio.
While some Cougar fans and well-wishers may have some difficulty swallowing Clark's public expression of disappointment in some of Coach Bennett's decisions in the aftermath of such a wonderful season, one has to realize that the passion revealed in such comments is also the passion that made the undersized, lightly recruited Clark such a force in this year's Pac-10 season. Clark is, in reality, no taller than 6-4 and it is his internal fire and chip on the shoulder that allowed him to play lock down defense on both the conferences 7-foot inside forces and elite scoring small forwards, and to put up 19 points, six rebounds and five blocks in the Cougs' first round NCAA tournament victory over Oral Roberts. If anything, that chip on Ivory's shoulder and his competitive passions are the very embodiment of the 2006-2007 Cougar team.
Antonio also earned respect this year. After starting 11 games in his first year with the Cougs in 2005-2006, the academic challenges that made him ineligible for this year's fall semester also ended up costing him his scholarship and a realistic chance at a regular spot in the rotation. A lot of players might have mailed things in, but Antonio persevered and worked both in the classroom and on the court.
"It was so hard not to be able to play in the fall and it put me behind some of the guys, but it just gave me motivation to get after it and give Derrick (Low) and Kyle (Weaver) all they could handle so that practice could be as tough as games and they would be ready."
Asked if his memorable three pointer against UW in Seattle left him with any regrets of what might have been, Antonio responded, "Not at all - we had such a great year and everything was so special. The love that we felt from the fans, the students, the people in Pullman, everywhere in the state - it was unbelievable to be a Coug and a pleasure to be part of the team. You don't know how much I'm going to miss this place next year."
"Me too," added Ivory, "man I wish that I had another year in Pullman, I'd give anything for another year of Cougar basketball - to be with the fans, and Coach and the team. I'll never forget how great things were and how nice everyone is on campus. I never lost to UW and should have had Gonzaga twice. I just wish that we would have beat Vanderbilt because I know that we could have handled Georgetown. I'm not sure that we could have gotten North Carolina, but we definitely should have been in the Elite Eight."
We'll finish by saying this - growing up in Pullman we've known many WSU student-athletes over the years. Ivory and Antonio, who are both on track and intent on earning their degrees this summer, were as nice as young men as we have met and seem to be of very high character. We will fondly remember there contributions and achievements both on and off the court at Washington State University.
In addition to Clark and Chavers, this year's Northwest Cougars Men's Team was comprised of Brent Cummings (Pullman/U. Montana), Matt Dlouhy (Coeur D'Alene/ U. Montana), Kevin Criswell (U. Montana), Erik Hinkel (EWU/Carroll College), Luke Harmon (SCC/Montana Tech), Ben Heimerman (Gonzaga Prep/Whitworth), Jeff Owen (Gonzaga Prep/WVCC), and Greg Johnson (Gonzaga Prep/Carroll College). The team is coached by Craig Baumgartner, an insurance agent with Harvey-Monteith in Pasco who needs to better listen to his younger brothers' advice on his jump shot.
The Northwest Cougars finished in 3rd place in this year's Wayne Estes Open Division, loosing a very tight (and poorly officiated) semi-final game to a Tacoma Kings team comprised of several former division one basketball players. In that game, Ivory again displayed his penchant for posterizing Huskies, as he put down a particularly nasty second half tip dunk over former UW player Jajuan Winesberry.
Chavers bested Clark and several other high flyers to win the 2007 Wayne Estes Dunk Competition. A nice photo of Chavers winning the competition by jumping over one of his teammates can be . found here.
For those longtime CougZone readers curious about an update on Brent Cummings (who conducted interviews for CougZone in 1999 in the midst of being named Washington State 2A Player of the Year) - Brent is currently happily married and working as a director of an after school program in Walla Walla. Brent obtained a Masters degree from Montana a few years back and is intent on pursuing a PhD in Latin American Colonial History in the near future.
Interestingly enough, Antonio Chavers was an un-recruited walk-on at his Junior College. It must have been a nice surprise for his JC coach to have an athlete of his caliber just show up on campus. The same coach advised him to turn down a scholarship offer from Texas A&M to sign with WSU.
Despite Ivory fondly telling stories about his 17 sacks in his senior season of high-school football in Louisiana and having Tommy Tuberville visit his high school and tell him that he would be the cornerstone of the rebirth of the Auburn defense - based on our conversations there is very little chance that he will play football for the Cougars this fall. Antonio, who reports a 42-inch vertical and looks like he could be custom made to be a defensive back, actually might be the better football prospect, but he is unlikely to give football a go either.
Other familiar names to have played with the Northwest Cougars include Neil Derrick, Jan Michael-Thomas, Jerry McNair, Eric Coleman, Rien Long (all of WSU), Jason Keep (Moscow/San Diego), Paul Butorac (Medical Lake/EWU), Chris Bond (Gonzaga Prep/Carroll College), CJ Massingale (UW) Jack McGillis (Oregon St.), Trevor Morris (Idaho) and Fred Peete (Pullman/New Mexico St).
About the authors: Patrick J. Baumgartner holds a degree in Computer Science from WSU (BA '04). He currently works on Business Intelligence software with Microsoft in Redmond. Michael J. Baumgartner holds degrees in Economics from WSU (BA '99) and Harvard (MPAID'02). He has most recently been working on issues related to gold mining in Venezuela. Both Patrick and Michael contributed to CougZone while at WSU.
+++++++sponsored by Clark's Restaurant+++++++++
Attention COUGAR Fans! Spring is in the air and you're famished! How can you afford to go one day further without some tasty morsels from Clark's Restaurant in Grays Harbor - home of the Best Hamburger in Twin Harbors for seven consecutive years? Come in for the burger, fresh homemade fries and milkshakes concocted from homemade ice cream. Go ahead, we dare you to try and pass up more than 12 varieties of hamburgers to choose from, full dinners, lunch and full breakfast served daily. Clark's Restaurant 360.538.1487. Seven miles south of Aberdeen, Washington on Highway 101. Proud supporter of CougZone. Mention this ad for a free small hot chocolate.
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