WCC Tourney Has Different Significance For Different GaelsPosted by CNguon on March 8th, 2013
Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference. He is in Las Vegas this weekend for the WCC Tournament.
During last year’s West Coast Conference Tournament, Jordan Guisti was an onlooker. Redshirting his freshman year at Saint Mary’s, Guisti could only sit in street clothes as his teammates sweated out wins over San Francisco and Gonzaga to earn the WCC title and an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. There will be no street clothes for Guisti this year, however, as he has emerged as a vital cog in Randy Bennett’s Gael machine. Should Saint Mary’s win its way to the tournament championship game for the fifth year in a row, and should its opponent be Gonzaga for the fifth straight time, Guisti will be on the floor guarding one of the Zags’ point guards, either all-WCC three-point whiz Kevin Pangos or super-sub David Stockton, son of the legendary John Stockton. As Saint Mary’s prepared for the weekend’s showdown in the WCC semifinals on Saturday, Guisti reflected on last year’s introduction to the tournament and his different role this year.
“It was pretty crazy,” Guisti recalled of the scene in the Orleans Arena last year, which was packed for the championship game with, seemingly, 7,000 Gonzaga fans and maybe 500 rooting for the opponent. “There was just an overwhelming number of Gonzaga fans,” he said, although he gave some props to his alma mater’s smaller but no-less-enthusiastic contingent. “Saint Mary’s fans are loud, and they were near our bench so we knew they were there.” Indicating the confidence that has propelled him into the Gaels’ lineup, Guisti said he envisioned himself on the floor as he watched last year’s games from the sidelines. “I remember thinking, ‘Next year that will be me out there.’” It’s next year, and Guisti will definitely be out there.
A sturdy 6’1” tall, the left-handed Guisti is quick and agile as a defender, but is still developing an offensive game to complement his defense. That lack of consistent offense probably accounted for his lightly recruited status in high school and his coming to Saint Mary’s as a walk-on. He has the knack of guarding his man closely without fouling, and is relentless in fighting through screens. Although stats don’t reflect all that a defensive standout brings to a team, Guisti has recorded seven blocks and 21 steals over the year, playing an average of 14.5 minutes per game.
Guisti and the Gaels couldn’t concentrate on either BYU or Gonzaga as they practiced this week because of uncertainty about their conference opponent. They had a final practice in Moraga on Friday, but left for Las Vegas not knowing whether they would face San Diego or BYU in the semis. As it turned out, San Diego upset BYU, which should make the Gaels’ path to a Gonzaga rematch somewhat easier. Guisti was on the floor when Saint Mary’s scored its most dramatic win of the year, over BYU in Provo, 70-69, on Matthew Dellavedova’s miracle buzzer-beater. Guisti was guarding BYU’s erratic but dangerous point guard, Matt Carlino, and trying to ignore teammate Stephen Holt’s frantic appeal for help in defending sharpshooting BYU wing man Tyler Haws.
“I couldn’t leave Carlino because he could hit a three if I gave him an opening,” said Guisti of his dilemma, which forced Holt to take on Haws by himself. Haws made a 15-footer with 2.6 seconds left to put BYU up by two, and then Dellavedova took over. “It worked out all right,” was Guisti’s analysis, and he is hoping to say the same thing after this weekend in Las Vegas.
While this tournament marks a beginning for Guisti, for the mother of another Gael it marks the end of a remarkable partnership. Julie Young, whose son, Mitchell, is a senior forward for Saint Mary’s, calls the tournament “the end of a chapter.” She is speaking of the friendship and playing career of Mitch and Gael star point guard, Dellavedova. Mitch and Delly, as they are known, have been friends since they ran into each other in Australia national competition when both were thirteen. They attended the Australia Institute of Sport together, and along with fellow AIS star Jorden Page, were recruited to attend Saint Mary’s in 2009. They have roomed together and shared triumphs and defeats for the past four years, but Julie senses their time together is coming to an end.
“I joked with Delly that when he signs a [possible] pro contract he should insist that it is for two people,” she said. Dellavedova is considered a possible first or second-round selection in the upcoming NBA Draft, while Mitch is thinking about playing in Europe, his mom said. Although the two can contemplate playing additional games in a postseason tournament, Julie knows the WCC competition is a milestone.
As for an anticipated showdown with #1 Gonzaga in the WCC championship game Monday night, Julie is optimistic. “I think they [Saint Mary’s] are going to beat them,” she said confidently. “Olynyk’s got to have a bad game eventually, why not Monday night?” she posited, speaking of Gonzaga’s intimidating seven-foot center, Kelly Olynyk, who has dominated WCC play this year.
Now that’s a mom’s perspective.