One of my favorite parts of co-hosting the Chili's Coaches Show on Monday nights is getting to meet some of the Bengal athletes. This week, we got to know Chrondarius Andre Tatum -- better known to you all as Chron. Now, in addition to having one of the really cool names on the basketball team, Chron is also a true gentleman -- and he's turning into one of the more pleasant surprises on this year's team.
You will recall that Chron (above) started off his Idaho State career with a couple of big games last season, including a 20-point, 6-rebound effort against BYU, and a 14-9 performance against Long Beach State. Then, he got sick and never really recovered. He saw his playing time dwindle to a few minutes, here or there, and he told us on the coaches' show Monday night, he never really felt healthy all season long.
When this season started, Tatum was a backup to Demetrius Monroe, who came out of the gates like gangbusters, posting four straight double-doubles. Then Meech crashed into a wall of his own -- he's gone 7 straight games now in single figures scoring, and his last substantial rebound effort was six against Nevada, five games ago. That has re-opened the door to Tatum, and the Atlanta native has responded with four double-figure scoring games in his last six, including a 13-point, 13-rebound effort in the loss at Eastern Washington on Thursday.
Tatum is an interesting story -- when he got out of high school in Atlanta, he thought his basketball career might be over. No one offered him a scholarship, and he wound up paying his own way to play at Riverside Community College in California for a season. He was in the process of redshirting his sophomore year at Riverside when the Bengal coaches saw him play at an open gym and began the recruiting process. The fact that he still had three years of eligibility left made him particularly attractive to the Bengals, and Tatum is equally thrilled to have a chance to continue his basketball career in Pocatello.
You always get interesting little nuggets from these interviews, and one thing Tatum told Jerry Miller and I on Monday (other than his full, first name) is that, while he's officially listed as 6-8 by the Bengals, he's really only about 6-4 1/2. That makes that 13-rebound effort against the Eagles all the more impressive. Tatum leads Big Sky-only games with an average of 10 boards a contest.
I'm sure you'll see both Monroe and Tatum continue to contribute in substantial ways throughout Big Sky Conference play. They, along with JC transfer Felix Caspari, offer the Bengals great depth at the prototypical small forward position, and are yet another reason why this is one of the deeper Bengal teams I can recall in recent years.
Okay, I Admit It: I'm Clueless
Well, it took all of less than two weeks of conference play to prove that I don't know what the heck I'm talking about when it comes to Big Sky basketball. To wit:
--I bragged about how dominant Portland State has been at home in conference play over the last two seasons or so -- and then the Vikings get whacked by Weber State in the Stott Center.
--I picked both the Wildcats and Montana to collapse in conference play, and they are both off to good starts.
--I fingered Montana State and Idaho State to finish in the top four, and they are both struggling so far.
At least it's still early. Here are some players who have gotten my attention to date:
--Anthony Johnson, a 6-3 Juco transfer, has stepped in at PG for Montana following the suspension of Ceylon Elgin-Taylor. Johnson is not your typical point man -- he's a scorer, having posted back-to-back 30 point games for the Griz. He starts in the same backcourt as 3-point gunner Ryan Staudacher, so the Griz figure to present some matchup problems -- and face some -- against teams with the smaller, quicker point guards in the league.
--Kyle Bullinger, a 6-6 redshirt freshman F, has been on fire for Weber State in league play, averaging 19.5 points, including a five-for-five night from 3-point range against Portland State Thursday night. The Wildcats lead Big Sky play in 3-point shooting, hitting 47 percent from beyond the arc, including 15 against Northern Colorado in a big comeback win.
--Cameron Jones, a 6-4 sophomore G, is averaging over 20 points a game for NAU in the Axers' four league games. NAU has been the tough luck team in the conference so far, losing three games by a total of four points. Despite their misfortune, the Axers are third in the league in scoring, averaging almost 76 points a game.
Congrats to ISU Women
And if you need further evidence I don't know what I'm talking about, note that ISU's women's team is off to a 2-0 league start. While I still believe lack of depth will eventually catch up with Seton Sobolewski's team, I must say I'm impressed by their effort to date. Keep up the good work, ladies.
And thanks for being a being Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.