ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bryce Drew remembers growing up in northwest Indiana watching over and over the “Steve Alford All-American Workout” VHS tape and hoping he’d one day follow in the footsteps of the 1983 Mr. Indiana basketball star.
“I think everyone growing up in Indiana as a young kid knew the Alford name,” said Drew, the second-year head coach at Valparaiso, which takes on No. 18 New Mexico (9-0) tonight in the Pit.
“I remember watching that video a lot and the thing is he doesn’t look like he ages. The weather must be so good out here; his hair looks the same as it did back on the video.”
Like Alford, Drew capped a stellar high school career in the Hoosier state with a Mr. Indiana honor as the state’s top high school basketball player in 1994.
Like Alford, Drew starred at an Indiana college – Alford for the Indiana Hoosiers, while Drew played for his father, Homer Drew, and the Valparaiso Crusaders.
Like Alford, Drew was a sharpshooting guard drafted to a Texas NBA team – Alford to the Dallas Mavericks, Drew to the Houston Rockets.
Like Alford, Drew jumped into college coaching almost immediately after his professional playing days were over – Alford at Manchester University in Indiana in 1991, Drew as an assistant at Valpo in 2005 (he took over as head coach last season).
And like Alford, Drew had boys across Indiana and the country trying to mimic the basketball heroics of Drew’s famous game-winning, catch-and-shoot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament, a shot immortalized on YouTube, in which he celebrated by diving onto the floor on his stomach.
In 2002, Valpo played Alford’s Iowa Hawkeyes team in Iowa City, while Bryce Drew was still pursuing his professional career. At the Crusaders’ pregame shoot around, 7-year-old Bryce Alford, Steve Alford’s son and current La Cueva High School senior, showed the Crusaders an imitation of the famous Bryce Drew shot, belly-flop celebration and all.
“I did it as their team came to have shootaround and I made it the first try,” Bryce Alford said in a response to a Journal text message.
There is no question the two families are close and have deep Indiana basketball roots.
“It’s a very special family – a family I’ve got a lot of respect for and I think fans will see that,” Steve Alford said. “Bryce does a tremendous job. He’s from a great basketball family. His dad, Homer Drew, coached at Valpo for several years and was really kind of Mr. Valpo and got Valpo on the map as a basketball school. Bryce is continuing that tradition.”
THE GAME: Steve Alford says Valparaiso (6-2) is “a tremendous challenge” for the Lobos because of their experience. The Crusaders have started five seniors all eight games this season, and the team’s top three reserves are another senior and two juniors.
Valpo’s strength is in the post where 6-7 Ryan Broekhoff, last season’s Horizon League Player of the Year, and 6-8 Kevin Van Wijk combine to average 31.4 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.
Broekhoff, who has been suffering from mononucleosis for the past month, will play tonight, according to Bryce Drew, and hasn’t seemed to be hampered by the ailment.
Broekhoff, from Australia, is very familiar with UNM’s Hugh Greenwood and Cameron Bairstow, as all three played at the Australian Institute of Sport.
As for the Lobos, the team is coming off one of its best-played games of the season having shot 51.9 percent from the floor in a 75-67 win over USC in the Pit. Valpo is holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting on the season.
UNM junior guard Kendall Williams leads all Lobos scorers with a 14.1 points per game average and ranks second in the Mountain West with 5.1 assists per game. Sophomore center Alex Kirk has registered a double-double in three of the last four games and is averaging 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
After tonight’s game, UNM will have a week off before playing New Mexico State on Dec. 15 in the Pit.
MYLES IN TOWN: Tim Myles, a high school senior from California who signed a National Letter of Intent in November to accept a basketball scholarship with the Lobos for the 2013-14 season, is in Albuquerque this weekend with his family on an unofficial visit to the campus.
Myles already took his official visit to UNM, one paid for in the recruiting process by the school, and this weekend’s trip is paid for by the Myles family. He is expected at tonight’s game vs. Valparaiso.
HOT TICKET: All lower-bowl tickets for the Dec. 15 game against NMSU have been sold, according to UNM officials. There is still limited seating available in the club-level section above the concourse.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal