In each of his first three seasons of conference play, the 6-foot-1 shooting guard from Port Townsend, Wash., averaged over 18 points per game. Each season also ended with Rough on the receiving end of outstanding individual honors. As a freshman year, he led the nation in 3-point shooting at the NAIA Div. II level, hitting 50.7 percent of his attempts beyond the stripe. As a sophomore, he topped the NCIC in free throw accuracy (93.3 percent) and total 3-point goals (90), while finishing a mere half point behind the conference leader in scoring with a 18.3 ppg average.
As a junior last year (1996-97), Rough was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" section, as well as in the USA Today and Seattle Times newspapers, after he broke the NAIA Div. II record for consecutive free throws made. From Dec. 15, 1995, until Jan. 31, 1997, Rough was perfect from the line, converting 60 straight attempts. The previous mark was 52 in a row, held by two players.
As the 1997-98 season approaches, Rough is knocking on the door of Whitman's top ten list of career scoring leaders. At the moment, he sits in the No. 11 spot, having scored 1,187 points in 75 games.
What comes to mind when Rough looks back on his first three seasons and ahead at his final campaign?
"The first point is how fortunate I have been to have the teammates I've had here at Whitman," Rough says. "My last two years, Andrew Schillinger led the conference in assists and Evan Jones was right at the top in rebounding. Those two were very instrumental in what I've been able to accomplish. My freshman year, Brian Lewallen and Russ Mickelson were excellent scorers who shot the ball well from the 3-point line, which allowed me to run around unguarded much of the time."
"What I hope for my senior year is that we have a winning season and advance into our league playoffs," Rough added. "Our conference is the toughest in the nation at our level, which makes it a great accomplishment to get to the playoffs. Individually, I hope to continue to improve my assist-to-turnover ratio, along with maintaining the kind of presence and threat that I've been in terms of scoring."
Coach Skip Molitor sees Rough getting plenty of help from his teammates during the 1997-98 season. "I believe we're going to have an exciting team to coach and to watch play. We have perhaps the best level of team quickness and strength since I've been here. Losing five of our top eight players from last year's team naturally concerns me. However, this group of players has a chance to become the best defensive team I've had and could also prove to be a formidable rebounding team. We also expect our guard play to pose problems for defenses throughout the league, with both guard positions capable of producing a lot of points."
Joining Rough from last year's starting lineup is co-captain Todd Wyatt, who also enters his senior season. Wyatt, a 6-foot-4 forward from Redmond, Wash., was the team's second leading rebounder a year ago, averaging 5.7 boards a game. His 8.3 scoring average was fourth on the team. Molitor likes what Wyatt brings to the table from a standpoint of leadership and versatility:
"Todd has the potential to be an outstanding team leader for us," Molitor said. "He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor with a good understanding of what it takes to be successful. He is tenacious on the boards and is our best defender. Offensively, while he will score his share of points, he has a knack of making his teammates better with a lot of things that don't show in the box score, such as screening, passing, taking charges and coming up with loose balls."
The third player returning from last year's nucleus is Mike Keyser, a junior from Redmond, Wash. At 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, Keyser has the opportunity to make an impact this season. As both a freshman and a sophomore, he was the team's sixth leading scorer, averaging nearly six points a game. Last year, in less than twenty minutes a game, he averaged nine points and 4.5 rebounds during the second round of NCIC action.
"Mike came to us two years ago with solid offensive skills, but really needed to get stronger and better on the defensive end before he could hold his own in this league," Molitor said. "With the time he has spent in the weight room and working on his defense and rebounding, I believe Mike is ready to make his mark as a solid NCIC post player."
Faced with the loss of five key varsity contributors following last season, the Missionaries needed a recruiting year that offers immediate dividends. It appears that they have done just that. Leading this year's recruiting class is Will Washington, a transfer student from Bellevue (Wash.) Community College. Washington, a 6-foot-4 guard, averaged 21.3 ppg last season while shooting a lofty 54 percent from the floor. An athlete who played nearly every position for BCC during his two years there, he also averaged over seven rebounds a game and was the team leader in assists and steals.
Washington caught Molitor's attention when he earned MVP honors during a Northwest community college all-star game. "We are extremely excited to add Will to our team," Molitor said. "He has a world of ability and is a perfect fit for Whitman in that he came here primarily to enhance his chances of getting into medical school. With Will's combination of quickness, athletic ability and knack for finding ways to score, he definitely gives us an attacking dimension that we have lacked in recent years."
Also joining the Missionaries from the junior college ranks is 6-foot-5 Cameron Evans, who played both in the post and on the perimeter for the nationally ranked Golden Eagles of the College of Southern Idaho. Evans brings a wealth of basketball experience to Whitman, having followed an all-state high school career in Utah with three years of college experience and two years in Portugal on a Mormon mission. Evans, whose father Keith is a physician in Roosevelt, Utah, is also studying pre-medicine.
"Cameron's maturity and versatility on the floor will be a significant plus for us," Molitor said. "He will be perhaps our strongest player on the floor, and will improve our presence, especially defensively and on the boards."
Six returning players will play vital roles for the Missionaries this season after gaining extensive experience last year on the junior varsity squad, which finished on a high note by winning four of its last five games. Todd Hendry led the jayvee team in scoring, averaging over 25 points a game. Hendry was a prolific scorer at Monroe (Wash.) High School where he averaged 24 ppg and was the league MVP. A 6-foot-1 guard, Hendry's ball-handling and defensive abilities have grown to match his considerable offensive talents.
Along with Hendry and his JV backcourt mate, 6-foot junior Diallo Jackson, is a contingent of post players who will add size and rebounding ability to the Missionary attack. Tom Storey, a 6-foot-7 junior from Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane, was playing the best basketball of his collegiate career late last season when he suffered a shoulder injury. Davor Rukavina, a 6-7 senior from Burnaby, British Columbia, adds a dimension of defense and rebounding along with the ability to score close to the basket with his jump hook. Greg Durkin, a 6-9 center from Atherton, Calif., and Jack Baker, a 6-6 forward from Longview, Wash., gained valuable experience last year as freshmen and will split time this winter between the varsity and junior varsity teams.
"Last year was our first serious effort at putting together a junior varsity schedule and it's something we are very excited about," Molitor said. "We had some young players with size who gained invaluable experience. Practicing daily with the varsity daily and playing a rigorous schedule against fine competition is tremendous preparation for play at the NCIC level. It was particularly pleasing to see this group finish the year strongly and return to our program with the confidence to compete well at the varsity level."
Completing the Whitman roster for the 1997-98 season will be a pair of perimeter recruits from the high school ranks and a third freshman who made the team as a walk-on.
Kevin Justice, a graduate of Capitol High School in Boise, Idaho, was his class valedictorian and the league's MVP in basketball. At 6-foot-2 and with extremely long arms and big hands, Justice has the potential to develop into a fine small forward.
Rob Lambert, who hails from Billings (Mont.) Central High School, is a 6-0 guard with excellent quickness and athletic ability. Lambert scored in double figures both as a junior and a senior on one of Montana's strongest high school teams, which captured a state championship and placed fourth in Lambert's last two years.
The freshman walk-on is Jason Bighorn, a 5-11 guard from Duncan, British Columbia, who will play on the junior varsity this winter.
"We believe the freshmen perimeter players we added this year will join the three players in our sophomore class to give us a sound nucleus for our program down the road," Molitor said. "Both Kevin and Rob come from outstanding high school programs and have very bright futures."
The Missionaries will play a 1997-98 schedule that looms as one of the toughest in recent memory. The non-league slate includes trips to play two NCAA Division I opponents -- the University of Montana and Gonzaga University. Both teams have enjoyed tremendous success in recent times.
Last year, after winning the Big Sky Conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, Montana lost to defending national champion Kentucky in the first round. Montana has advanced to post-season play in four of the last seven years, including three trips to the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga's credentials are just as impressive. The Bulldogs have advanced to post-season play in three of the last four years. After beating Stanford on the road and then losing a two-point heartbreaker at Kansas State in the 1994 National Invitation Tournament (NIT), Gonzaga played Washington State in the 1995 NIT and Maryland in the 1996 NCAA tournament.
Whitman College also will battle one of the strongest NCAA Division II schools in the country when they travel to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a New Year's tournament at Chaminade University. Chaminade, made famous with victories over Georgetown and Virginia in recent years, will host a field that includes Whitman, Fontbonne College of St Louis and Crown College of Kansas City.
After beginning its season and non-league schedule Nov. 22 at Eastern Oregon State University, Whitman will hit the road to play its first Northwest Conference games Dec. 5-6. The Missionaries then will host their annual mid-December tournament (the Wildhorse Resort Classic) in hopes of defending the tourney title they won a year ago. Other teams in the field are the University of California at Santa Cruz, Capilano College from Vancouver, BC, and Walla Walla College.
Play in the Northwest Conference promises to be as challenging as ever this winter. The NCIC, which added George Fox University and the University of Puget Sound in recent years, welcomes Seattle University as its tenth member this season.
The NCIC is ranked No. 1 among the 22 conferences that have competed in the NAIA Div. II post-season the last seven years. NCIC representatives have won 70 percent of their NAIA tournament games and maintains an impressive streak of having never lost a first- round game.
This will be the last year, however, that the NCIC competes in the NAIA post-season tournament. Beginning next year, the conference will send its top teams to the NCAA Div. III national tournament.