SPOKANE, Wash. — He didn't play, but there was a familiar Utah County connection on Gonzaga's bench.
Leo Roese, who played at Timpview, is a freshman walk-on with the Bulldogs. Coach Mark Few said he's been injured all of first semester and is just now contributing.
"A nice kid. Very self-motivated," Roese said of the affable player who is the son of former BYU assistant coach Walter Roese. "Leo has been down here doing what he could do, whatever he was cleared to do physically even though he wasn't allowed to have contact (after arthroscopic surgery)."
Walter Roese was at BYU from 2005-07, then went to San Diego (now a West Coast Conference colleague of the Cougars) after getting hired on the first staff of incoming coach Bill Grier.
Grier was a longtime assistant at Gonzaga, so that connection helped land the younger Roese in this northwest basketball mecca.
"Basketball here has a good reputation for walk-ons," said Roese, who adds that he is on the scout team on most days and also gets to lift weights with the regular players everyday along with the other non-scholarship players.
Roese was especially excited to end up at practice Friday. His dad had sent him some presents from Brazil.
They were brought to McCarthey Athletic Center by a BYU staffer, in two big boxes, as he was helping out an old friend in avoiding shipping charges.
Roese isn't exactly in the heat of action on game nights, which routinely draw a sellout (6,000 fans) and the Bulldogs have only lost eight times since the venue opened about 10 years ago.
But Roese smiled when asked about living the life at GU.
He lives right in the center of campus, an all-male dorm.
"It's always pretty fun; always something to do," Roese said.
∫In attendance: BYU had a full crew backing it behind the team bench. That included school president Cecil O. Samuelson, along with associate AD Brian Santiago. Also, there were family connections. Coach Dave Rose's daughter, Chanell, lives in the Spokane area with her children and husband Brock Reichner, a former BYU player. (Reichner was part of Rose's first-ever win as BYU's head coach, in November of 2005 at Spokane Arena against Washington State.)
∫Tip-ins: Coaching staffs for both teams wore slacks and polo shirts along with tennis shoes, as part of a cancer-awareness tradition (Coaches Vs. Cancer). GU coach Few also was part of a presentation for a check of nearly $743,000 that was raised from his foundation to the American Cancer Society. ...Officials were Michael Reed, Kevin Brill and Deldre Carr. Reed was in Spokane for the 2013 BYU-GU meeting, as well. ...Tipoff was delayed about 10 minutes as a GU work crew fixed a bad net on the hoop the Cougars were shooting at in the first half.