IF YOU GO
■ What: International Basketball League playoffs.
■ Where: O’Connell Sports Center, Clark College.
■ Today’s games: Vancouver (12-6) vs. Portland (12-11), 6 p.m.; Albany, N.Y. (14-6) vs. Olympia (6-14), 8 p.m.
■ Saturday’s games: Albany-Olympia winner vs. Edmonton (14-6), 6 p.m.; Vancouver-Portland winner vs. Bellingham (14-5), 8 p.m.
■ Sunday’s game: Championship, 1 p.m.
■ Cost: $10 for one-day ticket; $20 for weekend pass.
(Steven Lane/The Columbian)Buy this photo
Andre Murray isn’t going to challenge any of Kevin Bloodsaw’s dunks. He is going to step out of the way as though waving a red cape in Madrid.
It’s not that he is intimidated by Bloodsaw, or fears the ridicule that would ensue if he were jammed on. No, Murray’s willingness to give his teammate the easy bucket in practice stems from a far more altruistic motivation.
“I’m worried about his old bones,” Murray said. “I’m afraid they’re going to break.”
Twist off a Snapple cap and you’re guaranteed a fun fact. Ask a member of the Vancouver Volcanoes about Bloodsaw and you’re guaranteed a geriatric joke. The back-up small forward turned 39 Wednesday, and if not for the 35-year-old Jake Carlisle, would be the oldest player on the team by a good nine years.
But salvoes from teammates bounce off Bloodsaw like Tic Tacs. The Beaverton, Ore., resident is carrying far heavier ammunition. In addition to the fact that he won an NAIA national championship at the University of Ozarks in Arkansas, or that his vertical leap is only a couple inches below his age, if teammates ever taunt him about the number of trips he’s taken around the sun, he can always respond: “Excuse me, which of us is the International Basketball League’s all-time leading scorer?”
Yes, with 2,238 points, that’s a title Bloodsaw has held since 2010. What’s more noteworthy, however, is the pace at which he’s adding to his total.
Bloodsaw is averaging 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for the Volcanoes this year while playing 25.7 minutes. He also is shooting 50 percent from the field and often guards the opponent’s top scorer.
New tricks have not been necessary for this old dog. As the 23-year-old Murray said, “He’s gotta have the best genes in the world. The way he looks out there. He’s 39, but he looks 16.”
It is impossible to write about Kevin Bloodsaw and not highlight the numbers. You could focus on his age, his prolific scoring, the various countries he has played in, slam dunk contests he has won or NBA players he has scrimmaged against. But the most impressive digit be this: Zero.
That, after all, is how many dollars IBL players get paid.
Yet, every Monday and Wednesday, Bloodsaw slogs to Portland for a two-hour practice and then trudges through two games on the weekend. And it’s not as though he is trying to build a highlight tape or stay in shape between overseas seasons like his teammates.
So what besides senility would possess a man of his age to keep doing this?
“Family,” said Bloodsaw, who was nicknamed “Pip” by his grandmother, who likened his game to fellow Arkansas native Scottie Pippen. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I haven’t been able to do it in front of my family. The longer I play, the more they get to see me.”
Yes, Bloodsaw has played college ball in Arkansas and professional ball in Germany. He has worked out with former Sacramento King Mitch Richmond and former Trail Blazer Damon Stoudamire. He even possessed a 43-inch vertical when his powers were at their peak.
But his three sons — 8-year-old Mason, 7-year-old Titus and 4-year-old Devin — have no recollection of such feats.
They’re not going to tell their friends about the time Dad dunked on his former teammate Porter Troupe, then did a chicken dance all the way down the sideline. They’re not reminiscing about Pops’ back-to-back 40-point games, either.
They won’t relay the time teammate Curtis Hill accused Bloodsaw of lying about his former dunk contest wins, to which Bloodsaw responded by lugging all of his news clippings and trophies to practice and saying “they’re all yours if you can beat me in a contest right now.” (Bloodsaw won.)
But with the playoffs starting today and running through Sunday at the O’Connell Sports Center, all three have a chance to watch Bloodsaw do something for the very first time: capture an IBL title.
Granted, this league may not cut its players a check, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of former NBA players such as Tim Hardaway, Dennis Rodman or Cedric Ceballos from coming through. Winning at this level still carries prestige.
And even though Bloodsaw owns a national championship ring, he said wants this crown as much as anything.
Players get old. Winning does not.
Matt Calkins is a sports reporter for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org