LACEY — Riley Carel has yet to show up at a Saint Martin’s University men’s basketball practice decked out in boots, jeans and a prized belt buckle, but fittingly, it would be a perfect match of Carel’s two worlds of hooping and looping.
Carel is one of the most competitive guys you’ll find on the Saints’ roster, and he draws that competitiveness and toughness from another arena: the rodeo circuit. He might not look it to the naked eye – “If you don’t know me, you have no idea,” Carel said – but horseplay is serious stuff. Carel, a redshirt junior guard, is an accomplished calf roper with ambitions of joining the pro rodeo tour once his collegiate basketball days are done.
“I’ll take it as far as it goes,” said Carel, who said he doesn’t compete in rodeos during basketball season.
SMU and the Carel family’s eight-acre Enumclaw ranch – home to horses, steers and calves – is separated by an hour’s drive, but they’re two different worlds the 22-year-old lives in. On campus, Carel is a typical college student – he just wrapped up final exams last week – but going home means saddling up one of his horses and roping with his father, Rick.
“That’s a way of life when I go home,” Riley Carel said. “When I’m here, it’s all about basketball and school.”
Basketball has always been Carel’s main focus, and his sport of choice for college. After transferring to SMU from Seattle Pacific (the “big-city lifestyle” wasn’t for him, he said) and sitting out a season because of NCAA Division II’s interconference transfer rules, Carel’s basketball rhythm is close to where it was in 2010, when he was the Class 3A state player of the year at Enumclaw High. A three-year starting point guard, he led the Hornets to the state championship game with an undefeated record before running into a red-hot Union squad and losing, 51-50, in the Tacoma Dome. A year earlier, Carel won a high school state title in team calf roping.
Rick Carel said his son’s on-court discipline stems from his days growing up on the rodeo circuit, and the responsibility that comes from it. At age 3, he already was swinging a rope on a horse, and going one-on-one with long-horned animals has made him a tougher competitor in basketball.
“He’s always been a gamer,” Rick Carel said. “He likes the spotlight and is a guy who wants the ball when there’s 4 seconds left and (the teams) are tied. Same thing with roping and backed into the box with 8 seconds to go.”
First-year Saint Martin’s men’s basketball coach Michael Ostlund has been with the Saints since April, and he’s still learning Carel’s background.
“We’re finding out bits and pieces as we go along,” Ostlund said.
In Ostlund’s system, Carel is one of three point guards in the starting lineup, joining Evan Coulter and freshman Tyler Copp. Aside from an exhibition game against Evergreen on Nov. 5, SMU’s first home game that counts in the standings is Wednesday against Northwest Christian at 7 p.m. The Beacons are coached by former University of Oregon standout Luke Jackson, a 2004 first-round draft pick who played parts of four NBA seasons with Cleveland, Toronto, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Saints are 2-6 overall, and Carel leads the team in minutes (29.4 per game) and is third in points (8.4). At SPU, Carel played 8.4 minutes a game in 2011-12.
Last season, he said he was fortunate to learn the ropes from Brady Bomber, the Saints’ four-year starting point guard, and he has brought that to this year’s Saints.
“I made it a good year,” Carel said. “(Now) every game, every minute, I feel I’m getting more comfortable; the team is getting more comfortable. … I’m not happy with the way I’ve played; I expect more out of myself and expect to be better (moving) on, and our team expects to be better.”
MEN’S college BASKETBALL preview
Saint Martin’s University Saints
Coach: Michael Ostlund, first year
Season record to date: 2-6 overall, 1-1 GNAC
2012-13 season: 10-16 overall, 6-12 GNAC (eighth place)
Returning starters: 3
Top players: G Evan Coulter, 5-10, sr.; C Matt Dodson, 6-11, sr.; G Riley Carel, 6-2, jr.; F Rei Jensen, 6-8, sr.
The skinny: Expect a learning curve with the Saints under Ostlund, who was a Saint Martin’s assistant from 1997-2001. Size will come off the bench, as Ostlund has elected to go with a three-guard starting lineup of Coulter, Carel, and freshman Tyler Copp out of Union High in Vancouver, Wash. For the third consecutive year, Saint Martin’s hosts the GNAC men’s basketball tournament – March 5-8, 2014.
The Evergreen State College Geoducks
Coach: Arvin Mosley, Jr., fourth season
Season record to date: 1-8 overall, 0-2 CCC
2012-13 season: 2-24, 1-16 (10th place)
Returning starters: 4
Top players: G Frankie Johnson, 5-9, so., G KJ Hong, 6-0, sr.; F Marc Taylor, 6-7, sr., F Cody Peters, 6-7, sr.
The skinny: Mosley, Jr., has tinkered with his starting lineup through 10 games; Johnson and Kyle Calhoun are the only players to start all 10. Calhoun’s 19.9 points-per-game average ranks sixth in the conference and his 46.3 percent from 3-point range ranks seventh. Olympia High grad Alex Weber-Brader transferred to Evergreen from SPU but is not playing this season. For the first time in program history, Evergreen has four Division I exhibitions; its final one is at Portland State on Monday.
South Puget Sound Community College Clippers
Coach: Aaron Landon, first season
Season record to date: 0-6 overall
2012-’13 season: 4-21 overall, 1-15 NWAACC West Division (ninth place)
Returning starters: 0
Top players: G Slanblaytee Kaye, 6-0, fr.; G Austin Bonds, 6-0, fr.; Joseph Johnson, 5-11, fr.
The skinny: Landon and assistant coach Carson Padon worked feverishly to rebuild an SPSCC roster from the ground up since their hiring in May. All 12 players are freshmen, including local products Michael Champlin (Olympia) and Jonathan Roberts (River Ridge). Kaye, an athletic guard out of Oakland, ranks ninth in the NWAACC in assists per game (4.75). League play starts Jan. 2 at Lower Columbia.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org @MegWochnick email@example.com