Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 11:14 p.m.
- Rebels get early boot from tournament
- Adams consoles ‘Mama Wink’ after 26-point losing effort
- Healthy, patient Aztecs abuzz over NCAA hopes
- UNLV-SDSU notebook: Rebels gripping postseason reality
- Kantowski: Outclassed, UNLV likely NIT-bound
- Utah escapes with win over TCU
- Wife of BYU’s Cummard shows up for tourney without hesitation
If top-seeded BYU is to win its first Mountain West Conference tournament since 2001, junior guard Jonathan Tavernari will have to play a formidable role.
The Cougars' second-leading scorer got off to a good start Thursday, posting a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds in an 80-69 quarterfinal victory over Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Silver State basketball fans should recognize the 6-foot-6 Tavernari — he was the state's leading high school scorer with 23.1 points a game his senior season at Bishop Gorman in 2005-06.
"It's great playing here man, Vegas is my favorite city in the whole world," Tavernari said. "I love the people. Rebels fan or not, when I go out to eat everybody comes up and says 'hi' to me and treats me nice, and that's all I can ask for."
Despite his love for the city, Las Vegas hasn't always reciprocated the feeling. Bishop Gorman sparked a firestorm around high school basketball when it recruited Tavernari out of his native Brazil, prompting other Southern Nevada schools to threaten leaving the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.
During his last trip here for a Feb. 21 meeting with the Rebels, Tavernari went to see his alma mater's regional playoff game at Palo Verde High. He was involved in a confrontation with officials from Palo Verde over seating issues in the packed gym.
A security guard reportedly had to handcuff a heated Tavernari to calm him down.
“It really was a big misunderstanding and we'll leave it at that," Tavernari said. "I was just trying to go in there and be a part of my alma mater, have fun and see my old coaches. “Bad things happen to good people all the time, my coaches ended up coming and seeing me at my hotel and everything was OK."
The incident didn't hurt Tavernari's performance on the court, as he posted another double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 75-74 loss to UNLV the next night.
According to Tavernari, those exceptions have had little impact on his overall experience in Las Vegas. He nearly won a state title here, a feat he was happy to hear was accomplished by his Gaels this year. He also says he enjoyed his life away from the court in the city.
"When I went to high school, I remember after class when we didn't have anything exciting going on we'd just park at the Strip and walk from one end to the other," Tavernari said. "Vegas will always have a special place in my heart."