After undergoing an appendectomy on Feb. 22, coming back to score a career-high at Nevada on March 4, and then returning to Lawlor Events Center just four days later to play in the Big West Tournament, the word "whirlwind" doesn't even begin to describe Idaho freshman basketball player Lance Buoncristiani's life.
Buoncristiani has finally been able to slow down this week while on school break, at home in Carson City through Sunday and "relaxing" by spending some of his afternoons in the Galena High School gym playing pick-up games with most of the Grizzly varsity as well as Santa Clara's Brian Vaka, another Galena grad also on spring break.
Running the floor and firing 3-pointers on Friday, Buoncristiani appeared fully recovered from his appendectomy, not showing any major scars from the laparoscopic procedure which allowed him to suit up for the Vandals' game against New Mexico State five days after surgery. (He did not appear in that game.)
Buoncristiani downplayed the affect of the appendicitis on his season, saying his back had slowed him down as much as his appendix. He can't even say when the appendicitis began to affect him, as he thinks some of the illness he felt right before his surgery may have been caused by the flu.
"I threw my back out really bad at North Texas (on Feb. 12), and it caused me to sit out the last 8-10 minutes of the game, and then I did it again against New Mexico State at home (on Feb. 17)," said Buoncristiani, Galena's all-time leading scorer. "It was all at the end. I didn't have any problems in the preseason or the beginning of the regular season."
Despite the ailments, which combined to hamper him at the end of the season, Buoncristiani was able to post decent statistics for a true freshman. The 5-8, 140 pound point guard averaged 21 minutes per game in 27 appearances for the Vandals and led Idaho in total assists (73) while scoring 3.7 ppg. He scored nine points on three 3-pointers at Nevada to record his collegiate high game in front of friends and family on the same night the Wolf Pack clinched a spot in the Big West Tourney with a 73-67 win.
Lance said the biggest disappointment of his freshman season was with the Vandals' record. Idaho finished 12-17 overall (6-10 conference) and lost in the first round of the Big West Tournament to Long Beach State.
"I wish my team could have done better," said Buoncristiani, who has no plans of redshirting any season. "I wish I could have shot the ball better. I didn't shoot too much, but I wish I could have been more consistent."
Buoncristiani shot 31 percent from the field (also 31 percent from beyond the arc) and 85 percent from the free-throw line this season.
Buoncristiani said it didn't take him long to make the adjustments from high school to college basketball.
"The biggest step was into somebody else's (David Ferrar's) system, but that can happen anywhere, even from one high school team to another high school team," Buoncristiani said. "It wasn't all that big of a step from high school to college beside understanding the shot clock and learning which fouls are going to be called.
"Most of the other things are the same. It's just playing at another level of competition, that's all."
Looking ahead to next season, Buoncristiani said he didn't think Utah State would dominate the Big West in unbeaten fashion once again next year.
"I think Utah State's a pretty beatable team," Buoncristiani said. "They're just very consistent and nobody came to play the right game against them this year. You can beat them at any time, but if you don't bring your A-game, they'll get you no matter what."
As for the social and academic transition between high school and college, Buoncristiani said that's been easy compared to playing basketball.
"It hasn't been too difficult," he said. "(Moscow's) a pretty small town and the campus is the biggest thing there. It's like going to a really, really big high school."
Notes: 1998 Galena High grad Matt Seibrandt played in two games for College of Southern Idaho at the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, this past week. On Wednesday, he scored four points as Southern Idaho beat Cochise, Ariz., 85-58. On Thursday, he scored 14 points in Southern Idaho's 74-71 loss to Southeast Iowa. He was Southern idaho's leading scorer this season.