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Viney answers call for Loyola

Drew Viney remembers the first time he talked to Max Good. It was the kind of conversation that one never forgets.

It was in early May 2008. Viney was getting set to transfer from Oregon to Loyola Marymount, and Bill Bayno was the Lions coach at the time. Bayno put Good, his top assistant, on the phone. What Viney heard next caused him to pause and wonder what he was getting himself into.

“He started cursing me out and telling me about how he had two fists — one was pain, the other was death and that I didn’t want any part of either,” Viney said, using the sanitized version of the conversation. “I hung up and said, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ “

The 6-foot-5-inch sophomore now knows he didn’t make a mistake. He has flourished under Good’s coaching, and Saturday, Viney scored 18 points to lead the fifth-seeded Lions into the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament with an 84-76 victory over No. 4 San Francisco at the Orleans Arena.

Loyola Marymount (18-14) will face No. 1 Gonzaga at 5:30 p.m. today on ESPN2 (Cable 31) with a berth in Monday’s championship game at stake.

“This is why I came here,” Viney said. “I wanted to help us be in this position. We’re 18-14, and we’ve had a huge turnaround from last year. I’m having a great time.”

Last year, Viney redshirted, one of four transfers who sat out. LMU went through a turbulent season, losing Bayno as its coach early in the campaign, adjusting to Good’s no-nonsense style and finishing 3-28. Yet Viney, like Good, knew better times were ahead.

“It’s like we were this well-kept secret,” Viney said. “Nobody knew anything about the guys who sat out and the guys we were bringing in. It’s like we were flying under the radar.”

Then the 2009-10 season began. The Lions beat Southern California in November. They won at Notre Dame and beat a good Long Beach State team in December. And when they knocked off Gonzaga 74-68 on Feb. 18, they got the attention of the college basketball world.

Viney has been their best player. He uses great footwork and a Larry Bird-like step-back jump shot to score from anywhere on the floor. He is LMU’s leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points, and was a first-team All-WCC selection.

“He’s very talented,” Good said. “He’ll work endlessly on his game. If he can get stronger and tougher and play more physical, there’s no telling how good he can be.”

Viney has loved his association with Good. But he regrets never having had an opportunity to play for Bayno, the man who recruited him to LMU.

“It bothered me for a while,” said Viney, a theater arts major. “I finally reached out to Coach Bayno in January, and we talked, and everything’s fine. I’m glad he’s doing well.”

Bayno returned to the NBA last spring as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers. But he evidently hasn’t lost his eye for talent. And Good hasn’t lost his ability to get the most out of a player.

“He’s very gifted,” Good said, noting Viney’s parents coached basketball and weaned him on the fundamentals. “We’re excited he’s going to be with us for a while.”

So is Viney.

“Looking back, I know I did the right thing coming here,” he said. “I’m glad I wasn’t scared off after talking to Coach Good on the phone.”

■ Portland 72, San Diego 57 — The Pilots (21-9) advanced to today’s 8 p.m. semifinal against No. 2 Saint Mary’s, getting 15 points from T.J. Campbell and 13 from Jared Stohl.

Ken Rancifer led the Toreros (11-21) with 20 points.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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