Last night, against Gonzaga, BYU forward Eric Mika finally emerged from the shadows and embraced his destiny. And in doing so, he tapped a long line of hatred, from the likes of Omar Samhan and Matthew Dellavedova, to become the official heir as Gonzaga’s public enemy #1.
There is a lot to work with here, so where do we start. You have the obvious Ivan Drago comparison, and then you have his Drago-like killer efficiency that was on display last night.
Mika finished with an ORtg of 137 while scoring 29 points. That is a phenomenal game. On the season, Mika is averaging 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He leads the WCC in a host of various categories, nothing more enraging than free throw attempts (he had 13 last night).
Then there is the attitude that comes with it, and this is perhaps the most important part. In front of a raucous crowd, doing his best alpha male impersonation, Mika spent time heckling BACK the student section, and even had the nerve to mimic Przemek Karnowski’s “feed the beast” motions.
This is an attack that we Gonzaga fans have not seen since the days of Omar Samhan, a man who not only fed on this hatred but seemed to thrive knowing that everyone in all of existence (ok Spokane) hated him.
Said Samhan: “They [the students] always get on me. I expect them to be how they always are, getting on me and everything else. They always have something special. I love playing in that kind of environment.”
Dellavedova never really carried that banner. He operated with a recklessness and cluelessness that had you terrified he would somehow win a game without even knowing how he did it. Still, you couldn’t argue with the results Dellavedova often delivered, even if, for lack of better terminology, he looked dumb as all hell while doing it. And now the NBA has to deal with the eyesore that is his game.
What Mika had been missing in his sore attempt to get noticed was that Samhan-style edge, and he made sure that was on full display last night. After getting beat by Przemek Karnowski, Mika decided to move from hard foul to absolutely stupid foul. He was given a Flagarant I for his efforts.
There is a collective sigh from Spokane anytime Karnowski hits the ground like that, and that play right there cemented the legendary, hateful status of Mika. Especially, because the Twitter reaction hailing from Provo on the play revealed the often true and sad nature of a good many BYU fans out there: unintelligent, juvenile, and not worth a minute of your time.
Mika did this all with a clinical ruthlessness. It was slowly made worse and worse by what was going on. Gonzaga hadn’t lost a single game all season, and they were about to lose their first one, to the worst possible fanbase. Here, Mika drew the third foul on Karnowski with a little sweet chin music to boot.
And at the end of the day, Mika did all of this while doing exactly what needs to be done to achieve Public Enemy #1: be really good at the whole thing. Mika wasn’t so good when the Zags rolled into the Marriott Center earlier this season, but he doesn’t have to be at home. This dredges of the human scum display only needs to be activated when in Spokane.
So welcome to the club Eric Mika. You made your presence known last night, now let’s see if you can carry the burden of that torch for the next two years.