Michigan‘s Fab Five basketball legacy, even 20 years later, remains a complicated one. Issues of class and race and media coverage and privacy and amateurism and professionalism and a whole slew of other interrelated variables have followed these guys along ever since they collective hit the national consciousness way back in 1991. One thing, however, that isn’t that complicated, was that notorious Wolverines’ booster Ed Martin paid the likes of Chris Webber and several others to matriculate and play for the blue and maize. There’s really no disputing it (Webber himself copped a plea for lying to a grand jury on that very issue in July 2003). Yet Webber has spent the better part of the last decade-plus holding a grudge against his alma mater for what he felt was unfair treatment — some of it arguably meritorious, some not — and refusing to come to terms with the notion that, setting aside all the other indignities, he still is responsible for some of the darkest days in program history along with the sunniest ones. HoopsHype recently interviewed former Fab Fiver and current NBA analyst Jalen Rose, who called out Webber for his simple failure to say “I’m sorry” to the fans of the program who were ultimately let down by those actions. We’ve said it in this space and on social media many times before, but it remains spectacularly impressive that the most thoughtful and mature member of the Fab Five turned out to be Rose — he remains completely on point.
The 2014-15 college basketball season may be creeping ever closer, but the folks over at ESPN are already thinking well beyond Indianapolis and the 2015 Final Four. Last week, ESPN’s group of college basketball insiders released their take on what Top 25 polls could look like over the next three seasons in a column entitled “Future Power Rankings.” The panel evaluated and rated programs on a 1-10 scale in five different categories — Coaching, Current Talent, Recruiting, Program Power, and Stability — then pooled the results to extract a singular score (out of 100) for each program. Coaching, Current Talent and Recruiting each counted for 25% of that final tally, while Program Power made up another 15%. Stability counted for just 10%.
Rankings and lists may seem particularly interesting on the slog through these college basketball-less months, but the exercise in responding is the same now as it will be in January, February and March: We will always have our gripes. Highlighted below are a few of the more controversial decisions — some method-based, others result-oriented — that ESPN’s committee of experts produced.
Coach K Should Have Plenty Of Reason To Keep Smiling, As His Program Graded Out On Top In ESPN’s Future Power Rankings
Redundancy Within Formula: In many ways, this list would have wound up more accurate, honest and interesting if the esteemed panel hadn’t been forced to break down each program into five components. The gimmicky, algorithmic path that they followed may offer more individual points of discussion (Is John Thompson III really that bad a coach? Is the power of Xavier’s program ACTUALLY significantly stronger than Villanova?) , but there’s significant overlap across many of the categories. The delineation between coaching and recruiting is often a difficult one — as Mike Francesa and John Calipari recently discussed — and stability also strongly correlates with a successful, entrenched head coach. In fact, save for Kentucky, every team in the top 10 of the rankings had a stability score that measured within four points of their coaching score (UK received a 98 for coaching and an 88 for stability). Looking elsewhere, recruiting and program power are another pair of categories with predictable overlap, as growth in either category inevitably fuels the other.
Louisville‘s banner 2015 recruiting class just took a big hit as Antonio Blakeney announced (sort of) that he would be reopening his recruitment after committing to play at Louisville less than two weeks ago. The reasons for his decision were not disclosed, but at least one analyst went on record saying that the decision was related to shoe company affiliation. Although it is uncommon for a recruit to go back to a school after reopening his commitment there have been a handful of high-profile cases in recent years. If Blakeney decides to move on, the smart money would be on one of his other five finalists: Florida State, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Oregon, and USC. We will let you take a look at that list and do the math on which one is not like the others.
With the United States winning the World Cup of Basketball we expected much of the talk following the event to focus on the dominant performance by this team and possibly calls for the United States to return to playing with either college players or at least to field a younger team. That thought was turned on its head with Adrian Wojnarowski’s column essentially saying that the only person benefiting from the current situation was Mike Krzyzewski. While we do agree with some of the points in the article–particularly the nice recruiting benefit that Krzyzewski gets as the coach of a variety of NBA superstars–the idea is not much different than many of the other college coaches who coach international teams including some who coach foreign countries even when they have no known prior association with that country. Overall, the column feels a little bit too much like a hit piece and as many have pointed out the situation certainly benefits Krzyzewski, but it has helped some NBA players further their games and Krzyzewski would hardly be alone in using someone else’s platform to lift him and his program up another level.
It has been a rough few days in Pauley Pavilion. Just a few days after incoming Australian freshman Jonah Bolden a partial qualifier unable to play this year, according to reports UCLAdenied admission to transfer point guard Jon Octeus. A graduate transfer from Colorado State, where he averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, Octeus was expected to help replace the output the Bruins lost with Kyle Anderson’s departure. Unfortunately for Octeus, who left Colorado State to go to UCLA to help his prospects of playing in the NBA in what he described as “a business decision” (so much for the academic transfer), the Rams already filled their roster. Octeus had been looking at Tennessee, Missouri, and Cincinnati prior to committing to UCLA so there is a chance he could end up there although we are not sure the mechanics of how quickly a graduate transfer would work especially since many schools would have already started. As for the Bruins, they are left to try to piece together what should be a disjointed backcourt that would have been held together by Octeus’ presence.
After taking a four-month medical leave of absence, Alan Major has returned to his position as head coach. Major, who underwent a pair of surgeries for glaucoma as well as a procedure for an arrhythmia, had taken a leave of absence in May so he did not miss any games. In the interim, three assistants managed the day-to-day operations and will probably handle some of that responsibility as Major eases back into his job. In his four seasons at Charlotte, Major has compiled a 61-63 record, but has shown steady improvement going from a 10-20 his first year to over .500 the past two years.
In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal there has been increased interest around the issue of domestic violence (something that should have been a bigger issue long ago). In general we don’t see too many issues in college basketball, but it does happen occasionally as it occurs to have happened with Texas guard Martez Walker, who was suspended indefinitely after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Walker, who averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last season, will have to deal with the legal system in much the same way that others before him have, but based on public sentiment after the Ray Rice elevator assault video was released as well as the victim’s report that this was not the first episode we doubt that we will see Walker in a Longhorn jersey anytime soon.
Villanova picked up a big commitment yesterday from five-star point guard Jalen Brunson bringing their 2015 class to three as he joins shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo and power forward Tim Delaney. As Jeff Borzello notes, Brunson’s recruitment was complex and probably wasn’t decided until after Brunson’s father, who was expected to be part of a package deal as an assistant coach, was arrested for alleged sexual assault. Brunson is from Illinois so this is another tough loss for Illini fans, but it still early in the recruiting season so there are still plenty of big names available.
Josh Pastner’s decision to hire Keelon Lawson is paying dividends more quickly than many anticipated. In addition to having a pipeline to Lawson’s kids, who are all highly recruited, Pastner will also get Dedric Lawson, who was the #7 overall recruit in the class of 2016, a year early as Dedric announced that he will reclassify to the class of 2015. By doing so, Dedric will join his brother K.J., ranked #38 in this class, at Memphis next year. The move should not come as too much of a surprise because Dedric’s birth date would make him eligible for the 2016 NBA Draft.
The season hasn’t even started yet, but we already have a pair of significant ACL injuries to report. The most significant one will probably be at Illinois where they appear to have lost Tracy Abrams for the season due to an ACL tear. Abrams, a senior who started all 35 games last season, averaged 10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season. Fortunately for Illinois, they appear to have an adequate and seasoned replacement in Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks. Valparaiso might not be so lucky in terms of finding a replacement for starting point guard Lexus Williams who will also be undergoing surgery for a torn ACL. Williams averaged 6.5 points and 2.3 assists while starting 23 games as a freshman last season. Unlike Illinois, Valparaiso has not set a time table for Williams’ return after his surgery, which is expected to be performed today.
Outside of the Brunson and Lawson news there were also several other significant announcements. The first comes from four-star forward Mickey Mitchell, who recommitted to Ohio State. Mitchell had initially committed to Ohio State, but reopened his recruitment over the summer before finally deciding (we think) that Columbus was the right place for him. Four-star shooting guard Rex Pfluegercommitted to Notre Dame giving the Irish more options to help with scoring after Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton leave following this season. On the other end of the spectrum is Kedar Edwards, who reopened his recruitment after having previously committed to Florida State. Edwards was previously expected to play for the Seminoles this season, but for reasons that aren’t clear to us did not enroll. With Florida State picking up several top-tier recruits last week, perhaps Edwards realized that Tallahassee might not be the ideal location for him even for the upcoming years.
We are not sure how many of you have been watching the FIBA Basketball World Cup (judging by the online response we have seen not too many of you), but with the Finals coming up this weekend we were wondering how long the pro experiment will go on. We are young enough (well at least one of us) to not remember what it was like to have amateurs represent us at championship level events against professionals from other countries. It seems like every time there is another international competition the cries for going back to the old format grow louder. While at some level we enjoy seeing the US beat up on the rest of the world, which is something we would expect to do regularly if all of the best NBA players participated, we wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to have a group of players who were really committed to the program although with the brief stops in college for many top players that might not be realistic.
As we descend the back end of the calendar year, slowly but certainly inching toward cooler weather and the magical return of college basketball, the 24/7/365 behemoth that is Kentucky Basketball continues to play chess while the rest of its competition is playing checkers. John Calipari announced on Tuesday that he plans to offer a first-of-its-kind scouting combine for NBA personnel to assess his boatload of prep All-Americans in a structured environment (and in lieu of endless in-season scouting visits to practice). Several college football programs do something similar for their future professionals, but these so-called “pro days” typically come after the season has completed but before April’s NFL Draft. And if you think there won’t be a recruiting component to this October 10-11 event in Lexington, keep dreaming. Coach Cal continues to think creatively, and his success is to show for it.
The rest of the SEC‘s basketball programs have enough trouble keeping up with the Caliparis on the recruiting trail as it is, but as CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish notes in this article, a little-known league rule about junior college transfers further limits the SEC’s 13 other schools from attracting local players who could have been good fits. Marquette’s Jae Crowder — originally from Georgia — is his prime example, citing that the Peach State native and 2012 Big East Player of the Year was precluded from enrolling at any SEC school (including the one in Athens) because he had not spent at least three semesters at his junior college prior to matriculation. It’s an exceptionally odd rule — especially in the loosey-goosey SEC — but it is one that limits the talent pool by a sliver and gives other leagues a bit of a competitive advantage in certain instances.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie hasn’t had the best year-plus in his role as the chief executive of the nation’s favorite drive-through state, but he may have turned the corner in many sports fans’ minds with his announcement this week that the Garden State would allow sports gambling in its race tracks and casinos. This is an obvious last-ditch response to the ongoing implosion of the Atlantic City gaming industry, but the timing of this initiative with the NFL and college football getting under way couldn’t be any better from a quick revenue perspective. The NCAA is on record as very much against this, and it’s unclear as to the ultimate legality of the directive, but Christie is willing to take a shot at it. Could Jersey finally be on a path to become the East Coast’s Vegas through sports gambling? Stay tuned on this one over the next few weeks and as we push on toward the start of college hoops in November.
While in the legal realm — hey, it’s the offseason — the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon name and likeness case announced earlier this week that they would not seek an appeal of any part of district court judge Claudia Wilken’s decision that mostly fell in their favor. The NCAA, of course, is appealing the antitrust holding of the decision — the core issue that will require schools to compensate players for the use of their images — so you may be wondering why the winners would even consider an appeal. The reason is because the O’Bannon plaintiffs didn’t get everything they were hoping for, but they got enough. Now on to the appellate court…
Finally, we’d like to once again put out a feeler to any of our readers — long-timers or newbies — who might want to give a shot at writing about college basketball this upcoming season. We need national columnists in addition to knowledgeable writers for each of the major basketball leagues — the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, along with the Other 26 — to fill out our roster. We invite anybody with an interest to send us some information about yourself and a writing sample to email@example.com. Thanks for your interest.
This weekend might have marked the start of the NFL season for some, but it was also a big one for college basketball recruiting. Florida State was the big winner picking up a pair of top-50 recruits in Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley. Both announcements, which were made separately, came on Friday night and gives the Seminoles one of the top classes in the country early in the recruiting season. Louisville also added to its already strong class with the addition of five-star guard Antonio Blakeney. That announcement probably puts the Cardinals in the #1 or 2 spot in the recruiting standing this year with Arizona being the other top choice. We would have considered Oregon State‘s ability to add two top-tier recruits–Trey Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr.–last week to be particularly noteworthy except the recruits were the sons of the team’s coaches. Still the addition of those two plus Derrick Bruce is a potential game-changer for the program that has been mired in mediocrity (at best) for quite a while. Texas A&M also picked up a big piece on Sunday night when D.J. Hogg, a five-star small foward, committed to play for the Aggies. While they have not struggled for quite as long as the Beavers, the Aggies haven’t really been relevant since the 2010-11 season.
We have seen a lot of strange movement with top recruits over the years, but Thon Maker‘s international movements appear to be unique. Maker, who is widely considered the top recruit in the class of 2016, came to the United States from Australia (via Sudan) and now is being moved to Canada along with his younger brother Matur, also a top prospect. Maker could conceivably end up reclassifying to the class of 2015, but with all of this movement we don’t know how realistic that is. The decision to move was made by Maker’s guardian, who will also serve as an assistant coach at his new school. We can only hope that this is being made in Maker’s best interest even if we disagree with the general idea behind all of this movement.
After nearly a month Charleston finally found a replacement for Doug Wojcik as it announced its decision to hire Earl Grant. Wojcik was fired in the wake of allegations of abuse against his players, an issue that has become increasingly common. The process to replace Wojcik took longer than expected and likely drove off many of the potential hires that the school looked at. Grant has spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Clemson and at the age of 37 could serve as a potential long-term coach the school needs (or it could be just a stepping stone for him). We normally don’t like to bring race into the discussion of hiring/firing, but as Gary Parrish points out in his background on the situation at Charleston it likely played a role.
We would expect Miami to be a better team with the addition of several key transfers, but they might have lost a big piece last week when Davon Reed underwent surgery after tearing the meniscus in his left knee during an offseason workout that could keep him out for four to six months. As a freshman last season, Reed started 10 games while averaging 6.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in a little over 20 minutes per game and scored 11.5 points per game in two ACC Tournament games while coming off the bench. The school has not officially announced whether Reed would redshirt so there is a chance we could see him around the second half of conference play.
We are not sure if the decision by certain Georgia Tech coaches to make impermissible calls just three days after their NCAA hearing was brazen or idiotic, but it helped to get the school two more years of probation. The school’s current probation now extends to June 13, 2017 after its coaches, who were already on probation, made hundreds of impermissible calls and texts. We have gotten to the point where we are not really sure what to make of all of these probation announcements. On one hand, the school was already on probation so you would figure that if they mess up again they should get more than a slap on the wrist. On the other hand, these violations are completely unrelated to the other violations and might not even be violations any more.
The big news of the past week for college basketball and college sports in general was the decision by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken to rule in favor of Ed O’Bannon (and 19 other plantiffs) in a 99-page decision. The ruling essentially means that players could be in line to get a share of the billions of dollars generated by college TV and video game deals. While we are still in the early stages of this case (and issue) it might be the most strong rejection of the NCAA’s amateur model we have seen yet. The ruling doesn’t necessarily mean that the players will be getting money any time soon, but instead removes restrictions on issues pertaining to a player’s likeness. The NCAA is obviously not thrilled about this decision and plans to appeal. Lester Munson has a pretty easy-to-read recap of the issues in what is a fairly complex case for those of us not in the legal field (or inclined to read 99 pages).
Of course the next question is how much would a player be worth in the “free market”. There will be all kinds of numbers thrown around by people coming up with formulas to figure this kind of thing out. One figure that seems to have caught on a bit is that the average player is worth $212,080 based on calculations by Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post. We don’t claim to have PhDs in math, but the numbers seem a little suspect especially one that claims that the average player is worth nearly 40% as much as Dakari Johnson. The average player may have had a bigger impact on his team that Johnson does on Kentucky, but there is no way that the average program brings in anywhere close to the money that Kentucky does (or that the average team turns a $2.5 million profit).
Speaking of big money, Maryland finally settled with the ACC for a sum of $31.4 million in order to exit the conference. The battle, which has been going on since November 2012, was one of many involving schools looking to exit conferences on the conference realignment carousel. The ACC had initially demanded full payment of a $52 million, which led Maryland to file a countersuit for over $150 million. With Maryland already an official member of the Big Ten for nearly one and a half months it seems fitting that at least one more of these suits was settled before Maryland actually competes in its new conference. Now if we can just get rid of any more conference realignment we might be onto something.
By now you have probably seen the “most hated team state map” that has been floating around. We aren’t going to take the time to really pick apart this analysis (summary: a lot of states hate Duke–not as many as you might think–and then there are a bunch of regional rivalries). The one thing we would point out is that the map would have benefited a lot from increased fidelity because many of these areas of hatred are probably based around certain cities (like where rival schools are located). If you are looking for a little more nuanced breakdown of some of the results, check out Jeff Eisenberg’s analysis of the hate map.
There were also a couple of significant pieces of transfer news this past week. Colorado State added Grambling transfer Antwan Scott, who led them in scoring with 15.7 points per game last season. The addition of Scott is even more significant because he is eligible to play immediately with a graduate student transfer waiver. The other news is still somewhat in limbo as Cody Doolin, who transferred from San Francisco after a falling out with the team, was able to get his senior year of eligibility back, but is still waiting on the NCAA to rule if he is eligible to play immediately for UNLV.
It seems like just yesterday that Pauley Pavilion was being renovated (ok, maybe two years ago), but the court that has been home to more men’s Division I national championship teams that any other might need a little touch-up. A flood on Tuesday at UCLA‘s campus may have caused serious damage to the floor and other areas of the arena not to mention other buildings on the campus. While the flooding has stopped it will probably be several more days before the school has a better understanding of how much work will be needed to fix whatever damage has been done.
The decision by Chad Frazier to leave UAB following his domestic violence arrest should not be completely unexpected, but is still a significant loss for the team. Frazier, who transferred from Gulf Coast Community College, was first-team All-Conference-USA last season and the conference’s Newcomer of the Year. Frazier averaged 17.7 points and 4.3 assists per game last season putting him fifth and third in the conference respectively. Frazier was arrested following a domestic violence incident in April in which he reportedly threw a woman into a bookshelf. It is unclear where Frazier will end up, but with his production we wouldn’t be surprised to see him back at the Division I level in the near-future.
Nobody ever said John Calipari’s methods of building a #1 recruiting class and it turns out that they aren’t, but probably not in the way that you were thinking. According to work done by Kyle Tucker, Kentuckyspent $342,713.91 on Calipari’s private jet costs last year for recruiting and nearly $450,000 between the basketball and football programs for private jets for recruiting. There are plenty of people who have made comments critical of these types of expenditures on something as relatively unimportant as college athletics, but that money is more than worth it for the school with the publicity that they get from the program’s accomplishments (well, at least the basketball program).
Some people might consider it an admission of guilt, but North Carolina is offering student-athletes who left the school before they completed their undergraduate degree the opportunity to return to complete that degree with financial support similar to what they received under their original scholarship. The program (“Complete Carolina”) will go into effect beginning with the 2015-16 school year. The school claims that it has informally had this program for years, but now is making it a formal program like many other schools already have. We still aren’t sure if they will offer this program to student-athletes, who received diplomas, but feel that they might not have been taught enough or done enough to earn the credits that they received.
The NCAA might not allow alcohol sales at its championship events, but that does not stop from doing so at games outside of the NCAA Tournament. According to reports, Southern Methodistsold more than $350,000 in alcohol at 13 home basketball games last season. That money is divided between the school and the vendor (no idea on the percent breakdown), but it gives you an idea of how much money alcohol can bring in at these games even with students pre-gaming (of course, all of them being 21 or older) if SMU can bring in that much money at 13 home games for a good, but not great team.
The dog days of summer mean that the Morning Fives in July and August typically consist of a somewhat mind-numbing combination of three things: 1) hot air (people saying things that they shouldn’t be saying, or saying them without the benefit of tact); 2) player movement (transfers; injuries; arrests); and 3) organizational movement (strategy pivots and programmatic shifts, in the hopes that nobody notices while they’re on vacation with the family or otherwise not thinking about college athletics). Today’s M5 will address each of these areas, for your thoughtful consideration and bemusement. October can’t get here soon enough.
From the organizational movement department, the NCAA — which, due to its academic calendar construct, loves to release key information during the summer months, and especially on Fridays — announced late last week that its Board of Directors is set to take a vote next month that would ultimately give the five power conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12) greater autonomy over the future structure and workings of the NCAA. Let’s call this move what it is — administrative extortion, designed to give the revenue-producing schools more weight commensurate with their power and influence in return for keeping the NCAA in one piece. The power leagues have long chafed at the notion that 300 low-level schools could band together to prevent them from doing what they want to do (i.e., institute the $2,000 full cost of attendance stipend proposal that was DOA in 2011), and know that the NCAA (the organization itself, not a grouping of schools), overwhelmingly funded by the NCAA Tournament’s broadcast agreements, wouldn’t have much of a financial leg to stand on if those five conferences decided to do their own thing. The Yahoo! article linked above explains many of the proposed details, but the objective is clear here: the coup d’etat has begun in Indianapolis; just make sure to look up from your beachy pina colada to witness the culling.
Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, a $700 million (annually) behemoth that the NCAA cannot afford to screw up, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglionewas recently named the Chair of the Selection Committee for the 2015-16 season. So, a year away, as Utah athletic director Scott Barnes will hold the reins for the upcoming 2014-15 season. As Matt Norlander notes in the article, although the NCAA has done a solid job of moving away from the consistently white maleness of the Committee Chair in recent years (2009 Chair Dan Guerrero is Latino; 2010 Chair Gene Smith is African-American), it still hasn’t managed to cross the gender divide. Two members of the current committee — Conference USA’s Judy MacLeod and UNC-Asheville’s Janet Cone — would ostensibly have the inside track at the Chair in the next couple of rounds, but there are obviously no guarantees.
The hot air department brings us to Castiglione’s conference commissioner, the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby. During the conference’s football Media Days event on Monday in Dallas, Bowlsby expounded on the dirty little secret that anyone who closely follows collegiate athletics already knows but avoids discussion publicly: as he said, “cheating pays presently.” Noting that the NCAA Infractions Committee has not had a meeting in over a year, Bowlsby pounded the point home that if a school “seek[s] to conspire to certainly bend the rules, [it] can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions.” He went on to defend the NCAA’s overall business model as a sustainable enterprise only in its current or near-current form, but the damage was done with respect to his pointed comments on cheating. While it’s difficult to test the veracity of Bowlsby’s overarching claim, it is much easier to determine how often the NCAA is doing its job with respect to policing infractions. A brief search of the organization’s Legislative Services Database shows that only two Division I schools — Howard and New Hampshire — have received NCAA penalties since January 1, 2014. Neither play FBS football, of course, and the sports involved were cross-country, gymnastics, volleyball and track and field. While again, it’s very hard to prove a negative, the absence of higher-profile and frankly, more, revenue-producing schools on that list, is more indicative of willful ignorance than of active compliance.
And now, on to player movement. After eschewing a year at SMU to play with his older brother, Emmanuel Mudiayhas reportedly signed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million to play in China. Brandon Jennings had trouble adjusting to the lifestyle of a professional and the culture shock of a new country (Italy) in 2008, but he turned out to be a fine player upon arrival to the NBA a year later. Mudiay’s year overseas will also be worth watching, but his international childhood (born in Zaire, speaks French) will surely help him adjust. As for players still in the US, Florida junior Devon Walkertore his ACL in practice late last week and will miss the entire 2014-15 season as a result. Notching seven starts on last year’s Final Four squad, Walker was expected to log significant minutes for a Gators team that has numerous holes to fill. His depth will be valuable to have a year from now too, though, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
We have heard of package deals before (we even wrote about it in the early days of the site), but the decision by Memphis to hire Keelon Lawson as an assistant is unique even by those standards. Now Lawson is not just some random guy off the street as he played college basketball and led a Tennessee high school team to a state title so you could make the case that he was a legitimate hire albeit a rather unusual one as his credentials are not particularly noteworthy. The thing about him that is noteworthy is that he is the father of four elite recruits. The oldest of those recruits is K. J., a top-50 recruit in the class of 2015, who has already committed to play at Memphis. The others are reportedly even better with Dedric (class of 2016) being a top-10 player and two much younger ones–Chandler (class of 2019) and Jonathan (a sixth-grader)–being considered even better. The fact that the official Memphis release linked above does not mention any of them (even K. J., who already committed) is amusing to say the least. It will be quite a bit of time before Chandler much less Jonathan is making official college visits to it will be interesting to see how this relationship between Keelon and Josh Pastner evolves.
The announcement that John Adams, the NCAA supervisor of officials, will be retiring after the 2015 Final Four might not strike some as particularly noteworthy, but it is to us. Outside of issues regarding when players can enter the NBA Draft and those regarding amateurism we things have been more hotly debated than recent rule changes. Adams is not directly responsible for creating these new rules, but his job is to make sure that they are uniformly enforced throughout college basketball and works with conferences, who are then in touch with their officials, to try to improve on certain areas where enforcement is less than ideal. Adams has caught a lot of heat over the years for the way that certain rules are enforced, but overall we think he has done a good job and whomever is selected to follow him has big shoes to fill.
Yesterday, attorneys in Rhode Island announced that they will not be pressing charges in the sexual assault case at Providence that led to the dismissal of Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock after a grand jury determined their was insufficient evidence to move forward in the case. The case stemmed from a report of sexual assault in November 2013 in which a female student accused the two players of sexually assaulting her. Austin as you might remember transferred to Oregon where he was involved in another sexual assault case that led to his dismissal there. He is now enrolled at a community college in Kansas. Bullock stayed at Providence and is expected to play for the team this season.
On Wednesday, Maryland announced its 2014 Hall of Fame class, which was headlined by Len Bias. While all the others that were honored are very accomplished (ok, we have never heard of anybody else on that list), Bias stands out for several reasons. The most obvious of which is the way that he died. Some people like John Feinstein feel that the way that Bias died should mean that he is excluded from the Hall of Fame. While this leaves a somber note on Bias’ legacy, that alone should not keep him out. Obviously people will have their own views on morality and drug use, but excluding Bias keeps out a significant part of the history of Maryland basketball, which seems myopic. How the school decides to handle Bias’ legacy is another issue, but one that the school should address and not try to sweep under the rug.
One of the nice things about the offseason is that it allows people to work on stuff that they otherwise wouldn’t have time to get to. For some people that means non-basketball things. For Ken Pomeroy, it means even more in-depth situation analysis. His latest task is dissecting the decision on whether a team should foul when tied late in a game. This installment is just an initial look at the data with Pomeroy promising to get more complex in his analysis in the next installment. This probably won’t catch on as much as the “foul up 3″ debate, but it is still an interesting one.
The big college basketball news of the week was the decision by Emmanuel Mudiay to back out of his commitment to play at Southern Methodist to play overseas. As Mike Lemaire points out in his piece on the news it is a huge blow to SMU and Larry Brown’s plan for a quick turnaround. Outside of Mudiay’s concern for his family’s financial well-being during his year at college, which will probably be allayed in the near-term as he heads to Europe, there were also questions as to whether issues regarding financial compensation or academic concerns would have already made him ineligible to play in college anyways. With Mudiay’s talent, he has the potential to make the transition back to the NBA eventually like Brandon Jennings did in 2009, but we will miss seeing his talents try to reinvigorate the SMU program.
Sean Miller might not be John Calipari on the recruiting trail yet, but he is still doing a pretty good job. His latest addition is Ray Smith, the #26 prospect according to ESPN in the class of 2015. Smith, a 6’8″ small forward, verbally committed to Arizona soon after tearing his ACL. Although Smith might miss his entire high school senior season recovering from the injury it could be a blessing for the Wildcats, who beat out several other prominent schools to land Smith, who might not have committed to them if he had more chances to showcase his talents. As Adam Finkelstein notes, the Wildcats have already had four straight top-10 classes, but this one has the potential to be a top-5 class or even #1 overall if things break right for them.
There were interesting pieces of news that will lead players to miss some time next season. Butler transfer guard Austin Etherington, who averaged 2 points and 1.6 rebounds at Indiana last season, is expected to miss 3-4 months after undergoing surgery on his right foot. Georgia dismissed Brandon Morris after the junior forward was arrested on felony charges of intent to sell marijuana. Morris averaged 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last season, but also missed three games due to an undisclosed violation of team policies. Iowa suspended Peter Jok after he was arrested for driving his moped with a revoked license. Jok, a sophomore, already had his license revoked after receiving a DUI on his moped in April so this will be a second strike against him. Although Jok only averaged 4.4 points per game as a freshman last season he was expected to pick up many of Roy Devyn Marble’s minutes and production. We are assuming that Fran McCaffery will let Jok back on the team, but if he doesn’t it would be a big loss for the Hawkeyes.
We were not even aware Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg had a pacemaker (or any cardiac issues for that matter) until he had a battery replaced in the pacemaker yesterday. The pacemaker was put in at the time of his surgery for an aortic root aneurysm as the result of a complication from surgery (injury to the bundle of His) that necessitated the need for a pacemaker. Apparently, Hoiberg noticed that his heart rate was not elevating to the normal range leading to the replacement of his pacemaker battery. According to Hoiberg and the school the replacement appears to have been uneventful, which is not surprising given how straightforward it is, but is still good to hear.
Lost in the media onslaught around LeBron’s decision to come home was its impact on college basketball. Or at least the impact that it nearly had. Everybody knows about the reports that John Calipari, Tom Izzo, and Billy Donovan had been contacted about the Cleveland job, but it appears that Bill Self was also approached by the Cavaliers about the vacancy. All four stayed at their current jobs, but we wonder if they might have felt differently had they been offered the job with LeBron there. So although there were no college coaches moving on to the NBA we would keep an eye on Cleveland as a potential destination particularly if things do not work out between LeBron and David Blatt.
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time again for college coaches to get out on the road. Over the next three weeks, coaches will criss-cross the country in search of elite high school recruits in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 classes. Last year college coaches had two weekends in April to view high school prospects in a competitive setting, while this year they only had one such week in April. With less time for viewing prospects, coaches will be in a virtual scramble mode throughout the month.
2. July Live Period #1 (July 9 – July 13)
The first live period kicked off on Wednesday. The main draw for the first viewing window is the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. This Nike event features 80 of the top players in the country, including numerous five-star recruits. The who’s who of college coaches will all set foot in Vegas this week in addition to a plethora of NBA scouts. With so much talent there, some of the top recruits in the country will have a chance to try to establish themselves as the No. 1 recruit in the country. Players vying for this top spot include Ben Simmons (No. 2), Ivan Rabb (No. 3), Cheick Diallo (No. 5), and Malik Newman (No. 6).
Another top destination this week is Chicago for the Adidas Unrivaled camp which features a plethora of top players from the Adidas circuit. Several of the top players expected in Chicago include small forward Jaylen Brown (No. 4), point guard Dennis Smith (No. 6 – 2016), and forward Thon Maker (No. 4 – 2016). The camp consists of daily drill sessions with All-Star games occurring on Sunday.
Las Vegas and Chicago are the prime destinations for college coaches this week, but there are also a variety of other events throughout the country. The NY2LA Next Level Invitational takes place outside of Milwaukee and features some of the top talent in the Midwest as well. On the East Coast, the Reebok Breakout Classic is in action in Philadelphia and the Ty Lawson and Victor Oladipo Skills Academy are live in Maryland. With events taking place all over the country through the weekend, you can be sure that all of the head coaches and assistants will be earning their frequent flyer miles.