Morning Five: 08.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 28th, 2012

  1. Long before Coach K, JJ Redick, Christian Laettner, or Johnny Dawkins, Duke basketball was defined by one name only: Art Heyman. One of only 13 Blue Devils to have his number retired and perhaps more influential in creating Duke basketball than any other single player in its illustrious history, the three-time All-American and 1963 NPOY died yesterday at his home in Florida at the age of 71 years old. Prior to Heyman’s arrival on the Durham campus, Duke had been a plucky third fiddle in the Triangle region to the much more powerful programs down the road in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Consider this fact: When Heyman arrived at Duke (after the New Yorker reneged on a commitment to UNC, incidentally), the Blue Devils had only been a grand total of two NCAA Tournaments in its history with one Elite Eight appearance to show for it in 1960. Heyman took Vic Bubas’ Blue Devils to its first-ever Final Four during his senior season, setting in motion the blossoming of a legitimate Tobacco Road basketball program over the next half-century that would go on to 32 more NCAA Tournament appearances, 16 more Elite Eights, and 14 more Final Fours (not to mention Coach K’s four national titles). Heyman is one of the all-time ACC greats, bearing the shared distinction of one of only three players in conference history to receive first team all-ACC accolades three years in a row (NC State’s David Thompson and UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough were the others). Anybody who traded punches with Larry Brown is OK in our book, and hopefully Heyman is resting in peace secure in the knowledge of his eternal influence at Duke and in the ACC.
  2. Coming into the season Indiana will be at or near the top of every preseason poll you will see, but one Hoosier who will not be along for the ride is Matt Roth. Who is Matt Roth? That’s a good question, but you will probably hear more about him over the next few days than you did in his previous four years in Bloomington. Roth has been a Hoosier since the 2008-09 season but only completed three seasons of his eligibility after redshirting his sophomore year with a foot injury early that year. Roth was hoping to be a member of a Hoosier team that appears to be a legitimate national title contender next season, but he appears to have been caught in a numbers game as the odd man out with too many players on scholarship. While some may view this as a harsh outcome for a loyal Hoosier, it is worth noting that Roth received a four-year scholarship to Indiana, where picked up both a bachelor’s and master’s degree during his time on campus. Still, the entire situation and the way it went down (Tom Crean basically told him that he could use him as a job reference) might rub some people the wrong way.
  3. While most writers are focused on the hotbeds of the AAU circuit, Jeff Eisenberg has decided to take a look at the other end of the spectrum — Wyoming, the only state in the Lower 48 that does not have an AAU program and all the hardships that players and their families endure trying to earn a Division I scholarship. With no in-state AAU program available, players are forced to travel enormous distances on a regular basis over the summer to try to catch the wandering eyes of recruiters. As Eisenberg notes, all this effort very rarely results in Wyoming players achieving the desired result — a Division I scholarship. With all the money that these families have to spend, you have to wonder if these players might be better off staying at home working on their games and then using that extra money to pay for college if they don’t land that elusive scholarship.
  4. The concept of painting thematic murals onto a school’s basketball court appears to be continuing in earnest, as Long Beach State is the latest school to get in on the act by renovating its home court to look like just another afternoon on the courts down at Venice Beach. Unlike the Oregon tall firs floor — which we still think looks like a toddler upchucked all over the joint — the look at the Walter Pyramid Arena is considerably more subtle, with a couple of iconic palm trees painted on each side of the court. Truthfully, reaction to this new look has been mixed, but we don’t mind it — the colors and images seem to fit the floor without dominating it, and The Beach is the sort of irreverent place where an alternative-look like this works well.
  5. As most high school seniors around the country have already returned to school or are about to do so, the top recruits in the Class of 2013 are starting to narrow down their options. One of the top five players in the class, Julius Randle, announced his list of final 10 schools on Twitter yesterday: Texas, Kansas, Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The heavy Big 12 influence is no doubt a product of his location in the Dallas area, as five of those schools along with the usual national recruiting suspects show up on his list. With Jabari Parker also having narrowed his list to 10 schools and the Harrison twins setting a date for their announcement in late October, Jeff Borzello says that this year’s group is only now starting to come into focus.
Share this story

Morning Five: 08.02.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 2nd, 2012

  1. USA Today‘s Eric Prisbell published a piece on Tuesday with some rather inflammatory quotes about the status of big-time college basketball recruiting. Everybody already knows that agents and runners representing the interests of high school stars with their hands out is a big problem — but is it a 70%-of-the-elite-prospects problem? If you believe Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo‘s math, it is. “I am not saying that cheating is 80 percent of the game. It’s probably 20 percent. But it’s probably 70 percent of the top 20 percent [of player recruitments].” Izzo went on to say that he has “absolutely” lost recruits to other coaches because he was unwilling to play the agent/runner AAU game (which even Sonny Freakin’ Vaccaro says has gotten worse). In the same piece, North Carolina’s Roy Williams also made some interesting comments about stepping away from recruits who were ‘handled’ by AAU influences, saying, “Will I have a legitimate chance if I do it the right way?” There’s a lot of eyebrow-raising information in the article, and we highly suggest you read it — but the obvious question if Izzo’s numbers are anywhere near correct is… who exactly is landing all of these elite recruits if every major coach is on record blasting the system and doing it the right way? It’s not just Central Florida, that’s for sure.
  2. Team USA‘s men’s basketball squad is now 2-0 in round robin play with a game against always-dangerous Tunisia later this afternoon. Although there are no guarantees in a knockout tournament situation, we’re all too aware, it appears that the team led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are well on their way to another gold medal. Jeff Goodman writes that NBA owners are pushing so hard for a 23-year old age limit on the men’s team in future Olympiads that there is “little doubt” as to its eventuality [memo to owners: how about another age limit — one that limits inclusion in your league to players 20 years old and older]. If USA Basketball decides to go this route with the 2016 team, most of today’s elite high school and young college stars would be eligible — Goodman takes a stab at putting together a potential team, and would you believe that a player nobody outside of Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, had heard of this time last year is designated as the starting point guard? Basketball can be a funny sport that way.
  3. While on the subject of Olympic teams, A Sea of Blue put together an interesting analysis reviewing what the six men’s basketball teams in the “Dream Team” era might have looked like if USA Basketball had never ditched the amateur model. The cream of the crop is very clearly the 1992 squad, a team filled with players on in an era on the cusp of moving to a prep-to-pro mentality (Kevin Garnett began the trend in 1995). A starting lineup of Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Webber may have even crowded out 1992 NPOY and two-time NCAA champion Christian Laettner. In the backcourt, do you run with Penny Hardaway and Jim Jackson over the dominant Duke duo of Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill? It’s really an unbelievable team. Conversely, the 2000 team — led by Kenyon Martin? Shane Battier? — is a joke. That team, decimated by the prep-to-pro era, may have finished dead last in the Olympics that year. It’s an interesting thought experiment, and we encourage you to visit ASoB and check it out.
  4. Going back to 1992 — was it the greatest year of basketball in American history? — former Duke star Bobby Hurley raised some major burn late Tuesday night after tweeting the following in reference to the gold medal-winning USA women’s gymnastics team (dubbed a modern-day “Fab Five”): “Proud 2 watch the “Fab Five” perform & bring home the gold! Who would have thought that the “Fab Five” could it get it done.” Of course, the Michigan group of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson not only lost the 1992 national championship game to Hurley’s Blue Devils, but they also lost two other regular season games to Duke during that era, giving the point guard the easy upper hand when it comes to taking those shots.
  5. With the exception of a notable tweeter, the Penn State story has died down in the national media as a result of the Olympics. And even though the long moribund basketball program was not implicated in the scandal or penalized by the NCAA in any way, it’s incomprehensible that Pat Chambers’ program will not be negatively impacted among the collateral damage to the Nittany Lion brand. In response to this piece by Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com, it may very well be true that a recent de-committed recruit was already on the fence about heading to State College and another Class of 2013 recruit says he has no intention of backing out, but the issue will become more apparent in future classes where the semi-permanent negative message about Penn State has had sufficient time to stick. An argument that PSU will continue to recruit non-elite talent in the same way as before is not really an argument at all — the point is that every aspect of that university, from the chemistry lab to the jai alai club team to the local Penn State chapter of PETA, will be associated with this horrific situation for years to come. Whatever each group had to do to earn recognition prior to this fiasco, they’ll have to do so that much more in the future. This goes for basketball too.
Share this story

Morning Five: 07.06.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 6th, 2012

  1. It’s been an exceptionally quiet news week in college basketball, but some legal-related information has come out this week that doesn’t involve health care hype and hysteria. In response to the Bernie Fine scandal at Syracuse that broke last November, a Board of Trustees report released on Thursday found that Syracuse officials acted promptly when allegations against Fine were first reported to them in 2005, but they did not go far enough in reporting the information to law enforcement officials. This inaction, which included the possibility that if the allegations “turned out to be true, then the failure to have approached law enforcement at best exposed the university to harsh criticism, and at worst allowed a child molester to remain in place in the community without being called to account.” There’s a lot more detail in the story linked above, but the one thing we can all agree on is that we’re not alone in hoping the truth comes out on this story soon.
  2. Moving to a story that we hope is finally over for good, the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati ruled on Thursday that attorneys for convicted Rick Pitino extortionist Karen Sypheradvanced no arguments of merit on appeal” in her latest attempt to have her prison sentence overturned. Her arguments centered on whether she received a fair trial given the significant amount of publicity that the case engendered, but according to the three-judge panel, she failed to provide evidence that she had in fact received an unfair trial. Sypher will no doubt continue appealing the various federal courts on the basis of any number of frivolous constitutional claims, but her sentence goes through 2017 so she has plenty of time to figure out next steps. Who knows — maybe America’s least favorite justice, John Roberts, will have a chance to rule on Ms. Sypher somewhere down the line.
  3. It’s not a ruling from the legal world, but the NCAA fashions itself as judge, jury, and executioner anyway, so we’ll continue this theme. Just prior to the start of the July recruiting evaluation period next week, the NCAA barred four AAU ‘travel teams’ from involvement in its sanctioned events because of a “prohibited association” between three administrators and a coach with an agent named Andy Miller. Miller apparently sent an e-mail to the four men pushing and cajoling them to live up to their obligations in getting players to the NBA, and the NCAA somehow caught wind of it. The players on these four teams — the New England Playaz, Worldwide Renegades, Florida Rams, and SEBL Elite — are not prohibited from jumping to other teams in order to play in the events, but they’ll have to hustle to find openings over the weekend. Our stance on summer AAU basketball is well-established, but this is just another example of why it needs a major NCAA-led overhaul.
  4. One of the unique quirks of BYU basketball is that most of us sometimes forget that they have good players stashed away on missions overseas while the rest of college basketball is constantly trying to reload its talent base — it’s almost like a basketball safety valve of sorts. BYU rising sophomore Tyler Haws is one such example, having spent the last two years in the Philippines after a promising freshman season where he averaged 11/4 and shot 50% from the field. One of the peculiarities of Haws returning to NCAA basketball is that he is an exceptional free throw shooter, hitting 91.5% of his attempts in 2009-10. He is also the current owner of a streak of 48 makes in a row, putting him a little more than halfway to the NCAA Division I record held by Butler’s Darnell Archey from 2000-03. With a lot of downtime on his mission in basketball-crazy Philippines, maybe Haws used some of it to perfect his stroke to make a run at the record.
  5. From a player returning to college hoops after a two-year layoff to a head coach doing so after 24 years, Larry Brown is getting his legs under him at SMU this summer. In a recent interview with the Topeka Capital-Journal, the only coach to have ever won both a national title (Kansas) and an NBA title (Detroit Pistons) explained that: a) he wouldn’t have been offered the SMU job had Maryland’s Mark Turgeon not initially floated his name out there; b) top assistant Tim Jankovich approached Brown about leaving potentially his best team at Illinois State; and c) he doesn’t care much for the games themselves, rather preferring the teaching aspect of practices. This experiment at SMU is certainly going to make for an interesting storyline the next couple of seasons — we’d hate to suggest that a head coach with an all-time record of 177-61 (.744) in college might struggle, but his previous stops at UCLA and Kansas are much different animals than what they have down in the north side of Dallas.
Share this story

Richard Codey: Senator, Coach and Metaphorical Master…

Posted by nvr1983 on April 30th, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferencesHe also officiates youth league basketball in his spare time. 

WEST ORANGE, NJ –  Chalk it up under the ‘you never know who you will meet’ department. This past weekend called for officiating assignments at an AAU tournament here at West Orange High School. Both days called for three games and an appreciable supply of water as the local mercury rose. On Saturday, after finishing two girls and a boys game, I ran into coach and New Jersey Senator Richard Codey whose team played on the adjoining court. “No column today,” I joked. He got a laugh and told me about the highly touted recruit (6’8 Ferrakohn Hall)  Seton Hall just signed.   

richard-codey-conj

On Sunday the schedule called for three games beginning at 8:30 a.m. Not the easiest time to begin boys 17 and under games but definitely advantageous to beat the expected 90 degree heat. As it turns out I have Codey’s 17 and under West Orange team. There are two games that go on simultaneously. I am chatting with my partner Sue Lisanti and the officials from the next court Leslie Porschen (an excellent player in her day at FDU) and Mary Ann Conboy. Codey interjects and jokingly challenges political correctness by saying “the women are taking over.” Leslie notes that our Board 33 chapter is actually low on women’s officiating numbers and could use more members. “I mean we have had a lot of women working this tournament,’ he said in a joking manner. After a little more small talk it’s toss the ball up and get to work.

West Orange is playing a team from Ocean County, New Jersey, the Wolfpack. Early on it’s a good competitive game. Codey’s team is running some nice flex offense in half court sets. It’s obvious he is not an AAU coach that ‘rolls out the basketballs’ but teaches offensive and defensive structure. If he is looking for a call he usually implores my name but overall he spends a greater deal of effort on his team’s execution.  On one play his guard got the wind knocked out of him. We stop play and summon Codey on the floor. “He’s getting hit harder than the Germans in World War II,” Codey says as he smiles and winks. “I like that one coach,” was my reply. We move on and at the half it’s still close.

My center is getting more hits than Susan Boyle on YouTube,” Codey says at the scorers table so tournament co-director Mary Alice Zavocki can hear. He is laughing as he says this and asks if I saw Boyle on You Tube over the weekend. More small talk in good fun.

Second half, West Orange has a ten point lead then proceeds to lose all but one point of it. We have a transition play coming to me on the lead position. The Wolfpack player executes a jump stop that looks funny. In a split second the information is processed in my mind. Years of Edgar Cartotto’s officiating camp drilled into us his philosophy, “if you not sure it’s a walk don’t call it. I’d rather you blow a walk call than screw (Edgar’s verbiage is colorful) a kid who didn’t walk by calling it.” I’m not sure, I let it go. The player scores and out of the corner of my eye I can see Codey jumping and making a walk jesture while saying, “ohh Ray.”  My thoughts are of Bobby Gonzalez who has made similar moves on the Hall bench. During a time out, Mary Alice, keeping the clock, said it was a nice no call. I just told her my view and Edgar’s philosophy.

seton-hall-cls

Codey’s team never lost the lead, regrouped and earned a nice 68-60 victory.  Post game, I tell both teams nice effort and both coaches it was a pleasure to work their game. As it turned out a noticeably tall assistant joined Codey’s bench during the game. It was the Hall’s John Garcia. I introduced myself, spoke about the writing and covering his games and commended his Hall club on working hard and doing a nice job this season. Garcia refers to Hall and says, “wait till you see us next year, we are going to surprise people.”

Codey heads out, I say good game again and jokingly note today we had no cheerleaders today (the above is provided from a Seton Hall game earlier this year). He got a laugh out of that one.

Share this story

Another Culprit in the Mayo Mess

Posted by rtmsf on May 13th, 2008

In the effluvia of the OJ Mayo report from Outside the Lines (you remember, he took money and gifts from street runner Rodney Guillory, acting as a proxy for the Bill Duffy Agency) the other night, there has been a cacophany of predictable kneejerk reactions from every corner of the media universe. 

Tim Floyd and USC are to blame!

The NBA’s 1-and-done rule is to blame!

The NCAA’s lax enforcement is to blame!

AAU basketball, or even worse – the system – is to blame!

There’s a lot of culpability being thrown around by the various pundits, and with good reason on many counts, but we’d like to proffer another culprit that few in the MSM have been willing to indict – their own 4th Estate, the so-called watchdogs of the community.  We in the blogosphere have been told repeatedly by those in pedigreed positions of media power that what separates us from them is the simple concept of access.  While we can riff on the same televised game that a USC beat writer for the LA Times can, he has a level of access to players, coaches and administrators that we do not (from our parents’ basement), thereby rendering his reporting more valuable than ours.  Or so the story goes.

 

While we completely agree that level of access of which the MSM has to sports figures makes our job different than theirs, there also must exist a certain amount of responsibility for said journalists to follow up on rumors, whispers and innuendo that such access enables.  Because of the difficulty for a blogger to gain entree into a circle of coaches willing to speak off the record to a trusted journalist, we expect that the writer will not simply wink and nod with the rest and ultimately let it slide into oblivion.  After all, isn’t the journalist’s role to not only report the news, but investigate it? 

Gregg Doyel wrote nineteen months ago that USC should be wary of Mayo due to his relationship with Rodney Guillory – that’s a great start.  Did anyone else follow up on this accusation of impropriety?  Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times recounts a conversation with two prominent coaches he had about recruiting Mayo during his prep days:

“It’s not even a consideration,” one coach said.  “You don’t even understand how many problems that could cause,” the other said.  Back then, there was much fear about Mayo’s large circle of friends. There were whispers that he had already been bought, a common rumor about prep basketball stars.

If there were whispers among prominent coaches about Mayo, and the writers knew about it, why didn’t anyone investigate it?  Where was the local watchdog, the award-winning LA Times investigative staff on this story?  It’s not like outing Mayo, the “next Lebron” at one time during his HS career, wouldn’t have been a prime catch.  How hard could it have been? – the Big Lead even gave the MSM a roadmap in March 2007 – you have Mayo associated with Guillory; you know that Guillory is a runner for an agent who already got USC player Jeff Trepagnier and Fresno St. player Tito Maddox in hot water several years ago; and you know the weird circumstances of Mayo’s “recruitment” to USC.  What more do you need to look deeper into this steaming hunk of  brown mess??

And yet, to our knowledge, until the OTL piece on Sunday by ESPN’s Kelly Naqi after Mayo’s college career was all-but-finished, the MSM’s inertia effectively made certain that Mayo will never face any sanctions over this scandal.  As for USC… well, we’re still waiting to hear their penalties from the Reggie Bush situation a few years back.  Just keep in mind among all the yelling about blame this week that if someone, anyone, in the MSM had been doing their job a year ago, Mayo would have never suited up for USC in the first place.  The NCAA plans on watching college basketball recruiting a little more closely, but given its limited enforcement resources, perhaps all the doomsday rhetoric being thrown around as a result of this fiasco will inspire our MSM friends to include a little more self-awareness of their watchdog role next time. 

Share this story

08.08.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2007

  • Here’s an interesting (if not well-edited) piece on the seventh circle of hell known as watching AAU basketball in the midsummer heat of Vegas as an assistant coach.
  • Just in case you’d forgotten, Deron Washington can dunk.  Hard.   
  • Did Tim Floyd have an ulterior motive in signing Lil Romeo to play at USC?  Demar DeRozan says hello.    
  • Billy Gillispie is considering using “special teams” in basketball for specific situations.  In Lexington, the only special teams that matter are ones that hang banners – the populace could not care less how it’s accomplished. 
  • After a 14-44 record in two seasons at the helm, Ricky Stokes was “promoted” to a position within the athletic department at East Carolina.  Mack McCarthy (309-177 at VCU and UT-Chattanooga) will take over as head coach. 
  • Doug Gottlieb gives his takes on players poised for breakout years based on his summer viewing of their pickup games.  Takeaways:  Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and DJ Augustin are the real deal. 
  • The Wages of Wins, one of our fav blogs, analyzes the impact of superstar power on winning titles in the NBA.  Conclusion:  It matters.  A lot.  We’d love to see something like this for the NCAA Tournament, especially given the knockout nature of the tourney.     
  • Finally, in the “you’re doing a great job, Brownie,” category, props to Joe Alleva for keeping his job as the Duke AD.  His accomplishments during his nine-year tenure include presiding over the worst football program in America as well as throwing his lacrosse team under the bus amidst unsubstantiated allegations.  Keep up the good work! 
Share this story

Yippee! Another Silver Medal for Team USA

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2007

We continue to track the Tim Donaghy saga, and we’re putting together a take on that situation as it relates to sports and basketball in general, but we wanted to make brief mention of the following score from Novi Sad, Serbia:  Serbia 74, Team USA 69.   Yeah yeah, we realize that the Serbs had home-court advantage and it’s probable possible that there were more than one Donaghy running around in FIBA gear out there, but once again a US team went into an international competition against its peers and came home with something less than the gold medal.  In fact, the last time Team USA won the Under-19 competition was 1991, which means that this year’s stars Deon Thompson and Patrick Beverly were still in diapers when we last won this event.

  National Flag of Serbia

All Hail Serbian Dominance in International Hoops

Is it too much to ask that the United States, a diverse country of over 300 million people where among Gen Y basketball is the most popular participatory sport (over 39M youth participants in 2001) , put together a group of the best 19-year olds in the world?  By comparison, Serbia has a total population of just over 10M and a youth population of just under 2.5M (or about the size of the Denver metro area).  So, to recap, we have approximately 16 youth basketball players in the USA for every single one of Serbia’s kids, and we still can’t beat them in the game that we invented and honed in our tried and not-so-true-anymore system designed to produce the world’s best players.

Darko and Friend

How Embarrassing to Lose to These Serbs

If we’re sounding a bit like an old fart, that’s fair.  Sometimes we sure feel like one.  We certainly realize that the world is catching up in hoops, and the days of any Team USA (from the junior teams all the way up to the Kobe-led Senior Team) rolling roughshod over cowering foreigners (see: Frederic Weis below) are over.  But it seems lately that we can’t win any of these competitions, and the same old tired excuses of “different style of play” and “national teams” are falling on our deaf ears.

Vince over Frederic Weis       

Rather, we believe that there’s a serious problem with our shoe-company driven AAU youth system that stresses 1-on-1 play over team basketball.  To borrow from Rick Barry, it is incredibly frustrating to watch an amazing athletic talent and product of our “star system” like Lebron James play the game at such a high level yet still not know how to properly rub off of a basic screen – nobody ever took the time to teach him how to do it!  Unfortunately for the game, fundamentals and team basketball fell by the wayside in the last generation, and we think that fact, more than any other, contributes to our continuing struggles in today’s international competitions.  The thing is, much like our health care delivery system, we never hear anyone within the industry say anything good about the broken AAU system, but rare is the man who actually steps to the plate and offers a viable alternative.

Well, at least we know to expect that Michael Beasley, Patrick Beverly and Deon Thompson will have breakout seasons next year. 

Share this story