Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2014-15 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on November 14. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. For all of this year’s released posts, click here.
As we’re now officially only one week from the first real games on November 7, practices have moved from the getting-to-know-you phase to setting of pecking orders and definition of roles. Unfortunately, one of the side products of two weeks of full-on practice is injuries, and a few notable names have already gotten banged up in the last few days. Louisville freshman Wayne Blackshearwill miss the entire season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder; he had already missed most of the summer with an unrelated left shoulder injury and had only been cleared to return to practice just last week. The McDonald’s All-American was expected to help the Cards supplant the loss of Preston Knowles’ scoring abilities, as Blackshear is an impact scorer from the wing. With all of the walking wounded on Rick Pitino’s team these days — Rakeem Buckles, Stephan Van Treese, and Jared Swopshire have all had injury issues — you have to wonder if the Cardinals will be able to field a complete team this year.
In other injury news, Vanderbilt All-American candidate Festus Ezeli gave Commodore fans a fright last week when it was reported that the center sprained the MCL and PCL ligaments in his right knee and will require six to eight weeks for its rehabilitation. As we noted on the SEC microsite Friday, Ezeli’s absence from the Vandy lineup will force head coach Kevin Stallings to trust in his backups, senior Steve Tchiengang or redshirt freshman Josh Henderson, neither of whom have the athletic ability nor experience that the all-SEC player brings to the post. In news considerably less consequential, Connecticut superstar freshman Andre Drummondreceived a concussion and a broken nose in practice on Friday that will likely keep him out of this week’s exhibition game against American International College. Drummond isn’t expected to miss more time than that, but he will have to wear one of those protective plastic face masks for the next six to eight weeks as his nose heals. It’s already difficult enough for a freshman to become accustomed to the speed and athleticism of college basketball; it’ll be interesting to see how wearing that annoying mask might impact Drummond’s play in the early going this season.
While on the topic of UConn, the NCAA officially announced late last week that schools wishing to play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament will need to meet a two-year APR threshold of 900, or a four-year APR threshold of 930, in order to qualify. A university source told CBSSports.com that the school’s men’s basketball APR score for 2010-11 is expected to be approximately 975, which when averaged with 2009-10’s 826, will not be good enough (900.5). The four-year rolling average (888.5) would also come up short, which begs the question as to whether the NCAA will stick to its guns by keeping one of the sports’ marquee programs out of the Dance in 2013, or whether it will allow the Huskies a waiver opportunity by virtue of it showing ‘improvement’ or some other remedial measure.
Late last week California head coach Mike Montgomery revealed that the surgical procedure he underwent recently was because of ‘high-grade bladder cancer’ and that he’s now 100% free of the disease. The 64-year old coach told assembled media in Los Angeles on Friday at the Pac-12’s Media Days that his doctors found the disease at the perfect moment to ascertain its danger and treat it before it got out of control. With Montgomery bringing back perhaps his best team to Berkeley this season, we certainly hope that the irascible coach continues on a path of sustained wellness and remission from cancer so that he can concentrate on hardwood and basketballs rather than hospitals and bedpans.
We plan on having more on this later today on the Big 12 microsite, but if you stumbled across ESPNU yesterday during your NFL Sunday, you may have been surprised to find Missouri playing something called Missouri Southern on that channel. The One State, One Spirit Classictook place yesterday evening in Joplin, Missouri, site of Missouri Southern State University and ground zero of a deadly F5 tornado that rocked the town on the late afternoon of May 22 earlier this year. Over 150 people were killed and hundreds of Joplin homes and businesses were decimated that day, so Sunday’s exhibition game between the state’s flagship program and the local D-II school embodied the spirit of Show-Me Staters in an outpouring of support that will never be forgotten. ESPN’s Dana O’Neil interviewed MSSU player Jordan Talbert about his reflections on that horrifying day (linked here because ESPN thought that the giant logo on the microphone didn’t identify who made the video clip clearly enough).
In a bit of a shocker, St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin revealed through a press release today that he spent his inaugural season as the captain of the Red Storm ship with a diagnosis of prostate cancer hanging over his head. The 46-year old coach led the Johnnies to their most successful season in a decade, going 21-12 and finishing tied for the third in the rugged Big East before struggling in the postseason when guard DJ Kennedy went down with an injury. Although prostate cancer is one of thee most treatable forms of the disease, it’s never an easy day when you as a patient hear the “c” word from your doctor. From the school’s statement:
Lavin Did a Great Job, Especially Considering the Circumstances
My family feels fortunate that through annual health exams, we detected my condition at an early stage. This past fall I didn’t want to distract our team, but with the season behind us, we are now working with medical experts and taking the proper steps to tackle this health challenge head on.
A physician friend of ours recently told us that cancer patients fall into two distinct categories: 1) those who want treatment immediately, as in, today; and 2) those who don’t want their treatment to get in the way of their busy schedules. Clearly Lavin falls into the latter category as someone who was willing to put off his own treatment for a six-month period so as to not distract his team. But wow, mid-40s is awfully young to have a diagnosis of prostate cancer, and it proves again just how important it is for even busy folks to have physicals on a regular basis.
Still, can we get our Big East COY vote back? Mike Brey led Notre Dame to a fantastic season that culminated in an NCAA #2 seed, but he didn’t do it with the specter of our ugliest disease hanging over his head. While we’re sure that Lavin wouldn’t have delayed his treatment unless it was completely safe to do so, that doesn’t reduce the stress of knowing that your body is waging war against yourself at the same time you’re trying to build a winning program from scratch. We were already fans of the job Lavin did in Queens this year, but now we’re even more impressed. Godspeed on your journey against this thing, Coach.
Sad news from Norman last night as former Oklahoma great Wayman Tisdale announced at the OU-TCU football game (via video message) that he is recovering well after a recent surgery requiring doctors to amputate part of his right leg. They discovered cancer below his knee last year after he had broken that leg in a fall at his home. On the one hand, we’re glad to hear that he’s doing well after surgery, but we’re disheartened to hear that such a seemingly nice guy who is still quite young is dealing with a very serious form of cancer. Regardless, it got us to thinking about Tisdale.
Tisdale Was Unstoppable at Oklahoma
While many people may remember Tisdale’s twelve seasons in the NBA as a serviceable big man with a 15/6 average, we always envision him in a blood red SOONERS jersey laying waste to the Big 8 during his three years in Norman. Seriously, Tisdale invented the word “beast” with his play on the low blocks at Oklahoma. Playing in an era (1982-85) when freshmen weren’t typically the best players on the team, Tisdale walked onto campus and immediately started dropping double-doubles (25/10) on anybody who got in his way, becoming the first freshman AP All-American in the history of the game. He carried that average throughout his three year OU career (first team all-american each year), leading the Sooners to two Big 8 regular season titles and one tournament title as Oklahoma became ascended to national prominence under Billy Tubbs. In fact, Tisdale remains the all-time leader in points scored as a Sooner, with 2,661 in his career.
Music Was Always Tisdale’s Truest Passion (photo credit: waymantisdale.com)
We always wondered what Tisdale could have done if he had been completely focused on basketball, because as it turned out, Tisdale’s other consuming passion of contemporary jazz has arguably made him more well-known in that arena than he ever was as a hoopster. Has any athlete ever been so accomplished in two completely different worlds as Wayman Tisdale? In addition to recording eight solo albums in the genre, he’s had several #1 hit records, numerous top ten albums and was named the Bassist of the Year in 2002 by the National Smooth Jazz Awards.
Take a listen to his triumphant return in the YouTube video below, and check out the music at the end of the clip. Not bad, not bad at all. Best of luck to Wayman as he fights to stay cancer-free.
Notre Dame got another major transfer pickup to go along with Ben Hansbrough (from Mississippi St.) – Scott Martin – a freshman forward who averaged 8/4 for the Boilers will be heading north on US 31 to ND. Suddenly the Golden Domers are looking really good for the 2009-10 season.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun is reportedly facing skin cancer on his neck for the second time, and will undergo six weeks of radiation therapy this summer to remove it.
Syracuse’s Donte Greene has decided that he’s a 1-and-done player, as he recently signed with an agent and will not be eligible to return to the Orange next season.
Joey Dorsey made the claim in Orlando this week that he has the inside track on who the Bulls will select as the #1 overall draft pick, and he says Michael Beasley. Jeff Goodman writes about the maddening mind that is Dorsey.
Clemson’s head man Oliver Purnell got an extension to 2014 and a raise to $1M per annum. Still significantly below Tommy Bowden ($1.8M), but hey, who’s counting.
Luke Winn has a nice piece on Chris Lofton’s tumultuous senior campaign, as he is now finally starting to get his legs back after beating testicular cancer.
In his first public interview since the Rodney Guillory scandal hit, OJ Mayo was more upset that the news hit on Mother’s Day than the fact it made him look like a cheat and a liar.
In some sad news, Louisville center Clarence Holloway was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, which has effectively ended his basketball career. We wish him all the best fighting this disease.
We sorta wondered what the deal was with Tennessee’s Chris Lofton this year. After a superb junior all-american campaign where he averaged 21/3/2 on 48% shooting (41% from three), his numbers dipped considerably during his senior season (16/3/2 on 40% shooting (38% from three)), culminating in a putrid 7-34 performance in UT’s three games of the NCAA Tournament.
Part of us wondered if he was feeling the pressure to perform for NBA scouts; part of us thought maybe the ascent of teammates such as Tyler Smith and JaJuan Smith may have something to do with it. Turns out we were wrong in a BIG way – Chris Lofton had cancer.
Former University of Tennessee guard Chris Lofton revealed today that he underwent four weeks of radiation treatment for testicular cancer last May. Lofton said in an interview with the News Sentinel that the treatment made him feel sluggish and affected his training. He added it may have affected his performance in his senior season. Lofton said, however, he’s made a full recovery and is healthy. The former Vol American did not disclose his condition to his teammates because “he wanted them to focus on the season.”
Yeah, getting cancer as a 22-year old might make you lose focus on your senior season a little bit. We’ve always liked Lofton, now we think the guy’s a farkin’ stud. Here’s hoping he destroys the NBA draft camps next month.