Morning Five: 05.23.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 23rd, 2011

  1. The coaching carousel may have slowed down a little recently, but the player pinball is still operational and making noise. Over the weekend, St. John’s Red Stormer Dwayne Polee announced his intent to transfer to a school closer to home so he can help his family “get through a health issue.” Polee played in all 33 games for SJU as a freshman last season, starting most of them, and averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 boards in 15.5 per contest. We hope the family health issue he cites resolves to the best possible outcome, obviously. Much less importantly: Polee is from Los Angeles, so you may begin your speculation on his eventual college choice at once.
  2. Another player on the move is forward Luke Hancock, most recently of George Mason, and he’s evidently prepared to eschew mid-major life and head off to Louisville. As a sophomore last season, Hancock led the Patriots in assists (4.3 APG, 3rd in the CAA) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9), and was third in scoring with 10.4 PPG. He had 18/5 in Mason’s first second-round win over Villanova in the NCAA Tournament, but a gastrointestinal bug kept him out of their next game — that 98-66 spanking administered by Ohio State. Hancock has serious game, folks. This is a nice pickup by the Cardinals.
  3. The official report doesn’t come out until Tuesday, but it looks like Connecticut will lose two scholarships for next season because of a low academic progress rate (APR). In this limited space we won’t get into the goods and bads of APR methodology, but in addition to leaving UConn with ten scholarships next year, one brow-raising factoid from the linked New York Times/AP summary is that the low APR will cost Jim Calhoun almost $200,000, including every dime of his postseason bonus of $87,500 that he received for the run to the national championship.
  4. The Hurleys have done their homeland proud, and we’re not just talkin’ about New Jersey. Dan and Bobby — now head and assistant coach of Wagner College, respectively — and their father Bob, the legendary head coach of Saint Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, were all recently named to Irish Central’s Top 100 Irish Americans for 2011 (um…isn’t it only May?). Dan and Bobby shared a spot on the list, but Bob got his own among the honorees, a list that also includes Regis Philbin, Will Ferrell, and Muhammad Ali. Erin Go Bragh, boys!
  5. Tim Brando had the idea and then John DeShazier of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune ran with it, and the result is this article from yesterday that makes the case for former LSU head coach Dale Brown. What do you think? Pete Maravich’s name is on the home arena. Shaquille O’Neal is getting a statue in front of the practice facility. Does Brown, who led LSU to 448 wins, 13 NCAA Tournaments and two Final Fours, at least deserve to have the court named after him? Brando/DeShazier are pretty convincing.
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Past Imperfect: Chris Jackson and the Fallacy of Normal

Posted by JWeill on March 3rd, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: reliving LSU’s phenomenal Chris Jackson.

How often do you think about what’s normal in your life? Do you ever have to stop and define just what normal is or is normal the very essence of not having to define it? Is it what comes naturally, just something you do without thinking about it? Normal, for most people, is … just what is.

Culturally, we tend to make noise about the things that are not normal – on our best days, that which is better than normal; on our worst, laughing at what passes for normal for others. It’s understandable, really. Who bothers to take note of something that everyone sees as mundane, common, ordinary?

But what about those folks for whom normal is different? For those folks to whom it means not being able to do those mundane things that other people do without thinking. Or maybe it means, in certain cases, people who do things in their own way, with their own quirks, and do them fabulously.

Chris Jackson could do anything he wanted in basketball, only better than the ordinary. When you’re like Jackson, normal just isn’t part of the plan. It’s not even on the blueprints. For Jackson, normal was impossible, at least by the standards the rest of us consider, well, normal. Because no one who looks like and is Chris Jackson should have been able to do the things he could do. To this day, no one has done the things he’s already done.

But it’s not as if no one knew what he was capable of, at least in the abstract. Jackson was, after all, a two-time Mississippi High School Player of the Year, and a McDonald’s All-American, at Gulfport High. He was the jewel of legendary Louisiana State coach Dale Brown’s 1988 recruiting class. But it’s unlikely anyone, not even Brown and probably not anyone outside of Jackson himself, thought that a 6’1 string bean like Jackson was capable of dominating a college basketball game like he did for two years. If you’re just learning about it now, watching grainy clips on Youtube, it seems comical, video game-like. If you were around then to witness it, you didn’t believe it even as it was happening. The whole thing seemed, well, abnormal. Super-normal. Extra-ordinary.

Chris Jackson was already an SI cover boy during his remarkable freshman season.

Jackson arrived at LSU in the fall of 1988 a kid of circumstances. In a poor town, Jackson was raised by his single mom. Jackson never knew his father. He spent hours and hours at local courts, shooting and shooting until the shot felt perfect off his hand, off his fingertips. He practiced free throws until he didn’t miss them. He once made 283 in a row in high school. But it wasn’t just some sort of overcharged work ethic at play. Jackson was afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome, a neuropsychiatric disorder that causes tics, grunts and uncontrollable spasms and outbursts in those who possess it.

It can, and certainly did in Jackson, also manifest itself as an obsessive perfectionism, effectively convincing the brain that the afflicted cannot stop until perfection has been achieved. This means he cannot stop for exhaustion, cannot stop for dehydration, cannot stop for anything. So what made Jackson lie in bed at night shedding tears of frustration was also what helped make him into an unstoppable offensive force. It wasn’t until 1987, on the cusp of graduating to LSU, that Jackson finally got diagnosed with and got treatment for Tourette’s. Before that? He was just the weird kid that made the crazy noises and movements. He was just the kid down the street who was not normal.

Still, despite his remarkable abilities, as a small and reedy combo guard, few could have imagined how devastatingly good Jackson would be. He had always been able to score, and to shoot – thanks to natural talent and, yes, that neuro-perfectionism. But somehow, without appearing to exert much extra effort, Jackson showed up as ready for college basketball as anyone had ever been as a freshman. More ready, even. In his third game as a collegian, Jackson posted 48 points. In his fifth? 53. How about an NCAA freshman record 55 against Ole Miss? To this day, no one has ever scored more points as a freshman than Chris Jackson did in 1988-89. Not Kenny Anderson, not Jay Williams, not Kevin Durant and not John Wall. No one.

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Best. Freshman. Ever.

Posted by rtmsf on April 15th, 2008

In the most surprising and disorienting news of the month, Kansas State’s freshman all-american and shoulda-been Player of the Year Michael Beasley has decided to further his game at the appropriate professional level, considering he singlehandedly kicked the living crap out of everyone in college-world for a few months. 

How good was this guy?  In 33 games, he had 28 double-doubles.  He had thirteen 30+ point games, seven 15+ rebound games, and four 30/15 games including a monster 40/17 outing against Missouri.  He led the nation in average efficiency at 29.7,  a key statistic where only 34 players were 20+ this season.  Put simply, he was unstoppable this year, and he’d be wasting his time competing against college players any longer.

Looking at BEASTley’s numbers (26/12), it got us to thinking – where does his year rank among the all-time greatest freshmen in college basketball?  Freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity until the mid-70s, so we started with Magic Johnson and ended up with thirteen (+ Beasley) names of superb freshmen from the last thirty years so we could do a quick comparison.  We’re quite sure we forgot a couple, so don’t get your thong in a wad – just leave it in the comments section. 

Wow, is there any question that the new NBA age-limit rule has had a major effect on college basketball?  Four of the best individual freshman seasons of the last three decades were in the last two years (and we didn’t even include Derrick Rose or OJ Mayo!). 

The next thought we have is that, yeah, Beasley’s individual numbers outrank everyone else on the list with the closest competitors being his Big 12 predecessors, Kevin Durant and Wayman Tisdale (last spotted on Jazz Cafe).  LSU’s Chris Jackson (aka the American patriot Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) has him on scoring, but Beasley tears him up on everything else, and neither made it very far in the NCAA Tournament.

Quick aside:  the only team on this list with two of these guys was that 1989-90 LSU team (oh, and Stanley Roberts was also on that team), and they couldn’t even get to the Sweet 16?  Seriously, how is that possible??  Dale Brown only explains the incompetent game management and lack of motivation part, but it doesn’t diminish the talent there.  Sheesh.

Getting back to Beasley, where does the Big 12 find these long, rangy guys who walk right into college and put up double-double averages?  For what it’s worth, they don’t go very far in the Tourney, although we’re sure that the long-term residual effects of having a Tisdale, Durant or Beasley in your program can mitigate that one year (after all, Texas went to the Elite Eight this year, two rounds further than they did with Durant last year).

 

Best of luck as the #1 or #2 pick in draft, Michael.  We’re sure that South Beach or OKC will suit you even better than Manhattan (KS) did.   

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