Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2012

  1. Does anyone even celebrate Columbus Day, and how would you do so if you had a notion — pull out some vials of smallpox and spread it around? At any rate, Happy Columbus Day, everyone. If nothing else, the holiday means we’re on the verge of the start of official practices around the country, and that nip in the air we felt over the weekend was a very welcome sensation. One player almost exactly one year away from competing in his first college practice is Chicago’s Jabari Parker, and the multifaceted big man on Friday announced the five schools who are most likely to earn his services next year. The quintet includes BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and Stanford, with the Blue Devils and Spartans widely considered the two favorites. BYU and Stanford are outliers with Parker’s faith and interest in academics driving those decisions, but a wild card school here we should keep an eye on is Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. Donovan has already received commitments from two top 10 players in this class and the pressure that he’s feeling from Calipari’s hauls in Lexington has clearly pushed him to double down on his persuasive sales pitch.
  2. News leaked late last week that the Battle of the Midway, a showdown of preseason Top 25 teams Syracuse and San Diego State on the USS Midway in San Diego harbor, was in danger of cancellation because of a lack of financial support. While we are still on the fence about the need for multiple aircraft carrier games per season (others are planned for Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, FL), this game projects as the best matchup of the trio so we were hoping it would find a way to continue. With the financial assistance of Fox Sports San Diego agreeing to cover any shortfall, the showcase event will go on as scheduled on the evening of Veteran’s Day (also known as Opening Night). Syracuse definitely will have some holes to fill but Jim Boeheim has considerable talent returning; still, Steve Fisher’s Aztecs no doubt will have this one circled on their calendar as a major seed-line enhancer in front of a home crowd in a very cool environment.
  3. Kansas State put a ribbon on its brand-new $18 million basketball practice facility on Friday, as the arms race in college sports continues to search for bigger and bolder solutions to problems that were arguably never there. According to this article from the Topeka Capital-Journal, K-State had in fact been the only school among Big 12 members without such a facility in place, and new head coach Bruce Weber will surely use its state of the art characteristics to his advantage on the recruiting trail in coming years. Much like Louisville within the state of Kentucky, the Wildcat program runs at a natural disadvantage through its close proximity to the basketball behemoth just a few miles down the road — but, at the same time, a rising tide lifts all boats, and the KU sphere of influence can serve to help Kansas State’s on-court aspirations, even if it is unlikely to ever reach the standard of excellence achieved in Lawrence.
  4. A common refrain around Pac-12 circles is that if three-bill center Josh Smith ever gets serious about his weight and effort on the court, UCLA becomes a much different team. Much has been written over the last two seasons about Smith’s problems with motivation and over-eating, but this weekend article by the LA Times suggests that the gifted big man, while not yet anywhere near where he needs to be, may have at least turned a corner. His body fat is now at 17% (down from 25%) and he is talking the talk about following a better diet protocol and giving maximum effort on the floor. Hey, it’s a start, and for Bruins fans salivating at the possibility of an energized Smith to go along with their super freshmen and other returnees (one of those players, Tyler Lamb, will have arthroscopic surgery and be out 4-6 weeks), the realization is that a player with his gifts giving only 50% is still a valuable asset to a team gunning for a national championship.
  5. We’ll finish off this M5 with a report from Jeff Goodman on a most curious career path for a former college basketball journeyman named Eric Wallace, a player who bounced around between three different schools in his five-year career. The 6’6″, 230-lb. forward enjoyed his best season at Seattle University last year, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.9 RPG through a combination of grit and athleticism, but it is his next career choice that makes this story interesting. DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony recommended Wallace to an Australian Rules Football combine in Los Angeles based on his athletic gifts, and he did so well there that he was subsequently invited to the AFL Combine in Melbourne, Australia. Despite no previous experience with the game whatsoever, he earned the “Best International Performer” award there, and he hopes to use his newfound ‘talent’ to get an invitation to a team’s rookie list allowing him to stay in Australia and learn the game in a more focused manner. So many players end up chasing the NBA dream when they have no realistic shot, it’s great to see someone like Wallace perhaps finding an entirely new way to use his gifts without fear of too much disappointment.
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Morning Five: 06.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 17th, 2011

  1. Earlier this year Washington‘s Venoy Overton was involved in a salacious case where he was accused of statutory rape before local police decided not to pursue the case further. Now it appears that Overton has found himself in trouble again as he was arrested yesterday afternoon for promoting prostitution. According to police reports, an 18 year-old female was questioned for “prostitution activity” and told police that her boyfriend, Overton, brought her there and told her to engage in prostitution. According to the female, Overton gave her specific instructions on what acts to perform, what to charge, and what percentage he took. Lorenzo Romar, who took quite a bit of heat this season after letting Overton return to the Huskies after his prior run-in with law, issued the following statement: ”I have been informed of the arrest of Venoy Overton and I am extremely disappointed.  My staff and I spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy attempting to mentor Venoy prior to his recent graduation, so this news is especially troubling.” Overton, who graduated on Saturday with a degree in American Ethnic studies, is expected to appear before a judge today.
  2. The guys at Lost Letterman caught up with former prep star Lenny Cooke recently. For those of you who not aware Cooke was one of the premier high school players in the country in the Class of 2002 and considered by many to be at the same level as two more well-known players in his class–Amar’e Stoudamire and Carmelo Anthony. Through a series of bad decisions and unfortunate events Cooke never played a minute in college or the NBA. Today, Cooke’s legacy will probably come from the 2001 ABCD Camp where Cooke, a rising senior, was matched up against a hyped rising junior named LeBron James in what was supposed to be a match-up for the ages. Unfortunately for Cooke, LeBron, who was already demonstrating his knack for coming up big in big moments (wait, what?), destroyed Cooke on both ends of the floor to start the LeBron hype machine going full force while Cooke began his rapid fall.
  3. It appears that Virginia coach Tony Bennett may almost be ready to turn the Cavalier program around with a solid group of recruits. Virginia, which had been one of the better programs in the ACC during the 1990s, has only made the NCAA Tournament once in the past decade. After a 7-9 record in an admittedly weak year for the ACC, Bennett could have the Cavaliers primed to be a sleeper in the conference and could challenge the second tier of teams (the ones not named Duke or UNC) in the very near future.
  4. Earlier this week we linked to a column by Dana O’Neil talking about the difficult jobs of college basketball assistant coaches. Yesterday, Ohio State‘s Brandon Miller, considered by many to be one of the top assistant coaches in college basketball, stepped down citing a need to spend more time with his family. Although it isn’t an ideal time to try to find a new assistant coach with the summer recruiting season about to heat up, the Buckeyes recruiting should not suffer too much as Thad Matta already has two experienced assistants in Jeff Boals and Dave Dickerson and could potentially promote newly hired video coordinator Greg Paulus to take Miller’s place.
  5. When Oliver Purnell took over at DePaul last year it was widely considered one of the tougher rebuilding projects in America, but had some potential with the ability to recruit local Chicago high school players. While Purnell did have some success in his first year (winning the school’s first Big East game after a 24-game losing streak and its first road conference win since 2008) it was a very difficult year again for the Blue Demons. Things may get even tougher for Purnell as he will have to replace both Devin Hill and Eric Wallace who have decided to leave the program with Hill leaving for Loyola and Wallace leaving for Ohio State.
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