Posted by AMurawa on July 13th, 2012
- Every week in the middle of the summer, it is always a scramble to find interesting stories to write about for our Weekly Five, as college basketball-related news is often hard to come by. This week, however, was definitely not one of those weeks, as there has been plenty of news from around the conference. However, we’d gladly still be scrambling finding something to write about rather than have to write this. But, former Stanford captain Peter Sauer, who helped the Cardinal reach four straight NCAA Tournaments, including a run to the Final Four in 1998, died last weekend after collapsing while playing pickup basketball. He was just 35. It was an enlarged heart that likely caused the collapse, but Sauer also fractured his skull when he fell. While Sauer was never the main offensive threat for those fantastic Stanford teams, he was a scrappy and effective competitor who left his mark on most games he competed in and seems to have been nearly universally regarded as a great teammate. As a captain in each of his final two seasons on The Farm, he helped his talented Cardinal team to their first-ever Pac-10 title. He remained a part of their program even after graduation and was in attendance when the Cardinal took home the NIT title last March in New York. The Stanford Daily offers up a great eulogy for Sauer, departed far too early. Perhaps there is some small amount of solace in the fact that he died playing the game he loved, but for those of us who go out there whenever we get a chance and spend a couple hours a time or two a week balling it up with friends, this kind of thing hits close to home. You never know which runner in the lane will be your last. He leaves behind a wife and three kids, and our hearts go out to the family and friends he leaves behind.
- Unfortunately, that’s not the last death we have to report this week, as former UCLA wing Kenny Heitz died at the age of 65 on Monday after a long battle with cancer. Heitz may not be a familiar name to younger college basketball fans, but he was a key player on some classic Bruin teams. He was a member of the famous freshman squad of 1965-66 (including such names as Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen and Lynn Shackleford – how’s that for a recruiting class!) that won the first game ever played in Pauley Pavilion, a 75-60 win for the precocious youngsters over the two-time defending national champion UCLA varsity team. He got run in each of his three varsity seasons, alternating between a starting role and one of the first guys off the bench, eventually earning Academic All-America honors as a senior. After graduating from UCLA Summa Cum Laude and Phi Betta Kappa, he went on to earn his law degree, with honors, from Harvard Law. Heitz is survived by his wife, three daughters and two granddaughters.
- Sticking on UCLA for a second and definitely turning to happier subjects, we got news from Chris Foster of The Los Angeles Times this week that Joshua Smith has lost 15 pounds and has recently been seen – get ready for this – sprinting and jumping while playing basketball. Now, it is certainly possible that the verbs “sprint” and “jump” are relative terms, and sure, 15 pounds off the 300-and-however-many pounds Smith was carrying last season is hopefully just the first leg of a longer journey, but this should count as good news for Bruin and college basketball fans. And, perhaps more importantly, for Smith. He is working with a nutritionist and says he has rediscovered his passion for the game. It’s all good to hear, but the fact is, we heard similar things last offseason. Until we see it on the court come November, Smith remains a serious question mark for UCLA.
- From one guy who has – to this point – squandered his talent, to another guy who seems well on his way to doing the same, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports reported this week that former Arizona point guard Josiah Turner has decided not to play for SMU this fall in lieu of beginning his attempt at creating a professional career for himself. Turner was run out of Tucson in what he admits was a haze of alcohol and marijuana, but was granted a second chance by new SMU head coach Larry Brown. However, Turner decided this past week that instead of continuing his college career, he would pursue a professional career either overseas or in the NBA Developmental League, in hopes of landing in the league next season. Turner claims to have turned over a new leaf in the wake of a DUI arrest in Tucson in April, but he’ll have to prove to NBA scouts that he possesses more than just potential. So, the book closes on Turner’s underwhelming college career, with five double-digit scoring games, three games with five-or-more assists, and two suspensions.
- About a month ago when we did our first week-long look at a Pac-12 team, we were incredulous about Herb Sendek’s statement that Arizona State would “play as fast as anyone” in the conference. Sendek has since changed his tune somewhat, but still says that ASU’s goal will be to average 70 points per game this season, something that, as Doug Haller at The Arizona Republic points out, Sendek’s teams have never done at ASU. Still, despite the fact Sendek may have been overstating his original position, I think we can interpret all this talk as meaning that Sendek is ready to turn freshman point guard Jahii Carson loose whenever possible in the hopes of getting some easy baskets. There still will be plenty of halfcourt sets, but the Sun Devils will hope to take advantage of transition opportunities when available.
Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2012
- Everyone feel free to let out a big sigh… Former Arizona malcontent and SMU transfer Josiah Turner has decided to follow his dream to play in the NBA by forgoing college basketball in favor of taking a shot with the D-League or spending next season in Europe to hone his game for next year’s draft. As he put it in an interview with Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg Tuesday, “In college, you get your degree and everything, but going pro is getting me closer to my dream and what I want to do in life.” Turner was set to become new head coach Larry Brown’s first big recruit at SMU, but for now it appears that he’s putting all of his eggs into a rather competitive basket. He admits that alcohol and marijuana contributed to his paltry stats (6.8 PPG; 2.4 APG) and disciplinary problems during his one year in Tucson, but he also says that his partying days are behind him and he’s matured from that experience. Will we ever hear from Turner again — is anyone willing to take the affirmative?
- It’s no secret that Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy is, much like us, a defender of the inherent value of the game of college basketball. His latest piece brings up an interesting fact that we weren’t aware of prior to reading it — of the 144 basketball players who will participate in the London Olympics later this month, no fewer than 46 of them (32%) spent time developing at US colleges. When you consider that the qualifiers range from Nigeria (Arizona State’s Ike Diogu) to Australia (St. Mary’s Patty Mills) to Great Britain (GW’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu) to Lithuania (Maryland’s Sarunas Jasikevicius) to the good ol’ USA (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and others), you quickly realize that for many countries the American college game has become an elite training ground for the world’s top amateur talent.
- We sadly mentioned in yesterday’s M5 the passing of Stanford’s Peter Sauer, which reportedly was caused by a condition associated with an enlarged heart. Today’s M5 brings even more bad news in that UCLA guard Kenny Heitz, a key member of John Wooden’s three-time national champions from 1967-69, passed away in Pacific Palisades at the age of 65. Heitz and Lew Alcindor were in the same class at UCLA (talk about fortuitous timing!) and their teams went a ridiculous 88-2 over their paired careers. Rather than pursuing a professional basketball career after graduation, the Academic All-American went on to Harvard Law School and became a top-drawer commercial litigation attorney in Southern California. Thoughts go out to his family, and we hope he rests in peace.
- Another member of the UCLA family, Josh Smith, is entering his junior season as a Bruin. His weight problem was a major distraction last season, as he often struggled to run the court two or three times without getting winded, and Ben Howland’s team suffered as a result. Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles caught up with the talented but enigmatic center recently and discovered that Smith appears to finally be taking seriously the gifts of skill and size that have been given to him. Smith said that last summer he simply returned home to Washington state and goofed around with his free time, but this summer he has remained in Westwood and is working with a nutritionist who has helped him already lose 15 pounds and improve his conditioning. It certainly remains to be seen whether any of this will actually stick for Smith, as we feel like we’ve heard this before (not only from him but Renardo Sidney also comes to mind) and he needs to melt a lot more than 15 bills from his frame. But… and this is a big if… if Smith is in shape and the Wear twins are at all adequate, then Ben Howland will have the best frontcourt in America.
- It appears that the nation’s athletic directors are in a giving mood this month. Third year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery received a revised seven-year contract that will pay him an average of between $1.6 to $1.9 million over that period, depending on whether he hits certain NCAA Tournament incentives. Keep in mind that, although McCaffery has certainly got the Hawkeye program heading in the right direction (from 11-20 his first year to 18-17 last season), he has yet to finish in the top half of the Big Ten nor done any damage nationally. This is a rather unbelievable deal for someone who has yet to even sniff the NCAAs in his time in Iowa City — but hey, we’re rooting for the guy to earn it. Good for him.