The big news over the weekend was the announcement by Devonta Pollard that he would be heading to Alabama next season. The addition of a McDonald’s All-American is a big deal for any program (ok, they might not go nuts over someone who is “just” a McDonald’s All-American in Lexington these days), but it is an even bigger deal for a Crimson Tide program that did not have a single player signed for the class of 2012. Pollard, who is already 6’7″ and 200 pounds, joins a team that was talented, but erratic last year will be missing two key pieces in the form of JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. We do not expect Pollard to jump into that role right away, but in a few years could help them become a similar caliber team.
It seems like the media loves to talk about all the incoming McDonald’s All-Americans and the impact that they will have in college. Occasionally we like to talk about the players who are “embodying” the college spirit by eschewing the lure of NBA millions to come back for their sophomore or junior year. We very rarely talk about seniors like that and for good reason as most of the players talented enough to play in the NBA are already there by this point. However, as Andy Glockner points out that does not mean that there are not some seniors who are expected to have a significant impact next season. These guys will not win any national player of the year awards, but they could decide a few conference championships and maybe even the national championship.
There are always rumors floating around illegal recruiting at top programs across the country and when those rumors come out we are usually surprised, but never shocked. When the rumors come out of Idaho State we are shocked. According to reports, the school was reported by former interim head coach Deane Martin after he got passed over for the full-time job. Martin reportedly sent a letter to the school’s athletic director informing him of a booster who was willing to pay to bring players into the program. The investigation, which was prompted when the school and Martin reported the allegations, is still ongoing so it is difficult to assess the validity of these statements although it seems strange that the former coach would falsely report violations that occurred under his watch, but we have seen stranger things that have happened.
ESPN released a list of its highest rated college basketball metro markets for the past college basketball season. As with all surveys it is important to look for any flaws in the methodology including the fact that it does not include markets like Lexington, which would probably win in a landslide if it were included. Leaving that shortcoming aside for a moment, the list is fairly instructive in that the vast majority of college basketball that is broadcast at a national level flows through ESPN. The top of the list is about what you would expect with the most interesting rankings being the relative order of some of these cities, but the one that sticks out the most is Knoxville particularly with the relatively weak team that they fielded there this season.
Some sad news from late last week as two prominent names in basketball yore passed away from complications related to illnesses — Jack Twyman, at age 78, and Orlando Woolridge, at age 52. Twyman isn’t very well-known these days, having played largely in the pre-television era of athletics, but he is a Hall of Famer who once scored 59 points in an NBA game and became in the 1959-60 season the first player in history to average over 30 PPG for a season (31.2). He played at Cincinnati from 1951-55 and became an All-American during his senior season when he averaged 24.6 PPG and 16.5 RPG — to this day, he remains one of only three Bearcats whose jerseys have been retired at Cincinnati, but his contributions beyond basketball may have been his more lasting legacy. Woolridge is better known as both a Los Angeles Laker (where he helped Magic and Kareem’s Showtime Lakers win their last title in 1988) and as a member of Digger Phelps’ Notre Dame Fighting Irish teams (where he helped Phelps make his only Final Four in 1978). He was an All-American in 1981 for the Irish, and became a part of the school’s giant-killing lore by hitting a jumper that year to knock off then-#1, riding a 28-game winning streak, Virginia Cavaliers, in what appers to be one of the earlier RTCs we’ve yet seen. RIP to both basketball legends.
If you are a regular reader of our site, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the 1979 NCAA championship game, which featured Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and is widely cited as the seminal moment out of which modern basketball was born. Although I don’t profess to be a scholar of that game, I always thought my knowledge of the major moments in modern college basketball history (since the 1960s) was pretty respectable so when I received an e-mail for an advance copy of a book about the topic I wasn’t particularly excited (outside of the fact that I had never received an e-mail like that before). When I read through the e-mail and saw that Seth Davis, one of my favorite college basketball writers and a regular reader of Rush the Court (about 2/3 the way down), had written the book I became a little more intrigued so I decided to give it a shot.
One of the first things I realized when I started reading the book was that despite the significance of the game there has not been a lot written about it. The game and the events leading up to it lack the literary canon of some of the other important events in college basketball history such as the John Wooden era and the Texas Western-Kentucky game. In fact, most of my knowledge from the game comes from watching documentaries about Bird and Magic that make the actual championship game seem more like it was simply foreshadowing their great NBA careers rather than the spectacle that it was at the time. In the book Seth Davis goes into detail discussing the lives of both legendary players and provides the reader with background information that helps explain a lot about their personalities and the way they approached the game. Davis traces Magic’s life story including details about how he ended up at Everett High School instead of his original school (and preferred choice) J.W. Sexton High School as a result of busing mandates in East Lansing, MI. He also examines details of Bird’s life that the casual fan (or one outside of Boston–hard to say since I live here) might not be aware of such as his distrust of outsiders and almost pathological shyness early in his career.
Gary Parrish had an interesting story today about an incoming Tennessee recruit named Renaldo Woolridge, a 6’8 top 100 power forward from Southern California who has an impressive bloodline – his dad happens to be former Notre Dame All-American (1981) and longtime NBA journeyman, Orlando Woolridge.
The story goes into considerable detail as to the younger Woolridge’s burgeoning rap career, replete with the obligatory MySpace page and stage-friendly moniker, The Answer aka Swiperboy. And yeah, we agree with Parrish when he says that it’s obvious after listening to the tracks that this kid has a little more talent than your average hoopster/rapper wannabe.
What really piqued our interest, though, was when we listened to the song, “Baller Vol,” which quite clearly pays homage to Woolridge’s new school and teammates (listen below). We may not have caught them all, but we heard players Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, JP Prince and coach Bruce Pearl mentioned.
Not to be a total wet blanket here, because this seems like just a kid having some fun – Woolridge even mentioned that UT may use his track for player introductions this year - but how is this not an NCAA violation? Wouldn’t Wooldridge’s production company, Swiperboyz Entertainment, be considered a commercial enterprise? And if so, aren’t there fairly explicit rules as to the limitations or usage of the university’s logo and likeness? For example, look at Rule 22.214.171.124(c) from the NCAA Rules & Regulations:
But on Woolridge’s MySpace site, it’s obvious that he’s a Vol and even includes a conspicuous image of him flexing while wearing a UT jersey.
(ed. note – this picture has since been removed from Woolridge’s MySpace page. Coincidence? photo credit: MySpace)
And what about the shout-outs to all of his current teammates on the song? Per Rule 126.96.36.199, did Woolridge get express permission to use their names on his product, and if not, does it matter that UT probably hasn’t taken steps to remediate that likely omission?
Given what we wrote last week about the NCAA’s worthless investigative arm, none of this probably matters because there are bigger fish for the brass to fry at Prairie View and UC Davis, but coming from someone who remembers how Indiana’s Steve Alford found himself in hot water for simply doing a charity calendar photo two decades ago, we have to wonder how all of Woolridge’s UT-centric rapping reconciles with the NCAA’s rulebook.