The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Arthur Agee

Posted by rtmsf on September 3rd, 2010

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: an Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year.  If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Arthur Agee is one of the inimitable names in basketball circles for his excruciatingly real portrayal of a hotshot recruit with dreams of the NBA in one of the greatest documentaries of all-time, Hoop Dreams.  The movie tracked Agee and his Chicago compatriot, William Gates, as they moved through the shady underworld of high school basketball star-making and college basketball recruiting in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Agee, the player who seemed more likely to end up on the wrong path as a result of his tough home life, ended up winning the Chicago Public League championship in 1991 and attending Arkansas State on scholarship.  While he nor Gates never made it to the NBA, they both have found meaning through their experiences captured on film to pass on their lessons to youngsters in the community: Gates as a pastor, and Agee as a motivational speaker who travels around the country inspiring students to follow their “hoop dreams” in all walks of life.  Agee was kind enough to speak with us last week.

Rush The Court: Arthur, talk to us a little bit about what you’re doing these days with your foundation (Arthur Agee Foundation) and your upcoming Hoop Dreams Tour (@HoopDreams2010 on Twitter) in October.

Arthur Agee: My Arthur Agee role model foundation involves me speaking and doing motivational things for kids.  The tour coming up with Mike Brown at Hoop Connection will have us traveling around from city to city [scheduled cities: Chicago, Orlando, Dallas, Sacramento] in October to help young athletes in those places pursue their hoop dreams.  We’ll be picking one person in each of those places to tell his or her story about their struggle and try to help them achieve their hoop dream — whether it’s a scholarship to college, a job in coaching or whatever else.  Our hope is that a reality televison show will pick it up and air what happens while we’re on this tour.

Agee Reached his Athletic Pinnacle at Marshall, But Much More Was on the Way

RTC: It’s amazing that this low-budget independent movie still has so much resonance over fifteen years later.  We hear from basketball fans regularly that it’s their favorite movie of all-time.  Can you discuss how you’re trying to use the opportunities it is still providing for you now?

AA: Well, realize that my family didn’t see any money from “Hoop Dreams” the movie.  Maybe $150,000 to $200,000.  The filmmakers saw it as a stepping stone project for themselves, but often times we were forgotten about.  That said, they have authorized me to use the name Hoop Dreams to brand it.  A consultant we talked to says there might be about $4 million left in it, so we got permission from the filmmakers to start a full clothing line — sneakers, hats, and so on.  So that’s the business challenge that I’m currently facing with it — branding Hoop Dreams and making it profitable.

RTC: What about the movie itself?  What has changed from those days and what life lessons can you give to young people today as a result of your experiences?

AA: Well, the basketball landscape has changed.  From the mid-90s until a few years ago, you could jump straight to the NBA from high school.  But the statistics on actually making it to the pros is really small.  Kids should be thinking about the primary goal to get a scholarship to college, and let the rest take care of itself.  I use a phrase, “Education is a necessity… basketball is a privilege,” and it’s true.  In the movie we did a couple of years ago, “Hoop Reality,” which was a fifteen-year follow-up to “Hoop Dreams,” I helped Patrick Beverley achieve his hoop dream.  We focused on him in the movie, and he eventually went to Arkansas on a scholarship and just recently signed a $1.5 million deal with the Miami Heat.  At Arkansas State, I had to do everything on my own to get noticed, and some agents came to me because of the movie, but that was about it.

Many of the Lessons From 20 Years Ago Are the Same

RTC: How is your relationship with co-star William Gates [a minister in the Chicago area now] from the movie?

AA: Will is great, and I keep up with him quite a bit. You have to keep in mind, though, that William Gates in the movie was still a lot better player than a lot of people with two good knees.  His son, Will Jr., is sixteen now [Class of 2013] and at St. Joseph’s just like we were.  Still with Coach [Gene] Pingatore!  I’d tell him what I’d tell anybody with a hoop dream — live your hoop dreams and control your own destiny, which means to go hard after whatever you want and don’t let anybody else get in your way.

Read the rest of this entry »

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LeBron Runs With The Hurricanes

Posted by jstevrtc on August 26th, 2010

Celebrities of all types have always been associated with college basketball. Just in the past few years, we’ve seen the likes of President Obama playing pickup at North Carolina and taking in a game at Georgetown; Michael Jordan’s been known to practice with the Tar Heels every so often; Ashley Judd considers herself Kentucky Fan #1, and last season John Calipari had the likes of Magic Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, and Drake showing up at Rupp Arena. Calipari’s association with LeBron James specifically ticked some people off. There are certainly more examples, and whether they admit it or not, coaches with such connections like it when musicians, actors, or athletes bring a little celebrity juice to their programs.

LeBron will probably make a few appearances at Miami's Convocation Center.

That last one, though, may have now found a new crew with which to play. The AP reported earlier today that James joined in some “informal scrimmaging” with the Miami Hurricanes, some of whom hadn’t been notified that he was coming, let alone bringing along the likes of fellow Heat members Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, and Patrick Beverley, and Chris Paul from the Hornets. According to the AP report (via ESPN.com), NBA players who live in Florida often work out with the team, but this was James’ first visit to “The U.” LeBron’s assessment via Twitter: “Just left ‘The U’ hooping with the team….Great runs! Needed that.”

Messrs. Williams, Thompson, and Calipari — it’s your move. Who’s got Clooney’s number?

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06.08.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2009

Another week has started, and we’re within one week of the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline, so let’s see who’s returning…

  • LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell will return to Baton Rouge for his senior season (smart move).
  • Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds is leaning toward a return to the Main Line for his senior year (also a smart move).
  • Arizona’s Nic Wise will also return for his senior season (a wise move, indeed).
  • Miami (FL)’s Dwayne Collins has wisened up and will also be back for his senior season (yep, these guys are getting it).
  • Memphis players continue to jump ship, with Shawn Taggart now deciding to forgo his senior season (not a great move, but he’s already 24 and who knows what penalties Memphis may face next season).
  • Tennessee’s Tyler Smith is still thinking about returning, but he’s also considering going to Europe to start his professional career.  While on the subject of collegians moving to Europe, Luke Winn explores the issue a little further in the context of Nick Calathes’ decision to play in Greece.
  • Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague injured his knee in a workout last week, but is expected to remain in the first round and therefore will most likely stay in the draft.

Some other news bouncing around the early summer months…

  • Memphis made its defense to the NCAA on Saturday, and we pretty much agree with most of what Gary Parrish writes here.  Details are scarce as to what was actually said at the hearing, but Kentucky’s John Calipari did phone in from China, and Memphis official stated on the record that they feel that they’d made their case to the NCAA.  Not sure what else they could say in that spot though.  Memphis should hear something from the NCAA in 6-8 weeks.
  • The Shane Battier Memorial Rule will be in effect beginning next season.  Wonderful.
  • We really don’t have a good feeling about the long-term prospects of Josh Pastner at Memphis.  Nothing against the kid, but Calipari is just too tough of a situation there to follow.  He’s showing his recruiting chops already, but can he coach?
  • In a cost-cutting measure, three Big Ten schools (Michigan, Ohio St., Wisconsin) are eliminating their annual media guides for their sports teams.  We’d expect this to be a major trend in the next few months nationwide.   The NCAA is also lending a hand by suspending members’ dues this upcoming year.
  • A Tennessee congressman named Steve Cohen is petitioning the NBA to change its “one-and-done” rule.  Interesingly, his district includes Memphis, who is of course dealing with the Derrick Rose fiasco.  Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt took offense at some of Cohen’s comments about his former player, Thaddeus Young, and is now demanding an apology.
  • Former Razorback Patrick Beverley threw Arkansas under the bus in an interview with DraftExpress when he said, “Someone from Arkansas was doing papers, was doing me and some of my teammates’ papers…”
  • UK countersues Billy Gillispie.  This could be really fun.
  • Gary Parrish explores Billy Donovan’s thoughts on the Orlando Magic making the NBA Finals two years after he backed out of his commitment to coach that team.
  • In a bit of a shock, Fairleigh Dickinson fired head coach Tom Green after 26 years of loyal service, including four NCAA Tournament appearances and 407 wins at the school.
  • UT-Martin’s head coach, Bret Campbell, resigned after an internal audit found that he had deposited $20k in basketball camp checks directly into his personal account.
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10.12.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 12th, 2008

Have a Happy Rape & Pillage Day, everyone!

  • If Rick Barnes and his one career F4 appearance merits a Legends in Coaching award, we’re wondering just how legendary this award must be.  Well, Gene Keady and his zero F4s won the award in 2007, so whatever.  Katz, for one, believes that Barnes deserves this award. 
  • SEMO fired its AD and put their head coach Scott Edgar on administrative leave this week immediately following the NCAA imposing probation on the men’s and women’s basketball programs.  Good to see the NCAA’s investigative arm is going after the big boys here.  In the last seven years, the SEMO Bears have won 12, 11, 7, 15, 11, 11, and 6 games, respectively.  Awesome.
  • Here’s a quick-and-dirty recap of the ten Cinderellas to keep an eye on this season. 
  • This is a good idea – if you’re interested in knowing what recruits are going to which Midnight Madness – Making the Dance has the list. 
  • Looks like former Hawg Patrick Beverley will not be returning to Fayetteville next season. 
  • The Darrell Arthur grade-changing thing just won’t die.
  • Monty seems to be settling into his new digs across the Bay.
  • USC’s Daniel Hackett:  UCLA does “anything to win” and OJ Mayo breaking his jaw last year was a “bad episode.” 
  • What else can you say about this title of an article dealing with a Minnesota assistant coach being voted most eligible bachelor in Minnesota? – dude doesn’t mince words, that’s for sure.
  • We’re really not sure what to make of this article about Cal St.-Northridge’s Matadome and other things, but we like it.
  • Finally, a trip down memory lane with the 1996-97 Providence Friars
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John Pelphrey’s Job Just Got Harder

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2008

Not a full week after John Pelphrey signed a nice one-year extension and received a ‘we have full confidence in you’ raise, he was hit with news that his talented but confounding PG Patrick Beverley has effectively been dismissed from the program.  Privacy concerns limit what school and team officials would say on the record, but Friday was the last day of summer classes at Arkansas and it doesn’t seem a major reach to think that Beverley’s dismissal involved academic problems. 

The Hawgs Have Some Rebuilding Ahead of Them

Arkansas was already facing a rebuilding year next season, having lost four starters from an NCAA second-round casualty squad.  Beverley stood to be the leading returning scorer (12 ppg) and rebounder (7 rpg) and overall team leader despite his diminutive size (6’1).  As Hawg blog Razorback Expats put it, this kinda sucks:

John Pelphrey’s incoming recruiting class is highly regarded, but you can’t like the fact that the player who is now the Hogs’ leading returning scorer – that would be junior guard Stefan Welsh – averaged a whopping 5.3 points per game last year. Only a few days before Beverley was ruled ineligible, Pelphrey told the media that “our basketball team is only going to be as good as our three juniors.” Oops.

Looks like Alabama’s (the presumptive 2009 SEC West champion) seventeen basketball fans are collectively rejoicing right now.

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The West Side is the Best Side…

Posted by rtmsf on June 9th, 2007

2Pac

2Pac was right after all

Quite a bit was made last season of a renaissance in the quality of basketball in the Pac-10 conference, as it ended the season as a top three conference in both the RPI and Sagarin ratings in addition to earning a record six NCAA bids for the conference and enjoying the prestige as the only conference with multiple teams in the Elite Eight (Oregon and UCLA). There has always been a surplus of talent on the west coast, especially in the Seattle and SoCal areas, but it was largely characterized by players opting to play for an eastern school just as often as staying home to play for State U. This has been changing over the last five years, however, as new coaches such as Lorenzo Romar at Washington, Tim Floyd at USC, Tony Bennett at Wazzu and Ben Howland at UCLA have endeavored and succeeded in keeping as many of those talents as possible close to home. This is no more evident than in some of the recruiting wars over the last couple of years that resulted in top ten players such as Spencer Hawes (Washington), twins Brook & Robin Lopez (Stanford), Kevin Love (UCLA) and Brandon Jennings (Arizona) signing to play in the Pac-10 (notable exception: Lake Oswego’s (OR) Kyle Singler to Duke).

Steve Lavin

Lavin’s former conference is on the rise

Still, we were a little surprised when Rivals released its top ten players at each position for the 2007-08 season, and the Pac-10 claimed by far the most players, with thirteen of the top fifty. This is especially remarkable given that the league is losing all-conference performers Arron Afflalo (UCLA), Aaron Brooks (Oregon), Marcus Williams (Arizona) and Nick Young (USC) to the NBA next season, while it welcomes likely top fifty players Kevin Love and OJ Mayo (USC) to the league. With talent like this staying on the west coast, we should expect another great season from the Pac-10 conference next year. Somewhere Steve Lavin’s hair gel is celebrating.

The ACC and Big East have seven players each on the list; the SEC has six, and the the Big 12 has five of the top fifty players. The Mountain West and Conference USA both have three of the top fifty, outperforming the Big 10 (again), who only has two. The Colonial (Eric Maynor – VCU), Horizon (AJ Graves – Butler), Missouri Valley (Randal Falker – S. Illinois) and Southern (Stephen Curry – Davidson) conferences each have one top fifty player returning. Below is the list including multiple-player conferences:

Rivals 2007-08 Top 50 Players

You probably noticed that we shaded the teams with three top fifty players returning next season – Stanford, UCLA, UNC, Kansas. It’s certainly no coincidence that three of those will begin next year in the top five of the polls, and the fourth, Stanford, will probably be knocking on the door of the top ten.

Thoughts -

  • Where is all the Big Ten talent? Having less players on this list than CUSA and the Mountain West is cause for alarm, and helps to explain why only one Big Ten team played into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament last season. Where are the usual stables of talent at Michigan State and Illinois? Aside from the yeoman’s work that Matta is putting into recruting at OSU, the rest of the Big Ten has signed only two top thirty prospects during the last three recruiting cycles – Joe Krabbenhoft of Wisconsin in 2005, and Eric Gordon of Indiana in 2007. An influx of coaching talent has entered the league (Tubby Smith at Minnesota and Kelvin Sampson at Indiana), but without the players to accompany those moves, the Big Ten is going nowhere fast.
  • Nitpicks. We probably would have found a place for the following players: Derrick Low (Washington St.), Edgar Sosa (Louisville), Jerel McNeal (Marquette), and Patrick Beverley (Arkansas). Expect each of these players to be all-conference performers in their respective leagues next season. We also have a sneaky feeling that guys like DaJuan Summers (Georgetown), Deon Thompson (UNC), Derrick Caracter (Louisville) and JaJuan Smith (Tennessee) will make a solid case to be on this list next season.
  • Surprises. NC State’s future looks bright with two young big men, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley, returning for Sidney Lowe’s team. Alabama should be much improved next year as well, assuming Ronald Steele gets healthy (he was on many preseason all-american teams last year but struggled with tendinitis and ankle injuries that largely derailed Bama’s season). Apologies to the Mountain West, but who are Stuart Creason and Luke Nevill? Their inclusion on this list shows that the depth of talent at the center position in the college game is ridiculously thin.
  • Instant Impact Players in 2007-08. This list next season will be populated by the likes of OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (Kansas St.), Derrick Rose (Memphis) and Anthony Randolph (LSU).
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