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 10th, 2012
- Fans of west coast basketball from the 90s were saddened on Monday with the news that former Stanford forward Peter Sauer collapsed and died on Sunday during a pickup basketball game in White Plains, New York. Sauer was a team captain who averaged 7.9 PPG for his career and played a significant role in leading the Cardinal to its second-ever Final Four in the 1997-98 season, where it lost in overtime to eventual national champion Kentucky in the semifinals. His graduating class of 1999 was one of the most successful in program history — in four seasons, it won 90 games, a Pac-10 title, attended four straight NCAA Tournaments, and was a large part of the renaissance of Stanford basketball by turning a historically woeful program into a national powerhouse. Sauer leaves behind a wife and three young daughters, a man in the prime of his life taken away far too soon. May he rest in peace.
- In an odd coincidence, Sauer’s college coach at Stanford, Mike Montgomery, also made news on Monday. The curmudgeonly California coach signed an extension that will keep him coaching until at least the 2015-16 season. In four seasons so far at Berkeley, Montgomery has fielded scrappy and competitive teams that have been invited to three NCAA Tournaments (no easy task in the Pac-10/12), but he has not yet achieved the national success that he did at Stanford in the latter part of his career across the bay (e.g., three 30-win seasons). Still, the Cal administration clearly appreciates the work that Montgomery has already put in, and he stands to keep the Golden Bears among the better basketball programs of the Pac-12 for years to come.
- We mentioned last week that Syracuse recently released an independent report that suggested its program and administration did not act to cover up allegations made against assistant coach Bernie Fine in 2005, but could have acted more promptly in notifying authorities of the charges made against him. The lawyer for one of Fine’s accusers (Bobby Davis) responded on Monday — it would be quite the understatement to suggest that Gloria Allred disagrees. After describing the university’s report as a “complete whitewash” of the relevant events seven years ago, she went on to say that the report’s contention that there was no cover up does not “pass the laugh test.” (hmm… where have we heard that phrase used before?) Allred went on to say that Syracuse’s investigation of the allegations against Fine in 2005 were done to protect the university rather than learn the truth — whether all of her claims here are true or not, she’s certainly rattling the cage and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
- July has long been known in college basketball circles as the month when coaches jet around the country to sit in hot gyms and evaluate the stars of tomorrow at the various camps. Though the names and locations have changed, the song and dance is still largely the same. Mike DeCourcy gives us a thorough primer of some of the top storylines in this year’s summer circuit, set to begin on Wednesday from Indianapolis, Philadelphia and just outside of DC. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is something that we noted in this space a couple of weeks ago — most of the top players in the Class of 2013 have held off on their commitments, which means that the summer evaluation period is likely to be more competitive as players angle to catch coaches’ eyes heading into the all-important fall signing period. DeCourcy also discusses the battle for the top player in the class, and how Jay Wright needs an impact player out on the Main Line sooner rather than later.
- While on the subject of recruiting, ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf writes a fascinating article about the recent arrival and impact of Canadian recruits on college basketball’s landscape. As he notes early in the piece, five Canadians have been selected in the last two NBA Drafts, and the top overall player in the Class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, is a native Canuck as well. Then there are the current collegians, such as Texas’ Myck Kabongo, UNLV’s Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett, Marquette’s Junior Cadougan, and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. Call it the Steve Nash Effect (unless you prefer Jamaal Magloire), but much of the talent pool derives from the large immigrant minority populations that have settled in the metropolises of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal in the last 30 years — the children of those immigrants came up with the NBA in Canada and are now starting to find their way to the elite levels of American basketball. As the game of basketball continues its growth as the world’s second-favorite sport, we’re going to see college basketball take on an increasingly international flavor in much the same way that the NBA has over the last 15 years.