Morning Five: 08.12.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on August 12th, 2011

  1. On July 23, Preston Anderson, a former BYU student and current basketball player for Hartnell College in Salinas, California, jumped on his motorcycle at five o’clock in the morning and drove away from his apartment, his roommates assuming he was headed off to a morning workout. Until three days ago, Anderson’s whereabouts have remained a total mystery. He left his cell phone behind and has contacted none of his family or friends. A credit card transaction at a hotel in Corozal, Belize from August 4 — about which his family learned on Tuesday — is the only way any of them know he’s still alive. Hotel staff confirmed that the guest/cardholder was a 6’9” American, same as Anderson. Preston’s father Corey assumes his son is en route to South America, given the current travel vector. We don’t cover a lot of community college basketball around here, but this has sort of a Chris McCandless vibe about it, only more tropical. We hope it ends better, with more of a Ewan McGregor/Charley Boorman-esque resolution.
  2. In the title to his article yesterday, Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy describes the changes the NCAA wants to make to college athletics as “a mixed bag of genius and idiocy.” Contained within is a fine summary of the new provisions the NCAA wants to implement, not to mention a tasty little UCLA dig. Have to say, here…we’ve been fans of the idea of tougher punishments for a long time; currently, the risks of cheating just don’t sufficiently outweigh the possible benefits, and while no set of rules can eradicate all the rascals, cranking up punishments could at long last have presumptive rule-breakers wondering if it’s really worth it. [Ed. Note: 3 of 5 days of M5 goodness for MD this week! Don't think any writer has ever had that many in a M-F cycle. And MD and Luke Winn continue to battle for the all-time lead.]
  3. Can you believe that Facebook and Twitter now comprise 50% of recruiting interactions between recruiters and prospects? It is without question the best way for coaches to make contact with players nowadays, especially since the latter group seems reluctant to even pick up or open a ringing cell phone. Before you write that off to an alleged aloofness among high school recruits, first consider (as Pete Thamel of the New York Times did in his article from Tuesday) the case of Nerlens Noel, a top prospect who attends a prep school in New Hampshire. He has one hour of free time a day. You think he’s going to spend it all on his phone talking to coaches giving him their sales pitches? He says of Facebook: “It’s a great way to contact me.” He’s not alone.
  4. We hope that Chris Webber, Ray Jackson, and Juwan Howard are somewhere laying low and playing it cool right now, since the fates are evidently cracking down on the once-Fab Five. And by the fates, we mean the cops. Jalen Rose is halfway through a 20-day stretch in the pokey after pleading guilty to DUI, and now Jimmy King has been arrested and housed in the same facility (actually, we assume he’s out on bail by now) for failure to pay over $17,000 in child support. As if that wasn’t bad enough, King was arrested on his 38th birthday at a church after authorities saw his name on a basketball camp the church was holding. Whew.
  5. SI.com’s Luke Winn is back with another crop of sophomores likely up for big seasons as predicted by his Breakout Sophomore Formula. In addition to his usual clever and well-evidenced insights, two things in particular that we like about this offering from Winn are 1) the formula is designed to avoid insulting your intelligence by making obvious picks like, say, Jared Sullinger or Jeremy Lamb, and 2) Winn takes the time to examine how last year’s prognostications did. In doing so here, he also got in one of the great phrases we’ve seen in any sports article in some time: “libidinous malcontents.” You should already want to do so, but if that doesn’t make you want to click on the above link and check the article out for yourself, nothing will.
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Past Imperfect: When the Fab Five Changed the World

Posted by JWeill on March 11th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: Michigan’s revolutionary Fab Five.

We fear change. Change can be unannounced, even unwelcome. Or, sure, sometimes we may ask for it, beg for it, look to the heavens for it. But however it comes, when it actually does come, change straight freaks us out. Whether it’s something as small as a job change, as defining as a new child or as big as the first black president, change is maybe the most aggravating salvation there is. Because we curse and are disappointed by that which we once sought and rue the day we begged for what we now fear. So we then ask for change from our change.

In 1991, college basketball was ascendant. Fans were tuning into the annual tournament in record numbers, new modes of media were creating a whole new spectacle out of the Final Four and it was a age before the annual exodus of underclassmen to the pros. This meant that teams were both NBA talented and upperclassmen experienced, and the play on the floor showed that. The tournaments in the last half-decade of the 1980s seemed ever-increasingly better. It was a Golden Age for college hoops. No one was particularly asking for things to get shuffled around.

But you can’t always predict when things will change. And in the fall of 1991, change came to college basketball in the form of five supremely talented freshmen. In particular, five supremely talented freshmen came to the same place at the same time. And with them came change without ever being asked for. Or, rather, it snuck up on everyone. All Michigan coach Steve Fisher was looking for was a change in the fortunes of his basketball team. Two years removed from redefining “interim coach” by winning six straight games and the 1989 national title, Fisher’s team had struggled its way to a losing mark, lacking star power. Michigan needed players, so Fisher went out and got the five best he could get. They just so happened to also be five of the best in the whole country.

Chris Webber was the jewel of the golden ’91 Fab Five class.

Two of them were no brainers, local wunderkinds Fisher  – or whomever would have been the Michigan coach — had to lock in. Chris Webber was the nation’s best high school senior: the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and a three-time Michigan state champion at Detroit Country Day. Webber was the biggest of the big-time. Michigan had to make sure he was heading to Michigan. There was nothing wrong with Webber; he was the kid everyone wanted. You don’t touch that kid’s game, you just turn him loose and watch.

Jalen Rose was also playing in Fisher’s backyard. Himself a Burger Boy All-American at Southwestern High in Detroit, Rose was as loquacious as Webber was brooding. Rose would be Fisher’s floor general, a tall Magic-like playmaker with moxie coming out his ears. Rose had bloodlines, too, being the kid of Jimmy Walker, a former #1 pick. But Rose didn’t know his father, and besides, Rose wasn’t going to be just someone’s kid. He wouldn’t play in anyone’s shadow, and he wasn’t going to change for anyone. No, you’ll be the one to adapt to him. He was the kind of kid who’d tell you that straight up. Proof? When he was being recruited by Temple he asked John Chaney to change the time of Chaney’s notorious 5 a.m. practices. Chaney, unsurprisingly, said no. Rose ended up at Michigan.

But recruiting kids in your neighborhood, even the ones everyone else is recruiting, is one thing. Going into other people’s territory and landing big fish is a real task. And diving into Chicago to nab the best player there, too? Well, that was quite a feat indeed. But that’s what Fisher and his staff did when they got Juwan Howard, a 6’9” beast with quick feet, soft hands and a sharp mind. Howard was everyone’s top target, particularly Illinois, who had grabbed four of the last five Chicago Players of the Year. But Howard had other plans. His main rival, the one he measured himself against, was now Illinois’ star freshman Deon Thomas, a year older than Howard. Going head-to-head with Thomas twice a year was how Howard would show everyone that he was the best player to come out of Chicago in years, not Thomas. Howard was going to change the way people thought about him. And he was going to do that at Michigan.

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Past Imperfect: The Long Road To Humility

Posted by JWeill on January 27th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a new series focusing on the history of the game. Every Thursday, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBoss) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape.  This week: in a week BYU and San Diego State meet for a top 10 matchup, a look at two key figures in each school’s basketball history.

It’s June 1991, and Steve Fisher is in a good mood, a really good mood. It may seem odd, given he’s just emerged from coaching Michigan to a 14-15 record, his first losing season in his brief stint as a head coach. To add to it, he’s just graduated his leading scorer and captain. And yet, here is Fisher, serene and smiling in his bespectacled, professorial way. If it looks as if he knows something the rest of us don’t, that’s because he does.

What Fisher knows is that he’s just signed the best freshman class in school history – maybe in NCAA history. Combined, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King will go on to win 97 games for the Wolverines, coming within reach of back-to-back national titles. It’s also a crew that will have most of its wins expunged. But Fisher doesn’t know any of that yet. All he knows right now is that after a trying season, the cavalry is coming in baggy shorts and tall black socks, a group of young men who will change college basketball and the coach who brought them together. Forever.

* * *

It’s July 1991, and a 7-foot-6 Mormon basketball player – one of the tallest men on the planet, probably the world’s tallest Mormon — is giving up the game that is going to make him a millionaire someday. Well, maybe not exactly giving up, because what Shawn Bradley is really doing is taking a break to spread the word of God. For two years.

That he’s just finished an All-American freshman season in which he set an all-time record for blocks in a game is immaterial right now. The game-changing giant is heading to Australia to take a break, not knowing if he’ll ever play the game he’s loved his whole life again. It will be a confusing, often frustrating time, but one that will change him. Forever.

* * *

In many ways, Fisher is an unlikely spark for the basketball revolution that’s coming. A former high school coach in Park Forest, Ill., Fisher was on the slow track. For 10 years an assistant coach, Fisher was never the lead guy. Like all college assistants, he was the brains and hard work behind the scenes. He went on recruiting trips, sure, but the glory, and of course the headaches, ultimately went to the man in the seat beside him.

Interim coach Steve Fisher led Michigan to the 1989 championship.

Then came March 1989, and the man in the seat beside him, Bill Frieder, was fired for taking another job before Michigan’s season has come to an end. The NCAA tournament is one day away and now Fisher is the one responsible for wins or losses. Of course he is nervous. So what does the accidental head coach go out and do? He wins the whole damn thing. In a matter of three weeks, there’s more glory than Steve Fisher ever imagined, and all after just six games. It’s a story too remarkable to be believable, but believable because it is true. Six games and Fisher had just reached the pinnacle of the job he’d only just joined by accident. Six games and a mountain of glory you can only tumble down from.

Because what can Steve Fisher do to follow up six-and-oh my God?

* * *

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Morning Five: 11.22.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2010

  1. It looks like this whole Bruce Pearl ordeal just got a whole lot more interesting as the SEC suspended the Tennessee coach for the first eight games of SEC play. The suspension means that Pearl will not be able to coach the Volunteers in their SEC games between January 8th and February 5th nor will he be able to coach them during practices in the hours preceding/following those games BUT (emphasis intended) he will be able to coach against UConn and Jim Calhoun, someone in a bit of hot water with the NCAA, on January 22nd, and against Kentucky and John Calipari, someone who always appears to be at the edge of the hot water with the NCAA, on February 8th. Pearl still has to go in front of the NCAA infractions committee in early February. Some pundits are calling for Pearl’s head (figuratively, we think), but Pearl himself does not think it will be such a big deal.
  2. The other piece of big news over the weekend was the NCAA clearing Josh Selby to play for Kansas this season. They suspended Selby nine games, of which he has already missed three, for receiving $5,757.58 (or $4,607.58 if you believe Kansas) in impermissible benefits. Of course, some Kentucky fans are up in arms about Enes Kanter being ruled permanently ineligible for taking $33,033 (technically a little over 51 games worth if it was matched to Selby’s suspension) from his Turkish club, but it appears that the NCAA is differentiating between taking money on the side and being a professional.
  3. There’s some important injury news to get to, as two teams were hit hard this weekend. NC State will be without the services of Tracy Smith, who led the team in scoring (16.5 PPG) and rebounding (7.5 RPG) last season, for three weeks after he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday. Smith’s absence will only put more pressure on beleaguered head coach Sidney Lowe (can that be his new title: “beleaguered head coach?”). Meanwhile, a few hundred miles up the Atlantic coast, new coach Kevin Willard will have to search for more scoring from his Seton Hall team as gunner extraordinaire Jeremy Hazell will be out for 4-6 weeks with broken bone in his left wrist.
  4. Over the weekend, Michigan brought back three-fifths of the Fab 5, which according to the NCAA never existed, to Crisler Arena. Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were all on hand for the Wolverines’ rout of Gardner-Webb. Juwan Howard was not available as he is currently “playing” for the Miami Heat (8.3 minutes per game in four appearances this year). Chris Webber…well, according to the NCAA, Chris Webber never attended the University of Michigan. At least not for a few more years.
  5. Coming into the season we knew that UNC freshman Harrison Barnes would face unrealistic expectations. Now, we didn’t expect him to go 0-for-12 as he did against Minnesota on Friday, but our expectations were significantly lower that his hometown paper (see the headline).
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The Fraud 5 or Fab 5?

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2007

The Detroit Free-Press reported today that Jalen Rose is responsible for the following monstrosity memorial to the Fraud 5 Fab 5, Michigan’s controversial, engaging, frustrating, overachieving and underachieving teams of the early 90s. 

Fab Five billboard

We’re no Mitch Albom, so you won’t see a treatise on five people you meet in Michigan or basketball played in heaven here today, but we do recognize that the team represented on the billboard above was probably the most widely discussed yet schizophrenic college hoops team of the past two decades.  When focused, the team was without question one of the best conglomerations of talent in one class ever assembled; when not, they were as maddeningly frustrating as they were enticing.   

Were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson the Fab 5 or the Fraud 5?  Ultimately, it depends on your perspective.  We took a shot at comparing the two below. 

Fab 5 or Fraud 5

For a recap of the group and their effects on the game at large, check the below ESPN clip: 

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