Posted by Will Tucker on October 14th, 2013
- One year after a postseason ban prevented his team from participating in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments, Kevin Ollie reports that his UConn team scored a perfect Academic Progress Score (APR) in the 2012-13 season. “We learned from our mistakes and we are going forward,” Ollie stressed, adding, “you want to create an environment that’s conducive for these kids to learn.” Junior Ryan Boatright and senior Shabazz Napier seem to have assumed primary leadership roles on a team that is expected to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth this season, after accumulating APR scores of 978 and 947 in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, respectively. “Nobody wants to run for somebody else not going to class,” said Boatright, “so we definitely make sure everybody goes to class and does their work.”
- While the American Athletic Conference lacks several high-profile vestiges of the Big East (RIP), Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin believes the sea change will serve the Bearcats as well as similar changes have in the past. Cronin pointed out that the 14 regular-season UC games scheduled to appear on the ESPN family of networks this season is the most of his tenure, and noted, “Coach Huggins built this program with a bigger fish in a smaller pond mentality.” In light of the forthcoming loss of rival Louisville from the conference schedule, Cronin said he was already working to “get some bigger name non-league games at home” in 2014-15. The eighth-year head coach said he was trying to keep the Cardinals on the schedule as a non-conference opponent, which would obviously be a treat for fans of either long-time nemesis.
- Addressing summer rumors at Louisville media day, Cardinals guard Kevin Ware said that he first heard a report that he’d been kicked off of the team from his sister. “She was like, ‘You got kicked off the team?’ I woke up — first thing in the morning — and had to ask, what are you talking about? All those rumors and things like that are false. I’m still here.” The junior guard and his teammates reiterated that he had remained a member of the team throughout the offseason, and Ware attributed the rumor to a Kentucky blog, noting, “I wouldn’t say they started it for sure, but that’s the only thing I can think of. Just the whole U of L-UK thing.”
- Newly-hired Memphis assistant coach Robert Kirby gave all of us a major dose of perspective last week when he donated a kidney to his 57-year-old sister, who was suffering from renal failure and in danger of losing her life. Kirby was the only one of 12 siblings determined to be an eligible match for the operation, and they had lost their mother to a similar condition in 1996 after she refused to explore the possibility of a kidney donation from any of her children. His sister, Virginia Kirk, reportedly showed signs of improvement almost immediately, and the first-year Tigers assistant hopes to return to practice in the coming weeks.
- After a difficult year that saw the firing of basketball coach Mike Rice and the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti, Rutgers President Robert Barchi made a laudable gesture when he announced last week that he would donate his $90,000 bonus toward his school’s scholarship fund. Citing “a year of fiscal restraint” in which Rutgers is “asking our faculty, students and staff to do more with less,” Barchi wrote to the Board of Governors that he and his wife intended to donate the performance-based reward toward student aid. In addition to multiple recent controversies within the athletic department, The (Newark) Star-Ledger reports that Barchi was encouraged over the summer by several state lawmakers to step down from the boards of two private companies that engage in business with the university.
Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2013
- In a week full of trash talk, hype machines and other nonsense, how about this for a heartwarming story of substance? ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz revealed the story of Robert Kirby, a 53-year assistant coach at Memphis who recently donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Virginia Kirk, as she gradually slid toward renal failure. It was similar to the conditions that took their mother’s life some 17 years ago, but she wouldn’t allow any of her 13 children to become a donor. Kirby wasn’t about to allow that to happen to his older sister this time around, so after become approved as a match, he underwent the procedure to remove the kidney on Tuesday and was went back home yesterday. He’ll be back on the sidelines at Memphis very soon, perhaps a few ounces lighter but no worse for the wear. Major props are due for the longtime assistant still looking for his first head coaching job, but if his selflessness in this situation is any indication of his integrity and loyalty, we hope some enterprising school in need of a head coach next April gives him a good look.
- While we’re on the subjects of perseverance and selflessness, America’s favorite bench-warmer in last year’s Final Four is well ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Kevin Ware, the Louisville guard who broke his leg so horrifically in last year’s Elite Eight contest against Duke, is, according to his head coach, going to be in uniform for the Cardinals’ first regular season game against College of Charleston on November 9. Rick Pitino stopped short of saying that Ware would play in that game, but considering that he’s already been practicing and still has several weeks left to prepare for his return, we’d have to believe that there’s a reasonably good chance that he’ll be play in that game. And while all anybody really wants is for Ware to find his fortitude so that he can contribute again, the fact is that Louisville is a better team when he can bring his energy, speed and defensive intensity off the bench.
- For years we’ve derided the fact that what we still call “Midnight Madness” really doesn’t have much in the way of midnight associated with it anymore. For those of you who may not remember how it was named in the first place, it had to do with the NCAA’s mandated start of practice, which for many years was at the stroke of midnight on October 15. In later years the NCAA moved the start date to the weekend closest to October 15, and of course now teams can have it in late September. All this maneuvering has taken some of the fun out of it, so we’re always looking for the new and creative ways that schools choose to celebrate the new season. Cincinnati is one school trying something different. The Bearcats will have their “Midday Madness” next Friday, October 17, at Noon in downtown’s Fountain Square. The event, featuring some light scrimmaging and fan-friendly competitions, will be open to the public and will provide a nice fall afternoon respite for the office drones working nearby. Sure, it’s a little hokey, but it is a creative way to reach fans in a way that UC otherwise wouldn’t. We like it, and wish more schools would follow their lead in coming up with interesting ideas.
- Over the last five seasons, Steve Fisher’s San Diego State program has averaged a total of 27 wins per year as he has built the program into one of the very best in the west. He’s done so on the backs of stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and a host of others, but none of those players were exceptionally rated prospects when they arrived on campus. That may be changing, with news on Thursday that Rivals.com top-20 recruit Malik Pope (Elk Grove, CA) has committed to SDSU. Kansas and Gonzaga were also in the mix for Pope, but the 6’9″ wing (you read that correctly) was impressed with how Fisher’s program didn’t back off of him when he broke his leg twice in the last eight months (the injuries will cost him his senior year). San Diego State’s class is already among the best in program history, and if the Aztecs lock down their final target, Zylan Cheatham, it would be safe to call this group a top 25 class that would benefit the school for years to come.
- The last time Kansas did not win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title was in 2003-04, Bill Self’s first season in Lawrence. The Jayhawks finished two games behind a Tony Allen and John Lucas III-led Final Four Oklahoma State team. Ten years later, Big 12 coaches are not about to make the mistake of leaving KU off the preseason top line in the league standings, even if the roster features zero returning starters. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, returns five starters to a young squad led by NPOY candidate Marcus Smart. So what did the coaches do? They split the difference. Kansas and Oklahoma State received the same number of votes (77 total, five first place votes each), ensuring that proper respect was given to both the team with the most returning talent and the team with the most incoming talent. It will be a mighty fun race in the Big 12 this season. Oh, and the Rick Barnes dead man walking watch? Eighth.