Morning Five: 08.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2012

  1. You know you’re doing something right in a lawsuit if the defendant’s attorneys start attacking the plaintiff’s ringleader long before the discovery phase ends. According to this report from The Birmingham News, the NCAA and its licensees maneuvered hard against marketing guru Sonny Vaccaro in an attempt to discredit him prior to a ruling by a federal court in California about whether the so-called Ed O’Bannon likeness case will become a class action suit. It’s no secret that Vaccaro has encouraged ex-players who feel wronged by the perpetual and ongoing usage of their faces and likenesses to join the suit, but the NCAA questioned whether his financial motives were too inextricably tied to the players to render him prejudicial. The NCAA had requested voluminous records of his communications for years, but ultimately, the two sides agreed that Vaccaro would turn over “custodial records from Vaccaro’s three organizations, communications with the plaintiffs, camp/tournament documents using players’ likeness, and payment records to or from players.” The court plans on making a decision on the class action later this fall, and without question that ruling could have a monumental impact on the future financial solvency of the NCAA.
  2. Thursday was an assistant coach kind of weekday as a number of high-profile schools announced comings and goings among their coaching support staff. Kentucky, a school whose media relations department must work a ridiculous amount of overtime, announced that former Wildcat center Marquis Estill will join the team as an undergraduate student assistant while he finishes his degree. Estill left school early in 2003, after receiving all-SEC honors after his junior season. Meanwhile, across the continent in Seattle, Washington announced that it was adding former Arizona State assistant Lamont Smith to its staff as a top recruiter mere days after adding another new assistant, former D-II head coach Brad Jackson (Western Washington). The key word in the previous sentence is former, as Arizona State lost not only Smith but also Scott Pera, who is leaving the desert to coach closer to his home at Pennsylvania. As Herb Sendek said about the twin departures this week, “the timing isn’t ideal.” More on ASU in a post later today.
  3. Much has been made recently about the Big East’s 60-day window to negotiate a new television deal with ESPN that begins on September 1, but it isn’t the only conference looking forward to making waves with a brand new broadcasting deal. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told media on Wednesday that the league expects to sign a 13-year deal with FOX and ABC/ESPN worth $2.6 billion and will provide “unprecedented” exposure in a much more “widely distributed” manner. Or, in other words, what everyone else says about these deals. From a financial perspective, if this deal turns out to be true, a distribution of over a quarter-bill to each of the 10 member institutions doesn’t sound very bad after all. As Bowlsby suggests, perhaps 10 schools is the right number after all — leagues have been pushing each other out of the way to expand, but maybe they should start thinking about strategic contraction instead?
  4. One school not reaping the tens of millions of dollars that the schools located nearby it are is Creighton, but that isn’t stopping the hot mid-major basketball school from investing in its future while things are going well on the court. Plans were announced earlier this week that the school will build the Fighting McDermotts a brand spanking new 35,000 square-foot practice facility to match what some of its MVC peers have already done. Perhaps more importantly, the school seeks to match what a certain Big Ten school an hour to the southwest is doing — even though Creighton is clearly the more successful basketball program than Nebraska, the spectre of all those BTN dollars at NU certainly keeps the Joneses over in Omaha looking over at their neighbor’s lawn. With possibly two more years of Doug McDermott as a Bluejay, this practice facility could be the recruiting carrot that Creighton needs to bridge its current and pending success with a strong recruiting future.
  5. Last summer the story of Lamont “Momo” Jones‘ transfer from Arizona back home to Iona was a hot topic. The question of how it would ultimately impact both schools was a common refrain, and as it turned out, it was his new school that played in March Madness (losing to BYU in the First Four), while his old school was shipped to the NIT (losing to Bucknell). Jones enjoyed his best season statistically in 2011-12, going for 16/3/3 APG while shooting a career-high 46% from the field. More importantly to the rising senior, though, he spent what he characterizes as the best of year of his life near his family — especially his ailing grandmother in the Bronx — and even became a first-time father of a boy, Jace’, in May. With all the negative stories surrounding college basketball these days, this piece by Dan Greene is one that will send you into the weekend with a smile on your face.
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Morning Five: 07.26.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 26th, 2011

  1. Amidst reports that the University of Connecticut was working on a buyout of embattled athletic director Jeff Hathaway, the school’s new president, Susan Herbst, confirmed that she has initiated a comprehensive evaluation of the school’s athletic department.  The evaluation, performed by an outside consulting firm, is clearly meant to provide cover for the ouster of Hathaway, or even better, just cause for an outright firing.  But as Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs writes in a scathing piece about the politics behind this situation, Hathaway never had a chance to survive at UConn with Jim Calhoun remaining “bitter Hathaway didn’t defend him vigorously enough in the Nate Miles case” with the NCAA.  According to Jacobs, the three-time national championship coach felt he did nothing wrong (even though the NCAA found him guilty of failure to monitor his program).  Interesting stuff, but assuming Hathaway is done at UConn, what is the back-up plan for the 2012 NCAA Selection Committee chair?
  2. We did this in  yesterday’s M5, right?  From Connecticut to Tennessee again with the release Monday of UT’s 190-page response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations on various violations including the infamous cookout photograph of Bruce Pearl at his home with Aaron Craft.  If you’re a fan of legalese and you have a couple hours to kill, feel free to read the entire thing, but if not, the key takeaway from our view of the world is that the Vol program is kidding itself if it believes that its remedial measures of firing the coaching staff responsible will somehow insulate the program from future restrictions.  There’s simply too much to account for here.
  3. Summer is high time for prep basketball camps around the country, with events like the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas this week becoming the epicenter of elite high school talent for college coaches to do their one-stop shopping for the stars of tomorrow.  But today’s desert hoops, or the LeBron James Skills Academy, or the Peach Jam, weren’t always the shining stars of the summer circuit.  For much of the 1990s and 2000s, it was instead a tiny gymnasium on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, and the Newark Star-Ledger over the weekend took a look back at those halcyon days.  The ABCD Camp, founded and run by the inimitable Sonny Vaccaro, had a certain panache that the others to this date still haven’t been able to live up to.  It was a place where the top stars from all around the country played against each other, and where reputations were made.  From Tracy McGrady exploding onto the scene in 1996 to LeBron James’ destruction of Lenny Cooke’s psyche in 2001, it all happened there.  Great stroll down memory lane.
  4. Regardless of  where the elite players play during the summer, people will watch and report on it.  Mike DeCourcy checked in with an interesting story about one of the most intriguing players in Las Vegas this week.  Andre Drummond might be listed as a member of the Class of 2012, but the 6’11″ center in the mold of Dwight Howard, has several options after the summer circuit ends which makes his situation particularly compelling.  Since his high school class graduated this year, he could potentially spend next season at prep school for a year, head off to college at the last minute, or even consider offers to play in Europe as he awaits the NBA’s lockout decision over the winter (to determine if he’ll be eligible to decleare in the summer of 2012 or 2013).  Personally, we’re rooting for him to just show up on a random campus on the first day of classes and walk into the head coach’s office with a declaration, “I’m ready to play.”
  5. We’ve been waiting to link this, but now that Basketball Prospectus‘ Drew Cannon has finished his list of the Top 100 returning players in college basketball, it’s ready for prime time.  Believe it or not, the SEC ended up with four players in the top nine of the list, and the only team with two guys in the top ten was none other than Vanderbilt.  And we’re betting dollars to doughnuts that you’ll be surprised at the Commodores player chosen who is not named John Jenkins.  An added bonus to this list: all-conference teams for each of the six major leagues and a preseason POY the top mid-major conferences.  Great stuff.
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Morning Five: 08.25.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 25th, 2010

  1. Despite a unanimous (16-0) vote by league coaches to dump the double-bye format for the four top seeds, the Big East decided yesterday to not make the change to the Big East Tournament as league officials and ADs felt uncomfortable with the change for a number of reasons including financial and logistical  considerations.   Last year three of the four double-bye teams (Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh) lost their initial tournament games, so coaches were pushing for a traditional sixteen-team bracket in part so that they can load up on some easy wins prior to playing the tougher teams in the later rounds, and in part so that everyone could plan on the same start date.  Won’t happen, at least not this coming year.
  2. Gary Parrish has a good read on former summer basketball camp organizer Sonny Vaccaro, the Godfather of AAU basketball, who has been out of the game the last three summers but apparently has the pieces in place to make another run at world domination of elite schoolboy prospects, just like the good old days.
  3. We mentioned last week the possibility that class of 2011 top twenty prospect DeAndre Daniels may attempt to move up his entrance into college by a year, Scottie Wilbekin-style, but he has made the decision to attend prep school next year and will graduate with his class.  He originally committed to Texas, but has re-opened his recruitment, with Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee and the Longhorns on his current list.
  4. We found this interesting nugget in an article about something completely different (Jenn Brown’s possible beer ad career), but did you know that the average age of ESPN’s college basketball-watching audience is 48 (!!!) years old?!?!?  For some reason, this is a lot higher than the NBA audience (39), and a year older than that of college football (47).  For some reason, we’re stunned by this — maybe we’ve just been deluded by the much-younger internet audience, but wow.
  5. We hope to have a post on this up later today, but both Scout and Rivals have updated their post-summer recruiting rankings.  Their previous lists both had 6’6 wing Michael Gilchrist from Elizabeth, NJ, as the top player in the class of 2011, but both services have downgraded him coming out of the summer as a result of concerns over his shooting touch.  The new #1s?  Austin Rivers (Rivals) and Anthony Davis (Scout).  Let the debates commence.
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It Must Be Bad if Tim Floyd Won’t Take You…

Posted by nvr1983 on May 4th, 2009

We briefly mentioned last week that 6’10 prep star Renardo Sidney from Fairfax HS (CA) committed to Mississippi St. in a bit of a recruiting surprise, given that Sidney’s family had moved from the South to the bright lights of LA three years ago to improve Renardo’s ‘brand’ recognition before hitting the NBA (a move later echoed by the OJ Mayo to USC manuever).  It was especially odd given Sidney’s televised press conference from Feb. 22 of this year where he publicly (yet awkwardly) committed to the hometown Trojans.

We are all aware that Tim Floyd’s USC program is rapidly becoming the Tark-era UNLV of the new century in terms of taint around the margins.  Yet, in a move that must have absolutely stunned the rest of the Pac-10, last week USC turned its back on Sidney and rescinded its scholarship offer.  According to an investigative piece by the LA Times that came out over the weekend, USC administrators simply could not get comfortable with the peculiarities surrounding the Sidney’s family’s financial situation, and ultimately decided to pass.  From the article:

“It’s highly unusual for both of those schools [UCLA and USC] to abandon their recruitment of a player of that caliber and potential,” said George Raveling, a former college coach — at USC and elsewhere — who works the Southern California area for Nike. “They must know something the rest of us don’t know.” [...]  Bruins and Trojans sources both say they were wary of potentially intense NCAA scrutiny prompted by these issues: Despite what was perceived as a limited income, the family moved multiple times and resided in upscale homes during Sidney’s high school years [incl. a home in Hancock Park valued at $1.2M]; and stepfather Renardo Sr. directed a club basketball team with financial backing that was unclear beyond a relatively modest shoe company sponsorship.  Plus there was this: A source intimately familiar with Sidney’s recruitment said a university official thought the stepfather had strongly hinted that he expected to be compensated if his son signed with the school.

renardo-sidney

Mississippi St. may have opened a Pandora’s box in signing this kid.  MSU may be in the SEC, but this isn’t football and the Bulldogs aren’t named “Alabama” or “Georgia.”  The NCAA undoubtedly has already caught wind of this story, and as soon as they finish up with powerhouse programs Northeastern and Georgia Southern, they should be able to focus on plucking a ripe SEC school off the branches (one that doesn’t wield much power in a secondary sport in that league). 

Seriously, though, is there any chance that we ever see Renardo Sidney in a college uniform?  His father is probably already talking to Sonny Vaccaro about pulling a Brandon Jennings/Jeremy Tyler in Europe next year.  Hang on, folks, the transatlantic express is getting more crowded…

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ATB: Orange Crushed

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2009

afterbuzzer

Some mid-week news and notes

  • One of the nation’s top prospects, 6’9 Derrick Favors, decided on his hometown school Georgia Tech today.  He’ll join a long line of 1-and-dones at Ga Tech under Paul Hewitt.  Speaking of recruits, Gary Parrish spoke with Sonny Vaccaro about the Brandon Jennings Experiment, and it appears more players are interested in testing the waters in Europe next season.  What’s left unsaid in this article is how BJ’s year in Europe (where he’s not playing all that well) will impact his draft status.
  • Kansas guard Mario Little will play out the remainder of the season rather than apply for a medical hardship due to his stress fracture (leg) and hand injuries.
  • The MVC and Mountain West will start an ACC/Big 10-style Challenge next season.   Great idea.  Kyle Whelliston should be happy about this.
  • Vegas Watch breaks down his Futures Watch with eight teams in Part 1 and another seven in Part 2.
  • Seth Davis breaks down the non-conference strength of schedule RPIs to see who is in good shape and who is in trouble come Selection Sunday.

Tonight’s Big East Blockbuster (there’s seemingly one every night)Georgetown 88, Syracuse 74. Looks like nvr1983 may have been onto something earlier today in his SYT piece previewing this game when he ripped Syracuse’s schedule thus far.  The bottom line about this game is this.  When Georgetown shoots the ball from deep as well as they were today (12-21 from three), the Hoyas are nearly impossible to beat due to their system.  The discipline they show on the offensive end limits their turnovers and their players are drilled to always move the ball to find the open man.  The reason Georgetown isn’t the top national title contender, though, is because they don’t usually shoot it that well.  They’re currently ranked #205 in 3fg% at 33%, which is below the national average of 34%.  Tonight was a bit of an anomaly, but Syracuse looked significantly off its game tonight – the Orange shot the ball ok (48%) and outrebounded the Hoyas by seven (who doesn’t?), but their defense seemed a couple steps slow on their rotations and losing Andy Rautins to injury early in the game seemed to remove most of the wind from their sails (word is that Rautins will be ok).  The thing about this conference that Syracuse must remember is that any one game is simply that – one game.  Georgetown just finished a five-game stretch where they played four Top 10 teams and came out of it 3-2 – they’ll take that in spades.  Cuse, on the other hand, played four bottom-dwellers (starting 4-0), and is about to play Notre Dame, Pitt and Louisville in succession – they’ll be lucky to get a split in this four-game stretch.  Everyone in the Big East is going to lose games.  The strongest teams in March will have learned from these wars and made the necessary adjustments – that’s what Syracuse needs to take away from tonight’s loss.  Oh one final note – that Dajuan Summers and-one was unreal.

Peter Lockley/Washington Times)

(Photo Credit: Peter Lockley/Washington Times)

Upset of the Night. Colorado St. 71, UNLV 69. Ouch.  CSU came into this game 5-11 overall.  UNLV had better be careful, as they’ve now lost two in row in the Mountain West to teams they shouldn’t be losing to (TCU was the other).  The Rebs had built a solid non-conference resume with wins over Arizona and Louisville, but all of that good will has disappeared with these last two losses.

Other Games Inducing General Malaise.

  • Michigan St. 78, Penn St. 73. PSU used a furious second-half comeback to shave 16 pts off of a 17-pt lead and give MSU a huge scare, but the Spartans held on for their tenth in a row.  Penn St. is becoming a place nobody in the Big Ten wants to play.
  • Duke 70, Georgia Tech 56. Duke only hit 39% from the field but was able to completely shut down Tech’s scorers, holding Gani Lawal, Lewis Clinch and Alade Aminu well below their averages.  Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson had 19 each.
  • Pittsburgh 75, South Florida 62. The nation’s #1 team started slowly, but they pulled away in the second half – perhaps they were looking ahead to their battle with Louisville on Saturday night.  DeJuan Blair singlehandedly outrebounded USF on the offensive end (9-8).
  • Davidson 83, Elon 68. Stephen Curry dropped 6 threes en route to a 39-pt night.  He must have seen that Jodie Meeks added 2 pts/game to his average in one night and needed to secure his national lead in scoring.
  • Florida 68, Auburn 65. We caught a little of this one, and as usual, UF failed to impress.
  • LSU 85, South Carolina 68.  LSU is now 13-0 at home, 0-3 on the road.  Tasmin Mitchell blew up for 30/14 tonight.
  • Mississippi 74, Arkansas 65. Speaking of which, Arkansas has beaten Oklahoma and Texas at home, but is 1-2 on the road.
  • Creighton 73, S. Illinois 72 (OT). P’Allen Stinnett dropped 29 pts in the late comeback win for Creighton at home, which SIU apparently was trying to give away (and they did).
  • Illinois 66, Michigan 51. The Illini held Michigan to 32% shooting, including an ugly 3-14 night from DeShawn Sims.
  • Wake Forest 83, Boston College 73. Wake improves to 15-0 behind Jeff Teague’s 29 pts, setting up a huge matchup of unbeatens at Clemson on Saturday.  Check RTC’s liveblog of this game here.
  • Miami (FL) 62, Maryland 60. Another gutpunch loss for the Terps, who led 52-35 with 12+ minutes to go in the game.  Miami, behind five late threes from Jack McClinton and James Dews, roared back to take their first lead with 24 seconds remaining.
  • Texas A&M 84, Baylor 73. A&M is quietly putting together an NCAA resume, and by watching the Aggies tonight, they have sufficient talent to get there this year and do some damage.  All five starters for Texas A&M reached double figures, and they showed an array of ways to score.  Baylor has to improve on the road in the Big 12 to ever make the leap to serious contender (4 wins in the last 33 trips).
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The Brandon Jennings Experiment

Posted by nvr1983 on July 17th, 2008

In what will undoubtably be one of the most scrutinized decision in prep sports history, 5-star point guard and Arizona signee Brandon Jennings has decided to forgo his college eligibility to turn pro. . .in Europe. While most people have been speculating that the decision is based on his trouble achieving a high enough SAT score–met the requirement on his 2nd try, but the NCAA flagged it for being a suspiciously high increase from his 1st try and he is awaiting the results of his 3rd attempt–his family asserts they have been considering going to Europe for a while because of the NBA rule that American high school players cannot be drafted until 1 year after their high school class has graduated. Lute Olson appears to be less than thrilled with the decision and has stated he will not recruit anybody who would be a one-and-done player.

While Jennings probably isn’t the 1st American-born player to go straight from high school to an overseas professional league, he certainly is the first with legitimate NBA potential. It will be interesting to see how Jennings does as it will give us a better insight into high-level college basketball versus European pro ball.

On Thursday, Jennings signed with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian league. The deal was negotiated by Sonny Vaccaro (surprise!) and is described as a “three-year, multimillion-dollar” contract with an option for a buyout if Jennings wishes to enter the NBA Draft. Vaccaro declined to go into detail about the financials, but I’m assuming Vaccaro is shrewd enough to make sure that the buyout isn’t significant enough to affect his client’s draft stock.

I’m not that familiar with European basketball outside of a few of the major powers, which Pallacanestro Virtus Roma definitely is not (last European League title came in 1984). However, it seems like Vaccaro has ensured that Jennings is in a position to succeed by placing him with an English-speaking coach and arranging for many other things including taking care of his family.

In order to study what could become a major turning point in college basketball (players skipping it to go overseas before the NBA), we will try to provide updates and analysis of Jennings and his performance along with an attempt to translate it into how it will affect his draft stock. In the meantime, if any of you are familiar with Italian league basketball share your knowledge with your fellow fans in the comment section.

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A Smidge of Sanity in the Recruiting World?

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2008

We wanted to reflect on this before it got too stale.  Wednesday the NABC strongly recommended that the growing practice of college coaches targeting middle-school kids as prospects unconditionally end.  This is in light of the uproar that ensued in May when uber-recruiter Billy Gillispie at Kentucky received a verbal commitment from Michael Avery, a 6’4 eighth-grader from southern California who had not yet even picked a high school, much less a college.

Will This Kid Be Any Good in Four Years?

Gillispie took the brunt of the criticism in the national media, but he wasn’t the first or only coach who was using this questionable (but legal) strategy to ‘lock up’ young players who arguably have no idea what the concept of going to college means yet.  Anong others, Tim Floyd at USC and Bruce Weber (two mentions in one day!!) at Illinois have also made use of this practice.  The NABC, ironically led by Tubby Smith (the former UK coach who withstood increasingly harsh criticism, some legit, some not, based on his recruiting while in Lexington), asked all college coaches to hold off on offering scholarships or accepting commitments from prospects until mid-June after their sophomore year in high school, stating that younger players:

[They] have not yet displayed sufficient academic credentials or, in the vast majority of cases, basketball maturity to accurately project them as admissible students to the institution or impact players on the basketball team. [...] The academic and athletic profiles of these younger students are still very much works in progress. Coaches and athletes need to respect the process and allow development to occur in both areas prior to making commitments.

Already Committed to Maryland

While I often agree with and respect the reasoned discourse made by the esteemed Truzenzuzex at A Sea of Blue, the Kentucky blog of record as far as we’re concerned, we never could quite get over the smell test on this one.  Notwithstanding the arguments of caveat emptor and the lack of any enforceability of such early commitments, this whole situation just had a backroom feel of predatory extortion, an awkward taking advantage of kids (and parents) who may not know any better.  We view it as not dissimilar to the equally distasteful Sonny Vaccaro-bred fast-tracking of certain kids to certain schools based on implicit promises and subsequent shoe company representation.

Luckily, this may be a situation where coaches were doing it because they felt they needed to avoid a competitive disadvantage.  Now that the NABC has effectively disavowed this as a strategy (although it is still legal), coaches appear to be supportive of the line-drawing.  Billy Gillispie stated today:

I fully support anything the coaches’ leadership and governing body thinks is best for college basketball and high school-age basketball players.  It’s not like you’re not going to go out and evaluate young players. They’ve just strongly encouraged us not to seek a commitment, offer a scholarship, those kinds of things, which we definitely will adhere to.

What will be an interesting test of a coach shadiness factor (yeah you, Huggins, and you too, Gary) is to see who obliges the NABC with this directive to avoid recruiting the youngsters.  Nevertheless, we think this is ultimately a move in the right direction.

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