An Unexpected Detour For PJ Hairston on His Way to the NBA

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 15th, 2014

Most every high school star and prominent AAU recruit dreams of the traditional ascent to the professional ranks. That typically includes playing for a shoe-sponsored AAU team, getting recruited at the highest level, and ending up at a powerhouse program before their name is called at the NBA Draft. However, as history shows us, only a small fraction of these players make the big time, and often it can be some of those who were least expected to do so. For some prominent collegiate stars, there might be a number of road bumps and bouts with adversity standing in the way of their ultimate dreams.

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill (Getty)

PJ Hairston is missed dearly in Chapel Hill. (Getty)

Anyone familiar with ACC basketball this season has heard ad nauseam about the P.J. Hairston scandal and the hits that UNC’s basketball program has taken as a result. Regardless of what occurred and how it was handled, it is clear that his collegiate playing days prematurely came to an end. As a result, Hairston and his team of advisors and family recently made it known that he plans to spend the rest of the season in the NBA’s Developmental League (D-League). Hairston is not eligible to be called up to the NBA (if a team was so inclined) in the 2013-14 season, but he will be allowed to put his name among the entrants for the 2014 NBA Draft.

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RTC Bracketology: January 13 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on January 13th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert.

There was a lot of movement in my bracketology this weekend. After  a loss to Clemson, Duke is now free-falling. North Carolina, sitting at 0-3 in the ACC after a loss at Syracuse, has fallen all the day to the No. 8 seed line. Ohio State, a team which really has a lackluster overall profile after back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Iowa, has now fallen to my final  No. 3 seed position. The Buckeyes had risen to a No. 1 seed in a bracket I released last week. Colorado and Oregon are also falling quickly. The Buffaloes have the better resume but are preparing for bad news about leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie, who went down with an apparent knee injury last night in a loss to Washington. If Dinwiddie is out for the year, you will see that reflected in my next bracket. Among the teams moving up include Oklahoma, which handed Iowa State its first loss of the season over the weekend. San Diego State has also continued to climb and is nearing the No. 2 seed line, but stays as a No. 3 for now. Iowa also leaped up to the No. 5 line after one of the best resume-building wins of the year at Ohio State.

Last Four In: Indiana State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Georgetown
First Four Out: Arizona State, St. Mary’s, Boise State, Southern Mississippi

jan13bracket

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Conference Play Already Delivering Unexpected Drama

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 11th, 2014

We may still be in the nascent period of conference play, but early developments have hinted that a number of league races may not play out as planned. Heading into another good college basketball weekend, here are a few of the more surprising twists supplied by the early days of conference action.

The American Athletic Conference Is Up For Grabs

Remember when Louisville was supposed to be head and shoulders above the rest of this conference? Or when UConn was the Cards’ only real competition for the inaugural AAC crown? Yeah, me neither. Rick Pitino’s team may still be the AAC favorites, but after a non-conference season featuring just one victory over a top-100 team, the recent dismissal of Chane Behanan, and Thursday night’s home loss to Memphis, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals’ grasp on pole position has been significantly weakened. As for the Huskies, an ugly 0-2 beginning to conference play (losses at Houston and SMU) has altered the trajectory of their season. Shabazz Napier and company should be able to handle UCF later today, but with a trip to Memphis and a home date with Louisville looming next week, a 1-4 start to conference play is a definite possibility. It’s not the AAC we expected to see, certainly, but this unforeseen parity could give the league one of the better, more entertaining conference races the rest of the way.

It's Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

It’s Early, But Russ Smith And The Cardinals Have Unexpected Company In Their Chase For The American Athletic Conference Crown

Butler Still Seeking Its First Big East Win

Expectations were initially modest for Butler this season, but a non-conference campaign with just a pair of minor blemishes – two-point losses to Oklahoma State and LSU – gave hope that the transitions between coaches (Brad Stevens to Brandon Miller) and leagues (A-10 to Big East) might be smoother than expected. Not so much, however, as the Big East has so far proved daunting for the Bulldogs, dropping their first three games: on the road at Xavier, and home games to Villanova and (gasp!) DePaul. Three total overtime periods were needed for those two home defeats, but no number of extra sessions will excuse a loss to DePaul, a program that was 7-86 in the five-plus Big East seasons that preceded their successful trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs are better than that Big East record would indicate, but a brutal upcoming schedule has the potential to permanently sink the Butler ship. Georgetown visits Indianapolis tonight, and 11 of the 12 games that follow come against teams in Ken Pom’s current top-75. At least for a season, the Butler faithful may end up missing not only Brad Stevens, but also the Atlantic 10.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: JaQuan Lyle Visiting Kansas, Official Visits for Juniors and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on January 10th, 2014

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Where Will JaQuan Lyle End Up?

Back in September there were a lot of rumors that five-star center Cliff Alexander (#5 – 2014) and five-star guard JaQuan Lyle (#22 – 2014) would be a package deal. Recall that Alexander committed to Kansas in November, and at the same time, Lyle was busy starting his senior season at Huntington Prep (WV). Now, with Lyle scheduled to take an official visit to Kansas on Saturday, the chance to united with Alexander remains strong. With a rivalry game against Kansas State on tap, Bill Self will look to reel in his third five-star recruit in the class of 2014. Originally a Louisville commitment, Lyle is a 6’5” guard who specializes in putting the ball in the hole. A pure scorer, he is also one of only three players in the Top 100 that remains uncommitted.

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Could This Season Be the Breaking Point for Roy Williams at North Carolina?

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 10th, 2014

North Carolina’s loss Wednesday night to Miami, dropping the Tar Heels to 0-2 in the ACC, was depressing enough for head coach Roy Williams. Where once the storyline of their season was predicated on top-flight performances against the elite versus some head-scratching defeats, consecutive losses to Wake Forest and the Hurricanes have now relegated them to the status of a team merely fighting for relevance. If you watch Williams’ press conference following the most recent defeat (you can do just that in its entirety here), it’s easy to see that this season has already taken a monstrous toll on the legendary coach. Maddeningly inconsistent play has certainly played a major role, but negative headlines that have enveloped the school off the court have played an even bigger role in Williams’ angst. After years of signs that increasing disenchantment with the machine of big-time college sports and its evolution (or devolution, depending on how you look at it), has Williams reached a point where he might consider walking away after this season?

Roy Williams

Is this the year the outside facets of coaching college basketball gets to Roy Williams? (credit: goheels.com)

College basketball coaches will always have their ups and downs. Even the so-called perennial contenders still have years where they fail to fulfill their promise (Kentucky in 2013; Duke in 2012, etc.). Winning on the hardwood, especially with college basketball’s difficult one-and-done playoff system, is never going to be satisfying enough every year. Williams certainly knows that, having gone to seven Final Fours with Kansas and North Carolina and coming home with two trophies — in 2005 and 2009. It’s clear he enjoys coaching. He enjoys teaching and nurturing the players who come through his program. But it has been the outside factors — such as the AAU circuit and player “handlers,” parental involvement that has become rampant, and the enormous role sports plays in a university’s overall public perception — that are seeming to weigh on a self-described “old school” coach like Roy Williams.

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Who’s Got Next? Justin Jackson in Chapel Hill Along With Desi Rodriguez and Malik Marquetti

Posted by Sean Moran on December 31st, 2013

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/whosgotnext.jpgWho’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Justin Jackson is Ready for Chapel Hill

The top prospect in Roy Williams’ No. 4 rated recruiting class of 2014 is a rather unorthodox Top 10 recruit. Small forward Justin Jackson has been on the national radar since his freshman year in high school, a year that included a Sports Illustrated feature as a 15-year old. But he won’t be labeled a one-and-done prospect the minute he puts on a Carolina jersey like many of his highly-touted classmates. Standing at 6’8” and only 180 pounds, the No. 9 ranked player in the country has a slender build that belies a diverse skill set. In the summer of 2011 Jackson was primarily known as a three-point specialist on the Houston Hoops AAU team that was comprised of kids two years older than him. Now in his senior year, Jackson is anything but a long-range specialist, instead relying heavily on his strong mid-range game.

Justin Jackson is headed to North Carolina. (Bart Young/USA Basketball)

Justin Jackson is headed to North Carolina. (Bart Young/USA Basketball)

A rarity in the analytics age of close shots around the basket and corner threes, his patented shot is a floater from eight to 12 feet along with a soft one-dribble jump shot. During the spring and summer of 2013, Jackson teamed up with two other Top 10 prospects in Kelly Oubre (#6 overall – 2014) and Justise Winslow (#10 overall – 2014) to become one of the most efficient players on the AAU circuit. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. He also shot 40 percent from the three-point line, but only attempted 37 treys in 24 games. Previously just an outside shooter, it seemed as though Jackson was not as confident in his jumper entering his senior season and discussed areas for improvement with Scout.com‘s Evan Daniels. “Definitely get stronger and just getting my three-point shot back,” Jackson said. “I’ve been working on it.” Ten games into his senior season, he is averaging 31.7 points per game and was recently named the Most Outstanding Player at the High School OT Invitational held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brice Johnson Not Making the Most of His Starting Role

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 28th, 2013

Last week’s big news with respect to North Carolina was the announcement that the school would not seek reinstatement for P.J. Hairston this year. Perhaps flying under the radar in terms of other personnel news was that starting center Joel James would be out for 10 to 14 days after an MCL sprain suffered against Texas. This opened the door for Brice Johnson, who was named the interim starter, to firmly grab hold of the center position. His results in the two games since James’ injury show why head coach Roy Williams has been hesitant to give the sophomore heavy minutes, and also why this team may miss an overlooked member of the starting lineup in James.

Brice Johnson has provided the highlights, but... (credit: collegebasketball.ap.org)

Brice Johnson’ has provided some highlights, but is squandering his chance at grabbing the starting center spot (credit: AP)

Johnson’s first audition in the starting role came against Davidson last Saturday, a game in which the Tar Heels struggled mightily before Marcus Paige rescued them in overtime. Johnson’s stat line was brutal, with only two points on 1-of-3 shooting, a pair of turnovers and an eventual disqualification due to fouls. This Davidson team was scrappy and shot extremely well from outside, but the Wildcats also utilized a shocking ability to get into the paint and either score or dish with little regard for UNC’s big men.

That trend continued on Friday night, when the Tar Heels were outscored in the paint by a Northern Kentucky team whose tallest player is 6’6”. A performance like that boils down to effort and proper defensive positioning, and this is an area with which Johnson continues to struggle. A lean player already, he enjoys most of his success on the defensive end with blocks coming from the weak side. When players actively back him into the basket, he struggles with reaching and committing fouls. While he was able to go 4-of-8 from the field, he was 0-of-2 in the second half and only grabbed four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. James and Kennedy Meeks surely would have contributed better rebounding tallies in similar stints on the floor (in fact, Meeks registered six boards against NKU in only 13 minutes on the floor).

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Assessing the Impact of Jerian Grant’s Dismissal From Notre Dame

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 23rd, 2013

Notre Dame’s already diminishing ACC chances took an even greater hit over the weekend when star guard Jerian Grant was dismissed for the remainder of the season for academic reasons. Grant was averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.2 APG for the 8-4 Fighting Irish and was largely considered one of the best guards in the ACC and the country. The 6’5″ senior was shooting 51.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from three, and was clearly a major cog in coach Mike Brey’s attack. Grant, in conjunction with Notre Dame, put out a brief news release Sunday regarding his dismissal. He was apologetic and mature in addressing the public, taking full responsibility for his actions and saying he hopes to be back in an Irish uniform next season. In the release he said, “I take full responsibility for my lack of good judgment and the poor decision that I made. I have no one to blame but myself for the situation.”

ND's Jerian Grant (Photo: US Presswire / Richard Mackson)

Jerian Grant Is Done For the Season (Richard Mackson/ US Presswire)

Notre Dame has had some struggles out of the gate, losing an uncharacteristic November game for the first time in Brey’s tenure and most recently blowing an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play versus Ohio State on Saturday. The loss of a team leader in Grant will set the Irish back even further with ACC play rapidly approaching. Look for McDonald’s All-American and freshman combo guard Demetrius Jackson to start playing heavier minutes and establishing himself more often on the offensive end. Senior guard Eric Atkins will likewise need to be more aggressive in looking for his shot and take on more responsibility in Grant’s absence. Don’t be surprised to also see the continued ascent of fan favorite Garrick Sherman shouldering a more extensive burden of the offense.

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The RTC Podblast: Happy Trails to PJ Hairston Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2013

Happy Holidays, everyone! Before we head into the crazy weekend before Christmas, we wanted to get this week’s RTC Podblast out. A quick look back at the top storylines from this week’s games and a preview of a sneaky good holiday weekend to come. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, and the complete rundown is below. We’ll be back on Monday with a Christmas Week Edition. Stay safe out there, guys.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-3:47 – Texas Topples UNC in Chapel Hill
  • 3:47-6:34 – Florida is Victorious in the “Anti-Randy Bowl”
  • 6:34-9:11 – Duke Downs UCLA at Cameron Square Garden
  • 9:11-13:03 – Stanford Stuns UConn in Hartford
  • 13:03-14:39 – Oklahoma State vs. Colorado in Vegas Preview
  • 14:39-20:42 – Other Top 25 Teams on Upset Alert
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PJ Hairston Done In Chapel Hill

Posted by mpatton on December 20th, 2013

North Carolina‘s athletic department released a statement today asserting that it will not apply for PJ Hairston‘s reinstatement. Per athletic director Bubba Cunningham: “Unfortunately PJ made a number of mistakes that placed his eligibility at risk and the University’s joint review with the NCAA made it clear that seeking reinstatement for PJ would not be possible.” The news is obviously a blow to this North Carolina team’s ceiling, as Hairston filled a major hole in their rotation. The Tar Heels have three of the best wins in the country without Hairston, but possibly the only bright spot is that closure should allow the team to game plan with certainty going forward.

Without PJ Hairston, there's even more pressure on Marcus Paige the rest of the year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Without PJ Hairston, there’s even more pressure on Marcus Paige the rest of the year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

While Hairston’s case is complex, the decision is simple: North Carolina, with advice from the NCAA, chose not to seek reinstatement because the case wasn’t winnable. Who knows which evidence was the proverbial straw here, but only looking at the limited information available to the public, it was clear Hairston’s case was much more complicated than Leslie McDonald‘s. Little more needs to be said. It’s unclear where Hairston will go from here, but there will be a spot for him in the NBA eventually. This ordeal will probably affect his draft stock, but as Williams pointed out more than once, he’s handled the aftermath incredibly well.

In his press conference following the release (watch the presser), Roy Williams seemed to feel some responsibility in the case. A man who always wears his emotions on his sleeve, a beat-up looking Williams called the effective dismissal “the most difficult and saddest thing I’ve ever gone through as a coach.” He noted that Hairston’s departure would also affect the team saying, “My team is resilient, but they’re going to hurt from this.” All indications point to Hairston as one of the most liked members of the team, both by the team and the fans. There’s no denying his abilities, but there’s also something about his game — utterly without fear of taking any shot at any time — that drew people to him. Hairston and his quick trigger made watching North Carolina games more fun. But that’s an article for another time. Now the question is where the Tar Heels go from here knowing that he isn’t coming back.

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Leslie McDonald Reinstated; PJ Hairston Still Pending

Posted by mpatton on December 18th, 2013

Big news out of Chapel Hill today as Leslie McDonald was reinstated by the NCAA effective immediately, allowing him to play in tonight’s game against Texas. McDonald was suspended  for the first nine games of North Carolina‘s season for accepting impermissible benefits, including “the use of luxury cars, payment of parking tickets, a cell phone and lodging,” per the NCAA’s release. He will also be required to donate almost $1,800 to charity.

Leslie McDonald gives Roy Williams another offensive weapon. (credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati / North Carolina athletics)

Leslie McDonald gives Roy Williams another offensive weapon. (credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati / North Carolina athletics)

The strangest part of the story comes in the details of the NCAA’s release. While the general consensus has been that the NCAA has been holding up the decisions of McDonald and PJ Hairston for some unknown reason, it was revealed that North Carolina only submitted a reinstatement request on December 11 (after initially reporting the case in late October). The request was completed yesterday, so there was a very quick turnaround in Indianapolis while the holdup appears to have been in Chapel Hill. Raising even more eyebrows was the final line of the NCAA’s release: “At this time, McDonald’s reinstatement request is the only one the NCAA has received from North Carolina.” That means that it is the school that is still investigating the facts in Hairston’s case, rather than the NCAA. Hairston’s case is certainly more complex than McDonald’s, so it makes sense his case would take longer to sort out.

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The RTC Podcast: Finals Week Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2013

It was a slower than slow week last week around College Basketball Land, but we were rewarded for our wait with an exciting weekend of early-season blockbusters. In this week’s RTC Podcast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), the guys break down all the big games of the weekend, starting with Arizona’s comeback win over Michigan in Ann Arbor, and work our way through all the compelling action from last weekend. We also discussed our favorite players to watch in the entire college hoops landscape this season, and were honored to have ESPN analyst Jay Bilas join us for this week’s Rush the Take, where he extolled on some of the teams he’s seen recently, talks some Jimmy V (the coach and the event), and reflects on his longtime nemesis, the NCAA. It’s great stuff, and you should definitely have a listen.

Jay Bilas Joined Us This Week to Talk Some Hoops

Jay Bilas Joined Us This Week to Talk Some Hoops

The complete rundown is below. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-4:43 – Arizona Reinforces Its #1 Ranking
  • 4:43-8:56 – UNC Notches Another Big Win…
  • 8:56-14:16 – …and Kentucky Notches Another Disappointing Loss
  • 14:16-17:33 – CyHawk Rivalry Produces Some Hilton Magic on Friday Night
  • 17:33-19:11 – Other Weekend Highlights
  • 19:11-32:15 – Rush the Take With Jay Bilas
  • 32:15-38:26 – Favorite Players To Watch
  • 38:26-47:01 – Previewing This Week
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