Self on ISU "super fan" Melvin Weatherwax: We've never really talked. It was more of a one-sided conversation. #KUbball
KUAD: Kansas vs ISU pregame notes
1/12/14, 4:12 PM
After Saturday, KU moved up to seventh nationally in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. Would be best KU offense since 2009-10 (2nd).
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self fondly remembers the day a slump-ridden Elijah Johnson exploded for 39 points in an 108-96 overtime victory at Iowa State.
“It obviously ranks up there with some of the very best individual performances we’ve had since I’ve been at Kansas,” 11th-year KU coach Self said of the senior guard’s effort on Feb. 25, 2013.
The 39 points, in fact, were most by a KU player in the Self era, most by any KU player in a Big 12 game and most overall by a Jayhawk since Terry Brown dropped 42 against North Carolina State on Jan. 5, 1991.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a guy get 30 in a half. Not only did he get 30 in a half, but 20 in a four- to five-minute stretch. We’d have had no chance to win that game unless he was unbelievable,” Self added of the Las Vegas native, who scored 25 of KU’s last 36 points.
…Johnson angered Iowa State’s fans by dunking the ball on a meaningless final possession. That play, which led to objects being thrown on the court — combined with KU’s two other victories over ISU last year — should have the building in a frenzy again tonight.
KU, which forced overtime on a banked-in Ben McLemore three, beat ISU, 98-89 in OT, on Jan. 9, 2013, in Allen Fieldhouse. McLemore exploded for 33 in that contest. KU also stopped the Cyclones, 88-73, in a Big 12 tournament semifinal on March 15, 2013, in Sprint Center. Perry Ellis had 23 in that rout.
“The fans have been waiting for this game, so I can’t wait for tomorrow. It’s going to be great,” ISU sophomore forward Georges Niang said on Sunday.
“We should take the cameras over and ask the people who are camping outside of Hilton now,” Niang added of asking fans what they think of the Big Monday matchup.
“They are all waiting to get electric, just like the Iowa game (85-82 ISU home win), the Michigan game (77-70 ISU win), the Baylor game (87-72 ISU win). It’s about to be insane, especially the first day back on campus for all the students. It’s going to be great. Everybody’s going to love it,” Niang added.
…There’s a good chance security will be tight tonight after last year’s game in Ames in which a fan, later identified in the media as ISU booster Melvin Weatherwax, confronted Self on Self’s way to the locker room. A police officer was close by to tell the fan to stop yelling at Self.
“Is that the guy I became buddies with after the game last year? We never really talked. It was more of a one-sided conversation if I recall, but I never had a chance to respond. He was talking the whole time. I couldn’t get a word in,” Self said, smiling, when asked about Weatherwax by a media member.
Shortly after Kansas’ win over Kansas State, Naadir Tharpe was asked if he was expecting a tough environment when his team traveled to play No. 9 Iowa State.
“I hope not as hostile as last year,” the KU point guard said with a laugh, “because it got a little bit too out of control.”
Tharpe, of course, was referring to last year’s postgame extracurriculars, when an Iowa State fan rushed toward KU coach Bill Self to yell at him before getting restrained by officers following the Jayhawks’ 108-96 overtime victory.
Joking aside, Tharpe knows this game — set for 8 p.m. Monday at Hilton Coliseum — has great importance for his team, especially as it relates to the Jayhawks’ quest for a 10th straight Big 12 title.
“It’s going to be us against them and the fans. We’ve got to be sure we have a tight huddle,” Tharpe said. “But it’s going to be a fun game.”
…The Cyclones (14-1, 2-1) might be playing short-handed. Senior guard DeAndre Kane — an early favorite for Big 12 player of the year with a 16.5-point-per-game scoring average — rolled his ankle in the final minute of Saturday’s game against OU and will be a game-time decision.
Kane didn’t practice Sunday, according to CBS’s Seth Davis, and ISU’s official men’s basketball Twitter account relayed that coach Fred Hoiberg said Kane was "sore as we'd expect. Not much of an update but we'll see where he is at (Monday).”
Even if Kane can’t go, ISU still presents plenty of matchup problems with its small lineup.
Hilton will be maniacal as much as magical on Monday. Particularly with the Cyclones coming off their first defeat, at Oklahoma on Saturday, and looking to get righted.
The whole episode last year against Kansas, however, has to be channeled into the recesses to some extent.
“It was a loss. That sucks. It doesn’t change anytime, regardless of how it goes,” Niang said at Big 12 basketball media day.
“That’s how we felt. We felt we got robbed and we lost, but that’s part of the game. Sometimes it happens that way. The true test is who can bounce back, still play and go win.”
This season, Iowa State is winning a lot. It stands 14-1, with veterans Niang and Melvin Ejim scoring in double figures alongside standout Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane.
Hoiberg will not attribute any particular strides to the adversity the Cyclones weathered last season, but he does remember his team’s response after those late whistles in the homecourt loss to KU caused some overtime bewilderment.
“Their enthusiasm at practice the next day, you know, it helped me after not sleeping,” Hoiberg recalled. “You have to find a way to come together, play with a chip on your shoulder. I have to let them know you’re not going to get help, and you’ve got to find a way to not let a late situation like that dictate a game. …
“We absolutely came together. Was it because of that game, I don’t know.”
When Self takes teams into enemy territory, he often talks about “keeping a tight huddle.” He means it metaphorically, of course, but his players have bought into the message. Kansas is 35-8 on the road in the Big 12 since the 2008-09 season, and Self has won eight of nine at Hilton Coliseum. For years, the Hilton Magic was dormant when the Jayhawks came to town. But when KU ventures into the maw on Monday night, the huddle will have to be tighter than usual.
“They know how important the game is to them, just like it is to us,” Self said. “I would think it would be the most emotional game we’ve played this year.”
With Kane, Iowa State has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises. They rank 15th in the country in offensive efficiency and 24th in defense. Sophomore forward Georges Niang, who averages 15.3 points per game, was a prep-school teammate of KU’s Wayne Selden at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. Leading scorer Melvin Ejim is from the Toronto area, growing up near Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins.
So will the 6-4, 200-pound portrait of versatility play tomorrow in front of a jacked Hilton Coliseum crowd?
Stay tuned, literally.
“ It’s really not up to me,” Kane said. “It’s up to Coach (Fred Hoiberg) and (athletic trainer) Vic (Miller). Like I said, it’s pretty sore. I always want to go out there and help my brothers win, try to do whatever I can to play. … I’ll keep getting treatment every 20 minutes or so and see how I feel.”
Without Kane, the Cyclones (14-1, 2-1) are a vastly different team.
That’s hardly a news flash, but when it means a freshman becomes the primary point man against a suddenly rolling Jayhawks team (11-4, 2-0) that dismantled formerly-hot Kansas State 86-60 on Saturday at Lawrence, his possible absence looms large.
But that freshman, Monte Morris, seems well-suited to the task.
The 6-2 Flint, Michigan product hasn’t committed a turnover since Dec. 22.
He’s dished out 15 assists since that last miscue.
And his overall assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.9 ranks first in the Big 12.
“You can see it on his face, when he turns the ball over, it’s like the end of the world because he doesn’t do it,” ISU’s sharp-shooting sixth man Naz Long said.
Near-perfect execution against the nine-time reigning conference champion Jayhawks is always required, home or away.
An abbreviated list of their talent begins with Andrew Wiggins, a likely one-and-done NBA Lottery pick who torched the Wildcats for 22 points Saturday on 3 of 4 3-point shooting.
Frontcourt matchup nightmares Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid average a combined 14 rebounds per game.
Ellis is tied for the conference lead in field goal shooting at 57.9 percent and scored 28 points in last season’s conference tournament win over ISU.
“He’s playing with confidence,” Hoiberg said of Ellis, who has helped Kansas outrebound 13 of 15 foes. “When your guys play with confidence it sure makes you a different team and Perry’s playing with a lot of that.”
Sophomore Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and freshman Wayne Selden (Kansas) have been chosen as Big 12 Player and Newcomer of the Week for games of January 6-12. It is the second accolade for Smart this year and the seventh (three player, four rookie) weekly honor of his career. Selden is recognized for the first time and is the fourth different Jayhawk to win a rookie award this season.
1 – It hardly mattered, but K-State got a ton of points at the rim on Saturday. 43 percent of KSU's points (26 of 60) came from point-blank range, a fact that points to both the absence of a Jeff Withey type guy in the paint and KU's struggles with on-the-ball defense. Self said they were good for 30 minutes in this one, but there's no question that they still need to get better.
2 – It was masked a bit by KU's offensive explosion, but the Jayhawks continue to struggle with takeaways. KSU committed just 10 turnovers in the game and only four of those were true take-aways by the Jayhawks. It's nit-picking a little, but for a program so used to forcing turnovers and getting steals, it's a little odd. KU has fewer steals (83) this season than its opponents (90).
3 – Naadir Tharpe, whom players and coaches insist is a good shooter in practice, made just one of seven attempts during the run-away victory over K-State. I trust his teammates and I like the way Tharpe's shot looks, it's just a matter of shot selection that continues to be an issue. KU coach Bill Self will be the first to let you know that, as he's never shy to tear into Tharpe after he pulls the trigger on a bad thought. Even with that, Self seems to think Tharpe is doing most things right these days and he has been awfully complimentary of his point guard's recent toughness and ability to close.
But the dunk isn’t necessarily the play that gets the most interesting, longest-lasting rise from the 16,300 paying customers who manage to squeeze into the cozy venue.
Nothing in the fieldhouse beats the crescendo inspired by a defensive possession that ends with a shot-clock violation. As with the triple, the noise precedes the completion of the play. It doesn’t, as with the home run, start when the play ends.
And far more so than the triple, the crowd actually can play a significant role in making the play happen. The fan support fuels the defenders with adrenaline, staves off exhaustion and sharpens their focus. It incites them to hang tough until the horn hollers. Once it does, coach Bill Self punches the air, more pumped even than he becomes when a perfectly executed lob play draws an eruption.
K-State’s shot-clock violation Saturday seemed to trigger the mutually beneficial athlete-spectator energy exchange in a more noticeable way than any play this season. It was the seventh shot-clock violation forced by KU’s defense, compared to three 35-second Kansas possessions without a shot.
It’s dangerous to read too much into one play, but the shot-clock violation and how excited (proud) it seemed to make the players could be a sign the newcomers are beginning to appreciate why their coach puts such a premium on that end of the floor.
The dunk will make all the highlight shows — the moment where Andrew Wiggins gathered a loose ball and soared down the lane for a right-handed slam Nino Williams and Marcus Foster wanted no part of contesting.
Really, Wiggins’ entire offensive arsenal in No. 18 Kansas’ 86-60 demolition of No. 25 Kansas State on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse featured plenty of footage for his NBA draft reel.
But all of that — the crowd-rocking dunk, an alley-oop from Wayne Selden, a game-high 22 points, a second-half tear where he drained three treys and poured in 13 straight for KU — wasn’t what brought the wide, boyish grin to Wiggins’ face after the game.
It was his defense. It was hounding and smothering Foster all afternoon long and rendering the Wildcats’ star freshman and leading scorer practically invisible.
“No disrespect by any means,” KU forward Tarik Black said when asked about Foster. “They’re all great players. But I’m not even sure which player you’re talking about.”
Hard to blame him. Foster finished with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting, well below his season average of 14.1 points. But while Wiggins was guarding him, Foster made only one basket — a driving layup at the 11:24 mark of the second half.
“It was fun,” Wiggins said. “Because he’s the second-leading (freshman) scorer in the Big 12, and people say he’s one of the best freshmen.
“So it’s always fun to match up and see where you stand.”
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For its psyche, for its postseason livelihood, for the sake of finally earning a Big 12 victory, Kansas University’s women’s basketball team needed this one.
The Jayhawks dominated the glass and the scoreboard most of Saturday night at Allen Fieldhouse to beat Texas Tech, 67-46.
“(It was) huge to get a little run and get a little momentum and some confidence and feel better about ourselves,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said after her team bounced back from a disappointing two-point loss three nights earlier at TCU. “It was kind of a cloud hanging over our heads here for a little while.”
To snap a three-game losing streak, the Jayhawks (8-8 overall, 1-3 Big 12) did most of the things Henrickson always talks about, including maintaining and building a lead, securing defensive rebounds and other intangibles.
…Prior to the drubbing of Texas Tech, the only teams Kansas had defeated by more than 16 points this season were Oral Roberts and Texas Southern.
Harper said the Jayhawks knew getting their first Big 12 victory out of the way could be a step in the right direction.
“Of course we started 0-3 (in league games), and we knew this was one we had to get and we could get,” Harper said. “We came out with a lot of intensity.”
Kansas will play at Texas at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Former Jayhawk Angel Goodrich, now with the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock, received a huge ovation from the Allen Fieldhouse crowd in the second half. The former Jayhawks point guard led KU to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2012 and 2013 and accumulated 1,262 points and 771 assists during her four seasons in Lawrence.
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Dressed in a thick coat and winter hat, DeAndre Kane escapes 2-degree weather on this afternoon and walks into Hilton Coliseum's warm hallways, making his way through Iowa State's arena until he finds one of his most coveted items hanging in the empty locker room: his number 50 jersey.
"There it is right there," he says.
Much of the attention this college basketball season centers on a handful of glamorous freshmen whose arrival was anticipated for years. But what can be found in this college town is a man who has been playing as well as any of them, a 24-year-old who has become one of the most unlikely faces of this season.
In an era when AAU basketball trumps the high school season in significance and prestige, Kane says he played only one true season of summer-league basketball in Pittsburgh. In two of three eligible seasons at Marshall, Kane led the nation in technical fouls. And in April, Marshall coach Tom Herrion dismissed him from the program for unspecified reasons.
Because Kane earned a degree from Marshall this summer (business), NCAA rules allowed him to play immediately at Iowa State, which has served as both a fresh start and a last chance. He has made the most of it, making such an impact on the once-beaten and seventh-ranked Cyclones that Baylor coach Scott Drew says they can win the national championship.
Kane, a 6-4 guard who is a game-time decision for Monday's game against No. 20 Kansas with a sprained left ankle, has earned back-to-back Big 12 player of the week honors in a league that features more high-profile players, such as Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. He has won Oscar Robertson national player of the week honors and, in his last five games, is averaging 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists, while shooting 61% from the field and 50% from three-point range.
"If there is a theme in Ames," ESPN's Fran Fraschilla says, "it's redemption."
…Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg says DeAndre has been a mentor to the team's younger players. But Hoiberg recognized that, with the loss of DeAndre's dad, the 24-year-old still needed his own mentor when he arrived in Ames.
"I knew coming in that you had to be a mentor to him and a fatherly figure and help him with his progressions as he leaves Iowa State, so when he moves on he can adapt and adjust in the real world," Hoiberg says. "That is what you try to do with all kids, but when you have somebody who lost somebody as important as he did, there's probably a little something extra in that."
DeAndre's family gathers to watch every game he plays on television. Every time, they see the same mannerisms once exhibited by Calvin. For that reason, DeAndre's aunt starts crying and can't watch when DeAndre play.
But on the court, whether DeAndre is slashing by bigger defenders or posting up, the tattoo of his father's face is visible on his arm. And so is the number 50, fueling the motivation for one of this season's most unique stars. It remains as close as possible to his heart.
"Every day I step on the court, I know I am stepping on it for him, no one else," DeAndre says. "Part of him is inside me when I play. Every time I pick up a basketball, I think about him. I won't let him down."
The last time Duke's football team was ranked higher than its basketball team, gasoline cost around 30 cents a gallon.
After a sluggish Duke hoops team fell to 1-2 in the ACC with Saturday's 72-59 upset loss to Clemson – the Blue Devils' worst conference start in seven seasons -- the program's ranking might plummet from No. 13 past the football team's final No. 22 ranking in the Coaches Poll.
This wasn't how it was supposed to be – especially for a Duke team with Final Four aspirations that coincided with the arrival of prized freshman Jabari Parker and key transfer Rodney Hood. Heading into the new year, the Blue Devils' only résumé blemishes were respectable losses to Kansas and Arizona. All of a sudden, Duke has lost to a Notre Dame team that just lost its best player and perennial ACC second-division member Clemson.
What's wrong? A lot. The problems start with perimeter defense – a serious inability to stop penetration – and ends with the Achilles Heel of most Duke squads: lack of size and poor rebounding, which lead to an abundance of second-chance points for opponents.
Mary Willingham, the UNC learning specialist who blew the whistle on a long-running academic fraud, said Friday that if men’s basketball coach Roy Williams does not believe one of his players couldn’t read or write, she will show him proof.
Willingham also provided copies of emails that show twice last summer, she sent findings of her research into athletes’ reading deficiencies to university officials, saying, for example, that 60 percent of athletes who were admitted to the university with subpar academic records were reading at a level between the fourth and eighth grades.
University officials say they have asked Willingham repeatedly for the data behind those findings; she has declined because that would identify the students. She said she is bound by research regulations not to do that.
She said she knows that one of Williams’ players could not read.
“I stand by what I said, and if he wants to meet with me and go through his players, I’d be happy to share that,” said Willingham, who worked in the tutoring program for student athletes from 2003 to 2010. “I have his scores and ... I’m the one who taught him.
“I went to a lot of basketball games in the Dean Dome, but Roy never came and sat with me while I tutored his guys.”
…None of the remarks as quoted by CNN, in previous coverage by the N&O or in a recent documentary called “Schooled: The Price of College Sports,” show that Willingham has criticized athletes. She has repeatedly said they are being failed by a university that has put athletic success first.
“These guys are not getting the education they deserve, and that’s the bottom line,” she said.
A storage locker bought by a man in North Carolina has never been featured on a popular television reality show, but its contents, including some unique documents related to Michael Jordan's college career, are going up for auction.
New Jersey-based auction house Goldin Auctions acquired two 1980 North Carolina Tar Heels recruiting letters -- one from assistant Bill Guthridge, and another from coach Dean Smith -- from a consigner.
The documents, which had changed hands twice, Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin says, were some of the personal items Jordan gave to "Michael Jordan's 23," a restaurant that opened in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1999.
Goldin says that when the restaurant closed in November 2003, some of the items on the wall went into a storage locker, which became property of a lucky man after a storage bill wasn't paid.
"In my more than 30 years in the business, this is the first time I've ever seen documents like this," Goldin said. "A recruiting letter to a major high profile athlete has never been available for the public to buy."
The auction, which opened Friday, lists an opening bid for the Smith letter at $5,000, with the Guthridge letter having a $2,500 reserve. The letters, as well as Smith's handwriting on his letter, has been deemed legitimate by authentication company PSA/DNA.
Spencer Dinwiddie slowly shuffled across the floor on Sunday afternoon, his left knee wrapped in a brace and his future -- as well as the future of the Colorado Buffaloes -- unsure.
The 15th-ranked Buffs were beaten by Washington, 71-54, but unfortunately, that may have been the good news from their trip to Alaska Airlines Arena.
During the first half, Dinwiddie, the Buffs' star point guard and a legitimate prospect for the 2014 NBA Draft, collapsed to the floor with an apparent injury to his left knee.
"I don't have a prognosis right now," CU head coach Tad Boyle said shortly after the game. "It didn't feel good, but we'll find out. Right now, I don't know. I'll have a chance to talk to (trainer Rawley Klingsmith) and then obviously he'll see our doctors when we get back, but right now I'm not sure.
"My gut is not good."
It certainly didn't look good from the moment Dinwiddie hit the floor with 2 minutes, 52 to play in the first half.
Dinwiddie was dribbling down the middle of the court and appeared to make a move to his right when his knee gave out and he lost the ball. The junior immediately clutched his left knee and was in obvious pain as Boyle and Klingsmith talked to him for a couple of minutes.
Ed Hightower had seen a coach grab the arena microphone once during his tenure as a college basketball referee, and the incident became one of the classic moments of his 36-year career.
In November and December last year, it happened repeatedly at arenas from Maui to East Lansing, Mich.
But instead of the sarcastic one-liner Billy Tubbs famously uttered in 1989 during a game against Missouri, coaches wanted to honor a guy they had disagreed with, screamed at and stared down for decades.
There were ceremonies to honor Hightower, game balls, speeches — even tears.
Jim Boeheim, Tom Crean and Tom Izzo were involved in moments that Hightower, who officiated his last game at Evansville last month, will remember more than any of the breath he whiffed during face-to-face confrontations with the same men.
“It was touching. It was a validation,” Hightower said in his office, surrounded by awards that span his professional life as an official and educator. “Coaches said, ‘Ed, we respect your work over a period of time. But more importantly, we respect you for your honesty and for being a better person.’ ”
Hightower walked away from college basketball at midseason, following through on a decision he made last summer. He is done juggling long drives and private flights with his work as superintendent of the Edwardsville School District and his role of a husband of 39 years.
His career ended with 12 Final Four appearances, five national championship assignments and an unknown number of games, although it’s best placed near 2,500 using Hightower’s estimate of 70 games a season.
Family health issues eventually prompted him to leave officiating. He faced his own brush with death in 2004 when he contracted a bacterial infection in his heart that required surgery. In November 2012 he took time off to be with his mother, who was hospitalized. And on Thanksgiving of that year, his father died.
His final go-round included a trip to the Maui Classic, where coaches Boeheim and Scott Drew honored Hightower before the Syracuse-Baylor championship game. He made an appearance at every venue in the Big Ten.
And he walked away with little fanfare other than a pregame ceremony after working the Evansville-Grambling State game on Dec. 28.
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Alexander is averaging 27 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots per game. He led Curie to the No. 1 ranking and its first Pontiac title and, despite the lingering animosity among some Central Illinoisans, he was given the A.C. Williamson Award, which places an emphasis on sportsmanship and is decided on by the tournament's referees.
He is the Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 Athlete of the Month for December.
"I was getting criticized and I just got tired of it," Alexander said. "I talked to my mom and she said to stay off Twitter and Instagram, so I did that for a couple days.
"I didn't mean to hurt anyone or anything like that. I was just trying to have fun. After I did that I was like, 'Wow.' I didn't know the reaction was going to be like that."
It's 2:45 p.m. Wednesday at Curie. Practice starts in about a half-hour. Alexander and his coach, Mike Oliver, are the only Condors in the gym.
Alexander is doing things we don't see during games, when he's too busy rebounding and dunking everything in sight.
He dribbles easily behind his back and between his legs, knocks down 3-pointers from NBA range.
A few minutes later, he's looking at Curie's team picture from his freshman year, just his second playing organized basketball. He points out his chubby face and laughs.
"I was pretty raw," Alexander said. "I didn't know the game very well. I just tried to rebound and block shots and listen to the coaches."
There were times in the first couple of years when Oliver had to push him to practice harder, work on his game more often.
The progress, though, has been steady — and drastic.
"I told him when he was a freshman, if he puts in the work, he's got the God-given talent, and it was up to him to bring it out," Oliver said. "As big and athletic as he was, I thought he could be an NBA prospect. But to be the No. 2 or No. 3 player in the country, I did not see that coming. His work ethic has put him over the top."
…In a great year for top-level talent in the state, Alexander undoubtedly is a top Mr. Basketball candidate.
The award is voted upon, though, and Oliver fears people will hold the hat flap against him.
"We read a report on Twitter the other day that said, 'No way Cliff gets my vote,' " Oliver said. "Why? What has this kid done to you that he doesn't deserve the opportunity to be Mr. Basketball? Then the Tribune comes and says he's Athlete of the Month. Someone's not doing their homework.
"People make assumptions and they have no idea about what kind of person Cliff is, the pressure on him, his family background. He's never said no to anything I've asked him to do off the court. I get upset when people make assumptions without knowing him. Anyone who would want to come talk to him, we make arrangements.
"People fail to realize (Simeon and Duke star) Jabari Parker and (Duke-bound Young center) Jahlil Okafor were groomed for this. For Cliff, this came out of nowhere, like a big wind thrown in his face. This is an 18-year-old kid who is naive to what's going on. I just wish we could let him be 18.
"The bright spot is, he is realizing he has to be careful. I tell him all the time he has to be careful what he does and says because you're not a normal 18-year-old, and I think he sees that now."
Chicago Tribune: WGN Athlete of the Month is Cliff Alexander
Alexander, a 6-foot-9 Kansas recruit, had 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots, and senior guard Joe Stamps added 18 points as top-ranked Curie finished off a weekend of comebacks with a 75-59 victory over the No. 9 Warhawks at T.F. North's Bob Hambric Memorial Shootout in Calumet City.
North Chicago (13-2), which lost Murray State-bound guard JayQuan McCloud to a sprained ankle late in the third quarter, scored the game's first 11 points and led by 12 at halftime before being outscored 48-20 in the second half.
"We started of sluggish," said Alexander, who led Curie's rally to win a showcase game in Kentucky Friday night. "(Hall's dunks) woke us up big time. If I see another player getting off, it's time for me to step up and play my game."
The Pilots settled in offensively in the second half and extended their lead. A 13-4 run to start the third quarter pushed the lead to 56-34 on a three-point play by Kelly Oubre with 4:08 left in the quarter.
“Kelly Oubre really came back in the second half and pounded the paint,” Williams said. “He really put that senior leader on his back and went in there and said, ‘I’m going to get buckets from the paint rather than just from the outside.’ ”
The 6-7 Oubre, who has signed with Kansas, had 26 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Derryck Thornton had 12 points and three assists.
“Derryck Thornton and Kelly Oubre really took it upon themselves to lead the team and put the ball in a position where we can get what we want accomplished, whether it was down low or attacking the rim,” Williams said.
The Hoophall Classic has featured the nation’s top players year after year. If you need specific names flip on an NBA or high-level college basketball game, and you’re bound to find one of the Hoophall Classic alums.
Many of the must-watch players in this year’s field have already announced their college commitments while several other notable recruits remain on the boards. Here is the top commits playing in the five-day event:
1. Jahlil Okafor, Whintey Young – committed to Duke Anthony Davis and Jabari Parker have both been Chicago’s top prep player. This year belongs to the 6-foot-10 Jahlil Okafor, who is committed to Duke. Okafor and his Whitney Young team make a return trip to Springfield after he poured in 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and rejected three shots in a win over Long Beach Poly of California.
2. Emmanuel Mudiay, Prime Prep – committed to SMU The senior lead guard decided to run with the Mustangs than become the next star guard under John Calipari. The 6-foot-5 Mudiay will be one of the more exciting players with his ability to get to the rim and his tight handles. Prime Prep has one of the best games of the weekend on Saturday night against Huntington Prep.
3. Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei – committed to Arizona You will have to wait until Monday night to watch Stanley Johnson play, but he may be worth the wait. After all, the 6-foot-6 wing won the slam dunk contest at the 2012 Hoophall Classic when he was only a sophomore. Johnson will look to follow the high-flying performance that Aaron Gordon, now a freshman at Johnson’s future home, had last January at the Hoophall Classic.
4. Cliff Alexander, Curie – committed to Kansas Plenty of Kansas talent was on hand in the 2013 Hoophall Classic, including Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene. The Jayhawks have two commits in this year’s field one of them being Chicago native Cliff Alexander. The 6-foot-8 Alexander is a physical force for Curie, and he’ll need to be as Condors take on Montverde Academy.
5. Ben Simmons, Montverde Academy – committed to LSU Only a junior, but the Australian has committed to LSU as had teammate Jalyn Patterson. He is 6-foot-8 and has an impressive skillset that includes 3-point range.
6. Karl Towns, St. Joseph – committed to Kentucky Coach Cal has made multiple trips back to Western Mass. over the years and we’ll likely see the former UMass coach again on Sunday evening when UK commit Karl Towns takes to the hardwood. He may not have the be the shot-blocker Davis or Nerlens Noel are, but he can step out and hit threes at 6-foot-11.
7. Kelly Oubre, Findlay Prep – committed to Kansas Kelly Oubre is part of the star-studded Findlay Prep roster, and like Alexander, is another player bound for Lawrence, Kan. The 6-foot-7 forward has good length, a nice shooting touch and probably the best hair of any player.
Hoophall Classic schedule (Jan 16-20)
Cleveland power forward Carlton Bragg landed his much-anticipated scholarship offer to play basketball for the University of Kentucky on Sunday.
The offer came one day after Bragg — a 6-foot-8 prospect in the Class of 2015 — scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in an 80-76 loss to UK signee Trey Lyles and Arsenal Tech (Ind.).
…Bragg was sporting a new UK hooded sweatshirt after his team's practice session Friday and made it clear throughout the weekend that he coveted a scholarship offer from Calipari, who also watched him the week before at an event in West Virginia.
The player's mentor, Michael Graves, told the Herald-Leader that he spoke to Orlando Antigua on Sunday and the UK assistant coach confirmed that Bragg has an offer from the Wildcats.
The schools that had already offered Bragg include Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, UCLA, Ohio State and several others. He is the eighth player from the Class of 2015 to receive a UK offer.
Bragg said over the weekend that — even if he were to receive a UK offer — he would wait until September to narrow his list and had no plans to make a college decision until his senior season.
One of the nation’s most prestigious high school basketball events will be heading to the world’s most famous arena as the High School Basketball National Tournament announced in a press release that they have partnered with the folks at Dick’s Sporting Goods to bring the happenings to Madison Square Garden.
The High School Basketball National Tournament is a yearly event that pits some of the top high school basketball teams from around the country against one another, foreshadowing some potential college showdowns between some of these blue-chip athletes on an even bigger national stage.
This year’s event will take place from April 3-5 inside the Garden and will feature comprehensive coverage on the ESPN family of networks, including ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.
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