Confession time: Over the last few winters, I’ve developed a bit of an uncomfortable habit. Two hours a day, twice a week, I hole up in the bedroom, lights off, oblivious to the world around me. I turn off the cell, stop checking e-mails, and if the dog needs to use the bathroom well, shoot, he better find a nice potted plant to relieve himself on. I’m stuck, hooked, obsessed, can’t function properly unless I get my fix.
My obsession? Well, don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. Not drugs, alcohol or even a Kardashian-based reality show (well, not in this instance anyway). Nope, my obsession isn’t what any normal person’s vice is. Instead, it’s Bill Self and Kansas basketball.
This confession probably comes as a bit of a surprise to many, and frankly, I can’t blame you. Yes, I’m still a UConn “fan” first, and that’ll never change. I also really enjoy writing about Kentucky, if only because no team weaves coaching, talent and intrigue together quite like they do in Lexington. But Kansas? They’re an acquired taste, the cute brunette in the corner of the bar I’d rather stare at all night, than approach for fear of rejection.
And really, I think the “cute brunette” is a perfectly analogy for Kansas basketball. There’s nothing flashy about what the Jayhawks do, no caked on make-up, low-cut tops, or hoop earrings. They’re not for everyone. But if you love basketball- I mean really love the complexities of the sport- there is no one better to watch on a nightly basis. Carolina and Kentucky are beautiful in their own way, the definition of “controlled chaos.” But Kansas is literal poetry in motion. Nobody runs a better half-court offense. Nobody has five players moving, cutting and screening with a greater sense of purpose for 40 straight minutes. Everyone seems to know exactly where they’re supposed to be, on every possession. And because of it all, Kansas is simply a basketball machine. If we kept made-up statistics like “wide open, uncontested jumpers” and “swished three’s," Kansas would lead the country in all of them.
An Appreciation for Bill Self
It's hard to determine what is more significant: what Robbie Hummel accomplished, or what might have been.
Two anterior cruciate ligament tears probably prevented the 6-foot-8 forward from being considered one of Purdue's top all-time players and quite possibly cost the Boilermakers two trips to the Final Four.
Through it all, he only regrets one thing — how his final game turned out. He scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half of a 63-60 loss to Kansas in the NCAA tournament round of 32 last month.
"I might never get over the Kansas game," he told The Associated Press. "That one hurts. I woke up from that game feeling sick."
A former University of Kansas athletics official convicted in a ticket scandal has lost an effort to have his probation cut short.
Brandon Simmons was director of sales and marketing in the athletics department. He pleaded guilty to failing to tell authorities about the $2 million scalping scandal and was sentenced in March 2011 to two years' probation.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Wednesday rejected Simmons' request to terminate the probation early.
Simmons has paid nearly $26,000 so far of a $157,000 restitution order. Belot followed the probation office's recommendation to continue the probation to ensure Simmons continues to make payments.
Big 12/College News
In one dizzying afternoon Wednesday, the Arizona Wildcats cleared ample roster space for their two newcomers while making room for possibly one more.
Arizona announced that twice-suspended guard Josiah Turner has decided to transfer to an unknown school, and Ukrainian center Kyryl Natyazhko will pursue a professional career in Europe.
…UA coach Sean Miller signed Turner as a five-star point guard in 2010 only to witness him struggle on and off the court as a freshman.
Turner began the season in the starting lineup but sat out early in the second game of the season because he showed up late for a pregame shootaround. He later missed a total of five games over two suspensions for unspecified reasons.
Turner was suspended for UA's Dec. 7 game at Florida and later for the Pac-12 tournament. After the conference tournament, Miller announced that the second suspension was indefinite, and Turner did not play in the UA's season-ending NIT loss to Bucknell.
In a brief news release Wednesday, Turner thanked his teammates, coaches and UA fans for their support and noted that he "learned a lot in my year at Arizona."
Miller said Turner would remain enrolled at Arizona and finish the semester in good academic shape, which will make it easier for Turner to become eligible elsewhere and save Arizona an additional Academic Progress Rating point.
Early UA departures under Sean Miller:
Player, date left, destination
G Garland Judkins, Jan. 2010, Texas A&M, Corpus Christi
G D.J. Shumpert, May 2010, Cal State San Bernardino
G Daniel Bejarano, April 2011, Colorado State
F Derrick Williams, April 2011, NBA draft
G MoMo Jones, May 2011, Iona
F Sidiki Johnson, Dec. 2011, Providence
G Josiah Turner, April 2012, unknown
C Kyryl Natyazhko, April 2012, unknown
Arizona Daily Star
Nick Wiggins, a 6-foot-6 wing from Wabash Valley (Ill.) College signed his letter of intent Wednesday with Wichita State’s men’s basketball team.
“Nick is a player our staff had targeted who can really score,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said in a news release. “He can shoot it, drive it and has big-time athleticism.”
…He is the son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins. He grew up in Toronto before moving to Florida for his junior year at Godby High in Tallahassee.
Mitchell Wiggins, who played at Florida State, played six NBA seasons with Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia. Marita Payne-Wiggins, Nick’s mother, was a sprinter at Florida State who earned 21 NCAA All-American honors and won two silver medals for Canada in the 1984 Olympics. Younger brother Andrew Wiggins, a 6-foot-7 sophomore at Huntington (W.V.) Prep, is ranked as one of the nation’s top players in the class of 2014.
I understand why loyal men’s basketball assistant coach Steve Woodberry recently left Missouri State and why athletic director Kyle Moats didn’t make a counteroffer to keep him.
Woodberry wanted to join good friend, new coach and former Kansas Jayhawks star Danny Manning at the University of Tulsa. “If I want to be a head coach,” Woodberry told me this week, “I need to go out and experience new things.”
And, as Moats told me, the athletic department’s $11 million budget just cannot be stretched. Fair enough. Woodberry was getting paid $76,384, plus the free use of a car.
Still, I wished for one thing, even though Woodberry told me it wouldn’t have done any good: That Missouri State coach Paul Lusk would have recommended, and that Moats would have agreed to, make that counteroffer.
It would have been a nice, symbolic gesture. Even belatedly. That is, for a coach who symbolized what college basketball should be about.
He stayed six years and worked for three coaches. Unheard of these days. And his departure means Lusk is now faced with making the most important hire of his young career, whether he wants to admit it or not.
Over at Kansas, Bill Self is coming off his second Final Four in four years and is on a run of eight straight Big 12 regular-season titles. Even during what was supposed to be a "rebuilding" season, the Jayhawks won 32 games. In the Sunflower State, Big Blue swings the big stick.
When it comes to Self, Weber says they're friendly, but not — well, close. The latter followed the former in Champaign, which turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. On the plus side, Self left behind a loaded cupboard — including Deron Williams, a future NBA All-Star. Weber piloted that roster all the way to the NCAA's national title game in 2005. But he slowly became a victim of his own immediate, colossal success; as Weber's teams failed to replicate those kind of Big Dance performances in the years to follow, he got stuck with the label that he could only win big because of "Self's kids." When Self nabbed a national title at Kansas in 2008, that shadow somehow loomed even larger over the Illinois fan base.
Weber had once held a mock, tongue-in-cheek funeral at Illinois over Self's departure. Now he's less than 90 miles down the road from the guy he'd tried to bury. Metaphorically, of course.
"I think the one thing John Currie liked was I had dealt with it, and I'm not afraid of it and I don't mind the challenge," Weber said. "I took over for Rich Herrin (at Southern Illinois) and he was beloved, a long-time high-school coach . . . and nobody would even talk to me. And this is like heaven, going to K-State. They did not appreciate what happened to Rich, so we had to really deal with some things there. And Bill, obviously, was beloved (at Illinois) and had success, and it wasn't easy.
"I mean, I'll be honest: I know Kansas is good. And I like the challenge. That's why you're here, to compete. I don't know if some guys just maybe like to beat their head against the wall. I don't mind it at all. I'll go at it head-first."
Yet another Weber is sooooo classy article. Yuk yuk.
If any K-State players were skeptical about the coaching change, they don’t seem to be anymore.
“I truly do believe that everyone is going to stick around. I think everyone is happy,” said junior forward Jordan Henriquez. “Everyone is on the same page.”
Weber isn’t sure whether he will be able to maintain such a happy-go-lucky attitude during every practice at K-State. But that’s his goal.
“If you do what you are supposed to do, then you can be positive. That’s what you want,” Weber said. “If we have to yell all the time, then it gets tough. Right now, our goal is to get a trust level, get a respect level and develop some kind of relationship (with the players).”
Weber is working toward that mission with a limited staff. Former Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery is on campus, helping as an assistant, but Weber doesn’t expect the rest of his coaching staff to be hired until the end of the week at the earliest. Former Illinois strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Price is expected to begin working at K-State on Monday.
Weber said he has been in contact with his former Illinois assistants Jerrence Howard and Jay Price about joining him in Manhattan but wasn’t sure whether they would do so. Another possibility is North Texas assistant coach Shawn Forrest. He was in Manhattan on Wednesday observing practice and would bring Texas recruiting ties that Weber has listed as a priority.
Weber said he expects to have one scholarship to use this offseason and would like to bring in a “transfer or two” with a veteran team returning. He will focus more on high school prospects in upcoming recruiting classes.
One of Frank Haith’s assistants is leaving Missouri to become the top assistant at Illinois.
Isaac Chew, a Chicago native, is expected to be announced later today as the final piece of new coach John Groce’s staff. The move represents a promotion of sorts for Chew – Tim Fuller is the top assistant at Missouri.
Chew was hired by Haith last year, in large part because of his deep Missouri recruiting ties. He played basketball at Avila University and began his coaching career as an assistant there in 1999.
Chew was also a coach for KC Pump N’ Run, one of the city’s premier AAU teams, where he coached current Tigers like Marcus Denmon, Steve Moore and Michael Dixon.
Chew also figures to be a valuable asset to Groce’s staff, thanks in large part to his ties to the Chicago Public League – a fertile recruiting ground that is vital to Illinois’ success. Chew was the Public League Blue West Player of the Year at Wells High School.
The NCAA put Baylor on three years of probation Wednesday after an investigation turned up hundreds of impermissible telephone calls and text messages sent to prep recruits by coaches and assistants on the basketball teams.
The violations were considered to be major infractions, and they were announced less than a week after the Lady Bears won the national championship with the first 40-0 season in NCAA history.
Still, it could have been much worse for Baylor. All of the penalties were proposed by the school and accepted by the NCAA after a review of nearly 900,000 phone and text message records found that 738 texts and 528 calls were against the rules.
The NCAA said men's coach Scott Drew failed to monitor his program and will be suspended for two Big 12 games next season, in addition to recruiting restrictions.
Southern Mississippi’s Larry Eustachy is set to be named CSU’s next basketball coach, according to multiple sources.
Both ESPN’s Andy Katz and CBSSports.com’s Garry Parrish are reporting that Eustachy has been hired by CSU.
Officials inside the athletic department could not confirm the hiring when reached for comment.
Eustachy replaces Tim Miles who left CSU to take the head job at Nebraska a little more than three weeks ago.
Gonzaga men’s basketball forward Ryan Spangler has been granted his release and is expected to transfer to a school closer his home state of Oklahoma.
“I’ve made a lot of great friends this year at Gonzaga and love it here. But I want to see my family more and I want my family to see me play more,” Spangler said in a Gonzaga release. “I’ve been thinking about it for the last month or two. It was tough, but I’m doing the right thing.”
…At least four schools – Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts and Tulsa – are believed to be interested in Spangler, who had 24 Division I offers coming out of high school. He selected Gonzaga over Colorado. Texas Christian and Tulsa also were high on his list. ESPN.com reported that Spangler will visit Oklahoma this weekend. He would have to sit out one season if he transfers to a D-I school.
Official site of Portsmouth Invitational Tournament
(Why why why are there no tiggers on the Norfolk Sports Club roster? lol.)
Just as the public has lately been surprised to discover that football is really a very perilous game for your head, those Americans who do not pay that much attention to sports have been brought up short recently to learn better what an incredibly hypocritical and autocratic cartel is the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In particular, Kentucky's victory in the NCAA basketball championship -- all thanks to a handful of young transients barnstorming for a few months as what the NCAA calls student-athletes -- has shocked casual observers of the educational sporting scene. Good grief, The New York Times was even stunned enough to feel obliged to editorialize on the matter.
Still, trust me: it's only 10 days since Kentucky took the title, but the NCAA is safely again where it likes to be, flying under the ethical radar, tucked away on the sports pages and in the warm embrace of ESPN. So far as the college media and fans are concerned, we're already back to the only issue of real consequence: how to more properly conduct the football championship so that the big-conference schools can make more money, even as the poor players continue to make none.
But before we all put the NCAA out of our mind again, here is my question: Why do so many honorable colleges continue to let their good names be associated with such an un-American conglomerate? Oh, I can understand why the big-time colleges, like Kentucky -- or like Alabama, the football champion -- need a cartel. It's the same reason Saudi Arabia and Venezuela belong to OPEC.
But why, in particular, do Division III colleges feel a need to align themselves with such a big-foot organization? At the very least, the NCAA is just so unbalanced. Do schools like Williams and Johns Hopkins and Oberlin and Cal Tech really need NCAA oversight just for its students to leave the classrooms and play games?
I'd like to have the president of my alma mater -- a person I much admire -- explain to me if she really thinks the way the NCAA does business is consonant with the ideals that our university professes to stand for. You, too. Go ahead: Contact your college president. Ask the same questions: Does our school just go along as a member of the NCAA because everybody does it? Does our college endorse the imperious, arbitrary way the NCAA treats college athletes? And ultimately: Do we really even need to be in the NCAA?
The NCAA is never going to reform itself. It is in business to find a way to keep doing business -- peddling sanctimonious claptrap about how it really cares about academics. The only way to affect it is for us alumni of NCAA institutions to begin to question why our institution is a member. And then maybe decide to get our college out.
SI Frank Deford
Andrew White, a 6-6 senior guard/forward from Miller School in Charlottesville, Va., will sign his letter-of-intent with KU on Monday at his high school.
Shabazz Muhammad committed to UCLA on Wednesday.
Then came the Adidas comments.
"Shabazz Muhammad to UCLA. Three stripes and Kentucky's out!" -- ESPN's Fran Fraschilla
"Adidas, um I mean UCLA, wins the Shabazz Muhammad Sweepstakes. Shabazz stayed loyal to adidas entire way." -- CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman
"Shabazz is dumb and adidas is evil." -- Everybody else
Yes, I paraphrased the last quote and attributed it to millions. But you get the point. Seems college basketball observers from coast to coast -- and especially on the East Coast -- were suddenly very interested in the idea that a shoe company might've played a role in swaying an elite prospect toward a school, which was, well, interesting considering it happens all the time.
The only thing that makes this situation any different from many situations is that it features a so-called Adidas school benefiting from a so-called Adidas kid as opposed to a so-called Nike school benefitting from a so-called Nike kid ... and that John Calipari was on the wrong end of a decision. Besides that, this was par for the college-basketball course -- just business as usual in the high-stakes game of high-level recruiting.
Which is not to suggest Fran and Jeff (and everybody else) were wrong.
They were absolutely right.
Because though UCLA is UCLA, Pauley Pavilion is renovated and Ben Howland's track record for putting prospects in the NBA and making them stick is well-documented, it would be naive for anybody to suggest the financial relationship Adidas has with people around Muhammad didn't factor into his decision to attend a Pac-12 school coming off a disappointing season highlighted by controversy. I mean, Adidas has sponsored Muhammad's summer team (Dream Vision) for years, and his tennis-playing sister (Asia Muhammad) has an Adidas contract even though she's ranked outside the top 375 in the world. This stuff has to matter on some level, you know?
But it matters when Nike benefits, too.
It cuts both ways.
The pursuit of Noel includes not just college coaches hoping for a star on the court. There are also fringe figures hoping to latch on to a player seemingly viewed more as a commodity than as a teenager.
“I feel like the kid is a piece of meat right now, and he’s going to be used,” said George Wright-Easy, one of the numerous adults who have mentored Noel over the years. “Grown men are fighting over a kid.”
Those tied on some level with Noel’s recruitment include a former Providence assistant who has been barred from visiting Noel’s prep school, an unemployed high school football coach, a prominent coach of a summer basketball team in Boston, Noel’s high school coach, a former star recruit who believes his career was derailed by bad advice and a low-level N.B.A. agent who works for the group that represents LeBron James, Creative Artists Agency.
The scramble to get close to Noel underscores how important it is to be associated with an elite high school recruit. For a coach, it may mean a lucrative job. For an agent, the hope is big money once the player reaches the N.B.A. For a player like Noel, however, it can mean a cacophony of voices, people with motives of their own. Choosing whom to listen to could mean the difference between a future filled with N.B.A. riches or a tale discussed in muted tones along the recruiting trail.
NYT 3/10 article "Everybody Wants a Piece of Nerlens Noel" (Must read for recruitniks)
Because Noel decided a few months ago to graduate a year early, he has work to do to qualify academically. One of his mentors, Errol Randolph, said in a recent interview that Noel needed to take an additional English course this summer. Noel will also need to meet all of Tilton’s graduation requirements. Noel has traveled to recent all-star basketball events in New Orleans, Oregon and North Carolina, missing large amounts of school time.
While the addition of Muhammad out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas bolsters a struggling U.C.L.A. team, it will also ratchet up the scrutiny of the program off the floor.
CBSSports.com reported that the N.C.A.A. was looking into the Muhammad family’s dealings with two financial advisers, which could affect his eligibility. The extent of the N.C.A.A.’s interest is unclear, but CBSSports.com said that the N.C.A.A. contacted the programs recruiting Muhammad and said there were potential amateurism issues.
Noel has also had issues surrounding his recruitment, including Tilton’s barring one of his key advisers, the former Providence assistant Chris Driscoll, from campus. Driscoll accompanied Noel in North Carolina for his decision.
“I hope that Kentucky fans are expecting us to go back-to-back because that’s what I expect,” said Noel. “It’s championship or bust there, and I’m OK with that.”
"I just think it’s a challenge, knowing how bad they were these last two years and it’s a challenge to really get them back up to the top knowing they’re the leaders in championships with 11," Muhammad said. "And with Kyle Anderson as a great addition to that program and Jordan Adams and hopefully if Tony Parker will come, then there’s a lot of bits and pieces to that team that could make it a really great team."
It would be nice to truly think that UCLA's storied reputation and John Wooden's spiritual presence would still be enough to get top recruits. But the answer appears, instead, to be in the family's deep Los Angeles ties and its belief that Howland can turn Muhammad into the sort of NBA player that Love and Russell Westbrook have become.
There are also indications that Howland will change the offense to involve Muhammad more than he ever involved Love, who scored just 12 points on 11 shots in UCLA's 78-63 semifinal loss to Memphis in his final college game. This would be a good idea. Despite Love's public comments to the contrary, there is a belief that his family's hard feelings about Howland's use of Love has led to some of the recent recruiting troubles.
"We definitely have to take advantage of his game," Howland said.
Howland deserves to spend a moment celebrating what could be the beginning of a new Bruins era. And then he needs to make sure it doesn't finish him.
Fan support has dwindled because UCLA has missed the NCAA tournament two of the past three years and hasn't made it past the round of 32 since its run of three straight Final Fours from 2006 to 08. Worse yet, the program received a spate of negative publicity this February when Sports Illustrated published a story detailing how Howland lost control of forward Reeves Nelson and other players within the program.
While that story got most of the attention, the truth is it's recruiting as much as discipline that has been the Bruins' biggest recent problem. They've been unable to land an heir apparent to Darren Collison at point guard for three years, they've missed on numerous California prospects and they've had to resort to recruiting some junior college prospects and castoffs from other schools.
To counteract that problem, Howland shook up his staff adding veteran assistant Phil Matthews and Georgia-based AAU coach Korey McCray. It was Matthews who was in charge of recruiting Muhammad while the big test of McCray's ability will be whether UCLA can lure the Georgia native Parker away from Duke, Georgia and Ohio State among others.
National Junior Player of the Year:
Tony Parker, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) 6-9 C
One of the nation's best centers regardless of class, Parker led the Wolverines to a 31-2 on-court record and No. 6 POWERADE FAB 50 ranking. Miller Grove won its third consecutive Class AAAA state title and Parker averaged 17.5 points, 15.6 rebounds and 3.9 blocked shots per game against strong competition. He was named Class AAAA player of the year on the Georgia Sportswriters Association all-state team and MVP of the prestigious Beach Ball Classic. Parker grabbed a tournament-record 27 rebounds in the semifinal win and posted 20 points and 13 rebounds in title game win over Boys & Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.). He is Georgia's second ever junior selection, following Louis Williams of South Gwinnett (Snellville, Ga.) in 2003-04.
National Sophomore Player of the Year:
Jabari Parker, Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 6-7 F
It's another Parker leading a different set of Wolverines to a state title, as the son of ex-NBA player Sonny Parker led Simeon to its second consecutive Class 4A state title. Parker scored a team-high 12 points, had five rebounds and three blocks in 48-39 state final win over Warren (Warren, Ill.). Hailed as the Windy City's next hoops star, Parker is the only freshman to ever start at Simeon -- a list including probable NBA MVP Derrick Rose --- and upped his season scoring average from 9.3 to 15.3. He was named first team Class 4A all-state with four seniors and is Illinois' second national sophomore pick, following Lowell Hamilton of Providence-St. Mel (Chicago, Ill.) in 1982-83.
4/14 Jordan Brand Classic
4/21 Capital Classic (Andrew White)
4/27-29 Jayhawk Invitational
4/27-29 Real Deal in the Rock
adidas Grassroots schedule
Nike EYBL Schedule
Check here for the NCAA Recruiting Calendar
My 2011-12 Border War, Legends of the Phog, KC Prep Invitational, KU Alumni games, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos and more now on Youtube