The award, presented by the NABC and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), recognizes 201 nominees at all levels of college basketball. It honors college basketball players, “who represent the sport’s finest in the areas of leadership and charitable achievements amongst their peers. The student-athletes nominated for this honor embody the true spirit of teamwork and giving back.”
From the 117 NABC men’s nominees and 84 WBCA women’s nominees submitted by sports information directors, voting panels will select two 10-member teams of five student-athletes from the NCAA Div. I level and five from Divisions II, III and the NAIA. The final roster of 20-award recipients will be unveiled in February.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, who has used the same starting lineup the past six games, will alter the opening five Saturday at Colorado.
Self says he has decided to go with freshman Frank Mason at the point-guard position in the 2:15 p.m. game in place of junior Naadir Tharpe, who has started all but one game — the season-opener, in which he served a suspension against Louisiana at Monroe.
Mason, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder from Petersburg, Va., who averages 8.9 points with 20 assists against seven turnovers, started that contest.
“We’re going to put Frank out there to start the game,” Self said. “He’s been one of our more consistent, better performers so far this year. I think he deserves the opportunity.”
Of Mason, Self added: “Frank doesn’t talk, but he’s been great. He had about as bad a two minutes against UTEP as a guy could possibly have to end the game ... but if you’re going to line up the games that are hard to win on who our best player has been, you can make a case it’s been Frank, whether it be Duke, Villanova, Wake. I’m really pleased with him. But he’s got a lot to learn, too, but he’s trying. He tries hard every day. Every day he tries.”
Coughing his way through a seven-minute interview session with the local media Thursday, Wiggins shared a couple of things he has learned about the game since coming to Kansas University to play for Bill Self.
“He wants to make every possession easier on us,” Wiggins said. “Once you get the ball moving to the second, third, fourth side, then it’s easier to score. Trying to score on the first side, that’s where all the help is, that’s when the defense is settled.”
Wiggins makes it sound easy, but he and his young, talented team don’t always make it look as easy.
“It probably was (difficult) at first, but we’re getting the hang of it, and it’s the right way to play,” Wiggins said.
Self has seen every wave of players he has recruited battle with the same concept.
“The thing about it is with our guys, and this is just youth, (they hear), ‘Be aggressive, be aggressive, be aggressive, (and they take that to mean) let’s make sure we take the hardest shot we can take (early in the possession),’ so that way if it doesn’t go in then our confidence is a little off and we lose aggressiveness,” Self said.
“You can be aggressive and get that shot any time, and it’s not anything selfish. He’s doing exactly what I’m telling him to do, be aggressive.”
When you’re Colorado basketball, piling up steady and solid wins isn’t good enough to raise eyebrows nationally. The Buffaloes need to claim a signature victory against a well-known opponent. That chance arrives on Saturday, when No. 6 Kansas ventures into Boulder, Colo.
You'd best believe the Jayhawks have been in the back of the Buffaloes' collective minds all offseason. That’s partly because of the 90-54 beatdown Kansas put on Colorado last season at Allen Fieldhouse. But it’s more about what a win could do for the Buffs this season.
The need for Colorado to play well in this game was only magnified after its season-opening loss to then-No. 25 Baylor in one of those games it would love to have back. The Buffs trailed the entire game, shot just 33 percent and couldn’t pull closer than two possessions in the second half. Whatever traction the Buffs had nationally quickly eroded and bounced them to the periphery.
Now’s their chance to gain it back.
Colorado rides an eight-game winning streak into its meeting with Kansas. That streak was punctuated with a quality win over Harvard.
CU coach Tad Boyle also navigated his team through back-to-back true road games in wins over Air Force and rival Colorado State. Boyle scheduled as tough a six-game nonconference stretch as there is in the country.
Jaron Hopkins’ offense – specifically, his three-point shooting – has swiveled the spotlight in his direction in Colorado’s two most recent basketball games. But Hopkins’ defense, according to coach Tad Boyle, is what can keep the rapidly improving 6-5 freshman at center stage before the 2013-14 season ends.
The stage won’t get much bigger, the lights much brighter than Saturday at the Coors Events Center. Hopkins likely will be the first CU defender matched against Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, also a first-year player but nobody’s idea of just another freshman.
Boyle knows the CEC will be brim full, maybe spilling beyond its record attendance of 11,708 for the Jayhawks’ first visit since CU and KU were Big 12 buds (or something like that). Here’s what Boyle doesn’t know: Has his recent renovation of Buffs basketball created a scarcity of tickets for Jayhawks faithful who once pompously referred to the CEC as “Allen Fieldhouse West?” Have the demographics changed?
“We’ll see,” said Boyle, calling Saturday “the litmus test that I think our fans are either going to pass or fail . . . we won’t know that until Saturday at 1:15 when we see the colors in here and see how many Kansas fans actually are here. They’re crafty people; they’ve had to find alternative ways of getting in buildings and getting tickets.
“Our fans have not really ever been in a position where these tickets are in such high demand. So do they hold on to them . . . or if they can’t make it, make sure their neighbors or family or business associates (use their tickets)? If CU fans are giving or selling their tickets to KU fans I’ll be very disappointed. So we’ll see.”
Although the Jayhawks garnered a great deal of deserved hype before the season, they haven't been too impressive thus far. Kansas' most notable win was over Duke, but they followed that up with an underwhelming performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis. They beat Wake Forest, fell to Villanova and barely snuck by UTEP. An upset is not out of the question for the Buffaloes, but they must play their best game of the season to pull it off.
…It's no secret Colorado hasn't been good guarding the three this year. They've improved since their dismal start, but are still allowing opponents to shoot 34.9 percent from beyond the arc according to KenPom. Fortunately, Kansas only shoots 30.9 percent from three. More importantly, is the fact that opponents have been able to get to the free throw line against Kansas. The Jayhawks are 237th in the nation in free throws attempted to field goals attempted and one of the main reasons that Villanova beat Kansas was their 29 trips to the charity stripe. In the Jayhawks' last three games, opponents have attempted 82 free throws. That bodes well for Colorado and Spencer Dinwiddie, who has the 21st highest free throw rate in the country.
…The Buffaloes are going to have a raucous crowd behind them and need to feed off of that to get out to an early lead.
Bill Self is 18-0 against Colorado since he arrived at Kansas. With another road test looming at Florida on Tuesday, the Jayhawks could use a solid showing in the opening leg.
Before the season, Bill Self was skeptical that new rule changes made to clean up college basketball would be beneficial for the game.
After playing seven games, he remains unconvinced.
“The bottom line is, we were warned, and we were told, and we’ve got to give it a chance to play out to see if it’s better over time. It’s probably a coin flip for me,” the KU coach said on his weekly radio show Monday. “I don’t think it’s best for Kansas the way that we’re used to playing, maybe just because we foul all the time. I don’t know.
“But I do think we have to wait and see if it’s better for our game over time. Right now, I don’t quite feel it.”
The rule changes, which include a crackdown on hand-checking, have definitely affected KU through the first month. The Jayhawks are averaging 21.3 fouls per game, which is almost five whistles more than they had a season ago (16.8).
KU also is putting the opponent on the line more often. The Jayhawks’ opponent free-throw rate — or opposing free-throw attempts per 100 field-goal attempts — is up to 45.6 this year from 32 a season ago. So far, KU ranks 235th nationally in the stat after finishing in the top 150 in each of the past eight seasons.
“They (the NCAA) are convinced that if we clean it up on the perimeter, it’ll be better for our game over time. You know what? I’m not going to disagree with that,” Self said. “What bothers me more than anything else is that I know that we foul, but there are so many fouls that aren’t fouls that are being called for us and against us.”
I suspect, though, that Kansas will end up with the toughest NCSOS slate, given that they're already top 5 and still have games left against Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown, San Diego State and possible MAC champ Toledo. The Jayhawks have the best top-to-bottom schedule of any title contender. In a year without much separation in the upper half of the polls, it could very well make the difference between them being a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
SI Luke Winn Power Rankings
Some teams may mix in a little bit of zone, basketball's equivalent of an offspeed pitch. But if you’re doing it right, Self says, and you can bring pure heat, it shouldn’t matter who you’re facing.
“The hardest defense to score against is man-to-man if you know what you’re doing,” Self said.
So even in the season’s opening weeks, as Kansas’ normally vaunted defense has not been quite Selfian in its results and numbers, Self hasn’t reconsidered his defensive philosophy. Even as an emphasis on new foul rules has forced teams across the country to play zone defense at a higher rate.
A study conducted this week by the Wall Street Journal found that college teams are playing zone on 21.6 percent of possessions this season, according to Synergy Sports Technology. That’s up from 15.6 percent last year and higher than the four-year average of 17.6 percent. Ranked teams have seen even more zone, facing the defense on 23.8 percent of possessions.
But as No. 6 Kansas, 6-1, prepares to travel to Colorado on Saturday, Self would prefer to remain a power pitcher.
“This is just me, it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Self said. ”So why would I bail the guys out now to play a (certain) way to win a game when I know that’s not how we have to win games when it counts the most.
“That would be like saying, ‘OK, against this team because they have really crappy ball handlers, we’re just going to press this one team, and then we’re not going to press any other teams, but we’re going to do that to try to win this one game or make it look good.”
Despite Self’s reservations, the numbers suggest that Kansas’ defense has been a little less stifling than usual. One year after leading the country in field-goal percentage defense at 36.1 percent, the Jayhawks rank 90th in the country in two-point percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot 46 percent inside the arc. They rank seventh in the Big 12 at defending three-pointers, allowing teams to shoot 34.1 percent from outside.
But while Self says he sprinkles a little zone into each practice, and he used the hybrid triangle-and-two defense during Kansas’ run to the NCAA title game in 2012 , this is a coach that appears married to the tenets of a hard-nosed man-to-man.
“We ain’t going zone,” Self said.
I spent the week at the Maui Invitational with a horde of NBA scouts watching Syracuse, Baylor, Gonzaga, Cal, Arkansas and Minnesota. I also watched a number of games on television and talked to a huge contingent of NBA scouts who were at tournaments all over the country: the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Old Spice Classic, the Las Vegas Invitational and the Wooden Legacy tournament.
Here's a look at which NBA prospects helped or hurt their draft stock:
Wiggins raised the most eyebrows after a series of three straight mediocre performances for Kansas at the Battle 4 Atlantis. To be fair, Wiggins was battling a bug all week, but that didn't totally explain his lackluster showing. Scouts are scratching their heads a bit at his sudden reticence on offense. He was 3-for-8 in a loss against Villanova on Friday, and 2-for-9 in a win against UTEP on Saturday. Those aren't exactly lights-out performances.
Then again, several scouts pointed out that at times he showed excellent defense (and almost won the game against Villanova with two big defensive plays at the end). The scouts said they don't expect Wiggins to be a dominant offensive presence every night; he has an all-around game that doesn't always require that, and Kansas has plenty of other options. But for those looking for reasons to doubt Wiggins, he gave his haters some ammunition.
…If Embiid's breakout game Nov. 19 against Iona was the eye-opener for NBA scouts, then it was his game against Villanova on Friday that legitimized the discussion of Embiid as a potential No. 1 pick. With Wiggins and the rest of the KU team struggling, it was Embiid (and freshman backup point guard Frank Mason) who kept Kansas in the game. Embiid was a force on both ends of the floor and showed off his unique size and athletic abilities. It's clear his basketball IQ isn't quite there yet, and he's going to have to work to stay out of foul trouble. But he has all of the building blocks of a successful NBA big man, and we are seeing it much earlier in the season than we expected.
…Selden came into the season with an incredible amount of buzz. He was dominating the summer circuit, and was drawing raves from inside Kansas practices as the best player on the team. Given his scoring instincts and made-for-the-NBA body, expectations were that it would be Selden, not Wiggins, who would shoulder the scoring load for the Jayhawks this season. So far that hasn't panned out. Selden is averaging just seven shots a game, is scoring less than 10 PPG and is shooting just 33 percent from 3-point range. Scouts love the physical tools he brings to the table, but his lack of elite size at the position and so-so output have them re-evaluating where he might go in the 2014 draft. If things don't turn around quickly, Selden might be back at Kansas for his sophomore season.
ESPN Chad Ford ($)
Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins has hit his first NCAA speed bump.
The Thornhill-born phenom is going through the natural adjustments all freshman do, but he’s doing it with more attention and pressure than any frosh in years, leading to naysayers.
Wiggins has caught flack for averaging just eight points on 29% shooting in two games in the Bahamas last week (one, a loss to Villanova), but what most weren’t aware of, was that he was fighting a bad case of the flu.
“The kid was sick in those games, in hindsight, probably shouldn’t have played, I think people should give him credit for playing,” Tony McIntyre — who coaches CIA Bounce, the Toronto-area AAU team that counts Wiggins and No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett (among many others) as alumni — told the Sun on Thursday.
McIntyre isn’t surprised doubters have emerged, but believes they’re making a mistake in claiming Wiggins is overrated.
“Every great player goes through that, where you back up and then everybody wants to bring you down,” McIntyre said.
“He’s not on a team that’s absolutely revolving around him. He’s going to pick his spots, pick his shots in the offence.
“It’s going to take two or three games where people are going to say: ‘Oh my god, look at what this kid has done,’ and then it’s right back to where it was ... I think Andrew right now is figuring it out and will be very, very good and will prove everyone wrong by the end of this year, that’s for sure.”
With all this football, I've been a little slow in weighing in on the Kansas Jayhawks.
I see this highly publicized and heralded freshmen class at Kansas couldn't escape the month of November without being upset.
Truth be told, that’s probably the best thing that could happen.
The Jayhawks are going to lose a handful of games this season, which means they're going to win 30 to 35 times.
We get carried away with these polls. KU beats an over-hyped Duke team and shoots up to No. 2 in the country.
I've never been big on the polls this early in the season. It's not much of a barometer in determining how good a team really is.
We know KU is pretty good, but I’m still not convinced the Jayhawks are the best team in the Big 12 this season. At least not now; it’s too early.
Oklahoma State will give KU a run to the finish.
Jayhawk fans get caught up in winning all these conference titles in a row, but be prepared for what lies ahead. From what I can see, KU needs to toughen up.
Wiggins, Selden and Embiid were outplayed in that Villanova game by their own teammate, backup guard Frank Mason.
The loss to Villanova was not a fluke. KU got manhandled on the glass. The five-day junket to the Bahamas exposed this team.
Bill Self, as usual, doesn't mince words. He was highly critical when assessing the first seven games of the season. He says the Jayhawks haven't played together. They don't play hard and they're not tough. That’s from the coach, not me.
Again, with most KU fans, it’s all about entitlement.
They expect a final four appearance every year, and there's nothing wrong with that.
On paper, it should happen this year. But I would caution it's way too early to make any travel plans for April. You might have to eat those plane tickets.
Let’s see how it all plays out. I'll be watching closely.
That’s Jack's Smack.
Pat Roberts’ take on roundball in Kansas? Wichita State University is No. 1.
“God bless the Shockers, who just keep winning and are probably the best basketball team in the state of Kansas,” Roberts, the state’s senior U.S. senator, said Tuesday.
The line drew whooping applause from what may have been America’s least neutral audience: a luncheon meeting of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.
And as savvy politicians will, Roberts had some kind words for the other two major colleges in Kansas: the traditional basketball powerhouse University of Kansas, and Roberts’ own alma mater, Kansas State University.
The Wildcats are bowl-bound after a dominating football victory over KU in the annual Sunflower Showdown last weekend.
“Mel Thompson (Roberts’ agricultural aide) always tells me, ‘Leave ’em with some good news,’” Roberts said.
“Well, K-State won. And KU is gonna win a lot more in regards to basketball.”
Kansas college basketball coaches Gregg Marshall, Bill Self and Bruce Weber will be the faces of a friendly competition between their schools — Wichita State University, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University — to recruit new mentors for Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The Wichita Business Journal reports the coaches are serving as the co-chairs for a new BBBS campaign, "Go Big or Go Home."
Each coach will work to attract mentors, known as big brothers and big sisters, at his school and to raise the most money for the BBBS program through its bowling fundraiser, Bowl for Kids' Sake. The winner gets a traveling trophy and bragging rights.
Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in November.
For the month, McLemore averaged 9.1 points (.378 FG%, .350 3pt%, .810 FT%), 2.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 22.8 minutes per game in 14 contests, of which he started eight. He scored in double-figures on six occasions, including a career-high 19 points at Golden State on Nov. 2. McLemore is currently tied with Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams for first among rookies in three-pointers made (21) and paced all Western Conference rookies in scoring, three-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage and minutes per game during the month. Among all rookies league wide, he ranked third in scoring, second in three-point field goal percentage, third in free throw percentage and fourth in minutes per game.
VOTE HERE for Pierce, Chalmers, Markieff Morris 2014 NBB All-Stars
A former Kansas City Royals television announcer has been ticketed for assault after a scuffle last month at a Jackson County golf course.
Dave Armstrong, 59, of Overland Park, is accused of fighting with another golfer during a dispute Nov. 15 at the Fred Arbanas Golf Course in Longview Lake Park.
Armstrong called Royals games from 1993 to 1995. He now is the play-by-play television announcer for Kansas men’s basketball games airing on the Jayhawk Network.
Armstrong said Thursday that he was the victim in the assault and planned to contest the ticket.
Gary Martinez, 51, of Kansas City, reported that he and his friends had just finished the eighth hole when he was approached by a man, according to a sheriff’s department account. The man complained that Martinez had hit a ball in his direction.
“The two reportedly began to argue, and Martinez stated a physical fight ensued,” the account said.
Armstrong said members of Martinez’s group twice hit balls in his direction and he approached them, asking them to stop.
“I said, ‘Hey buddy, we’re keeping up with the group in front of us. Please don’t hit into us,’” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said Martinez responded with an obscenity and struck him. Armstrong said he tried to put Martinez in a headlock, but the two tumbled to the ground.
“I was getting pummeled in a very defenseless position,” Armstrong said.
Mike Yonke, a lawyer representing Martinez, said that Armstrong menaced his client with a golf club but that Martinez would wait to tell his full story in court.
“Dave Armstrong is 6 foot 7 or more, and Mr. Martinez is 5 foot 8 and 170 pounds,” Yonke said. “He sustained a broken finger and a serious shoulder injury. It doesn’t take much to figure out who was the aggressor.”
KC Star (Wow, lol)
Big 12/College News
Oklahoma State officials say an anonymous donor is providing some free tickets for an Oklahoma State basketball game.
OSU says the donor will purchase all unsold tickets for the game between the No. 9 Cowboys and South Carolina and fans can pick them up starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday on the north side of Gallagher-Iba Arena until the game begins at 8:30 p.m.
The game is part of the first Big 12/SEC Challenge and will be televised live on ESPNU.
Another week, another personnel issue for Florida.
Scottie Wilbekin has been diagnosed with a right high ankle sprain and is out indefinitely, the school said Tuesday afternoon.
He suffered the injury in Monday's 65-64 loss at Connecticut.
Wilbekin, the team's starting point guard last season, has only played in three games this season after serving a five-game suspension to start the campaign. His replacement, freshman stud Kasey Hill, has been out since November 18 with a high ankle sprain. He is expected to miss at least a month, meaning Florida could be without a point guard for at least another week.
This is just another on a long list of personnel issues for Florida. Wilbekin and Dorian Finney-Smith both returned from suspension, but Damontre Harris is still not playing. Wilbekin and Hill are both injured, and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter is redshirting to continue recovering from the broken leg he suffered last February. On top of all that, five-star freshman Chris Walker is still not cleared to play due to academics. He could return this month.
Head coach Billy Donovan used just six players for more than six minutes against the Huskies on Monday – and one of them was Wilbekin. In other words, he could be severely shorthanded going into upcoming games against Kansas and Memphis.
The story of Big 12 basketball is not one many are sharing around Yuletide with a bowl of hot chestnuts.
Yet the success to date in nonconference play is worth rejoicing.
Victories over the like of Duke, Michigan and Memphis. An exciting comeback win at BYU for Iowa State, the league’s most pleasant surprise. Four Big 12 teams ranked in the top 20. Just 17 defeats overall, the fewest for any conference in the country.
Unfortunately for one of the reigning co-champs, the highlights had been minimal. Until Thursday.
Kansas State used aggressive defense, sturdy box-outs and just enough free throws to nip Ole Miss, 61-58. With that, a healthy jolt of octagonal life was pumped into Bramlage Coliseum.
Although Ole Miss was unranked, it brought in a 6-0 record and was among the better teams carrying the banner of the SEC in the unadvertised and disjointed challenge the league stages with the Big 12.
Maybe you only remember Marshall Henderson and his finger pointing last postseason, but the Rebels made a Sprint Center appearance in the NCAA Tournament on the strength of an SEC Tournament championship.
Henderson was around Thursday, yet quiet. For him. Playing as a backup after serving a suspension to begin the season stemming from his failure to pass offseason drug tests, Henderson went 4 of 18 over 26 minutes. He even missed the Rebels’ last shot attempt, a 3-pointer he air-balled in the final seconds.
Jordan Clarkson scored 25 points and Jabari Brown added 18 to help Missouri defeat West Virginia 80-71 Thursday night in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
…Missouri (8-0) extended its national-best home-court winning streak to 23 games and has won 78 consecutive games at Mizzou Arena against non-conference competition.
One thing Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith had hammered home to his team was to hit the boards hard against Arizona.
So what happened?
Smith's Red Raiders get outrebounded 43-23 on Tuesday night in a 79-58 loss to the second-ranked Wildcats.
"Obviously our guys aren't hearing what the scouting report is saying about rebounding," Smith said. "That was the No. 1 thing we said we had to do."
That's a tough order against Arizona's front line.
"We did terrible," Tech's Aaron Ross said. "That's something Coach always tells us in practice which is to rebound, rebound, box out, rebound. We should have done better, so we have to keep practicing in order to get better."
Freshman Aaron Gordon scored 19 points and Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley added 18 each for the Wildcats who were playing for the first time since winning the NIT Season Tip-off.
The Wildcats didn't think they played all that great.
"I mean, a win's a win so you're always happy about that," point guard T.J. McConnell said. "But I think we played a little sluggish. We all know we could have played a little bit better."
Johnson, the NIT Season Tip-off's MVP, made a career-best 4 3-pointers in 6 attempts.
Duke played the defense its Hall of Fame coach wanted to see, while Quinn Cook turned in an all-around floor game to keep the 10th-ranked Blue Devils rolling in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Cook had 24 points -- all in the second half -- and nine assists to help Duke beat No. 22 Michigan 79-69 on Tuesday night, improving the Blue Devils to 13-2 all-time in the annual interconference competition.
Freshman Jabari Parker added 15 points to help the Blue Devils (7-2) regroup from last week's loss to Arizona by grinding out a tough win against the Wolverines. Duke didn't shoot the ball well early but frustrated Michigan's offense, turning away every spurt and keeping the Wolverines (5-3) at arm's length much of the game.
The Battle 4 Atlantis might end up with the strongest field of all of next year's nonconference November tournaments after the headliners were revealed Tuesday.
The 2014 edition of the tournament in Paradise Island, Bahamas, will include Florida, North Carolina, UCLA, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Butler, Oklahoma and UAB.
ESPN will be the broadcast partner of the Battle 4 Atlantis next season, sharing the tournament with AXS TV.
Duke says Alex Murphy is transferring out of the program.
Team spokesman Matt Plizga issued a statement Friday saying Murphy is leaving in good academic standing and is expected to transfer to another Division I school.
Murphy says, "It is in my best interest to leave the program at this point." Coach Mike Krzyzewski says it was "an honor" to have him at Duke and supports his decision.
Murphy is a 6-foot-9 forward who played in five games for the 10th-ranked Blue Devils (7-2) and averaged one point and one rebound.
“It was definitely a circus,” Fulford said in a recent interview, referring specifically his team’s experience on the road.
Sold out gyms; a heavy media presence at games; one-hour autograph sessions. A bit more attention than one might expect for a high school team.
However, the West Virginia school was home to Canadian phenom Andrew Wiggins and Fulford, who says he’s never experienced that type of buzz around a team before, knows most, if not all the interest around his group came from fans and media who just wanted to catch a glimpse of the budding hoops star before he ventured off to the NCAA.
“Certainly Andrew was rock star status,” Fulford said of the 18-year-old. “I think that was one of the things for us last year, the guys had to adjust to that . . . I thought the kids handled themselves well, but it was certainly a circus.”
Things have changed for Fulford’s Irish, currently 8-1 and ranked no.24 in the nation according to maxpreps.com, since the 2013 high school player of the year and Sports Illustrated cover boy moved on to the college game at the University of Kansas. While they still draw crowds, the post-game routine doesn’t usually involve lineups for autographs and media scrums.
On the court the Wigginsless roster has adopted a completely different style of play.
Fulford admits Huntington Prep’s offence last season revolved mostly around isolating Wiggins and fellow Canadian teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes – he was supposed to be a rookie at Florida St. this year, but the NCAA ruled he was ineligible – and allowing them to take advantage of individual matchups.
Wiggins and Rathan-Mayes were the team’s top scorers and the only ones to average more than 11 points per game – Wiggins averaged 23.4 points per game and Rathan-Mayes, 14.
This year Fulford says the team plays more of a run-and-gun style and relies on a collection of talent to provide the offence as opposed to just one or two players.
“We have a lot of weapons and the kids are unselfish,” the coach said.
Toronto native Montaque Gill-Caesar is one player who’s taken his offensive game to new heights and helped fill the void left by Wiggins. In a recent 127-37 drubbing of Miami Valley the 6-foot-6 small forward scored 56 points on 21-of-34 shooting. He’s the team’s leading scorer this season averaging 19.4 points per game and he’s already drawing interest from the heavy hitters of the NCAA including the University of Kentucky and Michigan State.
There are some who want to compare Gill-Caesar’s on-court abilities to those of Wiggins, but Fulford is quick to shut down that assertion.
“They’re totally different,” he said. “Andrew is 6-foot-8, a lot more bouncy than Teki. Teki shoots the ball better [and] Andrew’s a better ball handler at this stage.
“The only similarity they have is they’re both from Canada and they went to the same high schools in Canada and here.”
That said Fulford believes Gill-Caesar’s offensive outburst this season is thanks in large part to the fact that he was going up against Wiggins, who he refers to as the top defender in college basketball, every day in practice last season.
“There’s nobody that you can put on [Montaque] that we’re going to play at the high school level that he’s going to be intimidated by because he had to go up against Wiggins every day in practice,” he said. “That’s part of the reason kids come to places like this because they get that challenge daily.”
And therein lies the challenge for Fulford. As the head coach of a team that in most situations is only hanging on to its core players for one or two seasons, it’s his job to ensure the program maintains a level of consistency on a yearly basis, with or without an athlete of Wiggins caliber, so elite young players continue to pick Huntington Prep over other high schools around the United States that have a longer history of on-court success.
“What Andrew has done for us is that he’s made it ok for the number one player in the country to come [to Huntington] so it makes recruiting a lot easier.
“Huntington, West Virginia isn’t exactly known to be a happening spot, but for high school basketball it’s a happening spot.”
12/3/13, 10:51 AM
From Atlantis, a veteran college hoops observer on Cliff Alexander: "He's still learning how to play, but you won't stop him from dunking."
12/4/13, 10:47 AM
Per Chicago Curie coach Mike Oliver, Five-star Cliff Alexander @humblekid11 will be playing on Saturday in the @ChiEliteClassic
According to Illinois High School Association rules, Curie senior Cliff Alexander must sit out his team's game Saturday at the Chicago Elite Classic.
Curie’s game in Kentucky on Friday has been canceled, and Condors coach Mike Oliver said his team will play at Farragut that day instead.
Alexander, a 6-foot-9 Kansas recruit, is ineligible for Curie’s next regularly scheduled game after receiving two technical fouls in Curie’s 79-76 overtime victory Sunday against St. Rita.
Chicago Tribune (12/5)
12/4/13, 2:18 PM
2014 G @Top_One_Shard confirms that Kansas will watch him next week
KU is expected to visit Rashard Figures, a 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard from Mack Prep High in Charlotte, N.C., according to Rivals.com. He is an unranked player at this time.
Findlay Prep shooting guard Rashad Vaughn got a visit from UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua on Tuesday. Findlay assistant coach Pete Kaffey, who also serves as Vaughn's mentor, confirmed the visit to the Herald-Leader.
Scout.com ranks Vaughn as the No. 13 overall prospect in the Class of 2014, which makes him the No. 2 uncommitted prospect behind Texas center Myles Turner. Vaughn seemingly cut UK from consideration earlier this year after the Cats stopped recruiting him, but Kaffey said UK has been back in contact for about a month. He also said the break in the recruitment was somewhat planned.
"They've been recruiting him for a while now," Kaffey told the Herald-Leader. "We just haven't been making it public. They wanted to deal with the fall recruits first, and since Rashad was going to be deciding so late it didn't make sense to go hard (after him) when you could try to get other guys right now."
As the top unsigned senior in the country, Euless Trinity 6-11 center Myles Turner brought a live national broadcast and a host of college basketball coaches to North Texas.
If it’s possible, Turner’s dominating performance in a 57-53 victory over Houston Christian Homeschool made him a hotter prospect.
Turner scored 29 points with 14 rebounds and nine blocked shots while being watched by Kentucky coach John Calipari and assistants from Duke, Texas and Texas A&M in the crowd as well as former NBA star John Lucas.
“Playing here and sort of putting basketball back on the map here at Trinity means everything to me,” Turner said. “It was a beautiful atmosphere.”
Calipari arrived in time for a showdown with Baylor at AT&T Stadium on Friday. Turner said he had no timeline on deciding his college but listed Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas as the leading contenders.
The matchup was set as part of the GEICO ESPN High School Basketball Showcase, the only matchup of the 12 games through the season will be Prime Prep on Jan. 4 vs. Whitney Young (Ill.) in a West Virginia tournament.
Turner scored 21 points and had five blocks as Trinity built a 31-26 lead. Trinity (5-0) got a strong second-half performance by senior guard Adrian Wong, who finished with 13 points. HCYA (9-3) was led by multi-talented 6-7 North Carolina signee Justin Jackson who also scored 29 points.
Marshall County Hoop Fest this weekend
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