Friday, August 29, 2008

Washington State: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 26-9, 11-7 Pac-10 (3rd)

Key Losses: Derrick Low (14.1 ppg, 2.6 3's, 39%), Kyle Weaver (12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.2 apg)

Key Returnees: Taylor Rochestie (10.4 ppg, 4.7 apg), Aron Baynes (10.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

Newcomers: John Allen, Marcus Capers, DeAngelo Casto, Mike Harthun, Klay Thompson, James Watson, James Witherill

While Derrick Low was the leading scorer for the Cougars last year, the loss of Kyle Weaver is probably going to hurt more. Weaver was a great defender who could do a little bit of everything offensively and was very unselfish, the perfect kind of player to fit into the Bennett (Dick or Tony) system. The Cougars also lose start Robbie Cowgill, meaning that Tony Bennett will have a lot of production and minutes to replace.

Wazzu does return a couple talented players and big-time contributors from last year's team. The first is center Aron Baynes, who at 6'10", 270 lb, is as big and strong as anyone in the Pac-10. He has some decent post moves, but struggles to stay on the court (24 mpg because he averaged 3 fouls per game and fouled out 7 times). They also bring back Taylor Rochestie. Rochestie is one of the more underrated point guards in the country. A lefty, Rochestie was the team's best three point shooter (43%), averaged almost 5 assists per game while sporting an 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio. 6th man Daven Harmeling is also back.

Wazzu brings in a huge recruiting class this year with seven freshman, and two more red-shirt freshman becoming eligible to play. The best of the bunch is probably Klay Thompson (son of former #1 pick Mychal Thompson). Thompson is a long, athletic, 6'6" wing with a pretty good jumpshot. He's not the playmaker that Weaver was, but he could step in and replace some of his production. Mike Harthun should also be able to contribute right away, as he is a two-guard known for his shooting ability who should be able to slide right in for Derrick Low. The rest of the class is tough to predict as Bennett likes to recruit guys that fly "under-the-radar"; guys that fit into the system he runs. Given his track record, I would expect them to fit pretty well.

Outlook: The Pac-10 lost a lot of talent from last year, including 5 of the first 11 picks and 7 first-rounders total. Washington State is going to be young and inexperienced, especially when it comes to their bench, but Bennett is a very good young coach that has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Probably not a favorite to win the conference, but a win in the NCAA tournament is a very likely scenario.
Continue reading...

Coach Cal's Recruiting Part II

There has been a huge backlash from Memphis fans after my post yesterday (both in the comments and on this message board) so instead of getting in arguments in either place, I'm going to post my defense and be done with it.

First of all, I want to make it clear that in no way was I trying to insinuate that Memphis and Kansas are the only two schools that partake in such tactics as offering package deal (Seth Davis has a nice list here) . Don't get me wrong, I think Calipari is a fantastic coach - he is incredibly loyal to his players, he is passionate about his team and winning, and I love the style that his Memphis team plays. I also am not so naive as to believe that Memphis is the only school that skirts the boundaries when it comes to recruiting, but it is very hard to overlook the fact that three people recently added in some degree to the University of Memphis all had ties to players being recruited by Memphis.

CJ Henry, as I said in my original post, is probably not a package deal. He used to be a top 10 recruit, he doesn't need a scholarship, and he had a prior relationship with Memphis (although, he did originally commit to Kansas, where both of his parents happened to go to school, and Kansas and Memphis are listed as Xavier's top two schools), but it still looks fishy to me. The hirings of Bilal Blately (Nolan Dennis) and Lamont Peterson (Tyreke Evans) were after both players were committed to Memphis, and both jobs are seasonal, non-salaried, with out benefits, and low-paying (I believe less than 35k). But you have these three issues as Calipari just finished saving face from the Gaddy-Bronzcek phone call, and this is the same guy who was the coach of the UMass Final Four team that had their season removed because of money that Marcus Camby was getting.

Can you crucify Calipari for the Camby thing alone? Probably not, especially since the NCAA has cleared him. Can you criticize him for the phone call by itself? Probably not, because most reports have it as an over-zealous booster. But when all of this stuff is piled on top of each other, how many times can you give the guy a pass. Either he is very good at keeping his nose out of the dirt, or he is a guy that doesn't have complete control over his programs. Neither are good things to say about a coach.

But, I am willing to wager everything I own on every other big time school in the country having things like this happen, including my UConn Huskies. It is a flawed system, rather than a flawed coach, which is why I have no problem saying that Coach Cal is one of the three or four best coaches in the game right now.

With all that said, the point of the post in the first place wasn't the rip apart the Memphis program or to criticize Cal. It was to say that I didn't agree with the idea that hiring a parent or coach of a recruit is a bad thing, although it is technically illegal (the rule is poorly written, which is why teams can get away with it. These are the five rules that deal explicitly with this problem, if you are interested). College basketball is a cutthroat world, and I don't see a problem with allowing a kid to have someone there with him that he knows and trusts, as long as the person that was hired gets the normal pay.

There are a lot of things wrong with the college basketball recruiting process and amateur basketball, and this does not seem like one of the most important.
Continue reading...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coach Cal and his Shady Recruiting

Sure, Memphis lost Derrick Rose, CDR, and Joey Dorsey from the team that was a couple made free throws away from a national title, but don't expect the Tigers to fall too far from the top of Conference USA. They already have one of the best recruiting classes in the country, headlined by spring signee Tyreke Evans, but they added to it yesterday when CJ Henry decided to enroll in classes at Memphis, making him eligible to be a walk-on for Coach Cal.

Why, you ask, is it newsworthy to talk about a walk-on for Memphis?

For two reasons. First of all, in 2005, when Henry was a senior in high school, he was one of the most sought after recruits in the country out of Putnam City High in Oklahoma. Memphis wanted him. So did Texas, Kansas and just about every other school in the country. One assistant coach who recruited Henry out of high school told Jeff Goodman

"I loved him," the coach said. "He's a big guard who can score the ball. He's explosive and can really shoot it. He's more of a combo guard, but I think he can play the point. Because of his size and athleticism, I think he can play right away."
The thing is, the kid was also a great baseball player, getting picked 17th overall by the Yankees and lining his pockets with a $1.6 million signing bonus from George Steinbrenner.

Well, that baseball career never panned out. Between vision problems, poor performances, and injuries (this season alone he sprained his neck in an outfield collision and his knee in a collision at home plate), he never quite got on track. But in the contract he signed with the Yankees, it said that the organization would foot the bill if and when Henry decided to go to school. So, after hitting just .234 at single A this year, Henry called Coach Cal and Bill Self (he originally committed to Kansas) to gauge their interest and not 24 hours later, he was enrolled at Memphis and ready to take the court. He's not quite in basketball shape (at 6'4", he's up to about 220 lb), but given how wide open the Memphis backcourt is this year, expect Henry to compete for major minutes.

There is another reason that Memphis and Kansas wanted CJ Henry the second time around, and that is his little brother Xavier (pronounced ZAV-ee-yay), one of the top recruits in the class of 2009 (#3 on Rivals). And it just so happens that his top two schools are, you guessed it, Memphis and Kansas.

Now neither of these programs are averse to shady recruiting tactics and "package deals". Mario Chalmers father, Ronnie, was hired by Kansas the same year that his son decided to play for the Jayhawks and left the position when Mario headed to the league. Memphis is worse. Milt Wagner worked for Memphis for six years as a result of his son DaJuan deciding to play there. Already this summer, Coach Cal has hired Lamont Peterson (the trainer and coach for Evans) and Bilal Blatley (who is very close with 2009 commit Nolan Dennis). He also "allegedly" requested the CEO of FedEx to call the mother of recruit Abdul Gaddy, who happens to be a customer service rep for the company. And all this on the heels of Scott Drew hiring #1 recruit John Wall's AAU coach.

Now to be honest, I am not sure if the CJ Henry decision is a package deal. His family was apparently surprised by his decision, and because it was so quick, it is very possible that CJ Henry knew that since his brother was so coveted by the two schools and he didn't need a scholarship that both schools would jump at the idea of having him on the roster. But there is no way that Coach Cal and Bill Self did not at least have the thought run through their minds that getting CJ would give them an edge for landing Xavier.

Based on how commonplace this practice has become, many people might not realize that it is in fact illegal for a school to hire someone close to a recruit for the specific purpose of trying to get that recruit to attend school. In fact, the NCAA has recently made an effort to crack down on college basketball recruiting, including these package deals. Just this spring, the NCAA created a three-person group devoted entirely to keeping an eye on illicit recruiting practices. Despite all of the blatant violations, no schools have received anything more than a slap on the wrist for it since New Mexico State in 1996, mainly because intent in this type of situation is so hard to prove.

But apparently tougher enforcement is not the only thing the NCAA is looking to improve. They also want tougher legislation. During last year's Final Four, an initial working group, headlined by David Stern and Myles Brand, was brought together to discuss the problems facing youth basketball in this country. In their summary report, they said
When an institution hires an individual who has either coached or is related to a prospect who ultimately enrolls at that institution, there should be a rebuttable presumption that the hiring violates NCAA legislation. This presumption would be triggered if the individual were hired within two years, either before or after, of the prospect's initial enrollment at the institution. The burden would then be on the institution to prove to the enforcement staff that the hiring did not violate NCAA rules.
It sounds like a great idea on paper.

Personally, I am still torn on the issue. Yes, it can be unethical. Yes, it opens up doors for funneling money to players and their families. Yes, there are a lot of instances where this is just another adult sidling up with a talented kid just to try and make some money. But I'm willing to bet that many of these package deals are simply an 18 year old kid wanting to be around people that he knows, to have people he is comfortable with in his life.

Think about it like this. You are a kid from a poor family in Brooklyn. The only time you've ever left New York City is to play in high school and AAU basketball tournaments. You are getting recruited to play all over the country, and eventually decide that going to Duke is the best way to further your career and your education. But Durham is a long way from Brooklyn, and you want people that you know and you trust around you. Your parents can't go because you have three siblings and they need to be in Brooklyn. So who would you and your family be the most comfortable with being down there to help you? How about the AAU or high school coach that helped keep you out of trouble and who has coached, trained, and mentored you for the last four years of your life. But he isn't made of money, so he needs something to pay the bills while he is in Durham, so Coach K offers him a position within the Duke athletic office.

Is that really unethical? Continue reading...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Villanova: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 22-13, 9-9 Big East (9th)

Key Losses: Malcolm Grant (5.6 ppg)

Key Returnees: Scottie Reynolds (15.9 ppg, 3.1 apg), Dante Cunningham (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Maurice Sutton

Villanova had a surprising run in the NCAA tournament last year, reaching the sweet 16 as a 12 seed before finally losing to Kansas, and returns everyone except for Malcolm Grant (transferring to Miami). The biggest problem for Villanova is that they will be playing in a loaded Big East, where they aren't even one of the top four teams. But Villanova will be a sleeper, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them make another (longer) run in the NCAA tourney this year (you heard it here first).

When you talk about this 'Nova team, the first thing you have to mention is Scottie Reynolds. He's not very big and not overly athletic, but he is deceptively quick and a fantastic shooter with deep range. He is just one of those guys who knows how to score and can put up points in a hurry. He will be joined in the backcourt by sophomore Cory Fisher, a lighting quick point guard who can penetrate and create, and a slew of big guards - Corey Stokes, Dwayne Anderson, and Reggie Redding. Stokes is probably the best scorer of the bunch thanks to his jump shot (he only shot 30% from deep, but really came on strong at the end of the year including a 20 point game in the Big East tourney and 18 against Siena in the NCAAs), while Anderson and Redding are more known for their defense and hustle.

Villanova's frontcourt is where the questions were last year, especially when Shane Clark was battling exhaustion (does anyone know if they ever actually figured out what was wrong with him?). Senior Dante Cunningham is probably their best forward. He came into 'Nova as a skinny freshman that could only jump, but has filled out (6'8", 230 lb) and developed a solid all-around game. Clark, also a senior, is a similar player, although he is a bit smaller and plays a more perimeter oriented game. They also have Antonio Pena and Casiem Drummond up front. Drummond could be a wild card for this team. He is 6'10" and has showed some flashes of his potential, but he is big (listed at 275 lb) and coming off of a broken ankle suffered in the NCAA's. If Drummond and 6'11" freshman Maurice Sutton can provide a presence in the paint on both ends of the court, Villanova could be really good.

Outlook: Villanova has the makings of a team that could make some noise in March - deep, talented, experienced, and coming off of a tournament run. You know what you're getting from veteran guys like Reynolds and Cunningham, so the X-factor for this team will be Drummond and Sutton inside. If they can develop, Villanova could make the Final Four. If they don't, Villanova may not make the Final Four of the Big East tournament.
Continue reading...

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Khalid El-Amin

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Khalid El-Amin, UConn

Khalid El-Amin arrived at UConn in 1997 after having one of the most lauded high school careers in Minnesota history - he won four state titles, three player of the year awards, and was named a McDonald's all-american. Despite being built more like a fullback then a point guard (5'9", 200 lb), El-Amin exploded on the scene as a freshman, averaging 16 ppg on his way to setting the UConn freshman scoring record and being named Big East rookie of the year.

Through his high school and college career, El-Amin gathered a reputation as a leader and a winner. At UConn, he was always the guy that defenses (and fans, most road games resulted in "doughboy" chants) keyed on. He still remains the face of the 1999 championship team that also had NBA players Jake Voskhul and Rip Hamilton.

El-Amin's crowning moment as a Husky came after he led UConn to an upset victory over the heavily favored Duke Blue Devils in the 1999, when he went to the announcers and yelled "We shocked the world!!". El-Amin scored the final four points of that game to give the Huskies the title. UConn lost a lot of talent from that championship team, and although El-Amin probably had his best statistical year as a junior (16.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg), UConn was knocked out in the 2nd round (partially due to his severely sprained ankle).

After his junior season, El-Amin turned pro and was taken with the 34th pick by the Chicago Bulls. He started 14 games, averaged 6.3 ppg and 2.9 apg, and was named to the all-rookie team, but he was not resigned by Chicago at the end of the 2000-01 season. After bouncing around between the Miami Heat and two D-League teams, El-Amin started to pursue his career overseas, signing with French team Strasbourg in January of 2002, where he averaged 12.8 ppg and 4.9 apg. El-Amin spent the next season in Israel playing for Maccabi Ironi where he averaged 19.7 ppg and 4.9 apg.

The next two years he spent playing for Besiktas Istanbul in Turkey, where he won back-to-back player of the year awards averaging more than 20 ppg and 5 apg each season. He then moved on to Azovmash Mariupol in the Ukraine, where he averaged 19 ppg, 4 rpg, and 4 apg over the course of two seasons, including in 2006 when Azovmash won the Ukrainian championship and El-Amin was named player of the year and finals MVP. In 2007 he signed with Turk Telekom, another Turkish team, where he won the Turkish basketball league title and played in the ULEB tourament. For the season, he averaged 17.5 ppg, but increased that to 19.7 ppg and 3.6 apg in the ULEB. His most memorable game of the past season came when his Turk Telekom team beat spanish phenom Ricky Rubio's Joventut team 96-94. El-Amin and Rubio went toe-to-toe, with El-Amin putting up 33 points and 5 assists while Rubio scored a career high 29 points with 10 assists.

El-Amin will be heading back to Azovmash for the 2008-09 season, where he will play along side Dijon Thompson from UCLA, Marc Salyers of Samford, and Rodney Buford from Creighton.
Continue reading...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Florida: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 24-12, 8-8 (4td SEC East)

Key Returnees: Nick Calathes (15.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.0 apg), Dan Werner (9.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Walter Hodge (10.4 ppg, 2.9 apg)

Key Losses: Marreese Speights (14.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Eloy Vargas, Kenny Kadji, Ray Shipman, Allan Chaney, Erving Walker

The only significant loss for the Gators from last season is first round pick Marreese Speights, who was very talented but did not consistently put forth the effort that Billy Donovan wants from his players. Thanks to back-to-back outstanding recruiting classes (Rivals ranked them as #1 last year, #10 this year), Donovan has completely rebuilt and reloaded this Florida team.

The prize of this year's recruiting class are two 6'10" post players, Eloy Vargas and Kenny Kadji, who should make up for the loss of production from Speights. Kadji, a Cameroon native, is a big bodied (he has put on 40 pounds since he got here) center with nice post moves and a soft touch, although he tends to be too passive. Vargas (from the Dominican Republic) is a little less polished, but with a bigger upset. He is much more athletic and blocks a lot of shots, but needs to get stronger to be effective offensively. The Gator frontcourt is rounded out with sophomores Alex Tyus (great rebounder and energy guy off the bench) and Chandler Parsons, and junior Dan Werner. Parsons and Werner are both combo forwards who are versatile enough to play (and defend) on the perimeter or in the post. Werner was a starter last year, while Parsons was the leading scorer off the bench. Sophomore Adam Allen and freshman Allan Chaney and Ray Shipman should also compete for minutes.

The Gator backcourt will be led by do-it-all sophomore Nick Calathes. Calathes is a 6'6" point guard that can shoot the ball and get to the rim, but is very unselfish and a great playmaker. His size makes the Gators extremely versatile, as he can defend point guards (if they want to go big) and small forwards (if they want to go with a three-guard set). Also returning for Florida is senior (the only one on the roster) Walter Hodge and sophomore Jai Lucas. Hodge and Lucas are very similar players - small, quick guards that can make plays both defensively and offensively. Hodge is probably a better defender, while Lucas is a better shooter.

Outlook: There is no questioning that Florida has a very talented roster. Their biggest issue is that they are so young - only one senior and two juniors (one of those juniors is Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, who is not eligible this year) on the roster. If those young guys can mature, Florida has to be considered a contender for the SEC East. If not, then the Gators may miss the tournament for the second straight season.
Continue reading...

8/26 - Some Links, Some News

-Remember last week when I wrote about Anthony DiLoretto, the 7 footer that robbed a bank? Well, I think I found someone to top that idiocy. The leading scorer for the University of Buffalo was suspended for the first three games of the season after he posted on Facebook's marketplace application that he would pay $40 or more for someone to write a term paper for him. Really, you post that on the internet? I mean, I don't really condone cheating, but is that really the best way to get away with it? He couldn't just pay someone on his hall or in the class to do it for him?

-Blake Griffin has had what I believe is his first run-in with the law - for peeing on a bush. Apparently, he was waiting for a ride and really had to go. He received a citation for "outraging public decency" (that doesn't sound right to me, shouldn't it be "outraging public indecency" or "disrespecting public decency" or something along those lines).If this is the worst thing that Griffin has done in his Sooner tenure, then I don't think Jeff Capel has much to worry about.

-Kentucky's chances of making the NCAA tournament again just got a huge boost as point guards DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway were deemed eligible. After losing Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford to graduation, and Derrick Jasper to UNLV, Billy Gillespie had a huge hole in his back court that needed to be filled. With Liggins and Galloway (both 6'6", Liggins is more of a point guard while Galloway is more of a scorer) teaming up with Perry Stevenson, the (finally) healthy Jodie Meeks, and arguably the best player in the SEC in Patrick Patterson, UK has a starting five that can match-up with anyone in the country. Their biggest question will be depth, especially if Mark Coury (a starter last year) decides to transfer to a school where he can get a scholarship.

-The preseason NIT bracket has been announced:

  • Boston College will host the East Region where they will play Loyola, MD, and Cornell will face-off with St. John's.
  • Purdue hosts the North Region where they will play Eastern Michigan and Georgia will face Loyola, IL (how many Loyola's are there).
  • Oklahoma hosts the South Region where they take on Mississippi Valley State and Davidson will play James Madison.
  • Arizona hosts the West Region and they will play Florida Atlantic whil UAB takes on Santa Clara.
The first and second round games will be played Nov. 17th and 18th, with the winners advancing to Madison Square Garden where the semis will be held Nov. 26th and the finals the 28th.

-Some noteworthy roster shake-ups: A couple of big recruits have not met eligibility requirements: Mark McLaughlin, committed to Nevada (now it looks like he will go to prep school), and J'Covan Brown of Texas. Oklahoma State has reinstated Terrell Harris, their third leading scorer from last season. He was suspended in April for violation of team rules. Former USC point guard Angelo Johnson, who left school after he wasn't guaranteed the starting point guard position, has decided to attend Southern Mississippi. Alabama recruit Tony Mitchell was finally cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse as he attended classes this week, making him eligible for the basketball team. Continue reading...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nevada: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 21-12, 12-4 WAC (T-1st)

Key Losses: Marcellus Kemp (20.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.6 apg), JaVale McGee (14.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.8 bpg)

Key Returnees: Brandon Fields (12.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Armon Johnson (11.5 ppg, 3.3 apg)

Newcomers: Luke Babbitt, Mark McLaughlin, Joey Shaw, London Giles, Dario Hunt, Ahyaro Phillips

Mark Fox has turned the Nevada Wolfpack into the premier program in the WAC, consistently atop the conference standings while sending multiple players to the league (Kirk Snyder, Ramon Sessions, Nick Fazekas). That trend continued last year, as Nevada finished in a four-way tie for first and had JaVale McGee and, possibly, Marcellus Kemp (not drafted, but may get a free agent contract) reach the NBA.

Now with Kemp and Demarshay Johnson graduating and McGee jumping ship, the Wolfpack will lose a lot of production, especially inside, where they weren't that strong last year (despite his shot-blocking, McGee was one of the worst post defenders in the country). Fox did make it an emphasis to rebuild his front court, and he has done a solid job doing so. The star of this year's recruiting class is Reno native and Mickey D's all-american Luke Babbitt, who originally committed to Ohio State (Side Note: Thad Matta is the best in the country at recruiting big men: Greg Oden, Kosta Koufus, and BJ Mullens in three years. Even with Babbitt opting out that is amazing). At 6'8", 215 lb, he is not really a menacing presence defensively, but he is a smooth, left-handed combo forward with a pretty jump shot (think Troy Murphy only more mobile). Former Indiana wing man Joey Shaw will join Nevada as well after spending a year at a JuCo. Shaw is an athletic, 6'7" slasher who will be relied upon to make up for some of Kemp's production. Freshman Dario Hunt and Ahyaro Phillips and sophomore Matt LaGrone round out Nevada's small, but athletic, front line.

There were two pleasant surprises in the back court for Nevada last season. The first was sophomore Brandon Fields, who was known more as a defensive stopper as a freshman, but as a sophomore added three-point range and developed into the team's third-leading scorer. The Wolfpack also got a boost from WAC freshman of the year Armon Johnson, who took over the point guard position and had a great season. Lyndale Burleson (whose brother, Nate, is a receiver for the Seahawks and is also married to Joey Shaw's sister - why do I know these things?) is an excellent defender and should provide quality minutes off the bench. Nevada got some bad news as former Washington State-commit and top-100 recruit Mark McLaughlin decided not to enroll at Nevada for the fall semester because he had yet to be declared eligible. McLaughlin, known for his three-point stroke, could have helped spread the floor for Babbitt inside.

Outlook: Nevada's front court is going to be smaller, but quicker, than most of the other teams in the WAC. Despite the loss of McLaughlin, Nevada still has a solid back court, meaning that if Fox can use that quickness on his front line to his advantage (i.e. exploit the mismatches created by forcing bigger players to guard Babbitt), Nevada will be one of the favorites to win the conference.
Continue reading...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Remember the Name Derrick Caracter

We at BIAH have been outspoken about the problems with offering scholarships to kids that are still 13 and 14 year old middle schoolers. In my mind, there is nothing wrong with recruiting kids this age. Well, "nothing wrong" might not be the right words, but in today's college basketball landscape, coaches need to know who the best 8th and 9th graders are because, like it or not, early contact is the key to recruiting. It is still risky, because at that age it is so hard to project how big or athletic a kid will end up, but if any D1 coach doesn't know who the best freshman are in his area, then he's doing something wrong.

Hopefully, from this point forward, whenever the conversation of recruiting younger players is brought up, people will remember the name Derrick Caracter. Caracter was the first 8th grader to ever be invited to the Nike Camp back in 2002, when he was a 6'8" 14 year old. Everyone labeled him as the next big thing, as the second coming of Shaq. Well, it just so happens that Caracter never grew any more, and is now simply your run-of-the-mill, 6'8" 20 year old.

There-in lies the problem with recruiting kids that young. Caracter was so successful because he was already fully grown, even though he was yet to hit high school age-wise. So what happened? He lost his work ethic. He stopped trying because he thought he would always just be bigger and better than everyone else. Yes, Caracter stopped growing, and 6'8" is fairly small for a power forward, but you're telling me Caracter couldn't play a Paul Millsap-type role for someone?

Here is a quote from Rick Pitino regarding Caracter:

"Anybody who doesn't understand how to work -- that working is what they must do to reach their potential -- is going to fall short of their goals," Louisville's Rick Pitino said late Sunday by phone. "Derrick never realized that. He's a smart kid, a bright young man. But Derrick has fooled himself in terms of how much work it takes to be a pro. When he stopped growing and everybody caught up, it became about whoever is the toughest and whoever works the hardest, and that's what he never got used to doing. Derrick could never outwork someone to survive."
Caracter thought that he had already made it, that he could coast his way through high school and college to the riches of the NBA. He couldn't.

Caracter will be playing next season at NAIA Oklahoma City University. He had fallen in and out of favor with Louisville Head coach Rick Pitino during his tumultuous two-year career. He was initially kicked off the team in April, but Pitino had allowed him to sit out the 2008-09 season to prove himself worthy of a spot on the 2009-10 roster.

Here are two other examples of highly touted eighth-graders who never lived up to those lofty expectations. The first is Demond Carter, better known as Tweety Carter. Everyone knows about Caracter being the first eighth grader invited to the Nike Camp, but Carter was an eighth grader in 2002 as well and also attended the camp. Where is he now? The fifth leading scorer for Baylor. When Andre Allen was in eighth grade he was considered the best player in the country at his age. He never grew another inch, and ended up not even a top 100 recruit, averaging a whopping 4.2 ppg in his Memphis career, and eventually getting suspended for the Final Four for smoking weed.

Maybe both sides need to learn something from Caracter, and to a lesser extent Carter and Allen. These uber-talented kids need to know that their work ethic is what will take them from being just another highly recruited high school player to a successful professional, and that just because they can succeed based on raw athleticism and talent at a young age, eventually the rest of the world will catch up. But coaches need to realize (and I'm sure they already do) that just because a 14 year old is a star, it doesn't necessarily mean that he will be the next Lebron James or Micheal Beasley.
Continue reading...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ole Miss: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 24-11, 7-9 SEC West (3rd)

Key Losses: Dwayne Curtis (14.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg), Kenny Williams (8.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Key Returnees: Chris Warren (15.8 ppg, 4.4 apg), David Huertas (10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Eneil Polynice (10.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.9 apg)

Newcomers: Terrence Henry, Terrico White, Will Bogan, Murphy Holloway, DeAundre Cranston

In the year of the freshman last season, Chris Warren was the best that you never heard about, and maybe the best player in the country you've never heard of. Warren is only (listed at, he looks smaller) 5'10" and 170 lb, but despite his diminutive stature he was able to take over games because of his phenomenal shooting ability. In 35 games last year, Warren hit 103 3's (at a 39% clip), which is already 9th all-time at Ole Miss. Warren had a tendency to take bad shots and make bad decisions (probably a result of a frustrating season coming to an end), but he still had a 1.5:1 a/to while averaging 4.4 apg. Ole Miss will rely heavily on Warren's scoring and playmaking once again next year.

Guards Eneil Polynice, Trevor Gaskins and David Huertas also return. Polynice is a gritty 6'5" athlete and he usually draws the defensive assignment of the other teams best wing player. He is also a solid playmaker as he was second on the team in assists. Huertas and Gaskins are shooters who spread the floor and benefit from the playmaking of Polynice and Warren. Freshman Will Bogan and Terrico White should also compete for time in the backcourt.

The Rebels will have a lot of production to replace on their front line as they lose starters Dwayne Curtis and Kenny Williams. The only returner will be seldom used freshman Malcolm White (6.2 mpg), but Andy Kennedy does bring in a solid class, headlined by 6'9" power forward Terrence Henry, who should immediately be able to contribute for Ole Miss. The Rebels also add 6'7" Murphy Holloway, who is more of a small forward and slasher, and 6'9" JuCo transfer DeAundre Cranston. 6'10" redshirt freshman Kevin Cantinol becomes eligible as well, and could compete for minutes.

Outlook: The biggest issue for Ole Miss will be can they win on the road. Last year they went 16-2 at home and 8-9 everywhere else (1-7 in conference on the road). They return a talented roster which is probably going to be one of the favorites to win the weak SEC West, but they need to be able to win on the road in order to avoid another collapse - they were one of the last unbeatens in the country and didn't even make the NCAA's. Look for a Clemson-like rebound this year.
Continue reading...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kent State: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 27-8, 13-3 (MAC)

Key Losses: Mike Scott (13.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Haminn Quaintance (10 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 1.9 spg)

Key Returnees: Al Fisher (13.9 ppg, 4.0 apg), Chris Singeltary (10.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Jim Christian (coach)

Newcomers: Tyree Evans, Anthony Simpson, Frank Herny-La, Justin Greene, Alex Grimsley, Geno Ford

Kent State only loses two players from last year's rotation, but they just happen to have been the Golden Flashes starting front court, meaning that there is going to need to be a lot of defense and rebounding replaced. That problem was solved as Kent State brings in four recruits that play in the front court, headlined by former Lincoln Railsplitter Justin Greene. The 6'8" Greene is known for his defense and his hustle, and should fill in the void left by Haminn Quaintance and Mike Scott well.

Kent State does return a very solid back court. Senior Al Fisher was MAC player of the year last season as he averaged 13.9 ppg and 4.0 apg. The 6'1" scoring guard was a leader for KSU, and had a knack for big shots and big games, including a 28 point outburst against St. Mary's during BracketBusters. Joining Fisher as a returner in the back court will be junior Chris Singletary, a strong and physical 6'4" guard that can defend the point through the power forward, and senior Jordan Mincy, a steady PG known more for his defense and ball control than his scoring.

Kent State did land a huge recruit recently. Tyree Evans, the former blue-chipper and Maryland-signee (as of April) who fell out of favor with big-time D1 school because of his criminal record (statutory rape, marijuana possession), has transferred to Kent State as a walk-on. Evans, an explosive 6'3" guard, was a top 25 recruit coming out of high school, but has spent the last few years trying to get academically eligible (and judicially available) to play at the D1 level. He was the sixth-rated JuCo recruit this past year after averaging 21.1 ppg for Motlow State CC.

The biggest change this season for Kent State will be on the bench, as Jim Christian, who led the Golden Flashes to six 20 win season and to two NCAA tournaments (including the 2002 Elite 8 run), will be coaching at TCU next year. Not too much should change, however, as KSU hired assistant Geno Ford to take over the team.

Outlook: Kent State looked like the favorite for the MAC title before yesterday's news that Evans had been accepted. But with the addition of Evans, Kent State looks like a top 25 team and maybe the best mid-major this side of Davidson.
Continue reading...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Basketball scholarship in California or prison in Wisconsin? I'll take prison

This has been quite a week for college basketball players, specifically those that enjoy the company of law enforcement agents, as noted in the last BIAH Some Links, Some News post. First, it was Dominic Tilford of South Alabama (cocaine possession). Next, it was Markieff Morris not quite of Kansas (underage drinking and assault for shooting a woman in the arm with a BB gun from his dorm room window; this is the third time I've written about the incident and I still can't figure out why anyone, even after about 12 beers, would think this is a good idea. I'm no stranger to doing dumb things, but c'mon, are you kidding me? Why does he even have a BB gun in a dorm?). Both facing charges and possible suspensions.

But now news is coming out of Minnesota that 7'1" Cal Poly San Luis Obispo recruit Anthony DiLoreto was arrested in his parents home just one short month before he left for CPSLO on a full ride. What was he arrested for? Robbing a bank. Yea, that's smart. A 7'1" basketball star deciding to rob a bank. At least he was smart enough to rob a bank far from his home - he committed the crime in Wisconsin. He also, apparently, was seen driving away from a gas station without paying right before he robbed the bank. Maybe that's why he robbed it.

But there is more to this story, which is where it gets crazy. At the same time that DiLoretto was robbing the bank, some guy across the street killed himself when he crashed his ATV and another guy in the area was having a heart attack. What the hell is going on up there?

Back to the point, by all accounts DiLoreto was a pretty good kid with no previous record. What would motivate someone to risk a scholarship to a school in California for the couple hundred bucks you get out of a bank robbery? I have no idea, but I do know that regardless of where CPSLO is in Cali, it is a hell of a lot better than anywhere in Wisconsin during the winter - especially prison.
Continue reading...

Kansas: 2008-09 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 37-3, 13-3 (1st Big XII, NCAA Champs)

Key Losses: Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson

Key Returnees: Sherron Collins (9.3 ppg, 3.0 apg), Cole Aldrich (2.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

Newcomers: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrone Appleton, Mario Little, Quintrell Thomas

I know what you're thinking: how can a team lose six of their top seven players (with five of those guys getting drafted) and still be good enough to reach the NCAA tournament. Look what happened to UConn after the 2005-06 season, when they lost their top six. Kansas, however, may be a little better off than that UConn team. They return Sherron Collins, who has battled injuries and weight issues during his career at Kansas, but is a bulldog of a point guard. He can put up points is a hurry, and as long as he protects the ball he is very effective.

They also return Cole Aldrich. The Mickey D's all-american did not get a lot of playing time as a freshman (only about 8 mpg) because he was playing behind three NBA draft picks, but was productive in his limited action (12 points and 15 boards per 40 minutes). He had a coming out party against UNC in the Final Four (only 8 points and 7 boards, 4 offensive) but if you saw that game and saw the way he took over that game for about four minutes, you know this kid is going to be good.

Bill Self earned his $30 million contract recruiting this year as he landed the #2 class, according to Rivals. The prize of the class was signing Marcus and Markieff Morris, 6'10" twins from New Jersey that, when combined with Aldrich, will give Kansas a very good front court. Self also landed PG Tyrone Appleton and wing Mario Little, the top two JuCo recruits in the country. When you add those four to top 150 recruits Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor, and Quintrell Thomas, Kansas has a roster loaded with young talent.

Yesterday, the news broke that not only are both of the Morris twins still not academically eligible for the season, but Markieff was arrested for (possibly) underage drinking and shooting a BB gun out his window and hitting a woman in the arm. Kansas's Big XII hopes will take a big blow if one or both of the twins are unavailable.

Outlook: Although I've always believed experience is a bit overrated, in this case it is not. Kansas will have one player in their rotation that has played more than 8 mpg in a season, and only two that aren't freshman. If Sherron Collins can shoulder the leadership role, the Morris twins get eligible, and all of the freshman can grow up quickly, Kansas should be a tournament team and in the conversation for the Big XII. If not, it will be a long year in Lawrence.
Continue reading...

8/20 - Some Links, Some News

-Bill Self was rewarded with a 10 year, $30 million contract after bringing a national title to Kansas. Tom Crean was rewarded with a 10 year, $23.6 million contract after, well, bringing a clean image to Indiana? I'm not really sure what Indiana is doing adding those two extra years. Maybe, given the fact that they lost every single talented basketball player off of their team from last year, and will be led into the Crean era by Kyle Taber, the school wanted to give Crean some extra time to earn his $685,000 national championship bonus. One thing the school did change was make it much more strict in terms of recruiting violations - apparently IU can fire Crean for the slightest infraction. Side Note: Crean hired former Duke star Roshown McLeod as an assistant.

-Bad news for Mike Cook and Pitt, but good news for the rest of the Big East - the NCAA denied his request for a medical redshirt after a knee injury cut his senior season short. In order to be eligible for a redshirt, you must play in less than 30% of your team's games. Cook played in 11 of 32, or 34%.

-Ty Lawson has plead guilty to underage drinking and driving. Lawson will be sentenced to 26 hours of community service.

-Gary Parrish with an interesting piece on Oregon State coach Craig Robinson and his brother-in-law, Barack Obama.

-6'9" junior-to-be Alex Stephenson has decided that he will transfer to USC which is close to his North Hollywood home. Stephenson averaged 4.3 ppg and 4.5 rpg for UNC last season, but with Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson returning, and UNC bringing in two Mickey D's freshman in the front court, Stephenson's playing time will be severely reduced.

-Lars Mikalauskas, the 6'8" Lithuanian center, has been dismissed from the Virginia basketball team by Dave Leitao. Neither will comment of the cause of the dismissal, but Leitao and Mikalauskas have had flare-ups in the past, including the coach suspending the player for an exhibition game. 6'11" Tunji Soroye will, however, return for another season.

-After Xavier landed Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford, further crowding their back court, guard Adrion Graves has asked for a release so he could pursue playing somewhere else. Graves averaged just 1.9 ppg in 34 games for the Musketeers.

-South Alabama guard Dominic Tilford, the only one of the Jaguars three talented guards returning from last year's 26-7 team, has been suspended indefinitely from the team following a cocaine possession charge he received last week in Louisville.

-Markieff Morris, an incoming freshman at the University of Kansas, has been arrested for underage drinking and, get this, shooting a BB gun out his window and hitting a woman in the arm. What a moron. I guess it probably isn't a surprise he and his twin brother (also a Kansas recruit) are still not eligible for this season.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Drake: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 28-5, 15-3 (1st MVC)

Key Losses: Adam Emmenecker (8.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.8 apg, MVC POY), Leonard Houston (14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Klayton Korver (10.4 ppg, 84 3's), Keno Davis (coach)

Key Returnees: Josh Young (15.9 ppg, 43% 3's, 86 3's), Jonathan Cox (12.3 ppg, 8.5 ppg)

Newcomers: Sean Jones, Craig Stanley, Brett Spiker, Adam Templeton, Mark Phelps (coach)

Drake had their best season in recent memory last year, but they are going to have to replace a lot, including head coach Keno Davis, who left for the bright lights of Providence one year after taking over for his father. The Bulldogs bring in former Arizona State assistant Mark Phelps to take over. The Bulldogs are also going to have a lot of talent to replace. PG and MVC player of the year Adam Emmenecker, their most valuable player despite not putting up big numbers, Leonard Houston, and Klayton Korver all graduated, meaning that Drake will have to replace three starters who each logged over 30 mpg.

They do have some talent returning. Josh Young, who was the MVC's leading scorer at 15.9 ppg, is an explosive 6'1" shooter (86 3's, 43%), who can get hot and put up points in a hurry. Young is one of the up-and-coming stars in college basketball, and could be an all-american if he can continue to improve. Jonathan Cox also returns. He was Drake's only best front court player last season. Cox is the typical MVC big man - 6'8", scrappy rebounder, decent post moves and a great jump shot. Cox improved a lot as the season went on, and he played his best basketball towards the end of the season. He averaged 14 ppg and 8.7 rpg in the MVC tourney, and then exploded for career-highs of 29 and 16 in Drake's first-round loss to Western Kentucky.

Drake is going to need big seasons out of those two if they hope to come close to the success they had last season. Jacob Baryenbruch (who started five games last year when Young was injured), John Michael Hall, and Brent Heemskerk, all seniors, also return for the Bulldogs, although Heemskerk led the trio, averaging only 18 mpg. Drake does bring in some talent this year. Craig Stanley is a talented JuCo transfer who could compete for time at the point and Sean Jones is a 6'11" center who was fairly highly recruited, but may be a year or two away from really contributing. Two transfers will also become eligible. Adam Templeton should fit right into Drake's team, as he averaged 8.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 59 3's in two years starting at UC Irvine. Brett Spiker, transferring in from Peru State, will also become eligible.

Outlook: Drake does have a lot of talent on this roster, and should be a favorite along with Creighton and ISU to win the MVC. But their season will hinge on how well these players can adjust to whatever system Phelps' brings in. Drake was successful last year because of the unique zone defense they played, and the semi-Princeton/three-point heavy offense they ran.
Continue reading...

Wednesday 'Where Are They Now?' Side Note

Doing these Where Are They Now? posts are incredibly interesting to me. Just take, for example, the Trajan Langdon post. His first year overseas, 2002-03, when he played for Benneton Treviso, he was teamed up with these notable names: Tyus Edney, Jorge Garbajosa, Danta Calabria, Charles O'Bannon, and Jon Larranaga (George Mason coach Jim Larranaga's son). It is a small world. Continue reading...

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Trajan Langdon

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Trajan Langdon, Duke

Trajan Langdon was another one of those Duke guys you love to hate. Coming out of Alaska, where he was three-time state player of the year, Langdon was not only a Mickey D's all-american headed to Duke and named high school student-athlete of the year, but he was also a sixth round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1994 (he even played minor league baseball for three summers during college, making it as high as low A ball).

Langdon went on the have a fantastic career for Duke. He became only the fourth freshman (at the time) to average double figures under Coach K, putting up 11.3 ppg. Langdon started to develop a reputation as a cold-blooded shooter (hence the moniker the Alaskan Assassin) during his freshman campaign, as he would have his best games during Duke's biggest games, including a 23 point, 6 three-pointer outburst in the final regular season contest at UNC. He had to redshirt the 1995-1996 season due to lingering knee and ankle problems, but came back with a vengeance to average nearly identical numbers the next two years (14 ppg, 2.5 3's per) while taking home first-team ACC honors both seasons. 

Langdon's senior season was his best. His was named first team all-america after averaging 17.3 ppg and 3.3 3's per while shooting 44% from deep. He would carry Duke all the way to the Finals, and despite his two miscues costing Duke the title, Langdon was selected by the Cavs with the 11th pick in the 1999 draft. He never could find the success in the league that he had in college because, despite being a terrific shooter, he couldn't create his own shot and had the defensive ability of a barcalounger. He hung around for three seasons (his rookie contract), but never averaged more than 6.0 ppg.

Langdon did, however, find success playing overseas, where he continued his winning ways. Langdon bounced around Europe for a while. His first stop was with Benetton Treviso in 2002-03, where he averaged 15.9 ppg in Italian League play, winning the Italian League title, and then 14.8 ppg in Euroleague play. The next season he spent in Turkey with Efes Pilsen, where he led them to a TBL title and went on the average 14.6 ppg in the Euroleague. The following summer, he got a tryout with the Clippers, but feeling like he wasn't given a chance, Langdon headed back to Europe, where he signed with Dynamo Moscow. There, his team failed to qualify for the Euroleague, but they did reach the ULEB, where Langdon averaged 14.4 ppg.

During the 2005-06 season, Langdon decided to head across town to play for Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow (a team whose biggest supporter is none other than Vladmir Putin). Langdon has been with CSKA since, and recently signed a contract that will keep him there through at least 2009-10. CSKA would win three Russian championships over the next three years, as well as two Euroleague titles ('06 and most recently '08, and they lost in the '07 finals). He was named to the all-Euroleague second team in 2005-06, was a first-team selection in 2006-07 and 2007-08, and won Finals MVP in CSKA's championship run last season. Next year, he will team up with Terrence Morris from Maryland, Erazom Lorbek from Michigan State, and JR Holden from Bucknell (Side Note: Holden actually pulled a Becky Hammon and is currently on the Russian national team).
Continue reading...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Myles Brand, the $935,000 man

A lot of you out there might not know who Myles Brand is. Well, he is the President of the NCAA, which means he is the President, and public face, of college athletics. I've have argued many times on this blog that college athletes, especially those in revenue generating sports like basketball and football (which basically provide athletic departments with their budgets) should be compensated with more than just a scholarship, and I am about to do that again.

The reason I bring this back up is that last week, the NCAA released its annual financial disclosure forms for the 2007 year, an IRS requirement for tax-exempt organizations such as the NCAA (they are tax-exempt because they "keep sports as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body"). In this document, they announce the salaries of some of the top NCAA officials. Nine make more than $275,000 a year, topped by Brand's $935,000, which is more than the president of any school that is an NCAA member and a 4% raise from 2006.

With our economy in the crapper, Fannie and Freddie following Bear's lead, job's flowing abroad, and the student-athlete continually taken advantage of, it only makes sense to give the guy who is best known for not implementing a BCS playoff a raise, right?

The NCAA, which lists 434 employees and $608 million in revenue (I am not sure how they get this number, because CBS pays around $545 million a year for the NCAA tournament), also paid just under $1 million for charter air travel and $18.6 million in attorney fees and a fund for former athletes after they were sued because some former athletes did not receive the full cost of their education. So clearly, the NCAA does not have a cash flow problem.

But the NCAA's exploitation of collegiate athletes is getting worse. CBS Sports now offers a fantasy football game with individual players names. In past years, Yahoo and the Sporting News have offered a type of fantasy game - Yahoo's game involved picking winners of top 25 games, where as at the Sporting News you picked team positions (i.e. Notre Dame's running backs). But this is the first time that a site has been able to use the names of the players, which I'm sure CBS paid a pretty penny for. So not only are these players having money made off of their jersey sales (I know the names aren't on the jerseys, but if you've bought a #50 UNC jersey in the last three years, I'll bet you're not getting it because Brian Bersticker wore it), the ticket sales to their games, and revenue from televised games, there is now money being made off of their names?

In the past, I've said that athletes should receive a small stipend just so that they have a little bit of spending money in their pockets (well, legitimate spending money anyway), and in theory that could work if regulated correctly. But in reality it would be very difficult, mainly because athletic departments, for the most part, run at a deficit as it is. So paying players is not really all that practical, and imagine what would happen if agents and boosters were actually allowed to spend time together. You think it is corrupt now?

I know all of the arguments against paying players - they are receiving a scholarship (which can reach six figures at many schools), they are amateurs, they already get paid by boosters (kidding, sort of), etc. But the best argument, and the one that has me leaning in this direction right now, is that playing a sport in college is actually a choice you make. In most sports, there are options. Brandon Jennings went to Italy to get around an age limit. Mike Sellers went to Canada. Baseball players can go pro straight from high school.

But it still is not fair to profit off of these athletes without them seeing a cut. So instead of just flat out paying the players, why not set up a retirement fund (401k, IRA, something like that) which would allow these players to access at least a piece of the money being made off of their likeness, given that they complete their degree? The fund can be supplied by the NCAA, the venues that host the NCAA tournament games, the people that advertise at and during sporting events, and the merchandisers and websites that use the players to make money, be it fantasy sports or jerseys sales.

This not only allows the players to (eventually) see some of that money, but it creates a strong incentive for them to actually graduate. And the only people that get affected negatively? The people already making all the money.
Continue reading...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Illinois State: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 25-10, 13-5 MVC (2nd)

Key Losses: Anthony Slack (9.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Dom Johnson (8.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg), Boo Richardson (6.9 ppg, 3.8 apg)

Key Returnees: Osiris Eldridge (15.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Dinma Odiakosa (6.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Lloyd Phillips, Keyon Smith, Champ Oguchi, Landon Shipley, Bobby Hill, Ty Modupe, Jeremy Robinson, Kellen Thornton

Although Illinois State returns MVC player of the year runner-up Osiris Eldridge, they still lose a lot of talent from a team that was one of the last few out of last year's NCAA tournament - four of their top six players from last season graduated. But the Redbirds also bring in a deep and talented class of recruits. The class is headed by two guards, Lloyd Phillips and Keyon Smith. Phillips is a scoring guard out of Western Community College and Keyon Smith is a quick PG who led Chicago's Simeon High School (Derrick Rose anyone?) to three consecutive state finals, winning two of them. Combine those two with returner Emmanuel Holloway and transfers Landon Shipley (Austin Peay) and Champ Oguchi (Oregon), and ISU's back court, although a bit inexperienced, is pretty talented.

As I said before, the Redbirds also get Eldridge back for at least one more year. Eldridge is the most talented player in the conference. He can really do it all. A 6'3" athletic slasher, Eldridge can get to the rim just as well as he can shoot it from deep (84 3's, 39%). He is also a good defender and a solid playmaker. Eldridge should win POY in the MVC, and has a shot to make an all-american team as well.

ISU's bigger issues will come in the front court, where they lose a lot of height. They do get back Dinma Odiakosa and Brandon Sampay (once he returns from hip surgery), but neither of them are really a shot blocking of defensive presence. Getting Bobby Hill back will help. Hill, if you remember, was on the Redbirds roster (and started eight games) in the 2006-07 season and due to personal issues he spent a year a a community college, but is now transferring back in. The 6'6" Hill plays bigger than his size, but is also mobile enough to defend on the perimeter. Look for a big year out of him.

Outlook: Illinois State brings in a talented group to put around Eldridge, but inexperience could hurt this team. Based on talent alone, they are probably one the favorites to win the league.
Continue reading...

Team USA is Saving American Basketball

There is a reason that I don't watch or write about the NBA and stick to the college game. I think NBA players are spoiled, I hate watching a bunch of guys who are so supremely talented and athletically gifted walk through an 82 game season, and I despise watching a sport that has become so much about money and business as opposed to the actual game itself.

But watching this olympic team play has made me question my hatred of NBA players.

Don't get me wrong. I highly doubt that the Beijing games are going to inspire Zack Randolph to play defense or make Shawn Marion realize he was a moron for bitching his way out of Phoenix, but it really has been a great experience for me to watch this USA team play. They play hard, they play scrappy, they actually play defense. Take D-Wade as an example. He is a guy who is just two seasons removed from an NBA championship and Finals MVP trophy. But in these olympics, Wade has completely bought into his role as Team USA's hustle guy. He is everywhere - causing havoc on defense, making plays in the open floor, getting offensive rebounds. Remember, we're talking about a 26 year old that is already a four time all-star and three time all-NBA selection.

For me, there really is nothing more enjoyable then to watch basketball played the right way, and it only gets better when the players involved are the absolute best in the world. And the American demolition of the Spaniards yesterday was exactly that. Two plays stand out in my mind from these olympics. The first was when an american player got beat baseline against Greece, and LeBron James came from help side (he was outside of the lane on the other side of the court) and blocked a lay-up, got the ball back, and pushed the ball up the floor leading to a picture perfect fast break and a bucket. The other was Dwayne Wade deflecting a pass in transition, chasing the ball down before it goes out of bounds on the sideline, and in one motion grabbing the ball as his momentum is carrying him out of bounds and throwing a beautiful alley-oop to Kobe for a dunk. Both plays took incredible athleticism and ability, but were also textbook fundamentally. If you don't enjoy watching that, then you are not a basketball fan.

Before these Olympics, I was afraid that American basketball and American players had gotten to the point where we were no longer the best in the world, that too many And 1 mixtapes and too much summer and AAU basketball had killed the skills of our best players. I really hope that guys like Lance Stephenson and John Wall are watching these games, and that they are taking in what they are seeing, because if our country's young talent can emulate the way this team is playing instead of the way Eddy Curry does, then I don't see our country coming home decorated in anything less than gold for a long time to come.
Continue reading...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Creighton: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 22-11, 10-8 MVC (4th)

Key Losses: Dane Watts (11.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Nick Bahe (5.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, starter)

Key Returnees: P'Allen Stinnett (12.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg), Cavel Witter (9.1 ppg, 2.5 apg), Josh Dotzler (3.6 apg, 2:1 a/to)

Newcomers: Josh Jones, Antoine Young, Justin Carter

Creighton is your typical MVC team - a lot of guards, a lot of shooters, and a deep rotation (the Bluejays actually had 12 guys average between 7 and 25 minutes a game). Their going to be led by 6'3" scoring guard P'Allen Stinnett, who led the team in scoring as a freshman despite only being in the starting lineup half of the year. Cavel Witter and Booker Woodfox, two guards that also come off the bench (both averaged 9 ppg in about 18 mpg), will also see a lot of time and be counted on for a lot of scoring. PG Josh Doltzer doesn't put up big numbers (he only averaged 3.4 ppg and amazingly made just three 3's and grabbed three offensive rebounds ALL SEASON in 703 minutes), but he is the anchor for this back court and this team. Think Adam Emmenecker.

Creighton was not a very big team last year, and after losing forward Dane Watts, their best front court player, to graduation, they will continue to be small inside. Creighton makes up for the lack of size through versatile players, who, for the most part, can all shoot. They do have Kenny Lawson Jr., a 6'9" bruiser who had to red shirt his freshman year due to tendinitis. Now that he is healthy, look for the rising sophomore to be a force in the paint.

UPDATE: Thanks to Blue Jays basketball for pointing out something I missed. The Jays signed JuCo transfer Justin Carter out of Fullerton CC in California. Carter is a 6'5" slasher that can score (although he is not a great shooter), defend, and rebound. According the WildJays at the Blue Jays blog, Carter should be the early season favorite for MVC newcomer of the year.

Outlook: The Bluejays, along with Illinois State, are probably the pre-season favorites to win the MVC with Drake and Southern Illinois losing a lot of important players. Although Creighton brings in a fairly weak recruiting class (according to, they only have guards signed to an LOI), they bring back enough talent where they should end the season atop the hyper-competitive MVC.
Continue reading...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Clemson: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 24-10, 10-6 ACC (3rd)

Key Losses: Cliff Hammonds (11.4 ppg, 4.1 apg), James Mays (10.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Sam Perry

Key Returnees: KC Rivers (14.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Trevor Booker (10.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Terrence Oglesby (10.5 ppg, 2.5 3's, 40% 3 PT)

Newcomers: Catalin Baciu, Brian Narcisse, Tanner Smith, Andre Young

Oliver Purnell has done a great job turning this Clemson program around, earning the team's first NCAA tournament bid since 1998 last season. The way Clemson has won the past two years is through an aggressive pressure defense, and so much of that keyed on the defensive ability of the three seniors, James Mays, Cliff Hammonds, and Sam Perry. Mays might have been the most important. He was a great athlete - 6'9", long arms, mobile - and thus was the point man on Clemson's trapping press, using his length and athleticism would wreak havoc on opposing back courts. Hammonds and Perry were also great defenders, especially on the ball, and usually were matched up with the opposing teams best players. That defense and toughness could be hard to replace and duplicate.

The Tigers do bring back a lot of talent, however. KC Rivers, a strong, 6'5" guard that led Clemson in scoring a year ago, decided to withdraw his name from the draft and return for his senior season. Sharpshooting back court mate Terrence Oglesby, who hit a ridiculous 2.5 3's per in only 18 mpg, will be a sophomore as will PG Demontez Stitt. Look for a big year out of Stitt. As a freshman, the 6'1" Stitt started the first 20 games of the year before under going minor knee surgery (he only missed two games) but still managed to average 8.8 ppg and 3.0 apg (playing alongside Hammonds and Rivers, no easy task). Two freshman, Tanner Smith and Andre Young, should also be able to contribute immediately.

Clemson's front court looks pretty good as well. Trevor Booker, a 6'7" bruiser, and Raymond Sykes, a 6'9" jumping bean, both return. After those two, the front line is talented but inexperienced. Junior David Potter looks like he may be able to slide in Perry's role, and sophomore Jerai Grant, a 6'8" athlete in the same mold as Mays, looks primed for a big year off the bench. Freshman Catalin Baciu, a 7'2" center that averaged 7.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg for the Romanian national team and was a consensus top 100 recruit out of Asheville, NC, could also provide some solid minutes if Clemson decides to slow the tempo (that's a big if though).

Outlook: With Miami and Wake Forest both improving, a third place finish in the ACC may be a bit of a stretch for this Clemson team, but don't be surprised if Clemson knocks off some people and makes some noise in the post season. If Sykes and Grant can provide the same kind of tenacious defense that Mays did last season, then the Tigers have a chance to be pretty good.
Continue reading...

8/14 - Some Links, Some News

-We've been talking a lot recently (here, here, and here) about the trend of universities renting hiring the AAU coach, or in some cases the father, of a big time recruit in order to get him to attend the school. These schools can only hope that it works out as well for them as it did for Kansas. The Jayhawks hired Mario Chalmers fathers, Ronnie Chalmers, in order to land the PG. Well, they did, and he ended up hitting maybe the biggest shot in KU basketball history en route to a national title. But now that Mario has moved on to the Miami Heat, Ronnie has resigned as director of basketball operations.

I don't know about anyone else, but I refuse to believe that hiring the parent or AAU coach of an athlete in order to get them to attend the school is ethical. I guess Ronnie Chalmers was somewhat qualified (he was a high school coach), but to me, this trend is just all sorts of wrong. It is how Memphis landed DaJuan Wagner (Milt Wagner, father), how Kansas State landed Michael Beasley (Dalonte Hill, coach), and now it looks like it is how Baylor will may land John Wall.

-More Jayhawk news. Remember during the draft, when there were reports that Darrel Arthur's grades were tampered with during high school? Well, Arthur and the South Oak Cliff School District have both been cleared of any wrong doing by the Superintendant's Office of Personal Responsibility.

-I've never actually seen film of Pistol playing before, but after watching this video, I'm convinced that he would have killed it on the And 1 mixtape tour.

-Coach K is a pretty surly dude. Check out his reaction to a reporters question about whether the US team dunking so much against China was showing off?
"There was no showing off," he said with an edge in his voice. "You dunk when you have to dunk. They have 7-footers. If you don’t take it hard, Yao would block it. He did block one. … I don’t know your definition of showing off, to me that’s hard basketball. I thought we played very hard. I thought we took it to the basket hard. Don’t confuse hard with showing off."

He then glared at the person who asked the question, a reporter with an accent. And he said: "Maybe it’s a difference in our languages. Maybe in your language playing hard means showing off."
It wasn't even that bad of a question.

-You guys remember Todd Bozeman? He's the old coach of Cal that was suspended for 8 years because of recruiting violations(admitting to paying a recruits parents $30,000). I have no idea if this is real (I'm assuming that it is) but Bozeman now has a blog. He's now the coach at Morgan State. And although his blog is pretty boring, I don't know if I've heard of another coach or player as notable as he is starting a blog on their on accord (he's on blogger as well).

-You want to know if you are can be a D1 coach? Take the test right here.

-In other coaching news, it looks like Jim Calhoun has beaten cancer for the third time and skin cancer for the second time. It sounds like he will be back at full strength.

-A couple of great reads. Gary Parrish writes about Milton Jennings, a top 10 recruit committed to Clemson who grew up with a very tough childhood but turned his life around and is now a great student as well. Dana O'Neil (I know, I know, I link to just about all of her columns) wrote a great piece on IUPUI's trip to Peru to give shoes to the poor.

-Some last tidbits. The field for the Jimmy V Classic has been announced: West Virginia will play Davidson, and Texas will take on Villanova. Keon Lawrence, a guard who averaged 11 ppg as a sophomore last year at Missouri, has announced that he is transferring to Seton Hall. He will be applying for an NCAA hardship ruling (two members of his immediate family are ill and he wants to play close to them) which, if granted, will mean he does not have to sit out the required one year for transferring. Chace Stanback, who played last season at UCLA, has decided to transfer to UNLV. Continue reading...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NCAA Olympic Team

I realize that I am completely ripping this idea off from Storming The Floor, but I've always loved drafts and making fantasy teams. The idea here is that we pretend that it is 20 years ago and that NBA players are not allowed to play in the Olympics, meaning that our national team is to be made up of strictly college players. A couple of ground rules - they must be players that were on a 2007-2008 roster (so sorry Demar Derozan and BJ Mullens, maybe in 2012) and no one that was drafted can make it because, well, they are professionals now. And it would ruin the fun.

Before I get into the team, I want to lay a few things out there. First of all, in this scenario, the US team is going to be lacking some size inside (actually sounds like the current Olympic team) because most of the big centers are either foreign or, well, in the NBA already. I also picked the team with a preference to the style of play I like to watch and that I think would be most effective.

So without further ado, here is my hypothetical 2008 US Olympic Team.

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Assistants: Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams, Ben Howland

I don't think much argument can be made that Coach K isn't the best coach out there right now, especially considering he is currently the national team's coach. I put Calhoun and Williams on there because both of them preach pressure defense (more Calhoun) and fast break offense (more Williams). I think Howland has got to be on there. He is the only coach that I even considered over Coach K (I like a more uptempo style of play then Howland teaches), and having a defensive mastermind like that can only help. You have to throw Boeheim on there because of the likelihood you face a zone, and who better to teach a team how to beat a zone.

Starting Line-up:

G: Darren Collison, UCLA
G: Stephen Curry, Davidson
F: Gerald Henderson, Duke
F: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
C: Tyler Hansbrough, UNC


G: Ty Lawson, UNC
G: AJ Price, UConn
G: Jerel McNeal, Marquette
G: Jack McClinton, Miami
G: Nick Calathes, Florida
F: Terrence Williams, Louisville
F: Raymarr Morgan, Michigan State
F: Kyle Singler, Duke
F: Patrick Patterson, Kentucky
C: Jordan Hill, Arizona

Last cuts:

G: Levance Fields, Pitt
G: Chase Budinger, Arizona
G: Lee Cummard, BYU
G: Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame (replaces AJ Price if we're counting injuries)
F: Damion James, Texas
F: Sam Young, Pitt
F: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

I'll take you through my thought process. With the lack of size inside (tallest is about 6'9"), I figured that in order to be successful, I would need to put together a team of guys that were athletic, play-makers, could shoot threes, and were able defend. So a lot of guys (like McNeal, Henderson, Calathes) that don't really get a lot of publicity or notoriety got a shot because they do a lot of different things.

The biggest issue I saw with the team was defense. There really isn't any shot-blocking presence on this roster (except maybe Jordan Hill), so I was looking for guys that played in programs that were known for their defense. Without someone an eraser at the rim to save you, this team is going to be good on the ball and help-side defenders. When I envision this team competing at the international level, I see them playing tough man-to-man in the half court, and (with the right guys of the floor) using some pressing and trapping defenses in the full court.

Other than Griffin and Hansbrough, there really isn't anyone on this team that can create their own shot in the post (and even those two get by more on strength and/or athleticism than they do their post moves). So I tried to put guys out there that know how to run the floor on a fast break, and guys that not only could create, but could also finish, be it at the rim or the three point line.

The style I see this team playing is that of Duke's team last year, kind of similar to what UConn does (pressure defense for 40 minutes, running the floor on offense), only with more fluidity on offense and less reliance on the blocked shot.

I think I've assembled a pretty good team here, but let me know if I've missed or overlooked anyone. Keep an eye out for a post from Ross giving you his NCAA Olympic team.
Continue reading...

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Ed O'Bannon

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Ed O'Bannon, UCLA

Ed O'Bannon was a big time recruit, graduating from Artesia High School in Southern California as a McDonald's all-american. He originally committed to UNLV, but once the program came under probation as a result of Jerry Tarkanian's NCAA violations, he decided to attend UCLA. He joined the Bruins with huge expectations, but had to redshirt during the 1990-91 season after undergoing knee surgery for a torn acl. He came back the next year, but only averaged 12 minutes and thus put up mediocre numbers. The Bruins had a great season, however, going 28-5, winning the Pac-10, and advancing to the Elite 8.

But he exploded during his sophomore year and never looked back, averaging 16.7 ppg and 7.0 rpg, improving those numbers to 18.4 ppg and 8.8 rpg his junior campaign. The Bruins did not experience the same team success during those two years, getting knocked out in the second and first rounds, respectively. His senior year was his best, when he averaged 20.4 ppg and 8.3 rpg, as UCLA went 32-1 en route to a Pac-10 title, number 1 seed, and national title, UCLA's first since the days of John Wooden. O'Bannon was not only named most outstanding player in the Final Four (which included a 30 point and 17 rebound performance in the finals), but he was named NCAA Player of the year by multiple sources, including winning the Wooden Award.

O'Bannon slid to the ninth pick in the draft, mainly because of concerns over his knee, his size, and the fact that he was 23 years old when he graduated. Those concerns would prove to be warranted. O'Bannon's surgically reconstructed knee meant that he no longer had the athleticism to be a small forward at the NBA level, and he was too small and slender to be an NBA power forward, which means he was stuck with the dreaded "tweener" label. He hung around the league for two years, averaging 6.2 ppg and 4.2 rpg for the Nets in 1995-96 and 3.7 ppg and 2.3 rpg in 1996-97 for the Nets and the Mavs. During that season, O'Bannon was traded to the Magic, who promptly waived him.

Over the next seven years, O'Bannon bounced around the lesser international leagues. He played in Spain, Italy, Greece, Argentina, and Poland, where he once had to leave the court as the teams were pelted with snowballs. In 2002, at the age of 30 and coming off another knee surgery, O'Bannon decided to retire. He was trying out in Portland for a new league in China when he realized that no one there knew who he was.

O'Bannon moved with his wife and three kids to Las Vegas, where he completed his degree at UNLV and now sells cars for a living. As he told Bill Plaschke of the LA Times, "I always wanted to make a living as something other than a basketball player. I wanted my life to go into another direction. People see me and remember me, and I’m proud to tell them — ‘No, I don’t play. No, I don’t coach. Yes, I sell cars.'"
Continue reading...