Tag Archives: ncaa basketball

Dean Smith: His Final Gesture to his Players

By Kaleb Page

March 30, 2015

In February, basketball lost a legend. A legend, who revolutionized the game in many ways, would never be able to grace the game with his knowledge and class again.

The legend I speak of is Dean Smith. The North Carolina Tar Heels basketball coach died at age 83 and left behind a tremendous legacy and coaching tree.

One of the things that was mentioned extensively following coach Smith’s passing was how his class and caring nature for his players was unmatched. The respect he got from everyone in the game can be shown as everyone he came in contact with refers to him simply as coach Smith.

For all that the players that came through and touched coach Smith along the way, he had one last way to show he thought of all of them.

Today (Thursday, March 26) a picture was posted by one of Smith’s former players showing a letter with a check attached to it. The letter was received by 180 former players and the check was for $200 ($36,000 total).

The letter explained that in Smith’s will once he made his will he made a trust that would give all of his past letter winners $200 to, as he put it, ‘enjoy dinner out.’

Since this story is still fresh it will probably be a bit before a lot is said further on this topic. I think the media did a great job with chronicling what a great person Smith was outside of basketball when he died in February. I think that a lot of times we forget that these prolific coaches are people just like you and I, and can do great things aside from winning games.

Dean Smith proves once again why good coaching is much more than just what you do in your time between the lines. It is about investing time in making those you are leading better people. I think coach Smith accomplished that many times over with the many players and coaches he came around. Whether it was MJ, James Worthy or even UNC coach Roy Williams, Smith made them better people.

Not many people in the coaching profession can say that.

Even though he is gone, I am sure coach smith is looking down on all those he affected and will continue to be affecting them in some way. A good coach never forgets his players.

Today further illustrated that point and further show the type of person Smith was to leave that behind for his players.

So to those 180 players there’s one final order from Coach Smith: ‘enjoy your dinner out.’

Kentucky Wildcats: Making and Vanquishing History

By Brandon Busuttil

March 26, 2015

This years Kentucky men’s basketball team has been nothing short of a spectacle. The last time a team went undefeated (winning the NCAA tournament) wasn’t since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers team. It seemed back then, having an undefeated team was a lot more common with UCLA doing it in the 1963-64 season, 1966-67 season, 1971-72 season and UCLA’s undefeated streak lasted all the way through the 1972-73 season and didn’t end until January 19, 1974, when Notre Dame beat them to break their 88 game winning streak. Since that time only one team in the past 10 years has managed to have just a perfect season (undefeated regular season). We witnessed that last year when Wichita State had a perfect season, and lost to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

The big question is, can Kentucky go all the way? Can they be undefeated? A lot of individuals’ brackets would say: YES. But remember, this is the NCAA tournament and we all know that in the NCAA tournament anything can happen. This was already displayed in the 2nd round of play when Georgia State took down a #3 Baylor, and UAB also took down a #3 seed, Iowa State. With Kentucky getting set to play West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen it made me take a look back in time. In 2010, Kentucky and West Virginia met in the Elite Eight. Kentucky seeded #1 and West Virginia seeded #2. This was the year when Kentucky had John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, and Demarcus Cousins. West Virginia beat them with players no one can even remember. Proving that anything can happen. Could this years West Virginia team repeat history? Personally, I don’t think so. But again, this is March Madness.

If Kentucky are to get past West Virginia they could face Wichita State. A team that has proven time and time again, they can hang with the big boys. Last year Kentucky beat Wichita State ending WSU’s undefeated season. If these two teams were to meet, I would highly expect Wichita State to try to do the same to Kentucky as Kentucky did to them. After Wichita State put a beating on a Kansas team, that has been avoiding playing them for a few years now, Wichita State is a scary team to play.

For this Kentucky team, it is not only about making history, but they will have to overcome history to have a chance at winning the NCAA championship and becoming the first undefeated team since 1976.

Krzyzewski Toes the Hot Water

By Kaleb Page

March 5, 2015

Scandals or being in ‘hot water’ so to speak, is nothing new in the world of sports. However, it can come as a surprise when it happens to a player, coach or institution you would believe to be of a higher standard.

A scandal on the horizon, could send major shock waves across not only basketball but the sports world.

Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the most recognized college basketball or even basketball coach in the world. It is much deserved with the great job he has done coaching the U.S. National team and eclipsing the 1,000 win mark in Division I men’s basketball. Another thing that has Krzyzewski in such high regard is they way he molds young men.

Known for getting players to buy in to the system, grow as individuals and ultimately leave as better individuals; Krzyzewski’s image is one that has grown into something nearly untouchable.

This leaves an important question to be asked. Is really anybody immune to having their image or legacy tarnished? We have seen it with coaches before like Joe Paterno, Bobby Petrino, etc., that there is nobody in the sports world (or even real world) that can be immune from a let down or even a moment that tarnishes an image.

Recently Duke dismissed senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon because he was “unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program.” A surprising statement made since Krzyzewski has never before dismissed a player or said such a comment.

That happened on Jan. 29, 2015, but just this week there has been rumblings of a bigger story with the dismissal of Sulaimon. The Chronicle, which is Duke’s student newspaper, reported on Monday that two women alleged during separate student retreats in the 2013-14 school year; Sulaimon sexually assaulted them. The story goes on to say that the claims were brought to Duke’s coaching staff and athletic administration attention on March of 2014. Even though those claims were brought there, there was no official police documents filed by the alleged victims.

This story is still gaining its legs but if this grows and the claims are true, what implications could there be for Krzyzewski, the staff and administration? To know these claims were out there and to essentially pass them over would be a huge dark cloud over the Duke basketball program.

Hopefully either way the truth of the matter is found.

However for me this would be sad if another coach that I respect like Krzyzewski hid something important.

Only time will tell, but as they say this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Kevin Stallings Has Some Nerve Talking About Sportsmanship

By Ellen Chlumecky

March 2, 2015

There have been some great coaches in the history of sports. Coaches like Mike Ditka, Herb Brooks, Pat Riley, Pat Summit, and Vince Lombardi, made history by being dedicated, courageous, and obviously very tough. I’m sure that one of them has given their share of screaming matches with their players; however they probably weren’t broadcasted on television. I don’t think Kevin Stallings will be making the top 10 coaches of all-time list in the near future. This incident might be the reason why:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12390679&ex_cid=sportscenterTW

As you can very clearly hear in the video, Stallings says to Wade Baldwin, “I’ll kill you.” The reasoning behind his screaming was because he heard that Baldwin was clapping in Tennessee players’ faces after the final buzzer sounded. After Stallings heard of this poor sportsmanship, Stallings confronted Baldwin during postgame handshakes and demanded that he apologize. Baldwin appeared to ignore the Vanderbilt coach. This resulted in Stallings’ outburst.

While Stallings apologized for his comments in a release by the university, does it really make it acceptable? While he did mention that it was his haste to resolve the situation the spurred the inappropriate reaction, it doesn’t exactly make it acceptable. While everyone has their flaws, a statement of that nature should never be uttered by a coach to one of their athletes or one of their students.

Stallings said that Baldwin has “got some things to learn, some growing up to do if he’s going to play in this program.” Isn’t that a little ironic? It seems as if Stallings might want to join Baldwin in that little “growing up” process he’s supposed to be participating in. While he’s apologized to the student, you never know what Baldwin is thinking either. While he tweeted that he wasn’t offended or took not offense, do we know for sure if he’s nervous or scared about what Stallings said to him?

At the end of the day, the coach is someone who is supposed to be a role model and someone the athletes are not supposed to be scared of to come to with problems or concerns. Most of the time, they’re their first line of contact whenever something is happening in their life. Would you feel safe reporting to a coach that has once threatened to harm you? It’s hard to understand why someone would feel so comfortable screaming such obscenities on the court in front of fans, families, other fellow athletes, and students. There is a fine line between being tough and being cruel. While I understand what Baldwin did was immature and selfish, hold in your anger till you can calm down and rationally talk to your players.

 

 

King James isn’t happy…but why?

By Kaleb Page

March 2, 2015

Arguably the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James, is not happy.

You might ask yourself how is such a man unhappy? Especially when you are the proclaimed savior of Northeast Ohio, making millions of dollars just to play a game and happen to be on a team that is rising force in the league; winning 17 of the last 19 games.

The reason James is mad involved something a bit more personal. His 10-year-old son, LeBron James Jr. (aka ‘Bronny’), has recently become a target for college basketball recruiters.

Yes you read that correctly, Lebron James Jr. a 10-year-old is already getting offers by colleges to play basketball. Something that made his dad take a step back.

“Yeah, he’s already got some offers from colleges. It’s pretty crazy. It should be a violation. You shouldn’t be recruiting 10-year-old kids.” -LeBron James (from Mike Sullivan of CBS Detroit)

Even though none of the schools were mentioned, it does drive home a point that I think we should be more critical of in the media. This being the over-hyping of child athletes before they have fully matured or even went through all the levels they still have to go through in their amateur play.

Sometimes the hype is for real but it has to beg the question what type of pressure are you already putting on kids at such a young age? Especially those who are children of well established professional athletes.

Now I guess it is easier said than done in today’s sports society. Where results are based on getting to the creme of the crop first, getting them to commit to you and then produce at your school. It probably makes it even harder on recruiters to not go after James Jr. when his dad makes comparisons between himself and his son.

“He plays just like I did. He has great awareness, and he’d rather pass first and set guys up. Most kids nowadays just want to score.” -LeBron James (from Mike Sullivan of CBS Detroit)

Since James never went to college because there was no rule about going to college for one year, you better believe that the race for the next wave of talent donning the last name James will be a race to sit back and watch.

I agree with LeBron in how ridiculous it is to even recruit kids that young. There is still an 8 year window where a lot can happen. That kid could have a change of heart and not even like the sport, lose that ‘it’ quality that had you as a recruiter drooling, an unforeseen injury could happen or even worse that young prodigy doesn’t pick your school at all since you pressured him since he was 10.

It will be interesting to see if there is any action by the NCAA to maybe produce a ban on recruiting at such a young age. It will also be interesting to see how Lebron James Jr. handles his success and ultimately what he does in the future.

For now enjoy a video of the young man ballin’ it up below.

Que the scouts drooling.

 

Lauren Hill’s Final Hoop Dreams Fulfilled

By Kaleb Page

The game of basketball is something that Lauren Hill has loved for a very long time. Her love of the game took her from playing in Lawrenceburg, IN to being a member of Mount St. Joseph University’s basketball team (Division III) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Being a member of this team is quite the remarkable accomplishment based on the hard reality Lauren faces every day.

In November of Lauren’s senior year in high school, she went to the doctor after having occasions of feeling dizzy, slow and at times numb. After going to the doctor she received news that she had an inoperable brain tumor; a life expectancy of two years. Even after receiving that news, Lauren played her senior year and signed on at Mount St. Joseph to continue playing.

Flash forward to the start of her freshman year and the news on her tumor had grown even worse. When she went for her latest MRI her life expectancy was reduced to this December. It all seemed like her dream of being a college basketball player would never come true as her condition would be too bad for her to take the court. In a great gesture not only by the NCAA but by the university as well, the first game of the season was moved up to this past Sunday November 2, 2014 (two weeks earlier than normal).

Seventeen seconds into the game Lauren got a lay up, her first score as a college basketball player. This moment brought a stop to the game as her teammates rushed the court and everyone cheered the moment that was. Then the final basket of the game came on another Hill layup that capped off a win by Mount St. Joesph over Hiram College 66-55. A great day that saw not only local support from the people of Cincinnati, but nationally as well with the likes of LeBron and Candice Parker sending out messages of how inspired they were by Lauren’s courage and determination.

Her story is something my words on this post probably could do no justice to. For anyone who has not seen it on ESPN, SportsCenter or any other media outlet; the piece put together by Tom Rinaldi is amazing. He does it time and time again finding these stories that need to be told. He frames them in such a fantastic way and flows the story along that makes you not only connect to what you are watching, but more importantly to the people involved.

He definitely gave this story the platform it deserves and let Lauren be the face of pediatric cancer that her doctor mentioned was needed today. I assure you watching this piece will not only inevitably make you feel sad, but it will also make you want to tell Lauren Hill she is inspirational. For all the things she has stacked against her and the obstacles put in her path; she went forward until she met her goal.

More and more we see people give up on their goals and not even have the horrible circumstances put on them like Lauren did. That is why Lauren is not just the face of pediatric cancer. She is also the face of the ultimate perseverance to accomplish anything you put your mind to. When you put all your hard work, effort and time looking to achieve a goal or goals; nothing can stop you.

Look at Lauren Hill, she will show you that first hand.

Thon Maker: The Next Phenom of Basketball?

by Kaleb Page

Every decade or even few years in the game of basketball, there comes along a talent that people look to in amazement and classify as the next big thing. It looks like the high school basketball class of 2015 or 2016 has what could be that once ever-so-often talent.

This talented player is named Thon Maker, a 7 ft. 210 lb. forward/center who is playing in Ontario Canada for the Athlete Institute (prep basketball team). Born in the Sudan and eventually moving to Australia and to the United States, Thon is now a sought after basketball talent with skills that are almost unmatched when paired with the physical tools he was born with.

For having a natural big man frame, Maker is not your typical big man. He runs the open floor like a guard half his size. He can rip down a rebound and within seconds be flying down the court with the ball, head up and looking to be a threat. From my experience playing with big men in basketball, their ability to dribble effectively on the break and look up the court is hard for them to do. That is why when you watch a guy like Thon, it blows you away with how fluid he moves on the court and the ability he has to pass, dribble, and shoot. He has the mid-range jump shot that is as smooth a motion you will see from a big man, and it almost reminds you of the days when Kevin Garnett would stop, face-up and take a 15-20 foot jumper. It can be seen in videos as well, that he can be effective from three-point range as well. Also defensively, his rim protecting skills place him in a special category for a young post player.

It almost seemed natural for Thon upon coming to the United States to make the jump from regular high school basketball to a prep academy. This would take him to an even higher level of basketball in order to prepare for the next step. From what can be seen so far, coaches across the country have to be salivating over what they could land in the recruiting process.

With two years of eligibility left, Thon could forgo his senior year of high school and go to college in 2015 instead of waiting for 2016. Either way he will be the number one player still in ESPN’s recruiting rankings. He has received offers from the power programs of college basketball: Arizona, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, etc. The choice on where he will go is still to be seen.

With that said there is room for the big man to improve, as any player in the game should do in order to maximize on the potential they have. Defensively, even though Thon is a great rim protector, he can have his troubles in the paint with big men who are bigger and can out muscle him at the point of attack. Definitely at his basketball academy they will look to boost his strength and add to his 210 lb. frame, so he can handle strong players in the paint. His finishing ability at the rim could take some polishing when it comes to receiving contact from defenders, but that will come with more practice and coaching.  Like with all great players Thon still needs some development, but with what he has shown already the potential to do something special has to be kept in mind.

Comparisons have been tossed around that he is the next Kevin Garnett, the next Kevin Durant, the next Magic Johnson or even the next Hakeem Olajuwon. While it may happen that he becomes this 7 ft. guard/forward/center combo that combines all of those great players talents; I say let the anointed ‘phenom’ of the time blossom. He is only 17 years old and needs to have time to grow and fill out his potential. It is important while we sit back in amazement at what we see in the highlights, we also look to let this naturally happen instead of forcing the issue. If we force this too much we could turn Thon Maker into a basketball player who had all this potential, but crumbled in the end because he could never live up to the impossible image we all created as to what he should be.

Kentucky Hosts NBA Style Combine for Scouts

By Nicholas Muhl

This past Friday, Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball coach John Calipari hosted an NBA-style combine for his players to show off their skills prior to the start of next spring’s draft. The combine was attended by over 90 NBA scouts and general managers, and each team had at least one representative present.

This coming year, the Wildcats squad is home to six McDonald’s All-Americans and is coming off a runner-up performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The two-hour combine, which was televised live on ESPNU, included both individual and team drills , which are included in the NBA scouting combine each year.

The move by Calipari to host such an event is not surprising, considering a record six Kentucky players were taken in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Wildcats head coach has produced many high level NBA players including Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Eric Bledsoe and the list goes on. More recently, former Wildcat players Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Nerlens Noel were all selected in the top 10 picks in recent drafts.

Unlike many of his peers, Calipari embraces the one-and-done college basketball player. With his padded resume he continues to send 18 and 19-year-old young adults into the NBA, where the average player age is around 27 years old. Calipari was quoted this past weekend acknowledging that many of his players are already considering the NBA, long before they even attend their first class on campus.

“Someone said, ‘You’ll make them think about the NBA.’ Excuse me? They all do. Even the walk-ons. It creates a base for me to build with each individual kid and what I need to do.”

This brings to light a serious issue in sports culture today. 18-21 year old young adults are still maturing as they gain new responsibilities with age. In today’s sports society, these young student-athletes are exposed to fame, fortune, massive media coverage and many other things a typical young adult does not experience at such an age.

Through social media networks like Twitter, major TV networks like ESPN, and other media outlets, student athletes who achieve even most smallest amount of success are household names by the end of the week.

It isn’t just college basketball, as this goes for football and all other major college sports. One can argue that the added attention, such as Kentucky’s combine, can only bring upon more success for the student-athlete. At the very least, they receive recognition for the great achievements and talents they posses.

However, there is an opposite side to the coin. As much as fans love their young talent and phenoms, is the media and college sports as whole bringing too much added attention to student-athletes at such an age? Young superstars like Wildcats Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis are great examples of how successful a student-athlete can be from the additional attention they received at a young age. 

Examples of Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, both who have been surrounded by media coverage since the start of their college careers, can be given as to why student-athletes at such a young age are exposed to too much early on in their bright careers.