Coaches, ex-players remember Wooden

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The Associated Press ran down a host of coaches, former players and notable figures for their reactions to John Wooden’s death.

Also, you can find reactions from NBCSports.com’s users here.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation.
“He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn’t let us do that.”
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“He was always the boss. He always knew what to say. Even in the heyday of winning and losing, you could almost discuss anything with him. He always had that composure and wit about him. He could connect with all kind of people and situations and always be in control of himself and seemingly of the situation.”
— former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes.

“…[W]e’ve lost a giant in all of sport with the passing of coach Wooden. Quite likely, his accomplishments as a college basketball coach will never be matched. Neither will the impact he had on his players or the greater basketball community. Many have called Coach Wooden the ‘gold standard’ of coaches. I believe he was the ‘gold standard’ of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility. Coach Wooden’s name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders – in any profession – of his generation. We are blessed that the sport of basketball benefitted from his talents for so long. Coach Wooden and his wisdom will be sorely missed.”
— Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“My reaction is sadness yet at this point we have to celebrate maybe the most important guy in the history of the game. There has been no greater influence on college basketball not just about the game but the team. He’s greatest coach in college basketball if not all basketball from the standpoint of all of us trying to emulate what he’s done. He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if he’s not as important as Dr. Naismith, he’s right next to him.”
— Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.

“He seemed to touch the inner soul of people when he was around them. He seemed to do it with so much grace and good will. When he was exalted to the highest, he still remained the man who grew up in rural Indiana and had that Midwestern friendliness, openness, that willingness to see the good in people.
“Everybody knew John Wooden, and everybody knew him in a loving manner. I don’t know anybody who ever had anything ill to say about the man, and that’s remarkable considering how many people he came into contact with. We lost a great man.”
— Bobby Plump, the former Butler star and “Hoosiers” inspiration.

“I have met Coach Wooden, about four years ago at the Final Four when it was here and it was a tremendous honor. He gave me one of his pyramid of success cards that I still have today and got a picture with him, and it was a tremendous honor.”
— Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

“When I think of a basketball coach the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden. He had a great life and helped so many coaches until well in his 90s. Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He’s the best of all time. There will never be another like him and you can’t say that about too many people. It’s a sad day but he had such an unbelievable run. I can’t tell you what he’s done for game of basketball and it’s not just the wins. It’s the attitude and the way he carried himself. I just can’t say enough about him.”
— Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

“I always sat and chatted with him before our games at UCLA and about five years ago he asked, ‘Can I come out and watch one of your practices?’ … We had a jet pick him up at Van Nuys Airport, just a few minutes from where he lived, and bring him (to Tucson). We had lunch and I asked if he could say a few words to the team. He said yes and spoke for 20 or 30 minutes. He never said a word about basketball, just talked about his philosophy of life and being the best that you could be.
“He has been anxious to be reunited with Nell for a lot of years, so this is not a sad experience for him I don’t believe. I don’t think there is anyone who had influenced the number of people in his life than he had.”
— former Arizona coach Lute Olson.

“This loss will be felt by individuals from all parts of society. He was not only the greatest coach in the history of any sport but he was an exceptional individual that transcended the sporting world. His enduring legacy as a role model is one we should all strive to emulate.”
— UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero.

“This is a sad day at UCLA. Coach Wooden’s legacy transcends athletics; what he did was produce leaders. But his influence has reached far beyond our campus and even our community. Through his work and his life, he imparted his phenomenal understanding of leadership and his unwavering sense of integrity to so many people. His ‘Pyramid of Success’ hangs in my office to remind me every day of what it takes to be an effective leader. He was truly a legend in his own time, and he will be a legend for generations to come.”
— UCLA chancellor Gene Block.

“You need not be a sports fan to mourn the passing of John Wooden. Coach Wooden took the self-sacrifice and teamwork required to be successful in basketball and modeled them into a paradigm for life. Through basketball, he taught generations of players and fans the values of love, friendship, responsibility and humility. ‘Make friendship a true art’ and ‘Give thanks for your blessings and ask for guidance every day’ were among his favorite maxims. I give thanks to God for the life and wisdom of John Wooden. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.”
— Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“Even though we anticipated this day, the finality still strikes with a force equal to ton of bricks. There was the common affinity we shared for Purdue and UCLA and that forged a unique bond. My folks, Gene Keady, Pete Newell and coach Wooden were the most influential people in my life. I turned to him for perspective at every critical juncture over the past 20 years. Ninety-nine years of goodness and now he’s back with Nell.”
— St. John’s coach Steve Lavin, who coached for seven years at UCLA and also was an assistant at Purdue.

“John Wooden was a great coach and a great man. He was a man of humility who embodied the best in character and values, and exemplified what coaching is all about. I was fortunate enough to be honored with the Wooden Award in April, an award that now takes on added significance to me personally. I found out that I was being honored on his 99th birthday. To have the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and see firsthand how great an impact he still has is something I will always be honored and humbled to be a part of. His legacy will endure forever.”
— Florida coach Billy Donovan.

“I am very saddened at the passing of John Wooden. In my lifetime, I was fortunate to call him a friend. As a coach, I always admired his gentle demand for nothing but excellence and his student-athletes delivered. He created role models on and off the court, and because of him, it is something I instilled in my players from my first day as a very young coach. The takeaways we all have been blessed with from knowing John Wooden are numerous. For all of his successes, he was such a humble man. Tonight, we have lost a true American icon.”
— Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt.

“Coach Wooden was probably the best coach ever, in any sport. A true gentleman and an incredible leader. Rest peacefully, Coach Wooden.”
— Kentucky coach John Calipari on Twitter.

“There isn’t a more respected, influential and genuine figure in the history of the game than Coach Wooden. This is a tremendous loss, but his legacy will live on through the countless people whom he touched over the years.”
— Purdue coach Matt Painter.

“I grew up in Los Angeles and UCLA was everything to me growing up. And coach Wooden — if there were a Mount Rushmore of American sport, John Wooden would be on it, not only for what he represented on the court, but what he represented off it. So my very best wishes go to the Wooden family. There has not been a finer gentleman in sports than John Wooden.”
— ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.

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N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.

Four-star 2018 guard Coby White commits to North Carolina

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, center, reacts with his team behind him after a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. North Carolina won 88-71. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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With guards Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek having committed in their 2017 recruiting class, North Carolina received a commitment from one of the better guards in the Class of 2018 Thursday night. Four-star guard Coby White, who’s ranked 61st in his class by Rivals.com, made his pledge to Roy Williams’ program. News of White’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

The 6-foot-4 White is a native of Wilson, North Carolina, where he attends Greenfield HS, and he played his grassroots basketball for the CP3 16U basketball program this summer. His commitment to UNC comes just a couple days after the ACC school offered him a scholarship.

White took an unofficial visit to UNC in June, and his play in July ultimately led to the program making the aforementioned scholarship offer. By the time White enrolls in Chapel Hill, current veterans such as Joel Berry II and Nate Britt will be out of eligibility. Among the perimeter would could potentially be on campus in 2018 are freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and sophomore Kenny Williams.

White is the second commit in the 2018 class for the Tar Heels, with 6-foot-7 guard Rechon Black being the first.

Point guard Small to transfer from Oregon

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18:  Kendall Small #21 of the Oregon Ducks shoots over Derek Mountain #40 of the Holy Cross Crusaders in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After navigating a lack of depth at the point to win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and earn the program’s first-ever one seed in the NCAA tournament, Oregon will have no such issues in 2016-17. Dylan Ennis, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is back for another season as is returning starter Casey Benson. Add in freshman Payton Pritchard, whose shooting ability can help a team that struggled from three a season ago, and Dana Altman has multiple players to call upon at that spot.

That left Kendall Small, who played just under eight minutes per game as a freshman, in a spot where it would have been tough to earn more playing time as a sophomore. As a result he’s decided to transfer, with the news first being reported by Scout.com.

In addition to the three guards mentioned above, sophomore Tyler Dorsey also has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Small will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at whichever school he chooses to transfer to, and he’ll have to sit out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules.

A 6-foot guard from Anaheim, Small’s best outing came in Oregon’s 77-59 win over Savannah State on November 23. In that game Small accounted for nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. But he played double-digit minutes in just four games after the Ducks began Pac-12 play in early January, the last of which being Oregon’s win over Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA tournament.