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Kyisean Reed latest second chance story at Utah State

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LOGAN, Utah – Stew Morrill has built Utah State into a power in the WAC. They’ve won seven regular season titles since 2000 and made eight NCAA Tournaments in that time. To get an idea of the level that this program has reached, think about this: they packed the 10,270 seat Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at more than 80% capacity — over 90% capacity in the 4,000 seat student section — in a down year and it was still considered a mediocre crowd.

Granted, he did take over a team coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998, but before Larry Eustachy built that team into a winner, the Aggies hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in a decade. Recruiting players to spend the winter in Logan, UT, a small town in the northeast corner of Utah that sits squarely in one of the most religious areas of our country, is not an easy sell.

Which is why Morrill has to take some risks.

And those risks don’t always pan out.

Remember Anthony DiLoreto? A 7’1″ center from Wisconsin, DiLoreto was supposed to be headed to Cal Poly before he was arrested for taking part in a bank robbery while he was in high school; he was the getaway driver. Morrill gave him a shot, and DiLoreto blew it. He enrolled at Utah State during the 2009-2010 season, but couldn’t make it a full year without getting in trouble. He was kicked off of the team after getting caught with weed that May.

“I’m willing to roll the dice,” Morrill said. “I’ll give a guy a second chance. I won’t give him a third.”

And there have been times where those second chances have paid off.

Gary Wilkinson dropped out of high school after getting cut from the basketball team, spending his time, as he told ESPN.com, sitting around and partying with his friends. But Wilkinson turned his life around, finding religion — he became a member of the LDS church, like the overwhelming majority of USU students — while earning his GED before spending two years on a mission in Canada and heading to Salt Lake Community College. Wilkinson eventually ended up at Utah State, where he became the WAC Player of the Year in 2009 as a 26 year old power forward.

Willkinson was “as solid as they come”, Morrill said. He had turned his life around by the time that he reached Logan.

That wasn’t necessarily true with David Pak.

In 1993, when Pak was 16 years old, he raped a 23 year old woman at knife point. After pleading guilty to one count of forcible rape and another count of forcible rape with a weapon, Pak was sentenced to eight years in prison. Pak cleaned up while he did his time, eventually enrolling at Saddleback Community College, winning the Orange Empire Conference’s MVP as a sophomore.

It took some cajoling, but Morrill eventually convinced Utah State to accept Pak. “A lot of people wouldn’t take that gamble,” he told the San Diego Tribune back in 2006, “I’ll be honest with you. Our president said, ‘It’s on you.’ I swallowed hard and said, ‘OK.'”

Pak was a two year starter for the Aggies, leading the team in assists in 2005-2006 and eventually carrying them to the NCAA Tournament. That’s quite a difference from asking his cellmate’s permission to dribble a basketball late into the night.

The latest risk Morrill has taken is Kyisean Reed, a bouncy, left-handed 6’6″ combo-forward that can crack the Sportscenter Top Ten just as easily as he can step out and hit a 17 footer. Reed enrolled at Antelope Valley, a Junior College in Lancaster, CA, that is more well-known for producing USC transfer Dewayne Dedmon, but he didn’t last the full two years there.

“I guess me and coach didn’t really see eye to eye,” Reed said of getting kicked off the team as a sophomore. “I made a mistake.”

Reed was concerned about his reputation, especially when it came to the schools that were recruiting him. He’s not a bad kid, he’s actually quite friendly. Shy, even. And while he got himself kicked off of the basketball team, he wasn’t kicked out of school. Reed finished up his classes and got himself eligible for Division I basketball, but that didn’t change the fact that he was concerned about his image.

“No one absolutely knows what happened except me and the coach,” he said. “I understand that, even coming here, people had questions like, ‘What did he do? Was it really that egregious to get kicked off the team?’ Well, I’m here.”

And his arrival was something that Morrill was not concerned about.

As he did with Pak, Morrill got a tip from AVJC about Reed. Its a program that he has a long and established relationship with, so when he was told he can trust in Reed, he believed it.

“I’ve known the program — the AD and the former basketball coach is a longtime friend of mine,” Morrill said. “I was up to speed on everything that went on. Kyisean had a tough background growing up at times. It was a different type of issue, it wasn’t criminal or anything like that. They allowed him to finish his year [academically] and we felt like we could take a chance on him.”

And its paid off. Reed has started 15 games while averaging 10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and leading the team in blocked shots. That said, Morrill isn’t yet satisfied with Reed, but that dissatisfaction stems completely from Reed’s performance on the court.

“We need him to rebound a little better and play a little harder at times, but he gives us an athletic presence that we desperately need,” Morrill said.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Four-star PG Jaylen Fisher de-commits from UNLV

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Coaching changes can wreak havoc on a program’s recruiting class, and that’s been the case for UNLV thanks to the tumultuous nature of their search for a new head coach. Thursday evening one prospect who remained committed to the Mountain West program throughout the process that ultimately led to Marvin Menzies landing the job announced that he’s decided to reopen his recruitment.

Four-star point guard Jaylen Fisher, ranked 55th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, announced via social media that he’s decided to de-commit from UNLV.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to be a Rebel this year,” Fisher wrote. “But there have been a lot of changes with the program since I committed to UNLV; changes that have made me reconsider whether UNLV is still a good fit for me. So with that in mind and after much consideration with my family, I have decided it’s best that I reopen my recruitment.”

Fisher’s decision leaves wing Justin Jackson as the lone member of UNLV’s 2016 class at this point, with Jackson telling Scout.com in early April that he was undecided as to whether or not he’d reopen his recruitment. The school’s search for a coach began in January when they parted ways with Dave Rice, promoting Todd Simon in an interim role.

After deciding not to retain Simon, who’s now the head coach at Southern Utah, UNLV hired former Little Rock head coach Chris Beard…who left for Texas Tech less than two weeks later. UNLV landed Menzies, who they passed over for Beard, and he’s got a lot of work to do to field a roster that will be competitive in the Mountain West next season.

As for Fisher, the Arlington, Tennessee native should be a popular prospect with his decision to reopen things. And with Memphis losing former commit Charlie Moore, the Tigers are in need of help at the point. The question now is whether or not new head coach Tubby Smith will look to reach out to Fisher.

h/t Memphis Commercial-Appeal

NCAA rule change that impacts Memphis coaching staff now official

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
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One of the more popular topics in college basketball in recent weeks was the status of Memphis assistant coach Keelon Lawson and sons Dedric and K.J. in the aftermath of the school hiring Tubby Smith. Would Smith keep the elder Lawson on staff as an assistant, thus in all likelihood ensuring that Dedric and K.J. would return as well? Would he let go or attempt to reassign Keelon, and as a result risk losing two players from an already limited roster?

Ultimately Smith decided to reassign Keelon to a non-coaching position, making him director of player development. And with the NCAA having a rule that those with a connection to a prospective student-athlete had to serve in a coaching capacity for the player’s first two seasons, the question was whether or not Memphis would need a waiver to pull off the move.

Luckily for Memphis the NCAA was looking into an alteration of the rule, and on Thursday with the NCAA not taking action on Proposal 2015-30 the change became official.

Under the new rule a coach’s two years on staff would begin immediately upon his arrival. In the case of Lawson this is key as he spent a year on former Memphis head coach Josh Pastner’s staff before Dedric and K.J. enrolled. With the two-year requirement ruled to be served under the new proposal, Smith could reassign Keelon Lawson without having to ask the NCAA for a waiver.

The next step as far as Memphis is concerned is Dedric, who ultimately entered his name into the NBA Draft pool (without an agent), withdrawing and returning to school for his sophomore season. As a freshman Dedric was the best freshman in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers. DraftExpress.com currently ranks him 28th amongst college freshmen, which makes him no sure thing to be drafted should he decide to stay in the draft.

At the very least the next month should result in Dedric receiving constructive feedback from NBA scouts and executives that he can use to improve next season.

K.J. played in just ten games last season due to a lingering Achilles tendon issue, averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The hope is that K.J. will be granted a medical redshirt for last season, thus preserving a year of eligibility.

Chattanooga men’s hoop coach McCall gets 2-year extension

Chattanooga head coach Matt McCall directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) Chattanooga men’s basketball coach Matt McCall has received a two-year contract extension after leading the Mocs to an NCAA Tournament appearance in his debut season.

The school announced the extension Thursday. McCall’s contract now runs through the 2021-22 season.

Chattanooga went 29-6 last season to set a school record for victories. The Mocs captured their first Southern Conference regular-season title since 1994 and also won the league’s postseason tournament to earn their first NCAA bid since 2009.

Indiana beat Chattanooga 99-74 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Athletic director David Blackburn said in a statement, “We had great confidence in who we hired a year ago, and that never wavered. This is in recognition of him and his staff’s great work in equipping our student-athletes for success.”

Jim Valvano’s title-winning N.C. State team to finally get White House visit

FILE - In this April 5, 1983, file photo, North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano embraces sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles moments after Charles had dunked a shot to give North Carolina State the win over Houston in the national championship game at the Final Four of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
(AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
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The N.C. State men’s basketball team never got invited to the White House after they won the 1983 National Title.

It wasn’t a tradition in those days. They spoke with President Ronald Reagan, but they did so from the confines of a television studio in Raleigh. It’s commonplace now to see title winners from all sports making their way to the Oval Office to shake hands with our nation’s leader, but back then, the funding and invitation weren’t always available.

And that never say right with the guys on that team. Since Lorenzo Charles, whose memorable dunk was the title-winning bucket, passed away in 2011, that team has had a reunion every spring, and the topic of going to the White House to celebrate the win always came up. That inspired Thurl Bailey, who was the No. 7 pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, and his friend, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, to write letters to President Obama requesting that the ’83 iteration of the Wolfpack get their White House visit.

“As definitive as a National Championship sounds, as an athlete there always seems to be unfinished business,” Bailey told N.C. State’s website. “You’re always looking for the next challenge, the next opportunity. This was it for me.  If I could get this done, it would be yet another story for me and the other members of that team to be able to pass along to our kids, grandkids and generations after that.”

Bailey’s efforts proved successful.

On Thursday, N.C. State announced that President Obama had not only received the letters, but he has issued a May 9th invitation for that 1983 team to visit him in Washington, D.C., meaning that Bailey, Dereck Whittenburg and the rest of that 1983 title-winning team will finally get to meet the Commander-in-Chief.

“The joy and the euphoria of winning a national title against all odds, as well as the pain and devastation of losing members of that family, are important parts of who I am,” Bailey said. “Contacting President Obama was one piece of our incredible journey that had eluded us for far too long.”

Los Angeles to host new college basketball doubleheader

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) A new men’s basketball doubleheader will be played in Los Angeles featuring Arizona, BYU, Gonzaga and Southern California.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the one-day event, to be played at Staples Center on Dec. 3.

The Wildcats will play the Zags and the Cougars will face the Trojans.

Tickets will go on sale May 4. Game times and television broadcast information will be announced later.