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Tom Izzo: If Kentucky’s players were white, ‘I think it would be different’

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Michigan State coach Tom Izzo answered bluntly when William C. Rhoden of the New York Times asked him if race played a factor the perception of highly talented, predominantly black college basketball teams. By extension, that would include national champion Kentucky.

“I want to answer that as honestly as I can,” Izzo said. “I think it would be different. I hate to say that. It’s sad for me to say, but it’s probably the truth.”

After winning a national title at Kentucky, John Calipari has five players, including national Player of the Year Anthony Davis, on track to enter the NBA draft, shed their amateur status, and begin to make money off of their talents as a professional.

For all the criticism that Calipari has faced in his tenure as a college coach, it is undeniable, especially at Kentucky, that he has helped players launch lucrative basketball careers, a path which gives them an opportunity to better themselves and create financial stability for themselves and their families.

One of the attributes that makes Calipari so successful at the college level, aside from the sincere caring he has for his players and their futures (which any coach worth his salt should have, anyway) is the recognition of one fact:

Not every career is made in a classroom.

For high-major players, many of whom come from humble beginnings in working class households, college is an apprenticeship program, a stop along the way to a professional career (and a highly beneficial one, at that).

Why can’t the college experience be viewed that way?

Cramming a star athlete into a science laboratory and forcing him to play with pipettes and flasks for four years can do just as much good as forcing a future technological entrepreneur, someone with the potential of Steve Jobs or Bills Gates, to study geology without end.

There is no negative connotation here, no implication that athletes somehow possess less intelligence than any other college student, as the NCAA’s ‘dumb jocks’ campaign so counterproductively planted into the minds of fans.

The argument is about harnessing the type of intelligence that a certain student has and helping that person utilize it to make a living. While others may succeed with a calculator or paintbrush, Anthony Davis is one of the most kinesthetically intelligent students in the country.

And believe me, he is on track to make a lot more money off of that intelligence than most. With good financial planning, he could be set for life.

If there were colleges and universities that prided themselves on churning out star artists and business professionals after one or two years, leading them into high-paying jobs and giving them opportunities to succeed, would we have the same outrage as we see with these Kentucky underclassmen possibly entering the NBA draft?

For the players at the very top like these players in Calipari’s program, they have an economic opportunity that has not been afforded to many others in the general population.

It makes for great debate to take the intellectual “high road” and say that players should stay four years, graduate with a degree, and have a fall-back plan.

But the reality of the situation is this, and any business professional (regarded so highly it seems, in comparison to athletes) will tell you: When the difference between staying in school and going pro is a decision between zero-income amateur status and multi-million dollar professional and sponsorship contracts, there comes a point where it is imprudent not to go pro.

For players at this level, money management skills, courses in public image and marketability, and—get this—more time honing one’s skills in the gym, could make for a more well-rounded and potentially successful professional athlete than one who focuses only on “traditional” college courses.

As Rhoden of the Times writes so eloquently in metaphor about the jump to the NBA for players from low-income backgrounds:

“But when you are being pursued by the poverty hounds and see a fence, you jump it and take your chances with whatever is on the other side.”

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

[Post updated 9 April 2012, 3:03p.m.]

No. 10 Florida State hands No. 15 Notre Dame first ACC loss

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) steals the ball from Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
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Notre Dame shot over 70 percent on 21 3-point shot attempts.

It wasn’t enough.

Tenth-ranked Florida State became the first ACC team to defeat the Fighting Irish with a 83-80 win Wednesday night in Tallahassee.

Johnathan Isaac had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Seminoles, who moved into a tie for the ACC lead along with Notre Dame and North Carolina, which all sport 5-1 league records. The ‘Noles shot 50 percent from the floor and had 39 points off their bench.

The Fighting Irish made 15 of 21 3-point shots on the night, getting six from Matt Farrell and five apiece from VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia

Florida State continues the ACC gauntlet with a home test against Louisville on Saturday while the Irish have Syracuse in South Bend on Saturday.

Allonzo Trier suspended after failing PED test

Arizona head coach Sean Miller talks with guard Allonzo Trier (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern State in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)  ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; PAC-12 OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; GREEN VALLEY NEWS OUT
Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP
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The suspension that Arizona guard Allonzo Trier is currently serving is due to positive test for performance-enhancing drugs during the preseason, sources told NBC Sports.

Trier has missed the first 18 games of the season.

According to ESPN, who first reported the news, Trier has been cleared by the NCAA after an appeal, but he cannot suit up for the Wildcats until the drug is completely out of his system.

There is no timetable for his return, but the door is open for a return.

As a freshman last season, Trier averaged 14.8 points and shot 36.4 percent from three. He was Arizona’s best isolation scorer and their leading returning scorer.

Without Trier, Arizona has looked like a Pac-12 title contender. They are 16-2 on the season and undefeated in league play heading into their games at the LA schools this weekend.

No. 24 South Carolina remains perfect in SEC with win over No. 19 Florida

COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 09:  PJ Dozier #15 and Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks leave the floor after their game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Colonial Life Arena on January 9, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina won 69-65 to remain undefeated on the season.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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In a battle of undefeated SEC programs, Frank Martin’s club came out on top.

Sindarius Thornwell finished with 20 points and six boards and Chris Silva added 11 points as No. 24 South Carolina landed a come-from-behind, 57-53 win over No. 19 Florida in Columbia on Wednesday night.

With the win, the Gamecocks remain undefeated in the SEC and just a half-game behind Kentucky atop the conference standings.

It was the first conference loss for Florida, who is among a handful of teams that have the look and computer numbers of a tournament team but who have yet to put together the wins they need to back that up.

 

VIDEO: Indiana’s OG Anunoby leaves with apparent injury

BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 28:  OG Anunoby #3 of the Indiana Hoosiers attempts a shot in the first half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Assembly Hall on December 28, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Indiana’s tumultuous season may have encountered some more adversity.

Hoosiers sophomore forward OG Anunoby left Wednesday’s game against Penn State after going down clutching his right knee in the first half.

The incident came at the end of the first half, and Anunoby did not start the second half with the Hoosiers.

The 6-foot-8 Anunoby is averaging 11.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor. He’s considered a potential lottery pick in June’s NBA draft.

Indiana was already without forward Juwan Morgan against the Nittany Lions due to a foot injury.

The Hoosiers, who opened the season ranked 11th in the AP poll, are currently 12-6 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten, with losses in four of their last six games.

St. John’s releases embattled recruit from NLI

Brown, Zach
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St. John’s has officially cut ties with Zach Brown.

Brown, a top-50 recruit, was released from his National Letter of Intent with the school Wednesday, just days after he was arrested for theft in Florida.

“It was a mutual decision to release Zach from his national letter of intent,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him the best of luck.”

Brown was arrested after allegedly reaching into a cash register and stealing money from it earlier this month. He was charged with a misdemeanor.

The arrest only adds to the list of issues for Brown as he was charged with a felony of credit card and robbery in May 2016. He was also dismissed from a school in Connecticut not long after enrolling after allegedly getting into a fight.

At one time, Brown was a top-10 recruit in 2017 and committed to UConn, but his off the court issues has resulted in the diminishing on-court opportunities available to him.