As Jim Calhoun celebrates 70th birthday, challenges lie ahead

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Jim Calhoun is in a much different position this year, celebrating his 70th birthday Thursday, than he was one year ago, celebrating his 69th.

One year ago, Calhoun was coming off a national championship with his Kemba Walker-led Connecticut Huskies, set to return guard Jeremy Lamb for what many were expecting would be a stellar sophomore season.

But this year, it’s a different program.

Not only have questions continued to linger about his health, following a leave of absence this past season that was spurred by persistent back problems, but there has been a mass exodus of talent and the Huskies have been banned from the 2012-13 postseason.

After the NCAA handed down the ban, related to Connecticut’s non-qualifying Academic Progress Rate, it left no doubt that the underclassman Lamb and freshman Andre Drummond would bolt for the NBA draft.

It also opened a unique opportunity for forward Alex Oriakhi, who left to join Frank Haith at Missouri for his senior season, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows seniors to transfer without having to sit out a year if his team is facing an APR-related ban.

Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley have also departed.

The Huskies have three players signed to come in the fall from the Class of 2012: New York City native Omar Calhoun and recently committed 6-10 forward Phil Nolan, and German forward Leon Tolksdorf.

This isn’t about penning an obituary for the Connecticut program. It’s more about a realization that, as Bob Dylan put it, the times, they are a-changin’.

The pieces of the national championship team have all but been wiped out. The APR ban means a perennial fixture in the NCAA tournament will not be there.

And all of this comes on the backdrop of a 70th birthday of the long-time head coach. Let’s see where the Huskies go from here.

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

Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant out 3-4 months

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Florida Gulf Coast redshirt junior forward Demetris Morant is expected to miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right shin, the school announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 4.5 points, 4.4 blocks and 1.3 blocks per game in 33 appearances (18 starts) for the Eagles during the 2014-15 season.

“This is obviously an unfortunate setback for Demetris, but it was a procedure that needed to be done,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dooley said in a statement. “We decided it would be best to have it completed now to hopefully get him back for A-Sun play. It’s an opportunity now for other guys to step up in his absence, and I have confidence they’ll get the job done.”

The Eagles have the top frontline in the Atlantic Sun, one that returns Marc-Eddy Norelia and Filip Cvjeticanin, a 3-point shooter who missed all of last season recovering from back surgery. VCU transfer Antravious Simmons becomes eligible in the second semester.

Florida Gulf Coast begins the 2015-16 season on Nov. 14 against Ohio.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.