Deniz Kilicli is a fan of ‘Family Ties’?

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Deniz Kilicli is one of the easiest college basketball players to recognize.

That’s what happens when you to look strikingly similar to your team’s mascot.

But Kilicli is more than just recognizable. He’s also one of the more likeable players you’ll come across. A 6-foot-9 Turkish import with a frame that’s chiseled out of stone, Kilicli is a brutish presence in the paint, pushing around opposing big men just long enough that his incredible touch on a lefty sky-hook (he’s right-handed) is relatively shocking.

Kilicli is also one of the more talented players off the court. His talents as a guitarist have been fairly well documented, as he led his team in a (fairly terrible; the rest of the Mountaineers aren’t exactly the singing type) chorus of ‘Country Roads’ at last season’s Midnight Madness. When his house burned down last summer, Kilicli was quoted by the paper as saying “No one got hurt, and my guitars are safe. That’s all I really care about.”

Tough not to like a guy like that.

On Monday, Bob Hertzel wrote a column chronicling how Kilicli became close friends with Mike Martin, a Sports Broadcasting major that also has a passion for music:

“He was in my English class,” Martin recalled. “That’s how I first met him. I can talk to anyone, but I didn’t talk to him because he was a basketball player, but instead because he made funny comments here and there. Still, he looked like he felt uncomfortable, and I wanted to make him feel like people weren’t just looking at him as a basketball player.”

It was mostly just an acquaintance kind of relationship until one day Martin went into a recording studio with Eric Jordan, a rap producer.

“Weird enough, out of the blue, randomly Deniz was there,” Martin said.

More conversation, but not really a friendship.

Martin went home for the summer and moved into a new place last fall.

“I go to meet my neighbors upstairs and guess who’s living there — Deniz Kilicli,” he said.

This was a friendship that was meant to be.

“Now I’m best friends with him and his roommate. They came over to watch the Super Bowl, and he was like, ‘Let’s do a halftime show.’ I don’t like to sing in front of people, but he starts playing my songs. … I hate listening to myself,” Martin said.

He was hooked though. Before long they were doing some performing together.

There’s video of those performances, too:

Like I said, it’s tough not to like a kid like that.

The best nugget from Hertzel’s column had nothing to do with music, however. Apparently, Kilicli not only taught himself the guitar, he taught himself english as well.

By watching ‘Family Ties’.

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

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game.

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

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Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.