Gregg Marshall

Recruiting rundown: Under-the-radar classes to watch in 2012-13

Leave a comment

College basketball recruiting junkies have no doubt heard about the impressive 2012 incoming class hauls that have been reeled in by UCLA, Kentucky, Arizona and other perennial blue blood programs. Often, BCS conference teams dominate team recruiting class rankings, by virtue of pulling in the most publicized and touted of recruits.

Still, recent NCAA tournament history indicates that not only are non-BCS schools relevant, they also have a significant share of talented players, which they identify and land on the recruiting trail.

In looking at non-BCS schools, the efforts of Houston, Xavier, Memphis, and UNLV have been well-publicized by virtue of each school landing multiple top-100 prospects. With that in mind, here are a handful of non-BCS recruiting classes that could have an impact as early as next year, which haven’t received as much attention.

Head coach Greg Marshall has plenty of options in keeping Wichita State’s juggernaut going, given the talented group he assembled for next year. Junior college guard Nick Wiggins (the older brother of the top prospect in the nation’s 2014 class, Andrew Wiggins) could provide an instant offensive infusion. Skilled point guard Fred Van Vleet is on the way from Illinois, and forward Teddy Hawkins locked up an Ohio state championship. JUCO power forward Cleanthony Early should be set to help anchor the inside. Make no mistake, Marshall has a stellar group headed his way next year, which is not a shocker given the program’s recent success.

Marshall locked up five players that will keep the Herd program going. The last, and probably most-important signee is former Louisville-commit Ryan Taylor, a 6-6 forward that is seasoned from a year of prep school. Two of the top prospects from Texas’ junior college basketball ranks, Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver both look ready to contribute, while high school guards Kareem Canty and Tamron Manning are both extremely solid. This group looks to have five players that are nicely suited for Conference USA.

While many fans are aware of the storyline that led 7-footer Robert Upshaw to Fresno State, the reality is that coach Rodney Terry’s first full recruiting class addresses the program’s needs and should set them up in good position for the future. While Upshaw is a top-50 prospect and clearly the headliner, there’s other room for excitement. 6-5 forward Broderick Newbill is a glue guy, and former Kansas-signee Braeden Anderson should have a niche in the frontcourt. Another newcomer with some acclaim is 6-3 shooting guard Marvelle Harris, reportedly one of the most underrated players in SoCal.

By no means is San Diego State going to sneak up on anyone, but their three man recruiting class arguably has the most bang for its buck at the non-BCS level. The icing on the cake came when top-50 forward Winston Shepard decided to pick the Aztecs over numerous suitors, as he becomes an immediate mismatch at 6-8 against most of their slate. Two other talented prospects from Southern California, bouncy wing Matt Shrigley and slender but talented center Skylar Spencer, will be hard for coach Steve Fisher to keep off the floor.

Coach Pat Skerry’s first season at Towson was ugly and undoubtedly difficult to watch for any observers that slogged their way through a 1-31 season. Skerry has a background as a successful recruiter as an assistant coach in the Big East and that has carried over to his tenure at the helm for the Tigers. In high school guards Jerome Hairston and Frank Mason, Skerry has a base to build from for the future. Forwards Barrington Alston and Timajh Parker-Rivera both should also be very solid CAA players. Near the end of the period, Skerry also added the services of two wings, Marquis Marshall and Rafriel Guthrie. With presumably almost every starting slot open to consideration the talent newcomers figure to have more than first crack and revitalizing the ailing Towson program.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.

Guy V. Lewis, coach of Phi Slama Jama teams, dies at 93

Guy Lewis
Associated Press
Leave a comment

HOUSTON (AP) Former University of Houston men’s basketball coach Guy V. Lewis, best known for leading the Phi Slama Jama teams of the 1980s, has died. He was 93.

He died at a retirement facility in Kyle, Texas, on Thanksgiving morning surrounded by family, the school said Thursday.

Lewis coached the Cougars for 30 years. He guided Houston to back-to-back NCAA title games in 1983 and ’84 but never won the national championship, losing to N.C. State in the 1983 final on Lorenzo Charles’ last-second shot, one of the NCAA Tournament’s greatest upsets and most memorable plays.

“It feels awful,” Lewis said after that game. “I’ve never lost a game that didn’t feel that way, but this one was terrible.”

Lewis, who helped lead the integration of college basketball in the South by recruiting Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney to Houston, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Known for plaid jackets and wringing his hands with a red polka-dot towel during games, Lewis compiled a 592-279 record at Houston, guiding the Cougars to 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1959-85. He was honored as the national coach of the year twice (1968 and `83) and led Houston to 14 NCAA Tournaments and five Final Fours.

Lewis had mostly avoided the spotlight since retiring in 1986. He suffered a stroke in February 2002 and had used a wheelchair in recent years.

He was known for putting together the “Game of the Century” at the Astrodome in 1968 between Houston and UCLA. It was the first regular-season game to be broadcast on national television. Houston defeated the Bruins in front of a crowd of more than 52,000, which, at that time, was the largest ever to watch an indoor basketball game.

Lewis attended the introductory news conference in December 2007 for Kevin Sumlin, the first black football coach in Houston history. It was a symbolic, significant appearance because Lewis signed Houston’s first two black basketball players and some of the first in the region in Hayes and Chaney in 1964, when programs were just starting to integrate.

Hayes and Chaney led the Cougars to the program’s first Final Four in 1967 but lost to Lew Alcindor’s UCLA team in the semifinal game.

“Basketball in the state of Texas and throughout the South is all due to coach Guy V. Lewis,” Hayes said in 2013. “He put everything on the line to step out and integrate his program. Not only that, he had vision to say: `Hey, we can play a game in the Houston Astrodome.’ Not only that, he just was such a motivator and such an innovator that created so many doors for the game of basketball to grow.”

Along with Hayes, Lewis also coached fellow All-Americans Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The three were included on the NBA’s Top 50 greatest players list in 1996. Lewis and North Carolina’s Dean Smith were the only men to coach three players from that list while they were in college.

Players and CBS announcer Jim Nantz lobbied for years for Lewis to get into the Naismith Hall of Fame. When he finally received the honor in 2013 he made a rare public appearance. It was difficult for him to convey his thoughts in words in his later years because of aphasia from his strokes, so his daughter spoke on his behalf at the event to celebrate his induction.

“It’s pure joy and we’re not even upset that it took so long. … Dad is used to winning in overtime,” Sherry Lewis said.

Lewis announced his retirement during the 1985-86 season, and the Cougars finished 14-14, his first non-winning season since 1958-59.

Guy Vernon Lewis II was born in Arp, a town of fewer than 1,000 residents in northeast Texas. He became a flight instructor for the U.S. Army during World War II and enrolled at the University of Houston in 1946.

He joined the basketball team, averaged 21.1 points and led the Cougars to the Lone Star Conference championship. By the early 1950s, he was working as an assistant coach under Alden Pasche and took over when Pasche retired in 1956.

Funeral services are pending.

AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan contributed to this story.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
Leave a comment

Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.