Kodi Maduka’s career ending should be a joyous event

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I feel for Kodi Maduka. I really do.

The 6-foot-11 center had his basketball career cut short on Thursday as the school announced that he is officially done with the sport. Maduka has a heart ailment, one serious enough to force him to miss game time on two different occasions during the season and serious enough that he collapsed during a practice in early April.

I’m sure there is nothing that young man would rather do than continue his hoops career. It sucks that it was cut short. There’s no other way to put it.

But today is not a sad day. Not in the least. Not for Maduka. Not for his family. Not even for Danny Manning and the Tulsa basketball team, who lose a guy that probably would have started at center.

Today should be a happy day, because while this decision means Maduka’s career will end with him finishing up his degree as strictly a student and not an athlete, it also means that basketball won’t kill him.

Maduka’s heart is a ticking time-bomb, one that has become all-too familiar for basketball fans, players and coaches. Everyone knows about Hank Gathers, who collapsed and died during a WCC tournament game back in 1990. Most in basketball circles know about Jeron Lewis, who passed away while playing in a game for Southern Indiana back in 2010. There are so many more tragic, untimely deaths of young athletes as a result of these heart ailments. It’s a subject that hits close to home for me. A friend of mine by the name of Stanley Myers died while jogging with teammates at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

It’s a nightmare that no one should experience, a nightmare that will never become a reality for the Maduka family.

Look, Kodi Maduka is not Anthony Davis. He’s not Andrew Wiggins. He’s not on a fast track to NBA stardom and eight figure annual salaries and millions upon millions upon millions in endorsement deals. Could he have made a living playing basketball? Probably, but there would eventually come a time when the ball stops bouncing, and I truly doubt that, at that point in his life, he would have the kind of money that would allow him to quit working.

And all of that is assuming that he stays healthy and motivated, receiving enough good luck to land in a league where salaries are guaranteed and are significantly more than what minimum-wage workers can make annually. The D-League pays less than $30,000-a-year.

Instead, Maduka will be allowed to keep his scholarship. He’ll leave Tulsa with a degree like any other student. He’ll struggle with figuring out what he wants to do with his life like any other graduate. He’ll get frustrated trying to land a job like every other kid in their early-20’s. He’ll be just like the rest of us.

Life goes on. Literally, in Kodi’s case.

Danny Manning called this outcome “heart-breaking” in a statement released by the university, which is ironic. It may have saved his heart.

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

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.