Gillispie’s supporters fighting to clear his name?

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By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard some of the horror stories about Billy Gillispie’s tenure as head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Staff turnover. Roster turnover. Exceeding limits on practice time. Forcing players to practice and play while injured. Some of it was, frankly, horrifying.

But over the weekend, Gillispie’s supporters started to come out en masse.

As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story, and we are finally getting to hear the other side.

Jason King of ESPN.com got in touch with seemingly everyone from Gillispie’s past, as he was able to quote a number of former players and coaching colleagues that sang Gillispie’s praises. Former Texas A&M all-american Acie Law IV told King that “we loved him, and he loved us”, while another former Aggie, Joseph Jones, said that playing for Gillispie for four years was the “best four years of my life”. Bill Self had a lot to say about his former assistant, stressing that his style of coaching can’t be that bad if it worked in the past. Even Josh Harrellson, who was forced to spend one halftime at Kentucky sitting in a bathroom stall, had kind words to say about Gillispie.

But the most interesting supporter was Robert Lewandowski, who played on the Tech team last season:

“I would play for him again,” Robert Lewandowski wrote in an email from Poland, where he plays professionally. “He loves his players, with no exceptions. I would never doubt that for a second. Playing for him was tough, but I came out alive and a better person for it.”

[…]

“I wouldn’t change anything that happened over the last four years,” said Lewandowski, who spent three seasons under Pat Knight before Gillispie was hired in March 2011. “Coach Gillispie pushed me to my physical and mental limits, and I came out an improved person. I know I can handle anything that comes my way.

“The process wasn’t very pretty, but isn’t that how life usually is?”

He wasn’t the only former player that came to Gillispie’s defense.

Jaron Nash, who was one of the players that transferred out of Texas Tech during Gillispie’s tenure, was quoted by CBSSports.com’s article that put Gillispie’s job in serious jeopardy. In it, Nash said:

“We used to go more than four hours all the time … I remember that day when we went almost all day. We didn’t leave until 9 p.m. or so. It was pretty bad. A lot of guys were really hurt after it. One guy had a stress fracture in both legs.”

But his father spoke to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal over the weekend, and according to him, Jaron has absolutely no bad feelings towards Gillispie and that his decision to transfer had nothing to do with the coach. You see, Jerry Nash, Jaron’s father, has multiple sclerosis. In an effort to keep his father’s spirits up, Jaron transferred to North Dakota to be closer to his family and be able to play in front of his father more often.

Gillispie supported the decision. And, more importantly, the family:

Shortly after Nash was granted that release, Gillispie helped enter the Tech team into an awareness walk for multiple sclerosis around Jones AT&T Stadium as a tribute to Jerry Nash, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1999, he said.

“When Ron-Ron showed me video of that,” Jerry Nash said, “it brought tears to my eyes.”

Gillispie continued to reach out to Jaron Nash even after he left Tech, his father said.

“He was frustrated at first (when he went to North Dakota),” Jerry Nash said. “Coach Gillispie called him a couple of times and told him to keep his head up.”

There are very few people in this world that are truly evil or impeccably saintly. Good people can and will do bad things, the same way that bad people can and will do good things.

Unfortunately, Gillispie has done even bad things that keeping his job with the Red Raiders seems very unlikely.

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

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.