Butler seeking $16 million for Hinkle renovations

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One of basketball’s greatest gyms is getting a facelift. On Friday, Butler University announced a $16 million fundraising goal, part of a renovation planned for historic Hinkle Fieldhouse that is expected to total around $30 million before it’s all said and done.

There’s always a little thrill of fear that goes through me when one of basketball’s cathedrals gets some work done. But there’s little doubt that an upgrade, done with care, can make a huge difference. As fans, we see the light streaming into Hinkle from those majestic windows, and it’s easy to ignore the dingy carpet on the upper concourse, the uncomfortable seating and the fact that press conferences are held in a phone booth. For the athletes and administrators who work in the building every day, love for the space is probably tempered by a little exasperation from time to time.

It’s heartening to hear that the Butler athletic department is taking things slowly, as reported by the Muncie Star Press.

Butler has already raised nearly $12 million in gifts and pledges, according to President James Danko. The campaign ends Dec. 31, 2013, and there is no timetable for completion of a project that could exceed $30 million.

Butler is taking a “phased approach,” according to athletic director Barry Collier.

The first phase began over the summer with tuck-pointing of 820,000 bricks and replacement of 9,700 window panes with energy-efficient glass. Plans also include more chairback seats in the arena, restrooms, scoreboard with video replay, coaches’ offices, academic center, remodeled locker rooms, and training and weightlifting rooms.

It’s worth noting that Hinkle has undergone several renovations since its inaugural season in 1928. Built for $800,000 and christened Butler Fieldhouse, the building has been remodeled with an eye toward meeting the fire code and allowing greater access for handicapped fans throughout the years. The biggest, easiest change — adding the name of Tony Hinkle to the edifice — didn’t happen until 1966.

Hinkle is on the National Historic Register, so nobody can touch the building’s distinguishing features, even should they somehow wish to. But the renovations planned will make a huge difference to the program that just joined the A-10. According to Brad Stevens, the meager facilities at Hinkle almost cost him the services of Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke, who reportedly considered going to a school with more than one ice bath in the training room.

Hinkle’s age wasn’t going to impress anyone in the A-10, anyway. Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym is three years older, after all.

(photo by me, because I am one lucky SOB)

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.