The ‘Toothless Wonder’ leads St. Joe’s to an OT win

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BROOKLYN – With five minutes left in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Friday night, St. Joseph’s was down 63-57 to No. 20 Notre Dame when Langston Galloway went diving for a loose ball near the sideline. A member of the Fighting Irish landed on the back of his head as he was sprawled out on the floor, driving his face into the ground with enough force that it knocked out one of Galloway’s front teeth.

The game went to a timeout as Galloway laid on the floor. He was helped off with a towel over his face to stop the bleeding.

There were exactly five minutes left on the clock when he was taken out.

Just 23 seconds later, after Ronald Roberts made one of two free throws, Galloway was back on the floor, providing the Hawks with the spark they needed to make an 8-0 run to close out regulation and tie the game at 66. And Galloway not only scored four of the points in that run, he hit the game-tying bucket, a reverse lay-up off of a baseline drive, while providing the defensive effort that helped hold Notre Dame’s dynamic back court silent over the final four minutes of the game.

“Langston just worked on every single possession tonight defensively,” head coach Phil Martelli said after the game. The Irish didn’t get their first points in overtime until there was just 1:09 left, and at that point, St. Joe’s run had reached 13-0 over an eight minute stretch. They would go on to win 79-70.

The irony of it all?

Langston Galloway actually had an 0ff-night. In addition to losing a tooth, he finished with just 13 points and shot 5-13 from the floor. And while those are pretty good numbers, they aren’t when you consider that Galloway averaged 15.5 points last season while shooting 46.6% from beyond the arc and that the Hawks were playing without their leading scorer from last season, as Carl Jones won’t finish his suspension until tomorrow.

The key, however, was that Galloway played his best at the most important time, something that the Hawks weren’t known for last season. Of the 14 games they lost last year, they were winning in the second half in 11 of them. The only games they lost by double-digits came at Xavier, at Temple and at home against St. Louis. Talent wasn’t the issue for this group last year. Finishing was.

“We’ve been harping with the team about finishing possessions,” Martelli said. “Scores and stops. It’s not spurts in games like that. It’s do you score and do you stop. Our defense got better as the game got longer.”

One great sign for the Hawks is the ability of their big and athletic front court to defend a team that plays with three guards and a forward that spends the majority of his time on the perimeter. The versatility of that group — Ronald Roberts, CJ Aiken and Halil Kanocevic — is astounding, really.

Roberts, who finished with 21 points and 16 boards, was guarding Patrick Connaughton, who is a three-point sniper through and through. Kanocevic had 15 points, eight boards, three steals and three blocks while handing out a team high six assists and defending center Jack Cooley. Aiken was credited with three blocks — a number Martelli deemed too low by asking if the official scorekeeper was “a union worker? Did he have to be home by midnight?” — and probably had three more while helping keep the floor spread with his ability to shoot the three.

“We had to say ‘Ron, you have to be a perimeter defender,'” Martelli said. “We’re going this way. We’ll work the kinks out as we go with these three big guys. They’re three of our five best players.”

The play of Chris Wilson has to be noted as well. Filling in for Jones, Wilson finished with 19 points, three assists and just a single turnover, which has to be comforting for Martelli given that he had five players spend more than 40 minutes on the floor.

And while the cohesion of the Hawk’s front court and the emergence of Wilson is important, it would have all been moot if St. Joe’s had lost to Notre Dame.

“Last year we would have folded and lost that game,” Galloway said. “This year we came back and we won. It’s definitely big for our confidence, knowing that we have to finish this year, knowing that we have to step up to the plate every game. We might go through adversity every game, and that’s what we did, we fought through adversity and won.”

A win isn’t the only thing that Galloway took out of this game, however. He’s also got a memento to commemorate the win.

“I have the tooth,” he said. “They tried to put it back in, but it hurt to much.”

Are you going to start wearing a mouthguard now?

“Definitely. Every game.”

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

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.

A record $439 million was bet on basketball in March in Las Vegas

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The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.

According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.

And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.

It was profitable, too.

Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

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Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.