College Hoops Player of the Week: Erick Green, Virginia Tech

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Player of the Week: Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech wasn’t supposed to have a chance this season. Not only was head coach Seth Greenberg fired at the end of April after his entire coaching staff had left during the offseason, but without Greenberg at the helm, both Dorian Finney-Smith, a rising sophomore, and Montrezl Harrell, Greenberg’s star recruit in the Class of 2012, decided to continue their careers elsewhere. When former assistant James Johnson was hired, most believed that it was an empty cupboard he was inheriting; a rebuilding job that would take a couple of seasons to make relevant.

Enter Erick Green. The star point guard for the Hokies has gone from one of the ACC’s best-kept secrets the past two years to a guy that is legitimately deserving of all-america consideration. After going for 24 points, five boards and five assists in a win over Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and following that up with a 28 point performance in a win over a ranked Oklahoma State team last week, Green is averaging 24.9 points, 4.4 assists and 40 boards. He’s also shooting at ridiculous rates (51.6/37.5/87.7 are his splits) while posting a 2.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For those that are into the stats, he’s currently the most efficient player in the country that uses more than 28% of his team’s possessions.

Making those numbers all the more important is that Green is spearheading a new style of attack. He told CBSSports.com that the team’s motto is “bring your track shoes“, which makes it all the more important for Johnson to have an efficient, talented ball-handler. Undefeated Virginia Tech is one of the nation’s most surprising teams, and Green is the biggest reason for that. This week proved it.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

  • G: Dez Wells, Maryland: Dez Wells set career-highs in back-to-back games this week, going for 23 points on 9-11 shooting in a 20 point win at Northwestern and following that up with 25 points in a win over George Mason on Sunday. When it was announced that Wells would be eligible for the Terps this season, the general consensus was that it would make Maryland a competitor in the ACC. That was before we knew that he was capable of putting up scoring numbers like this. With NC State, North Carolina and Florida State faltering, could it be that Wells makes Maryland the second best team in the league?
  • G: TJ Price, Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers started off league play in the Sun Belt with two roads wins thanks in large part to Price. The sophomore averaged 26.5 points, 8.5 boards and 3.5 assists while shooting 54.3% from the floor and 42.1% from three.
  • F: Nik Stauskas, Michigan: Trey Burke is Michigan’s star. Tim Hardaway is their second option. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are the superstar freshmen. But fellow frosh Nik Stauskas is quietly putting together a great season. After averaging 21.0 points in wins against NC State and at Bradley, he’s averaging 14.3 points while shooting 57.7% from the floor, 62.1% from three and 97.5% from the free throw line.
  • F: James Southerland, Syracuse: Syracuse played just a single game this week, but Southerland’s performance in that one game was on a different level. He finished with 35 points on 12-17 shooting (9-13 from three) as the Orange went into Fayetteville and knocked off a good Arkansas team. He’s now averaging 19.2 points and shooting 54.5% from three for the Orange despite coming off of the bench.
  • C: Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey put together one of the most dominating performances from a post player in recent memory against San Jose State on Monday, finishing with 16 points, 12 boards and 12 blocks while notching just the second triple-double in Kansas basketball history. (That’s impressive.) he followed that up with 17 points, five boards and three blocks in a win over Oregon State. Withey’s averaging an absurd 5.7 blocks thus far.
  • Bench: Karvel Anderson (Robert Morris), Raheem Appleby (Louisiana Tech), Reggie Johnson (Miami),  Mike Muscala (Bucknell), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Nick Russell and Jalen Jones (SMU)

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

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.