The Morning Mix

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The last day of finals week is here. Not very much happened on the court last night. But that’s OK, because we have a lot to get to, you know, with the Big East imploding and everything.

What’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Strap in and buckle up, because we have a lot to get it.

Lets hit the links.

Friday’s Top Games:  Only five games on the schedule tonight feature a match-up of D-I teams
7:00 p.m. – Central Florida @ Old Dominion
7:00 p.m. – Maine @ Army
7:00 p.m. – Charlotte @ Miami (FL)
8:00 p.m. – East Tennessee State @ Ole Miss
9:00 p.m. – LSU @ Boise State
 
 
Read(s) of the Day:
This is, unquestionably, the best article I’ve read regarding the implosion of the Big East. Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant has no sympathy for the Big East, and can we blame him? No we cannot. Please, I’m begging you. Read this. (Hartford Courant)

Read(s) of the Day:
Dana O’Neil’s strong profile piece on “The Game of Change” is something you need to read before tip between Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) on Saturday. Read it. (ESPN)

Read(s) of the Day:
Luke Winn’s Power Rankings. Need I say more? Read it every Friday. (Sports Illustrated)
 
 
Top Stories:
Why the Big East’s breakup isn’t all bad: For us East Coasters born on traditional Big East basketball, this is as good of an outcome as we could have gotten. Rob Dauster explains why.

VIDEO: John Feinstein talks about the departure of the Catholic 7: Via CSNWashington, John Feinstein takes a look at what today’s Big East news means for Georgetown and for college basketball as a whole.

Report: Butler and Xavier to join the Catholic 7: According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Butler and Xavier will be a part of the newly established conference made up of the seven catholic schools that disbanded from the Big East on Wednesday.

Exam week essay about the likelihood that a D-I player scores 100 points in a game: Jack Taylor, the Grinnell College sophomore, scored an NCAA-record 138 points in a game earlier this season. It was a result of the rapid and concentrated scoring style that Grinnell implements in every game. Do you believe that Division I will ever see another 100-point game in the modern era?

Holiday wish list for Arizona: The Wildcats are on the cusp of joining the group of elite teams in the country. In order to do so, they are asking for Mark Lyons to take care of the ball better, and for their young big man to continue to grow.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– Rutgers head coach Mike Rice has been suspended three games and fined $50,000 for mistreatment of players, which includes throwing basketballs at their heads. (New Jersey Star-Ledger)

– Louisville center Gorgui Dieng had his cast removed from his hand and returned to practice. He should be able to return to action by December 22. (Card Chronicle)

– Kansas junior Justin Wesley suffered a broken pinkie in practice yesterday and will miss approximately the next three weeks (KUSports.com)

– Illinois State guard Geoffrey Allen suspended indefinitely following arrest. (Chicago Tribune)

– New Mexico State center Tshilidzi Nephawe underwent surgery to fix torn ligaments in his right hand. It is unsure if he will return or not this season. (Las Cruces Sun-Times)

– Former Washington State point guard Reggie Moore will transfer to Western Washington after being dismissed in September. (College Basketball Talk)

– Maryland freshman Jake Lyman was benched by coach Mark Turgeon during the first half against Monmouth because he failed to meet academic standards set by the head coach. (Washington Post)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Pete Thamel provides an excellent read on the in’s and out’s of the implosion of the Big East and the logistics behind the “Catholic-7” (Sports Illustrated)

– Jason McIntyre’s take on the collapse of the Big East is also worth your time (The Big Lead)

– A great profile on the Big East “Catholic” Conference’s additions based on NCAA history and attendance (Rumble in the Garden)

– Another great take from Dana O’Neil on the calculated risks being taken by the “Catholic-7” (ESPN)

– Brian Ewart wonders exactly how the “Catholic-7” will go about leaving the Big East (VU Hoops)

– Jeff Eisenberg on the winners and losers from the “Catholic-7” split (The Dagger)

– Now that the “Cahtolic-7” had split, and Butler and Xavier are expected to join, the A-10 is now on red alert for program poaching (Eye on College Basketball)

– With the Big East is a current free fall, what are the chances that Louisville and Notre Dame can join the ACC early than previously expected (Eye on College Basketball)

– Creighton officials declined comment on Thursday on whether or not the Bluejays would have any interest in joining a new basketball conference made up of the seven former members of the Big East (Omaha World-Herald)

– Gonzaga is one of the programs that is currently reaching out to the new Catholic conference about potential membership (Slipper Still Fits)

– The MAAC is set to vote on membership for three NEC schools. Quinnipiac is thought to be a lock, as is Monmouth, with Wagner having an outside shot (New York Daily News)

– Tennessee got a hard-fought victory over No.24 Wichita State last night, handing the Shockers their first loss of the season (Rocky Top Talk)

– Billy Donovan nearly left Florida a few years back to pursue the head coaching job with the Orlando Magic, but at the last-minute he decided to stay. But the long-time Gator head coach isn’t ruling out the possibility of coaching in the NBA some day (Gainesville Sun)

– Andy Glockner on the new challenges and environment that have Larry Eustachy in a “perfect fit” at Colorado State (Sports Illustrated)

– Tom Izzo wishes he could spend less time recruiting and more time with his family. I can’t imagine he’s the only coach who feels this way (MLive.com)
 
 
Odds & Ends:
– Eamonn Brennan fills us in on an interesting situation regarding a radio show featuring Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik, and the show’s decision to censor the caller interaction. As you would imagine, this did not sit well with the fan base (ESPN)

– Jabari Parker is set to make his college decision on the 20th, but he still isn’t exactly sure what school he is going to decide on (SNY.tv)

– College of Charleston lost a stunner last night to D-II Anderson University 65-49 in an exhibition game. Here is what reactions to the score look like in .GIF form (King Kresse)
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
An awesome trick-shot video put together by Oklahoma freshman James Fraschilla, the son of ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. The video benefits the Hayden’s Hope Foundation. (ESPN)
 

 
Video(s) of the Day:
Vin Parise and Erik Kuselias discuss the departure of the “Catholic-7” from the Big East. (NBC Sports Talk)
 

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Did Nike plagiarize JellyFam, Minnesota freshman Isaiah Washington to sell kid shoes?

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The JellyFam movement started as nothing more than a way for a little New York City point guard to add some flair to his game, a way to stunt on an opponent when you can’t dunk on that opponent, and has grown into something no one, not even Isaiah Washington, could have imagined.

Washington is that little point guard, and a few years ago, he and a couple of his hooping buddies coined the jelly, which, at its root, is essentially nothing more than a finger roll. Where the magic happens is when that finger comes after weaving around an opponent or finishing the layup despite the presence of a shot-blocker at the rim, with a sprinkle of NYC Point God showmanship. Think Kyrie Irving’s layup package if they happened at Rucker Park with an And1 Mixtape crew filming the game:

What JellyFam has turned into is a full-blown, grassroots movement powered by social media.

And while Washington is the face of the movement, it’s not just him. A half-dozen other talented New York hoopers are members of JellyFam, but Washington is the star. He’s a celebrity on the city’s hoops scene, drawing massive crowds wherever he goes and garnering more than 335,000 followers on Instagram despite having just 27 posts on the site. It’s not as if Washington is a sure-fire NBA All-Star, either. He’s a 6-foot-1, 160 pound point guard that doesn’t crack the top 50 on any of the major recruiting services and is headed to Minnesota to play his college ball.

His popularity is tied directly to the movement that he created.

It’s a shame, however, that he cannot profit off of it, not if he wants to remain an amateur that is eligible to play college basketball.

That doesn’t stop corporations from profiting off of what he has created.

Today, Nike released a new colorway for the kid size PG1s, Paul George’s signature shoe, that has been dubbed the ‘JellyFam PG1’. It’s being sold for $90 on their website right now. This is what it looks like:

What you’ll notice, in addition to purple and turquoise colors that are a staple in the JellyFam gear that Washington wears, is the straps. On the right foot, it says “score in bunches”. On the left foot, you’ll see a design that looks like basketballs on a grapevine … or the grape emoji, with basketballs instead of grapes.

Washington and the rest of the members of JellyFam have adopted the grape emoji as their own when posting on social media.

According to a Nike spokesperson, these shoes were “inspired by Paul George’s love for fresh grapes.”

What Nike is doing here is wrong.

They are trying to capitalize on a movement created by athletes that are not allowed to monetize something they built simply because of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. They are stealing the work created by these young men simply because they can. At worst, this is plagiarism.

Washington did not respond to messages from NBC Sports, but on Friday morning he tweeted, “It’s crazy bro they know I can’t so they just take advantage.” That tweet has since been deleted.

If you read this space, you know my feelings on the NCAA and amateurism. It’s wrong and it needs to be changed, but that’s another column for another day that’s been written thousands of times.

This column is much simpler: An international, multibillion-dollar company like Nike is already profiting off of the unpaid labor of amateur athletes.

Stealing their art, their work, their movement to try and sell sneakers to kids for $90 is despicable.

And I’m not sure there’s anything else to add.

Joel Berry II’s touching encounter with a grieving fan

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When you are the starting point guard at North Carolina and a preseason All-American coming off of a season where your team won the national title while you won the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award, getting recognized in Chapel Hill comes with the territory.

Joel Berry II should expect it when he goes out to eat.

What Berry wasn’t expecting, however, was that simply being recognized could profoundly affect the life of one of his fans.

Berry shared the story with UNC’s in-house media arm, GoHeels.com. He was at breakfast with his girlfriend when he noticed two women eyeballing him. As it turns out, those two women were the mothers of two boys that had been best friends. One of the boys had moved to Oregon and, in February, died in an car accident. His name was Rob McKiver, and Berry was his favorite player on his favorite team.

MORE: Joel Berry II, fake tattoos and a family’s loving gesture

From GoHeels.com:

That’s why Carol Freedman and Myra McVicker sat in their booth that May morning with tears trickling down their cheeks. Freedman ultimately sent Berry a heartfelt email. She relayed the story of the McVicker family and then explained why the two women had been so closely watching Berry. “Your presence that Saturday, that morning when we could have met anywhere, at any other day or time, reaffirms our belief that those loved ones who leave this Earth are still with us if we look and listen,” she wrote. “In death, Rob let his mother know that his love for her is stronger than ever.”

The email deeply touched Berry, who wrote back that same day.

“This is by far the greatest email I have ever received,” Berry wrote. “I got goosebumps reading this letter and had to share it with my mom and dad. When telling my mom, she cried with joy knowing her son had impacted someone in that way. Each morning, I always tell myself, ‘Something good is going to happen today,’ and as I read that email, I said to myself, ‘This is more than something good. This is a life changer and I will always remember this.'”

I wrote about Berry and his family after UNC won the national title. I found him to be a likeable young man and someone who is very easy to root for, unless, of course, you live in Durham.

I guess I’m not the only one that feels that way.

Tommy Hawkins, first black all-american at Notre Dame, dead at 80 years old

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tommy Hawkins, the first black basketball player to earn All-America honors at Notre Dame and who played for the Los Angeles Lakers during a 10-year NBA career, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Hawkins died in his sleep at home in Malibu, son Kevin told The Associated Press. He had been in good health and had lay down to rest, his oldest son said.

Hawkins graduated from Notre Dame in 1959 after playing three years on the basketball team. He had 1,318 career rebounds for the longest-standing record in Fighting Irish history. He was named to the school’s All-Century team in 2004 and inducted into its Ring of Honor in 2015. He led the Irish to a 44-13 record over his last two seasons, including an Elite Eight berth in the 1958 NCAA Tournament.

“He loved Notre Dame with every fiber of his being,” said Kevin Hawkins, who followed in his father’s footsteps and played basketball for the Irish before graduating in 1981. “He said Notre Dame did so much for him and grew him up to become the man that he would become.”

Hawkins became close with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, who served from 1952-87. Hesburgh was supportive when Hawkins was dating a white woman from nearby Saint Mary’s College and they were turned away from a South Bend restaurant that wouldn’t allow the interracial couple to dine, Kevin Hawkins said.

“That act led Father Hesburgh to ban Notre Dame (students) from eating there until my father got a public apology,” Kevin Hawkins said by phone from his home in South Bend. “Notre Dame walked the talk when you talk about civil rights. That meant the world to him.”

Kevin Hawkins said his father’s basketball teammate and future NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung led Hawkins back to the restaurant to secure the apology.

Kevin Hawkins said he spoke to his father almost daily and they had recently discussed last weekend’s civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Hawkins was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers with the third pick in the first round of the 1959 NBA draft. He played one season in Minnesota before moving with the team to Los Angeles. He went on to play six seasons for the Lakers, averaging 9.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in 454 games.

The 6-foot-5 forward also played for the Cincinnati Royals from 1962-66. Hawkins recorded 6,672 points and 4,607 rebounds in his pro career.

“He was and will always be part of the Lakers family,” team CEO and majority owner Jeanie Buss said. “His baritone voice and easy demeanor made him a favorite of the fans and media, as well as everyone who had the honor of calling him a friend.”

Hawkins’ influence continued beyond his playing days. As a player representative, he had a key role in establishing the first collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union and the NBA.

Born Thomas Jerome Hawkins on Dec. 22, 1936, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he moved to Chicago with his mother and aunt as a child. He starred at the city’s Parker High, now Robeson High, before being recruited by Notre Dame.

Kevin Hawkins recalled his father as a man with interests that ranged from poetry to jazz to sports. He self-published a book of poetry and Hawkins was in the midst of writing a memoir on his basketball career when he died.

“My father was a person who didn’t want to be defined as a jock or an ex-player,” Kevin Hawkins said. “He was an eclectic man. He had stories about everything from Notre Dame to the NBA to broadcasting.”

Hawkins enjoyed friendships with Alabama football coach Bear Bryant; UCLA basketball coach John Wooden; Southern California football coach John McKay; and artist LeRoy Neiman.

“You think about a man who grew up in the projects of Chicago that had done all these things in his life,” Kevin Hawkins said. “He called himself a cosmic functionary. That was his big deal. It made us all cringe, but he just loved it. He was a man of the world and a man of the people.”

Hawkins’ gregarious personality was on full display as master of ceremonies for the John R. Wooden Award presentation for over 30 years before he passed on his MC duties in 2011. He was co-national chairman of the award that honors the nation’s top male and female college basketball players.

Hawkins was hired in 1987 by then-Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley to be vice president of communications and he worked for the team until 2004.

“In life we are fortunate to know many people and Tommy was one person I always looked forward to seeing and being with,” said O’Malley, who sold the team in 1998. “He did an extraordinary job for the Dodgers as vice president, and his friendship will be missed by his family and many admirers.”

The Dodgers had a moment of silence for Hawkins before their game against the White Sox on Wednesday night.

Before joining the Dodgers, Hawkins worked in radio and television in Southern California, including stints with KNBC-TV and KABC radio.

He is survived by his second wife, Layla, and their daughter Neda; his first wife, Dori, and their children Kevin, Karel, Traci and David; seven grandchildren; and a great grandchild.

The family will likely hold a public memorial at a future date, Kevin Hawkins said.

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.