Southern University will honor one of the program’s greatest players on Saturday, renaming the F.G. Clark Activity Center court in honor of Avery Johnson during a ceremony at halftime of their game against Grambling State.
Johnson, most recently head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, played two seasons at the SWAC school and won conference Player of the Year honors in both 1987 and 1988. Johnson dished out 20 assists or more in a game four times during his two seasons at Southern after transferring in from Cameron University (an NAIA school located in Lawton, Oklahoma).
A native of New Orleans, the “Little General” would go on to play 16 seasons in the NBA with his most noteworthy years coming with the San Antonio Spurs. Johnson’s baseline jumper in Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals clinched the franchise’s first NBA title.
But even with his achievements at the professional level, Johnson remains grateful for his time at Southern and looks forward to Saturday’s ceremony.
“We (he and his wife Cassandra) are just really honored to be a part of what we’re looking at as a celebration of hard work,” Johnson said in the release. “We’ll be able to share in that celebration with a lot of friends and family.”
In some cases there’s a concern that the visiting team can spoil the fun on a day like this one, but with all due respect to Grambling State that won’t be an issue Saturday. Grambling State (0-18) is the lone Division I team yet to win a game this season, with inexperience and roster issues proving to been too much for a team that didn’t play its first home game until January 6.
On that day Southern beat Grambling State 82-43, with the Tigers scoring just 12 points in the first half. Averaging just over 20 turnovers per game, the 2012-13 campaign has been one those associated with the program will want to forget as soon as its over.
With that in mind, Saturday sets up to be a good day for Southern to welcome back one of its greatest players.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.
And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.
Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.
Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.