‘A Quick 5’ with George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports.  He caught up today with George Washington’s Mike Lonergan.  The Colonials host #14 Butler tomorrow.

VP: Coach, your young team has five Atlantic-10 wins so far.  What’s the reason things have been going right at GW and how challenging has this rebuilding process been?

ML: Our kids have truly bought in and are really defending and rebounding the ball recently.  We’re not the greatest perimeter shooting team in the world, but we’ve made up for it by scrapping and hustling.  Early on, I thought we had a chance to be good — we lost to K-State at home by three and even in our other other losses, we weren’t getting blown out and we were showing progress.  But we’ve matured ahead of schedule and I’m proud of our guys.  Last year’s 10-21 season was the hardest year of my coaching life, but I put it in perspective as year 1.  But my staff and I worked our butts off and recruited nearly every night to make sure it never happens again.

VP: You start four freshmen.  Coming into the season, was your mindset to ease them into playing time or did you know early they’d be this much of a factor?

ML:  To be honest, our freshmen just beat out the guys that were older than them for starting spots.  Patricio Garino is our best wing, Kevin Larsen is our best center and Joe McDonald is our best point guard. Joe is also the best rebounding guard I’ve ever coached.  I’m really excited about what the future holds for my young guys.

VP: What has Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood meant to your program?

ML:  He’s completely changed the culture of our basketball program. His work ethic is contagious and he just makes guys play harder every single day.  And he’s such a tough match-up in our league.  He’s not a true face-up 4-man and he’s not a true back to the basket guy either. He’s our leading scorer and rebounder and he’s been a dream to coach.

VP:  Word on the street is that your Butler game tomorrow is the talk of the town?

ML:  It’s crazy down here this weekend.  Since we don’t have football, this is our Homecoming Weekend so it’s a sell-out and our fan base is really excited right now.  And I’m sure the fact that we’re playing well helps.  It’s the first sell-out we’ve had here in years.  Our Board of Trustees will be here for a few events, so it’s a busy weekend all over the place.  I hope we come out and play well. It’s not every day that a Top 15 team like Butler comes into your gym.

VP:  What are your thoughts on this Butler match-up tomorrow and the rest of the A-10?

ML:  It’s a very tough match-up for sure.  They have experience, they are well coached and they play so hard on both ends of the floor.  How often do you play a team that has five starters in double figures?  I don’t want our guys to think too much.  It will be a great atmosphere and I know we’ll play hard.  If we could have some fun and make some shots who knows?  But at the end of the day, I just hope we’re one of the 12 teams that’s playing in Brooklyn for the A-10 tourney.  Our conference is great and it often seems anyone can beat anyone on any given night.

*George Washington hosts Butler tomorrow at 2:00 pm at the Smith Center in Washington, DC.

Follow Vin on Twitter @VinParise and check him out in studio for NBC Sports Network and SNY.

Villanova basketball team snaps photo with Meek Mill prior to 76ers game

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Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers was a big one for both teams, as the visiting Heat were looking to stave off elimination and the 76ers were one win away from their first playoff series victory in six years.

What added to the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center was the release of hip hop artist Meek Mill, who due to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling was released from prison. Among those also in attendance were the reigning national champion Villanova Wildcats, who along with comedian Kevin Hart, Meek Mill and the artist’s lawyers took a photo prior to the game.

City prosecutors were of the belief that Meek Mill, who had been imprisoned without bail since November, was entitled to a new trial after being found guilty of a probation violation stemming from a conviction handed down in 2009. This was a factor in the Supreme Court’s decision to grant Meek Mill, who rang the bell prior to the start of Tuesday’s game, his freedom.

Meek Mill received a groundswell of support throughout his incarceration from members of the 76ers and Super Bowl champion Eagles and other public figures, including 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Ohio State lands grad transfer Keyshawn Woods

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With three of the team’s top five scorers from this season, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, moving on Ohio State entered the offseason in need of players who could potentially have an immediate impact in 2018-19.

Tuesday evening the Buckeyes picked up a commitment from a grad transfer, as former Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods announced that he will play his final season at Ohio State.

Woods appeared in 28 games for the Demon Deacons in 2017-18, averaging 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 25.7 minutes per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was used primarily as a reserve this past season, making just five starts for Wake Forest. Woods began his collegiate career at Charlotte, playing the 2014-15 season there before transferring to Wake Forest.

During the 2016-17 season, the first in which he was eligible to play at Wake Forest, Woods started 22 of the 33 games he played in and averaged 12.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Woods shot 49.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three during that campaign, and the hope in Columbus is that he can get back to that level in his lone season as a Buckeye.

Ohio State’s best returnee on the perimeter next season will be rising junior C.J. Jackson, who averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a sophomore. Ohio State also adds a talented freshman class that includes guards Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad. Florida State transfer C.J. Walker will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming campaign per NCAA transfer rules.

Memphis to recruit in style with new souped-up van

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Traveling during live recruiting periods isn’t the most enjoyable process for college basketball coaches, with many having to work their way through airports and car rental lines in order to keep tabs on players they’re recruiting. For the programs at the top of the sport a private plane may be available, which certainly helps.

In the case of Penny Hardaway’s Memphis program, the coaching staff will be hitting the road in style as he showed off a new, souped-up van via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

Notice the “One Cent” logo in the headrests, making it clear whose van it is and what Hardaway’s accomplished in the game of basketball as a player. For those too young to be intimately familiar with his playing career, Hardaway’s work with the Bluff City Legends (named Team Penny when he was in charge) on the Nike EYBL circuit and at Memphis East HS will likely register.

Since Hardaway’s hiring he and his staff, which includes assistants Tony Madlock and two-time NBA champion Mike Miller, have made Memphis a player on the recruiting trail. Will the van reel in top prospects? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s no denying the fact that Hardaway and his staff have already managed to connect in a way that the prior coaching staff was unable to.

Now we wait for the anonymous complaint from another athletic department to the NCAA about Hardaway and Memphis having this van, because that’s generally the way in which these things work.

NABC sends out talking points ahead of Rice Commission announcement

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Wednesday morning the NCAA will announced the recommendations of the Rice Commission, which is headed by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The commission was formed in the aftermath of the FBI’s September arrest of ten individuals in connection with an investigation into corruption and bribes in college basketball recruiting back, with the stated goal being to introduce reforms that would “clean up” the sport.

NBC Sports obtained an email the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) sent out to its members in preparation for Wednesday’s announcement. In the email, the NABC provided “talking points” while also encouraging coaches to support the Rice Commission’s findings — whether they agree with them or not.

“In short, it is imperative that the Commission’s recommendations be met with unequivocal support from each of us. The NABC Board of Directors affirmed the necessity of this unified response on a conference call earlier today,” the statement sent out by the NABC read.

The key talking points are:

  • Change was necessary, and we knew change was coming. As coaches on the front lines, we are uniquely positioned to offer valuable insight as the Commission’s recommendations progress through the legislative process;
  • As coaches, we are committed to working with the NCAA in evaluating the recommendations and will provide appropriate input as legislation is drafted;
  • We are appreciative of the Commission’s efforts to address necessary change, and for welcoming the input of the NABC.

The Rice Commission’s recommendations are highly anticipated in college basketball circles, and it remains to be seen just how quickly the NCAA would go about implementing them. One topic that’s bound to be discussed is the “one and done” player, but it once again must be noted that this is something controlled by the NBA and its Players Association (via the collective bargaining agreement). There’s also the connection with shoe companies, which became an even bigger point of conversation in the aftermath of the FBI arrest.

Hearing what coaches have to say about the Rice Commission’s findings would have been interesting. But with the NABC looking to present a unified front, there may not be much to take from what the coaches say in the aftermath of Wednesday’s announcement.

Kansas made no written report of its athletics review

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas did not produce any written reports of an independent examination of its athletics department amid a federal investigation of corruption in college basketball because an external report wasn’t necessary, Chancellor Douglas Girod said.

The university review came before Kansas was named earlier this month as one of the schools where a former Adidas representative allegedly arranged payments to parents of athletes to ensure the athletes committed to the schools.

Girold said Monday he was given verbal briefings after last fall’s review but he didn’t receive any written reports. The university’s review was prompted by an Oct. 11 memo from the NCAA requiring Division I basketball programs to examine their men’s basketball programs “for possible NCAA rules violations, including violations related to offers, inducements, agents, extra benefits, and other similar issues.”

On April 13, Girod said in a statement that he had “complete confidence” that the athletics department had followed all rules.

“We didn’t feel the need to release an external report,” Girod said. “What we needed to be sure of is that we are comfortable and confident in the way our team operates and in meeting any and every requirement necessary.”

When The Lawrence Journal-World filed an open records request seeking all written reports related to the review Kansas officials said no such records exist. The newspaper said without a written report it was difficult to determine what the university examined and what methods were used.

Kansas hired an outside law firm but said the firm only provided assistance on technical matters.

Girod said Monday the examination reviewed several records to determine whether there is anything the university should be concerned about and found nothing.

The latest federal indictment in the wider investigation alleges that a former Adidas executive paid a mother and a guardian of two basketball players at least $130,000 to ensure they would play for the Jayhawks. No Kansas officials were implicated.

“We have gone back to look at anything we have access to, and we can’t find any evidence of that,” Girod said. “But we don’t have access to everything. That is all we really can do — make sure that on our side of the house we are doing everything appropriately and properly.”