Mike Lonergan

‘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.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.

Incoming Gator freshman ineligible for upcoming season

Mike White
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Florida will need to wait a year before seeing 6-foot-11 recruit Gorjok Gak playing games for the Gators.

The NCAA ruled that the incoming freshman will be able to enroll at Florida this year and practice with the team, but will be ineligible for games this season, the school announced Tuesday.

Should he meet all his progress marks during his freshman year, he’ll have three seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2017-18.

Gak’s eligibility issue centered on his playing games during his postgraduate year at Victory Rock Prep, according to his coach there.

“Following his graduate year from Australia, he was supposed to play from December to December,” Loren Jackson told the Gainesville Sun, “but instead played from December until the following May.”

Gak originally signed with Oklahoma State, but de-committed following Travis Ford’s firing in Stillwater this past spring. Gak averaged 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds last season at Victory Rock in Bradenton, Fla.

Florida went 21-15 last season under first-year coach Mike White.

Video: Coach K talks Team USA with Dan Patrick

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Team USA has blown through its competition in its first two exhibition games ahead of next month’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with wins over Argentina and China by a combined a combined 96 points.

Tonight, they’ll have a rematch against China, which they defeated 106-57 on Sunday, but it will also serve as the unofficial debut of Kevin Durant in front of his new hometown fans with the game taking place at the home of the Golden State Warriors, Oracle Arena, in Oakland.

“Excited for Kevin tonight to make his debut in front of the Golden State fans,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show. “He got a great reception (Monday) at a function. He was, as he should be, warmly welcomed.”

The team has been together since July 18 in the run-up to its first Olympic contest on Aug. 6 against China. For Krzyzewski, a couple of players have made an impression already.

“You see these guys on TV,” the Duke coach said, “but I don’t get a chance to see them in person. (Clipper) DeAndre Jordan is such a good player. A great athlete, a great guy. To see him run, defend, holy mackerel. He’ s really good.

“I haven’t seen Paul George in two years when he had that horrific (leg) injury in Las Vegas at one of our camps, and he’s so darn good. On defense, tremendous.”

It’s on the defensive side of the floor that Coach K believes his team can really make its mark even with the incredible collection of offensive talent the roster has.

“We’re very athletic so defensively we could be a very good defensive team,” he said. “We’ve shown a willingness to want to do that in the first two games.”

As usual, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to bring back gold for the third consecutive Olympics, which will be Coach K’s last at the helm after taking over after the 2004 bronze medal debacle.

“I’m excited about the team,” he said. “It’s a short time. to see our guys working so hard and they get along so well, I’m excited about the team we might be in Rio. We’ll use tonight to get a little bit better.

“I kind of have the blinders on. You only have a short time. It’s a little over a month, and we want to win the gold medal in Rio.”