J.L. Lewis, Brandon Gibson, Cordarius Johnson, Marcel Davis

Deep rotation, defense spark Louisiana Tech’s 12-0 WAC start

Leave a comment

With seven members slated to leave the Western Athletic Conference at the end of this academic year, much of the press surrounding the conference has focused on realignment and the next step.

However the WAC is also the home (at least for one more season) of one of just eight teams in college basketball that are currently undefeated in conference play: Louisiana Tech.

Michael White’s Bulldogs are 12-0 in WAC play and 21-3 overall, winning games despite having just one player averaging double figures in the scoring department (sophomore guard Raheem Appleby leads the way with an average of 14.5 points per game). So why have the Bulldogs been so successful? Defense.

Whether it’s over 94 feet or in the half court doesn’t matter to Louisiana Tech, whose use of ball pressure has led to them forcing an average of 17.5 turnovers per game. Opponents turn the ball over on more than 24% of their possessions according to statsheet.com, and Louisiana Tech’s 8.6 steals per game rank second in the WAC (Denver- 9.6 spg).

Add to this the fact that in conference games they rank second in field goal percentage defense (38.9%) and first in three-point percentage defense (27.5%) and it isn’t difficult to see why Coach White’s team has enjoyed so much success.

“The kids have bought into playing hard,” White noted in an interview with NBC Sports. “We like to pressure and we have the depth needed to play it consistently.

“Our depth keeps guys sharp, and it allows us to substitute for execution or effort [if needed].”

Louisiana Tech is able to pressure more this season than last due in part to the improvement shown by sophomore forward Michale Kyser, who leads the WAC in blocked shots (3.3 blocks/game).

“His progress has been integral,” White said of Kyser. “His earning more minutes allows us to extend our pressure.”

Kyser still has work to do offensively in addition to getting physically stronger, but he’s another of the Bulldogs who have found a way in which to make an impact. The key for Louisiana Tech going forward: becoming more consistent offensively, as they’re shooting just 39.8% from the field.

“It would be easier if we had four or five consistent options,” said White. “It’s not our strength and we’ve been inconsistent on that end of the floor.”

When the shots aren’t falling successful teams find a way to get stops, and that’s why a Louisiana Tech squad picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll finds itself in control of the WAC race.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
Leave a comment

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

Ernie Kent
Leave a comment

Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
1 Comment

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.