NCAA forgot about a legend with its 75th anniversary team

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ATLANTA — So the NCAA quietly released their “All-Time March Madness Players” on Friday. I don’t think they meant to release it quietly, but that’s the NCAA for you. When it comes to embarrassing a player for collecting an unwarranted fries and Coke, they can make a whole lot of noise. When it comes to announcing something cool like an all-time NCAA Tournament team, they can’t get anyone to pay attention.

In any case, I’m going to list the 15 players below in alphabetical order. I believe there’s an obvious omission. See if you can spot the player I’m thinking about:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor at UCLA)

Larry Bird, Indiana State

Bill Bradley, Princeton

Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

Grant Hill, Duke

Magic Johnson, Michigan State

Michael Jordan, North Carolina

Christian Laettner, Duke

Jerry Lucas, Ohio State

Danny Manning, Kansas

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati

Bill Russell, San Francisco

Bill Walton, UCLA

Jerry West, West Virginia

Now, remember, this is only supposed to be for players during the NCAA Tournament. Do you see the missing player? Heck you probably see a bunch of missing players … but there’s one I think rises above.

Before I get into that, let’s talk for a moment about Michael Jordan. I believe that he’s the greatest basketball player in the history of the game — I see good arguments for Wilt and Magic and Abdul-Jabbar and Russell and I think LeBron James, if he maintains this level for a while longer, will have a powerful argument too. I still think Jordan’s the best.

With that said … what in the heck is he doing on THIS list? Yes, Jordan at North Carolina made the jump shot that ended up as the difference against Georgetown in the 1982 championship game (though you will remember that Georgetown had the ball with a chance to win and Fred Brown threw the pass away). But Jordan was a freshman then and was probably the third best player on that team behind James Worthy and Sam Perkins. He averaged 13 points a game during that tournament. Not exactly legendary stuff.

The next year, North Carolina was shocked by Georgia in the regional final — Jordan did score 26 in the loss on 11-of-23 shooting, but he also fouled out of the game.

The next year, North Carolina was REALLY shocked by Indiana in the regional semifinal — that was the game when Dan Dakich famously got in Jordan’s grill, spooked him somehow, and Jordan scored just 13 on six-of-14 shooting.

I”m sorry, am I missing it? How in the heck does this get Michael Jordan on the all-time tournament team?

It gets him on the team because he’s Michael Jordan … and people get lazy about their history. Jordan was a superb college basketball player — he won the Wooden Award his junior year. But he wasn’t a legendary one. Remember, he WAS the third pick in that NBA Draft. The legendary stuff came later, as a pro in Chicago. When the ACC named Jordan the best conference’s best player over the last 50 years, real ACC aficionados shook their head in dismay. It was a ridiculous choice. And now, when the NCAA makes a list of the best tournament players and includes Jordan, well, it’s the same thing all over again.

The worst part is, the player who is forgotten is the player Michael Jordan himself idolized.

* * *

When it comes to being remembered and celebrated, David Thompson pretty much had everything stacked against him. He was in the last class of players to be ineligible as freshmen — so he lost a year when he might have already been the best player in the country. He also lost one postseason when his N.C. State team was declared ineligible  … this because of some remarkably petty rules violations involving the Thompson recruitment.*

*Thompson was so heavily recruited, he actually put TWO schools on probation — N.C. State and Duke. There were always rumors that he received a boatload of money and cars and everything else — maybe he did. But the ACTUAL violations at N.C. State were so minor, you almost can’t believe they stuck — the violations included housing during a basketball camp (Thompson, apparently, slept on the floor) and playing in pickup games with an assistant coach. The ACTUAL Duke violation was a sport coat given to him for graduation.

Perhaps more than anything, Thompson played his three college years when the NCAA made the dunk illegal. There is no telling how many classic David Thompson dunks were lost to time. Thompson had a 44-inch vertical jump. They would say about him that he could grab a quarter off the top of the backboard and replace it with two dimes and a nickel. He was probably the greatest dunker on earth — in the ABA he was one half of a legendary dunk contest against Julius Erving. Dr. J eventually won with his now-famous jump-from-the-foul-line dunk, but many people who watched them both all night would say that Thompson’s dunks were superior and had he not missed one of them, he would have won the contest.

In any case, he had only one dunk in college. We’ll get back to that one.

Thompson was more than a dunker, though. He was an unstoppable scoring machine. He was a defensive force of nature. His sophomore year, his N.C. State team went 27-0, and Thompson averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and he made 57% of his shots. They might have been the best team in America. They did not get to go to the NCAA Tournament to prove it — and UCLA won its seventh consecutive national championship.

The next year, N.C. State played UCLA in the regular season — and got destroyed by 18. Thompson was overwhelmed by the moment. But this time, they were allowed to play in the NCAA Tournament. And Thompson had a tournament for the ages.

In the regional semifinal against Bad News Marvin Barnes and Providence, Thompson scored 40 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, played all 40 minutes and led N.C. State to a 92-78 victory.

Two days later, the Wolfpack played Pittsburgh. When Louisville’s Kevin Ware had that horrible injury against Duke over the weekend, many people remembered the terrible Joe Theisman injury because they were both so horrible to watch. But a much more apt comparison was David Thompson against Pittsburgh. He had taken a shot and felt like he was fouled. When there was no call, he grew angry and chased down a Pittsburgh player to block his shot.

He took off — he would often say he never jumped higher. Thompson’s leg connected with the shoulder of a teammate Phil Spence, and he crashed to the floor. There was blood everywhere. He was knocked unconscious. As the Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff — who was there as a young N.C. State fan that day — would say: “Everybody thought he was dead.” He was taken off the court on a stretcher. He needed 15 stitches.

One week later, in the national semifinal game, David Thompson was back to play against UCLA. He scored 28 points. He grabbed 10 rebounds. But perhaps what people remember more than anything was that that twice — TWICE — he blocked Bill Walton’s shots. And N.C. State beat UCLA in double overtime — the first time UCLA had lost a tournament game in eight years.

Thompson completed the miracle by scoring 21 in the final as N.C. State beat Marquette for the national title.

It is beyond my understanding how that remarkable series of games could not land David Thompson on the All-Time Tournament team. He dominated the game. He came back from an impossibly gruesome injury. He ended a dynasty. He won a championship. Nobody in the history of the NCAA Tournament has ever done anything like it.

But … David Thompson wrecked his life after he left N.C. State. He averaged 30 points a game his senior year and won the Naismith Award. In his last game, he found himself open on a breakaway and he threw down a ferocious dunk. It meant a technical foul, but Thompson didn’t care. It was the right way to end the career. He didn’t know then that, in many ways, he really was ending a career.

Thompson was the first pick in the NBA Draft and the ABA Draft. And, he really was a dominant pro basketball player his first four seasons — he averaged 25.8 points a game, wowed many with his fabulous dunks and amazing blocked shots, and might have been the best player in the league in the 1977-1978 season. He signed a massive contract (well, massive for the time). But he had a serious drug problem that was getting worse every year. He could not handle his fame. He rather famously fell down the steps one night at Studio 54, badly hurting his knee. He tried to come back. He was not able to make it back. His life descended even further into a drug-addled hell.

In time, David Thompson found some balance in his life. He found faith. He reached out to help kids so that they would not make the same mistakes he made. I went to a couple of his sessions with kids. He would start by saying:

“How many of you have heard of me?”

Only a handful of kids would raise their hands, and those — I thought — out of kindness.

“OK. Now, how many of you have heard of Michael Jordan.”

Every hand in the place would shoot up.

“Well,” he would say (with a little sadness in his voice, I thought) “I was Michael Jordan’s hero.”

In so many ways, David Thompson’s basketball career was a story of what might have been. But, that doesn’t nullify what he did. He has a real argument as the greatest college basketball player ever. And, if they are going to make lists like these, they shouldn’t put the best names. They should put the right players. David Thompson should remembered.

Look at the list again: Jerry West was once a Final Four MVP even though his team lost. Oscar Robertson was an amazing player who put up amazing numbers but could never quite lead his team into the national championship game. Michael Jordan hit an NCAA Tournament game-winning shot. Larry Bird played in one NCAA Tournament and was amazing, but in the championship game he shot 7 for 21 and his team lost. These players and other are on the NCAA list not because of their NCAA tournament heroics but because, years later, in the NBA, they became legends.

David Thompson squandered his years later. But by then he was already a legend. And it shouldn’t be forgotten.

LSU rallies late for 77-75 win over Michigan in Maui

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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Tremont Waters hit a step-back jumper, got back into his defensive and poked the ball free near midcourt. He dove to the floor, grabbed the ball and, in one motion, heaved it blindly over his head toward teammate Skylar Mays, alone at the other end.

Impressive stuff from a freshman, even one considered among the nation’s top point guard.

Waters scored 21 points and set up the go-ahead basket with his spectacular no-look assist, helping LSU rally for a 77-75 victory in the Maui Invitational on Monday night.

“Tremont Waters just made some incredible plays,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.

LSU (3-0) trailed by nine with about 5 minutes left, but chipped away at the lead to get within reach. Waters tied it with a step-back jumper and followed with his highlight-reel, steal-and-assist to Mays for a dunk and a 76-74 lead with 1:14 left.

Waters hit 1 of 2 free throws with 5.8 seconds after Michigan’s Charles Matthews went 1 for 2 at the line, giving the Wolverines (3-1) a final chance. Matthews, who had 28 points, got a shot from the wing off, but it came up short, sending LSU’s players racing off the bench in cheers.

Aaron Epps had 14 points for the Tigers, who move on to face No. 13 Notre Dame in Tuesday’s semifinals.

Moritz Wagner had 24 points for Michigan.

“Obviously, you could tell by the way we reacted, that was a huge win for us, huge,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “I’m so proud of our players. We turned the page on our program tonight.”

LSU and Michigan are in rebuilding years, the Tigers after Wade replaced Johnny Jones, the Wolverines after losing a trio of stars.

LSU opened the season with a pair of walkover victories against Alcorn State and Samford. Michigan had a pair of lopsided wins sandwiched around a tight victory over Central Michigan.

The Tigers struggled defensively a year ago under Jones, but were more active early in their Maui opener, harassing the Wolverines into difficult shots.

Wagner and Matthews were able to find some holes in LSU’s defense, helping the Wolverines to keep it close in the first half.

The Tigers shot well — 12 for 22 — but struggled holding onto the ball, turning it over 11 times. LSU led 31-29 at halftime on a buzzer-beating finger roll by Mays.

Once the tight first half ended, the second turned into an offensive show, with the Tigers and Wolverines trading made baskets nearly every trip.

LSU’s Brandon Sampson had a thunderous dunk over a defender and Waters followed with a power-spinning, how-did-he-do-that layup as he was falling to the floor.

Wagner and Matthews kept dropping in jump shots for Michigan to stay close.

LSU went up seven, but Michigan went on a 10-0 run to go up 58-53. Michigan tried to run away with it, but the Tigers kept hanging around, pulling within 73-72 on Epps’ 3-pointer with 2 minutes left to set up Waters’ final flourish.

“He’s a great player, great team,” Matthews said. “Felt like we had great defensive execution, so I give credit to them, but I feel like we did a good job.”

THE TAKEAWAY

LSU showed a lot of determination for a young team, rallying late against a solid Michigan team when it could have folded.

The Wolverines had a trip to the semifinals in their grasp, but didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.

UP NEXT

LSU faces No. 13 Notre Dame in Tuesday’s semifinals

Michigan plays Chaminade in the loser’s bracket on Tuesday.

Berry scores 29 points as No. 9 UNC beats Stanford 96-72

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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Joel Berry II had no intentions of repeating his poor shooting performance from the last game.

He showed up at Maples Pavilion more than a half-hour before his teammates for Monday’s shootaround, putting up some 200 extra shots from all over the floor — and it worked wonderfully.

Berry scored 29 points, Kenny Williams posted career highs with 20 points and six 3-pointers, and No. 9 North Carolina beat Stanford 96-72 on Monday night in a matchup of Roy Williams against his former player-turned coach, Jerod Haase.

“I just wanted to bounce back from not shooting as well last game,” said Berry, who shot 1 for 11 last week against Bucknell. “That’s why when I hit the shots I was just smiling just because I expected to hit those shots.”

Luke Maye added 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the defending champion Tar Heels (3-0), who improved to 11-0 against the Cardinal.

Reid Travis scored 21 points to lead Stanford (3-2), while Isaac White added 20.

Second-year Cardinal coach Haase played for 15th-year UNC coach Williams at Kansas and also coached under him at North Carolina from 2003-2012. They were all smiles together in recent days leading up to the sold-out, nationally televised game and reunion at Maples Pavilion.

“It was a lot of personal things today. This was an emotional day for me, this morning talking about Jerod,” Roy Williams said. “It was emotional when I got up on the bench and started down here and then I saw Jerod. I don’t think I looked at him a single time during the game.”

Berry shot 10 for 19 with five 3-pointers and Williams went 7 of 11 and 6 for 8 on 3s. Williams made North Carolina’s first five field goals on seven shots as the rest of the team missed its initial six attempts until Brandon Huffman’s dunk at the 12:54 mark of the first half.

After falling behind 11-6, the Tar Heels answered with a 24-4 run to take control and led 50-36 at halftime.

Stanford was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 and held its first four opponents to an average of 67 points while scoring 75.3. The Tar Heels topped 90 points for the second time in three games.

“Once the game starts I do think I kind of lose myself in the game and Coach Williams probably does, too,” Haase said. “Having Carolina in the building is a special deal.”

Stanford is short-handed as Dorian Pickens and Marcus Sheffield nurse foot injuries, putting three freshmen in the starting lineup.

Berry and Williams shouldered the load after the North Carolina bench contributed 26 points in a 93-81 victory against Bucknell last Wednesday.

MISSED FREE THROWS

Stanford’s struggles at the free-throw line contributed to the Cardinal losing this one.

His team down 55-44, Travis missed two free throws with 16:09 remaining in the game, Theo Pinson immediately hit a jumper on the other end, and Stanford wound up 17 for 28 (60.7 percent) from the line.

“It’s disappointing when we’ve got a run like that,” Travis said.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels hadn’t visited Stanford since Dec. 3, 1983, earning an 88-75 victory in the championship game of the Stanford Invitational despite Michael Jordan fouling out in just eight minutes and scoring four points in Dean Smith’s 500th win. … UNC improved to 2-0 in games vs. Stanford at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford: The Cardinal faced their first ranked opponent after going 0-8 in such games last season. No. 3 Kansas also is on the schedule for a Dec. 21 game at Sacramento’s second-year Golden 1 Center. Haase dropped to 2-17 against ranked opponents as a coach. He is one of only three to play for Williams and later coach against him. Williams is now 3-1 coaching against Haase — previously at UAB — while also having coached against former players Wes Miller and Rex Walters. … This marked the first men’s basketball sellout at 7,233-seat Maples since Oregon’s visit on March 1, 2015.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: Plays Thursday against Terry Porter’s Portland team at the PK80 Invitational for Phil Knight’s 80th birthday in Portland.

Stanford: The Cardinal face another tough task in No. 7 Florida at the PK80 event Thursday.

LaVar Ball questions Trump’s role in son’s release

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Outspoken basketball dad LaVar Ball questioned the extent of President Donald Trump’s involvement in securing his son’s release from the custody of Chinese authorities during a combative 20-minute CNN interview on Monday night.

The president, in tweets Sunday, said he should have left LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in jail because LaVar Ball “is unaccepting of what I did for his son” and “very ungrateful!” LaVar Ball has refused to thank Trump.

LaVar Ball didn’t back down during the CNN interview, telling host Chris Cuomo that Trump has more important things to do than ask for his gratitude.

“That’s on your mind, that a father didn’t say ‘Thank you’? And you’re the head of the U.S.? Come on,” Ball said. “There’s a lot of other things that’s going on. Let him do his political affairs and let me handle my son, and let’s just stay in our lane.”

Ball suggested that he and Chinese president Xi Jinping had more to do with securing his son’s release than the president.

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“Did (Trump) help the boys get out? I don’t know. If I was going to thank somebody, I probably would thank President Xi. He’s in China. He’s the president of China,” Ball said, later adding: “I helped my son get out of China. I had some people that had boots on the ground that knew the situation.”

Ball also pushed back against Trump’s suggestion that shoplifting “is a very big deal in China.”

“It wasn’t a big deal because being raised in South Central LA, I’ve seen harsher things. I’ve seen 16, 17-year-old kids that have had to go to jail for life, that were my friends,” Ball said. “He wasn’t physical. He returned it. He fessed up to it.”

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LiAngelo and fellow UCLA freshmen Jalen Hill and Cody Riley have been suspended indefinitely. They were arrested and questioned about stealing from high-end stores next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins stayed before leaving for Shanghai to play Georgia Tech. All three apologized for their actions and thanked Trump for his role in securing their release, which occurred while the president was traveling in Asia.

The trio isn’t allowed to suit up, be on the bench for home games or travel with the team. Without them, No. 23 UCLA lost to Creighton on Monday night in the Hall of Fame Classic.

LaVar Ball is attempting to build an empire around the basketball skills of his three sons — Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo, LiAngelo and prep prospect LaMelo — and his own bombastic personality. He started an apparel company, Big Baller Brand, with shoes that retail for $500 or more, and he got in several plugs for his products during the CNN interview.

No. 6 Notre Dame beats Chaminade 83-56 in Maui

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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Matt Farrell scored 27 points and Bonzie Colson added 23, helping No. 13 Notre Dame open the Maui Invitational with an 83-56 rout over Division II Chaminade on Monday night.

Notre Dame (4-0) was sharp from the start at the offensive end, building a nine-point halftime lead and gradually extending it in the second half by making 14 of 26 shots.

The Irish shot 54 percent and made 9 of 20 from 3-point range to earn a spot in Tuesday’s semifinals against the Michigan-LSU winner.

Chaminade (2-1) kept it close early with its perimeter shooting before wearing down against the bigger Irish.

Erik Scheive had 17 points to lead tournament host Chaminade, which made 7 of 29 from 3-point range and shot 35 percent overall.

The Silverswords have made a name for themselves by slashing down giants, starting with their 1982 home victory over giant Ralph Sampson and top-ranked Virginia. Chaminade has picked up more upsets through the years at the Maui Invitational, taking down powers like Texas, Oklahoma, Villanova and Stanford with their ability to work the ball around quickly and knock down long-range shots.

The Silverswords opened this season with victories over Alaska and Alaska Anchorage, but the Irish are like a five-headed monster of length, athleticism and shooters.

They also have Colson, a do-it-all, preseason All-America Irish coach Mike Brey complimented by saying he has no neck and is a beautiful basketball player in the same sentence.

Chaminade, as usually is the case in Maui, kept it close early with its shooting, hitting 4 of 8 from 3-pont range.

Once Notre Dame expanded its defensive net, the Silverswords were unable to move without an Irish in their face, leading to a scoreless drought of more than 5 minutes.

Notre Dame created its own room to shoot, zipping around or rising above the Silverswords while hitting 14 of 26 shots to lead 38-29 at halftime. It would have been bigger, but Chaminade’s Brett Reed hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Farrell had 16 by halftime and kept shooting, scoring five quick points to put the Irish up 46-34, well on their way to the rout.

THE TAKEAWAY

Notre Dame played the way it needed to against a DII school, but will get a much bigger test in the semifinals.

Chaminade had some good moments before wearing down, but come away with another game of experience against a top-tier program, something that should help later in the season.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame faces the Michigan-LSU winner in Tuesday’s semifinals

Chaminade plays the Michigan-LSU loser.

Freshmen Bagley, Duval lead No. 1 Duke past Furman, 92-63

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — He dunked, he dished, he even hit a 3-pointer: Marvin Bagley III did everything he could to break the game open for top-ranked Duke.

Bagley III scored 24 points and the Blue Devils beat Furman 92-63 on Monday night in the on-campus round of the PK80.

Trevon Duval had a season-best 18 points, Wendell Carter Jr. added 14 and a fourth freshman — Alex O’Connell — scored 10 for Duke (5-0).

The Blue Devils shot nearly 61 percent and outscored Furman 64-28 in the paint, and have won all four of their games at Cameron Indoor Stadium by at least 17 points.

Bagley did it all during the 28-10 run late in the first half that put this one out of reach, scoring 11 points in 2½ minutes during that stretch. In addition to one of his authoritative dunks that already have become routine, he hit a couple of short jumpers and a layup, found Trevon Duval for a dunk and even made his second 3-pointer of the season.

“It was just a time in the game when I was hitting, my teammates kept finding me,” Bagley said. “They kept coming back to me, they believed in me enough to keep going and keep pushing, and I just executed on the plays we were running. It was one of those moments in the game when I was hot.”

Tougher tests await this team in the coming days in Portland, Oregon — possibly from No. 7 Florida or No. 17 Gonzaga in a later round of the event marking Nike founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.

This rout came after Duke strengthened its grip on the top spot in the AP Top 25, adding 20 more first-place votes to give the Blue Devils 54 of them — or, all but 11 of the 65 ballots cast.

John Davis III scored 15 points and Matt Rafferty added 11 for the Paladins (2-2), who have lost two straight.

BIG PICTURE

Furman: A few Paladins were familiar with Cameron: Two senior starters, Davis and Daniel Fowler, also started here as freshmen in 2014 when the Blue Devils beat them by 39 . As a team, they acquitted themselves much better in this visit, even leading for almost 5 early minutes. The other 35 were pretty rough, though, and they kept Furman winless against Duke since 1951 — when both schools were in the Southern Conference.

“With the pressure, Duke really turned the pressure up, and our guys started to dribble the ball instead” of passing it around, coach Bob Richey said. “They started trying to take the ball out of the high post … which basically kept us from cutting as much. … We struggled to finish (and) it compounded itself when we didn’t pass it and move it as well as we needed to.”

Duke: After a bit of a sluggish start, the Blue Devils got back to looking more like their dominant selves than last time out, a rather sloppy 17-point victory three nights earlier against a winless Southern team. After that game, coach Mike Krzyzewski bemoaned his team’s lack of practice time due to a busy week. No such issues this time.

“We practiced better these last two days — we practiced,” Krzyzewski said. “So of course we practiced better. And it showed.”

HIGHLIGHT REEL

There were plenty — Bagley’s slick pass inside to Duval for a dunk — but one pretty sequence came midway through the first half when Marques Bolden blocked Clay Mounce’s dunk attempt. That led to a fast break that ended with a corner 3 by Gary Trent Jr.

STAT LINES

Bagley finished one point shy of a season high. . Duke captain Grayson Allen finished with a season-low five points on 2-of-9 shooting, only attempting two shots in the second half and not getting to the foul line at all. He made up for that with a season-best six assists.

FIRE DRILL

Tip-off was delayed 15 minutes after a fire alarm in a second-floor men’s restroom was tripped and the building was briefly evacuated, Duke spokesman Mike DeGeorge said. The alarm went off about an hour before the scheduled start time.

UP NEXT

Furman: Faces New Hampshire on Friday in a PK80 game in Nashville, Tennessee.

Duke: Takes on Portland State on Thursday in the PK80 in Portland, Oregon.