UMass released a statement Monday afternoon announcing that guard Chaz Williams will return to the program for his senior season.
“I just want to thank everybody around the community and at UMass, from the coaches to the fans for allowing me to do the things I do,” Williams said. “Coach Kellogg was nice enough to allow me to have the opportunity to get feedback from NBA scouts. It was a tough process. I was thinking about taking care of my family, especially my daughter.
“I love this program and coach Kellogg, and I love all the guys on the team. The pieces we have coming back next season was a big reason I decided to stay in school. We are trying our hardest to have the arena filled each and every game and the student support we have makes college basketball so exciting.”
The 6-2 former Hofstra transfer averaged a team-leading 15.5 points and 7.3 assists per game last season, garnering first team All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors. In his two-year career, he has averaged 16.2 per game.
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Williams waited until the last possible minute to announce he was coming back, despite the fact that there was little-to-no buzz surrounding him in terms of his NBA Draft prospects. This seems like the best decision for him.
With Williams returning, coach Derrick Kellogg will have one of the better backcourts in the conference with Williams and Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon, who becomes eligible after sitting out last year. Gordon led the Hilltoppers in scoring as a freshman during the 2011-12 season at 11.8 per game and also pulled down 6.7 rebounds per game. They also get West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds in 2014-15, when Williams graduates.
It will also ease the loss of 6-5 Jesse Morgan, who was second behind Williams at 13.4 points per game this season.
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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.
Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.
Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.
This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.
Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.
Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.
The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.
Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.
UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.
The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.
This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.
The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.
For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.
Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.
A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.
Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.
“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”