It’s been an offseason of transition for some of the officials who have managed to become household names in recent years.
John Cahill and Mike Kitts will both make the move from the court to administrative roles following the 2013-14 season, with Cahill becoming the coordinator of officials for the “new” Big East and Kitts moving into a similar role in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Hightower’s officiated college games for 31 years, working in leagues such as the Big Ten and Big East. The superintendent of schools in Edwardsville, Ill., Hightower has worked 12 Final Fours and was named the Naismith Division I Men’s College Basketball Official of the Year in 1992.
When an official becomes a household name as Hightower has over the years, there’s certainly no shortage of opinions in regards to his work. And his thoughts on the best compliment he can receive seem to reflect that:
This is not a job just for you to go out and make income. It’s a job that you should try and refine your skills, improve upon what you do and make the game better for the players. That’s what this is about. So that both teams have an equal opportunity to win the game. I guess the best compliment that I enjoy reading is, Boy he doesn’t like our team. Then we go to the next school, He doesn’t like our team. When we get all the way through the Big 10, I don’t like any of the teams. It’s all about being fair and not doing any more for one team than the other.
The question now is what kind of reception Hightower will receive when he enters Big Ten (and other conferences) arenas for the final time this coming winter.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.