Last month the Iowa basketball program announced preliminary plans for its summer trip to Europe, with Fran McCaffery’s team making stops in both Paris and London. The Hawkeyes fell short of their goal of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament last season, instead landing in the Postseason NIT where they reached the title game before falling to Baylor.
With every major contributor outside of guard Eric May returning to Iowa City, a return to the Big Dance is just one of the expectations Hawkeye fans have for their team in 2013-14. With that in mind, McCaffery is hopeful that Iowa will use its road trip as a springboard to a special season as his teams at UNCG and Siena were able to.
“When I was with Greensboro, we ended up winning 20 games and the regular season championship and were invited to the NIT,” McCaffery said in May.
“At Siena, we were a championship team who wanted to come back and be a championship team. We wanted to take it to the next level and that was the year we beat Ohio State in the first round in 2009 in the NCAA Tournament, and almost beat top-seeded Louisville in the second round. I equate that experience with our opportunities we had the previous summer.”
Iowa hasn’t announced the full schedule of games for its trip overseas, but one of the match-ups will be against the London Lions as the British Basketball League team will open its new arena on August 14. The Copper Box Arena was used as a handball and modern pentathalon (fencing) venue for the 2012 London Olympics.
“We are delighted to have such a respected university as our first opponents at the Copper Box Arena,” said Lions head coach Vince Macaulay. “It’s just the kind of test we need to get the ball rolling.”
The game will also serve as a homecoming for Iowa center Gabe Olaseni, who is a native of London.
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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.
The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.
“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”
Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.
“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”
The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.
Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.
Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.
“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.
Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.
“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”
Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”
Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.
Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.
Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.
Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.
The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.
Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.