MinnesotaWilliamsArena

Minnesota embarks on $190 million facilities development plan

1 Comment

Minnesota’s legendary Williams Arena — known as just “The Barn” to most — was built back in 1928, and is in dire need of a face-lift. It has the history and nostalgic memories that most college basketball gyms don’t have, but improvements are needed to keep pace with the times. Don’t get excited just yet thinking that “The Barn” will see renovations in the very near future, as those won’t come until phase two of the development plan which, according to athletic director Norwood Teague, is ” even further off in the horizon.”

According to Teague, it’s imperative that Minnesota makes upgrades to their athletic facilities as fellow Big Ten schools have already passed them by, namely Nebraska who has very little basketball history to speak of:

Most of our Big Ten competitors are ahead of us. Nebraska has done a phenomenal job of a really holistic upgrade of their facilities as it relates to the training table and academic facility and weight rooms, things like that. They’re new to our league, but they’re a great example. They’re not far from us/ We need these facilities in order to really compete head-to-head, especially in a handful of sports that are behind.’

As you might expect, much of the $190 million is being dispersed to other plans on Minnesota’s campus aside from athletic needs. According to the article from the Associated Press:

But this is an ambitious project, which also includes new academic, dining and nutrition areas for athletes, an upgraded football practice facility and new space for the women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling teams. This is only the first phase of the plan, with a completion target of six to eight years.

While “The Barn” won’t be a part of the initial developments and renovations, head coach Rick Pitino Jr. will see improvements to basketball facilities. Currently, “The Barn” and the adjacent Sports Pavilion host games and practices for not just basketball, but several other sports, as well. The facilities are overcrowded, and upgrading the practice facilities is on the top of the list for the first stage of the development plan.

If you recall, a new practice facility for basketball was something that former head coach Tubby Smith clamored about for years. In the spring of 2011, he explained his disappointment in the antiquated facilities: “I’d like to see something done to help basketball. We’ve done our part. We need to get that done because there really hasn’t been anything done for basketball since I’ve been here in a major way.”

How long will a major project like this take to execute? Said Teague: ”Am I guaranteeing that all this will be done in eight years? ‘No. But that’s our goal.”

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

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.

UNLV transfer to finish career at Michigan State

UNLV forward Ben Carter, right, celebrates after his team defeated Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. UNLV won 80-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)
Leave a comment

Former UNLV center Ben Carter announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring to Michigan State to finish his collegiate career.

Carter, who began his career at Oregon, averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 boards in his one season with UNLV before tearing his ACL in late January. He spent two seasons with the Ducks before transferring to Vegas, which is why he’s eligible immediately for the Spartans.

And that’s the biggest reason that Tom Izzo and company targeted him.

The Spartans lost Deyonta Davis to the NBA Draft after one season, a fact that became an inevitability midway through the year but one that the Spartans didn’t necessarily plan for heading into last season. Carter isn’t going to be an instant impact kind of player, particularly not when he’s coming off of an ACL injury, but he is a big body and a veteran presence on a front line that wasn’t going have much of either.