No rest, only growth for graduate assistants in July

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Bryan Sherrer is staying busy this July.

Not only is the Murray State graduate assistant keeping tabs on the players currently on campus, but he’s also wrapping up his time with the program.

After two years on staff in Murray, Sherrer, a former Murray State player himself, is interviewing for assistant coaching positions, getting looks from High Point and Wallace State (Ala.) Community College-Selma.

But for now, he’s carrying the graduate assistant tag and everything that comes with it.

“You have to look at it like, everyone that started as a GA [graduate assistant],” Sherrer said by phone last week.”You have to look at the future and think ‘this is where I’m going to get,’ it motivates you to try to get where I want to be [as a coach].”

Sherrer (pictured above) said he hopes to hear something about a coaching position in the next few weeks.

              To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

Until then, Sherrer has done what most GAs do during the July live recruiting period, maintain and organize. He makes sure the players are attending their summer classes and weight room sessions, while also getting shots up and working on their respective games in the CFSB Center.

This is the picture that’s painted across most college basketball programs at this time. Along with the on-campus responsibilities, GAs like Western Kentucky’s Michael Pollio also keep in constant contact with the head and assistant coaches on the road to help them keep a handle on the recruiting scene.

That’s one wrinkle that most graduate assistants also carry with them in July.

Most of that has to do with keeping track of the schedules that the coaches must keep while on the road. Including keeping up with information on where certain targets are playing, whether their respective teams have changed schedules or whether the player coaches want to evaluate will be playing in the game.

“It’s different with all the coaches,” Pollio said. “Some of the coaches, some days I’ll talk to them to see how their trip went, see if they need anything, directions to gym, anything like that. [Others] I’ll talk to them at night when they’ve finished their recruiting days.”

The Little Things

The basis of the summer period remains the same for most GAs. It’s the smaller nuances that both make their time with their respective teams different and also attempt to give them an edge toward becoming a coach, something all three graduate assistants interviewed for this story want to be.

In the case of SMU intern Sean Stout – different programs have different titles for their graduate helpers, such as assistants/managers/interns/etc. – he is in his second summer working with Larry Brown, from whom he’s already learned a vast amount, on and off the court.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I didn’t know a lot before I took the job. It’s been better than I ever could’ve ever imagined. Coach Brown is concerned with what’s going on with you and what’s going on with your family…The biggest thing is, he wants everyone to be a head coach. So he’s helping me or any of the assistants get to that point.”

Stout added that Brown’s presence in recruiting has helped the Mustangs get in the race for recruits that they otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance with — SMU brings in two four star recruits in Keith Frazier and Sterling Brown and a three star recruit in Ben Moore in their 2013 haul. Also, despite heading into the newly-minted American Athletic Conference, the staff hasn’t altered its recruiting pitch or preparation.

“I don’t think the conference is as important to the kids as it was 5-10 years ago,” he said.

Jack Of All Trades

When the coaches come in from the road, Pollio says the team takes on a schedule that includes meetings to go over the details of the next recruiting live period, discussing summer practice routines and getting a progress reports on current players.

“When the coaches are in town, we have two hour practices,” Pollio said. “We work with the guys when the coaches aren’t in town, make sure guys are in their lift sessions. All players are in July classes, so we make sure they’re in their classes….We require a certain amount of study hall hours. A lot of it revolves around the academic side with our players.”

For others, the progression of the players takes an equal amount, if not more time, than keeping up with the coaches while they’re out recruiting.

In his capacity with the team, Stout said he can spend additional time outside of the NCAA-mandated two hours per week with the players. Those two hours are the limit for head and assistant coaches in the summer. In total, players can spend eight hours per week working in the summer periods: two hours on the court and six in the weight room.

Stout said the coaching staff breaks the two on-court hours down to three 40-minute practices per week. And while the summer sounds like a slower time, take Stout’s word for it, it’s no time to get lethargic.

“Not necessarily,” Stout said when asked if he gets a break in the warmer months. “The summer is supposed to be a little slower, but especially during this recruiting period, it doesn’t slow down…..It’s still a lot busier time that people think. It’s not a vacation, that’s for sure.”

Though all of the preparation and planning back on-campus is for one thing: The regular season.

“We are always working towards next year,” Pollio said. “So the motivation comes from [that] we’ve already started working towards next season. So the motivation is pretty easy on that side of things.”

For guys like Sherrer, who know all too well that their job as a GA is temporary, it’s also about getting things ready for the next person that takes their job after they’ve moved on.

“I’m really getting stuff for the next guy that comes in,” Sherrer added. “Make sure they have everything mapped out for when they come in.”

(Photo courtesy of Tab Brockman)

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

College Basketball Power Rankings: Kentucky drops out of the Top 25

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I’m not sure that this Kentucky season can be considered a worst-case scenario.

Kentucky fans have seen a worst-case scenario.

That came during the 2012-13 season, when a Wildcat team that was trending towards the back end of the top 25 lost their star center Nerlens Noel to a torn ACL in February, dooming them to the NIT, where they lost in the first round to Robert Morris.

That is a worst-case scenario, and barring something totally unforeseen, this Kentucky team is not going to turn into that Kentucky team.

This group looks much more like the team we saw the following year, the one that featured Julius Randle, James Young, the Harrison twins and Willie Cauley-Stein and entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed with a 24-10 record before making a run to the national title game. That team had plenty of talent, but they never quite gelled until March.

This year’s team does not have that same level of talent, but they are running into some of the same problems.

The question is whether or not this group actually has the potential to come together and make a run like that 2014 team.

RELATED: Kentucky just is not that good

And frankly, I still think they do. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has emerged as a go-to guy while Kevin Knox had seemingly regained his confidence before a poor performance in the home loss to Florida. Quade Green has returned to the lineup, as has Jarred Vanderbilt, who might be the key to unlock the potential on this roster.

In an ideal world, Kentucky’s length and athleticism allows them to be one of the nation’s best defensive teams while the playmaking of Vanderbilt and Green makes their offense fluid enough that they overcome some of their shooting issues. I can still tell myself a story where Kentucky finds a way to put it all together for six straight games in March.

But that’s not who they are right now.

And with each passing game, I grow less and less confident that the elite will ever come out of this group.

Kentucky is not a top 25 basketball team right now. They are nowhere near one of the favorites to win a national title right now. And, at this point, Kentucky fans would do well to adjust their expectations, as a trip out of the Sweet 16 should be considered a success.

Here is the full top 25.

1. Villanova, 18-1 (Last Week: No. 1)
2. Purdue, 19-2 (2)
3. Virginia, 18-1 (5)
4. Kansas, 16-3 (13)
5. Michigan State, 17-3 (7)
6. Duke, 17-2 (10)
7. West Virginia, 16-3 (4)
8. Arizona, 16-4 (8)
9. Xavier, 18-3 (11)
10. Oklahoma, 14-4 (6)
11. North Carolina, 16-4 (17)
12. Texas Tech, 15-4 (3)
13. Cincinnati, 17-2 (19)
14. Ohio State, 17-4 (22)
15. Auburn, 17-2 (18)
16. Tennessee, 13-5 (23)
17. Wichita State, 15-4 (9)
18. Clemson, 16-3 (20)
19. Saint Mary’s, 19-2 (NR)
20. Gonzaga, 17-4 (16)
21. Nevada, 18-3 (NR)
22. Florida, 14-5 (NR)
23. Rhode Island, 15-3 (NR)
24. Arizona State, 15-4 (14)
25. TCU, 14-5 (25)

DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Seton Hall, No. 15 Kentucky, No. 21 Michigan, No. 24 Miami

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Saint Mary’s, No. 21 Nevada, No. 22 Florida, No. 23 Rhode Island

VIDEO: Northern Colorado wins game with halfcourt buzzer beater

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Northern Colorado knocked off North Dakota on Saturday night thanks to a half court buzzer-beating three from Andre Spight.

Spight is averaging 20.3 points on the season and finished with 34 points and six assists in the 94-91 win.

Clemson’s Grantham tears ACL

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The news on Donte Grantham’s knee was not good.

No. 20 Clemson announced on Sunday morning that Grantham, the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, would miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in a win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

“I’m disappointed that Donte’s career at Clemson had to end this way,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “He was putting together a terrific season statistically, but he really helps this team is so many ways. He’s been a pleasure to coach and it has been fun to watch him mature and grow into the leader of our program.”

Grantham was averaging 14.2 points and 7.1 boards this year.

The Tigers are 16-3 on the season and in line to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid.

VIDEO: West Virginia honored Andrew Jones before game vs. Texas

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The West Virginia basketball team donned burnt orange ‘Big 12 Strong’ warmup shirts with the No. 1 on the back in honor of Texas point guard Andrew Jones.

Jones was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this month.

Texas Tech also honored Jones before a game this week, and Texas has raised more than $100,000 for his medical expenses.

Saturday College Basketball Recap: No. 7 Wichita State, No. 8 Texas Tech lose

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

It’s hard to argue with the performance that J.P. Macura had on Saturday. No. 11 Xavier went into Newark and knocked off No. 19 Seton Hall, 73-64, behind 27 points, five boards and three assists from Macura.

This win was particularly important for Xavier, who remain just a game out of first place in the Big East and in great position to make a run at getting a top three seed, which would mean they likely won’t have to play Villanova until the Big East title game. The loss is the second in a row for Seton Hall and the their third loss in four games.

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: Edwards finished with 22 points, eight assists, two steals and no turnovers as the No. 3 Boilermakers blew out Iowa on the road.
  • MALIK NEWMAN, Kansas: Newman finished with 24 points and seven boards, including a personal 7-0 run with three minutes left to help No. 10 Kansas remain in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with a 70-67 win over Baylor.
  • BRYCE BROWN, Auburn: Brown finished with 28 points as Auburn erased a 14-point halftime deficit to knock off Georgia 79-65 and remain within a game of first-place in the SEC.
  • DEAN WADE, Kansas State: In a win over No. 24 Kansas State, TCU’s second-straight win over a ranked team, Wade went for 20 pints, six boards, six assists, two blocks and two steals.

TEAM OF THE DAY

Houston landed themselves their first marquee win of the season as they pounded No. 7 Wichita State in Houston, 73-59. Rob Gray led the way with 24 points and four assists, putting the Cougars in a position where earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is feasible. There is still plenty of work left to do, but this is the start they needed.

The bigger question mark, however, is Wichita State, who also lost at home to SMU this week. The Shockers are nowhere near as good as many expected them to be. Their offense isn’t good enough to make up for the fact that they aren’t guarding anyone.

GAME OF THE DAY

Trae Young went for 48 points, 34 of which came after halftime as the Sooners erased a 19-point deficit, but thanks to a Kendall Smith three at the end of regulation, this game went into overtime. Young had shots at the buzzer in regulation and in overtime to win the game and missed both, as the Pokes escaped with an 83-81 win.

Young needed 39 shots to get those 48 points. We went through whether or not that is too many shots for him here.

WTF???? OF THE DAY

Iowa State, who can’t guard anyone and is probably the worst team in the Big 12 this season, knocked off No. 8 Texas Tech, 70-52. The Red Raiders have now lost three of their last four games – all of which came on the road – after winning at Kansas. Texas Tech is also now just 1-3 in the four games since Zach Smith broke his foot, but they also beat Baylor by 24 points and won at Kansas when Smith played 10 total minutes.

So you explain Texas Tech to me. Because I don’t get it.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

The Florida Gators moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC thanks to a 66-64 win at No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday. It was hardly a pretty game – Florida shot 33 percent from the floor and 6-for-30 from three – but the Gators were able to hang on thanks to a questionable no-call in the final seconds.

No. 20 Clemson held on to beat Notre Dame at home on Saturday, 67-58, but missing out on a commitment from Zion Williamson wasn’t the only bad news of the day. Star forward Donte Grantham went down with a knee injury midway through the second half. He averages 14.3 points and 7.1 boards. Losing him would be disastrous for the Tigers.

No. 14 Arizona had to rally down the stretch, but the Wildcats did. Trailing by as many as 11 points late in the second half at Stanford, the Wildcats survived as Dorian Pickens missed a three at the buzzer. The win puts Arizona all alone in first place in the Pac-12.

Jalen Brunson scored 23 points and Donte DiVincenzo added 17 points off the bench as No. 1 Villanova blew out UConn in Hartford, 81-61.

No. 13 Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s both won, meaning that the Gaels still hold a one game lead over the Zags in the WCC. Nevada knocked off Boise State, giving the Wolf Pack a two-game lead in the Mountain West.

At this point, Pitt barely counts as ACC competition. But they are and No. 5 Duke beat them 81-54 tonight.

Jevon Carter went for 22 points and eight assists as No. 6 West Virginia knocked off Texas, 86-51. The game was closer than the final score indicates, as the Mountaineers pulled away late.

The star of the day for No. 12 Cincinnati was Gary Clark, who finished with 14 points, 14 boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks, in an 86-60 win over East Carolina.

Luke Maye went for 17 points and 11 boards to lead four players in double figures as No. 15 North Carolina held on to beat Josh Pastner and Georgia Tech, 80-66.

It ended up not being much of a game when the Big Ten invaded Madison Square Garden as No. 22 Ohio State put a beating on Minnesota, 67-49. Minnesota lost Jordan Murphy to an ankle injury in the game as well.