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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

Before he won an Academy Award, Mahershala Ali played at Saint Mary’s

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Actor Mahershala Ali accepts Best Supporting Actor for 'Moonlight' onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Mahershala Ali won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film ‘Moonlight’ on Sunday night.

How does that tie into college basketball?

It’s simple: Ali played college basketball for four years at Saint Mary’s, from 1992-1996.

Now, this was before Saint Mary’s turned into the Saint Mary’s that Randy Bennett has built. At the time, Ernie Kent was the program’s head coach, and the teams that Ali — whose used his given last name of Gilmore at the time, although he was already using the shortened version of his first name, Mahershalalhashbaz — played on weren’t really all that good. They finished under .500 in the WCC three of the four season, finding a way to finish in a tie for second place in his junior year.

As a senior, Ali averaged 7.0 points for the Gaels.

This would probably make Ali the most famous player that Kent has ever coached. He’s more famous than Aaron Brooks, who had about two good NBA seasons, and he’s definitely more famous than Luke Ridnour, who is best known either for getting traded four times in a week or being name-dropped in a song by the rapper Wale, who bragged about being able to turn ‘Ducks into Bucks [like] Luke Ridnour.’

 

VIDEO: Tom Izzo’s touching senior day tribute to Eron Harris

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Eron Harris #14 of the Michigan State Spartans kisses the midcourt logo on senior day during the second half of the college basketball game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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Eron Harris suffered a career-ending knee injury in a game at Purdue earlier this month, meaning that he would not be able to take the floor for his Senior Day.

Tom Izzo made sure to rectify that, as he called a timeout with just 12 seconds left in Michigan State’s win over No. 16 Wisconsin on Sunday, giving Harris a chance to go out to the center of the court, get a standing ovation and give the Spartan logo a smooch.

He was also greeted by the Wisconsin team. All around great moment:

Nick Ward-led Michigan State beats No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Nick Ward had 22 points and nine rebounds, Miles Bridges had 17 points and Matt McQuaid added a season-high 15 to help Michigan State beat No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74 on Sunday.

The Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) have won six of their last eight games, moving them into a third-place tie in the conference and perhaps sealing their spot in a 20th straight NCAA Tournament.

The Badgers (22-7, 11-5) have lost four of five and lost a chance to pull into a first-place tie with No. 14 Purdue.

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored 22 points, Bronson Koenig had 17 and Zak Showalter added 15. Ethan Happ fouled out with eight points, more than six points below his average for the Badgers.

Michigan State went on an 11-1 run midway through the second half, building a 12-point lead that it was able to maintain unlike a big lead in the first half.

In the first half, the Spartans led 36-23 only to allow the Badgers to come back with a 15-4 run to pull within a point at halftime.

Michigan State’s Cassius Winston had 10 points and eight assists and Joshua Langford had nine points.

In the last game of the season at Breslin Center, senior guard Eron Harris checked in late in the game a little more than a week after he had a season-ending knee injury. Harris, with a brace on his right knee, went to center court and kissed the Spartan logo to follow a senior tradition Shawn Respert started in 1995.

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: The Badgers have been shooting poorly and it is catching up with them. They were held to 43.1 percent shooting against Michigan State, a ninth straight game of connecting on 44 percent or fewer of their shots. They made 13 of 25 free throws at Michigan State after shooting 67 and 57 percent from the line the previous two games.

Michigan State: The Spartans are surging at the right time and are gaining confidence perhaps allowing them to position themselves for better seeding at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

POLL IMPLICATONS

With Wisconsin’s losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, the Badgers will likely plummet from No. 16 in The Associated Press poll on Monday.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: The Badgers end the regular season at home, hosting Iowa on Thursday night and Minnesota on Sunday.

Michigan State: The Spartans close on the road, playing Illinois on Wednesday night and No. 24 Maryland on Saturday.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Update: Creighton’s Watson turns himself into police

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Update: Later Sunday, Watson turned himself into the Douglas County Jail, a law enforcement official told the Omaha World-Herald. Watson’s attorney told the paper that Watson was driving back to Omaha from his native Philadelphia and was slowed by the snowstorm that hit parts of the country this week.

Law enforcement has been unable to arrest Creighton guard Maurice Watson since a warrant for his arrest on the charge first-degree sexual assault was issued last week, according to police.

“The U.S. Marshals Service and the Omaha Police Fugitive Unit continue to look for Mr. Watson,” Omaha Police said in a statement Sunday. “At this point in time, Mr. Watson is dodging law enforcement efforts to arrest him.

“Until he is located and arrested by law enforcement, or turns himself in, the entire Douglas County Court system is operating off of Mr. Watson’s time frame.

“Neither OPD nor the Douglas County Attorney’s Office is part of any specific arrangements for Mr. Watson to turn himself in.”

Watson was accused by a 19-year-old acquaintance, who reportedly is also a Creighton student, of sexual assault in the bathroom of an Omaha residence around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4. A report was filed later that day.

The point guard was in the midst of a banner season for the Bluejays before he tore his ACL in January, which ended his collegiate career. Creighton announced on Feb. 13 he was suspended from the team and not allowed to participate in senior night act due to  “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday.

 

Seventh-ranked Louisville dominates Syracuse

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The hint arrived early that Louisville might be no kind of matchup for Syracuse when the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. The Orange, though, appeared to steady and seemed intent on delivering an interesting Sunday afternoon and a maybe another resume-changing win after beating Duke earlier in the week as the roared back to take a lead.

Everyone should have taken the early hint.

Louisville used a 21-4 first-half run to gain separation and never looked back as the Cardinals dominated Syracuse, 88-68, on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.

The win was the fourth in five games for Louisville, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor and held the Orange to 35.7 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell was sensational, going for 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. It was his third-straight game with at least 20 points.  He also had an absolutely dynamic one-handed alley-oop late that was just fantastic.

The Cardinals showed no ill effects of a hangover stemming from the loss earlier this week at North Carolina, but instead it was as dominant a performance as they’ve had in weeks.

On the losing side of the ledger are the Orange, who looked to be building some momentum after a three-game losing streak by beating Duke on Wednesday. Then, the Blue Devils went and lost to Miami and Syracuse just got smashed by another ACC contender. That doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

For Syracuse, it looks destined to spend another Selection Sunday sweating, though there’s certainly enough time for it to go either way. The Orange can really only hurt themselves until the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech heading to the Carrier Dome this week. That’s a game Syracuse will need to win, lest they really want the pressure ratcheted up in Brooklyn.

A big part of the issue for Syracuse pinning its hopes on the ACC tournament is its total lack of depth. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White both went at least 40 minutes for the 11- and 10-straight games, respectively. Syracuse played seven and got 28 minutes total from its bench.

With a few days typically between days, that’s pretty sustainable for the regular season, but those minutes are sure to weigh on players going on back-to-back (and maybe longer) days.