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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

CBT Podcast: Reminiscing about a road trip and the NCAA Selection Committee meeting

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Mississippi Rebels and Xavier Musketeers players run by the logo at mid-court during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Here is the latest episode of the College Basketball Talk podcast, featuring my former colleague Troy Machir talking about a road trip we took five years ago and Andy Glockner going over what was discussed at the meeting of the analytic minds in Indianapolis with the NCAA Selection Committee this weekend.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

Arizona’s Miller elaborates on Trier’s suspension

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 21: Allonzo Trier #35 of the Arizona Wildcats goes up for a layup against TJ Leaf #22 of the UCLA Bruins during the first half of the game at Pauley Pavilion on January 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Arizona sophomore guard Allonzo Trier sat out the first 19 games of the season for reasons not made clear until last week.

Now that Trier has been cleared to play after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, Wildcats coach Sean Miller is able to elaborate on the process and the need to be so tight-lipped through it.

“It’s a process that had no history,” he said during his weekly news conference Monday. “I think the NCAA did the best they could. They were extremely fair. I think they really had the student-athlete welfare at the forefront of a lot of things. It might not have felt that way to the outside, but they were very communicative, very direct, vert cooperative, trying to hold to the standards that they need to hold these types of issues to.”

Trier was expected to be the key cog for No. 7 Arizona after bypassing a chance at the NBA to return for his sophomore season. Instead, he was replaced at the last minute for Pac-12 media day and spent the first three months of the season on the bench unable to play.

Trier issued a statement last Wednesday saying he tested positive for a banned PED he received to treat an injury from someone not affiliated with the university. Trier was conditionally cleared to play in November, contingent upon the PED leaving his system. He was cleared before Saturday’s game against UCLA, finishing with 12 points in the Wildcats’ 96-85 victory.

“There are just too many unknowns,” Miller said of not providing information on Trier’s suspension before last week. “The No. 1 here is to protect the student-athlete privacy of a situation that was very complicated and to not at all harm him in any way. There are no secrets, nobody is hiding anything. It’s just a matter of trying to do right by the young man. We would much rather have the criticism pointed toward us than to do something that is unnecessary and could potentially harm a young person.”

Arizona (18-2, 7-0 Pac-12) has played well through Trier’s suspension and a string of injuries, winning 11 straight games before his return on Saturday. Their 12th consecutive win moved the Wildcats up seven spots in Monday’s AP Top 25.

No. 3 Gonzaga improves to 20-0 with win over Portland

SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 07:  Nigel Williams-Goss #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives against the Washington Huskies in the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center on December 7, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  Gonzaga defeated Washington 98-71.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Zach Collins had 13 points and No. 3 Gonzaga remained the nation’s only undefeated Division I team with an 83-64 victory over Portland in a game Monday night that was rescheduled because of a winter storm earlier this month.

The Bulldogs have won 20 straight games, their longest streak since winning that many in the 2005-06 and 2003-04 seasons. Gonzaga is now 8-0 in West Coast Conference play.

Silas Melson and Jordan Mathews each added 12 points for the Zags, who led by as many as 33 points and had four players in double-digits.

Rashad Jackson and D’Marques Tyson had 15 points apiece for Portland, which won its first two games in conference but has lost six straight since then. The Pilots (9-11, 2-6 WCC) are playing their first season under former NBA player and coach Terry Porter.

The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 7, but a winter storm in Portland forced it to be postponed. Portland opened up extra seats and Gonzaga’s fans outnumbered the home team’s crowd.

The two teams had met just two days ago in Spokane, with Gonzaga leading from the start to win 73-52. But Portland, playing without top scorer Alec Wintering, out-rebounded the Zags 41-33 and held them to 45 percent shooting.

The Zags fared better on Monday, out-rebounding Portland 41-36 and shooting 42 percent.

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who left the game against Portland because of a left hip injury with about five minutes left, was questionable against Portland but started.

But freshman forward Killian Tillie appeared to injure his right leg under Portland’s basket with 9:38 to go in the game, and teammates helped him from the floor. The 6-foot-10 Tillie, who is from France, is averaging 4.8 points this season.

Wintering, a senior, was hurt in last Thursday’s game against San Francisco and the Pilots announced this weekend that his college career was over because of a torn left ACL.

Wintering averaged 19.5 points and 5.6 assists a game this season. He was on Portland’s bench in street clothes, but during warmups before the game and at the break he was on the court, offering his teammates advice and encouragement.

Gonzaga jumped out to a 9-0 run but the Pilots closed within 9-8 following Philipp Hartwich’s dunk. Portland was competitive, answering Melson’s 3-pointer for Gonzaga with Jackson’s 3 that got the Pilots within 22-19.

But the Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run to go up 30-19 and went into halftime with on a 16-4 run for a 38-23 lead. Melson and Jonathan Williams led Gonzaga at the break with eight points apiece. Jackson’s 13 first-half points for Portland were a new career high for a game.

Gonzaga extended the lead to 50-26 on Przemek Karnowski’s layup with just under 16 minutes to go, the Bulldogs were on the way to their 20th straight win.

THE BIG PICTURE:

Gonzaga: The Zags have won eight straight against Portland. … The Bulldogs’ longest winning streak was 22 games, set in the

Portland: Portland Trail Blazers President Neil Olshey was at the game. … The game, originally scheduled to be played over winter break, was sold out. So despite school being back in session, the usual student section wasn’t as large for the televised game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS: Gonzaga rose a spot from No. 4 and only trails No. 1 Villanova (19-1) and No. 2 Kansas (18-1) in the AP rankings released earlier in the day. The Bulldogs were also ranked No. 3 in the Feb. 23, 2015 poll.

VIDEO: Andrew Jones nails deep three to give Texas win over Oklahoma

AUSTIN, TX - DECEMBER 27: James Banks #4 and Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns react during the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Kent State Golden Flashesat the Frank Erwin Center on December 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Texas freshman Andrew Jones nailed one of the most heroic game-winners of conference play with a dagger against Oklahoma on Monday night.

The Longhorns put together an 84-83 win over the Sooners as Jones took the final possession off of a missed free throw to dribble across the floor and fire an NBA-range bomb over a defender.

This win isn’t going to save a struggling Texas season, but it’s a nice win and a confidence-boosting shot for a McDonald’s All-American who has the potential to be a big-time player with some more seasoning. Jones finished with 16 points in the win as the Longhorns are now 8-12 and 2-6 in the Big 12.

(H/t: Mike Leslie)

VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. caps N.C. State win with thunder dunk

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23:  Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives in for a dunk as time expires during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Dennis Smith Jr. showed why he is a potential top three pick in this year’s draft and why he was the reason many thought that the Wolfpack could be an Elite 8 team coming into the season on Monday, popping off for 32 points and six assists as N.C. State won at No. 17 Duke, 84-82.

He capped off the performance with the perfect exclamation point, a dunk contest-worthy throwdown:

Let’s get another angle of that dunk, shall we?: