Nick Koza

Oklahoma move results in a fresh start for Ethan Telfair

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Marbury and Telfair families have been a fixture on the New York City basketball scene for decades. With that name comes a great deal of responsibility, and that was the case for 2014 point guard Ethan Telfair as he grew up in Coney Island. Following the footsteps of older brother Sebastian, a lottery pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, Ethan had to deal with the frequent comparisons to his older brother while growing up.

And such expectations can become downright suffocating if a young man and his family aren’t careful.

There were bouts with immaturity along the way, and the pressure to be the “next one” didn’t always allow Ethan to be himself. A move to Oklahoma, where he attends United Prep, has allowed Telfair to flourish as both a basketball player and a young man.

“I wanted to do my own thing and spread my wings a little bit,” said Telfair when asked about the move following his game Thursday night. “Leaving New York gave me that opportunity.”

Telfair’s journey began in Las Vegas, but that stay was short-lived as he made the move to Oklahoma after finding out the school he was attending wasn’t approved by the NCAA. That led him to Oklahoma Magic head coach Bryatt Vann and the move, which has been embraced by both of Telfair’s families (basketball and immediate), has resulted in Telfair becoming a more mature person as he writes his own story.

“When he first came to us in Oklahoma his maturity level wasn’t all the way there, and we were able to help him to relax and realize that if you lose a game or turn the ball over it’s not the end of the world,” said Vann. “That’s when he started to grow up and understand that if he makes a mistake on the floor or in the classroom he can make it up.

“He’s a great kid,” Vann added. “I don’t know about his past; all I see is what he’s doing now. I’ve had no problems with Ethan. He’s always a ‘yes, sir’, ‘no, sir’ kind of kid with myself and the coaching staff.”

Telfair’s running the point for the Oklahoma Magic in the adidas Super 64, and his ability to run a team was on display during the Magic’s victory Thursday night. Playing on a team that includes 2014 big man Jacob Hammond, Telfair’s quick with the basketball put played under control, and he’s also improved his perimeter shot. But even with those changes, Telfair’s ultimate goal is to affect the game in all aspects as opposed to just scoring.

“I want to be like a Tony Parker or Chris Paul, someone who [has the ability to] control the floor without even scoring and get my teammates involved, and just have fun,” said Telfair, who also noted that he’s enjoying the game a lot more at this stage in his development.

The progress that’s been made has resulted in increased attention on the recruiting trail, with Telfair mentioning programs such as Baylor, Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, St. John’s and Weber State when asked which schools have been the most active.

But none of this would be possible without the changes Telfair’s been able to make off the court. Now in control of his own story, Telfair can chart his own path to success.

(Image from MaxPreps.com)

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.