Sean Miller

Arizona receives important messages upon their return to campus

Leave a comment

Classes at many schools begin Monday, which means we’re that much closer to having actual college basketball games to discuss. And with the returns to campus come the team meetings used to establish the course of action in the weeks leading up to the start of practice.

At Arizona, head coach Sean Miller uses the return of his players to campus to remind the team of the importance of handling their affairs off the basketball court. From academics to social situations, many seasons have been derailed over the years thanks to bad decisions that have nothing to do with a shot or turnover.

According to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, this is the second consecutive year in which the Wildcats have kicked things off with a meeting of this variety.

Arizona basketball players were scheduled to return to campus by this morning, then attend what coach Sean Miller calls a “state of the union” meeting this afternoon. During that, the players will listen to talks by trainers, doctors, police officers, public relations representatives and others.

“We try to give our players a sampling of everything that can happen to them outside of our locker room, first and foremost,” Miller said earlier this month. “A lot of things go on in today’s world — a phone can take a picture, and all of a sudden you know about it quicker and more often. It’s a lesson for all of us that we have to be extremely careful and diligent, and know that we represent a team, a program, a university, and we want to do it in a first-class manner.”

The Wildcats begin classes Monday amidst high expectations, with two McDonald’s All-Americans (Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) and a highly-regarded transfer point guard (former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell) joining a group that includes junior guard Nick Johnson and sophomore big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.

But there are some holes to fill as Arizona looks to improve upon its Sweet 16 run of a season ago. Versatile forward Solomon Hill’s now in the NBA, and fellow veterans Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom are gone as well. And there’s also the matter of who will consistently knock down perimeter shots, with freshman Elliott Pitts and sophomore Gabe York being two of the possible answers to that question.

Talent-wise the pieces are in place for Arizona to not only win the Pac-12 but accomplish some things nationally as well. With so much ahead of them it’s a good idea to make sure the players are cognizant of what exactly is at stake, both on and off the court.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Leave a comment

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?