Utah v Oregon - Pac-12 Semifinals

Utah lands verbal commitment from 2014 forward Kyle Kuzma

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Slowly but surely, Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah basketball program is taking steps back towards respectability.

After winning just six games in his first season at the Pac-12 school, Krystkowiak’s team improved its win total by nine games in 2012-13 and reached the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. With rising sophomores Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor being joined by a six-member recruiting class that includes junior guard Delon Wright, the hope is that the Utes can improve their standing within the conference (5-13 record last season) in 2013-14.

Coach Krystkowiak and his staff have done a good job on the recruiting trail as well, and on Friday it was reported by Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune that 6-8 forward Kyle Kuzma has verbally committed to attend Utah. The versatile Kuzma, who some have described as a “point forward,” joins 6-8 forward Brekkott Chapman as commitments in Utah’s 2014 class.

Utah will lose just one senior at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, with that playing being 6-9 power forward Renan Lenz. Utah was in a bit of a downward spiral towards the end of their time in the Mountain West, and their move to the Pac-12 made the rebuilding process a little tougher. But with the newcomers on board to join key contributors such as Loveridge and Taylor, things may be starting to look up for a program that during the 1990s was one of the best in the western United States.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.

Albany’s Peter Hooley accepts Inspiration Award

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Last week, Albany senior Peter Hooley accepted the Inspiration Award at the Coaches vs Cancer Basket Ball in Troy, New York. The Albany athletic department uploaded his entire speech on Monday afternoon.

Hooley had one of the most uplifting moments of March after months and months of heartache.

The junior guard missed three weeks of the season to travel back home to Australia to be with his mother, who was battling colon cancer. She passed away in January. Hooley returned to the team in February and the following month, the Great Danes had a shot at an NCAA tournament berth. In the America East Tournament championship, Hooley sunk a game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds to go.

Hooley, who graduated in May, was selected to give the commencement speech.