Jim Calhoun still has an ‘itch’ for the game

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Talk to former college athletes, and many will tell you that the biggest competitor on their team was not a player, but rather a coach — the head coach. The sport they coach and the kids they mentor are their profession and, ultimately, winning is how any coach will be judged.

It has been just over a year since Jim Calhoun announced his retirement, and the former Connecticut coach says he is content in his retirement from coaching. This past April, he spent some time at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL with his family and grandchildren, something he wouldn’t have been able to do as a head coach.

He is happy, but like all competitors, he still has that itch that just won’t go away.

Calhoun told Dom Amore of The Hartford Courant:

It seems like I have to tap-dance for people to believe I’m happy But I’m happy. … I gave up the keys to the car for all the right reasons. I felt it was the right time. … But it’s hard to be swimming in a particular direction and then have to stand. You don’t know kind of what to do. You’ve done something for 40-something years, I’m used to waking up at five o’clock in the morning and solving problems, setting up my day mentally.

The holder of the keys is rising star in the coaching profession Kevin Ollie, who has did a remarkable job in his first year at the helm of Connecticut, considering that the Huskies were ineligible for postseason play. Calhoun has no qualms of Ollie as head coach — in fact, he heavily endorsed him to take over the program after he retired — but the longtime coach of Connecticut from 1986-2012 misses having basketball and his players in his life on a daily basis:

I truly believe the void of basketball is one I’m having a difficult time filling. I spent a few minutes out there this morning talking to [Shabazz Napier]; I spent some time with Tyler. I miss the game, the game itself, the way guys can improve…[T]here’s a little itch there, about basketball and the kids. I’ve talked to people, I don’t know how to scratch that itch. I will. I’ll find a way to scratch that itch.

Currently, Calhoun serves as a special adviser to athletic director Warde Manuel. In this way, he is still very much connected to the university and daily happenings, but it’s obviously not the same as roaming the sideline during practices and games as head coach.

Calhoun isn’t sure what the next step is for him. He has toyed with the idea of coaching a national team overseas, in discussions with satellite radio about having his own sports talk show, and spoken with TV networks about becoming a college hoops analyst. However he may be able to scratch the “itch” he currently has, “it would have to be the right situation,” he explained.

For the time being, Calhoun can enjoy the bit of quiet time he is receiving. But, make no mistake about it, he is a competitor in ever sense of the word, so don’t be surprised if he finagles his way back into the game in some capacity. Anything to rid himself of the “itch.”

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?