Memphis Tigers Goodwin and Black during the second half of their third round NCAA tournament basketball game against the Michigan State Spartans in Auburn Hills

Transfer Tarik Black praises Jayhawk freshmen after boot camp

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“Boot Camp” is a popular term for tough pre-season workouts. Frank Haith actually had his Missouri players work out with the National Guard, and VCU’s Shaka Smart has had his squad train with a former Navy Seal. Bill Self’s workouts at Kansas don’t have any actual military component, but they are known to be intense.

Memphis transfer Tarik Black, who will play one season for the Jayhawks, just completed the KU boot camp and declared it one of the hardest thing’s he’s ever done in his basketball career.

“Later on in the season, I actually fell out of shape a little bit,” Black told the Lawrence Journal-World, referencing his junior season at Memphis. “The things we went through at Boot Camp … people would be shocked to see me doing that stuff now. They definitely would be. We got through it, came together as a team and now, here we are.”

Kansas will look to Black for some leadership on a team that will have to rely heavily on freshmen. The senior transfer told the newspaper that he was impressed with what the new kids showed him during the week of heavy-duty practices filled with running and workouts.

Black said he was impressed with the effort of KU’s six freshmen — Joel Embiid, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins.

“If I was a freshman going through this stuff I would have given up. I can honestly say that right now,” Black said. “We didn’t have any freshmen give up. We didn’t have any freshmen hurling in the trash can. Everybody made it through.”

Black saw just one Jayhawk puke at Boot Camp, on Friday.

“I’ve got to put my boy, Naadir, on blast, man,” Black said with a smile. “The last day, today, he let it go. Like coach said, the last day is hardest day of Boot Camp. He had to do so many more (suicide sprints). He said he ate some weird stuff last night. He had to let it go.”

Boot camps are all about building team concept and conditioning, but the mental fortitude gained by pushing through pain is the real payoff. According to Black and his head coach, KU’s all-important freshmen, as well as putative point guard Naadir Tharpe, took everything the coaching staff could dish out and more. That kind of mental toughness will come in handy as Kansas goes for a tenth straight Big 12 title this season.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.