High Point’s Allan Chaney wants to end long, challenging career with tourney appearance

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For three years, Allan Chaney watched college basketball from the sideline.

The first came while he was at Virginia Tech, where he sat out his sophomore season after transferring from Florida. The next two season, however, would be much more challenging than simply following NCAA transfer rules. The 6-foot-9 Chaney endured two grueling years after he was diagnosed with viral myocarditis, an infection that causes inflammation of the heart, in 2010. He was told he would never play basketball again.

He still has the scars. One, from the wireless defibrillator that was installed above his rib cage and under his arm, the other on his chest from when doctors cracked open his ribcage during a surgery in March of 2011.

He was cleared to play by his doctors, but not Virginia Tech, which put Chaney in a tough spot. Transfer, or see his career come to an end. He chose to play finish his eligibility at High Point, who would clear him to play. More good news came three weeks before the season when the NCAA granted him with a sixth year of eligibility due to his medical hardships.

“To hear I had the second year was great because only playing one year is only like an appetizer,” Chaney told NBCSports.com. “To get that second year back and know I would be coming back with no problems, I was happy.”

He made his debut for the Panthers on Nov. 9, 2012, making the good news he had received months leading up to it become a reality. The jitters were clear, as Chaney got hit with two fouls in the game’s first eight minutes.

“I didn’t do too well in the first half, I got in a little foul trouble, but I came on strong in the second half and showed I could still play,” Chaney said.

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High Point Athletics

Chaney clearly proved that not only could he still play, but he could do it at a high level, averaging 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while earning Big South All-Conference second team honors. Combined with John Brown, the duo formed the league’s best front court. In his first season back, Chaney helped the Panthers amass a 12-4 conference record, which put the Panthers atop the North Division standings.

However, the good news for Chaney and the Panthers came to a halt when Brown was sidelined with an injury a week before the Big South Conference tournament.

In the quarterfinals, High Point was upset by Liberty. The Flames jumped out to a 17-point halftime lead and held off a High Point second half comeback. Liberty, a 20-loss team went onto advance to the NCAA tournament, with High Point settling for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

“I didn’t,” Chaney said when asked if watched Liberty play in the tournament. “I didn’t. I was upset that we didn’t make it.”

After battling back from a pair life-threatening incidents and being told his career was over, Chaney can only see his last season end in one spot: with a trip to the NCAA tournament.

“Oh man, it’d mean everything,” Chaney said. “For us to get that tournament bid, and to get an opportunity to experience something like that would be great.”

At his lone season at Florida, Chaney was a member of a team that made it’s second straight trip to the NIT following back-to-back national titles. He never did get postseason experience at Florida, not playing in the final six games. Even though he never played a game for the Hokies, both those teams failed to make the tournament, as those Virginia Tech teams always seemed to be on the wrong end of the bubble.

High Point is expected to be one of the favorites in the Big South with the return of Chaney and Brown. In order to complete his journey — one that began six years ago — of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, Chaney dedicated his summer to basketball, the first time he was able to do so in years.

“This is my first summer working out for basketball, because of course I missed three years,” Chaney said. “I trained with Marvin Matthews, who used to wrestle at Morgan State. He’d meet me at Lake Montebello in Baltimore, and we’d go run in the morning, and every afternoon I’d go train for basketball.”

He also got good run at the Kenner League, played at Georgetown. He was in a league that included Victor Oladipo, Donte Greene and Jeff Green, who missed the 2011-2012 season after undergoing heart surgery, though the two forwards were never able to discuss their experiences.

The goal this season is to advance to the NCAA tournament, but the graduate student is taking courses in the Non-Profit Management field, preparing for his life outside of, but not too far away from, basketball. He has ambitions are to either start or contribute to a program that will help give children who were told they couldn’t play sports because of heart conditions the ability to play. The organization, he explained, would provide children heart examinations or defibrillators, including the subcutaneous defibrillator Chaney is currently considered a case study for, which is a defibrillator that allows more movement and freedom.

Of course, Chaney still has hopes of playing professionally, either in the NBA or overseas, and he is more than willing to put to rest any questions front office executives or coaches might have given his past.

“If a team had an concerns you can run me,” he said. “You can get me up at 6 a.m. and you can run me five miles. Five miles, 10 miles. I bet you I can do it.”

He’s already gone against the odds by returning to the floor, so when it comes to making a trip to the NCAA tournament, or even continuing his playing career following this season at High Point, can you really doubt him?

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.