Yanni Hufnagel (Harvard Athletics)

2013-14 Season Preview: 10 key assistant coaching hires

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Yanni Hufnagel (Harvard Athletics)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here..

Head coaches and players get all of the headlines, but a good assistant coaching staff can help a program significantly, either on the recruiting trail or on the sidelines — or in some cases, both. Each offseason sees a number of assistant coaches moving up and down the coaching ladder, and here are 10 of the key assistant coaching hires this offseason.

Tony Bland, USC: Regarded as one of the best recruiters on the West Coast, USC and new coach Andy Enfield hired Bland away from San Diego State in April. Bland spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater of San Diego State, where he helped the Aztecs on the recruiting trail by helping land Skylar Spencer and Winston Shepard. USC has already landed prized California point guard Jordan McLaughlin in the 2014 class thanks in part to Bland.

Steve Forbes, Wichita State: Forbes returns to the Division I ranks after two years as the head coach of Junior College power Northwest Florida State and should help the Shockers continue to replenish their roster from the JuCo ranks. Forbes previously coached under Bruce Pearl as an assistant coach at Tennessee and was the first member of Pearl’s staff to return to the NCAA after a one-year show-clause penalty after the fallout from Pearl’s scandal involving the barbecue with Aaron Craft. Forbes has also been an assistant at Illinois State, Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M and coached the top junior college player in the country last season in current Louisville guard Chris Jones.

Tavaras Hardy, Georgetown: After spending seven seasons at his alma mater of Northwestern under Bill Carmody, Hardy has already made a major splash under John Thompson III’s staff at Georgetown by continuing to harvest players from the fertile recruiting ground of Chicago and helping the Hoyas land the (former) Whitney Young duo of L.J. Peak and Paul White. Hardy also helped land notable players at Northwestern including John Shurna, Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb.

Jerrance Howard, Kansas: The Jayhawks landed a monster recruiter in Howard and it has helped them in their pursuit of the two prized Chicago big men recruits in the 2014 class: Cliff Alexander and Jahlil Okafor. Kansas remains in strong position for both Alexander and Okafor as Howard got to know the duo during his years as an assistant coach at Illinois.  Last season in his only year at SMU, Howard helped Larry Brown land former Illinois transfer Crandall Head as well as Chicago-area products Sterling Brown and Ben Moore.

Yanni Hufnagel, Vanderbilt: A young and energetic recruiter that has already recruited at a high level for a high-academic institution in Harvard, Hufnagel joins Kevin Stallings’ staff after four years with the Crimson. Vanderbilt has already landed three class of 2014 guards in September in Wade Baldwin, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Riley LaChance thanks in-part to Hufnagel’s recruiting efforts.

Justin Hutson, San Diego State: The Aztecs will welcome Hutson back with open arms after their former star assistant coach spent the last two seasons as Dave Rice’s associate head coach at UNLV. Hutson helped the Aztecs recruit Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley and has already helped San Diego State land 2014 point guard Kevin Zabo.

Korey McCray, LSU: After a two-season stint at UCLA, McCray joined LSU and Johnny Jones’ staff and is noted as a strong recruiter with ties to the Atlanta area. McCray is a former CEO and head coach for the Atlanta Celtics AAU program — which was co-founded by his father Karl — and those ties helped UCLA land Jordan Adams and Tony Parker. Now that McCray is even closer to Atlanta, those regional connections should help the Tigers as well.

T.J. Otzelberger, Washington: Washington’s new recruiting coordinator comes to the Huskies after seven seasons as an assistant at Iowa State. Otzelberger also helped with opponent scouting reports and game planning during the last two seasons at Iowa State, where he was the program’s associate head coach since 2010.

Patrick Sellers, Creighton: The Bluejays move to the Big East meant they needed a noted Big East recruiting presence, which they got with the hiring of Sellers, a former assistant at UConn and Hofstra. Sellers coached under Jim Calhoun from 2004 through 2010 and helped the Huskies land Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, and Roscoe Smith to the 2010-11 national title team. Sellers gives Creighton immediate Big East credibility on the recruiting trail.

Todd Simon, UNLV: The former coach at Findlay Prep has been with the prep juggernaut since its inception in 2006 and has helped the program with six McDonald’s All-Americans and the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett. Simon recruited well for Findlay Prep’s program both in the United States and internationally and should bolster the Runnin’ Rebels already superb efforts in that department.

Arkansas returns to underdog role after offseason arrests

Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson (AP Photo)
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas coach Mike Anderson says he was “blindsided” by a tumultuous offseason for the Razorbacks, one that included the arrests of three players on allegations of using counterfeit money.

Still, entering his fifth season at Arkansas – his 22nd overall at the school, including 17 as an assistant – Anderson remains optimistic the program can build on last year’s second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference.

Led by SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis, the Razorbacks finished 27-9 last season and reached their NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.

The excitement-filled season was the culmination of four years of rebuilding for Anderson, though the school took a step back afterward following the early departures for the NBA of Portis and second-leading scorer Michael Qualls.

That was only the first step in a difficult offseason for the Razorbacks.

Starting point guard Anton Beard, forward Jacorey Williams and transfer Dustin Thomas were arrested by Fayetteville police in July, accused of using counterfeit $20 bills and exchanging counterfeit $50 bills for $100 bills.

Williams was dismissed in August, while Beard and Thomas have been suspended from the team and remain enrolled in school awaiting trial.

“I think if you’re in it long enough, you’re going to have some of those things take place,” Anderson said. “I was kind of blindsided by some of it, I’ll say that. … When it happens, I think the measure of, not only the person but the program, is how you deal with it. And I think we’re dealing with it in the right way.”

With Portis and Qualls’ departures, as well as the graduation of Ky Madden and Alandise Harris, Arkansas enters this season without four of its top five scorers from a year ago.

The lone returner in that mix is senior shooting guard Anthlon Bell, who averaged 7.9 points per game last season while shooting 35.1 percent on 3-pointers.

Bell’s outside ability is something the Razorbacks expect to use often this season without the interior scoring touch of Portis, and because the revamped roster features several top shooters – including Texas Tech transfer Dusty Hannahs and heralded freshman guard Jimmy Whitt.

Anderson said they’re also likely to run more this season in order to try and manufacture easy offense through defensive pressure.

“We’re still going to play Hog basketball, 40 minutes of Hell,” Bell said.

Anderson wouldn’t comment in detail on the arrests of Beard or Thomas, but he did say he talks with the two while they’re on suspension. He also said they are continuing to work out on their own, with the hope of being reinstated after the legal process plays out.

In the meantime, Anderson is embracing a return to the underdog role after last season’s breakout – calling the reversal a “challenge” and insisting “We’re not going backward.”

“It’s unfortunate that we had some individuals that, No. 1, they (did) some things that hurt the team,” Anderson said. “But at the end of the day, let’s see how these other guys respond.”

Big South Preview: Can John Brown take down Coastal Carolina?

High Point v Ohio State
John Brown, Getty Images
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big South Conference.

A month before the Big South Tournament started, seven teams were tied for first place in the conference standings. Once the tournament began, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds were bounced in the quarterfinals. Despite all the parity and chaos in the league, the tournament champion remained the same.

Coastal Carolina is eyeing a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament in its final season in the Big South before moving to the Sun Belt Conference.

The Chanticleers bring back Elijah Wilson, the Big South Tournament MVP, point guard Shivaughn Wiggins and power forward Badou Diagne. That trio could make a three-peat possible. Coastal Carolina boasted one of the conference’s most efficient offenses and defenses, and tops in both offensive and defensive rebounding 2014-15. The production of graduating guards Warren Gillis and Josh Cameron won’t be easily replaced, but if they defend and crash the boards like they’ve done in the past, the Chanticleers will be in a good position when they host the Big South Tournament again in March.

Like the Chanticleers, many of the teams across the Big South have lost start players. Of the 15 players named to the all-conference teams last March, only two of them return this season.

One of them is High Point senior John Brown, the ultra-athletic and physically imposing forward. Through his first three years he’s averaged 18.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s helped the Panthers win at least a share of the last three regular season titles, but has no NCAA tournament appearances to show for it. Click here and check out some of the dunks he’s thrown down over the years. Now imagine him playing on the first Thursday or Friday of the NCAA tournament. Fun, right? Surrounded by a cast of upperclassmen, Brown could finally get that shot this spring.

Winthrop graduated two double-digit scorers, including first-team selection Keon Moore. Keon Johnson will be the key holder over in a new-look perimeter that could feature not one, but two Division II transfers. Jimmy Gavin’s amazing journey was chronicled back in May. Roderick Perkins, a 6-foot-5 wing, was the second-leading scorer in all of D2 in 2013-14. Winthrop’s defense, rated as the most efficient in the Big South, returns a pair of shot-blockers — Xavier Cooks and Duby Okeke — the frontline. Zach Price, the former Louisville and Missouri big man, is eligible this season, as well.

Longwood could be a dangerous team, especially if the Lancers can get quality play from the back court. The Lancers have one conference’s best front courts. Shaquille Johnson is one of the league’s top athletes. Lotanna Nwogbo, the 6-foot-8 forward, is back after missing the last 17 games of conference play with a thumb ligament tear. In three full Big South contest, he was averaging 19.3 points and 12.0 boards per game. Gardner-Webb is dealing with the loss of Jerome Hill and Tyler Strange, but returns six of its top nine scorers, including Tyrell Nelson. Radford should be another potential sleeper. YaYa Anderson is joined by senior Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones, the potential breakout star of the league.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “In my mind, it would probably be High Point. There will be several teams that have really good players back, but High Point has several really good players back and John Brown has been one of the top players in the league for the last three years. Probably the team with the most experience, top to bottom, coming back is Coastal. I think they have four starters back, but I think they lose two really good players. On paper, as you look at it, Coastal makes sense to pick first.”
  • Sleeper: “I think a lot of people would say Longwood. I think they have a talented roster and they have a player on their team (Lotanna Nwogbo) I think a lot of people would talk about having a chance to be one of the better players in the league. He got hurt the second or third game in the conference season.”
  • Star to watch: “I’d say John Brown should be the favorite for preseason player of the year. There are a lot of good ones, but he’s definitely been really good for a long period of time. I think it starts with his motor and how hard he competes and how physical he is. He just stays after it every possession. He really plays so hard on both ends. He’s great at working at working on catching the ball at the rim and using his size and athleticism to score in the paint. Then he’ll get stuff in transition and on the offensive glass. He’s a monster.”


Brown, maybe the best dunker in all of college basketball, returns for his senior season after averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 2014-15. The 6-foot-8 nightmare matchup plays with a consistent motor. He understands angles and where to position himself on the floor in order to get easy buckets. Brown also creates opportunities for himself in the open floor and offensive glass.


  • Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb: The 6-foot-7 center was top-10 in the Big South in both scoring and rebounding at 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a night.
  • Elijah Wilson, Coastal Carolina: Had a strong finish to last season, earning Big South Tournament MVP honors. The 6-foot-4 guard is the top returning scorer at 11.3 points per game.
  • Shaquille Johnson, Longwood: The best athlete in the conference not named John Brown, Johnson averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game last season.
  • DeSean Murray, Presbyterian: The Blue Hose will rely heavily on the 6-foot-5 sophomore, who recorded five double-doubles during conference play last season.



1. Coastal Carolina
2. High Point
3. Winthrop
4. Longwood
5. Gardner-Webb
6. Radford
7. Charleston Southern
8. UNC Asheville
9. Campbell
10. Presbyterian
11. Liberty