Late Night Snacks: Saint Louis honors a special fan (VIDEO)

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In early June the Saint Louis basketball family lost its biggest fan, as 9-year old Joshua Brown passed away after a battle with glioblastoma multiforme, a rare form of brain tumor. SLU connected with Joshua through the Friends of Jaclyn program, which connects children suffering from brain tumors with college sports teams.

Prior to the Billikens’ 74-47 win over Bowling Green on Saturday evening the team gave the Brown family an Atlantic 10 championship ring in Joshua’s memory.

GAME OF THE DAY: Toledo 80, Detroit 78

Thanks to Julius “Juice” Brown the Rockets are still undefeated (5-0), as his three-point play with six seconds remaining capped a wild comeback at Calihan Hall. With 15:20 to go in the game the Titans led 58-39 following two Juwan Howard Jr. free throws. From that point forward Toledo outscored Detroit 41-20, with J.D. Weatherspoon (14 points) and Rian Pearson (16 points) figuring prominently in the rally. Howard led Detroit with a game-high 23 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 1 Michigan State 87, Oklahoma 76: Keith Appling may have finished the game with just two assists, but on this night the Spartans needed him to score in order to hold off the Sooners. Appling finished with 27 points, scoring eight of those in the final 3:04 of the game. Gary Harris added 21 points and Branden Dawson posted a double-double (18 points, ten rebounds) for the Spartans. Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark, who was close to unstoppable early on, finished with 32 points and seven rebounds to lead all scorers.

2) No. 24 North Carolina 82, Richmond 72: The Tar Heels didn’t get off to the best of starts at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, but they were able to do enough in the second half to take care of Richmond. Marcus Paige (26 points) and Brice Johnson (24 points, 11 rebounds) led the way for UNC, who will play No. 3 Louisville in Sunday’s title game. Unfortunately for the Heels, the “P.J. Hairston Watch” continues.

3) No. 12 Wisconsin 76, Oral Roberts 67: Frank Kaminsky led five Badger starters in double figures with 21 points as Wisconsin held off the Golden Eagles in Madison. As for ORU, their chances of winning the Southland may have taken a hit with head coach Scott Sutton revealing after the game that sophomore guard Obi Egemano is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL (suffered in the game prior at Saint Louis).

STARRED:

1) Doug McDermott (Creighton): While the underclassmen get the majority of the headlines McDermott simply continues to produce. In Creighton’s 82-72 win over Tulsa McDermott tallied 33 points and 15 rebounds.

2) Elijah Pittman (Marshall): 35 points (8-for-13 3PT), seven rebounds and two assists in the Thundering Herd’s 96-78 win over UNCW.

3) Keith Appling (Michigan State): Scored 27 points (8-for-12 FG), with 8 of those coming in the final 3:04 after Oklahoma pulled to within four, to lead the Spartans past the Sooners, 87-76.

STRUGGLED:

1) LIU-Brooklyn. The three-time defending NEC champions have taken two beatings during their three-game stop in southern California. After losing to UC Irvine by 20 Friday night the Blackbirds fell 102-70 to Eastern Washington on Saturday.

2) George Mason. The Patriots, who entered Saturday’s game at Iona 4-0, did not show up in New Rochelle ready to play. With 8:55 remaining in the first half George Mason trailed 34-5 in a game they’d go on to lose 89-73.

3) Rutgers. Leading William & Mary 33-24 at the half, the Scarlet Knights were outscored 48-29 in the second half of their 72-62 loss to the Tribe. And Rutgers shot 10-for-19 from three in the game as well.

TOP 25 SCORES: 

  • No. 1 Michigan State 87, Oklahoma 76
  • No. 3 Louisville 71, Fairfield 57
  • No. 11 Memphis 98, Nicholls 59
  • No. 12 Wisconsin 76, Oral Roberts 67
  • No. 23 Creighton 82, Tulsa 72
  • No. 24 North Carolina 82, Richmond 72

NOTABLES: 

  • No. 3 Louisville wasn’t particularly sharp on Saturday as they beat Fairfield 71-57 in the second game of the afternoon doubleheader at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Chris Jones scored 15 points and Montrezl Harrell added 14 (and 13 rebounds) to lead the way.
  • The proper tonic for No. 11 Memphis on the heels of their poor performance at No. 8 Oklahoma State: Nicholls. Austin Nicholls led five Tigers in double figures with 20 points as Memphis beat Nicholls (don’t call them Nicholls State) 98-59.
  • Doug McDermott wasn’t the only standout in No. 23 Creighton’s 82-72 win over Tulsa, as Austin Chatman accounted for 17 points and nine assists.
  • Preseason Patriot League favorite Boston University picked up a solid road victory, as they beat preseason Big West favorite UC Irvine 74-68. D.J. Irving (18 points, six rebounds) and Dom Morris (17 and eight) led the way for the Terriers.
  • Five players scored in double figures as Vanderbilt bounced back from a tough loss to Providence, beating Morgan State 75-66.
  • Speaking of bouncing back from tough losses, Seton Hall beat Virginia Tech 68-67 with Fuquan Edwin sealing the game at the foul line. Now 4-2, the Pirates won’t be a pushover in the Big East.
  • Joe Harris only scored nine points but it didn’t matter as Virginia beat Liberty, 75-53. Anthony Gill scored 13 off the bench, and the Cavaliers will need that kind of production from the South Carolina transfer when they take on tougher competition.
  • The lone Division I team without a conference, NJIT, moved to 4-2 on the season with a 91-88 overtime win over Lafayette. Not sure if (or when) the Highlanders find a home, but the best thing Jim Engles and company can do to help their cause is win games.
  • Mark Henniger led five Kent State players in double figures with 20 points as the Golden Flashes held off Niagara, 102-97.

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.