The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Paige lighting it up for North Carolina – at off-guard (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
One of the biggest keys in North Carolina’s improvement since their loss to Belmont has been the play of sophomore guard Marcus Paige. A highly regarded point guard out of high school, Paige has done the majority of his damage off the ball for a team whose best perimeter scorer (P.J. Hairston) sits on the bench in a suit. And with no one knowing when (or if) Hairston will return to the court, that may have to be the case for the Tar Heels to factor into the ACC and national conversations.

Louisville basketball’s Chris Jones described as a “living trophy” (Louisville Courier-Journal)
One of the most important pieces in the Louisville attack is junior college transfer Chris Jones, who’s averaging 14.5 points and 3.2 assists per game for the ninth-ranked Cardinals. But he may not be in the position he’s in now if not for the help of Melrose HS (Memphis) coach Jermaine Johnson.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd addresses, explains altercation with USC’s Andy Enfield (Knoxville News Sentinel)
Following the Miners’ 78-70 win over Tennessee on Thursday night UTEP head coach Tim Floyd was asked about the altercation between he and USC head coach Andy Enfield (and assistants from both programs).

College basketball teams take bigger bite of Big Apple (USA Today)
With the addition of the Barclays Center, college basketball has seen its presence within the city’s two major arenas grow in the last couple of seasons. In 2013-14, counting conference and NCAA/NIT tournament action the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden will host a total of 81 college basketball games. While this adds inventory for the facilities, New York also offers programs a stage you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else when considering factors such as media and recruiting.

Altercation with teammate during practice led to San Francisco PG Cody Doolin’s departure (San Francisco Chronicle)
Details are beginning to emerge regarding the circumstances surrounding the departure of San Francisco starting point guard Cody Doolin, and according to USF athletics director Scott Sidwell it was an altercation with an unnamed teammate that led to Doolin’s departure. Doolin will remain in school, as he’s scheduled to graduate with a degree in finance this spring.

Defense may hold key to season for No. 2 Kansas (Associated Press)
No. 2 Kansas has a number of offensive weapons to call upon, but if the Jayhawks are to win a national title they’ll have to get the job done on the defensive end as well. It certainly helps to have a freshman in Andrew Wiggins who takes pride in his ability as a defender, an area in which he feels a bit underrated.

Young Cats can’t count on intimidation, Raftery says (Lexington Herald-Leader)
The risk for many high-profile freshmen is that they step on the floor believing that their reputation and scholastic accolades will give them an edge over the opposition. Not to say that this has happened with No. 3 Kentucky, but it is something the Wildcats need to guard against according to Fox Sports color commentator Bill Raftery. Raftery will be on the call when the Wildcats take on Providence in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Friars know they need to improve on offensive end (Providence Journal)
As for Kentucky’s opponent on Sunday, Providence acknowledged that they’ve got some things to clean up on the offensive end after struggling in a loss to Maryland in the title game of the Paradise Jam. And with players such as guard Bryce Cotton and forward Kadeem Batts, the Friars have the talent needed to turn things around offensively.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.