One of the better stories during the early part of the college basketball season has been the resurgence of SMU behind legendary 73-year-old head coach Larry Brown. Many scoffed at the notion that Brown — who hadn’t coached in the college game for more than two decades — could turn around a program that had so little going for it.
Following SMU’s big home win over UConn to re-open the renovated Moody Coliseum over the weekend, Brown spoke with Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News and provided some interesting insights on the rebuilding efforts at SMU.
When Brown took over the basketball program at SMU prior to last season, he wasn’t expecting the lack of support from local fans that he was initially facing.
“I didn’t realize the amount of apathy. People didn’t come to the games and didn’t seem excited about who we played,” Brown said to Rubin.
The UConn game was a big step in that equation as the Mustangs hosted their first sellout since 2001.
But maybe even more interesting is Brown comparing his rebuilding model to that of former Georgetown coach John Thompson. Brown sees similarities in the job at SMU to the job Thompson had rebuilding Georgetown when Thompson took over the Hoyas in 1972.
“I look at what he did at Georgetown and thought [sic] I know I am not John Thompson, I see there’s potential for the same thing here,” Brown said to Rubin. “We’ve got a good city. It’s a fine school in an improving (conference). There’s a lot of talent in the area.”
Brown has SMU playing pretty good ball at the moment and at 11-3, SMU is in position to potentially make its first NCAA Tournament since 1993. The win over UConn was the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2003.
Brown has some talented transfers like point guard Nic Moore and big man Markus Kennedy at his disposal this season and he’s also recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans like freshman Keith Frazier and current high school senior Emmanuel Mudiay.
It’s hard to say how long Brown will stay to see through the rebuilding effort due to his age and his reputation as a job jumper, but he’s certainly off to a good start at SMU and has the Mustangs in good position going forward.
The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.
UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.
The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.
Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.
John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.
The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.
“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”
Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.
“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”
The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.
Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.
Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.
“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.
Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.
“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”
Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”
Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.
Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.
Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.
Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.
The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.
Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.