The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Harvard Basketball: The Startup (Slam Magazine)
On Wednesday night the Harvard Crimson play their final non-conference game of the season as they visit UConn, with the Huskies coming off of two losses in Texas (Houston and SMU). Those defeats may have taken some of the luster off of this matchup, one that a Harvard program looking to build on last season’s NCAA tournament victory can use. How did Harvard reach the point where an at-large bid can be considered? It all began with a vision.

Midseason Awards: NEC (Big Apple Buckets)
With conference play underway, the first days of January are usually a good time to recap what happened in non-conference play. This piece takes a look at the Northeast Conference, with its race shaping up to be the competitive one that many predicted prior to the start of the season.

London Perrantes brings “that Cali swag” to the Cavaliers as a freshman (Washington Post)
With the graduation of Jontel Evans at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett had a hole to fill at the point guard position. Into that role slid freshman London Perrantes, a California native who grew up dreaming of playing in the ACC and on Saturday at Florida State played arguably his best game to date. He’ll be a key factor for the Cavaliers if they’re to reach the NCAA tournament.

URI pays heavy price for slow start (Providence Journal)
After winning games against Brown and LSU last week, Rhode Island entered Tuesday night’s Atlantic 10 opener against Saint Louis brimming with confidence. But the Rams saw their win streak come to an end, falling by the final score of 59-58, and their poor start to the game certainly had an impact on the result.

Kentucky basketball behaving more like a team, Calipari and players say (Louisville Courier-Journal)
The winter break, in some instances, has a knack for forcing college basketball teams to improve their chemistry. Why? Much of the student body is home for the holidays, leaving the players with few options when it comes to on-campus interactions. That was the case for a young Kentucky team working to reach the level many expected before the season began, and according to the player and head coach John Calipari the winter break certainly helped.

Comebacks nothing new for this season’s undefeated squad (Wisconsin State Journal)
After struggling for much of the game’s first 30 minutes on Sunday night, No. 4 Wisconsin found a way to come back and beat No. 22 Iowa in Madison. And while the Badgers, who are off to the best start in school history, haven’t been in too many situations like that one they knew what needed to be done.

UNC JV team: Hubert Davis takes charge (Raleigh News & Observer)
North Carolina is one of the few athletic departments that also field a JV basketball team, with players who don’t have the talent that the guys we see on TV every week living out their dream of wearing that jersey. And this is also a positive experience for the assistant who gets to coach the JV team, with Hubert Davis leading the way this season.

Point guards are key to winning 2014 Mid-American Conference title (Cleveland Post-Dispatch)
Guard play has always been important in the game of basketball, regardless of the level of play. And for the Mid-American Conference, the winner could be determined by which team gets the greatest amount of production from the position. Akron? Ohio? Toledo? Someone else? Whoever wins the automatic bid will likely have a capable floor general leading the way.

Former Texas center James Banks III transfers to Georgia Tech

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After playing sparingly in two seasons at Texas, 6-foot-10 center James Banks III made the decision to transfer. Tuesday night Banks announced his next stop, with the Decatur, Georgia native committing to Georgia Tech.

After sitting out the 2018-19 season per NCAA transfer rules, Banks will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

In 46 total games at Texas, Banks averaged 1.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 10.7 minutes per game. As a freshman Banks appeared in 32 games and averaged 12.4 minutes per appearance, contributing 1.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. With the additions of Mohamed Bamba and Jericho Sims, Banks’ playing time decreased in 2017-18, as he appeared in 14 games and averaged 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game.

Georgia Tech currently has four scholarship front court players for the 2018-19 season, with one being rising redshirt senior forward Abdoulaye Gueye. Rising redshirt junior Sylvester Ogbonda and rising sophomores Evan Cole and Moses Wright will have eligibility remaining when Banks becomes available to compete at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Villanova basketball team snaps photo with Meek Mill prior to 76ers game

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Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers was a big one for both teams, as the visiting Heat were looking to stave off elimination and the 76ers were one win away from their first playoff series victory in six years.

What added to the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center was the release of hip hop artist Meek Mill, who due to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling was released from prison. Among those also in attendance were the reigning national champion Villanova Wildcats, who along with comedian Kevin Hart, Meek Mill and the artist’s lawyers took a photo prior to the game.

Villanova was originally scheduled to handle the pregame ringing of the replica Liberty Bell, but they were bumped due to Meek Mill’s release.

City prosecutors were of the belief that Meek Mill, who had been imprisoned without bail since November, was entitled to a new trial after being found guilty of a probation violation stemming from a conviction handed down in 2009. This was a factor in the Supreme Court’s decision to grant Meek Mill, who rang the bell prior to the start of Tuesday’s game, his freedom.

Meek Mill received a groundswell of support throughout his incarceration from members of the 76ers and Super Bowl champion Eagles and other public figures, including 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Ohio State lands grad transfer Keyshawn Woods

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With three of the team’s top five scorers from this season, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, moving on Ohio State entered the offseason in need of players who could potentially have an immediate impact in 2018-19.

Tuesday evening the Buckeyes picked up a commitment from a grad transfer, as former Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods announced that he will play his final season at Ohio State.

Woods appeared in 28 games for the Demon Deacons in 2017-18, averaging 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 25.7 minutes per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was used primarily as a reserve this past season, making just five starts for Wake Forest. Woods began his collegiate career at Charlotte, playing the 2014-15 season there before transferring to Wake Forest.

During the 2016-17 season, the first in which he was eligible to play at Wake Forest, Woods started 22 of the 33 games he played in and averaged 12.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Woods shot 49.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three during that campaign, and the hope in Columbus is that he can get back to that level in his lone season as a Buckeye.

Ohio State’s best returnee on the perimeter next season will be rising junior C.J. Jackson, who averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a sophomore. Ohio State also adds a talented freshman class that includes guards Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad. Florida State transfer C.J. Walker will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming campaign per NCAA transfer rules.

Memphis to recruit in style with new souped-up van

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Traveling during live recruiting periods isn’t the most enjoyable process for college basketball coaches, with many having to work their way through airports and car rental lines in order to keep tabs on players they’re recruiting. For the programs at the top of the sport a private plane may be available, which certainly helps.

In the case of Penny Hardaway’s Memphis program, the coaching staff will be hitting the road in style as he showed off a new, souped-up van via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

Notice the “One Cent” logo in the headrests, making it clear whose van it is and what Hardaway’s accomplished in the game of basketball as a player. For those too young to be intimately familiar with his playing career, Hardaway’s work with the Bluff City Legends (named Team Penny when he was in charge) on the Nike EYBL circuit and at Memphis East HS will likely register.

Since Hardaway’s hiring he and his staff, which includes assistants Tony Madlock and two-time NBA champion Mike Miller, have made Memphis a player on the recruiting trail. Will the van reel in top prospects? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s no denying the fact that Hardaway and his staff have already managed to connect in a way that the prior coaching staff was unable to.

Now we wait for the anonymous complaint from another athletic department to the NCAA about Hardaway and Memphis having this van, because that’s generally the way in which these things work.

NABC sends out talking points ahead of Rice Commission announcement

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Wednesday morning the NCAA will announced the recommendations of the Rice Commission, which is headed by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The commission was formed in the aftermath of the FBI’s September arrest of ten individuals in connection with an investigation into corruption and bribes in college basketball recruiting back, with the stated goal being to introduce reforms that would “clean up” the sport.

NBC Sports obtained an email the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) sent out to its members in preparation for Wednesday’s announcement. In the email, the NABC provided “talking points” while also encouraging coaches to support the Rice Commission’s findings — whether they agree with them or not.

“In short, it is imperative that the Commission’s recommendations be met with unequivocal support from each of us. The NABC Board of Directors affirmed the necessity of this unified response on a conference call earlier today,” the statement sent out by the NABC read.

The key talking points are:

  • Change was necessary, and we knew change was coming. As coaches on the front lines, we are uniquely positioned to offer valuable insight as the Commission’s recommendations progress through the legislative process;
  • As coaches, we are committed to working with the NCAA in evaluating the recommendations and will provide appropriate input as legislation is drafted;
  • We are appreciative of the Commission’s efforts to address necessary change, and for welcoming the input of the NABC.

The Rice Commission’s recommendations are highly anticipated in college basketball circles, and it remains to be seen just how quickly the NCAA would go about implementing them. One topic that’s bound to be discussed is the “one and done” player, but it once again must be noted that this is something controlled by the NBA and its Players Association (via the collective bargaining agreement). There’s also the connection with shoe companies, which became an even bigger point of conversation in the aftermath of the FBI arrest.

Hearing what coaches have to say about the Rice Commission’s findings would have been interesting. But with the NABC looking to present a unified front, there may not be much to take from what the coaches say in the aftermath of Wednesday’s announcement.