Pittsburgh forward Durand Johnson suffers season-ending torn ACL

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The Pittsburgh Panthers have adjusted well to their new surroundings, winning their first three conference games as a member of the ACC. But their most recent win, an 80-65 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon, came at a cost as sophomore forward Durand Johnson suffered an injury to his right knee with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

On Sunday afternoon it was reported that the injury will end Johnson’s season, as he tore the ACL and meniscus in the knee.

On a team littered with players who have shown signs of improvement from last season to the current campaign, Johnson was averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Panthers. Although shooting just over 33% from beyond the arc, Johnson is second on the team in made three-pointers. And over the last two games, Johnson scored a total of 28 points (17 against Maryland) after going scoreless in Pitt’s ACC-opening win at N.C. State.

Given Johnson’s increased production throughout the season and his recent run of success, this is a tough loss for the Panthers to absorb.

“We are thoroughly heartbroken for Durand,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “With his passion for the game and outstanding work ethic, Durand has contributed significantly to our success. He has made so much improvement in all facets of his game this year. I expect that same passion and work ethic to help Durand return at 100 percent next season.”

With Johnson being a valuable reserve and shooter for the Panthers the question is who steps up to knock down those shots, beginning with a game at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. Lamar Patterson is the only other Pitt player who’s in double figures in three-pointers made (31), and with guards Josh Newkirk (34.8%) and James Robinson (32.0%) not being long-range marksmen the Panthers could encounter more zone looks as teams attempt to take advantage of this.

How Pittsburgh goes about attacking these looks will determine just how well they perform in ACC play, and bench options such as Michael Young (6.1 ppg) and Jamel Artis (4.7) will need to raise their production as well.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.

Albany’s Peter Hooley accepts Inspiration Award

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Last week, Albany senior Peter Hooley accepted the Inspiration Award at the Coaches vs Cancer Basket Ball in Troy, New York. The Albany athletic department uploaded his entire speech on Monday afternoon.

Hooley had one of the most uplifting moments of March after months and months of heartache.

The junior guard missed three weeks of the season to travel back home to Australia to be with his mother, who was battling colon cancer. She passed away in January. Hooley returned to the team in February and the following month, the Great Danes had a shot at an NCAA tournament berth. In the America East Tournament championship, Hooley sunk a game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds to go.

Hooley, who graduated in May, was selected to give the commencement speech.