Coaches to observe Autism Awareness Day on Saturday

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Saturday represents an important day in college basketball, and not solely because of some of the big games on the schedule. February 1 is also Autism Awareness Day in college basketball, with many coaches across the country donning lapel pins in support of the cause. The pins are in the shape of a puzzle piece, which represents the “missing piece” that children have have been diagnosed with autism lack.

Two coaches at the forefront in this campaign are Towson’s Pat Skerry and Marshall’s Tom Herrion, both of whom are the parents of autistic children. With the goal being to educate people about an issue that affects one in every 88 children (1 in every 54 boys), Skerry and Herrion reached out to many of their colleagues in the profession during the offseason.

“Coach Skerry and me were the ones to contact these coaches directly,” Herrion said in an interview conducted by Autism Speaks earlier this week. “There has been complete support across the board. Autism Speaks and college basketball will be together on this day. Pat and I have good programs but when we can get the rock stars of our industry on board, Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Coach Self, Calipari and all the others on board including the media you know you have something special.”

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Alex Prewitt wrote a story on Skerry and how he and his wife navigate the daily challenges that come with raising a child diagnosed with autism. The task can be even tougher for parents in states like Maryland, which according to the story is one of 16 states that doesn’t have health insurance coverage for autism.

And that fact, with many struggling with the financial aspects of raising a child with autism, is one thing that makes days like Saturday so important.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.