USBWA announces finalists for three major individual awards

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On Thursday the United States Basketball Writers Association released its list of finalists for three major individual awards: the Oscar Robertson (national Player of the Year), Wayman Tisdale (national Freshman of the Year) and Henry Iba (national Coach of the Year) awards. The Robertson Award list of finalists consists of 15 players, while the Tisdale and Iba awards lists have six and ten names, respectively.

The finalists for the Oscar Robertson Award are:

  • G/F Kyle Anderson (UCLA)
  • F Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico)
  • F Cleanthony Early (Wichita State)
  • F Melvin Ejim (Iowa State)
  • G Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
  • F C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
  • G Nick Johnson (Arizona)
  • G Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati)
  • F Doug McDermott (Creighton)
  • G Shabazz Napier (UConn)
  • F Jabari Parker (Duke)
  • F Casey Prather (Florida)
  • F Julius Randle (Kentucky)
  • G Russ Smith (Louisville)
  • G Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)

If there’s one beef to be had with this list it may be in regard to which Florida Gator deserves inclusion. Prather’s enjoyed an excellent senior season, as he’s averaging 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game after accounting for just 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a junior. But would point guard Scottie Wilbekin be a better choice?

Wilbekin’s the clear leader for the Gators on the floor, something that seemed a bit far-fetched before the season began as he was looking to work his way back into the good graces of head coach Billy Donovan. Wilbekin’s averaging 13.9 points, 3.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game, but the numbers alone don’t fully illustrate his impact.

Also of note are the omissions of Nik Stauskas (Michigan) and Xavier Thames (San Diego State), two players who have been key figures for teams that could win their respective conference titles.

The finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award are:

  • C Joel Embiid (Kansas)
  • G Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
  • F Aaron Gordon (Arizona)
  • F Jabari Parker (Duke)
  • F Julius Randle (Kentucky)
  • G Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)

Three of the six freshmen on this list are also finalists for the Robertson Award: Ennis, Parker and Wiggins, and it’s difficult to argue against any of these six players.

And the ten finalists for the Henry Iba Award are:

  • John Beilein (Michigan)
  • Tony Bennett (Virginia)
  • Larry Brown (SMU)
  • Jim Crews (Saint Louis)
  • Mick Cronin (Cincinnati)
  • Billy Donovan (Florida)
  • Steve Fisher (San Diego State)
  • Gregg Marshall (Wichita State)
  • Greg McDermott (Creighton)
  • Jay Wright (Villanova)

Of the ten coaches on the list four have players on the Robertson Award list (Cronin, Donovan, Marshall and McDermott), but names such as Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Sean Miller (Arizona) and Bill Self (Kansas) are noticeably absent. Sure all three of their teams entered the season with high expectations, but that shouldn’t overshadow the work they’ve done.

And in the case of Self his program has already wrapped up at least a share of its tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title. But there can only be ten, and the coaches on the list are all deserving of the honor. The USBWA will announced the winners of the awards during Final Four weekend in early April.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.