Joe Harris

The Secondary Break: Friday’s Links

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Former Virginia teammates miles apart, but still close (USA Today)
No. 5 Virginia wrapped up first place in the ACC last week, and one of their leaders for the last four seasons has been guard Joe Harris. He was part of a large recruiting class that dwindled down to three players thanks to transfers, one of whom was guard Billy Baron. And although the two players are performing at different schools, they remain close friends.

DePaul star freshman Billy Garrett Jr. thrives in defiance of his disease (Sports Illustrated)
DePaul’s had another tough season but one of the bright spots has been freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. And Garrett Jr. has been one of the Big East’s best freshmen despite having sickle cell disease, which has led to medical issues in the past. Doctors questioned whether or not he should continue to play at a high level, but Garrett Jr. continues to persevere.

Higher Education: How basketball coach Tommy Amaker has transformed Harvard (SB Nation)
When Tommy Amaker arrived to take over the basketball program at Harvard, the program had experienced little success in the Ivy League. That’s obviously changed, with the Crimson one win away from their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. There have been bumps in the road, but Amaker’s built a program that will be an Ivy contender for years to come.

UCF guard Isaiah Sykes’ rise to NBA prospect fueled by family (Orlando Sentinel)
UCF senior guard Isaiah Sykes hasn’t had the experience he envisioned prior to the start of this season, with the Knights struggling in their first season in the American. But he’s worked throughout his career to become an NBA prospect, and his family has served as motivation.

Seniors have given Jays three years of Kodak moments (Omaha World-Herald)
Saturday is Senior Day at Creighton, and it’s bound to be an emotional one as four players will be honored. Doug McDermott, Grant Gibbs, Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge have all provided fans with great memories during their time in Omaha, helping lead the program from contender status in the Missouri Valley to the Big East.

Butler, DePaul are close in standings but not in promise (Fort Wayne News-Sentinel)
The two teams at the bottom of the Big East standings met Thursday night at Allstate Arena and the outcome was not good for the home team, as Butler throttled DePaul 79-46. And while Blue Demon fans are lamenting the lack of progress under Oliver Purnell, Brandon Miller’s team continues to compete and this may bode well for the Bulldogs in the future.

Wildcats must get on board with rebounding after posting surprising stats against Oregon State (Arizona Daily Star)
No. 3 Arizona was able to hold off Oregon State on Wednesday night, but one reason why the game was so close was the Wildcats’ performance on the boards. Oregon State grabbed 16 offensive rebounds on the night, and rebounding tends to tell the story of how well Arizona’s playing. With this being the case the Wildcats need to get back to basics ahead of their game at Oregon.

Trusting instincts, Monte Ross steers Blue Hens’ turnaround (Wilmington News Journal)
Thursday night Delaware head coach Monte Ross was named CAA Coach of the Year, with his Blue Hens winning the league’s regular season title. And in making the key decisions that determine winning and losing, Ross has trusted his instincts with a team that has improved on its 19 wins over a season ago.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”