Marcus Lee

Kentucky freshman forward Marcus Lee will return

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari will have to sort out a loaded frontcourt next season now that freshman forward Marcus Lee announced that he will return to Lexington for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-9 Lee announced his return to Kentucky on Friday afternoon in a release from the school.

“I’ve really enjoyed my college experience and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an all-around player,” Lee said in the release. “Playing in the Final Four was such an amazing feeling, but I want to come back and help win that final game this year.”

Lee’s playing time — and production — fluctuated during his freshman season at Kentucky, but a breakout performance against Michigan in the Elite Eight should have Wildcat fans excited at potential things to come. Lee finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks off the bench in the win after sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein went down with an ankle injury. Lee, a California native, even made the Midwest Regional’s All-Tournament team.

“I’m excited for Marcus and think he’s barely scratched the surface of what he’s capable of,” head coach John Calipari said. “In addition to his athleticism and the energy level he brings, the experience he gained in the NCAA Tournament this year will be immeasurable for us next season.”

Lee, a former McDonald’s All-American, joins Cauley-Stein as players returning to Kentucky next season and they’ll be joined in the frontcourt along with incoming McDonald’s All-Americans in New Jersey native Karl Towns and Indiana native Trey Lyles.

Kentucky and Calipari still are still awaiting 2014 NBA Draft decisions from freshman guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison, freshman center Dakari Johnson and sophomore forward Alex Poythress for next season.

Even if Johnson and Poythress decide to go pro, the Wildcats will have more than enough frontcourt depth for next season as they attempt to make another run at the Final Four.

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.