Steve Masiello

Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello makes first comments since reinstatement

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Throughout the month of March, Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello was discussed as one of the coaches in line to land a position at a power conference program in the spring. He’d successfully turned around a once-struggling program, leading the Jaspers to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, and his team gave Louisville all it wanted before falling 71-64 in the Round of 64.

On the heels of that 25-8 campaign Masiello was offered the head coaching job at USF, and it was a hire praised by many within college basketball.

However a background check by the school revealed that Masiello had not completed his coursework at Kentucky as an undergraduate, meaning that the offer was off the table. The questions following that occurrence focused on whether or not Manhattan would allow Masiello to return to his post, as opposed to who the young coach would have on his coaching staff at USF.

Manhattan ultimately decided that Masiello would be placed on leave until he completed his degree requirements, a task completed last month. Recently reinstated by the school, Masiello made his first comments on the matter in a story written by Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. And Masiello accepted responsibility for the situation, stating that he should have done more as a 22-year old to make sure that everything was taken care of.

“Even if everyone knew the whole story, I’m wrong. But there’s a big difference between having intent to mislead and making a mistake at 22 years old. I should be held accountable and punished for it, but I never had intent to mislead people. … Some people might say, ‘I still wouldn’t have thought that,’ and I get that too because some people will say, ‘What do you mean you didn’t have your degree on your wall?’ I didn’t have my degree on my wall. It’s just something I never really thought of. I’ll tell you, it will be in August.

“Certain people will never understand. The people who are gonna think it, they’re gonna think it no matter what.”

One question to be considered in the aftermath of Masiello’s situation was how his players at Manhattan, who nearly lost their coach to another school, would react to his return. In Kussoy’s story multiple players voiced their support for Masiello, who worked hard to turn around a program that won just six games in the season prior to his arrival.

That support within the locker room will be vital as Masiello works to build on what his program has accomplished in the first three years of his tenure. Manhattan will have to account for the loss of key players Rhamel Brown, Mike Alvarado and George Beamon. But they’ll have some solid returnees to count on in 2014-15, with forward Emmy Andujar and guard Shane Richards among that group.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.