Rayjon Tucker excelling after giving up football for hoops

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Rayjon Tucker spent the spring making a name for himself in recruiting circles. The biggest reason why is his athleticism. A 6-foot-5 wing, Tucker has the kind of strength and explosiveness that allows him to finish above the rim, over defenders, through contact and … well, all of the above, which also has made Tucker a favorite of the mixtape cameramen.

Earlier this spring, before his play in the UA Association AAU tournaments, Tucker was listing offers from schools like Abilene Christian and Presbyterian. This week? He had to postpone an unofficial visit to UNC because he was making a trip to the NBPA Top 100 Camp.

So would you believe that Tucker, a member of the Class of 2015, has only been playing basketball seriously for two years?

RELATED: Wednesday’s NBPA Top 100 recap | Patience the plans for Tyler Dorsey

“I didn’t start concentrating on basketball until my sophomore year,” said Tucker, a former wide receiver and free safety whose father played football at Western Carolina. “I played, but I was more focused on football than basketball so if I wasn’t doing something right, I wasn’t worried.”

That changed after his freshman season, however, as Tucker got tired of the physicality on the gridiron.

“I just got tired of all the pounding on my body,” he said. “I just really love basketball in my heart more than I love football. My dad was a football player, so it would have just fit. I just like the hardwood.”

“My dad was fine with it, he always told me he supported me in whatever I do, it’s my life and my decision. He didn’t want to live his dreams through me.”

That meant Rayjon would be chasing his hardwood dreams, and after a successful spring, he’s gone from a relative unknown prospect from Charlotte, N.C., to a guy that is going to have a chance to play in the ACC. Boston College has offered him a scholarship, as has Virginia Tech; Tucker said that Buzz Williams has been recruiting him the hardest of late. He’s visited Clemson but doesn’t yet have an offer on the table from the Tigers, and in addition to trying to set up a visit with UNC he is also talking with N.C. State to get over to Raleigh and see their campus. Tucker also said that VCU has been showing him quite a bit of interest.

RELATED: Rayjon Tucker is a name to remember

“It’s exciting,” he said, and while no one would blame a high school junior for being excited about getting phone calls from coaches at the biggest schools in his home state, Tucker is self-aware enough to understand that he still has strengths and weaknesses on the court. He realizes that his strengths like in his natural athletic ability. He can jump, he can defend, he plays hard, he’s a terror around the rim.

But he’s not satisfied simply being a guy that is featured in highlight videos on youtube.

“I’m always looking improvement in my game, dribbling and shooting. I’m just looking to get better,” he said. “MY parents and my coach just tell me to stay humble. Stay hungry, because I haven’t arrived yet.”

“I just gotta keep working.”

Reports: Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley mulling UConn, Pitt options

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Even before Rhode Island’s NCAA tournament came to an end Saturday in the Round of 32 against Duke, speculation was running wild about the future of Rams coach Dan Hurley.

Stay or go. If it’s go, where to?

There was no clarity, but maybe some progress Monday.

Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh, the prime candidates to pry Hurley away from Rhode Island, spoke with the coach, but no decision had yet been reached, according to multiple reports.

Hurley was set to meet with Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Heart Connecticut Media’s Jeff Jacobs reported that UConn was “closing in on an agreement” with Hurley but that Pitt was continuing its pursuit.

Hurley has led the Rams to the NCAA tournament the last two years and signed a seven-year contract with Rhode Island worth approximately $1 million per year last off-season. UConn was paying Kevin Ollie, who led the team to the 2014 NCAA title before being fired after this season, an average of $3 million per season while Kevin Stallings reportedly was due a buyout of nearly $10 million when he was fired by Pitt this season.

What Hurley will have to weigh beyond the financial circumstances will be his ability to win at either UConn or Pitt, should he decide to move on from Rhode Island.

Ollie – well, really Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright – showed you can win a national title out of the AAC at UConn. The league adding Wichita State only strengthens that point. Pitt, meanwhile, may be a tougher job now than it was when Jamie Dixon had it rolling since their move from the Big East to the ACC.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.