Five-star 2016 recruit M.J. Cage is emerging from his dad’s shadow

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Michael Cage is one of the most recognizable players in NBA history, and it’s not because he was a superstar. That’s not to say that Cage was bad — he was a second-team all-american for San Diego State in 1984, he led the NBA in rebounding in 1988, played in the league until he was 38 and averaged a double-double three times in his 15 pro seasons — but he’s a long way from the kind of generational talent whose name will still reverberate even though he was in the NBA just one season this century.

No, it wasn’t Cage’s play that made him memorable.

It was his hair, the illustrious jheri curl that he sported when he first entered the NBA, just 11 picks after Michael Jordan.

But it may not be all that long before Cage is known for something else: simply being M.J.’s dad.

M.J. Cage has emerged as one of the best front court prospects on the west coast. A top 25 recruit in the Class of 2016, according to Rivals.com, Cage is the latest in a long line of stars that have come out of Mater Dei HS (CA), a program that routinely churns out high-major prospects, most recently incoming Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson.

source:  At 6-foot-10, Cage has a terrific build — broad shoulders, long arms — and great hands, snagging anything and everything within his reach. He’s got a good feel for the game, he can pass out of the post and he’s got a soft touch around the rim. At this point in his development, he’s a bit more of a finesse player despite his size, which is ironic given that his dad had a reputation for being one of the NBA’s premiere tough guys.

“Training with my dad has gotten me a lot better,” the younger Cage said at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last week, emphasizing a point that his dad has been trying to drive home. “Keep working hard, because you can always outwork someone even if they’re better than you.”

And while his dad is — rightfully — trying to bring out the mean streak is his soft-spoken, mild-mannered son, M.J.’s goal this summer is to expand his offensive repertoire.

“Work on my jump shot and my dribbling, so I can be able to bring the ball up and take people off the dribble instead of just posting up all the time,” he said. “I’m trying to be a stretch four, maybe even a three.”

Cage lists offers from a number of the most high-profile programs across the country, but as of right now, he’s focusing on just three schools: Kentucky, Arizona and San Diego State, as Cage boasts strong ties to all three.

Cage’s father played his college ball at SDSU. “I go up there because my dad went there,” Cage said. “I like their crowd.” He’s also quick to point out that his father hasn’t started pushing him in the direction of the Aztecs … yet. “He probably secretly wants me to go there,” he said with a smirk, “but he just doesn’t tell me.”

As far as Kentucky is concerned, Cage said he loves the history of the program and how they are able to send players off to the NBA, and it doesn’t hurt that head coach John Calipari coached the elder Cage for a year when they were both with the New Jersey Nets, and the younger Cage called him a “family friend”. Cage was actually one of the first players in the Class of 2016 that Calipari offered, as he extended a scholarship prior to the start of this past high school season while at a Mater Dei practice. Kentucky was a finalist for the services of Johnson.

Cage was born in Arizona, as if the connection of having a former high school teammate on the roster wasn’t enough.

But while those three schools are currently front runners, Cage says what’s most important to him is a program that will allow post players to shine.

“A school that will pass the ball to the bigs,” he said, “and isn’t just run by the guards where all the guards are shooting every shot.”

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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