Seven Takeaways from the Under Armour Finals

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The second of July’s three live periods ended at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. We had writers traversing the southeast, going to and from the Under Armour Association Finals and Nike’s Peach Jam. Here are seven takeaways from Peach Jam:

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

ATLANTA — Scott and I made a trip down to Atlanta to see the Under Armour Finals while we were in Augusta, Ga., for the Peach Jam. Here are our seven takeaways from the event:

1. Under Armour hit a homerun with The Finals: The Under Armour Association made a brilliant decision this year to hold their marquee event — the finals of their summer long series — in Atlanta during the same live period as Nike’s Peach Jam, which takes place two-and-a-half hours away in North Augusta, S.C. 17U play doesn’t begin at Peach Jam until Thursday, so UA held their showcase games on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Since many of the media members and coaches heading to Peach Jam fly into Atlanta, they created a must-see tournament that was easily accessible for everyone Augusta-bound. The event itself, held at the Suwanee Sports Academy was well-run, but … (Rob Dauster)

RELATED: Peach Jam takeaways: ScottRob

2. The Under Armour Association needs a shot clock: Having covered events from adidas, Under Armour and Nike the first two weeks of the July live evaluation period, the one thing that is holding the Under Armour events back is the lack of a shot clock. While adidas and Nike offer shot clocks in their leagues — and in some cases, camps — Under Armour is still behind on the times. This led to some teams holding possession for long periods of time to break zones or to gain a final possession advantage during multiple-minute overtimes. It’s at times brutal to watch. And college coaches in attendance like to see how players respond to end of shot clock situations. It’s one thing for budget-strapped state federations to not have a shot clock in the high school setting, but a shoe company throwing significant money into its grassroots initiatives needs to have a shot clock. (Scott Phillips)

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Kelly Kline/Under Armour

3. Josh Jackson needs to be more consistent to hold onto No. 1: There is no question that Detroit native Josh Jackson is a significant talent, but the 6-foot-6 Class of 2016 wing is taking too many bad shots and making too many poor decisions for a No. 1 player in a pretty talented class. Rivals has Jackson at No. 1 at the current moment, but guys like Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Thon Maker, Malik Monk and Dennis Smith, Jr. are all in contention to be in the top five. Jackson is probably the best combination of talent and athleticism for his position among that group, but he has to make better choices with the ball in his hands if he wants to be in the conversation for No. 1. For a guy that can get to the rim and make plays for others using his tremendous passing ability, Jackson hoists up way too many contested perimeter jumpers. (SP)

MORE: Josh Jackson outplays Jaylen Brown

4. Diamond Stone might have trouble against length in college: Diamond Stone is a consensus top-10 player in the Class of 2015, but the 6-foot-9 bruiser could have some trouble dealing with length on the interior in college. Although Stone is big enough, wide enough and skilled enough to do significant damage at the high school level, he’s had some issues dealing with tall big men with significant wingspans. In an opening-night showcase game against Atlanta Xpress, Stone was blocked at least five times by the combination of the Xpress’ Tim Rowe and Doral Moore. Now, Stone can counteract this a bit by stepping out and taking some jumpers — which he has the ability to do — but the Wisconsin native needs to figure out some more counter moves on the block to help out his game against longer opponents as well. Stone has the talent to do this, it will just be interesting to see how he develops in his senior season. (SP)

5. Donovan Mitchell is one of the biggest stock risers of July: After putting together an impressive performance in Philly for the Reebok Breakout Classic, Mitchell starred down in Atlanta for the UAA Finals. He’s a big, physical, athletic guard that can really rebound and pass the ball. He’s a bit turnover prone and he needs to improve the consistency of his perimeter stroke, but after missing last summer with a broken wrist, Mitchell has made a statement with his play this summer. He was planning on cutting down his list until the likes of Indiana and Louisville started offering him scholarships. (RD)

6. There are still some good guards left on the board: There aren’t many good guards for high-major programs in the 2015 class, but the Under Armour Association featured a few guards that can really play. Jawun Evans has had a really strong summer and he’s in the conversation among the best point guards in the class. At 5-foot-11, Evans may be undersized, but he can get a piece of the paint anytime he has the ball in his hands and he mixes in a lot of shots near the basket that keep defenders flat-footed. Illinois native Glynn Watson is another solid high-major guard option and the 5-foot-11 point guard has recently picked up scholarship offers from Maryland and West Virginia during the live period. Watson can be a tad turnover prone, but he’s smooth with the ball in his hands and can also make plays at times as a scorer. And Watson thrives in clutch situations. He has multiple buzzer beaters with the Wolves during this grassroots season. (SP)

7. If Jaylen Brown is hitting threes, watch out: I’ve seen Jaylen Brown play enough times now to know what to expect out of him. He’s a tough defender, he’s awesome in transition, he can get to the rim off the bounce and he plays that power wing role that has become more prevalent in recent years. When I watched him in Atlanta, however, Brown buried four catch-and-shoot threes from four different spots on the floor, which is significant because his perimeter stroke has always been the biggest concern in his game.

Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

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NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

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Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.

2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1

6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

VIDEO: The insane final 10 seconds of North Carolina’s win over Kentucky

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.

After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.

These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.