One college coach’s unique connection to the Peach Jam

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source:
AP/Jon-Michael Sullivan

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. The July live evaluation period came to a close on Sunday as college coaches from across America finally got the chance to return home after 15 days on the road evaluating over the last three weeks.

But for Miami (OH) assistant coach Trey Meyer, evaluating at the Nike Peach Jam during the second week of the July period meant a return home to a lifetime full of basketball memories.

A native of North Augusta, South Carolina — where the Peach Jam is played — Meyer has a unique bond with one of summer basketball’s most famous tournaments. The 28-year old Meyer has worked, played or coached in some form at the Peach Jam since he can remember.

“I don’t remember the exact year I started working it, I just remember growing up and it was something I did every year,” Meyer said to NBCSports.com.

He fondly remembers watching a high school version of Dirk Nowitzki play with an international team at Peach Jam in its early years before Meyer finally had the chance to play in the event himself with the South Carolina Ravens.

source:
Miami (OH) Athletics

Meyer once buried four three-pointers in one game at Peach Jam as a player and later returned to coach a 16U team comprised of local North Augusta players, winning a game against national competition. The North Augusta native’s long-standing relationship with the Peach Jam has made him an unofficial historian for the event.

“It’s come a long ways, I can still remember the first year they had it when they had it over at Augusta State University. It just seems like each year it just gets bigger and better,” Meyer said of the Peach Jam. “I’ve been a ball boy, scorekeeper, player, AAU coach and now I’m blessed enough to be a college coach and it has a huge impact on this community. It’s just a tremendous tournament.”

Meyer’s father, Rick, is the Director of the Riverview Park and Activities Center, where the Peach Jam is played, and the week of the event becomes a family reunion of sorts for the Meyer family.

Trey’s two younger sisters worked this year’s Peach Jam as scorekeepers, their mother usually sells t-shirts and the family’s grandparents also usually attend the Peach Jam to watch some of the best high school basketball players in the country.

The Meyer family isn’t unique with their local bond to the event. Many local fans and high school basketball players come out and pack the stands for each game and give the tournament a unique feel among grassroots events.

“It just gives North Augusta something special. Augusta has The Masters — and not that the Peach Jam is at that level — but it’s an event that people look forward to once a year,” Meyer said. “You get the best upcoming college players in the country, the best college coaches, and all of the people living in the area, they get to see their favorite coaches. It’s their own unique event. And obviously, it has a tremendous economic impact on the town because the population probably doubles when this event is going on.”

College coaches and media members that are veterans of the Peach Jam know to book hotel rooms as far as six-to-eight months in advance to make sure they don’t end up in undesirable accommodations. Restaurants and bars around town are also usually filled with coaches and fans throughout the week. But Meyer has a leg up on the out-of-towners as he still opts to stay in his childhood home with his family during the Peach Jam.

“I stay in the house I grew up in. It’s awesome,” Meyer said with a smile. “My Mom has actually formed my old bedroom into memorabilia of me and my sisters; things she’s collected over the years. So I actually sleep in one of my sister’s rooms. But home is home. I can sleep on the floor and it’s still home. They always say, ‘You can get a hotel if you want,’ and there’s no way I would do that.”

Being the local guy, Meyer also has plenty of colleagues asking for recommendations on local places to go. Meyer plays a willing host and can offer insights on a number of different places in the Augusta and North Augusta areas.

“Most people in the basketball world, if they ask me where I’m from, I’ll say, ‘North Augusta,’ and I don’t know that it really clicks, so I’ll say, ‘Where the Peach Jam is,’ and they instantly recognize it and love the place and the tournament,” Meyer said.

“I get hit up for all different things. Where to stay, where to eat, where to go at night. It’s cool, it gives me my own unique perspective for everyone else.”

The Peach Jam itself has grown quite a bit over the years. As the finals for Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, the final four and championship game of the event is now nationally televised and many casual college basketball fans that don’t follow recruiting can at least recognize the significance of the tournament every July.

From a small-town tournament covered by local publications to the current iteration that commands writers and TV personalities from across the country, Meyer still believes the Peach Jam is the best event of the summer.

“I think it’s the best of the summer. I’ve always thought that, ever since growing up,” Meyer said. “Going back to when I’ve coached and traveled to different tournaments, I think it’s the best one of the summer. I may be biased, but the food, the hospitality, the way people treat you and the way the community comes out and supports it, it’s just a special tournament.”

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.