South Plains College

Junior college prospect Andre Spight working to improve point guard skills

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LAS VEGAS — While the paths taken to Las Vegas by the players who participated in the All-American Showcase are different, with Division I transfers playing alongside junior college products entering their second year and unsigned high school grads hoping to earn the opportunity to play somewhere, the ultimate goal tends to be the same: to earn a scholarship to play at a Division I school.

In order to get there, these players have to not only prove their worth on the court but also in the classroom, with that particular issue being the reason why some prospects had to take an alternate route to a Division I school.

That was the case for guard Andre Spight, who after attending summer school at UTEP in 2013 found out in mid-July of that year that he had not qualified academically. For some that would have been the opportunity needed to feel sorry for themselves as opposed to looking in the mirror and addressing the issue directly. That wasn’t the case for Spight, who moved on to South Plains College in Levelland, Texas with a valuable lesson in tow.

“I just have to get my grades straight and my priorities straight,” Spight told “After that the sky’s the limit. You can’t let anything stop you, especially academically.”

Spight’s first season at South Plains was a good one, as he posted averages of 16.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on a team that finished the year with a 29-6 record and reached the quarterfinals of the Division I NJCAA tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. Spight’s primary role was to provide scoring off the ball, with Sekou Harris (4.9 apg, 1.8 A/T ratio) serving as the team’s primary ball-handler. Now with Harris having moved on to South Dakota, Spight’s responsibilities will change some as he’ll be asked to spend more time at the point.

As a result Spight will need to improve the skills needed to run the show, while also maintaining the skills that have made him a highly regarded prospect in the eyes of some Division I coaches.

“He has the playmaking [ability] and the handle; he has all the skills to play point guard,” South Plains assistant coach Hank Plona said at the showcase. “He just needs to develop the mindset [needed to play the point]. He came in with a scoring mindset, so we had to get him to thinking about ‘making the right play.'”

An event where players are asked to adjust on the fly to teammates they aren’t used to playing with can help in this area, and that was the case for Spight during his time on the floor. While it’s still a work in progress, the environment made Spight more attentive to the details that come with playing the point. That’s one of the positives Spight can take out of the experience, and it’s something that will help him as he prepares for his sophomore season.

“It helps a lot because I’m not sure what anyone’s going to do or what their next move will be,” Spight said. “So it’s up to me to figure that out, and it’s helping me.”

When asked which schools have been the most active in his recruitment, Spight mentioned Arizona State, Creighton, Penn State, Oregon and Tennessee. Head coaches Herb Sendek (Arizona State) and Pat Chambers (Penn State) were in attendance Saturday, with the Sun Devils upping the ante by having their entire coaching staff in the gym during Spight’s first game. The presence of a coach (or coaches) obviously has an impact on recruits, because that’s the best way to gauge a program’s interest regardless of what’s said through text messages or phone calls.

However the most important thing is to take advantage of the opportunity by playing well, something Spight understands.

“I just go play, but when they tell me they’re going to be here I obviously know,” Spight noted. “I just go out there and try to play my game and not try to do too much.”

The task for Spight entering 2014-15 is easy to identify: strengthen his abilities as a point guard while also maintaining the ability to score, as he’ll be asked to spend time at both guard positions at South Plains this season. If Spight proves capable, both team (another trip to Hutch) and individual (a scholarship to a major Division I school) will be well within his reach.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two¬†appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?