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Villanova Family: Monday’s success stems from development within program

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SAN ANTONIO — The iconic moment of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the lasting image that will be meme’d and gif’d ad nauseum by the Villanova faithful until the internet no longer exists, came after Donte DiVincenzo hit his fifth and final three against Michigan, a dagger that pushed Villanova’s lead back 18 points and capped off a three-possession stretch where the redshirt sophomore had scored nine points.

After holding his pose, DiVincenzo turned to head back down court while flashing a wink, aimed at a Villanova section of San Antonio’s Alamodome, but intended for a specific person.

Josh Hart.

The former Wildcat and current rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers has something of a sibling rivalry raging with the man known as The Michael Jordan of Delaware.

“Me and Josh have a unique relationship,” DiVincenzo said, flooded by media after scoring 31 points in a 79-62 title game win over Michigan, wearing a shirt that was drenched by a celebratory postgame water fight while the piece of net tied around his ‘Villanova: National Champions’ hat had started to fray at the ends. “We love each other, but we competed against each other so hard. We got into a lot.”

Both are ruthlessly competitive, even — particularly — in practice. DiVincenzo broke his foot eight games into his freshman season, which meant that he was forced into a redshirt role. His games were practice. His One Shining Moment during the 2016 run to a National Title came as a scout team player. “‘Buddy Hield’ Donte was a special person,” Jalen Brunson, who is DiVincenzo’s classmate despite being a year older, eligibility-wise. “It’s someone that might have just came out tonight.”

“When I got back from my injury and I was able to practice and work out, he didn’t want me to have any good days,” DiVincenzo said of Hart. “I would see him start to lose his cool a little bit and I would start to push his buttons.”

And that’s where the wink came from.

DiVincenzo wanted to let Hart know that he got a title of his own.

“That’s my guy. I’ve seen him grow up, seen him work, that’s just love,” Hart said, a smile on his face reminiscent of a father watching his son come of age. “All love for him. Obviously I won one, but it means so much more to me that they won one.”


(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Ryan Arcidiacono wasn’t going to come to San Antonio this weekend.

Arch is currently on a two-way contract with a team that is in the thick of the race to win the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Put another way, being the 16th-man on the roster of a team that is trying to lose games is not exactly the sign of a player that has job security. The Bulls played on Sunday night. They have another game on Tuesday night in Chicago, and the money that he’s making isn’t going to be paying for many private jets.

Arch ended up on a chartered flight out of Chicago that landed in San Antonio at 3:45 p.m.

By the time you read this story, he’ll likely already be wheels down in Chi-town, a 6 a.m. departure making the possibility of sleep fairly unlikely. All told, he spent 14 hours boots on the ground in Texas.

Josh Hart’s schedule was similarly complicated. His private jet from Los Angeles to San Antonio touched down around the same time that Arch’s flight landed. Hart didn’t even tell the team he was coming. They found out by watching his Instagram story.

Kris Jenkins?

He’s been in town since Thursday, working on Villanova’s scout team and giving his team a chance to scrimmage against a guy that had played in the G League this season. Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Kerry Kittles, Ed Pinkney. They were all in the Alamodome on Monday night.

“Without a doubt,” Hart said, “this one is better than mine. I was there so I knew everything that it took to get. But to leave and then have the guys that you tried to help mentor take the program and elevate it to a new level.”

And to a man, everyone on the Villanova roster now and everyone that made their way back to see the team play in San Antonio feels the same way. They all know each other, maybe not the way that classmates know each other, but the alumni are always around. They come back to campus to work out. The pickup games in the school’s gym during the summer are the best run in the city if you can get an invite.

“They are TOUGH,” Omari Spellman said with a smile, making sure to mention that the same issues plague their games — phantom travels, six fouls called when it is point-game — that plague your Sunday morning runs at the park. “Kyle Lowry is the cheater.”

“As juniors and seniors, you need to take care of the younger guys,” Arcidiacono said. “You know they’re the next generation of Villanova basketball players. That’s why you see alums like us take great pride in them winning a national championship because we feel like part of it as teammates. We taught them the way.”

“I feel like I’m a part of it,” added Jenkins, and that gets at the core of Villanova’s success over the last half-decade.

Jay Wright made a conscious effort six or seven years ago to change the kind of player that he targeted in recruiting. No longer was he recruiting to a player’s talent level, to their status in the various recruiting ranking there are out there, and hoping they would fit in with the Villanova Family. Instead, he begin identifying and targeting the players that he thought fit his idea of a college basketball player and then went from there.

Sometimes, that resulted in Villanova landing a McDonald’s All-American like Jalen Brunson, but most of the time it meant that they brought in a lesser-known prospect — like a Kris Jenkins or a Josh Hart — because the fit made sense. Each and every one of those new additions understood what was going to be asked of them. You might sit on the bench for a year or two. You might even be forced to take a redshirt season.

Either way, it’s not easy to do.

“Coming in, not playing right away, the system, adjusting to the college game, not being a real contributor like I would want to be,” said Jermaine Samuels, who has played sparingly followed his recovery from a broken bone in his left hand. “You never know what will happen in a season, and the worst happened. I’ll learn from it.”

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Collin Gillispie added.

Gillispie, in fact, thought that he was going to have to redshirt this season, but that idea fell through once head coach Jay Wright realized just how much he was going to need his backup point guard.

He didn’t want it to happen.

But he understood the importance of it because he understood the importance of a redshirt season in the development of Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall. Those two lost a combined 75 pounds in their year on the sidelines. They turned this Villanova offense into the juggernaut that it became.

It worked for DiVincenzo as well.

“We talked about it. He can learn from the sideline and see whats going on,” John DiVincenzo, Donte’s dad, said. “So it was a learning experience.”

“We’ve been in it with these guys,” Jenkins said. “They took the program and elevated it.”

“We won it in 2016. For them to get here, it’s just amazing.”


(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The rivalry between DiVincenzo and Hart has cooled somewhat this season.

That’s what happens when you don’t have daily practice wars against one another, and it helped that Hart, once he graduated, told DiVincenzo that, “I see something in you. That’s the reason why I pushed you so hard.”

Hart made it to the stage after the win. He watched One Shining Moment from the same spot that he watched it in 2016, as did DiVincenzo.

The circumstances surrounding for DiVincenzo’s celebration this season were wildly different than they were in 2016.

“I was on the bench in a suit,” he said, a medical redshirt whose impact on the team was limited to scout team minutes. “That last play, the ball got to Kris and I had so much confidence in that shot that I was standing up before it even released.”

On Monday night, with confetti falling around them and the tears starting and stopping, Hart told DiVincenzo how proud he is of his pupil.

“You finally got a ring!” Hart said.

DiVincenzo, ever the competitor, responded the only what he could: “No.”

“I’ve got two now.”

Report: Arizona State adds 7-foot-1 center

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Height has been something of an issue in recent years for Bobby Hurley and Arizona State. The Sun Devils took a step to remedy that Thursday.

Uros Plavsic, a 7-foot-1 center from Serbia has signed with Arizona State to become the fourth member of the program’s 2018 recruiting class, according to a report from 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels.

Plavsic, who is attending high school in Tennessee, originally committed to Cleveland State, but backed off that commitment last month before visiting Tempe this week.

“It was a great experience,” Plavsic told Scout. “They really took good care of me these past few days. Their campus is so, so big. The people here are nice. I met two guys I really liked and were important for a basketball team. Their facilities are crazy. Everything is in the same area.”

The Sun Devils ranked in the bottom half of the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage last year while ranking 265th in average height, according to KenPom.

“They were short the past two seasons,” he said about Arizona State. “They really needed a big guy and they can use me inside or can pass outside. They really need a big guy and I think I can help them out a lot next season.”

 

NCAA begins work of implementing complex basketball reforms

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The most difficult part of the NCAA’s attempt to clean up college basketball begins now.

Hours after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the Commission on College Basketball’s sweeping recommendations for reforming a sport weighed down by corruption, NCAA leaders set in motion the process for turning those ideas into reality.

The NCAA Board of Governors, a group of 16 university presidents and the association’s highest ranking body, unanimously endorsed all the commission’s recommendations Wednesday. Now it’s up to various subcommittees, working groups and college administrators to dig into a mountain of work over the next three months as the NCAA attempts to change NBA draft rules, create a new enforcement body, toughen penalties for rules violations, revamp summer recruiting and certify agents. All while trying to get buy-in from organizations that might not be motivated to help.

“It’s going to be a challenge to say the least,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “This is a pace of decision making that the association’s really never done on this kind of scale before.”

The Division I Council, comprised mostly of athletic directors and headed by Miami AD Blake James, has the job of turning the recommendations into rules. That requires feedback from schools, then council votes with some conference votes counting more heavily than others. Each proposal then goes to the Board of Directors, where a majority vote is needed to send it to the Board of Governors for final approval.

It’s a winding path — crossing 351 Division I schools with varied priorities and concerns — and requiring consensus building and compromise for measures to pass. NCAA rule changes can sometimes take a full calendar year to sort out.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t let the good fall victim to the perfect here,” Emmert said. “Nobody believes we’re going to get everything perfect the first time through.”

The independent commission Rice led released a much-anticipated and detailed 60-page report , seven months after the group was formed in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme , and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations.

“They believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving,” Rice told the AP of commission members in an interview before addressing NCAA leaders. “We believe there’s a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong. We had to be bold in our recommendations.”

The proposals were wide-ranging, falling mostly into five categories: NBA draft rules, specifically the league’s 19-year-old age limit that has led to so-called one-and-done college players; non-scholastic basketball such as AAU leagues and summer recruiting events; the relationship between players and agents; relationships with apparel companies; and NCAA enforcement.

“Some people like some of (the recommendations) more than others, which is human nature, but as a board we’re unanimous in the endorsement and the acceptance of these recommendations for the NCAA,” said Minnesota President Eric Kaler, chairman of the Division I Board of Directors.

It’s not yet clear how the governing body would pay for some of the proposals, though the NCAA reported revenues of more than $1 billion dollars for fiscal year 2017 in its most recent financial disclosures.

The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that brings together agents, apparel companies and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding hoops “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents.

It also defended the NCAA’s amateurism model, saying paying players a salary isn’t the answer.

“The goal should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league,” the commission wrote in its report.

The commission did leave open the possibility that college athletes could earn money off their names, images and likenesses , but decided not to commit on the subject while the courts are still weighing in.

Rice called the crisis in college basketball “first and foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility.”

ONE-AND-DONE

The commission emphasized the need for elite players to have more options when choosing between college and professional basketball, and to separate the two tracks.

The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The one-and-done rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

“I’m confident they are going to be very supportive,” Emmert said of the NBA and NBAPA.

The NBA and players union praised the recommendations on enforcement and expressed concerns about youth basketball. On draft eligibility rules, however, there was no commitment.

“The NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game,” they said.

The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year.

“One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told the AP.

ENFORCEMENT

The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and that the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools. By comparison, recent Level I infractions cases involving Louisville and Syracuse basketball resulted in postseason bans of one year.

Instead of show cause orders, which are meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules, the report called for lifetime bans.

“The rewards of success, athletic success, have become very great. The deterrents sometimes aren’t as effective as they need to be. What we want are deterrents that really impact an institution,” said Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who was a member of the Rice commission.

AGENTS

The commission proposed the NCAA create a program for certifying agents , and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers.

AAU AND SUMMER LEAGUES

The NCAA, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer , the commission said, and take a more serious approach to certifying events it does not control.

APPAREL COMPANIES

The commission also called for greater financial transparency from shoe and apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. These companies have extensive financial relationships with colleges and coaches worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adidas had two former executives charged by federal prosecutors in New York in the corruption case.

 

ODU graduate transfer Trey Porter headed to Nevada

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Nevada is adding an immediate impact big to its roster.

The Wolf Pack received the commitment of Old Dominion graduate transfer Trey Porter, they announced Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10 Porter averaged 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks for ODU last season. He announced his decision to finish his career elsewhere last month.

“We are so excited about Trey Porter joining our Nevada Family,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said in a statement. “Trey is an incredible athlete, has tremendous length, and has huge upside. He is a great rebounder who can score the ball in the post and face up. He has phenomenal speed for his size and will really fit in our uptempo style on both ends of the floor.”

Porter, who began his career at George Mason, shot 58.8 percent from the field last season and registered four double-doubles.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to play at a program like Nevada,” Porter said in a statement. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I could tell how invested the coaching staff, program, and university were to my success and how I would fit in with the team. I am ready to get back to Reno and get to work on next season.”

Nevada upset Cincinnati and Texas in the NCAA tournament last season to reach the Sweet 16. They finished 29-8 overall. The Wolf Pack have uncertainty with their roster with Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin all testing the NBA draft waters.

Loyola extends Porter Moser through 2026

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A trip to the Final Four might prove significantly lucrative to Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser.

The Ramblers announced Wednesday that they reached a new contract agreement with Moser that will extend his deal through 2026 with what the Chicago Tribune called a “hefty raise” on his $420,000 per year salary, citing an anonymous source.

“As I have said many times before, I am a Catholic kid from Chicago who played in the Missouri Valley Conference,” Moser said in a statement released by the school. “This is the trifecta for me. We have invested so much time and energy in this program and I’m beyond excited to continue the journey. Watching Chicago as well as Loyola students, alumni and fans get excited for this team was exactly the vision we had when we took over the program.

“I will continue to challenge our fans to fill Gentile Arena as we did for the final home game to make it one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the country.”

The Ramblers went 32-6 last year, winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles ahead of their magical run to the Final Four for the first time winning the NCAA tournament in 1963. They return three starters from the Final Four squad, including MVC player of the year Clayton Custer.

“We are excited to be able to announce a new contract for Porter that will keep him at Loyola a long time,” athletic director Steve Watson said. “He is the perfect fit for Loyola and operates his program the right way, with student-athletes who achieve excellence on the court and in the classroom and are also excellent representatives of the institution.

“We are fortunate to work at a university like Loyola, that values and has made a commitment to athletics. It is nice to reward Porter not just for an outstanding season, but also for the job he has done during his time here.”

 

Dayton adds Michigan transfer

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After two years with a limited role at Michigan, Ibi Watson is returning to his home state.

The Wolverines guard is transferring to Dayton, it was announced Wednesday.  

“We are very pleased to have Ibi join our Flyer Family,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said in a statement.  “He is a young man who knew what he wanted after leaving a great University and winning basketball team at Michigan.  He has seen first-hand what it takes to be successful at this level.”

Watson averaged just 5.2 minutes per game during his sophomore season in Ann Arbor. He will sit out the upcoming season and then have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

“I know he will utilize his redshirt year to improve himself in every way,” Grant said, “and having an experienced, talented player to go against every day in practice next season will only help our younger players grow.  Ibi is an important piece of our future. Our team and campus community will enjoy having him become a Flyer.”

The Pickerington, Ohio native was a first-team all state selection as a senior when he averaged more than 19 points per game. He now joins Dwayne Cohill, Jhery Matos and Frankie Policelli as Grant’s 2018 class.