Eric Angevine

screen grab courtesy CSNWashington.com

VIDEO: Shaka Smart covets RGIII’s NFL spot

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Shaka Smart may be one of the best coaches outside of John Calipari at making the scene. He’s one of the hippest young coaches out there, so when he makes an appearance, people take note. With the Washington Redskins taking training camp in Richmond, Smart dropped by to check out this year’s team, and had a chat with CSNWashington about what role he’d like to play if he were trying out.

Of course he’d want to be the QB. And you know the creator of “Havoc” would know how to scramble.

Nice to see that (not) Perd Hapley got the big TV gig in D.C., by the way.

Thundering Herd will add a new floor this year

Elijah Pittman
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We’ve seen a lot of new basketball floors go in this past offseason, and most of them have been colorful and inventive, to say the least.

The latest school to announce that a new court will go in is Marshall, though we don’t know yet what the design will be. Given the school’s unique nickname, I have high hopes.

The Huntington Herald-Dispatch has the lowdown on the costs associated with the new floor, which is actually one of the smaller investments the school is making as far as sports facilities upgrades this summer.

The mainstay of the facilities upgrades are coming through the Vision Campaign, which was launched in 2011 and represent a $30 million project that, once completed, will feature an $8 million soccer complex, an indoor practice facility, Hall of Fame, academic support center and Sports Medicine Translational Research Center.

There has also been $3 million construction of additional luxury suites and a new elevator at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Hamrick said Friday that project is on time for completion prior to the Aug. 31 football home opener against Miami (Ohio). As soon as that project is finished, renovations will shift to Cam Henderson Center where a new basketball floor will be put down in time for the 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball season at a cost of $160,912.22.

While the basketball team won’t see much in the way of direct improvement to their own building, the new academic and sports medicine facilities should be a boon to hoopsters as well as the school’s other athletes.

We’ll keep an eye out for the new floor design, with fingers crossed for a rampaging gang of Bison bison as a personal preference.

Possible ACC Network would face many hurdles

John Swofford
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The Big Ten Network has been immensely profitable to league member schools. According to a recent article by Andy Bitter of the Virginian-Pilot, the network passes along somewhere around $7 million to league schools every year as part of the TV rights deal. It’s important to remember, however, that the BTN is currently the exception rather than the rule.

The Pioneering Mountain West Sports Network shut down in 2012 in part because the league itself was so volatile. The network’s footprint was a constantly moving target, as member schools leaped from stepping stone to stepping stone on the way up the realignment ladder. The Pac-12 Network is doing battle with DirecTV and having trouble turning a profit. The SEC Network debuts in 2014, and any notion of a Big 12 Network seems to be completely subservient to the already extant Longhorn Network.

So would the expanded ACC be willing to jump into such uncertain waters? Certainly. But Bitter’s article does an excellent job pointing out the potential obstacles any such venture would face:

  • Deals in place: The ACC is already partnered with ESPN, and the cable network is entitled to show the premiere matchups, including the immense Duke/UNC hoops matchups. Regional TV deals with Fox (which ties into YES Network) and Raycom also would reduce the number of games available to be shown on any theoretical ACC Network.
  • Cable companies: Not only does a league-only network have to get cable companies to assign a channel to carry their programming, but they have to negotiate how much money they get out of the deal. Media consultant Neal Pilson told Bitter “If you get 100 percent distribution and 5 cents per channel, it’s not going to work.” The Pac-12’s battle with DirecTV is evidence of just how combative such negotiations can become.
  • Questionable market saturation: The ACC covers some large media markets already (though Maryland’s defection hurt), and the addition of Syracuse is supposedly going to give the league an entree into the massive NYC market. Just because New Yorkers happily tuned in to watch the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in years past doesn’t mean that love will transfer to regular-season matchups.

The positives are numerous as well. The ACC gained a significant edge by securing a grant of media rights from the league’s current and future members. That’s a sign of stability that can’t be ignored. The league’s YouTube channel has been more successful than any other league’s as well, which could be a good indicator of future interest.

The SEC Network’s upcoming debut will probably give us some indication of where the ACC might turn. If the SEC can make it work with ESPN’s help, it can at least provide some hint of whether the ACC can do the same. Obviously, however, the SEC’s football brand is far more valuable than the ACC’s, and that’s the real driver of payouts in this business model.

Will an ACC Network happen? Maybe. But not soon, it seems.

How Spike, Josh and Sam spent their summer vacations

Cleanthony Early, Sam Dower
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You’d be hard-pressed to find a college player goofing off or hitting the beach this summer. We checked in with three players with something to prove in the upcoming season, so we could find out how they’re working toward their goals.

No Flash in the Pan

As a freshman, Spike Albrecht was a seldom-used bench player. Suddenly, in the title game, he was not only in the game against Louisville, but he was on fire. Albrecht played 28 minutes – by far his most of the season – and poured in 17 points on 6 of 9 shooting. A lot of guys could live on that for the rest of their lives, but for Albrecht, it’s not nearly enough.

“I was more upset that we lost and that I couldn’t do anything in the second half to help us win,” Albrecht told NBCSports by phone. “I was kind of bummed out.”

It couldn’t have helped that Kate Upton – subject of a legendary post-game tweet from Albrecht – decided Blake Griffin is more her speed.

We know now that Albrecht isn’t content being a bench-warmer on the court, or in life. Now that it seems like everybody knows his name, Albrecht is working to make sure his game is up to par, despite the fact that John Beilein has Derrick Walton coming in to, presumably, play in front of him.

To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

“There’s a lot of talented guys on this team,” Albrecht acknowledged. “But I don’t think they’re going to take me lightly, you know? The most important thing at my size is to get stronger and more athletic, then do as much on the court as I can. Make sure my handle is as good as it can be and that my shot is right.”

Albrecht is also doubling up on his classwork, taking philosophy and science in the compressed summer session. Which is not to say that he’s having no fun at all. He kept his head right and his game tight even while he was visiting home.

“It’s nice because me, Glenn Robinson and Mitch McGary are all from Indiana, and we all live within about a half hour of each other, so we were getting together every day, working out and playing games and stuff. It’s great playing with other guys who know what they’re doing so you don’t get hurt or anything.”

Albrecht isn’t all business. He enjoys a good game of golf. But he’s the rare college kid who thinks video games are a waste of time. So, maybe he’s mostly business.

Recovering from Injury

Where Albrecht is attempting to deal with the sudden appearance of the spotlight, one of his Big Ten rivals has the opposite problem. Josh Gasser was a major component at Wisconsin from day one, averaging 34 minutes, 7.6 points, and two assists per game as a freshman in the 2011-12 season. The 6’3″, 190-lb point guard was set to expand on those numbers: Bo Ryan had named him the starting point guard right before Gasser blew out his ACL in October, and was forced to miss the entire season.

“It happened so quick,” Gasser said via telephone. “Everything was going so well, then a second changes everything. It was a mixture of feelings, being pissed off or mad or sad, depressed, whatever. It was tough to deal with, but after a couple of weeks it all sunk in and I decided to rise to the challenge.”

Right after surgery to repair the ligaments, Gasser could only wait for the swelling to go down. Then began the torturous process of taking baby steps. “At first, the worst thing is trying to get your flexion back. Your knee is so stiff you can’t bend it at all. Then as it goes on, there are various exercises that you dislike the most. Conditioning, and trying to get your legs under you because it’s been so long since you’ve run and cut.”

Gasser was told by trainers that his injury would take a full twelve months to heal. Nine months in, he’s re-learning how to run, jump and cut, alongside the mental effort of enduring residual pain and trying not to hurry his body toward the upcoming season. He’s under orders to rest and recuperate in between rehab and workouts, so he’s had time to indulge in the sort of TV marathons the rest of us take for granted.

“I’m on the second season of Friday Night Lights,” Gasser said. “I usually don’t get into series; I just like to watch basketball games and football games. But after the NBA Finals were over, I started that series and now I’m hooked on it.”

Gasser is also taking a summer class, and his rigorous workout regimen allows the Wisconsin native to indulge in a statewide rite of summer – plenty of bratwurst.

“I’m from here, so I eat them pretty often,” Gasser said. “I’m trying to gain some weight back, so it’s not really a problem for me. I’m burning a lot of calories, so whatever I put back in me is fine.”

Filling NBA-sized Shoes

Quite often, players will spend part of the summer months helping out at coaching clinics. Gonzaga’s Sam Dower recently taught the youth of Spokane some of the moves he’s been working on through the warm months. “I’m working on my conditioning, also driving to the basket now that Kelly Olynyk is gone,” he said. “Teams also try to take away my left hand a lot, so I’m working on a counter move getting to that right hand off that left shoulder.”

Dower has big shoes to fill. Olynyk had a breakout season for the Zags last year, his stock rising so high he became the thirteenth pick in the NBA draft. The Canadian big man impressed in the summer league as well, giving Dower a high mark to aim at.

An avid outdoorsman, Dower has enjoyed spending time with David Stockton and other teammates at the Stockton family’s lake house when rare weekend free time comes up. He says Olynyk and Stockton have had some epic Call of Duty sessions, but he personally prefers the NBA2K franchise.

Dower also took in a couple of summer flicks, though he may have wished he hadn’t.

“I saw The Conjuring,” he said, laughing. “It was probably the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t even sleep that night. I definitely recommend it if you like scary films.”

So, pretty much your typical summer for these guys. Food, sun, fun and some elite-level basketball workouts. And they, like the rest of us, can hardly wait until the weather turns cooler, and the action on the court starts up again. That’s when all the work really pays off.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Marshall will invade Penn State on Pearl Harbor Day

Penn State Nittany Lions' Newbill goes to the basket against Michigan Wolverines' Burke during the first half of their NCAA men's college basketball game in Chicago, Illinois
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It is a day that will live in infamy.

Not because of a basketball game, but still.

Marshall University has announced that they’ll traverse roughly 400 miles of prime coal-mining country that lies between Huntington and Happy Valley on December 7 of this year, so they can renew their basketball series with Penn State.

Tom Herrion’s club will be looking to build momentum for the regular season. The Thundering Herd haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1987, and it’s always taken an auto-bid to get them there. With C-USA’s membership dramatically altered by realignment, it’s anybody’s guess as to how many bids the league can garner in the upcoming season. Every win will count, and every loss will hurt, badly.

History is not on Marshall’s side in this one, as reported by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

Marshall has played the Nittany Lions five times previously and lost all five. The most recent meetings were in the 1991-92 season. Penn State defeated Marshall, 78-64, on Dec. 29, 1991, at the Palm Beach Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla., and also won at Cam Henderson Center, 67-60, on Jan. 16, 1992.

The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, would like to show some growth in a Big Ten that has just gotten tougher. Penn State has won just six league games in two years under Pat Chambers, and a weak non-conference game like this one won’t help them, win or lose. More than anything, these early season tests will give Chambers an idea of which supporting players might lend a hand to D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier. That’s a great backcourt by any measure, but PSU will need a lot more than that to contend.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Niagara lands the one that ODU let get away

ODU Basketball Coach
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Old Dominion had a good thing going over the past decade or so. Cutting Blaine Taylor loose as coach was likely a necessary measure if the under-the-table scuttlebutt is true, but the abrupt mid-season coaching change has definitely give the program some new hurdles to get over.

Not only are they heading into Conference USA with a new leader – former UVA and American head coach Jeff Jones – but they’re struggling with decisions made by the prior coaching staff as well.

According to Ed Miller of the Virginian-Pilot, former ODU recruit Ramone Snowden – a local kid from the Tidewater area – has grown tired of waiting to be admitted to the university, and will take his services to Niagara instead.

The story of how this came to be is far from clear, but Miller tracked down some comments from interested parties.

[Snowden’s high school coach Norman] Hassell said ODU told Snowden he would have to raise his SAT scores to gain admission. Snowden took the test several times, but was told he still had not met the standard, Hassell said.

“In May, they said he had to have 10 points higher than what he had scored previously. In June, they said it had to be 30 points higher. Ultimately, the last  person we talked to said it had to be 40 points higher,” Hassell said.

Hassell faulted ODU for stringing Snowden along and questioned whether the new coaching staff truly wanted him, or whether they simply felt obligated to honor the offer Taylor had made.

Snowden says he missed out on several offers while he waited for his hometown program to admit him, so he jumped at the Niagara offer when it was presented.

It may very well be that Jones has other ideas of what type of player he wants, but he’ll want to stay in the good graces of local programs. The Hampton Roads area is a hotbed of athletic talent, and it would be a bad thing indeed if Jones gets a bad name amongst the movers and shakers in his own backyard this early in his tenure at Old Dominion.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.