Eric Angevine

Tyshon Pickett, Jordan Prosser, Doug McDermott, Gregory Echenique

Bradley signs preteen brothers for a good cause


No, this is not another story of recruiting gone bad. It’s the rare recruiting gone very right tale.

On Friday, kindergartner Johnah Sahrs and his nine-year-old brother Jarrett signed letters of intent to join the Bradley Braves for the 2013-14 season. Johnah is battling the life-threatening condition neuroblastoma and his older brother has been doing what brothers do – helping his sibling get through the tough times. The brothers were introduced to the Braves by Team Impact, a non-profit organization that gets sick kids together with their favorite college teams.

Bradley’s website went the whole nine yards, announcing the signing in a non-ironic press release that could touch the coldest heart.

A 3-foot-4-inch guard, Johnah Sahrs will wear uniform number 1.  He becomes both the youngest and the shortest player in Bradley Basketball history.  Standing 4-foot-5-inches, Jarret Sahrs will wear uniform number 32.  Senior guard Mason Alwan, sophomore guard Anthony Fields, senior center Jordan Prosser and freshman guard Jordan Swopshire gave the Sahrs brothers a tour of the Renaissance Coliseum facilities prior to the signing ceremony and will serve as their primary team mentors throughout the season.

Whenever someone tries to tell you sports don’t matter, this is just one story that will prove them wrong. If they persist, show them the video evidence.

Here’s hoping the Sahrs brothers enjoy their season on the Bradley bench and that Johnah makes a complete recovery.

Even hoops recruits are thinking football right now

Photo courtesy @IllinoisLoyalty
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Hello? (oh… oh… oh) Is there anybody in here? (ere… ere… ere)

College football weekend is starting off with a bang. I can’t even blame all y’all for not paying much attention to CBT right now. Even our game is heavily dependent on the gridiron right now, as college hoops coaches have invited top recruits to campus this weekend in order to wow them with full stadiums and decked-out fans.

John Groce, for instance, has coveted five-star forward Leron Black in Champaign for the day, and where were the two spotted? According to this photo from the Twitter account of @IllinoisLoyalty, they were hobnobbing at Memorial Stadium, which is all decked out in orange for the home opener vs. the Southern Illinois Salukis.

The fact that the slumping football team narrowly won against an FCS opponent by a score of 42-34 probably doesn’t make much difference in whether Black chooses the Illini or not, but the festival atmosphere of a kickoff game is intoxicating.

Plus, it’s not like you’re poor Bruce Weber, who has to explain to recruits why his once-dominant squad just lost to North Dakota State at home.

OK, run along and enjoy your football, kids. But we expect you back here, rested and ready to pay attention tomorrow morning.

Got it?

Marquette searches for a rival in new Big East

Butler v Marquette

Digging for basketball stories in the offseason is tough sledding. Oddly enough, as the first games draw closer, news gets even harder to find, and the reason is a familiar one for college hoop-heads: football done stole all our candy.

Any newspaper that covers college sports extensively is talking kickoff this week, so I’m going to take this opportunity to dig into a question of great interest to schools in the new Big East – the one without big time pigskin.

One of my favorite team-specific blogs is Paint Touches. It’s a Marquette site that eschews the easy storyline and goes for the deep dirt every time, often with an assist from tempo-free stats. Currently, editor Andrei Greska is looking forward to the announcement of the league slate, which should happen sometime in the upcoming week. His focus falls on the new/old league’s announcement that they will protect one “natural rivalry” for each school, pairing teams in unbreakable grudge matches.

I’ll focus on the one Greska thinks is most likely, and the one that sounds the most interesting. He ranked the perceived likelihood of each partner on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being the most likely to occur.

Pros: Closest school in proximity; easy for fanbases to travel; long history of playing against each other with over 100 games played; basically two home games for Marquette as more students go to MU from Illinois than any other state, including Wisconsin; gives announcers plenty to work with (Al vs Meyer)
Cons: Inferior quality the past decade leading to lopsided results; no bad blood
Likelihood: 9

Pros: Two fantastic games last season; similar scrappy/tough style; relatively close in distance;
Cons: New kids on the block; Brad Stevens is gone will the magic be as well?; Rotnei Clarke is gone
Likelihood: 7

Now, the physical proximity of Marquette and DePaul makes a ton of sense, and it is likely the league will pair the two. But god, what a stinkeroo. Honestly, DePaul and anyone is a stinkeroo right now. If anything, it’ll be a nice way for Buzz Williams to get some easy face time and swipe some Windy City recruits out from under Oliver Purnell’s nose.

The one that sounds exciting is Butler-Marquette. Rather than create a rivalry out of mutual disinterest, why not play on the visceral appeal of last season’s clashes between the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles? Two scrappy teams that build contenders out of players who don’t fit into any mold? Sign me up.

We’ll keep an eye out for that schedule announcement. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some creative thinking on those rivalries.

Rutgers borrowing wacky stunts from Minor League Baseball

Nationals Dodgers Baseball
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Minor League baseball games aren’t like their MLB counterparts. Fans know the best players won’t be around long, and the players who do hang around might not be as athletically gifted as the ones who move on up to the big time.

In that way, it’s a lot like college hoops.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are combating ennui at the RAC in much the same way MiLB general managers do – by staging wacky stunts during timeouts. Where’d they get such an idea? From their Director of Marketing Geoff Brown, who they happen to have hired away from the Lakewood BlueClaws, the Class A affliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Brown is mostly concerned about getting fans out to the football games this season, and to that end he’s introducing familiar baseball concepts like bobblehead dolls, tote bag giveaways and family ticket/food packages. Can fireworks after the game be far away? Or maybe “Kids Run From Scrimmage” after every game. Could make for a huge recruiting windfall.

Joking aside, Brown tried out his first zany idea at Rutgers basketball games last year. writer Keith Sargent described the debut of the “Dancing Usher” in a recent article.

“We didn’t want any announcements beforehand,” Brown recalled, “but right before a timeout we were lucky enough to get one of the kids from the student riot squad, then put him in a yellow (usher) shirt and he went and replaced (the real) usher (near the court). I was all kinds of nervous doing one of these,” he said, illustrating how he shielded his eyes while sitting in his office last week at the RAC. “Luckily the kid was really into it and it went great. The crowd absolutely responded to it.”

If all else fails, we can only hope Bill Murray shows up.

UL’s Baumann goes from title game to picking up towels

Mason Wedel Logan Baumann
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What a difference a year makes.

Logan Baumann, a 6’0″ guard who was serving as team manager, was invited to join the Louisville Cardinals as a walk-on last season when Mike Marra suffered a season-ending injury. He appeared in four games – including mop-up minutes vs. Wichita State – and made the wild ride to the Final Four in uniform. One assumes he’s going to be the recipient of a title ring, in fact.

Pretty cool story. You almost wish it had ended there.


Because this season, we’ll see Baumann back picking up towels and doing laundry for the squad.

The Louisville Courier-Journal has the story of Baumann’s meteoric rise and subsequent return to earth:

Logan Baumann, a member of the University of Louisville’s national championship basketball team, will resume his role as a student manager for the Cardinals this season as coach Rick Pitino welcomes a pair of new walk-ons for 2013-2014.

The two new non-scholarship players replace Baumann, Michael Baffour and Jordan Bond, each of whom were one-year players for U of L.

“They chose a good year,” [U of L team spokesman Kenny] Klein said.

As a man with no discernable basketball-related talent outside of writing about it, I can tell you that I’d happily mop up sweat for three years if I had one fantastic season on the bench thrown into the mix as well. Hopefully Baumann is proud of his role and will end up with some happy memories of his championship season.

Kentucky and UNC provide early challenges for Belmont

Rick Byrd
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Last year, Rick Byrd put together a schedule that gave Belmont some tough tests. According to the Nashville Tennesseean, the Bruins played the No. 2 strength of schedule – traveling to Stanford, VCU and Kansas – and ended up with a top-25 RPI in 2012-13.

Pretty impressive, but this year’s slate might be even more brutal.

Belmont, long considered to be one of the gutsiest low-major squads in the nation, will travel to Chapel Hill to battle the Tar Heels on November 17th. Then they’ll hit Rupp Arena to take on John Calipari’s loaded Wildcats on December 21st. They’re opening the season with a “road trip” to play crosstown rival and former conference foe Lipscomb and will travel to Richmond early on as well.

The Bruins get a rest of sorts when they play VCU, simply because they somehow convinced Shaka Smart to give them a return date in Nashville, so they’ll get a raucous home crowd to egg them on in the face of Havoc.

Playing in the OVC, Byrd doesn’t have much hope of gaining an at-large bid, even if his squad comes in second to fellow giant-slayer Murray State. He knows this, so these early-season tests will not only earn his program a tidy pair of paychecks, but maybe they’ll prepare the Bruins to win the OVC auto-bid again and a chance for a program-defining March win or two.