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Syracuse loses promising sophomore Taurean Thompson

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Syracuse sophomore forward Taurean Thompson has withdrawn from the school, according to Syracuse.com.

Thompson was expected to play a major role for the Orange this season. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 9.2 points in just over 17 minutes as a freshman, and with Tyler Lydon and Andrew White III gone, he and Tyus Battle were going to be counted on to carry the scoring load.

“We have been informed that Taurean is taking a leave of absence from Syracuse University,” head coach Jim Boeheim said in a statement.  “My understanding is he wants to go to school closer to home due to some family health issues.”

Without Thompson, the Orange will not be without six of their top seven scorers from a team that went 19-15 last season and missed out on the NCAA tournament.

Report: Mitchell Robinson is now back at Western Kentucky

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Mitchell Robinson’s recruitment took another strange turn over the weekend.

The 7-foot- McDonald’s All-American center and potential lottery pick has returned to Western Kentucky to play his freshman season, according to Scout.

If he does, this will go down as one of the weirdest recruitments that I can remember. Let’s recap it, shall we? Robinson committed to Rick Stansbury and Western Kentucky last summer, just a couple of weeks after Robinson’s godfather, Shammond Williams, was hired as an assistant coach with the program. He signed in November and enrolled for summer school in July, but after just a couple of weeks of classes, Robinson left school and received a release to transfer from the program. He visited Kansas, LSU and New Orleans, but since he was technically a transfer and would have to sit out the 2017-18 season, those deals all fell through.

Which left Robinson in a difficult spot.

He could sit out the season and train for the NBA Draft, which is what it was reported he was considering doing last week. He could try and find a professional team to play for, either in the G League or overseas. Or, and this was probably always the smartest move, he could tuck his tail between his legs and return to WKU.

And if he does end up staying and playing for WKU all year long, it will be the first time in this whole saga that he actually did what he was expected to do.

Want to make college basketball more relevant? Play the games we actually care about

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It looks like we can cross Maryland and Georgetown off the list of obvious local rivals that are too dumb and stubborn to play each other.

In each of the last two seasons, the Terps and the Hoyas have produced two terrific, thoroughly entertaining basketball games early on in the non-conference season when college basketball is desperately trying to find a way into the conversation. In 2015, then-No. 3 Maryland beat the Hoyas 75-71 in College Park. The return game came last season, when the Hoyas somehow blew a nine-point lead in the final minutes in a loss at the Verizon Center.

But now that the Gavitt Games is no longer forcing the two biggest basketball brands in the nation’s capital to play each other, don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon.

From the Washington Post:

When asked if scheduling Maryland was a priority and a task he had thought about, Ewing flashed a wide grin and asked the room: “Who did he say?”

“I’m not thinking about Maryland. I’m not sure if or when we will schedule Maryland. My focus is on getting us back strong,” Ewing said.

And so it goes.

It has become all too common in college basketball for some of the most obvious and heated rivalries in the sport to never get played, and it sucks. Kansas is still too bitter about Missouri leaving for the SEC to schedule the Tigers, but don’t worry, Jayhawks fans, you still get those games against Washington, Stanford, Arizona State and Nebraska this year!

Duke and Maryland, which was almost as intense as Duke-North Carolina for a stretch of time in the late-90s and early-to-mid-00s, won’t ever get played for that same reason. If that matchup gets scheduled before Mike Krzyzewski retires I’ll be shocked.

Texas played Texas A&M during the 2015-16 season, but they needed the Battle 4 Atlantis to schedule it as an opening round matchup to make it happen. Ohio State has not played a non-conference game against Cincinnati since 2006, Dayton since 1988 and Xavier since 1935. Dayton and Xavier have not scheduled each other since Xavier left the Atlantic 10.

Pitt and West Virginia are only now reigniting the Backyard Brawl, which would be great if the Panthers weren’t an epic disaster at this point. Credit should be given to Syracuse, who has scheduled UConn, Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s since they’ve left the Big East, but they aren’t going to be able to play everyone of those teams every year. Gonzaga and Washington went a decade between games.

Conferences can’t even get this stuff right. The idea that Indiana and Purdue will only play one Big Ten game against each other this season is pathetic, although the fact that Indiana is going to have themselves a rebuilding year probably takes away some of the angst.

That list is both too long and not complete.

And frankly, I’m not even sure that playing these rivalry games would be enough to make all that big of a difference in how much attention is paid to college basketball in November and December. Unless college hoops can find a way to make football go away or the NBA an inferior product — neither of those things are going to happen — they’re always going to be third fiddle.

But I do know this: There would be a whole lot more interest from each team’s fanbase if they played these rivalry games. What do you think Duke fans want to see more: A game against Maryland or the Blue Devils playing in the PK80 Invitational, seven buy games and a trip to St. John’s?

How much interest do you think could be generated nationally by promoting a game built around the craziest comeback in college basketball history?

How awesome would it be if, in a football state, headlines were made in the fall around a four-team double-header featuring matchups between the four Ohio schools?

Am I truly the only person that wants to see Michael Porter Jr. step into Allen Fieldhouse and have a go at Kansas?

If we really want to make college basketball more relevant, find a way to make the coaches with eight-figure contracts play the games that their fans actually give a damn about. Until then, I hope the fans paying for season tickets enjoy the first seven games of their ticket package coming against teams that get paid upwards of $100,000 to come to town and lose by 30.

Dayton’s Sam Miller gets probation for videotaped jailhouse fight

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FAIRBORN, Ohio (AP) — A University of Dayton basketball player says he’s remorseful after a judge sentenced him to probation for a jailhouse fight after his arrest for underage drinking.

Twenty-year-old Sam Miller, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty Tuesday in southwest Ohio’s Greene County to disorderly conduct for a fight at the county jail in July.

Miller’s attorney says Miller is working hard not to repeat his mistakes.

Miller could be seen on surveillance video confronting and slapping another inmate. The inmate threw several punches that knocked Miller to the ground before deputies arrived.

Miller was a member of the University of Dayton basketball team the previous two seasons. Last season, he played in 26 games, averaging 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds. The school has revoked his athletic scholarship for one year and has suspended him for the current semester.

SMU’s hiring of recruit’s father is savvy, but isn’t guaranteed to work

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SMU set something of a precedent this week, as the program has reportedly hired Tyrone Maxey, a longtime Dallas-area high school coach and the father of Class of 2019 five-star prospect Tyrese Maxey, to their coaching staff.

Package deals like this are not uncommon.

Michael Porter Sr. has landed jobs as assistant coach at both Washington and Missouri as Lorenzo Romar and Cuonzo Martin, respectively, were trying to bring in Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter. DePaul hired Shane Heirman as an assistant coach in part because they knew he would bring with him a commitment from four-star point guard Tyger Campbell. Shammond Williams, Mitchell Robinson’s godfather, was hired as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, although that did not turn out all that well.

And those are just deals that have happened in the past year. I could go on. (Keelon Lawson getting hired as an assistant at Memphis to land K.J. and Dedric, David Patrick was hired at LSU to get Ben Simmons.)

The difference with the Maxeys, however, is that Tyrone was not hired as an assistant coach.

He’s been hired in a support staff role, as the Director of Player Development, which is something the NCAA tried to legislate out of the sport seven years ago.

Back in 2010, the NCAA instituted a rule that banned the hiring of an “individual associated with a prospective student-athlete” in a support staff role for two years prior to and two years after the enrollment of that student-athlete. Put another way, unless you’re hiring that person as one of the three assistant coaches on staff, any relative, handler, high school coach or AAU coach must be hired two years before or after that student-athlete enrolls at the school.

Tyrone is not being hired as one of the three assistant coaches on Tim Jankovich’s staff.

He is, however, being hired more than two years before the fall semester of what would be Tyrese’s freshman year; my understanding is that Tyrese would be able to enroll at SMU without running into an issue with the NCAA. To my knowledge, that would make Tyrone the first person hired in a support staff role in a direct effort to land a specific recruit and SMU the first program to circumvent the NCAA’s rule by bringing on a parent more than two years before his son enrolls.

Jankovich knows what he’s doing.

He was on Bill Self’s staff when Mario Chalmers’ father was hired. He spent four years working under Larry Brown, who hired Danny Manning’s father. Both of those decisions led directly to a national title. It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that he’s making a run at Tyrese Maxey, who is a top 20 player in the class, in this way.

It’s worth noting here that neither Tyrese nor Tyrone has said that the elder’s decision to take this job makes the younger a lock to be a Mustang. Tyrone has been a high school coach for the last 17 years in the Dallas area, including the past three seasons as an assistant coach at local power South Garland High School, but the intent here is transparent. Tyrone is replacing George Lynch, who won a national title with North Carolina before becoming a first round NBA Draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers and spending a dozen seasons in the NBA, in a player development role.

That hire may not end up being what makes this decision for Tyrese — high school kids tend to be unpredictable at times — but there’s no doubt that the intention of it was for it to influence his recruitment.

And let me be very clear here: There is nothing wrong with what SMU has done. Not only is it within the NCAA’s rules, but Jankovich is actually out ahead of the curve on this one. He doesn’t have to burn one of his three assistant coaching positions one someone who may or may not be qualified for the job, and he’ll have a great chance to land a player that may end up being the best recruit to enroll at an AAC school in the Class of 2019.

It’s almost as if someone that spent nine years working for Brown and Self knows a thing or two about the coaching business.

Success at the college level depends almost entirely on recruiting, more so in basketball than just about any other sport, and there may not be a better example than the Mustangs. Over the last five recruiting classes, as the SMU program surged to become a mainstay in the top 25 and reach a pair of NCAA tournaments*, they’ve only had one year where they did not finish with a top three class in the AAC, according to 247 Sports. That was in 2014, when they signed Emmanuel Mudiay, a top five prospect in the class, that ended up playing his one-and-done year in China amid eligibility concerns.

*(During that stretch, SMU reached the 2015 and 2017 NCAA tournaments. They were controversially snubbed in 2014 and, in 2016, they were banned from the NCAA tournament despite fielding a top 15 team in the country.)

Prior to Brown’s arrival, SMU had landed just a single four-star prospect since 2004 and had gone since 1993 without reaching the NCAA tournament.

In a business where employment is tied entirely to winning and mediocre jobs can pay seven figures, it makes too much sense to use spots on a coaching staff as a recruiting tool.

It doesn’t, however, guarantee success.

Stansbury and Western Kentucky learned that the hard way. The Lawson brothers transferred out of Memphis after two disappointing seasons, the first of which got the coach that recruited them into the program, Josh Pastner, fired. Ben Simmons never made the NCAA tournament at LSU, and head coach Johnny Jones was fired a year later. Texas A&M hired J-Mychal Reese’s father, John, as an assistant in 2011, and J-Mychal lasted all of 39 games before he was dismissed from the program. It’s hard to imagine Campbell’s commitment in and of itself turning around a program as moribund as DePaul. It’s easier to find examples of this blowing up in a program’s face than it is to find success stories.

Jankovich certainly knows this.

He also knows it puts SMU in the driver’s seat to land the highest-rated prospect to play for the program since Rivals began ranking prospects in 2003 with minimal risk to the program’s health in the interim.

When push comes to shove, winning with talent is easier to do than winning without it, and if what it takes to land a local prospect as good as Maxey should end up being is to hire his dad in a player development role for two years, then that is what you do.

It will be interesting to see whether or not anyone follows in these footsteps.

Report: Elite prospect Mitchell Robinson not expected to play in college in 2018

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It now appears as if college is off the table for Mitchell Robinson, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2017 and a potential lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, as Yahoo! Sports is reporting that he has passed on the idea of playing for his hometown university, New Orleans.

Robinson was initially a Western Kentucky-signee, and he spent two weeks over the summer practicing and attending classes as a Hilltopper. But he left school earlier this summer, which puts him in a bind: He’s a one-and-done player, but if he spends that year in college, he’ll do so as a transfer that must sit-out as a redshirt.

There were three schools that Robinson was eventually considering: LSU, Kansas and UNO. LSU stopped recruiting him two weeks ago. Bill Self told reporters last week that Kansas would not be adding anymore players this season. And now, according to Yahoo!, he will not be attending UNO.

As we wrote on Monday, the options for Robinson are now simple: He can either sit out for a year, working out on his own to train for the 2018 NBA Draft, or he can head overseas, where there is a market for his services; Australia, where Terrence Ferguson played last season before getting selected in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, has been a place where Robinson has been linked.