Rob Dauster

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Tom Izzo headed into Hall of Fame, highlight in bizarre year

Leave a comment

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Tom Izzo is headed into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a highlight in a sad stretch of the Michigan State coach’s life that included the loss of his father. The Spartans were also a rare first-round loser in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s been a bizarre year,” Izzo said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There have been a lot of ups and downs. Going into the Hall of Fame isn’t something I even dreamed about so it’s hard to think about what it will be like until I get there.”

Izzo will be inducted Friday night in a class that includes Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming and Sheryl Swoopes.

Magic Johnson said Izzo and O’Neal asked him to present them, but the Hall of Fame point guard had to decline because he and his wife made plans a year ago to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary this weekend.

Johnson said it was “heartbreaking,” to pass on the invitation.

“What I really love about Tom is, he’s made it a family affair at Michigan State,” Johnson, who led the Spartans to a national title in 1979 with coach Jud Heathcote, Izzo’s mentor, told The AP. “Every player, whether they played for him or not, always comes back. He’s made it a program that now, year in and year out, we’re always contending not just for the Big Ten championship, but also for a national championship.”

Izzo, who will be presented by Gary Williams, won the 2000 NCAA title and has made six other Final Four appearances, the last in 2015. He has won five Big Ten regular season and five conference tournament championships in his 21-season career. His 524 wins trail only Bob Knight at Indiana for most victories at a Big Ten school.

Carl Izzo died at the age of 90 in December, about three months before Middle Tennessee State stunned second-seeded Michigan State in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history.

Izzo’s 90-year-old mother, Dorothy, plans to attend the induction ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Heathcote, who pushed for his little-known assistant to succeed him in 1995, said he will not be able to make the trip.

“When we won a championship with Magic early in my career, I thought we would get back to the Final Four to win some more,” Heathcote said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “But we were there for 16 more years and never got back. That’s what makes what Tom has done unbelievable to me.”

Believe it or not, those who know Izzo best predict the honor of being inducted will be far from a final achievement for him.

“I think it’s only going to make him work harder,” said former NBA standout Steve Smith, the first player Izzo recruited to Michigan State as an assistant coach. “He’ll create doubters and haters in his head that will push him to prove he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

Izzo didn’t argue the point.

“I still think I have a lot of desire to win,” he said. “My mentors, including my dad, Jud and Nick Saban, and even Vince Lombardi when I was growing up, showed how you should work hard to be successful year after year after year. I feel like I still have a lot to do.”

After taking part in Hall of Fame-related festivities Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Izzo planned to fly back to the Midwest to recruit on Sunday.

He is expected to have a good team, maybe not a great one, after losing some standouts, including Player of the Year Denzel Valentine.

“Coach is a high-class person and a blue-collar guy, who worked his way up and does things the right way and that’s why everyone looks up to him,” said Valentine, who was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls. “And what’s great is, I have known him since I was 5 or 6 and used to go the games and he has stayed the same during good times and bad.”

Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage and follow his work at http://www.bigstory.ap.org/content/larry-lage

Attorney: Tyndall’s appeal hearing with NCAA on Thursday

DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Head coach Donnie Tyndall of the Morehead State Eagles shouts from the sidelines during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Leave a comment

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) An attorney for former Southern Mississippi basketball coach Donnie Tyndall says the coach’s NCAA infractions case appeal hearing will be on Thursday in Indianapolis.

Don Jackson says he will represent Tyndall, who is asking the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to reverse the 10-year show cause penalty he received from the NCAA in April for violations that occurred while he was coaching Southern Miss.

Jackson said he expects the NCAA’s final ruling won’t come for at least 4-6 weeks.

The NCAA penalized Tyndall after the governing body ruled the coach orchestrated academic fraud designed to land recruits as well as other misconduct. Tyndall was fired as Tennessee’s coach in 2015 due to the possibility the NCAA might penalize him.

Southern Miss self-imposed a two-year postseason ban that took effect in 2015.

VIDEO: Mixtape for Virginia freshman Jay Huff

Leave a comment

You’ve already seen the video of Jay Huff, a freshman at Virginia, dunking from the foul line, but that’s not all the North Carolina native is capable of doing. There’s a reason that Tony Bennett pursued him.

The Transformation of Edmond Sumner: Xavier’s star has grown on and off the floor

Xavier's Edmond Sumner (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES — Edmond Sumner wants you to know that he isn’t shy.

Sit down with him, ask him questions and you’re going to get smart, well-reasoned and intelligent answers, even when those questions are about a subject he’d rather not talk about. Speaking in public, chatting with strangers, talking into a cell phone recording him on the record, he’s fine with this. Folks that are shy wouldn’t be.

So he’s not shy, he says.

He’s just … quiet.

“It’s two different things,” Sumner, Xavier’s star point guard and a future NBA player, said during a break at The Academy, a Nike-sponsored skills camp held in an airport hangar in Los Angeles. “I’ll carry on a conversation, but I’m not just going to walk up to you and start it.”

That’s certainly not a character flaw, but it can be an issue when you’re a point guard with first-round potential. We all know the clichés that come with playing that position, right? Be a leader. Be a coach on the floor. Be vocal. Don’t be afraid of scolding teammates when they’re out of position or missing defensive assignments. It’s not easy to be all of those things when your predisposed to silently playing the periphery.

How, as a coach, do you get a player to change a personality trait?

For Chris Mack, the answer was simple: Acting classes.

“‘You gotta talk, you gotta talk, you gotta talk.’ We can only say that so many times,” Mack said. “So what else can we do to push Edmond out of his comfort zone? Get him into places where he’s uncomfortable and still has to project his voice and talk.”

So the Musketeer staff did their due diligence and enrolled Sumner in a one-day course, getting him to drive with his dad from his hometown of Detroit to Cincinnati for a few hours. He walked into a room full of people he had never seen before. He read dialogue aloud. He practiced projecting his voice. He worked on being louder and clearer when he spoke. Most importantly, he did all this while in a situation totally out of his comfort zone.

And he did get something out of it — the staff was impressed when an NBCSports.com reporter told them how normal an interview with Sumner went — even if it wasn’t necessarily what Mack intended.

“She had us hold a chair over our heads, and I don’t know why, but it made your voice rise and speak more clear,” Sumner said. “I don’t know why holding a chair made you do that, but it worked though.”

“So maybe I should hold the chair over my head when I play.”


The Edmond Sumner that you will see suit up at the point guard spot for Xavier this season is not the Edmond Sumner that was lacing ’em up for Detroit Country Day School four years ago, when coach Chris Mack first started recruiting him.

The physical difference alone is jarring.

He’s added five inches and somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 pounds since then, enough to turn a fringe top 100 prospect coming out of high school into a potential first-round pick as a redshirt sophomore; 6-foot-6 point guards with his kind of quickness and vertical explosion don’t come around that often.

“I don’t think people would necessarily recognize the Edmond that came in two years ago as a freshman versus Edmond now,” Mack said. “He was probably 6-1, 6-2 at the most. Hundred-forty pounds. He was rail thin. People think he’s thin now, but you should have seen him as a junior in high school.”

And Sumner may still be rail thin today if it wasn’t for a severe case of tendonitis that forced him to sit out essentially the entire 2014-15 season and required him to get injections just to be able to get through workouts. He couldn’t run. He couldn’t jump. He couldn’t make it more than a month into the season before Xavier’s training staff decided to shut him down and make him redshirt for a year.

“My knee was just killing me,” Sumner said. “It took away my athleticism and my speed, it was like I wasn’t the same player.”

It was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Sumner was forced to do what he had never done before: Sitting out of practice while spending hours upon hours in the weight room. Squats, leg press, dead lifts. Every day, it seemed, was leg day, as Sumner worked with his trainers to build enough muscle in his legs to stabilize the knee.

Not only did he add weight and strength — he says he’s up over 180 pounds now and wants to be at 190 before the season starts — but the added muscle helped him added more than four inches to his vertical. That’s why plays like this weren’t unusual for Sumner this past season:

“I think when he looks back on it, what a great year for him,” Mack said. “The bad part about it was that he really wasn’t able to practice a whole lot. He didn’t get any playing experience.” But for Sumner, he was still able to gain something from sitting out. “I got to see the game before I had to play it. Instead of getting thrown into the fire, I got to see it for a whole year.”

That helped him, in part because of the way that Sumner can process that information.

“Sometimes when guys are quiet, it’s because they’re not very intelligent,” Mack said. “Edmond is a 180 from that. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached.” And Mack is not just talking about his basketball IQ. Sumner is working towards a degree in computer science, which is not your typical ‘athlete major’. “He’s very diligent, he’s a hard worker, he’s a quick study,” Mack said. “If you present him something, he picks it up. It’s made him really enjoyable and easy to coach.”

Mack still has plenty of coaching left to do; Sumner is far from a finished product. He shot just 30.1 percent from beyond the arc as a redshirt freshman, a number that is not acceptable for NBA point guards not named Russell Westbrook. He’s also still learning how to play as someone that is 6-foot-6. When you’ve spent formative years as a quick, little guard, developing the habits you need in order to deal with those quick, little guards is a process.

“It’s a big difference,” Sumner said. “I was small all the way up to my junior year, so I’m still battling it. I stand straight up. I have to keep on making sure to stay low to the ground, especially with these little guards who can get up in your pocket.”

And, of course, there’s the issue of breaking out of his shell, of becoming less and less introverted.

The Transformation Of Edmond Sumner was never going to be easy.

But this is what you’re supposed to do in college. Get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person while learning the skills you need in order to succeed in your desired profession.

Some people are born NBA players.

Sumner will have made himself into one.

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20: Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers reacts after a play in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Edmond Sumner (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Arizona lands top prospect in Class of 2017

Leave a comment

Deandre Ayton announced on Tuesday evening that he will be playing his college basketball for Arizona.

“I made Arizona home,” Ayton said on Sportscenter. “My mom and family can benefit from coming to my game. Coach Pasternack, Coach Miller, we really trust those guys and that program.”

He picked the Wildcats over Kentucky and Kansas, becoming the second member of Sean Miller’s 2017 recruiting class. Point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Arizona last month.

Ayton was long considered the best prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the rest of the field has caught up to Ayton in the minds of many recruiting analysts, he’s still ranked No. 1 by each of the four major ranking services.

If physical tools were all that mattered, this wouldn’t be a conversation. Ayton is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, range out to the three-point line and the kind of athleticism, mobility and dexterity that doesn’t seem possible with someone his size. When he puts it all together, he can totally dominate other elite big men; that’s precisely what he did at the Peach Jam this summer.

The bigger issue with Ayton, however, is his motor and whether or not he needs a reason to get it going. He’s developed a reputation for underperforming, for only showing up when he needs to respond to a challenge.

And that’s not the only concern with Ayton, as there are still major question marks about whether or not he is going to be eligible to play college basketball. He transferred to Hillcrest Prep (Az.) — a school with NCAA question marks — from Balboa City HS (Ca.) — another program with NCAA question marks. He told NBCSports.com during Peach Jam that he is enrolled with a different online school than Hillcrest has been affiliated with in the past, and that he’s been in touch with the NCAA.

“I’ve been in contact with the NCAA,” Ayton said. “They’ve given me my classes. I’m doing summer school right now. They say I’m on track. I just have to finish these classes and I’m good.”

“There’s no overseas,” he added at the time. “I’m going to college.”

That’s notable, because the last elite high school prospect to make the prep-to-pros jump — Terrence Ferguson — did so after committing to Arizona.

Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike
Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike

Memphis-Louisville to reignite rivalry in NYC

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 11:  Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Tubby Smith watches his team against the Texas Longhorns during the first round of the Big 12 basketball tournament at Sprint Center on March 11, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Memphis and Louisville are scheduled to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant for too long.

The former conference rivals are on the books to square off at Madison Square Garden during the 2017-18 season. The news was first reported by CBS Sports. According to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, the two programs were scheduled to play a non-conference home-and-home series in 2015-16 and 2016-17, but that was pushed back once it became clear that the Cardinals were making the move to the ACC.

What isn’t clear, however, is whether or not this neutral site game will replace the home-and-home series.

Either way, this is a series that will hopefully continue in the future. Memphis and Louisville have been league rivals in the Missouri Valley, the Metro Conference, Conference USA and, for a year, the American. The rivalry was at its peak when future Kentucky head coach John Calipari was leading Memphis while former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino headed up Louisville. The most memorable moment? When Darius Washington missed those two free throws and collapsed in a heap during the CUSA title game back in 2005.