Rob Dauster

Bob Huggins
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins goes after 800th coaching win

2 Comments

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Bob Huggins always wanted to be a basketball player. Coaching wasn’t on his early list of career options.

Huggins will go after coaching win No. 800 on Saturday when No. 12 West Virginia (8-1) takes on Missouri-Kansas City (7-5), the same team Kansas’ Bill Self notched his 600th career win against earlier this month.

Huggins said he doesn’t think about such things unless someone brings it up.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in,” he said. “I really don’t think about the past. I try to live in the present.”

The 800-win club will have a few new members this season.

Huggins will be the 10th coach of a men’s team with a minimum of 10 years in Division I to get there. Former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, 82, became the ninth on Wednesday night at NAIA Keiser. North Carolina’s Roy Williams is expected to reach the feat this season.

Growing up in Morgantown, Huggins cherishes the memory of sitting in his grandfather’s lap listening to West Virginia games on the radio. All he wanted to do was play basketball.

Coaching wasn’t high on the list even though his father, Charlie, molded three state high school champion teams in Ohio.

“I think, to a large degree, my dad said `you don’t want to do that,”‘ Huggins said. “I never have listened much to my dad, obviously.”

Charlie Huggins said coaching comes with a caveat.

“We tried to explain to him that it would be a lot of work and not much money,” the elder Huggins said.

Nonetheless, his son’s 800th will be a proud moment.

“It’s been a long haul,” Charlie Huggins said. “It’s amazing. It’s really hard to believe.”

Bob Huggins’ playing aspirations ended after he was cut by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977. West Virginia coach Joedy Gardner offered him a graduate assistant position, enabling him to finish his master’s degree in health administration.

“I figure I could get my master’s degree paid for. But I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Huggins said.

At one time or another he mulled becoming a doctor or an attorney. But basketball stuck.

He spent two years as an assistant under Eldon Miller at Ohio State, then became a head coach at age 27 at Walsh College in 1980.

Most of his wins came during 16 seasons at Cincinnati before being fired in 2005 in a power struggle with the school’s president. He spent one season at Kansas State and took his dream job at West Virginia in 2007.

His sideline rants haven’t slowed down. Players and referees still get a tongue lashing in front of thousands of fans.

His home-state fans will especially remember him for coming to the aide of star player Da’Sean Butler in the 2010 Final Four in Indianapolis. Facing Duke in the semifinals, Butler fell to the floor with a serious knee injury. Huggins cradled Butler’s head, stroked his face and offered some calming words as trainers worked on him.

Huggins, 63, has endured just three losing seasons, two of which occurred in his first four seasons of coaching. His wife was asked recently if she thought he could last 10 more years.

“She said, `I don’t know about him, but I can’t,”‘ Huggins recalled.

Coaching pal John Calipari at Kentucky tried to put Huggins’ impending feat into perspective.

“It means two things,” Calipari said in a short video sent to Huggins. “One, you’re getting old. And the second thing, if you had played me more, you’d had got there quicker! Congrats man. Happy for you.”

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

2nd suspect arrested in Western Michigan student’s death

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-3-49-28-pm
Joeviair Kennedy
Leave a comment

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) Police say a second suspect has been arrested in the shooting death of a Western Michigan University student during an apparent robbery last week.

The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety says in a statement the 20-year-old Muskegon native was arrested without incident Thursday and will be jailed in Kalamazoo. His name wasn’t released pending an arraignment, which police say could take place Monday.

Prosecutors already charged Western Michigan basketball player Jovieair Kennedy with murder and armed robbery in the shooting of 19-year-old Jacob Jones at an off-campus Kalamazoo apartment on Dec. 8. Kennedy, who’s from Muskegon, was denied bond.

The charging document says others were present at the shooting.

Kennedy appeared in eight games for the Broncos this season, but wasn’t on the roster after the shooting.

CBT Podcast: Miles Simon hops on to talk broadcasting, AAU and west coast hoops

unnamed-2
Leave a comment

On today’s podcast, ESPN broadcaster and former Arizona Wildcat Miles Simon came on the pod to chat about how he went from being a college basketball coach to a member of the media and what “the AAU problem” in the country is overblown, as well as taking a chance to go through and break down some of the biggest story lines and best players on the west coast.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

Syracuse to honor the late Pearl Washington on Saturday

FILE - In this March 10, 1984, file photo, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, right, and Syracuse player Dwayne Washington (31) watch as Georgetown University took control in overtime of the Big East Conference championship basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, current and former players, and others associated with the program continue to rally in support of former Orange star Dwayne Pearl Washington, who’s afflicted with brain cancer.  (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, File)
AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, File
Leave a comment

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Debbie Busacco struggled with her emotions as she thought about what promises to be a difficult moment.

That moment comes Saturday when the Syracuse Orange (6-3) host former Big East rival Georgetown (6-4) and her late fiance, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington , will be celebrated for his contributions.

“He would be smiling,” said Busacco, who will make the trip. “I guess it’s bittersweet. It’ll be overwhelming. He would want us to be there to honor him and keep his spirit alive. He would love that.”

Washington, the man longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has called his most important player, died of cancer in April at age 52. He left an indelible mark on the Syracuse program and his legacy will continue.

The university is establishing the Pearl Washington Endowed Fund for Continuing Education and has set a $1 million endowment goal. The fund will support student-athletes who leave the university and later return to pursue their degrees. Results of a 31-day fundraising drive will be announced at halftime Saturday during a tribute ceremony for Washington, who wore No. 31.

“Of course, we all wish things like this were done while someone was alive,” said Elmer Anderson, a former high school teammate of Washington. “It’s a culmination of the wonderful things Dwayne did for the university. It was an extension of the university wherever he went.”

Washington left Syracuse after his junior year to play in the NBA. After a brief pro career, he returned to the university to complete his class requirements and received a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. He was working toward a master’s degree in the school of education during the mid-1990s when he was first diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Surgery was performed in August 2015 to treat the recurrence of a brain tumor and Washington had required around-the-clock care and a wheelchair when he died.

There was plenty of support in his final months. (hash)PrayersforPearl became a social media gathering point last season and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas gave the movement national exposure. In early March, Bilas wore the all-orange “Pearl” warmup shirt that Syracuse players had donned on the bench during games.

Washington’s electrifying play was instrumental in helping create the aura of greatness the Big East Conference enjoyed during its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. The opponent on Saturday, Georgetown, is fitting. Some of Washington’s most memorable moments came against the Hoyas, who haven’t played in the Carrier Dome since 2013, the year Syracuse bolted for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“For them to take time out and take so much energy in making this a special moment is certainly a blessing,” Anderson said. “I just want to squeeze the oranges and let the juice drip, instead of tears. It’s a beautiful thing, and for it to be against Georgetown, it’s just great.”

One of Washington’s signature moments against Georgetown came in the semifinals of the 1985 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Towering Georgetown center Patrick Ewing elbowed the 6-foot-2 Washington in the ribs, Pearl retaliated with an elbow to the stomach, and Ewing came back with a punch that missed. Neither was ejected, but Washington endeared himself even more to Orange fans with his display of spunk in a league that was renowned for its physical play.

The next year, Washington scored 24 points in a 1-point victory over Georgetown in February and followed with 21 points and eight assists in a 75-73 overtime win over the Hoyas in the Big East semifinals.

Even though the Orange failed to win the Big East title that year – St. John’s star Walter Berry blocked Washington’s lay-up attempt from behind at the final buzzer of the title game and the Orange lost 70-69 – Pearl was named MVP of the tournament after posting 68 points and 29 assists in three games.

Washington left an impressive trail when he left for the pros: Big East rookie of the year, first-team Big East all three years of college, and first team All-American his junior year. He averaged 15.6 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds and led the Orange in assists and steals in each of his three years at the school.

A dinner to celebrate Washington’s legacy was to be held Friday night at the university, and Derrick Coleman, Rafael Addison and Billy Owens were expected to be among several former Orange stars at Saturday’s game.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

The Basketball Infant: 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall’s basketball journey is just getting started

Tacko Fall (Dan Forcella/UCF Athletics)
Dan Forcella/UCF Athletics
Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Let Jamill Jones tell it, and the change we’ve seen in UCF center Tacko Fall this season has everything to do with one, simple character trait that isn’t always easy to find in guys with his size.

Fall has fallen in love with the process.

That’s not always true with kids that play basketball because they’re big. Basketball is what you do when you’re that big. There’s nothing wrong with turning the physical gifts you’ve been blessed with into a free education and some fast cash coming out of college, but often times, that’s why 7-footers find their way onto a court. They play basketball because they’re tall, not because they love the game.

According to Jones, who left VCU to join Johnny Dawkins’ staff at UCF in April, that’s not the case with Fall.

“Tacko really does love basketball,” Jones, who coaches UCF’s bigs, said. “I think early on it was difficult for him with the expectations. Dealing with the, ‘Oh, you’re 7-foot-6? You should just dunk everything.’ That’s not reality.”

It was a confidence issue for Fall as much as anything. Fall, who just turned 21, arrived in the United States from Senegal when he was 16. He didn’t start playing basketball until October of 2012.

He’s a 7-foot-6 basketball infant, and it wasn’t until this season that he realized just how good he can be.

The transformation started in the spring, when Fall and UCF strength and conditioning coach Alex Parr dedicated themselves to changing Fall’s body.

“I was on the track. In the weight room. In the gym. Every day,” Fall said. “Alex Parr [made] a program where they made me do a lot of stuff that will help me not get injured. Just running up and down is not good for my knees and ankles, so they had me strengthen them. That, flexibility, conditioning, going to the track and just running miles. Going to the weight room and getting in more reps. Getting on the court and working on switching directions.”

Fall bought in, and it didn’t take long for that work to manifest itself in his ability to have an impact on the floor. You can’t ask for better positive reinforcement. Every dunk, every blocked shot, every pickup game his team won. It all boosted Fall’s confidence in himself, and that, in turn, only increased his appetite for the process, his desire to put in the work that it takes to get better.

“It’s instant gratification,” Jones said “When you see the hard work you put in translating into the game, you want to do even more of it. Instead of second-guessing coach, it’s, ‘Coach, you’re right.'”

“I could tell I’m getting better,” Fall said. “But there’s a lot of things that I can still learn. I’m still young in the game. This is just my fourth year playing basketball. I know there’s a lot of things I can [improve on]. Even during the season, every game I can make bigger strides.”

The biggest change in Fall this season is his conditioning, his ability to not only stay on the floor but to be effective as opposed to sucking wind. Fall is averaging 27 minutes as a sophomore, up from 17 minutes as a freshman. He played 37 minutes, scoring 20 points and grabbing 13 boards, against No. 1 Villanova. He played 35 minutes against Penn and 33 minutes against UMass. It’s not easy to have that much of an impact when you’re gassed after three trips up and down the court.

“Tacko could always run, but not for long periods of time. Now he gets up and down a lot better,” Jones said. “Early on, he would hit walls and wouldn’t push through. Now he’s getting to the point where when fatigue is setting in, discomfort is setting in, he can give a little bit more.”

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

The next step was to teach him to embrace his size. Fall is a shy kid. When he arrived in this country, he had a limited ability to communicate in English. Even when he wanted to, Fall couldn’t just blend in. At 7-foot-6, you get attention everywhere you go.

Jones kept hammering the point home: On the court, that size is what makes him special.

“The kid has a 10-foot-5 standing reach so when he shoots a hook shot he’s literally throwing the ball in the basket,” Jones said. “You should be comfortable and happy that you can play above it. Most guys in the country can’t play at that height for long periods of time. He lives there.”

The results have been better than UCF could have asked for. Despite having just seven healthy scholarship players, the Knights were 7-1 on the season before starting point guard B.J. Taylor went down with a thumb injury. Fall is averaging 14.0 points and 12.5 boards, which is second in the country, while swatting 2.7 shots a night and changing countless others. And he is still a long way from being a finished product. His lateral quickness needs a lot of work. He needs to add strength to his lower body; with such a high center of gravity, stronger players can move him out of position too easily. He gobbles up everything that comes to him but he can still get better at rebounding out of his area. He’s shooting 34.1 percent from the free throw line.

He can still get much better.

And that’s why Fall has real a chance to make it in the NBA.

As one NBA scout phrased it, “he’s new. He’s unique.” Those scouts watch more basketball than anyone. When they’re evaluating a 6-foot-4 point guard or undersized big or 6-foot-11 post with perimeter skills, they have an idea of what that guy can be. They’ve scouted a player like that hundreds if not thousands of times before.

People his size, however, don’t come around that often, especially not when they can move the way he moves, when they are coordinated as he is, when they have the touch and the softs hands that he has.

“He’s a talented kid. His size adds a different dimension out there, but he’s got some talent,” said Maurice Joseph, George Washington’s head coach. The Colonials have played UCF in each of the last two seasons. “His timing is a lot better. His hands are a lot better. His offensive skill set is better. Last year he was strictly a dunk guy. This year he’s added a jump-hook with both hands. He’s tall so he can shoot over people but he wasn’t doing that last year. His balance is better.”

“It was a long summer,” Fall said, knowing just how many long summers he has in front of him, “but it was worth it.”

Weekend Preview: Kentucky-UNC, Crossroads Classic highlight great weekend

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 07:  De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Valparaiso Crusaders at Rupp Arena on December 7, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

No. 7 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Kentucky, Sat. 5:45 p.m.: Before we get into what this game means, we need to talk about the x-factor in this game: the health of Joel Berry II’s ankle. Berry has missed the last two games after injuring the ankle two weeks ago and it’s unclear if he will be able to play on Saturday; if he does play, who knows how healthy he’ll be.

That’s an enormous issue for the Tar Heels, not only because we learned just how valuable Berry is to that team last weekend, but because of who North Carolina is playing. The way that Kentucky plays defense is that they overwhelm teams with their athleticism and ball pressure. They force turnovers, they force bad shots and they turn those empty possessions into layups at the other end of the floor. You need strong point guard play to run offense and get good shots against them, and an absent or hampered Berry would clearly hurt their chances of doing so.

And that’s frustrating, because this is a game that was supposed to tell us something about both of these teams. Kentucky’s been dominant for long stretches this season, but the only time they played a team that was anywhere near their caliber was when they lost at home to UCLA. North Carolina has been just as impressive, particularly as they cruised to a title in the Maui Invitational, but they were beaten pretty good by Indiana in Assembly Hall.

It will be tough to take too much out of this result if Berry is out. It won’t, however, affect what that win looks like on NCAA tournament profiles, which is why Kentucky won’t mind if Berry sits. Both of these teams are in contention for a No. 1 seed. UNC has the win over Wisconsin on their résumé and a full ACC slate to play. Kentucky doesn’t have a marquee win and won’t have any chances in league play to pick up a win this good.

A win is more important to Kentucky than it is to UNC.

  • Prediction: Joel Berry II is expected to play, but I don’t think he’s healthy. I’m on Kentucky (-5).

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

No. 18 Butler vs. No. 9 Indiana, Sat. 5:00 p.m.: It looks like the Hoosiers are going to have O.G. Anunoby available on Saturday, and if they do, that’s a problem for Butler’s Kelan Martin, who will have to deal with one of college basketball’s best defenders. The concern for this Indiana has been what they will do against defenses that can bog them down, and while Butler, on paper, is a team that can do that, they don’t have the kind of stoppers in the back court that will make life miserable for the likes of Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr.

The Big East has done a lot of good things in non-conference play this season, and this is another chance for the conference to make a statement. Indiana is one of the favorites to win the Big Ten.

  • Prediction: With Anunoby on the floor I think Indiana (-2.5) is the play. If it turns out that Anunoby doesn’t play, take Butler plus the points.

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Purdue, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: This will be an interesting matchup of styles. The Irish play small-ball and roll out a starting lineup that features Bonzie Colson, who is generously listed at 6-foot-6, at the power forward spot. Purdue? Their front line consists of 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 6-foot-10 Caleb Swanigan.

The question will be this: Can Notre Dame take advantage of the perimeter ability of their front court players, pulling Haas and Swanigan away from the rim, or will the Boilermakers pound the ball into the paint. Worth noting: Purdue is fifth nationally in three-point shooter while taking more than 42 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. You’ll pay if you pack your defense in too much.

  • Prediction: I think Notre Dame wins outright, so if you can get the Irish (+2.5) you’re getting rich.
Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia (32), Bonzie Colson (35) and V.J. Beachem (3) talk during the second half of a first-round men's college basketball game against Michigan in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 18, 2016, in New York. Notre Dame won 70-63. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson and V.J. Beachem (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • Georgetown at Syracuse, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: The most intense rivalry from the Old Big East will be reignited this weekend in the Carrier Dome. The game will honor former Syracuse guard Pearl Washington, passed away due to complications from brain cancer. Pick: Georgetown (+6.5)
  • Texas A&M vs. No. 19 Arizona, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: This game will be played in Houston as part of the Lone Star Shootout. Both Texas A&M and Arizona are, on paper, NCAA tournament teams, but neither of them have landed the kind of non-conference wins that would make them feel comfortable about getting an at-large bid. Pick: Texas A&M (-3.5)
  • Ohio State vs. No. 2 UCLA, Sat. 3:00 p.m.: Ohio State is not all that good this year, but there are two things worth noting here: They weren’t all that good last season when they beat Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic in New York, and anytime UCLA is on TV should be appointment television for anyone basketball fan with a pulse. Pick: UCLA (-9)
  • Wake Forest at No. 17 Xavier, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: The Skip Prosser Classic. Prosser, an extremely popular coach that spent his time at Xavier and Wake Forest, passed away in the summer of 2007 while employed as the head coach of Wake. In terms of hoops, this is a game that Xavier needs to win after they lost at Baylor and at Colorado earlier this month. Pick: Xavier (-10)
  • No. 8 Gonzaga at Tennessee, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: Tennessee gave North Carolina all that the Tar Heels could handle last weekend in Chapel Hill. This time, they’ll get Gonzaga in Thompson-Boling Arena. The big worry for the Vols are the bigs. Gonzaga has a lot of good ones. Tennessee, not so much.

FOUR STORY LINES TO FOLLOW

1. Are the stars healthy?: It seems like this is a topic that we have been discussing far too often this season, but once again, the best players on two of the best teams in action this weekend will likely not be at 100 percent if they play at all. Indiana’s O.G. Anunoby has missed the last three games after spraining his ankle late in a win over North Carolina. Ironically enough, it’s UNC’s Joel Berry II that is also dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him out of the last two games. As I mentioned earlier in this column, both of those players are key to their team’s matchups with Butler and Kentucky, respectively.

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Lonzo Ball (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

2. Kentucky needs all the good wins that they can get: As of today, Kentucky has just one win over a KenPom top 80 team, and that’s Michigan State, who is currently ranked 43rd, a number that will likely drop as the site’s preseason expectations are phased out of the formula; that usually happens right around the new year. Kentucky will get their chances – they play UNC this weekend, Louisville next week and Kansas in January – but it’s important for the Wildcats to capitalize on those non-conference opportunities, because elite wins don’t look like they exist in the SEC. With Duke, Villanova, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana and Baylor all compiling résumés that look like they will be strong enough to put them in contention for a No. 1 seed, a lack of league wins will come back to bite Kentucky on Selection Sunday.

3. Are neutral site games good for the sport?: That’s the big question we always ask, and it’s relevant to bring up this weekend because of the overlord of neutral site events. There’s the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas featuring UK vs. UNC and UCLA vs. Ohio State. The Lone Star Shootout in Houston has Texas A&M vs. Arizona and Texas vs. Arkansas. The Crossroads Classic pits Indiana’s four best teams against each other: Indiana vs. Butler and Purdue vs. Notre Dame. The same event takes place in Iowa, where Iowa State squares off with Drake and Northern Iowa gets Iowa.

The argument goes two ways. On the one hand, if we don’t have neutral site events we probably aren’t seeing these games happen. The typical knock on neutral site games is that the environments are sterile, empty and not what college basketball is about. That may be true in the event in Texas, but the Crossroads Classic should be packed with fans from each of those fanbases. The event in Iowa should be crowded as well, and while UCLA and Ohio State may not draw a huge crowd, it would be shocking if North Carolina and Kentucky wouldn’t fill up an arena anywhere, let alone in Vegas.

So while, in general, I think neutral site games aren’t always good for college hoops, I don’t think this weekend will be an accurate representation of that.

4. There are some fairly important bubbles games this weekend, and no, it’s not too early to start talking about these things:

Arkansas vs. Texas, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Davidson vs. No. 3 Kansas, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State at VCU, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Oklahoma State at Wichita State, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Dayton at Northwestern, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
BYU at Illinois, Sat. 9:30 p.m.
Clemson at Alabama, Sun. 4:00 p.m.

North Carolina's Joel Berry II (2) drives to the basket against Long Beach State's Gabe Levin (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
North Carolina’s Joel Berry II (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)