AP Story

Ex-NCAA scoring leader Daniel ready to return for new team

Leave a comment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee guard James Daniel III finally has the chance to deliver a follow-up performance to his 2015-16 NCAA scoring title, an opportunity that essentially eluded him last season.

After an ankle injury caused Daniel to play just two games last season at Howard, the 6-foot graduate transfer brings experience and offense to Tennessee’s backcourt.

“I wanted to go on the biggest stage for my last year and try to pursue my hopes and dreams since I’ve been a little kid, which was to get to the NBA,” Daniel said.

Daniel likely won’t be shooting or scoring as much as he did at Howard, where he averaged 27.1 points per game to lead all Division I players in 2015-16. He’s more interested in getting to the NCAA Tournament, something he hasn’t done and Tennessee hasn’t accomplished since 2014.

“At this point in my career I’m ready to win,” Daniel said. “That’s pretty much what I have to do. I feel like if we win, my personal goals will be met.”

Daniel believed that NCAA berth would come last season as Howard was favored to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Those plans quickly went awry.

Daniel was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the first 14 games of the season. After returning and playing just two games, Daniel learned he had a chipped bone in his ankle. With Daniel out for the rest of the season, Howard finished 10-24.

That injury allowed Daniel to redshirt the 2016-17 season, giving him one more year of eligibility. He decided to spend that season in a bigger conference and considered Michigan, Ohio State and DePaul before selecting Tennessee.

Daniel remembered watching Tennessee games when he was younger and appreciating prolific guard Chris Lofton, who starred for the Volunteers from 2004-08. When Daniel visited Tennessee, he bonded with the team and sensed a family atmosphere.

“They’re competitive,” Daniel said. “They all want to win. That was the most intriguing part.”

Although Daniel’s ankle leaves his status uncertain for Tennessee’s three exhibition games next month in France and Spain, he’s expected to be ready in plenty of time for the start of the season.

Tennessee is counting on the additions of Daniel and Vincennes University transfer Chris Darrington to solidify a backcourt that struggled with inexperience last year.

“With Chris Darrington and James Daniel, we felt like we could get guys who liked to score and were not afraid to go make plays,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I think that’s going to help these younger guys because they were put in situations they’d never been put in before.”

Barnes cited the maturity Daniel brings as Tennessee’s lone senior. Daniel will turn 24 on Jan. 29, about a month after Tennessee begins Southeastern Conference play. Nobody else on Tennessee’s roster is older than 20, though juniors Kyle Alexander and Brad Woodson will have their 21st birthdays before the season starts.

“He’s older than all of us, so I think I can learn some things from him,” Darrington said.

Daniel’s teammates will learn plenty about his knack for drawing fouls. Not only did Daniel lead all Division I players in scoring during that 2015-16 season, he also topped the nation in free-throw attempts with 331.

They’ll also learn about his work ethic. Daniel’s father, James Daniel Jr., remembers how his son used to take about 200 jump shots every morning before his classes started at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia.

“He’s just been a workaholic,” James Daniel Jr. said. “Well, we’d call it a workaholic, but he’d probably say it was something that he loved doing.”

All that practice helped Daniel overcome his lack of height at Howard to become an NCAA scoring leader. Now he’s ready to compete at a higher level.

He got an idea of what to expect from Quinton Chievous, who made the move in reverse by leading MEAC program Hampton to the NCAA Tournament after starting out at Tennessee. Daniel said Chievous told him he “should do really well here.”

Daniel agrees.

“I don’t think they would have brought me here if they didn’t think I could compete at this level,” Daniel said.

Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun assists cast in play about recruiting

AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb
Leave a comment

WATERFORD, Conn. (AP) — Actor Sam Kebede went to rehearsal hoping to get some insights about what it’s like to be recruited by a big-time college basketball coach. Hall-of-Famer Jim Calhoun was happy to assist.

The coach who led UConn to three national championships before retiring in 2012 is serving as a technical adviser on the production of a new play, “Exposure,” which is being put on this weekend at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford.

Kebede portrays a player experiencing the world of AAU basketball and the dark side of recruiting.

Playwright Steve DiUbaldo played Division I basketball at Winthrop under Gregg Marshall, now the coach at Wichita State. Director Wendy Goldberg grew up in Michigan and watched her friend, retired NBA star Chris Webber, deal with choosing a college before he wound up at Michigan.

But both sat in rapt fascination with the cast and crew for well over an hour prior to rehearsal Tuesday as Calhoun answered their questions and regaled them with stories, drawing on more than a half-century of experience in basketball. He offered insights and opinions on the NCAA, the recruiting process, shoe companies, players, parents, other coaches and even fans (“They love you, win or win,” he joked).

“It made it all a lot more real,” said Kebede. “He just put me in those shoes. He gave me a fuller idea of what it means to be a recruit.”

Calhoun talked about forming personal relationships with recruits and their families, showing them the formula he used to help players like Ray Allen and Kemba Walker fulfill their dreams. But he also addressed the games flaws.

Calhoun talked about the struggles the NCAA has governing institutions as diverse as Harvard and Alabama. He told the ensemble about coaches who thought they were doing things the right way by only giving players “used cars” and teenagers who feel entitled to fame and riches because they’ve “worked hard all their lives for it.”

“All your life? You’re 18,” he said.

“Have I ever been offered, ‘You give us this, and we’ll give you that?’ Yeah,” Calhoun told them. “I always said, ‘I’m never going to own a kid, but a kid is never going to own me. It was never worth it, ethically, morally or otherwise to do those things.”

Calhoun said he tried to get across that basketball can’t be portrayed in black-and-white terms — good guys and bad guys. It’s about human beings, relationships, mistakes and trying to do what’s right for the players and doing it the right way, he said. And, he said, there is a lot of gray area.

The vast majority of college basketball, he said, is great, “but in the midst of millions and millions of dollars, things happen.”

“Something that I found enlightening was how much he loved his kids and how much the game is at the base of basketball,” said DiUbaldo. “And amidst all this stuff that will make us cynical with the recruiting process and other things, at the end of the day we love the game and we love the kids that play it.”

DiUbaldo said he hopes all of that comes across in his play.

Calhoun, who sits on the board at the O’Neill Theater, said being involved in the production is exciting for him as a long-time fan of the performing arts. He said he marvels at the athleticism of dancers and the discipline it takes for actors to learn how to portray a character.

He also sees a lot of parallels to basketball — the ensemble feeling, the work ethic and the joy that comes from pulling off a great performance.

“I’ll come Saturday and Sunday nights to see it,” he said. “I want to see how they handle it.”

___

Follow Pat Eaton-Robb on Twitter @peatonrobb

Former Kentucky player Jerry Bird dies

Adolph Rupp, Bird's college coach; AP photo
Leave a comment

CORBIN, Ky. (AP) — Former Kentucky basketball player Jerry Bird, who was a member of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame and had his No. 22 jersey retired to the Rupp Arena rafters, has died.

An obituary posted by O’Neil-Lawson Funeral Home says Bird died Sunday at a hospital in Corbin. He was 83.

Media report Bird played for Kentucky from 1954 to 1956 and helped the school attain two Southeastern Conference titles in 1954 and 1955. He was part of the 1954 team crowned national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation after a 25-0 season.

Bird scored 713 career points and had 589 career rebounds under coach Adolph Rupp.

“Jerry Bird was Kentucky through and through,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement by the school. “He was proud to be a Wildcat and is an important part of Kentucky basketball history.

Bird played one season with the New York Knicks before returning to his hometown of Corbin to work at American Greetings.

His is survived by a son, two grandchildren, a brother and a sister. Visitation and services are scheduled for Saturday at Central Baptist Church in Corbin.

North Carolina’s Williams undergoes knee surgery

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina guard Kenny Williams has undergone surgery on his right knee but is expected to be ready for the start of preseason practice in October.

School officials announced Tuesday that Williams had surgery Friday. The university release announcing Williams’ surgery also said he should be able to participate when preseason practice begins.

Williams started 22 games for North Carolina as a sophomore last season but tore his meniscus in a February practice and missed the final 14 games of the Tar Heels’ drive to the national championship.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Midlothian, Virginia, averaged 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 23.7 minutes.

The Tar Heels are ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

North Carolina’s Kenny Williams undergoes knee surgery

Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina guard Kenny Williams has undergone surgery on his right knee but is expected to be ready for the start of preseason practice in October.

School officials announced Tuesday that Williams had surgery Friday. The university release announcing Williams’ surgery also said he should be able to participate when preseason practice begins.

Williams started 22 games for North Carolina as a sophomore last season but tore his meniscus in a February practice and missed the final 14 games of the Tar Heels’ drive to the national championship.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Midlothian, Virginia, averaged 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 23.7 minutes.

New oversight instituted for New Mexico athletic department

Leave a comment

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is instituting new controls and oversight of athletics department finances as it continues a review that has found “inconsistencies” in contracts for basketball arena suites, the university said Monday.

A top university administrator, Chris Vallegos, will head efforts to evaluate and improve the department’s financial management while working with the recently appointed acting athletic director, interim President Chaouki Abdallah said in a statement.

Janice Ruggiero was appointed acting athletic director last month following the departure of Paul Krebs, who retired effective June 30.

Meanwhile, state auditors and the state attorney general’s office continue separate inquiries into the department’s overall spending and a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included private donors.

Abdallah said the university is reviewing records of suites for the Lobos men’s and women’s basketball seasons.

“This process has revealed inconsistencies in contracts, invoices and payments for certain suites, and we are in the process of contacting current and former suite holders to rectify our records and accounts,” Abdallah said. “We will seek to collect on any past due amounts.”

Abdallah also said “UNM Athletics has already updated its management of suite purchases and collections for this past season, which has resulted in more accurate accounting and more timely payments. ”

The university, Abdallah said, is “committed to transparency and fiduciary responsibility, and we take responsibility for the confusion that may have resulted from inconsistent business practices. To the extent that our efforts to rectify discrepancies have resulted in embarrassment to our fans, we sincerely apologize. Efforts are underway to make sure that this situation won’t be repeated.”