After averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game in his team’s first season as a member of the Southern Conference, Mercer guard Ike Nwamu has asked to be released from his scholarship and the request was granted by head coach Bob Hoffman. News of Nwamu’s decision was first reported by Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com.
Having completed his undergraduate coursework, Nwamu will be eligible immediately at the school of his choice next season as a fifth-year player. The 6-foot-5 guard also averaged 3.3 rebounds per game this season, shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Nwamu played his freshman season at Cleveland State in 2011-12, and he was a valuable reserve on the 2013-14 Mercer team that upset Duke in the NCAA tournament Round of 64. In a story written by Daniel Shirley of the Macon Telegraph, Hoffman confirmed the report that Nwamu would be moving on.
“He has gotten his release, and he has had some schools that have shown interest,” Hoffman said. “He’s a fifth-year guy, and he’s graduating, and he’s exploring what’s out there. I want whatever is best for him and want it to work out for him.”
In addition to Nwamu the Bears, who won 19 games and finished 12-6 in SoCon play, will have to account for the loss of senior forwards Darious Moten and T.J. Hallice. Mercer will lose its top three scorers, with rising senior guards Phillip Leonard (8.1 ppg) and Jibri Bryan (7.8 ppg) being their leading returning scorers.
Leonard and Bryan started all 35 games for the Bears in 2014-15.
POSTERIZED: Ike Nwamu’s emphatic dunk was originally called a charge (VIDEO)
Mercer’s performed well in its inaugural season as a member of the Southern Conference despite losing many of the key contributors who helped lead the team to a win over Duke in the NCAA tournament. One reason for this is 6-foot-3 guard Ike Nwamu, who after being a reserve in 2013-14 is now averaging 15.9 points per game as a sophomore.
Nwamu finished Mercer’s 75-72 overtime win over Chattanooga with 20 points, with the dunk above counting for two of those points. Nwamu was originally called for a charge, but the call was overturned. (Thanks to mercerbearfan for that note.)
In the video above is what could have been one of the more impressive dunks of the college basketball season, with Nwamu finishing emphatically over Chattanooga’s Justin Tuoyo.
With the block/charge call sparking numerous debates this season, was the decision to overturn the charge the correct one? Leave your thoughts below.
Kentucky entered the 2013-14 season with buzz about a potential perfect season on the horizon. However, it was Wichita State, the Final Four darling from the previous March, flirting with perfection in the NCAA tournament, taking a 35-0 record into the Round of 32. Kentucky’s shortcomings resulted in the Wildcats being slotted as a No. 8 seed, a dangerous third round matchup for the undefeated Shockers.
Wichita State led 69-64 with 4:30 left after a few 3-pointers from Cleanthony Early. James Young would led a run for the Wildcats who took a 70-69 lead with under three minutes to play. A two-possession lead, 75-71, was cut to a single point after Ron Baker banked in a three. Julius Randle hit a pair of free throws, and Fred VanVleet’s final 3-point attempt was off the mark.
Bo Ryan advanced to his first Final Four with a dramatic 64-63 win over top-ranked Arizona in the West Regional final. Arizona possessed the nation’s top defense, but Frank Kaminsky proved to be the ultimate mismatch with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon both guarded Kaminsky. Nick Johnson would front him. Nothing worked. Still, the Wildcats had a chance to win, although, a controversial charge call went against Johnson with 3.2 seconds remaining.
It needs to repeated because Harrison replicated a game-winner against Michigan in the Elite 8 in Kentucky’s Final Four matchup against Wisconsin. No seriously, look: identical shots. Harrison’s 3-pointer with two seconds left sent the Wildcats to the national championship game.
Kentucky was part of the toughest region in the bracket. The Wildcats needed to top Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan in order to reach Arlington. Thanks to Aaron Harrison’s long, contested 3-pointer, Kentucky topped the previous season’s national finalist, 75-72.
The long anticipated matchup between new conference rivals, Duke and Syracuse, did not disappoint. The Orange, in front of 35,446 fans inside the Carrier Dome, took down the Blue Devils 91-87 in overtime. Rasheed Sulaimon forced the extra frame with a buzzer-beating three. Syracuse, leading by one, was aided by a favorable no-call as Rodney Hood missed a dunk over Jerami Grant. The bigger Syracuse frontline was led by C.J. Fair’s 28 points and Grant’s 24. Duke countered with 15 threes. The second meeting between the two storied programs and two Hall of Fame coaches was equally as memorable.
The upset of the tournament was No. 14 seed Mercer over No. 3 seed Duke. The Blue Devils had struggled on the defensive end all season long, and those problems came to light in the Round of 64 with the Bears shooting 55 percent from the field. Duke hit 15 threes, but took close to 40 attempts from beyond the arc. However, as a team, Duke was 35 percent from the field with Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood combining for 20 points off 6-of-24 shooting.
The first of two games between the Cowboys and Cylcones went to triple overtime with Iowa State pulling out a 98-97 win. In the second overtime, DeAndre Kane’s offensive rebound turned into a 3-pointer for Naz Long, tying the score at 89-all and forcing an additional five minutes. Iowa State took control in the third overtime and while Oklahoma State had its chances, the Cowboys couldn’t convert.
The Lumberjacks were a trendy upset pick as the No. 12 seed. Stephen F. Austin had won 28 straight and had one of the nation’s top defenses, though, late in the game against No. 5 seed VCU, it looked as if that upset bid would come up short. That was until Desmond Haymon was fouled on a four-point play to tie the score with 3.6 seconds left, which forced overtime. The Lumberjacks prevailed in overtime and advanced to the Round of 32.
The Louisville All-American hit a game-winner with two seconds left to led the Cardinals to a road victory over Cincinnati in February. Smith was clutch down the stretch with a pair of assists in the game’s final moments.
Tennessee became a dangerous No. 12 seed, rolling through UMass in the Round of 64 while missing out on a matchup with Duke — thanks to the Mercer upset — in the following round. The Volunteers nearly reached the Elite 8, erasing a double-digit lead only to have a controversial charge call go against them late in the game. Jarnell Stokes was called for a player-control foul on Jordan Morgan, with Michigan leading by one, with six seconds left.
The UConn men’s basketball team won its second national championship on Apr. 7, an improbable run culminating in a wire-to-wire win over Kentucky. The following night, the women’s basketball team capped an undefeated season, repeating as national champion. Since 1999, the two programs have combined for 12 titles. UConn is the only school to have dual champions in the same season, first doing so in 2004.
Kentucky entered the 2014 NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed, a disappointing seed given the preseason hype around the team. The Wildcats went through growing pains all season long, and hit their stride in March, reaching the national title game with dramatic wins over Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin. In the latter two, Aaron Harrison cemented himself as one of the clutchest players in the tournament’s history with identical shots against Michigan and Wisconsin.
By now you know the story of Lauren Hill, the freshman at Mount St. Joseph in Ohio. She was diagnosed last season with terminal brain cancer. She has inspired others by continuing to pursue her dream of playing college basketball while also raising awareness for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. The NCAA approved moving her team’s season debut up to Nov. 2, in which she scored the season’s first basket. Hill has appeared in several more games before being named honorary coach. So far, she has helped raise over $1 million.
Months after NFL Draft hopeful Michael Sam announced he was gay, UMass junior guard Derrick Gordon did the same, becoming the first active player in men’s Division I basketball to do so. Gordon, in his second season with the Minutemen, is averaging 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
There has been controversy around the North Carolina athletic department for quite some time. In June, Rashad McCants, a member of the 2005 national championship team, accused Roy Williams of steering him into no-show, paper classes in order to remain eligible. This sparked the reopening of an NCAA investigation, in whichKenneth Wainstein, a former member of the U.S. Justice Department, found 18 years of academic fraud. McCants, who spent four years in the NBA, has been relatively quiet since claiming UNC and the NCAA were set to pay him $310 million.
With nine McDonald’s All-Americas on the roster, and several holdover John Calipari was not expecting on having, how was Kentucky going to divide the play time so everyone would be satisfied? Easy, Coach Cal implemented a platoon system. It’s not always going to be the game plan, but it’ll certainly continue to be a talking point into 2015.
Gregg Marshall followed a Final Four run in 2013 with 35 consecutive wins. The Shockers capped off a perfect 31-0 regular season with a 68-45 win over Missouri State. Wichita State would win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and advance to the Round of 32 where the Shockers met Kentucky in arguably the best game of the year. It took a Kentucky team, playing its best basketball of the season, to narrowly hand Wichita State a loss.
In February, Jason King of Bleacher Reporttold the heartwarming story of Michigan State big man Adreian Payne befriending 8-year-old cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth. The nation really got to know Princess Lacey when she became part of Payne’s Senior Night. Lacey died in April. Payne and Michigan State gave her a brought her so much joy in her final months — inviting her to the East Regionals in New York and to Dallas to watch Payne in the college basketball dunk contest — and in return she touched countless lives, stretching far beyond the East Lansing campus.
The NCAA has consistently been under fire for its lack of compensation for student-athletes. In March, UConn senior Shabazz Napier went on record stating, “I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.” That quote were originally from late March, but didn’t gain traction until CNN posted it right before the national title. Without UConn’s championship run, those comments likely don’t get the attention it did. The NCAA approved unlimited snacks a week later.
On Senior Night, Creighton forward Doug McDermott became only the eighth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points. Naturally he surpassed the milestone with a 3-pointer en route to 45 points in a win over Providence. McDermott, now a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, ended with 3,150 career points.
The first matchup between Syracuse and Duke as ACC rivals was an instant classic with the Orange prevailing in overtime. The second meeting looked to become another thriller until Jim Boeheim had a Hall of Fame worthy tantrum. C.J. Fair was called for a controversial charge with 10.4 seconds left and the Blue Devils leading 60-58. Boeheim, quite simply, lost it. Racing down the sideline, saying words I can’t write on this website and getting ejected from the came. Duke was able to secure the win from the line thanks to the meltdown. This also sparked some of the greatest memes.
The Michigan freshman has endured more than you can imagine over the years. He’s been involved in two plane crashes, resulting in the death of five family members. Michigan promised to honor his scholarship, and earlier this month he scored his first career points.
The Flyers started Atlantic 10 Conference play 1-5 after cracking the top 25 rankings in November. Dayton recovered to win 23 games and become one of six bids from the A10, as a No. 11 seed. In the Round of 64, the Flyers were slotted against in-state rival Ohio State, upsetting the Buckeyes before taking down No. 3 Syracuse and then topping No. 10 Stanford in the Sweet 16. The run came to an end against top-seeded Florida. The run turned Dayton head coach Archie Miller into a prime candidate for several coaching vacancies, but he signed an extension in March.
This may not be as well known as other moments in 2014, but this is truly an incredible speech. Wofford forward Aerris Smith had his senior season dominated by injuries. After the Terriers won the Southern Conference Tournament championship, Smith announced that he had played in his final game.
No league underwent as much of a makeover during this offseason as the Southern Conference. Four of the league’s 11 teams departed to different leagues this offseason, with Elon, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State departing for football purposes. The biggest hit, however, was the loss of Davidson, the league’s marquee program, to the Atlantic 10. That hurt, but the good news is that the three programs joining the conference this season — Mercer, East Tennessee State and VMI — all have quality basketball programs. Losing Steph Curry’s alma mater is tough to overcome, but the league may actually be tougher in the future with the new additions.
Everyone should be aware of Mercer. The Bears beat out Florida-Gulf Coast for the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid last season, and they made the most of their NCAA tournament trip by knocking off No. 3 seed Duke in the opening round. But the Bears lose seven seniors and five starters from last year’s team, meaning that their first year in the SoCon will be spent in regrouping mode. VMI loses two of their three leading scorers, who averaged a combined 39.0 points, but they bring back sophomore Q.J. Peterson and bring back a roster that should allow them to be a factor in the league title race. The third new addition is East Tennessee State, who returns back court stars Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley, who should start this season, but will have to find a way to replace their front court.
The favorite in the SoCon this season will be Wofford, who played their way into the NCAA tournament a season ago by winning the league’s automatic bid despite finishing third in the regular season. Mike Young’s club returns essentially their enter roster from a season ago, a year that saw Young start ten different players at least five times during the regular season. It took Wofford awhile to find their rhythm last year, part of the reason that Young used so many different lineups, but once he found up that worked, the Terriers finished the season strong. Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins will anchor the back court, while Lee Skinner will be their biggest interior presence.
It won’t be easy for the Terriers, however, as Will Wade’s Chattanooga program will enter their second season playing ‘Chaos’. Wade is a member of Shaka Smart’s coaching tree, meaning that his goal is to eventually get the Mocs playing the full-court, all-out pressing style that has allowed VCU to be so successful. Wade is starting to get his players into the program, and while last season saw Chattanooga forced into more zone and half-court defense than Wade would have liked, this season will bring much more pressure and … chaos. Casey Jones and Rico White are the two players that will anchor the back court, but the guy to keep an eye on is Justin Tuoyo, a 6-foot-10 transfer that followed Wade from Richmond.
One team to keep an eye on is Furman. The Palladins were just 3-13 in the league last season, but they have a young and promising back court, headlined by Stephen Croome. Keep an eye on William Gates, the son of the star of the movie ‘Hoop Dreams’, who had a promising freshman season despite battling knee issues much of the year.
PRESEASON SOCON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Karl Cochran, Wofford
Cochran averaged 15.7 points and 5.0 boards as a junior, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s just a 6-foot-1 guard. The leading scorer and best player on the Terriers, Cochran only started 22 of Wofford’s 33 games a season ago.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOCON TEAM:
Q.J. Peterson, VMI, So.: VMI’s system allows players to put up huge numbers, but Peterson averaged 19.0 points as a freshman.
Stephen Croome, Furman, Jr.: The 6-foot-0 guard averaged 19.1 points and 3.7 assists while helping change the culture of the Palladin program.
Lee Skinner, Wofford, Sr.: An undersized power forward, Skinner is the heart and soul of this year’s Wofford team.
Casey Jones, Chattanooga, Jr.: The leading returning scorer for the Mocs, Jones is a 6-foot-5 forward that should fit well into the ‘Chaos’ system Will Wade runs.
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3. East Tennessee State
7. Western Carolina
8. UNC Greensboro
9. The Citadel
Midnight Madness festivities are known for being fan-friendly and catering towards students and casual college basketball fans to get them fired up for the upcoming season.
So, naturally, dunk contests become a big production at many schools.
Mercer had a dunk contest at their festivities on Friday night and 6-foot-5 junior guard Ike Nwamu stole the show.
Nwamu puts down many insane dunks, including this dunk in slow motion, jumping over his willing participant with a ferocious under-the-legs dunk.
As Mercer’s most experienced returner from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, Nwamu will be expected to put up decent numbers this season after averaging 8.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game last season. But for now, Nwamu is putting up highlight-reel dunks and I haven’t seen a better one from Midnight Madness festivities yet.