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Erik Spoelstra profile reveals he was on the court when Hank Gathers passed away

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Everyone that follows basketball knows who Erik Spoelstra is.

The head coach of the Miami Heat. The man that called the plays when the Big Three invaded Miami.

You may not know where he came from, however. I didn’t, not until I read this story from Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. He’s a fascinating guy, but here’s the part that shocked me: Spo was on the court when Hank Gathers, star of the 1990 LMU basketball team, died:

Spoelstra recalls in detail two events from his playing career, both at Portland. The first came in the 1990 West Coast Conference tournament, when he rushed back on defense against Loyola Marymount, only to see Hank Gathers soar for an alley-oop. Gathers collapsed moments later a few feet away and died that night. The second involves a less heralded power forward named Matt Houle. Spoelstra was easily winning a two-mile race against his teammates when he noticed Houle gaining on him. Spoelstra grew anxious, broke into a sprint and threw up after crossing the finish line first. He dry-heaved for the next 20 minutes.

Spoelstra was the point guard at Portland then. You can see him, No. 30 in purple, on the video here, although I will advise you not to click that link — a clip from “The Guru of Go”, a 30 for 30 on that LMU team — unless you’re prepared to watch the video of Gathers collapsing on the court.

Rashawn King, leukemia survivor, is cleared to play

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Rashawn King is one of the nation’s best stories.

As a 17 year old high schooler, King felt himself getting sick at a football camp. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors essentially told him that his white blood cell count was so high — that his previously undiagnosed leukemia was so bad — that he literally would have died the next day had he not made it to the hospital.

King ended up surviving and has since enrolled at NC Central.

And on Thanksgiving, he was cleared to play this season.

I think I know what King is thankful for, and I think the kind of kid that King is deserves repeating:

Make-A-Wish asked King his wish.

It was to meet Miami Heat star LeBron James.

So everything was setup for Rashawn King to meet The King at last season’s NBA All-Star game.

“But then I started thinking about it, and I decided it would be very selfish of me to use my Wish to meet one of my heroes when there were so many people who had been helping me when I was sick and down,” King said. “I decided I wanted to give back to those people. I decided to do something different.”

What King decided was that he’d rather throw a lunch-party for his classmates who had spent much of the previous two years fundraising and praying for him than meet the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player. It was an odd request for Make-A-Wish but one the foundation happily granted. Chick-fil-A sandwiches and sides were provided for nearly 2,000 students and faculty last April at Middle Creek High while King stood at the head of the line hugging and thanking friends and teachers.

King eventually got a chance to meet and hang out with Lebron, but that’s besides the point.

He’s cleared to play. King, now 20, beat cancer and will now continue his athletic career. And while King will probably never be more than a member of a team that spends every November and December getting slaughtered in guarantee games, the simple fact that he’ll be able to have an irrelevant career is incredible in and of itself.

D’Angelo Harrison leads the way, Chris Obekpa breaks St. John’s single-game blocks record in win over Detroit

D'Angelo Harrison
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JAMAICA, N.Y.–D’Angelo Harrison began Tuesday’s game against Detroit on the bench, kept out of the starting lineup by coach Steve Lavin for disciplinary reasons.

He ended the game as the team’s hero, tallying 22 points and outdueling former McDonald’s All-American Ray McCallum in a 77-74 St. John’s victory at Carnesecca Arena in Queens.

“From the time we booted him out of practice and sat [Harrison]..took his starting spot away, he’s been outstanding,” said head coach Steve Lavin. “Sometimes you have to be like an Irish judge, make the tough choices. But the kids really responded to the tough love.”

The fiery and feisty Harrison overcome a slow first half to score 15 second-half points, including a jumper with 5:48 remaining that pulled the game even at 62. With the departure of Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless to the NBA, Harrison is the Red Storm’s focal point in 2012-13.

Fellow sophomore guard Phil Greene scored a career high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Defensively, the biggest performance of the night came freshman freshman Chris Obekpa, who broke the St. John’s single-game school record with eight blocks.

“In my experience as a coach and a broadcaster, he’s unique to anyone I’ve seen,” said Lavin. “It’s the length and the timing. He doesn’t pick up fouls. It’s rare to have someone get 10, 15, 20 blocks as I’ve seen in high school and pick up one foul.”

The Red Storm tried five different defenders on McCallum, who still managed 21 points, though he shot 8-of-23 from the floor. Detroit had a chance to final off a turnover in the final seconds, but a three-pointer by Juwan Howard, Jr., was off the mark.

St. John’s now heads to the Charleston Classic to take on College of Charleston on Thursday.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Jabari Parker meets with Michigan State’s soccer team during visit

Jabari Parker
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Simeon (Ill.) forward Jabari Parker is on a visit to Michigan State this weekend and, according to reports, he met with the Spartan soccer team Sunday before their match with Wisconsin.

“Coach Izzo and #1 recruit Jabari Parker wishing us luck before our game,” Michigan State junior goalie Bryce Dobbins tweeted Sunday morning.

We typically see high-major recruits, especially No. 1 overall recruits, taking in a football game, but Michigan State was in Ann Arbor this weekend to play Michigan, so plans were likely shifted.

But now his recruitment is getting into full swing, though reports have said that the Chicago star may not sign a letter of intent during the fall signing period and may wait until the spring to do so.

Parker was injured for key parts of the July recruiting period, which forced him to sit out Nike Peach Jam and a chance to match up with another highly ranked prospect, Andrew Wiggins.

At 6-8, 220 pounds, Parker has narrowed his list to five schools—Michigan State, BYU, Duke, Florida, and Stanford—and is in the conversation with Wiggins as the best high school player in the country right now.

He was recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated where he was heralded as “the best high school player since LeBron James.” The cover sparked a debate about the validity of the statement, but, regardless of whether he should be compared to James, the team that lands Parker will have a major piece to build toward perhaps a championship team.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Myck Kabongo practicing with Texas as Longhorns wait for word from NCAA

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Texas sophomore Myck Kabongo will practice with the Longhorns as the NCAA continues to investigate his case, involving a look into the nature of his relationship with a professional agent.

According to Texas head coach Rick Barnes, as reported by the Associated Press, Kabongo has not been ruled ineligible by the NCAA and the school’s compliance department is cooperating with the investigation.

”We don’t know anything,” Barnes told the AP. ”We’re going about our business and we’ll do that until we find out what the situation might be, and we’ll just go from there.”

The investigation is looking into Kabongo’s relationship with agent Rich Paul, who also represents NBA star LeBron James and former Texas Longhorns Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph. Paul allegedly called NBA front offices on behalf of Kabongo, which would violate his amateur status, then Kabongo returned to Texas.

”We haven’t thought about it,” Barnes said. ”We’re just talking about what we have to do as a team. We feel we have enough people that we got to do what we’ve got to do.”

During his freshman season, Kabongo averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 assists per game for a team that finished 20-14 and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament.

If he were to be ruled ineligible at the conclusion of this investigation, it could be a major hit for this young Longhorns roster.

”Myck’s worked really hard. He’s worked really hard as a leader, and he brings a lot of energy every day,” Barnes said. ”We’ll just wait and see and we’ll go from there.”

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Georgetown’s versatility best way to counteract youth

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Belmont v Georgetown
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Since John Thompson III took over the Georgetown program back in 2004, his most successful teams have had two things in common: a steady, veteran presence in the back court to lead the team and versatile, playmaking big men who can dissect a defense by throwing that backdoor bounce-pass that has become a staple of the Hoya offense under JT III.

Think about it. When Georgetown made the Final Four in 2007 and won their second straight Big East title in 2008, their back court was made up of Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp. When those two graduated, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman took the reins. That paved the way for Jason Clark last season. In the front court, Jeff Green made way for Roy Hibbert, who graduated just in time for Greg Monroe to step in and take over. Last season, Henry Sims finally lived up to his potential, becoming one of the better big men in the Big East and finding his way onto the roster for the New York Knicks this season.

Heading into the 2012-2013 season, those roles are two of the biggest question marks for the Hoyas.

After starting 25 games as a sophomore last season, Starks is the obvious choice to take on a bigger role in the back court. As the elder statesmen in the back court — Georgetown has no seniors, making Starks, a junior, the longest-tenured guard on the roster — it is a role that Starks knows he needs to fulfill, although he does understand the difficulties involved.

“It’s a challenge,” he told reporters at Georgetown’s Media Day. “You’re surrounded by a lot of alpha males, so you have to set an example. It’s not so much who can talk the best or who can bench the most, it’s about who can show the best. I think on gameday, I’ll have to bring that. I have had leaders like Jason Clark and Chris Wright to kind of show me the ropes. It’s just like the torch has been passed.”

Not only is Starks is lone upperclassmen in Georgetown’s perimeter attack, he also happens to be the only point guard on the roster that’s not a walk-on. In other words, he’s going to have the ball in his hands quite a bit, which would normally be a concern considering that he was fourth on the team in assists last year.

The beauty of the Georgetown attack, however, is that having a point guard that struggles to create off the dribble isn’t a concern. The Hoyas rarely run isolation plays. In a half-court setting, when the offense is functioning efficiently, Georgetown gets the majority of their open looks off of crisp passing, pick-and-rolls disguised as handoffs, and correctly taking advantage of the way the defense is playing. In other words, it’s all about reading and understanding where the next cut needs to be made and who has to get the ball at a certain time.

That’s where Thompson’s biggest concern with the youth on his roster lies heading into the new season.

“I’m not going into it thinking that we’re going to need Markel to go from X points-per-game to X-plus-six points-per-game. I think it will happen. I think we’ve got guys that can score,” he said. “We lost a lot of understanding with the group that left last year. We lost a lot of passing with the group that left last year. I think it’s easy, because we’re all programmed to look at stats, to think scoring. But a lot of the intangibles that I’m more concerned with losing in Henry, Hollis [Thompson] and Jason, that we’re going to miss.”

“I’m worried about understanding, stuff that comes along with being a senior, with being around and being with the program for a while.”

It wouldn’t come as a shock to anyone if the Hoya offense took a step back this season. Not only will they have a new look back court, but they’ll be dealing with a different presence in the middle. One of the things that makes Georgetown unique and difficult to prepare for is that their offense runs through their big men, who are quite often the team’s best play-makers. Nate Lubick changed his body during the offseason and is mentally prepared for an expanded role offensively, but nothing about his first two seasons on the Hilltop provide reason to believe he’s the next in the pipeline of future pros under JT III.

That title belongs to sophomore forward Otto Porter, who is a perfect example of the versatility of this year’s Georgetown team. He averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 boards in his first season with the Hoyas, numbers that Thompson — and just about every college hoops pundit across the country — believe will spike this year.

“Otto Porter is a worker. He is one of the guys that understands, as good as he is, that he can get better,” Thompson said of the guy currently projected as the 24th pick in the 2013 draft by ( “Otto takes pride in every aspect of the game. Then there’s the realization that, ‘Hey, I can get better at every aspect of the game’. It’s not just, ‘Can I get my shot off? Let me work on my midrange game.’ He really worked on all aspects of the game.”

Offensively, Porter appears to be improved. A natural small forward, Porter went to both the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Nike camps over the summer, where he worked on things like his three-point stroke (he shot just 22.6% from distance last year), his mid-range game and his ability to dribble and pass the ball. The early returns are positive, as he looks much smoother and more confident shooting the ball. During media day, Georgetown ran through some shooting drills while Thompson spoke, and at one point Porter his 12 out of 13 threes. Hard-workers with the skills and physical tools to be elite defenders are almost always going to be considered high-level prospects.

“Otto knows what’s out there. We won’t try to hide from him what’s out there. I think he’s dealing with it fine. Otto’s as grounded as they come,” Thompson said. “He just shows up, he brings his lunch pail and he works. Whatever happens, happens. I think the reason that a lot of good things have happened and will continue to happen to him is that he doesn’t get engrossed in all of that.”

Where Porter will make the biggest impact next season is on the defensive end of the floor. In fact, Georgetown’s strength next season will be on the defensive end. According to Kenpom’s rankings, the Hoyas were the nation’s seventh-most efficient defense a season ago. The reason for that was the number of players they have that can defend multiple positions, and the Hoyas return many of those guys. Porter can defend anyone on the floor, from point guards to centers. Another 6-foot-8 sophomore, Greg Whittington, can do the same. Sophomores Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen and freshman Stephen Domingo are big wings with long wingspans, and Trawick and Bowen have as much raw athleticism as anyone in the country. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the prize of Thompson’s 2012 recruiting class, is a physical, 6-foot-3 combo-guard who is lauded as one of the more intelligent and well-rounded players at his position.

Last season, what made Georgetown so effective defensively was that Thompson was able to mix up defenses from game-to-game and from possession-to-possession. The length available allowed him to play a 2-3 zone, while the ability of his forwards to defend out on the perimeter made a switching man-to-man and a matchup zone options, as well.

That’s great news for Hoya fans.

The easiest way for a program to deal with youth and expanded roles offensively is to excel on the defensive end of the floor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.