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2015 forward drowns in kayaking accident

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In 2012, Abdul Razak Shanun immigrated to the United States from Ghana as an exchange student with hopes of receiving an education and earning a college scholarship. Having received interest from programs such as San Diego State and UMass, Shanun was approaching his senior year of high school with those goals within reach.

Shanun’s life came to a tragic end Saturday, as his drowned after his kayak capsized in Mission Bay just off the coast of San Diego according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Shanun, whose body wasn’t found until Sunday morning according to the report, was just 17 years old.

Shanun had rented a red kayak Saturday and had paddled part-way across the bay when the watercraft capsized about 3 p.m., Swanson said. Witnesses saw him cling to a life preserver for a short time, then he lost his grip on it and sank into the water off Santa Clara Point Recreation Center. He didn’t know how to swim, a fire official said.

Shanun was supposed to attend Balboa City School in San Diego this school year. Upon arriving in the United States Shanun played at both Redemption Christian Academy (Troy, New York) and the Atlanta Sports Academy, and this past spring he played for the New York Lightning grassroots program.

New calendar requires programs to adjust preseason approach

WCC Basketball Tournament - Semifinals San Diego v Saint Mary's
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Friday marks the official start of the 2013-14 college basketball season, as programs are now allowed to begin practicing on September 27. The scheduling change essentially added three weeks to the college hoops calendar, and this has required programs to take another look at the way in which they handle the preseason.

The key for many coaches: getting their players ready for the upcoming season without running them into the ground. And with practices beginning even earlier, this has become an important balance to negotiate. With that in mind, both San Diego and San Diego State are thinking of ways in which to ensure that their players will be at peak physical condition when their seasons begin in early November according to Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“It basically makes the season three weeks longer,” USD coach Bill Grier said. “You have to be smart about it. In this business, you’re always worried that someone else is doing more than you. You can’t get caught up in that. Everyone I’ve talked to has the same concerns, and that’s injuries and burning your guys out.

“I think there’s going to be a learning curve for all of us because it’s the first time through. Everyone seems to have a different approach to it.”

The new calendar has also impacted the way in which schools open practice. Gone are the days of “Midnight Madness” marking the start of the college basketball season, a development that’s unfortunate in the eyes of many. But the fact of the matter is that things began to change when the NCAA allowed schools to kick things off at 5 p.m. local time on the Friday closest to October 15 instead of having to wait until late at night, so we’re somewhat used to teams eschewing the “Midnight Madness” idea.

With the rule change programs are allowed to practice 30 times within the 42-day period, which could mean that the preseason teaching won’t have the “hurried” feel that it did when practice began in mid-October. Will that ultimately have a positive impact on the quality of basketball being played, especially early in the season? Hopefully that will be the case.

Louisiana Tech among eight teams participating in new in-season event

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There’s another in-season tournament on the college basketball landscape, as it was announced on Friday that the Gulf Coast Showcase will be played in Estero, Fla. in late November. There will be two eight-team tournaments, one for men’s teams (November 25-27) and one for women’s teams (November 29-December 1) with Louisiana Tech being the highest-profile men’s team in the event.

Michael White’s Bulldogs, who will play in Conference USA this season, are coming off of a 27-7 record (16-2 WAC) in 2012-13. With key contributors such as Raheem Appleby (14.9 ppg), Kenneth Smith (6.8 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Alex Hamilton (7.8 ppg, 2.7 apg) back in Ruston, the Bulldogs are capable of making their debut season in Conference USA a good one.

“The tournament format allows everyone a shot at a championship, which is nice,” White said in the release announcing the event. “Playing three games in three days should help prepare all of us for our conference tournaments.

“In addition, the quality of the programs in the field bode well for tremendous competition as it prepares us all for conference play. Very good conferences and programs will be represented.”

In addition to Louisiana Tech the men’s field includes Wagner, St. Bonaventure, San Diego, UNCG, UIC, Southern Illinois and Stetson. Wagner has the talent needed to be a factor in the NEC in 2013-14, and San Diego will feature one of the most underrated backcourts around in point guard Christopher Anderson and shooting guard Johnny Dee.

Howard Moore’s UIC Flames are looking to improve on their 18-16 campaign of a season ago, with forward Hayden Humes (10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Purdue transfer Kelsey Barlow being two of their key players. UIC and San Diego will meet in the first round, and that could be an entertaining contest. The other match-ups are Louisiana Tech/UNCG, Wagner/Stetson and St. Bonaventure/Southern Illinois.

The eight teams in the women’s field are UCLA, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, N.C. State, James Madison, Wright State, Grand Canyon and Southeastern Louisiana.

San Diego forward John Sinis signs professional contract

John Sinis, Matthew Dellavedova
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In two seasons at the University of San Diego, 6-9 forward John Sinis averaged 4.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game for a program that has the look of a team primed to make a move in the WCC this season. Sinis won’t be around to see if a team led by guard Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee can make good on that promise however, as it was announced by the school on Wednesday that the native of Greece has signed a professional contract with Greek club AGO Rethimno.

“After long consideration I made the difficult decision to leave my studies and college basketball to pursue my life’s goal and start my professional career,” Sinis said in the release. “I would like to thank USD from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams to play basketball in the NCAA, develop as a player and to be part of such a prestigious university like USD.”

Obviously the timing isn’t great if you’re San Diego, and head coach Bill Grier pointed out as much in the release. With leading rebounder Chris Manresa having graduated it was likely that Sinis would have been asked to do more in his junior season, and the same goes for sophomore Jito Kok (3.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and senior Dennis Kramer (4.2, 2.7). However it should be noted that Sinis spent a large portion of his time offensively on the perimeter, with 70 of his 118 shot attempts last season coming from beyond the arc. In his two seasons at USD 57.5% of Sinis’ shot attempts were three-pointers.

Losing a player at this point in the school year, while not ideal, does give coach Grier and his staff some time to figure out how much their rotation will be impacted before practices begin. But with the likes of Anderson and Dee back on campus, San Diego will be fine in 2013-14.

“It was always a goal of John’s to play at the highest level professionally in his home country,” Grier said in the release. “Obviously the timing isn’t great but I don’t know if there ever is good timing when you lose a player. His departure doesn’t change the top 8-9 players in our rotation, nor our excitement for the upcoming season. We wish John well as he starts a new phase in his career.”

Man in San Diego bribery scheme sentenced to 30 months in prison

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A defendant in the University of San Diego sports bribery case was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in scheme that strove to fix college basketball games by paying players to influence their outcomes.

Steven Goria, 33, pleaded guilty in August to sports bribery, part of a larger case that also involved marijuana trafficking and illegal sports gambling, U-T San Diego is reporting.

According to court documents, Goria admitted in his plea agreement that he profited more than $120,000 from the scheme, including a February 2010 game in which San Diego lost a lead late and fell, 72-69, with the Las Vegas line favoring USD by 3.5.

Goria admitted that guard Brandon Johnson was paid to influence the game.

“I would like to apologize on my behalf for what I’ve done,” said Goria, according to the paper. “The last 18 months have been hard on me and my family. … I want to put this all behind me.”

Of 10 total defendants in the San Diego bribery case, six have reached plea agreements and four have been sentenced.

Among the four remaining who have not reached plea deals are Johnson and another former San Diego player, Brandon Dowdy.

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

Third man pleads guilty in San Diego basketball betting ring case

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Richard Thweni, a California man facing federal charges in connection with a betting ring involving the University of San Diego basketball team, has pleaded guilty to three charges against him.

Thweni, 29, was facing charges of conspiracy to commit sports bribery, conduct an illegal gambling business, and distribute marijuana. A total of 10 defendants have been charged in the case.

At the center of the allegations is former San Diego star Brandon Johnson (pictured), who was allegedly recruited to throw games as part of the point-shaving scheme.

Johnson played at San Diego from 2005-2010. His best season with the Toreros came in 2007-08, when he averaged 16.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

As U-T San Diego reports, Thweni “admitted to operating a sports book from January 2009 to April 2011” and “trying to collect an outstanding gambling debt from a person in January 2011” as part of the plea agreement.

The federal case goes by the name “Operation Hook Shot,” and has expanded outwardly from a marijuana distribution case against one defendant, Steve Goria, 33, into a bribery case that also involves former assistant TJ Brown and former player Brandon Dowdy.

Dowdy played sparingly in one season with San Diego in 2006-07, 0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds in under six minutes per game. He later transferred to UC-Riverside, where he went on to play for two seasons.

To read the entirety of the report from U-T San Diego, click here.

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