Rick Barnes is concerned about J’Covan Brown’s outburst


EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – It’s not a difficult argument to make that J’Covan Brown had been the best player in the country for the first two weeks of the season.

He came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 29.3 ppg while adding 5.3 rpg, 7.7 apg and committing just seven turnovers. He was shooting 50.9% from the floor, 48.3% from three and getting to the free throw line eight times a game. Those are pretty impressive numbers from a kid who came into the season with a reputation for being little more than a chucker.

Little changed on Monday night when Brown took the court in the consolation game of the Legend’s Classic against NC State. For the first 31 minutes and change, he was absolutely terrific, scoring 17 points, handing out seven assists and turning the ball over just once.

“J’Covan Brown, he sliced us up like a side of fries,” NC State head coach Mark Gottfriend said after the game. “I’m sure we’ll play some great guards this year, but when the season is over, I think we’ll look back and he’ll be one of the better guards we play all season.”

With freshman point guard Myck Kabongo struggling for the second straight game, Brown’s play was all the more important. His ability to create not only for himself, but for his teammates as well — and, for that matter, the focus that the NC State defense showed him — was a huge reason that freshmen Jonathan Holmes (16 points, eight boards) and Sheldon McClellan (16 points) had big games.

With 8:25 left, Brown managed to make an even stronger case for his MVP candidacy, but it may not have been the best case to make.

Brown was called for a foul, his third of the half and fourth of the game, and was not happy about the call. As he walked past the official that made the call, he was whistled for a technical. That was his fifth foul. NC State was on a 5-0 spurt when Brown was tossed. They hit four free throws — two for the foul, two for the technical — to get within nine, and proceeded to score 19 of the next 21 points. In less than nine minutes of basketball, NC State turned a 65-47 deficit into a 75-67 lead.

The Longhorns simply couldn’t function offensively without Brown in the game. Myck Kabongo, for all the natural ability that he has, doesn’t yet understand how to run the point or have the confidence to take control of this team. Simply put, he looked nervous and hesitant in the final eight minutes of the game.

“Myck Kabongo’s still trying to figure it out,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. “We weren’t aggressive [without J’Covan].”

As an isolated incident, this is a problem, but its a manageable one. Tempers flare. Its happened to all of us in situations much-less tense than a high-level college basketball game. The problem with Brown is that there is a history. Throughout the high school and the AAU ranks, Brown’s temper and on-court attitude were notorious. There were the technicals and there were the ejections accompanying the typical entourage that comes with elite recruits. There were also academics issues, as it took him a year before he was able to qualify.

To his credit, Brown’s improved his temper. He’s gotten better. But blowups like this simply cannot happen when you’re being counted on as the veteran leader of a team.

“He’s come a long way. He really has,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said after the game. “But there shouldn’t be anymore. He should have figured it out by now. He’s been around long enough.”

“When your older players do that, its tough. That’s where he has to grow up. I mean, he’s been in the program for three years. He’s in a different role now where these guys are looking for a lot from him and you just can’t do that. Its happened too much, and sooner or later he’s going to figure out that its going to keep him from being where he wants to be.”

There are a few differing accounts of what, exactly, happened that earned Brown the technical foul. According to him, he did curse as he walked past the ref. But the curse was directed at himself — he was upset that he had committed his fourth foul — and not aimed in the direction of the ref. It was just an unfortunate coincidence that the referee heard it.

But from what the folks sitting at press row had to say, Brown’s anger was intended for the referee, and he repeatedly said as much under his breath.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that J’Covan created the situation,” Barnes said.

That’s a problem. The “situation” that Brown created cost Texas a game. And this is the player that the Longhorns are counting on to be their leader? To be the guy that a talented group of freshmen look up to? Is that really the example you want the face of your program to be setting?

“I’m concerned for J’Covan,” Barnes said. “We’re going to be fine. We’ve got enough guys that work. The concerning part is for him. He’s a junior, he’s been here long enough and he ought to know that our team, if we can’t do it with him, we’ll do it without him. We don’t want to do that, everybody likes him and we know he’s trying and he’s worked harder than he’s ever worked in his life during the offseason. He’s worked hard in the summer and he’s worked hard in practice. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a mental side to it, there’s a team component side to it.”

From what Barnes had to say after the game, it sounds like Brown is getting better. It sounds like he’s trying, that he truly does want to be the guy that carries this team. Texas comes in without any expectations, meaning that any success the Longhorns have will be attributed to the play of Brown, particularly if he continues to perform at this rate.

But there is always going to be the chance that Brown will meltdown. Remember last season, when someone — he claims it wasn’t him — tweeted from his account about the lack of playing time he was getting. This is something that is always going to be in the back of his coaching staff’s mind. No matter how much he has his temper under control, who knows when the next time will be that he decides to pop off to a referee. What if it happens again in the Big 12 or NCAA Tournament? What if he reacts negatively to a call during a crucial bubble game? There is no guarantee that this Texas team will be in position to earn a bid when the season is over. Losing to Oregon State and North Carolina State — two more team that look headed for a nervous Selection Sunday — doesn’t help their profile.

More importantly for Brown, there were a myriad of NBA scouts in attendance that were there not only to see him play, but to see potential first-round picks Jeff Taylor, John Jenkins and Jared Cunningham in the nightcap. Its easier to overlook this kind of personality trait when you are picking a potential all-star. But for a guy that will have to battle his way into the second round, these kind of memories are not easy to forget.

“I’m more concerned for him than for our team,” Barnes said. “And again, he hasn’t been disruptive. What he did today, he made a bad mistake and it cost us.”

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

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.