Phil Martelli needs to grant Todd O’Brien his release, then a rule change should be made


I think Phil Martelli is being a jerk.

Plain and simple.

Because as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only reason for Martelli to deny Todd O’Brien his release to play at St. Joseph’s. In case you missed it yesterday, O’Brien submitted 2,000 words to on Monday afternoon explaining why and how he has been wronged by St. Joe’s and Martelli.

In short, O’Brien — who has finished his undergraduate degree — transferred to UAB after staying on scholarship to graduate during this past summer. The graduate program he enrolled in is not offered at St. Joe’s, which means that, if he was granted his release by St. Joe’s, O’Brien wouldn’t be forced to sit out a season. Since he has already transferred once in his hoops career, O’Brien doesn’t have a redshirt year. In other words, St. Joe’s is ending his basketball career for him. Its damning stuff, and at face value it seems as if Martelli and the St. Joe’s athletic department are acting in a spiteful and malicious manner.

But as we all know, there are two sides to every story, and due to university privacy laws, we probably will never know the other side. What we do know is that O’Brien was involved in the theft of a laptop that resulted in him getting suspended and a teammate getting booted from the team. What we are told by message board commenters and the St. Joe’s twitterati is that O’Brien was a train wreck in his two seasons on Hawk Hill, but those sources are about as credible as Jason Whitlock’s twitter feed. What we were told by O’Brien himself is that he wasn’t completely forthcoming with St. Joe’s about why he wanted to finish his undergraduate classes over the summer, allowing the school to pay for them before he left for UAB.

Most importantly, however, what we can assume is that Martelli has what he believes to be a very legitimate reason to not allow O’Brien to play this season.

How do we know that?

Because despite the mountains of negative press and clear-cut recruiting issues that will arise out of this story, Martelli has yet to back down. And when I say mountains of press, I mean mountains of press. He’s doing TV interviews and Q-and-A’s with bloggers and even did a podcast with Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. Its a full-blown media circus, and for each set of eye balls that reads or watches a story on the Todd O’Brien, the shame on the St. Joe’s program and the pressure to reverse their decision grows.

And still nothing.

Which, frankly, is the wrong decision. At this point, Phil, you just gotta let it go, bro. Because right now you look exactly like a jilted lover. You all know what I’m talking about. We’ve all dated that person, the guy or girl that, when the relationship ends, refuses to move on, drunkenly leaves crying voicemails at 4am and refuses to return the shoes, belt and watch that you left at their house.

No one likes that person, Phil, and no one should want to be that person.

So let it go, Phil. Give Todd his release. Move on and focus on the team you have this season, the one that actually has a chance to be pretty damn good. You’ve coming off of wins against Creighton and Villanova at home. This should be a high point in your season, a week where there will be plenty of distraction with the holidays coming. I’m sure the questions they are going to get about this situation at every press conference is really going to help them focus on basketball.

Even if your girlfriend cheats on you and breaks up with you for your best friend, you probably shouldn’t slash the tires of her car or throw a brick through her bay window. And even if O’Brien conned Martelli out of scholarship money for his summer classes and took advantage of his coach covering up his involvement in a stolen laptop, Martelli shouldn’t keep the kid from playing his final season of college hoops.

There is a bigger issue at play here, however.

The problem isn’t simply that Martelli refuses to grant O’Brien his release. The unfairness lies in the fact that a head coach can wield that kind of power over a player’s future.

The fallacy that the NCAA preaches to us time and time again is that these athletes are supposed to be students first and athletes second, correct? Todd O’Brien earned an undergraduate degree. He wanted to pursue a graduate degree in a program that was offered by UAB and wasn’t offered by St. Joe’s. His goal was to further his education and continue to play sports at the collegiate level.

And just because Phil Martelli feels betrayed, he can block that?

How is that, in any way, shape or form, what the NCAA preaches when they say these kids are students first and athletes second?

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. Just last summer, Sean Kowal lost his senior season when he tried to transfer out of Northern Illinois to pursue a graduate degree in theology and got caught up in the NCAA’s web of red tape. And while Kowal’s situation had two sides as well — he wasn’t completely forthright with NIU when he tried to receive his release — it doesn’t change the fact that allowing college coaches to hold their players hostage is hypocritical and utterly unfair.

Those same coaches can change jobs any time they want to, without any punishment from the NCAA and without the requirement of even having to tell their players personally. If Phil Martelli so desired, he could leave St. Joseph’s right now to take any available collegiate coaching position and start tomorrow. But one of his former players decided to go elsewhere for his final year of eligibility, and Martelli is able to take that away from him simply because he’s pissed?

That’s wrong.

Let’s flip this thing around.

What if we gave players the right to grant a coach a release?

Seriously. What if a coach had to get a majority vote from his team to allow him to get a release to take a different head coaching position? What are the odds that rule would fly? 10 billion-to-1?

Martelli may be completely justified in his decision to deny O’Brien the right to transfer.

But whether he is right or wrong doesn’t matter.

The fact that coaches are afforded the ability to hold players hostage like this is a travesty. And its a rule that needs to change. Yesterday.

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.