Billy Kennedy’s condition has to be a factor in the decision for every Texas A&M recruit

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Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy has Parkinson’s.

This has been public knowledge for almost two years now. I know this, you know this, the kids that Kennedy is recruiting know this and you damn well better believe that the coaches he is recruiting against know this.

Coaching at the collegiate level is a demanding, volatile industry, one that could result in a promotion that triples your salary just as quickly as it can leave you out of a job. The most important part of the job, especially at the highest level of the sport, is recruiting, so it should come as no surprise that coaches competing for a recruit can get cutthroat.

As Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com wrote yesterday, Texas A&M’s newest commit, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Texas named Alex Robinson, had to listen to coaches that were recruiting him use Kennedy’s diagnosis as a recruiting tool.

“They actually did [use Kennedy’s Parkinson’s diagnosis against Texas A&M],” Robinson told Parrish. “But I just kinda brushed it off like, ‘Hey, that’s part of recruiting. [The other coaches are just] trying to get me to their school.'”

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is a life-changing event, quite literally. Kennedy has no control over his disease. There is no known cure and there is no known cause. Kennedy got dealt a crappy hand, and now he has to live the rest of his life knowing that he has a degenerative neurological disease that is only going to get worse. Making matters worse is that there is no time frame at play. In a worst case scenario, Kennedy could lose his ability to walk by the time Robinson graduates. Some Parkinson’s patients are bedridden within 10 years. But on the flip-side, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed 22 years ago and is starring in a sitcom right now.

That’s a heavy dose of perspective to dump on a guy that has a wife, four kids, and a high-profile job.

As you can imagine, Kennedy is none-too-pleased when he hears about opposing coaches using his disease against him on the recruiting trail.

“It angers me when people tell recruits I may not coach much longer because it’s coming from people who don’t really know me,” Kennedy told Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports. “I’m in the best health I’ve ever been in my whole life. I don’t really have any symptoms right now to be honest with you. Nobody would even know my situation if they saw me.”

“I learned a long time ago all is fair in love, war and recruiting, so I’m not surprised people would bring up something about my health. There are some insecure assistants in high-profile programs that do whatever they have to do to get a player. But that’s not the norm. I don’t think most people are that way.”

Parrish called the negative recruiting “deplorable”. Eisenberg called it “shameful”. Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com called it “disgusting”. Frank Martin, South Carolina’s head coach, simply said it was “sad” and ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted “no honor amongst thieves”.

And for the most part, they’re right.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Kennedy’s diagnosis has to be something that every recruit and their family take into account.

The bottom line is that Alex Robinson and Tony Trocha and any other recruit that decides to play his college basketball for Texas A&M is doing so because they believe that Kennedy will help them grow as a basketball player and as a person while winning games and going to NCAA tournaments in the process. And while all of us — myself included — want to see Kennedy remain healthy for a long, long time, there’s a chance that doesn’t happen. It’s a risk that player is taking, one that he should be talking over with his family and his coaches.

It should factor into his decision.

And if an opposing coach wants to make a kid he is recruiting aware of Kennedy’s disease, I don’t see a problem with that. Telling the recruit to make sure he does his homework on prognosis for Parkinson’s patients and to have that conversation with Kennedy is OK, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works.

Recruits are being told that Kennedy’s career will be over soon, that he may never coach them in college. Some are even telling kids that they could catch Parkinson’s from Kennedy, which is most assuredly not true.

That is unacceptable.

Honest and open conversation about Kennedy’s health is a good thing, regardless of where it is coming from. Slander and lying about the severity of his condition is the kind of negative recruiting that gives everyone in the business a bad name.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.