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WILSON, N.C. (AP) — No one questions whether Coby White is good enough to help North Carolina immediately as a freshman.
Rather, the pressing question as White heads to campus this week is this: can the instate McDonald’s All-American who scored more points than any high school player in state history help the Tar Heels replace departed point guard Joel Berry II?
“I want to play. Who doesn’t want to play?” White said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I know it’s going to take a lot to learn the offense and defense of North Carolina. … I feel like I’m a quick learner and I have a high IQ for the game. Basketball is just reads to me. I think I always make the correct read.
“It’s going to be hard but I feel like it’s going to be a quick adjustment for me.”
The 6-foot-4 White is ranked as the nation’s No. 23 recruit by 247sports, joining McDonald’s game MVP Nassir White (a 6-7 small forward ranked third nationally) and four-star 6-8 guard Rechon “Leaky” Black.
The trio joins a team that returns three starters — including AP third-team All-American Luke Maye — but must replace Berry and swingman Theo Pinson, fixtures from a 2017 NCAA title run.
Berry’s absence could be the biggest void. He was a Final Four most outstanding player, floor leader and won’t-back-down competitor.
Rising junior Seventh Woods has struggled with injuries and inconsistency as Berry’s possible successor, while freshman Jalek Felton withdrew from school after being suspended at midseason by the university for an unspecified reason.
That leaves an opening for White, a scoring point guard with more than 3,500 career points for Greenfield School in Wilson before the school retired his jersey.
“Will he have to score 31 at Carolina next year? Absolutely not,” Greenfield coach Rob Salter said. “But when the opportunity is there for him to score, he can do it, and he can do it pretty naturally.”
UNC coach Roy Williams began recruiting White as a point guard and an “instinctive passer.” Of course, he’s not overlooking White’s scoring punch, either.
“If you’re the leading scorer in North Carolina history, it means you shot a hell of a lot,” Williams quipped. “He did, but he makes a bunch of them, too. … The one thing that will have to become more important to him is his field-goal percentage.
“But if he didn’t get 30 or 40 or whatever, they had a difficult time beating a good team. So if I was coaching him (in high school), I’d say, ‘If it feels like leather, shoot it.'”
To prepare for college basketball, White said he has worked to get stronger and is up to about 190 pounds. He’s honing off-ball skills to play on the wing, too.
His mother, Bonita, said it’s merely the latest example of how her son has always been “wired to work.” She pointed to his freshman year when he’d return from basketball workouts at Greenfield and then head to the YMCA near their Goldsboro home.
“I was like, ‘You just got home, why do you want to go to the Y?'” she said. “He said, ‘The ball never stops.’ That’s where I saw it became very, very serious for him. It became a goal, even as a kid at that age who in his mind knew that the only way he would get better is to continue to work. And that’s what he did.”
White is fresh off helping the United States claim the FIBA Americas under-18 championship Saturday night in Canada. By week’s end, he’ll be in Chapel Hill to begin summer classes and start prepping for an oncourt opportunity.
“I’m probably going to be more nervous about just going to school because I’ve always been (at Greenfield) and it’s a little school,” White said.
“But basketball, I’ve been playing basketball since I was 5. I’m not really nervous because it’s what I do. I practice it every day. I put 100 percent into it so I don’t see why I should be nervous about it.”
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s Frank Martin understood all along he might never get to coach Brian Bowen in a game and is just happy the 6-foot-7 forward whose name is part of the federal corruption case in college basketball had the chance to spend a few months with the Gamecocks.
Bowen gave up his college career to turn pro last month when the NCAA informed South Carolina he would miss at least all of next season — his second full year on the bench — because of his alleged involvement in the scandal.
“Am I surprised? No. I’m realistic enough to understand when we took him that this was a possibility,” Martin said. “Was I disappointed? Yes.”
Bowen, from Saginaw, Michigan, transferred to South Carolina following his suspension from Louisville amid the federal probe after news of an alleged payment involving the Cardinals and his father to get him to join that school. Bowen could not play for the Gamecocks until at least the middle of December next season because of NCAA transfer rules.
The governing body told the school the penalty for Bowen would at least include the rest of the next year, something Martin knew meant Bowen had little option other than to turn pro.
“The NCAA kind of pigeon-holed him into only one choice,” Martin said.
Martin said did not want to dissect the NCAA’s decision, saying he accepted it and worked with Bowen and his family on his future. Bowen has since withdrawn from this month’s NBA draft. Martin said he’ll play in a developmental league or play outside the country to preserve his eligibility for next year’s draft.
South Carolina brought in Bowen last January despite his involvement with the college corruption scandal. It was not the coaches only ties to the ongoing investigation. One of Martin’s former staff members, ex-Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, was arrested by federal authorities. Documents from the investigation showed former Gamecocks point guard PJ Dozier received $6,115 from the ASM Sports Agency while in school.
Martin has said he knew nothing about Dozier or his family dealing with agents and that he has always run a clean program.
Bowen has insisted he’s had no involvement with Christian Dawkins, the would-be agent who federal prosecutors say brokered and facilitated payments to players during their recruitments in exchange for them hiring him when they turned pro.
Martin is grateful for the time he’s had with Bowen, who had a 3.5 GPA this semester and was a model teammate who’d spend hours by himself in the gym shooting jumpers. He was also committed to South Carolina’s future, the coach said, which he proved after his time at the NBA draft combine last month.
Martin said Bowen spent six days working out at the combine and another five after that visiting NBA teams for workouts. When Bowen finally returned to Columbia, he drove to a restaurant where Gamecocks coaches were entertaining a recruit.
“He’s a real good kid,” Martin said.
The coach also believes he is a future NBA player, though obviously Bowen needs to improve areas of his game. Martin recalled an informal workout with past South Carolina stars including Los Angeles Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell and Dozier, who spent much of this season in the G-League with the Oklahoma City Blue.
“I wasn’t sure Brian wasn’t the best player on the court when I walked out of there,” Martin said.
Bowen also made other South Carolina players better at practices. Martin cited an early January slump — the so-called “freshman wall” many newcomers hit — by first-year forward Justin Minaya. When Bowen arrived for practices, he was matched up most of the time against the 6-5 Minaya.
“Justin had no choice but to engage in that matchup with Brian because Brian’s such a talented kid,” Martin said.
As a result, Martin said Minaya recovered his form and was among the Gamecocks most consistent players in February and March.
“I know what I walked into. I knew the situation,” Martin said. “Do I regret it? Not one bit because of the person he is.”
North Carolina has its first piece in its 2020 recruiting class.
Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6-foot-9 forward, committed to the Tar Heels on Sunday, according to multiple reports.
The Winterville, N.C. native picked Roy Williams’ in-state program over offers from Florida, Georgetown and Virginia, among others, after a second visit to Chapel Hill recently.
“We weren’t expecting it, and it kind of came out of the blue,” his father, Derrick Sharpe, told 247 Sports about the commitment. “He told coach Williams and coach was just really excited about it.”
Sharpe averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore season.
“He’s a very multi-talented player,” Dwayne West, executive director of the Garner Road Bulldogs told the Raleigh News & Observer. “He does several things very well at a high rate. He can obviously score the ball around the basket, has a solid shot and is actually a very good playmaker. Handles the ball very well.”
Sharpe is a four-star, consensus top-75 player in the 2020 class. Williams also has one commit in the 2019 class, top-50 point guard Jeremiah Francis, who, like Sharpe, committed to the Tar Heels the summer before his junior season.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Western Michigan basketball player of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student but convicted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge.
The Kalamazoo County jury deliberated two days before returning the verdict for Joeviair Kennedy. He faces a possible life sentence when he’s sentenced July 16.
Nineteen-year-old Jacob Jones was killed near the campus on Dec. 8, 2016.
Co-defendant Jordan Waire of Muskegon was convicted last month of felony murder, armed robbery and weapons charges.
Prosecutors said it was Waire who shot Jones. Kennedy has said they took marijuana and about $25.
Kennedy’s attorney, Eusebio Solis, said his client agreed to the robbery but not the killing.
Kennedy was arrested in 2016 at the start of his second basketball season.
Kansas and Missouri are putting their differences aside for charity.
Kareem Rush, a former Missouri Tiger and the brother of Brandon Rush, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is organizing a game called “Rivarly Renewed“, which will pit alumni from Missouri against alumni from KU.
On July 28th, the two teams will face-off in a game where the proceeds will go towards benefitting the Boys and Girls Club as well as Kareem Rush’s “Rush Forward Foundation”.
It’s also a chance for the Tigers and the Jayhawks to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, although they did play a scrimmage prior to the start of last season. There is no lack of hatred between those two fan bases and any chance they get to square off is a good thing.
There should also be some big names involved. According to the Kansas City Star, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden, Kim English, Ricky Paulding and Marcus Denmon are among the players that will be participating.
I love it.
Can we make sure that Bill Self is invited so that he can get convinced to play the Tigers in a non-conference game?