Throwback Thursday: T.J. Sorrentine hits it from the parking lot, becomes Vermont legend (VIDEO)

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On Sunday night, Brown’s basketball team went into Providence and knocked off the Friars, 77-67. It was a really nice win for Mike Martin, one of the better young coaches in an Ivy League that seems to be full of them these days. An assistant on that Brown staff is a native Rhode Islander by the name of T.J. Sorrentine, a guy that knows a thing or two about staging upsets and whose name doubles a curse-word in Upstate New York.

You see, back in 2005, Sorrentine hit a shot that not only helped him cement his legacy as one of the best players to ever suit up for Vermont, it also helped turn Gus Johnson from just another announcer into one of the most beloved cult figures in college basketball.

Here’s the situation: Vermont has taken No. 4 seed Syracuse — a team two years removed from winning a national title — to overtime in what would eventually end up being the last season for UVM legend Tom Brennan. Sorrentine, a point guard, isn’t even the best player on this Catamounts team — that title belonged to Taylor Coppenrath — and he’s struggling on this night, just 4-for-19 from the floor and 4-for-15 from three.

And, well, I’ll just let you watch the rest:

There are two things that I love about this moment:

– Right before the shot goes in, you can hear Gus Johnson start to say Sorrentine but get caught in the moment, and it comes out as a hissing sound. I like to think of it as the fuse burning before Gus Jeezy explodes with a “Hit that one from the parking lot!!!”

– When the shot clock hits the 15-second mark, you can see Brennan start yelling something at Sorrentine, who casually waves off his coach as if it’s not overtime of the NCAA tournament with a minute left. Brennan told the story of what happened to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard years later:

“We had put in a special set for Syracuse’s zone,” Brennan said. “We set a screen and skipped the wing pass to try to get a good shot from the corner. We had run it a couple times and it didn’t work well.”

“So I said ‘Run Red,’ which was the name for the set and T.J. He put his hand out like a traffic cop and then he turned and fired.”

“That was not the play until it went in, and then it was just what we drew up.”

That shot instantly turned Sorrentine into a legend in the state of Vermont. Ask any Catamount fan — UVM has a surprisingly large and passionate fanbase — and they’ll tell you that’s the single greatest moment in Vermont athletics history, the kind of moment where you remember exactly where you were and who you were watching with when it happened.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Eight years later, on Labor Day in 2013, Sorrentine got married back in Vermont. At some point that weekend, Sorrentine’s wedding party made their way to CK’s, a sports bar in Winooski, a town over from Burlington, that was described to me as “the place where you meet all your buddies from high school when you’re back in town”. Sorrentine is a legend in the state, so everyone that worked at CK’s knew Sorrentine and a number of his teammates — Taylor Coppenrath, Germain Mopa-Gjila, Kyle Cieplicki, Brennan — would be making their way to CK’s.

The DJ that night, a Williston native known as Rizzo that doubles as one of the biggest UVM fans in the state, had already downloaded the audio of Gus Johnson’s call … because why wouldn’t he?

He played it at the bar that night.

“At first people really weren’t sure what it was,” Jordan Tipson, whose family owns CK’s, said. “Once people started to realize what it was, the place got pretty quiet to let it all play out. As soon as Gus went off about the parking lot the whole place just erupted.”

“T.J. and Coach went right up to Rizzo after and dapped him up.”

It doesn’t get much better than that.

“Don’t make me out to be some doofus,” Rizzo said.

“But it was incredible.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.