Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT

Spanish defender Gerard Pique compares Spain to 1989 Michigan title team

Leave a comment

You wouldn’t think that Gerard Pique had an encyclopedic knowledge of college basketball, but here we are.

Don’t know who Gerard Pique is?

Beyond being Shakira’s lesser half, he is the longtime starting centerback for Barcelona as well as Spain’s national soccer team, and it’s the latter position that has him being written about on a college basketball website.

For those that are unaware, Thursday marks the beginning of the World Cup. On Friday, the Spanish team is slated to square off with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in their first match of group play, a critical game if the Spaniards want to avoid being dumped out of football’s most important tournament before the knockout rounds like they did in 2014. On Wednesday, the Spanish national team fired their manager, Julen Lopetegui, replacing him with Fernando Hierro.

The reasons for the firing are complicated and centered around the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the long and short of it is that news leaked out that Lopetegui had accepted the job as Madrid’s manager. The Spanish FA did not want someone coaching their national team that had already taken another job, so they unloaded him.

Where does Pique fall in this mess?

As this drama was unfolding, he tweeted the following:

For those that don’t speak spanish, the tweet reads: “University of Michigan. Basketball. 1989. NCAA Championship. It would not be the first time this has happened. All together, no more than ever before.”

What Pique is referring to is the national title that Steve Fisher won as the head coach of the Wolverines, and it is a fun trip down memory lane that I had totally forgotten about. Hell, it may be a new story for many of you.

In 1989, just two days before the start of the NCAA tournament, Michigan head coach Bill Frieder resigned. Well, technically he was fired. He was told by athletic director that he shouldn’t bother showing up for the tournament after accepting the job as head coach at Arizona State.

“I don’t want someone from Arizona State coaching the Michigan team,” Schembechler said. “A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan.”

Fisher had been an assistant coach on the Michigan staff for seven seasons, and he was named the interim head coach for the 1989 tournament, launching what might be a Hall of Fame coaching career. Fisher would lead Michigan past North Carolina — who had eliminated the Wolverines in the last two tournaments — in the Sweet 16 and coach them to a thrilling win over Illinois in the Final Four before Rumeal Robinson’s free throws in overtime of the title game gave Fisher one of the most improbable national titles in the history of the tournament.

And the rest is history. Fisher would go on to recruit the Fab Five, reach two more national title games and then rebuild a moribund San Diego State program into a west coast power before retiring.

The irony of it all?

Fisher was not the man that Schembechler wanted to hire. He wanted Pete Gillen or Jim Crews or whatever hot name there was on the coaching carousel that spring. But Fisher went out and won the title, making the job and the future of the Michigan program his.

It’s a great story, one that doesn’t get told enough.

And if you are a fan of Spain, you’re hoping that history will repeat itself.

Tennessee beats Duke to commitment for five-star prospect

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tennessee’s Rick Barnes is up to his old recruiting tricks.

The man that brought the likes of Kevin Durant and T.J. Ford to Texas, the coach that is currently the reigning SEC regular season championship, has gotten things going in the Class of 2019 as five-star guard Josiah James committed to Tennessee on Wednesday.

James picked the Vols over Clemson and Duke. He visited Tennessee the first weekend of September and took a trip to Clemson last weekend before cancelling his visit to Duke and announcing his commitment.

A top 15 prospect in the Class of 2019, James is a 6-foot-6 left-handed combo-guard. He’s more of a smooth athlete than he is super-explosive, but he has a strong frame that can absorb contact, the vision to create for teammates and the tools to be a switchable and versatile defensive piece. He needs to get more skilled — he’s not a great shooter, and while he is a good passer and creator, his handle could stand to get better if he truly wants to be a lead guard — but the potential is there for James to blossom into a first round pick one day.

James is the third commitment for Tennessee in the Class of 2019, joining a pair of three-star forwards in Drew Pember and Davonte Gaines.

This has been an incredible 12-month stretch for Barnes.

In his third season as the head coach of Tennessee, he took the Vols to a share of the SEC regular season title with a team that didn’t have a single player on the roster that was a top 100 prospect in high school. Everyone of significance from that team returned to the program, meaning that Barnes now has a preseason top 10 team heading into the 2018-19 season.

And now he’s beating out the likes of Duke and Michigan State for a five-star, potential one-and-done player?

Impressive.

Washington lands second 2019 verbal commitment

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With three of its four seniors heading into the 2018-19 season being perimeter players, Washington has some holes to address in its 2019 recruiting class. Thus far Mike Hopkins and his staff have done just that, with both of the program’s commits to date being perimeter players.

The second verbal commitment was received Tuesday afternoon, as three-star combo guard Marcus Tsohonis announced that he will be a Husky. Tsohonis, a Jefferson HS (Portland, Oregon) product who played his grassroots basketball for Seattle Rotary Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit, joins four-star wing RaeQuan Battle in Washington’s 2019 class to date.

The 6-foot-4 Tsohonis, who can play on or off the ball, held offers from multiple Pac-12 programs but ultimately made the decision to make the trek north from Portland to Seattle for his collegiate career. His verbal commitment comes on the heels of an official visit to Washington that was taken this past weekend.

As noted above Washington will loose some key contributors on the perimeter after the upcoming season, with David Crisp, Mathysse Thybulle and Dominic Green all entering their final season of eligibility (big man Noah Dickerson is also a senior). The additions of Tsohonis and Battle should help Washington when it comes to filling those holes and continuing to build upon the foundation laid during Hopkins’ first season at the helm.

Four-star guard becomes LSU’s first 2019 commit

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Expected to be a factor both within the SEC and nationally this season, these are good times for the LSU men’s basketball program. Head coach Will Wade and his staff received more good news Tuesday, as 6-foot-2 combo guard James Bishop (Baltimore, Maryland/Mount St. Joseph HS) announced that he will be a Tiger next season.

Bishop, considered to be one of the top scoring guards in the class, is LSU’s first 2019 verbal commitment. Bishop’s pledge comes just over a week after his official visit to LSU, and just days after a visit to St. John’s. LSU beat out St. John’s, NC State, Marquette and VCU in the race for the Baltimore product, and given the Tigers’ current roster this is an important commitment.

LSU’s 2018 recruiting class is considered to be one of the nation’s best, with point guard Javonte Smart being one of the five-star prospects in that quintet (forwards Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams being the others). Add in sophomore Tremont Waters, who’s coming off of an outstanding freshman season, and LSU could be in a position next summer where its top two lead guards are at the very least testing the NBA draft waters.

Landing Bishop gives LSU another talented option, and some cover should the program lose either Waters or Smart — or both — in 2019.

Calhoun officially named head coach at DIII St. Joseph

Winslow Townson/Getty Images
1 Comment

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Jim Calhoun has officially been named the head coach at Division III University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut.

The Hall of Famer had already announced he would be taking the job and has been working for a year to establish a men’s basketball program at the small Catholic university, which was an all-women’s school until this school year.

Calhoun also has continued to serve in an advisory role at UConn, where he served as coach for 26 seasons and led the Huskies to three of their four national titles before retiring in 2012.

The 76-year-old will return to the sidelines with a career record of 873-380 when the Blue Jays open the season on Nov. 9 against William Paterson University.

That game will be played at Trinity College in Hartford, which has a gym that seats about 2,200 people, about 1,000 more than the gymnasium at Saint Joseph.

Oregon State announces addition of transfer Payton Dastrup

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tuesday afternoon Oregon State announced that former BYU power forward Payton Dastrup has joined the program as a transfer. Dastrup, who averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in just under eight minutes per game last season, has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Oregon State will file a waiver on his behalf in hopes that Dastrup will be granted immediate eligibility.

Should the waiver request be denied, Dastrup will not be eligible to play until the 2019-20 season. For Oregon State’s sake, even with Dastrup’s career numbers he would fill a need for a team that bid farewell to its best big man during the spring.

Drew Eubanks’ decision to turn pro left a noticeable hole in Oregon State’s interior rotation, with senior Gligorije Rakocevic and junior Ben Kone being the most experienced returnees. Those two combined to average 3.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 2017-18, with Rakocevic averaging 10.6 minutes per game in 27 appearances off the bench.

In addition to those two the Beavers add three scholarship newcomers to the mix this season in junior college transfer Kylor Kelley and freshmen Warren Washington and Jack Wilson. Dastrup has the ability to step away from the basket, which would give Oregon State a little versatility in the interior to go along with a perimeter/wing rotation led by Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson.