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Calhoun says he expects to coach DIII Saint Joseph

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Noreaga Davis acknowledges being a little star struck when Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun came to see him play high school basketball.

The 6-foot-3 very small forward from Notre Dame-Fairfield in Connecticut, is one of about a dozen players Calhoun has recruited as he helps build a new basketball program for the tiny University of Saint Joseph, a Division III school located in suburban Hartford.

The former all-women’s school just began admitting men and begins playing men’s basketball in November.

“This was my first time meeting like a real legendary coach,” Davis said. “A few minutes after, I had to take a minute and be like, ‘Wow I just met Jim Calhoun.”

The Hall of Famer said Wednesday that he wants to become the first men’s coach at the Catholic university, which has a total enrollment of about 2,400 students and a gym that seats about 1,200 people.

Since taking on the job as program architect last September, Calhoun said he’s enjoyed getting back into the game, going to dozens of gyms and watching high school and prep school games while competing in recruiting circles, even at the DIII level. He’s also been working to secure funding for new basketball facilities at Saint Joseph.

“It’s an exciting time for me,” he said. “I really like it.”

The 76-year-old is in the final month of a 10-month consulting contract at Saint Joseph, but also recently signed a new contract to continue as an adviser at UConn, where he retired as coach in 2012 after 26 seasons and three national titles. During his 40-year coaching career at Connecticut and Northeastern, Calhoun amassed 873 wins.

Calhoun says he wants to continue advising new UConn coach Dan Hurley and help in whatever way he can to rebuild the Huskies program. But, he acknowledges there are some contractual and logistical issues to work out if he is to do both jobs. He expects to have those resolved in the next month.

“I fully expect to coach Saint Joe’s next year,” he said. “I fully expect to and then we’ll leave it at that.”

Should Calhoun end up as coach, Saint Joseph may become the highest profile DIII program in the country. Calhoun says the school is in talks with networks such as ESPN and Netflix about doing a documentary series on his return. Bigger programs, including Providence, have talked to him about possible exhibition games, he said.

Calhoun has brought in his former UConn assistant, Glenn Miller, to help him at Saint Joseph. Miller also is a former head coach at Penn and Brown. He is expected to be named head coach at Saint Joseph if Calhoun is not.

Davis said he and the other recruits understand the situation and are comfortable with it.

“I know that either way (Calhoun) will remain a big part of the basketball program,” he said. “I’m just excited about that. We will have a chance to do something special. My goal is to win the Division III national championship.”

Pittsburgh’s Marcus Carr transfers to Minnesota basketball

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino says Pittsburgh’s Marcus Carr will join the Gophers.

Pitino announced the transfer on Saturday. The university says the 6-foot-1 Toronto native played one season at Pittsburgh and will have three seasons of college eligibility at Minnesota.

Carr appeared in every game for the Panthers last season, with all but five of those as a starter. He was third on the team in scoring, averaging 10 points and 4.0 assists. Carr also led the team with 20 steals.

He had 14 games with double-digit scoring, including a career-high 23 in a win over Mount St. Mary’s.

Duke walk-on Besser to bike across the US for charity

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — One Duke men’s basketball walk-on will spend his summer biking across the country.

Brennan Besser plans to bike, walk and run from Seattle to New York to raise awareness and funds for his charitable foundation.

“Basketball, even though it’s a game that we all love, serves, really, as a vessel for the leadership coaching that (coach Mike Krzyzewski) teaches us,” Besser said Thursday. “The bike, I know that this is exciting … but it’s really just a vessel for the broader message.”

Besser’s roughly 70-day journey starts May 16 and will wind more than 3,400 miles across the United States. At most stops along the way, he hopes to hold basketball clinics or other events with the goal of generating $1 million for the Walk On America Foundation, which supports charities that help the intellectual and developmental disability community.

“What we’re hoping to do is shine a light on a part of the American community that doesn’t have that strong of a voice,” he said.

Krzyzewski describes Besser as a “one-of-a-kind walk-on” because “the spirit he brings is infectious on this team.

“Nothing he does surprises me, because almost everything he does is not about him,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s about his talents, his emotion and his effort to help others. This is a terrific thing that he’s doing this summer and he’ll accomplish so much for so many people.”

Besser’s inspiration is his older sister Jacqueline, who at age 23 is nonverbal with impaired motor skills and communicates largely through a tablet computer.

“There are millions of lessons that she’s taught me, but it’s those big things like, how do you deal with adversity?” Besser said.

He plans to travel 60 miles a day — some days for up to six hours — with a team of 3-5 people, including a medical professional, and has been training by biking around Durham. His longest ride has been roughly 2½ hours, but the Chicago native said he used to bike along Lake Shore Drive when he was younger as a “meditative activity.”

“I’ve tried to bike a lot, as much as I can, but time will tell,” Besser said.

He plans to enlist former and future Duke players to help with those clinics. When the route runs through Minnesota, Besser hopes Timberwolves players Amile Jefferson and Tyus Jones and Jones’ younger brother Tre, a rising Duke freshman, will help with a clinic. And he’s asked Grayson Allen to take part in an event in New York at the end of the journey.

Besser, a rising senior, first pitched the idea to another older sister, Rachel — a New York-based creative director — and he said her initial reaction was, “Here’s another of Brennan’s really big ideas” because “I end up tending to think, like, largely.”

“I’ve always wanted to do something that would help this community, only because of the close connection that I have,” he said. “I’m also a political science major, so I’m a bit of an American patriot. (To) merge them into one is something I’ve wanted to do. … The time is now. … We’re going to push strong to try to accomplish this.”

Memphis adds guard David Wingett to its recruiting class

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis has added shooting guard David Wingett to new coach Penny Hardaway’s first recruiting class.

The school announced Wingett’s signing on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-7 Wingett is from Winnebago, Nebraska. He averaged 25.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this past season at Bull City Prep Academy in Durham, North Carolina.

Before coming to Bull City, Wingett posted career averages of 20.8 points and 4.9 rebounds at Winnebago High. He ended his Winnebago career as the second-leading scorer in Nebraska prep history.

Wingett joins a recruiting class that also includes forward/center Isaiah Maurice plus guards Jayden Hardaway, Tyler Harris, Antwann Jones and Alex Lomax. Jayden Hardaway is Penny Hardaway’s son.

South Carolina’s Martin confident in Gamecocks’ future

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Frank Martin is confident South Carolina will take a step forward next season, no matter who is on court for the Gamecocks.

The seventh-year coach understands he’s got a couple of high profile dominoes left to fall in all-Southeastern Conference forward Chris Silva and highly regarded Louisville transfer Brian Bowen Jr., both who’ve declared for the NBA draft without hiring agents.

Whatever decision they make by the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline of May 30, Martin believes his team is poised to improve next fall.

“I’m in a good place with our roster,” Martin said Wednesday.

It hasn’t always appeared that way since the Gamecocks, a Final Four team in 2017, ended up 17-16 and out of the postseason.

Martin dismissed expected point guard starter Rakym Felder , arrested twice for fighting in less than a year, for not following through on the coach’s expectations upon his return to the program last January. Three reserves in guard David Beatty and forwards Khadim Gueye and Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia all transferred. Then Silva and Bowen, who must be reinstated by the NCAA for his role in a federal investigation into college basketball corruption, opted for the NBA.

Martin stands by his player development skills, highlighted by four-year starter Sindarius Thornwell, the star of the Final Four run and now on the Los Angeles Clippers.

“The ones that stay here get better, Martin said. “And the guys who played the most minutes are all coming back.”

That group is led by forward Mike Kotsar and guards Justin Minaya and Hassani Gravett, who combined for 85 starts last season. Kotsar, at 6-foot-10, was South Carolina’s third-leading scorer at eight points a game last season. Minaya, a freshman last year, was the Gamecocks’ best defender in Martin’s eyes and is ready to take a big jump as a sophomore. Gravett got most of the time at point guard last year and despite some reckless play — “Hassani drove me nuts last year,” Martin said — should develop as a decision maker this offseason.

Add Silva, the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year, and Bowen to the mix and “we’re pretty close,” Martin said.

Martin likes that Silva and Bowen are taking the opportunity to find out their status among NBA teams. Silva has worked out with Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, although he was not among the initial invites to the NBA draft combine in Chicago starting May 16.

Martin said he talks with Silva almost every day.

Bowen’s situation is different in that he has not yet played college basketball . He signed with Louisville, then was suspended when it came to light he was part of the FBI’s probe into the sport. Bowen was suspended by Louisville, then enrolled at South Carolina in January. The 6-foot-7 Bowen of Saginaw, Michigan, was part of practices for the Gamecocks this year.

Martin said Bowen declared for the draft to keep his options open should the NCAA not reinstate him. If were up to Bowen and his family, Martin said, Bowen would be a Gamecock next season.

Martin said Bowen’s mother told the coach that joining South Carolina has made the player “the happiest she’s seen him in a long, long time.”

South Carolina is hopeful the NCAA will make a timely decision on Bowen, who still must sit out another semester even with NCAA clearance before taking the court.

“We all understood” the uncertainty of the process when Bowen signed with South Carolina last winter, Martin said.

Even without Silva and Bowen, Martin believes there is talented help on the way in guards T.J. Moss and Jermaine Couisnard. Moss had offers from UConn, Florida and Mississippi State among others while Cousinard had offers at Illinois, Louisville and Virginia Tech.

Former Georgetown point guard Tre Campbell said this week that he will join the Gamecocks for next fall.

“There are good things happening,” Martin said.

Advisers aid baseball prospects, might do same in basketball

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Evan Skoug had a decision to make his senior year of high school in 2014: go pro or go to college?

He was rated the No. 1 prospect in Illinois for the Major League Baseball draft that year, and he had signed a letter of intent to play catcher at TCU.

Skoug ended up going to TCU, but not before he and his family weighed the pros and cons with and had many conversations with an adviser.

“It was good for me to have someone there to help me through the professional process because nobody in my family has played professionally and nobody knows the industry,” Skoug said this week. “It was nice to have somebody invested in the sports industry, invested in myself, there to help me make the correct informed decision.”

NCAA rules governing baseball and ice hockey allow high school players to hire advisers as long as those advisers are paid their normal fees. Also, baseball and hockey players who are drafted are allowed to retain college eligibility as long as they don’t sign a contract.

Under proposals put forth by the Condoleezza Rice-headed Commission on College Basketball, facets of those baseball-hockey rules would be applied to high school and college basketball players.

One recommendation would have the NCAA create a program for certifying agents and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers. The NCAA already allows players in college to retain advisers.

“I think information and data are power, so to speak,” Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles said. “I think that’s really important — to educate the parents, to educate the players to this whole process.”

Another recommendation would allow high school and college basketball players who declare for the draft and aren’t drafted remain eligible for college unless and until they sign a pro contract. That recommendation assumes the NBA changes its rules and allows high school seniors to be drafted instead of requiring a player be 19 years old or one year removed from high school.

Miles said he favors that proposal as well, but he sees a potential problem. He currently has two rising seniors who have declared for the June 21 draft without signing an agent, and they have until May 30 to pull out of draft consideration and retain their eligibility.

If the recommendation were in place now, and those players stayed in the draft pool but weren’t selected, their status for next season might not be known until well into the summer. That, Miles said, could present a roster-management issue. Typically, a coach has a good idea if any of his underclassmen will be drafted, and he can plan for that. But what if the undrafted player decides not to return to school after the draft and chooses to pursue opportunities in the G League or overseas?

“I think you need a clear conversation with the student-athlete and his family asking ‘What are your intentions?'” Miles said. “Those are things that should be decided earlier than June 21.”

The baseball agent-adviser rule, as it applies to the power-five conferences, changed in 2016. As part of the autonomy movement, high school players who are drafted are permitted to hire an agent for contract negotiations, but the relationship must be severed if the player decides to enroll in college. Conferences outside the power five are allowed to adopt that rule if they choose. Previously, advisers could not perform agent duties such as negotiating a contract whether for a high school player or a player who’s draft-eligible in his third year at a four-year school.

Skoug said he knew he needed help sorting out the MLB draft process as he neared his senior season at Libertyville (Illinois) High. His high school coach recommended a friend, Scott Pucino, who heads the baseball division for Octagon sports and entertainment agency.

Pucino gave Skoug tips on how to word answers on the multitude of questionnaires sent by major league clubs, explained what life would be like in a rookie league if he chose to turn pro and stressed the importance of finding an experienced and trusted wealth manager.

The Skoug family paid a few hundred dollars for Pucino’s services — “inconsequential for what we got,” said Evan’s father, John Skoug.

“We had 28 of the 30 major-league teams march through our living room and asking a bunch of questions. We didn’t know what to really expect,” John said. “You hear stuff from Person X and Person Y, and each of these scouts will tell you, but I’d rather have an independent party telling me what’s going on.”

The most important conversation dealt with setting the minimum amount of money it would take for Evan Skoug to sign. Only he and his family could make that decision, but Pucino had input.

“The question for Evan: life-changing money, what was that going to be?” Pucino said. “The thing I tell these players is if you don’t make it, at least you have three years of college education done. So for (MLB) to buy you out of that college education — even though there’s a scholarship program (through clubs) — it should be a pretty good amount of money. It’s easy to finish a year if you’re drafted as a junior. It’s not the same to be 28 or 29 and now do three or four years of college.”

Evan set his price at $1.5 million — more than any club was willing to pay. He was drafted in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals, what he called a “courtesy pick.”

“The Nationals wanted to follow my career at TCU, so it was nice to hear my name get called and to be drafted,” he said. “But once I heard that the number wasn’t going to be there, my mind was totally set on college.”

At TCU, Skoug started 198 of 199 games, batted .286 with 36 homers and 168 RBIs and was the 2017 Big 12 co-player of the year. His draft stock rose accordingly. He was picked in the seventh round last year by the Chicago White Sox and signed for $300,000. He now plays for the Kannapolis (North Carolina) Intimidators in the Class A South Atlantic League.

Pucino — who represents Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, the New York Mets’ Asdrubal Cabrera and the Chicago Cubs’ Ben Zobrist, among others — went from being Skoug’s adviser to agent.

“I would have been very confused and out of the loop as to what was going on throughout the upcoming months of the (2014) draft without Scott,” Evan said. “He did a great job of preparing me and my family for what was coming, so that was a big help to us, because we had no idea.”