Jeremy Lin

Summertime in the Ivy League

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College basketball coaches collectively rejoiced in January of 2012 when a new rule was passed stipulating that coaches would be afforded the opportunity to work with their players – including incoming freshmen – over the summer months.

As a refresher to the exact rule from the NCAA:

In men’s basketball, a student-athlete who is enrolled in summer school may engage in required weight-training, conditioning and skill-related instruction for up to eight weeks (not required to be consecutive weeks). Participation in such activities shall be limited to a maximum of eight hours per week with not more than two hours per week spent on skill-related instruction.

Additional time spent in the gym with their teams – what coach wouldn’t be on board with this? Coaches are always itching for additional practice time with their team during the season, so having an opportunity to develop skills and review offensive and defensive systems over the summer came as a welcome surprise.

A surprise for all, except those in the Ivy League.

To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

Add Ivy League coaching staffs not working with their teams over the summer – a self-imposed rule by the league, mind you – to an already long list of items making the Ancient Eight the most unique conference in America: it’s the only conference without a postseason tournament, the only conference without scholarships, the only conference that plays league games on back-to-back nights (Friday and Saturday), and almost assuredly the only conference that will never entertain the idea of conference realignment. This is the Ivy League, and they do things differently.

While the league certainly is unique and poses inherent challenges, no coach uses it as an excuse.

“Part of it is that we have to make sure we are recruiting the right men. The Ivy League will always be an academically first league, but we are looking for guys that have a desire to play professionally and that take their craft very seriously,” Brown head men’s basketball coach Mike Martin told NBC Sports by phone.

Many in the Ivy League seem to take an “it is what it is” approach. Nobody likes it and everyone would like additional time with their players just like all other coaches are afforded.

Of course, just because the coaches aren’t in the gym, does not mean players put the ball down from June through August.

“Rafael Maia (a rising sophomore center at Brown) played over in Russia with Brazil this summer at the World University Games. Even though we, as coaches, aren’t able to work with the guys for the allotted time each week doesn’t mean that they’re not significantly improving their game,” said Martin.

Columbia head coach Kyle Smith explained to NBC Sports over the phone that he does his best to “spin” to himself how not working with his team over the summer is somehow a good thing.

“We have different animals at Columbia and in the Ivy League. My big pitch is ‘you can be good at both’ (speaking of academics and basketball) – just look at Jeremy Lin.” (Side note: Smith offered Lin a spot on the roster at St. Mary’s, but it would have been as a recruited walk-on as the Gaels did not have a scholarship available)

“As not just a basketball player, but as a student and person as a whole, part of their growth and creativity is being on their own a little bit. In fact, I tell my players — especially the freshmen — to take some time right after exams to just unwind and spend time with their families. Between schoolwork and basketball during the year, they need the breather.”

To continue the “spin,” Smith used an apt analogy to explain that even if he and his staff were working side-by-side with their players over the summer, the players still need to put in the work themselves: “It usually comes down to individual talent. You can lead a horse to water, but he has to drink it himself. Fortunately, these guys are just achievers in general.”

Smith, like Martin who graduated from Brown in 2004 and coached at Pennsylvania for six years, is an academically oriented guy himself: “As a player, I actually wanted to play in the Ivy League, but maybe I wasn’t good enough or smart enough. I’ve always had an affinity for high-academic guys.”

Smith may be selling himself short as he is a graduate of Hamilton College and had a very successful career at the New York-based NESCAC school.

“When I came to Columbia from St. Mary’s in 2010, there were two things I realized: one was there are some really talented players in this league that people just don’t know about, and two, the level of coaching in this league…some of the game’s top basketball minds have coached here. I think the level of basketball knowledge helps coaches deal with some of the challenges.”

Don’t let Martin’s or Smith’s comments fool you; they — like the other six Ivy League head coaches — would welcome summer practice time with open arms.

“It’s something that of course we are hoping and pushing for. It’s a matter of speaking with the athletic directors and getting them on board, and then the presidents will have to adopt it,” Martin said.

Smith remains optimistic that the league may modify the summer practice rules in the future.

“The league takes such pride in competing at the highest level in everything they do. Look at sports like hockey and lacrosse, Yale just won the national championship in hockey. Why not basketball? I think the presidents see that you can compete at the highest level without compromising academics.”

A prime example of competing at the highest level, the Harvard administration made a concerted effort several years ago to up their level of competitiveness in basketball, and they will be a fringe Top 25 team to begin the 2013-14 season as a result. Give credit to the Crimson who have made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and knocked off third-seeded New Mexico last year.

Looking ahead, there have been many early projections that have Harvard as a team to seriously watch come March; they have the talent to make a run to the Sweet 16 and beyond. Think Tommy Amaker would like to have some time gelling with his squad right now?

Said Smith: “Going forward, there is no reason this can’t be a two-bid league.”

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Harvard unveils plans for new basketball arena

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Harvard, seeing its men’s basketball brand on the rise nationally, has unveiled plans for a new basketball arena to be completed by 2022, multiple outlets are now reporting.

“The university and the Harvard-Allston Task Force have been meeting over several months to discuss many elements of the plan,” Kevin Casey, a spokesman for Harvard, told the Boston Globe.

“We are pleased to take this important step forward in the master planning process next week and look forward to our continued discussions within the university, with the city and with our Allston neighbors.”

According to Harvard Magazine, which outlined some specifics of the plan, the arena is slated to be 60,000 square feet, housed within a four- to nine-story building that would seat close to 2,700 people.

It would be a much-needed upgrade for the Crimson, who have been playing at Ray Lavietes Pavilion since it was constructed in 1926.

The increasing visibility of the Harvard program in recent years has been for a number of reasons, both good and bad.

Last season, coach Tommy Amaker led his team to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946. In the NBA, alumnus Jeremy Lin was a breakout star for the New York Knicks.

But recent revelations of a widespread cheating scandal at the university implicated team co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, who both withdrew from the school.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

The Morning Mix

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– The MLB All-Star Game is on Tuesday, and I bet you had no idea just how many former All-Stars were also former college basketball players

– Kansas head coach Bill Self is an avid baseball fan. He enjoys advanced statistics, quotes classic baseball movies, and even invited Tommy Lasorda to the Phogg. With the All-Star Game taking place in Kansas City this week, you just knew Self would be part of the festivities. Self was booed heavily by the Missouri fans in attendance, but the Kansas head coach silenced them by hitting a home run

– Indiana State isn’t exactly known for their football program. But Sycamore’s center Myles Walker, who was also a high touted football recruit, will be trading in the high-tops for shoulder pads

– Consider Vermont the “Kentucky of #AllNameTeams”. The Catamounts saw Four McGlynn transfer to Towson, yet they were able to reload with the addition of Trey Blue. He will join the likes of Clancy Rugg and Sandro Carissimo

– So….apparently, somebody purchased the trademark rights to “Fear the Brow” before Anthony Davis could. The owner is willing to give it to the No.1-overall pick, but for a price. (I told you all he should have gone with “Brow Down” instead)

– Anthony Davis was left off the US olympic roster, but are we getting closer to seeing college players represent the country again?

– Kevin Pelton does a great job rating Team USA’s roster for the upcoming Olympics in London

– A couple of good-reads about potential breakout stars in 2012-2013: Arkansas’ B.J. Young, Kentucky’s Ryan Harrow, Marquette’s Vander Blue, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross, Pittsburgh’s Lamar Patterson, , South Florida’s Victor Rudd Jr., Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, and Washington’s C.J. Wilcox

– Jabari Parker was once thought to be considered unquestionably the top recruit in the class of 2013. But with a recent injury and the rise of Julius Randle, is Parker’s top spot up for grabs?

– The NCAA changed their rules in order to allow more summer practice time, and many coaches are starting to capitalize on the extra hours

– Could Penn’s Zac Rosen become the next Jeremy Lin? (All I got is “Rosen-sational”. If you can do better, drop it in the comments section below)

– A nice, quick read about the height of Kentucky’s ceiling in 2012-2013, and what the ‘Cats have to do to break through

– A shirtless Ric Pitino chillin’ on a raft, throwin’ up “The L”. In case you’re in to that sort of thing

– Man running for Mayor of Portland punches guy in the balls during pick-up game 

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins named co-head coach of USA Select national team

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Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins will work with the USA Select Team this summer, after being selected to serve as the co-head coach Monday, The Post-Standard is reporting.

The Select Team features players who were not chosen for the National Team that will compete in the Olympics, and includes former Duke guard Kyrie Irving, former Butler hero Gordon Hayward, and Ivy League standout and Knicks guard Jeremy Lin.

The team will practice against the USA National Team this July in Las Vegas, before the top team moves on to London for the 2012 Olympics.

Hopkins played for Syracuse from 1989-1993, with his best season coming during his senior year, when he averaged 9.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.  He went on to play professionally in Europe and Holland.

He has been with Syracuse since 1995, as a major asset in recruiting, notably credited with developing former Syracuse guard Jason Hart, an NBA veteran and now an assistant at Pepperdine, as well as Jonny Flynn and Gerry McNamara.

The Orange finished 34-3 last season, winning the Big East and advancing to the Elite Eight, where they were eliminated by Ohio State.

The USA Select Team will train with the National Team from July 6-11.

“The USA Select Team was a vital part of the USA Men’s National Team’s training in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and again in 2012 we’ll utilize this team of select NBA players to help get our National Team ready for the very competitive summer that is ahead of us,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Fringe pro prospects and the tale of the tape

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The Portsmouth Invitational is a nice basketball event, but it’s one most players hope not to be invited to. That’s because it’s a last-ditch effort to get noticed by the NBA for players who aren’t typically high on pro draft boards.

Nonetheless, some familiar names pop up on the annual event’s rosters, and Draft Express did us a favor by posting some measurements from the pseudo-combine’s poking and prodding phase. Some select numbers might point out players who can grab a non-guaranteed roster spot this season.

The Long Arms of the Law belong to ‘Bama’s JaMychal Green, who is 6’7″ on the vertical and a stunning 7’2″ on the horizontal, and ODU’s Kent Bazemore hangs 6’11” worth of wingspan on a 6’3″ body.

For the All-McDonald’s American team, sign up Cincy’s Yancy Gates, who bent the scales at 287 lbs.

First-round NCAA hero Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State was just 6’8″ in his sock-feet, but his profile as a natural shot blocker remains intriguing. Wichita State’s Garrett Stutz is a legit 6’11”.

While none of these guys is standing in line next to the Anthony Davises and Thomas Robinsons of the world, this last-ditch shot at being seen can turn up some interesting possibilities for a pro team with a role that needs filling. Past PIT participants who made the most of the experience include Jeremy Lin, Vernon Macklin, Jimmy Butler and L.A. Laker Andrew Goudelock.

Patriot League conference tournament preview

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What the Patriot League lacked this season in overall talent it made up for in drama down the stretch.

Bucknell headed into the final few weeks of the season with a three game lead in the conference standings over both Lehigh and American. But Player of the Year CJ McCollum of Lehigh drilled a last-second three to beat the Bison and Holy Cross pulled off an upset, meaning that Bucknell held the slimmest of one game leads in the country.

On a two-game losing streak and seeing their three game lead over Lehigh and American evaporate, the Bison next played the Eagles, who had a chance to turn the Patriot League into a three-horse race. But no dice. Bucknell won 55-50 at American to all-but seal up their second straight regular season title.

The Bracket

Where: Site of higher seed

When: Feb. 29th-Mar. 7th

Final: March 7th, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Favorite: Bucknell

Mike Muscala came into the season as the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year, and while he lost out on that award to McCollum this season, it doesn’t change the fact that he may be the most dominant presence in the conference. How often do you see 6’11” centers with a back-to-the-basket game and the ability to grab double-figure rebounds come through the Patriot League? He’s not alone, either. Sharpshooting Cameron Ayers and the blue collar Joe Willman deserve praise as well.

And if they lose?: Lehigh

I know this isn’t the studs section, but I’m going to write about CJ McCollum here. He is just absolutely sensational, a high-major talent that some have speculated could end up being the next Jeremy Lin. He stands just 6’3″ and averages 21.7 ppg, but he also grabs 6.6 rpg and hands out 3.4 apg. Should I mention he is also the team’s best perimeter defender, collecting 2.5 spg? He hasn’t been as consistent with his jump shot the past two seasons, but he’s timely — he hit the game-winning three (that came on a vicious cross-over leading into an off-balance, pull-up jumper) that kept the Patriot League race a race. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gabriel Knutson here as well.

Sleepers: American has thrived this season, finishing third in the conference as Vanderbilt transfer Charles Hinkle morphed into one of the best players in the league. The Eagles only went 1-3 against the top two in the league, however, stealing a win over Lehigh at home. The team to watch out for is Holy Cross. They have won six in a row and own a win over both Bucknell and Lehigh.

Studs:

CJ McCollum, Lehigh: He was the Patriot Player of the Year as a freshman and then won it again as a junior.

Mike Muscala, Bucknell: Muscala was the reason that McCollum didn’t win the award last season.

Charles Hinkle, American: We talk about the most-improved players in the country, but we never mention Hinkle. After transferring to American from Vanderbilt as a sophomore, Hinkle saw his scoring go from 4.5 ppg as a junior to 18.8 ppg as a senior. Impressive.

Ella Ellis, Army: He averaged 17.7 ppg this season, which obviously means that I had to point out that name. Ella Ellis cannot go overlooked!

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.