Arkansas to open against Louisville in Maui Invitational

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LAHAINA, Hawaii — Arkansas will face Louisville in the opening round of a loaded 2022 Maui Invitational bracket.

The eight-team bracket announced for the November event will include six teams that went to the 2022 NCAA Tournament, including three that reached the Sweet 16.

Arizona faces Cincinnati in the opening round after reaching the Sweet 16 in coach Tommy Lloyd’s first season. Texas Tech, another Sweet 16 team last season, plays Creighton and San Diego State faces Ohio State in the tournament’s return to the Lahaina Civic Center on Nov. 21-23.

The 2020 tournament was held in Asheville, North Carolina, and last year’s was played in Las Vegas.

Arkansas has reached the Elite Eight the past two seasons under coach Eric Musselman.

Coquese Washington to succeed Stringer as Rutgers coach

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Former Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington will succeed Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer as coach at Rutgers, the school announced Monday.

Washington, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame, agreed to a six-year contract, the school said. It guarantees total compensation of $4.625 million with additional performance incentives.

Stringer retired late last month at age 74, capping a career in which she won more than 1,000 games in 50 seasons – the last 25 at Rutgers – and went to the Final Four four times with three different teams: Cheyney State, Iowa and Rutgers. She did not coach this past season because of concerns over COVID-19.

Assistant Tim Eatman filled in for Stringer last season. The Scarlet Knights went 11-20 overall and 3-14 in the Big Ten.

Washington went 209-169 in 12 seasons at Penn State (2007-19) and was named Big Ten coach of the year three straight times from 2012-14, a stretch that included three of her four NCAA Tournament appearances with the Lady Lions.

“It is important that the next leader of our women’s basketball program be someone with a proven track record of winning, exemplary leadership and great character,” athletic director Pat Hobbs said in a statement. “Coquese is the perfect fit on all those criteria. She is someone who is hard-working, passionate and dedicated to building a championship program and that commitment extends equally to the success our student-athletes will have off the court.”

Washington had two stints at Notre Dame, previously serving as an assistant at her alma mater from 1999-2007 under longtime coach Muffet McGraw. The Fighting Irish won the first of McGraw’s two national titles in 2001.

Washington then became the first Black woman to lead the Penn State program. Following her third straight Big Ten title in 2014, the Lady Lions fell off dramatically and had only one winning record in Big Ten play in the next five seasons. Washington was fired in 2019 and spent the following season as associate head coach at Oklahoma.

“I am beyond thrilled with the opportunity to be here at Rutgers, a university that excels both academically and athletically,” Washington said. “Following in the footsteps of Hall of Fame coaches Theresa Grentz and C. Vivian Stringer is a tremendous honor. They exemplify achieving high levels of excellence with grace, class, integrity and dignity.”

The Fighting Irish made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament this year with Washington assisting second-year coach Niele Ivey.

Washington played for Notre Dame and averaged 2.7 steals per game, the best in school history. She played six seasons in the WNBA, winning a championship with the Houston Comets in 2000.

Washington also served as founding president and executive vice president of the WNBA Players Association.

North Carolina State transfer joins revamped Butler roster

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INDIANAPOLIS — Butler coach Thad Matta landed his second big man in less than a week Monday, announcing the addition of 6-foot-11 Manny Bates from North Carolina State.

The grad transfer had 147 blocks, fourth in school history, and shot 64.7% from the field in two seasons with the Wolfpack. He played just one game last season after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the first minute of North Carolina State’s season opener.

“Manny’s presence defensively will be incredibly impactful,” Matta said in a statement. “He blocks and alters shots at a high level. Offensively, his size and athleticism give him the ability to score in the post, in the pick-and-roll, and in transition.”

The announcement comes just days after Matta announced that 6-10 forward Jalen Thomas would transfer to Butler from Georgia State. The Bulldogs also recently landed former Akron swingman Ali Ali and are expected to announce soon that a fourth player will transfer into the program.

Last week, Matta also hired former Ohio State stars Greg Oden and Jon Diebler to his staff.

Oden, the IndyStar Mr. Basketball in 2006 and No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, will serve as director of basketball operations. Diebler will be director of recruiting.

“Both possess great energy and strong basketball knowledge,” Matta said. “They will relate well to our players and will help them grow on and off the court. I was excited years ago when they committed to be part of my program as players, and I’m just as excited they are joining my staff.”

Akok Akok heads to Georgetown men’s basketball from UConn

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Butler at UConn
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WASHINGTON – Akok Akok is transferring to Georgetown from UConn, the latest in a series of additions and subtractions for coach Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas after the worst men’s basketball season in Big East history.

Georgetown announced Akok’s move on Tuesday.

The team went 6-25 last season, including 0-19 in conference play, and ended on a 21-game losing streak.

Ewing, who has led the Hoyas to one season above .500 during his five in the job, received a public show of support from athletic director Lee Reed on March 2.

Akok is a 6-foot-9 forward who was born in Egypt and moved to New Hampshire. He spent the past three years at UConn and averaged 3.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 23 games last season, including seven starts.

Other transfers added to Georgetown’s roster ahead of next season include Brandon Murray from LSU, Jay Heath from Arizona State and Primo Spears from Duquesne.

Six Georgetown players have entered the NCAA transfer portal this spring: Don Carey, Collin Holloway, Kobe Clark, Timothy Ighoefe, Tyler Beard and Jalin Billingsley. Leading scorer Aminu Mohammed will test the NBA draft waters.

Carey, Holloway become latest Georgetown players to transfer

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WASHINGTON – Don Carey and Collin Holloway became the fifth and sixth Georgetown basketball players to enter the NCAA transfer portal this spring.

The school announced the moves Friday. Kobe Clark Timothy Ighoefe, Tyler Beard and Jalin Billingsley already entered the portal, and leading scorer Aminu Mohammed opted to test the NBA draft waters.

Carey previously declared for the NBA draft and is keeping that option open. He has one year left of NCAA eligibility after playing for Mount St. Mary’s and Siena before Georgetown.

The 22-year-old guard appeared in 54 games and started 48 for Hoyas, averaging 10.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game. Holloway averaged 9.2points a game during his Georgetown career.

The Hoyas brought in guard Brandon Murray from the portal after he decided to leave LSU, which fired Will Wade. Kevin Nickelberry, who was named Wade’s interim replacement and coached the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament, joined Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing’s staff.

Ewing is going into his sixth season as coach, with the highlight of his tenure being a surprise run to the Big East Tournament title in 2021. Georgetown went 6-25 overall and 0-19 in the Big East last season.

Neptune ready to keep Villanova elite as Wright’s successor

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PHILADELPHIA – Jay Wright patted his chest in appreciation of the cheering crowd before he threw a first pitch to Phillies manager Joe Girardi. Wright then took the ball from Girardi, hustled back and handed it to Kyle Neptune so the new Villanova coach could lob his own ceremonial strike.

Wright’s call to the bullpen worked great on a lazy Sunday night.

Now comes the part where every game is the bottom of the ninth for the 37-year-old Neptune as he succeeds the retired Wright: Can a longtime assistant with one season of head coaching experience keep Villanova humming along as a perennial Big East Conference champion with Final Four expectations?

Neptune certainly knows Wright’s blueprint following a lengthy stint that started in 2008 as a video coordinator and ended with him as the longest-tenured member on the coaching staff that won the 2016 and 2018 national championships.

“He knows it all. He has the answers to the test,” Villanova athletic director Mark Jackson said.

Neptune was mapping out Fordham’s season and was headfirst into recruiting when he got the call early last week that Wright had made the shocking decision to retire. The hiring process was short: Neptune talked with Villanova’s key decision-makers – sounding less like a formal interview and more like a confirmation hearing – and was named just the program’s sixth coach since 1938.

Neptune already had recruited or coached most of the players on Villanova’s roster and already was colleagues with the assistant coaches he said would stay on staff. George Halcovage, Mike Nardi and Dwayne Anderson have spent years with Neptune.

“I don’t think he thinks of himself as the boss. I think he wants to feel like one of the guys, like he’s always done,” said Nardi, who also played under Wright. “The only thing that’s going to change is he’s got to make the final decision.”

Taking over for a Hall of Famer is rarely easy. The Wildcats are a top team seemingly every season, and they went to their fourth Final Four under Wright this season after winning the Big East Tournament.

One knock on Wright is a coaching tree with cracks in the trunk. Pat Chambers, Ashley Howard, Baker Dunleavy, Tom Pecora, Joe Jones and Billy Lange are among Wright’s former assistants who never reached the NCAA Tournament as head coaches. Neptune went 16-16 in his lone season at Fordham, an Atlantic 10 program with just four NCAA Tournament appearances.

“That’s where our assistants struggle,” Wright said. “They learn here there’s no place like this place. There’s so many great things about this place that don’t kind of fit at other places.”

Wright did wonder about staying for another season, but what if Neptune had a losing record at Fordham? Wright knew the sales job would only get harder, so he suggested a successor with deep Villanova ties coming off what could only be considered a successful season for a downtrodden Fordham program.

“It’s not like the old days where the coach just picks his guy,” Wright said. “You’ve got to do it in concert with the university.”

A native of Brooklyn, Neptune played four seasons at Lehigh and served as a team captain in his senior year of 2006-07. He briefly played overseas, but a coaching career tugged at him. Wright hired him as a low-salary, long-hour, little-appreciated video coordinator.

“Back then, the technology wasn’t what it was now. It was a lot of breaking down film, long hours of scouting reports,” he said.

Neptune is the seventh Black head coach in the Big East, but the first one at a university that is roughly 70% white.

“I’m thrilled for any example that I could be to young, especially younger, African Americans in general, but also young males, that are coming up in the coaching world; I’m excited to be an ambassador in that regard,” Neptune said. “I hope that this trend continues.”

Wright was known as GQ Jay for his custom-made suits but he moved to casual sweats during the pandemic. Neptune wore a suit at Fordham – a look that fit him as well as the title of head coach. Now the man gets to try both on for size at Villanova.

“We’ve got everything here. We’ve got the leadership. Everything is in place,” Wright said. “So now it’s going to be, you’re going to come to play for Kyle, but also this culture is going to stay the same.”