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Updating the NBA Entry List and Honoring a Maryland Legend

by - Published May 9, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

Here’s a quick recap of all the major NBA decisions from the past week. The NCAA’s deadline for early entrants to remain eligible required players to decide by May 8 if they wanted to remain in the NBA Draft or return to school.

Remaining in the draft:

  • Boston College’s Reggie Jackson
  • Butler’s Shelvin Mack
  • Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert
  • Kentucky’s Brandon Knight
  • Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins
  • Louisville’s Terrence Jennings
  • Maryland’s Jordan Williams
  • Michigan’s Darius Morris
  • Stanford’s Jeremy Green
  • Tennessee’s Tobias Harris
  • Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson
  • Texas’ Cory Joseph
  • Texas’ Tristan Thompson

Returning to school:

  • Kentucky’s Terrence Jones
  • Miami’s Reggie Johnson
  • Missouri’s Laurence Bowers
  • Missouri’s Kim English
  • Northwestern’s John Shurna
  • Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs
  • West Virginia’s Kevin Jones
  • Xavier’s Tu Holloway
  1. The biggest news of the past few days is Gary Williams’ retirement at Maryland. The Terrapins’ coach unexpectedly decided to call it a career at age 66 after working at his alma mater since 1989. Maryland moved quickly to court Arizona’s Sean Miller, who passed on the the offer by signing an extension with the Wildcats, according to John Marshall of the Associated Press. That makes Notre Dame’s Mike Brey one of the top choices right now, according to the Washington Post.
  2. In other Washington, D.C., area coaching news, George Washington picked Mike Lonergan to be the Colonials’ next coach, according to the Associated Press. Lonergan comes back to D.C. after working at Vermont for five seasons, compiling a 126-68 record. Lonergan coached Catholic University to a Division III title in 2001 and worked with Gary Williams as an assistant at Maryland for a few years.
  3. Gonzaga needs to find a new starting point guard after Demetri Goodson announced that he’s leaving the team to play football, according to the Associated Press. Goodson averaged 5.2 points and 2.6 assists per game for the Bulldogs this past season.
  4. Michigan State Tom Izzo returned the favor for Spartan fans last week. To help boost student morale during final exams week, Izzo joined other Spartan coaches in serving food at the university’s dining hall, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s ìCollege Basketball Nation.î That’s a nice way to thank the Izzone fans who help give Michigan State one of the toughest home court advantages in the nation.
  5. Speaking of Izzo, the Spartans’ coach might be getting some much-needed backcourt help in Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood, according to the Associated Press.. The Horizon League’s No. 3 scorer is transferring to Michigan State after completing his undergraduate degree. Because of NCAA rules for graduate transfers, Wood might be eligible to play immediately for a team losing Kalin Lucas to graduation.
  6. Jeff Capel has returned to a familiar sideline. The former Oklahoma coach, who was fired after this past season, accepted an offer to become an assistant coach on coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at Duke, according to the Associated Press. Capel played four years in Durham and put up more than 1,600 points.
  7. The Pac-10 can’t complain about an East Coast bias for much longer. The conference soon to be known as the Pac-12 signed an agreement with ESPN and Fox Sports worth $250 million per season, tops in men’s basketball, according to Josh Dubow of the Associated Press.
  8. Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt has recruited his first big name as the Cowboys’ new coach. Larry Nance Jr., son of longtime NBA player Larry Nance, will arrive in Laramie this fall after averaging about a double double as a senior in Ohio this past season.
  9. Looking ahead to 2012, Louisville might not have the services of Rodney Purvis, a top-rated shooting guard in the class of rising high school seniors who reopened his recruitment, according to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s ìCollege Basketball Nation.î Louisville had received a verbal commitment from Purvis, partially thanks to the hard work of assistant Tom Fuller, who left Pitino’s staff recently to work for Frank Haith at Missouri.
  10. Former Cyclone John Lamb, a walk-on who left Iowa State mid-season, was arrested last week and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and a violation of Drug Tax Stamp Act, according to the Associated Press.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

This section is aptly titled for a Washington, D.C., area writer looking to write a column honoring the importance of recently retired Maryland coach Gary Williams.

In his 22 years at Maryland, Williams helped craft the Terrapins into a perennial ACC contender. His continued success eased the path to the construction of the Comcast Center, which is one of the largest arenas in the conference and has one of the best home court advantages. The 20,000-plus fans who fill the Comcast Center haven’t always approved of the quality of the home team, but they consistently fill the arena with rowdy fans, giving Maryland one of the best home court advantages in the country.

After the turmoil of the late 1980s, it’s amazing that Williams was able to get this program back to the top of the ACC so quickly. Trouble started in 1986 with the death of Terrapin hero Len Bias, who seemed destined to become a national hero as a possible heir apparent to Larry Bird in Boston. However, his cocaine-induced death and the subsequent brouhaha in College Park derailed the program, leading to the ouster of coach Lefty Driesell.

Without Driesell, the team fell into mediocrity — and NCAA violations — during the tenure of Bob Wade. With the program on probation and lackluster performance on the court, Williams returned to his alma mater with a tough task at hand.

It took Williams five seasons, but once he got the Terrapins into the NCAA Tournament, they remained fixtures of March Madness until 2005. That includes a Final Four run in 2001 that ended mercilessly with the team’s fourth loss of the season to eventual national champion Duke. But Williams and Maryland vanquished those demons the next season when the Terrapins won the 2002 title.

The championship title was a turning point for Williams’ tenure at Maryland. Until then, the critics liked to talk about Williams as one of the greatest coaches to have never won a title — a fraternity no coach enjoys being part of. With that monkey off his back, Williams then had to deal with detractors who bemoaned that Williams failed to use the program’s success to attract the top recruits to College Park.

Recruiting is a touchy subject for Maryland fans. On the plus side, no one has even sniffed an NCAA violation during Williams’ years. But on the other hand, Williams drew the ire of many fans because he couldn’t keep a lot of the talented kids in Prince George’s County, Md., and Baltimore in-state. Highly touted recruits like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Rudy Gay, Nolan Smith and seemingly half of Georgetown’s starting lineup each season are all locals. That would be acceptable if Williams had a slew of talented recruits on a conveyor belt to College Park from across the country.

But after three NIT appearances in four seasons, the natives became restless. Williams had the misfortune of dealing with a few disastrous recruits, including the much-maligned post-championship class of Chris McCray, John Gilchrist, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley. That core failed to meet lofty expectations, and the fans nearly revolted at the perceived inability of Williams to coach a great class. But the players just didn’t work out. It happens.

Williams got Maryland back on track with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes. He helped Vasquez mature from a sloppy point guard and nearly out of control hothead to a dominant ACC player who was a threat to post a triple double nearly any night. The Terrapins returned to the NCAA Tournament three out of four seasons but never advanced further than the second round.

Heading into this off-seaosn, Maryland was at a cross-roads as another disappointing recruiting class — Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory — finished their collegiate careers. Jordan Williams, one of the top recruits in recent years to come to Maryland, figured to be the linchpin of next season’s team, but he is heading to the NBA instead.

At age 66, Williams was staring at a complete rebuilding project in an era that makes it increasingly difficult to run a clean and successful program. Williams refused to sacrifice one for the other. That makes now a great time for Williams to step down. To rebuild the Terrapins, Williams would need at least a couple of years to get the right guys around solid building blocks like Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin. Williams might be pushing 70 before the Terrapins have another legitimate shot at a deep run.

When I’m pushing 70, I hope have the energy to work more than 60 hours a week recruiting, strategizing and representing a major college program. After such a remarkable, program-defining coaching career, Williams has earned this respite.

Back in Action, With Championship-Level Appreciation

by - Published April 11, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Editor’s Note: We’ve trimmed down the Full Court Sprints because Hoopville’s new design has made some elements redundant. In particular, our new design highlights some of Hoopville’s great coverage in the middle column. In addition, we’ve got recent tweets from Phil Kasiecki and Michael Protos in the right column. There’s no games on tap anytime soon — sadly — so the upcoming games and recent results are irrelevant until November. We do have plenty of news to round up and some quick commentary on recent trends and news.

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.

If it’s April, three of the top stories in basketball relate to which coaches are changing jobs, which players are going pro, and which players are transferring. Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman has a list for the latter category. In case you’ve missed some of the player movement of the past few weeks, Goodman lists all the players who have announced that they will play elsewhere.

At ESPN.com, you can track all the coaching movement in Division I in a chart that lists schools, former coach and new coach. As of today, 13 teams are still in the hunt for a new coach.

And if you want to find out whether your team’s best underclassmen will be playing in the NBA or NCAA next season, check out CBS Sports.com’s set of charts.

The most recent team to fill its open coaching position is UNLV, according to the Associated Press. BYU associate coach Dave Rice is moving on from the Mormons’ home base of Utah to Sin City. Rice’s now former boss, BYU coach Dave Rose, said Rice is an excellent teacher and has a history of success, which he’ll be taking to the desert and a Rebels team that has emerged as a perennial Mountain West contender.

St. John’s coach Steve Lavin will begin treatment for prostate cancer after announcing that he was diagnosed with the disease in fall 2010, according to SI.com’s “Fan Nation” blog.

BYU is extending coach Dave Rose’s contract, a rare reward for excellence at the university, according to Fan Nation. Just don’t ask about the financial details.

We already have some drama heading into next season’s North Carolina State vs. Maryland rivalry in the ACC. Granted, in recent years, there’s not much of a rivalry to speak of between those teams. However, Wolfpack Athletic Director Debbie Yow, former boss of Maryland coach Gary Williams, accused Williams of trying to sabotage her search for a new coach. She eventually hired former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried to replace Sidney Lowe, drawing the ire of State fans who wanted Shaka Smart or another hot name. There’s plenty of bad blood between Yow and Williams, according to the “Lost Lettermen” blog.

UCLA finally knows where the Bruins will be playing home games next season while Pauley Pavilion gets a facelift. Eamonn Brennan, of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog, reports that the Los Angeles Sports Arena will host 14 Bruins home games, with the team playing four others at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Fresh off his third national championship, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun said he will take some to decide whether he wants to retire, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. But don’t think that means he’s taking any time off from the recruiting trail.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

I watched every second of Connecticut’s championship game victory against Butler. And that might officially make me a basketball geek — as if there were any doubt about that.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Huskies’ 53-41 win wasn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever watched. But there’s been far too much talk about how terrible the game was, and some commentators have even hinted that the NCAA Tournament has a flawed format in which the best team doesn’t win the title.

To that, I say: horse manure.

The NCAA Tournament has one of the most difficult post-season formats of any sport at any level because a champion must win six — at least — games in a row against opponents that play a variety of styles. A championship run is a testament of a coach’s ability to strategize a game plan and adjust it during the heat of the action. It’s a testament of great players performing at a consistently high level for three weeks.

Even the most talented teams in the country will likely face at least one opponent that plays a style that makes the favorite somewhat uncomfortable. For underdogs, the ability to get a team outside its comfort zone, force mistakes and capitalize on opportunities forms the recipe for an upset. VCU took that recipe and repeated it from the First Four to the Final Four.

The Rams got past USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas with a pressure defense that preyed on inconsistent backcourt play. On offense, VCU rode hot three-point shooting to cover up for a size disadvantage in the post. If the Rams met the Jayhawks in an NBA-style seven-game series, there’s no way I could see VCU winning the series. I’d pick VCU to win one, maybe two games in seven against Kansas. But the more talented team — as NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley frequently pointed out during their stint as NCAA Tournament analysts — would likely advance, barring injuries or a major internal meltdown.

And that’s what makes the NCAA Tournament wonderful. To be champion, you must come to play every game for three weeks. Anything short of your best effort could send you home. And even your effort might not be enough if you’re running the wrong game plan.

So don’t tell me Butler’s 18 percent shooting in the championship ruined the tournament or somehow devalues Connecticut’s achievement. In the game I watched, I saw an outstanding defensive effort in which the Huskies limited the Bulldogs to a tiny number of clean looks at the hoop. However, Butler also failed to make in-game adjustments. The team took 51.6 percent of its shots from three-point range, making only 9-of-33 attempts. After Chase Stigall hit a three to open the second half and give Butler a six-point lead, the team didn’t make another shot from the field for seven minutes and only one shot in 13 minutes. During that stretch, the Bulldogs missed 11 three-pointers.

Brad Stevens realized his teams was overmatched in the post, but the Bulldogs just weren’t getting it done from the perimeter. The team’s stubborn insistence on jacking up bombs — and bricks — led to the dismal shooting percentage and put Connecticut on track to the championship.

More simply put, the Huskies executed their game plan more efficiently and effectively than Butler could, and the Bulldogs couldn’t adjust to do anything about that. In a championship game performance, that’s all you can ask from the winning team, regardless of the score.

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Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
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