At the request of multiple readers (thanks Mom and Dad), Doyel's Dribbles is back. We're not promising it'll be back every day, at least not until practice starts in October, but maybe you should check just to make sure.
Little slice of Louisville in Alabama
Aug. 30, 9:48 a.m.
For years Central Park Christian in Birmingham, Ala., has been a basketball factory.
Now it's becoming a Louisville basketball factory.
The tiny private school, which has roughly 200 students from preschool through 12th grade and gets players from all over the world, has two Louisville recruits on roster this season: 6-foot-7 Lamar Roberson of Compton, Calif., and 6-11 Jonathan Huffman of Montgomery, Ala.
Central Park also produced James Lang, a former Louisville recruit who entered the 2003 NBA Draft out of high school.
That's a trend, and the trend could continue with 6-7 Martez Walker, considered among the best high school freshmen in the country. Walker, who has Louisville among his favorites, recently transferred from Laplace, La., to Central Park Christian.
Mountain music a little off key
Aug. 27, 9:54 a.m.
The Mountain West Conference will have a difficult time sending three teams to the NCAA Tournament as it has done in each of the past three seasons.
This week San Diego State became the latest team to receive a jolt of bad news when senior point guard Wesley Stokes was ruled academically ineligible for the first semester.
Defending regular-season champion Air Force lost its miracle-producing coach (Joe Scott to Princeton) as well as two starters. Additionally, its best player, center Nick Welch, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week. He is expected to return for practice in mid-October, but whether he's 100 percent remains to be seen.
Regular-season runner-up BYU lost four of its top five scorers, including NBA lottery pick Rafael Araujo.
That leaves Utah as SportsLine.com's pick to win the Mountain West, with UNLV in second. We're not saying the Mountain West will be a one-bid league this season ... but don't be surprised if it happens.
Hansbrough decision opens doors
Aug. 23, 8:59 a.m.
With Tyler Hansbrough's decision to attend North Carolina, dominoes should start falling all over the recruiting landscape.
Analysts considered Hansbrough and Richard Hendrix the best two available big men in the class of 2005, and Hendrix was down to North Carolina and Alabama. Now he's probably down to Alabama and Alabama.
With Kansas losing out on Hansbrough, Jayhawks coach Bill Self can turn up the heat on the package deal of power forward Kevin Rogers and wing C.J. Miles, buddies and big-time prospects from Dallas.
That would leave 6-foot-7 Louisianan Tasmin Mitchell and 6-10 Englishman Eric Boateng as two of the best available big men, though Mitchell is expected to choose LSU, and Boateng to pick Duke.
Wow -- that was easy. Anyone looking for Lotto numbers?
Final Fourty-Niners? Let's sleep on it
Aug. 10, 9:55 a.m.
Good for you, Martin Iti.
Great for you, Bobby Lutz.
Iti, a sophomore center, announced Monday evening he would not leave the Charlotte 49ers for a junior college -- a move that preserves his basketball future and makes Lutz's team a sleeper candidate for the 2004-05 Final Four.
That's right: Final Four.
With Iti, the 49ers have one of the best frontcourts in college basketball featuring at least two future NBA players, assuming Iti stays in school long enough to become ready. The other future pro is power forward Curtis Withers, a sculpted 6-foot-9 guy who is among the most underrated players in college basketball.
At small forward is E.J. Drayton, maybe the best junior college wing in the country last season other than NBA-bound Donta Smith.
With Iti backing off his baffling inspection of the junior college range, the 49ers' only missing piece is at point guard. Lutz has options, including junior Mitchell Baldwin and freshman Leemire Goldwire, whose name (and maybe even his game) is simply too good to stay on the bench for long.
If Lutz finds a reliable point guard to join shooter Brendan Plavich and versatile Eddie Basden in the backcourt, the 49ers have Final Four potential.
P.S. Key word here is "sleeper."
They don't got games
Aug. 9, 1:37 p.m.
Filling out a team's schedule has always been a surprisingly difficult chore, but this summer the degree of difficulty has become almost Olympian.
"I've only been here eight years, but I've never seen anything like it," says Penn State spokesman Pat Donghia. "Everybody's looking for games, including us."
By now teams believed they'd have a definitive word on the status of exempt preseason tournaments, but that antitrust case remains on its tortoise-like pace through the federal appeals system. Most schools in exempt limbo were waiting until Aug. 1 to move on, but more than a week into August, games remain difficult to schedule.
Take Illinois. The Illini already know they're playing in the exempt Las Vegas Classic, but uncertainty elsewhere has prevented them from filling out their schedule.
Get this: Illinois is a possible preseason Top 10 team, and it can't find a road game in the Dallas area.
"We've looking for something of a homecoming for three of our guys (Deron Williams, Warren Carter and Jack Ingram) who are from down there," says Illinois spokesman Kent Brown. "It's like we've run into a stone wall. Normally, higher-level teams aren't looking to go on the road, but we're looking to go down there and we can't get a game."
At Penn State, coach Ed DeChellis will unexpectedly be able to give his attention to the scheduling matter. He was supposed to leave Tuesday for Europe as coach of a Big Ten touring team, but an unexpected medical issue will keep him from traveling.
DeChellis was admitted to a hospital on Friday with bladder pain, underwent a minor procedure Saturday and was released Sunday, Donghia said. DeChellis is expected to be in the office this week, where he can focus on a real pain -- his 2004-05 schedule.
Iti pondering transfer to junior college
Aug. 6, 2:32 p.m.
Flaky Charlotte 49ers center Martin Iti is considering transferring to a junior college for his sophomore season, and if you're looking for a reason, re-read the first word of this sentence.
Iti is an unusual cat, a springy Australian 7-footer who came to this country to play basketball and attended high school schools in five states before signing with Charlotte. Despite averaging just six points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman, Iti entered the 2004 NBA Draft.
Iti withdrew before the underclassman deadline. Hey, we never said he was stupid. Just flaky.
However, if Iti actually transfers to a junior college, we reserve the right to change adjectives. At Charlotte, he would be the starting center on a definite NCAA Tournament team, perhaps even a contender for the Conference USA title. At a junior college, Iti would fall off the face of the earth publicly. His individual numbers would soar, but that's because his competition would plummet.
A Charlotte official said Division I eligibility is not a problem for Iti, who has until Aug. 23 to register for fall classes. Since neither Lutz nor Iti is talking, we're left to guess Iti's rationale for considering such a harebrained move.
The guess here? Iti is considering it because Iti is flaky.
If he actually does transfer, Iti gets downgraded from flaky to stupid.
'Ancient' Chinese secret, eh?
Aug. 4, 12:04 p.m.
Basketball's next big thing could be basketball's next big lie.
The super-talented 16-year-old's name is Yi Jian Lian, and the part about "super-talented" is no lie. Yi is a 7-footer with amazing athletic ability, the closest thing China has ever come to producing a Kevin Garnett-type player.
The part about Yi being 16? Look, I'm not saying it's a lie, but I'm not about to endorse it as the truth, either.
In July 2002 Yi participated in the adidas ABCD Camp in New Jersey -- I was there -- and at the time his adidas-provided interpreter told me Yi was 16. That would make him at least 18 now, but according to one U.S. internet draft site, NBADraft.net, Yi is 19 and will turn 20 Oct. 27.
How old is he, really? Chinese basketball officials are listing his age at 16, but they have reason to hang onto him as long as possible. As soon as he (officially) turns 18, Yi is expected to enter the NBA Draft, and like Yao Ming, the next great Chinese basketball player will leave China.
I'm just wondering if the big guy has much of a fastball. Turn back the clock a few more years, and he could pitch in the Little League World Series.