Tag:Festus Ezeli
Posted on: November 19, 2011 10:23 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 10:32 pm

Stallings feisty when it comes to talking Festus

By Matt Norlander

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If you don’t think Vanderbilt is a top-15 team right now, then you’ve got company: ‘Dores head coach Kevin Stallings.

“Of course we’re not,” Stallings said. “Take a first-round draft choice off of any top of the top 10 teams in the country and see if they’re a top team then. And it’s not like we profess to be.”

Kentucky and North Carolina aside, the man seems to have a point. Still, plenty of talented teams without a premier player can — and are usually inspired to — play better defense.

Vandy got an 86-79 win Saturday night the Legends Classic over N.C. State, but it came primarily because John Jenkins did what he does: shoot the dimples out of the ball (28 points — on a bad ankle) and bail out his team after some bad defense kept the game closer than it should have.

And that’s the issue: Vandy’s defense. It’s not good, not even bad right now — it’s alarmingly deficient. The team is allowing opponents to clear 50 percent shooting from 2-point range with ease through four games. What's more, the interior, as you might expect, lacks intimidation. Without Festus Ezeli — the NBA-talent big man who’s about a month away from returning — the Commodores don't have the inside presence and semblance of self on the defensive end that Stallings, frankly, is mad as hell over.

He was just as perturbed by the Ezeli issue, because the team can’t do anything about that right now. It’s playing without its big man, and it’s got to do more than tread water without him.

“[Festus] ain’t going to be here Monday, he’s not going to play next Friday or the following Monday or the following Friday,” Stallings said. “If they’re sitting around waiting for Festus, we’ve got problems.”

The Festus talk didn’t stop there. His name got dropped about 30 times in a five-minute span.

“We’re foolish if we sit around and wait for him to show,” Stallings said. “We don’t have Festus. We’re not going to bitch and complain, and we don’t have this, we don’t have that. We have what we have. And we have to play better defensively. We’re a pretty good offensive team, but we suck on defense.

“So, until we get better defense, it doesn’t matter who we put other there. But we better get help before that, or we’re going to have a bunch of numbers in that right hand column (the loss column, obviously) we’re not very excited about. We’ve got a long way to go before we’re going to be a good team.”

N.C. State got C.J. Leslie back for the first game this season — he sat out per an NCAA suspension — and looked great. The Wolfpack moved about the floor and passed over Vandy’s D at will.  

“We had way too many turnovers that led to unguardable baskets,” Stallings said.

It got the point where Stallings joked he was “looking for any reason to give my defense credit.”

Vandy, in a way, got away with this one due to Jenkins’ awesome shooting and some helpful play by Brad Tinsley, who put up 14 points that came in spots when the ‘Dores needed it. It should be added: Steve Tchiengang got 11 boards, which was the second-most critical aspect to Stallings’ team avoiding the consolation game Monday night.

“We didn’t rob the bank, because we got to the foul line 33 times,” Stallings said. “We did some good things, and we’ve got good players, but we, like we do a lot, we just let people get their head up, get in a comfort zone and as soon as somebody becomes confident, it becomes a lot harder to guard them. When Jenkins got going tonight, he became a lot harder for them to defend.”

What I came away believing: Without Ezeli, Vanderbilt’s not elite. This won’t mean much in January if the team’s healthy, but unless all the pieces are on the floor, Vanderbilt may not even be the third-best team in the SEC. Plenty of people think we and others have overrated Vandy, that this team isn't high-caliber and most likely won't ever become a group it's never proven itself to be. Fair critique. Tonight, that shined true, but without Ezeli, the critique remains out to lunch.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:26 pm

Injury bug bites several in the opening week

By Jeff Borzello

The personnel shakeups in college basketball over the past few weeks have been alarming. There have been freshmen declared ineligible, players suspended for rules violations or NCAA issues and now injuries are beginning to hit a few contenders as well. Several players missed games over the weekend due to injury; are they replaceable?

Khris Middleton, Texas A&M

On Friday, Texas A&M announced that leading returning scorer Khris Middleton (right) had a partially torn meniscus in his right knee and would miss 3-4 weeks. Middleton, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 14.4 points and 5.2 rebounds last season, and already had six points in the opener before suffering his injury. In his place, Ray Turner has stepped up his offensive production. Turner isn’t as athletic or the inside-outside option that Middleton is, but he scored 20 points in each of the first two games and also grabbed 14 rebounds.

Jordan Green took Middleton’s place in the lineup, providing a little bit of everything at the guard position. Fortunately for Billy Kennedy, the Aggies have plenty of depth to replace Middleton for the near future. A&M does head to Florida on Dec. 17; Middleton would certainly help the Aggies’ chances in Gainesville.

Mike Marra, Louisville

Louisville continues to get hit with the injury bug. Rakeem Buckles was already out until at least mid-December while freshman Wayne Blackshear will also miss the next couple of weeks. Stephan Van Treese is also still out with an injury. The news got worse on Sunday, as Mike Marra tore his ACL and will sit out the rest of the season. Marra was a good weapon off the bench who could come in and knock down jump shots.

Heading into the season, the Cardinals were overflowing with wings. Now, sophomore Russ Smith and freshman Angel Nunez might need to play more minutes than expected, while Jared Swopshire could see some time at the three. When Blackshear does return, he will have a chance to make an impact immediately off the bench.

Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt

With Festus Ezeli, it’s a matter of suspension and injury. He was suspended for the first six games of the season, but then sprained his MCL and PCL and will miss six-to-eight weeks. Vanderbilt clearly misses its best inside player, as the Commodores looked stagnant offensively and lost to Cleveland State on Sunday, 71-58. The 6-foot-11 Ezeli averaged 12.8 points and 6.2 boards last season, and the Commodores are having a tough time replacing him.

Steve Tchiengang took Ezeli’s place in the lineup, and he has totaled nine points and 12 rebounds in two games. He’s a physical presence on the glass, but he lacks offensive ability. Jeffery Taylor is more of a perimeter threat, while Lance Goulbourne is not one to do much with his back to the basket. The only other frontcourt option is Rod Odom, another face-up player. Vandy needs to bide its time until Ezeli returns, relying on the perimeter group more than ever.

Short-term absences

Erick Green, Virginia Tech: With freshman Marquis Rankin already out, Green was expected to take on more of a point guard role. However, he missed the opener against East Tennessee State with an Achilles injury. He is a game-time decision for Monday night’s game against Monmouth. Without Rankin and Green, the Hokies struggled to control the ball, racking up more turnovers than assists. Sophomore Tyrone Garland better be ready. Tech is also without forward J.T. Thompson, who will miss the entire season with an ACL tear in his right knee.

Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State: Who really knows with Sidney at this point? He missed Saturday’s game with a groin injury, but head coach Rick Stansbury also said he was “sick” at one point. Arnett Moultrie stepped up in his absence, going for 28 points and 13 rebounds. Center Wendell Lewis saw an increase in minutes, but he is more of a factor on the boards and on the defensive end. Sidney should be back soon, but his attitude and conditioning is more of a concern than his injury.

Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia: The Cavaliers kicked off their campaign with a 37-point victory over South Carolina State on Sunday. Zeglinski, who played nearly 26 minute per game last season, missed the game with a sprained ankle. In his place, Jontel Evans handled the position effectively. The two split time last season, and Evans puts on more pressure at both ends. Zeglinski can play off the ball as well, and his injury isn’t expected to keep him out.

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:44 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 5:20 pm

Festus Ezeli sprains MCL, PCL; out 6-8 weeks

By Matt Norlander

Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli has sprained the medial collateral ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Vanderbilt announced Friday afternoon.

The injury coincidentally comes at the best time possible, as Ezeli is ineligible to play in the team's first six games of the season, due to accepting hotel-room and food benefits over the summer. No surgery is required for either tendon injury.

"Ezeli’s NCAA-mandated penalty administered by the NCAA earlier this month will not be affected by the injury," the school said. "If he returns after the Monmouth game on November 25, he will be eligible to play immediately."

Ezeli, who was voted to the SEC's Preseason Second Team, averaged 13 points per game last year and is a senior.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 6:47 pm

Vandy's Ezeli suspended for six games

By Matt Norlander

Festus Ezeli, the big man partly responsible for Vanderbilit being No. 7 in CBSSports.com's Top 25 (and one) preseason poll, has been suspended six games.

The sitting is related to improper benefits, specifically, that Ezeli had a hotel meal and room paid for by an Vanderblit alumnus. Such activity is in violation of NCAA rules, and so Monday afternoon, the school announced it was sitting Ezeli for six games.  Vanderbilt discovered the incident after an internal investigation from the school's compliance office finished in early August.

The school says it immediately reported the violation to the SEC. The NCAA has complied with Vanderbilt's punishment, and no further action from the NCAA will occur. Ezeli will return to the team on Nov. 28, when Vandy plays against Xavier (ranked No. 13 by CBSSports.com).

"The improper benefits stemmed from a chance encounter earlier this summer with an out-of-town alumnus while on a weekend trip to visit friends," the school said in a statement. "The NCAA prohibits any benefit extended to a student-athlete that is not readily extended to all students by boosters of the school's athletic program, which includes by definition its alumni."

"I am very sorry and would never want to jeopardize my college career over such a petty thing as a meal or a hotel room," Ezeli said in that statement. "I would have been able to afford those things myself. I have always tried to do the right thing; I should have known better and am embarrassed that my mistake could affect my team."

Vandy's vice chancellor, David Williams, as well as head coach Kevin Stallings were vocally in support of Ezeli's character in the wake of the mildly embarassing infraction. (Of all things to get comped or bought, a hotel room isn't exactly at the top of any player's wish list.)

"All of us are disappointed, especially Festus," Stallings said. "He is always striving to do the right thing and cares a lot about the university, our program and certainly his teammates. He is allowed to practice and play in our exhibition game and we look forward to his return Nov. 28. Neither Festus nor I will be making any further comments on this matter and will direct all questions to Vice Chancellor David Williams."

Ezeli, a senior, averaged 13 points per game last year.


Posted on: September 16, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 5:14 pm

Goodman's Wooden Preseason Top 50

By Jeff Goodman

The deadline for submitting the list of 50 players for the John Wooden Preseason watch list was this afternoon.

My guess is that my colleague, Gary Parrish, missed it. I did not. 

Anyway, here's my list of 50.

Remember, transfers and freshman are not eligible, so that means that guys like frosh Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers - as well as transfer Arnett Moultrie - couldn't be included.

My Wooden Preseason Top 50

Tim Abromaitis, 6-8, PF, Sr., Notre Dame
Harrison Barnes, 6-8, SF, Soph., North Carolina
Will Barton, 6-6, SG, Soph., Memphis
Dee Bost, 6-2, PG, Sr., Mississippi State
William Buford, 6-5, SG, Sr., Ohio State
Kyle Casey, 6-7, SF, Jr., Harvard
Jason Clark, 6-2, G, Sr., Georgetown
Aaron Craft, 6-2, PG, Soph., Ohio State
Matthew Dellavedova, 6-4, G, Jr., Saint Mary's
Festus Ezeli, 6-11, C, Sr., Vanderbilt
Ashton Gibbs, 6-2, G, Sr., Pittsburgh
Mike Glover, 6-7, F, Sr., Iona
Drew Gordon, 6-9, PF, Sr., New Mexico
Draymond Green, 6-6, PF, Sr., Michigan State
JaMychal Green, 6-8, PF, Sr., Alabama
Jorge Gutierrez, 6-3, G, Sr., California
Tim Hardaway 6-5, SG, Jr., Soph., Michigan
Elias Harris, 6-7, F, Jr., Gonzaga
John Henson, 6-11, PF, Jr., North Carolina
Tu Holloway, 6-0, PG, Sr., Xavier
Robbie Hummel, 6-8, F, Sr., Purdue
Joe Jackson, 6-0, PG, Soph., Memphis
Scoop Jardine, 6-2, PG, Sr., Syracuse
John Jenkins, 6-4, SG, Jr., Vanderbilt
Orlando Johnson, 6-5, SG, Sr., UC Santa Barbara
Kevin Jones, 6-8, F, Sr., West Virginia
Perry Jones, 6-11, F, Soph., Baylor
Terrence Jones, 6-9, PF, Soph., Kentucky
Ryan Kelly, 6-10, F, Jr., Duke
Jeremy Lamb, 6-5, SG, Soph., UConn
Kendall Marshall, 6-4, PG, Soph., North Carolina
Trevor Mbakwe, 6-8, PF, Sr., Minnesota
Ray McCallum, 6-3, PG, Soph., Detroit
Rodney McGruder, 6-4, SG, Jr., Kansas State
Doug McDermott, 6-7, F, Soph., Creighton
Shabazz Napier, 6-1, PG, Soph., UConn
Reeves Nelson, 6-7, PF, Jr., UCLA
Andrew Nicholson, 6-10, PF, Sr., St. Bonaventure
Alex Oriakhi, 6-9, C, Jr., UConn
Thomas Robinson, 6-9, PF, Jr., Kansas
Terrence Ross, 6-6, SG, Soph., Washington
John Shurna, 6-9, F, Sr., Northwestern
Peyton Siva, 5-11, PG, Jr., Louisville
Josh Smith, 6-9, C, Soph., UCLA
Jared Sullinger, 6-9, PF/C, Soph., Ohio State
Jeffery Taylor, 6-7, SF, Sr., Vanderbilt
Jordan Taylor, 6-1, PG, Sr., Wisconsin
Maalik Wayns, 6-2, PG, Soph., Villanova
Patric Young, 6-9, C, Soph., Florida
Tyler Zeller, 7-0, C, Sr., North Carolina
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