Tag:Jeff Borzello
Posted on: November 3, 2011 5:04 pm
 

No. 2-ranked Mitch McGary announces for Michigan

By Jeff Borzello

Michigan couldn’t get a top-five prospect, right?

That was the popular line of thought for many throughout Mitch McGary’s recruitment. The last five-star recruit the Wolverines received a commitment from was Daniel Horton back in 2002, and John Beilein has never been known to pick up top-50 guys on a consistent basis.

With Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Florida and others in the mix, the Gary, Indiana native still always kept Michigan at or near the top of his list. On Thursday, McGary made it official – he’s going to be a Wolverine.

This is a monster commitment for Beilein and Michigan. He’s the No. 2-ranked prospect in the country, shooting up the charts with a dominant spring and summer for the SYF Players. Beilein runs an offense that allows for the big man to play multiple positions and do different things on the court, which is perfect for McGary.

McGary will fit in with Michigan and could take them to the next level in the Big Ten. He’s a high-energy big man whose attitude and personality are infectious to his teammates. He can score around the basket and also knock down face-up jumpers out to the arc. McGary runs the floor very well, and his shot-blocking ability and athleticism have improved greatly. Moreover, he is strong and makes an impact on the glass.

There are only two seniors on the Wolverines’ roster right now, Stu Douglass and Zack Novak. Tim Hardaway Jr. is poised to become a star on the perimeter, while Jordan Morgan is developing into a consistent option down low. With freshman Trey Burke set to be the point guard and Beilein’s usual assortment of shooters, Michigan is a Sweet 16 threat this season. With McGary and two other top-100 recruits – Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas – coming into the fold next year, do the Wolverines have Final Four potential?

That’s how big this commitment is for Michigan; it immediately makes them a major factor in 2012-13, and also potentially opens the door for more high-level recruits to make their way to Ann Arbor.

There’s no longer questioning whether Michigan can get a top-five recruit. The Wolverines just did.

Photo: Nation of Blue

Posted on: November 1, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:05 pm
 

Poole's dad doesn't deny departure speculation

By Jeff Borzello

With only days until the season tips off, Kentucky’s roster still seems to be in a state of fluctuation.

Reports swirled Tuesday night that one player would be leaving the Wildcats on Wednesday, and sources indicate the likely candidate is sophomore forward Stacey Poole.

When reached on Tuesday night, Poole’s father did not deny the reports.

“I can’t confirm the rumor at this time,” Poole Sr. told CBSSports.com.

Poole Jr. and his former AAU coaches did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

Poole is a 6-foot-4 swingman from Florida who played a total of 45 minutes last season. With the addition of four star freshmen, his playing time was not likely to increase. Moreover, reports out of the Wildcats’ early practices and workouts indicated that Poole has struggled and has often been frustrated. 

Posted on: October 28, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: October 28, 2011 7:42 pm
 

New recruiting model garners favorable reaction



By Jeff Borzello

Recruiting needed to change. Everyone knew it – including the NCAA.

On Thursday, the NCAA Board of Directors adopted a new recruiting model for men’s basketball, changing or adjusting six major rules. More importantly, the rules will go into effect within the next several months, meaning we won’t have to wait two or three years for the changes – like most of the NCAA’s changes.

The two biggest changes, according to most people, are the deregulation of contact between coaches and recruits, and the fact official visits can now begin January 1 of a prospect’s junior year. Other major adjustments included opening up April for two weekends to coaches, while trimming July into three four-day periods. On-campus evaluations during official visits and contact at a recruit’s high school during their junior year are also permitted under the new model.

The changes will affect everyone, from college coaches to AAU coaches to high school coaches, as well as high school players and their parents. All of the changes seem geared towards speeding up the recruiting process and making it more involved at an earlier age. With the number of recruits making early decisions nowadays, it makes sense – too many kids were committing without going on official visits or getting enough evaluation time from coaches.

While the feedback has been generally favorable from all the parties involved – although many said nothing touched on agents and runners – not everyone is happy with each of the rule changes. To get a true feel of what each party thought, we reached out to 10 people – college coaches, AAU coaches, high school recruits and parents – to see what they think. Here are the interviewees:

  • Jamie Dixon, head coach, Pittsburgh
  • Josh Pastner, head coach, Memphis
  • Paul Hewitt, head coach, George Mason
  • Chris Walker, No. 5 prospect in 2013
  • Brannen Greene, No. 16 prospect in 2013
  • Dinos Trigonis, AAU coach, Belmont Shore
  • Matt Ramker, AAU director, Florida Rams
  • Marland Lowe, AAU coach, Texas PRO
  • Arisa Johnson, mother of Jaylon Tate, No. 73 prospect in 2013
  • Kelana Rivera, mother of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, No. 38 prospect in 2012 and Georgetown commit

We went rule-by-rule with each person to get a brief response or thought on the rule.

Contact is mostly deregulated starting June 15 after a recruit’s sophomore year. Coaches will be allowed to send unlimited text messages, make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited private messages via social media websites.

Dixon: “We already had unlimited email, so it won’t be that much different. The monitoring of it was the basis for it. The lost time allotted for it was becoming endless. We were having violations where a kid texted you, but you thought it was an email, and you responded with a text.”

Pastner: “95 percent of kids would rather text than talk on the phone. You find out earlier who’s interested in you. I’d rather the kid tell us he’s not interested. It puts some responsibility on the kid. There needs to be honest communication.”

Hewitt: “I think anything you can do to put college personnel in the lives of these kids helps. Not that everyone needs that type of guidance, to explain to them what eligibility means, classes, official visits, rules. Those types of things, if we can have college personnel in the recruiting process, it definitely take some of the mystery out of it.”

Walker: “I think it’s going to be good, plus crazy. I’m going to get blown up everyday – all day now. I don’t care though, I ignore people half the time but it will be alright.”

Greene: “I’m really going to see who wants me, but it might get a little overwhelming.”

Trigonis: “I think it’s a dumb thing. Instead of unlimited contact, should give parents power to decide contact. Form where parent sets up parameters for contact. It’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t mind the more contact, I think they needed to give more. But how can you go from no contact to unlimited contact?”

Lowe: “I think that all the kids and parents better make sure they have an unlimited texting plan. It’s good for the coaches to be able to communicate with the kids, establish an initial relationship. You have to be careful, though, kids have to put their phone down sometimes.”

Johnson: “It’s a bit excessive because it can be overwhelming when you have multiple coaches calling. It’s going to get out of control; it’s going to be too much for the kids to keep up with. It’s going to get to a point where a lot of these coaches are going to be ignored. They’re starting to feel a little annoyed. The attention at the beginning, they welcome it. But after awhile, it gets irritating. The relationship will start to break down.”

Rivera: “I think there has to be some sort of cut-off times or maximum number of calls with the player. Maybe unlimited contact with parents. They would likely tire of the recruiting process quickly, if they are constantly fielding calls. They may become more distracted and consumed with that as opposed to school, practices, family, church, etc.”

Two weekends in April will be opened up to college coaches.

Dixon: “I was a huge proponent of that. Certain coaches prefer to not have April, because they get to see kids during the year that no one else sees.”

Pastner: “I think it’s good, it’s all positives. You can see more prospects at once. Evaluate.”

Hewitt: “I think it’s a very smart move. You look at a guy taking over a job. I think it helps a coach to go out there. It will help on cutting down on transfers. You watch a kid throughout his high school, highest level of competition with their travel team. Now you may have him go against another 3-4-5 division-I players. It’s a more accurate evaluation, and that hopefully leads to fewer transfers, which will help APR.”

Walker: “It’s good because the people without offers and much exposure could get more exposure and offers and opportunities, so that’s a good look.”

Greene: “I really like that addition. I think it’s positive because kids get two extra chances to impress the college coaches.”

Ramker: “I personally like having just July. It was more of the true essence of summer basketball. April will be better for coaches, evaluations heading into July. I don’t think it’s a bad change.”

Lowe: “There won’t be as many transfers as there have been in the past. I think it’s a great opportunity for the schools overall. It’s too easy to make errors when you can watch them in July only.”

Johnson: “When they all have to wait until July, and they all come out at one time, it can be overwhelming. At those tournaments, to see all those coaches lined up against the wall like that, it can be intimidating and uncomfortable. It takes away their concentration and focus. They’re trying to figure out which coaches are there, and who’s there to see me. The kids will be a little more focused and less distracted.”

Rivera: “That way, the players aren’t feeling the need to be in every single event in July. Trying to fit everything into a couple of weeks in July adds stress to families and on the players’ bodies. Not to mention, it would likely be better for coaches and their families as well.”

July will be trimmed to three four-day periods, as opposed to two 10-day periods

Dixon: “I think it’s far better. If people saw how few evaluations we had other than July, people are often times surprised. They’re few and far between, and not to the level of July. A high school game, you’re not always going to see someone playing against someone at his level, and that’s your evaluation. Offers are being made in April, and as head coaches you’re seeing them even more rarely.”

Hewitt: “I think it’s a very positive step for the kids that are playing. When they start playing 10 days in a row, it leads to injuries. Overuse, stress-related injuries.”

Walker: “It causes us to get more rest because last summer I was tired as hell from all the back-to-back tourneys.”

Greene: “I think it’s beneficial to the college coaches and their health and well-being. For us players, I think it’s an OK rule. But I personally like the two-period July better. I just liked continuously playing in front of college coaches.”

Trigonis: “You’re going from 20 to 12 days. How does that help the smaller schools? That’s a big advantage for the bigger schools. Why not just make it four straight days? Ultimately what they’ve done, they’ve killed the smaller, regional events. Why does it have to be, I give so I have to take? It’s childish. It really is.”

Ramker: “A lot of the tournaments we do to keep kids busy. This will give us three tournaments, won’t have to play just for the sake of playing. Teams will be sharper, kids won’t be as tired.”

Johnson: “When you just have those couple of opportunities, it adds more pressure. It creates more pressure. You think, ‘this is my chance, this is my shot.’ You really lose the concept of team ball. It’s not about team anymore; it’s about the individual player, because you’re looking at limited opportunities.”

Official visits can begin January 1 of a recruit’s junior year, with travel expenses for the recruit and his family being paid for by the school

Dixon: “The influence of third-party people was magnified by unofficial visits. From the end of the high school season to visits were a six-month period where it was all the paying for scouting services, paying for exhibition games, paying for campers – all based around trying to get kids to their campus. Now you can bring both parents. We were empowering the middleman. I had hoped the official visits would start in April. We wouldn’t want one of our players to visit NBA teams during our season.”

Pastner: “A lot of that has something to do with strategy. When do you bring him in? Is it too early? You don’t want to bring him in too early, if he’s not ready to commit. And if he does, that’s a long time to keep him committed. Kids change their minds a lot these days.”

Hewitt: “That will benefit the highest-profile programs. I think what will happen is that the highest-level programs will be more able to get a kid to commit early. As for the parents, that’s the best thing they ever could have done. Bringing them into the process, that’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Greene: “I absolutely love that part of the new rule. I was planning on deciding in mid-December, but now I’m going to push it back a month so I can take a few official visits.”

Ramker: “It’s very necessary for parents to go on the visits with their kids. Low socioeconomic backgrounds, parents need to be involved in the decision. Need to sit with the coaches, help their kids make their decisions. That’s the best of all of them. It will cut down on a lot of shadiness. Kids can make decisions earlier; if they know where they want to go, they can get that out of the way.”

Johnson: “I have mixed feelings about that. Kids are being recruited earlier and earlier, and the kids are feeling the pressure that they need to commit early. We’ve had coaches ask us, ‘are you ready to commit today?’ – on an unofficial visit. And we feel it’s still a little early. Kids are committing sooner because they’re afraid another kid is going to commit sooner. It’s part of the whole recruiting process – and we’re kind of getting away from that. Years ago, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t all this big rush and pressure to commit so early in your high school years and career. You lose out on something, the process where I feel you should be able to be recruited, you should be able to get a chance and visit schools and develop relationships, and get a good sense of what the schools have to offer. You could compare different schools and campuses. You could compare and get a feel, hopefully find a school that’s a good fit. You’re not going off the name or reputation of the coach, that’s all a part of the process. If you have this pressure, you’ll miss out. That will help if you can move it up and do it sooner.”

Rivera: “We had a very short time to get officials in this year before practice and everything started. Had we been given the option, we would have definitely gotten a couple in last winter or spring.”

On-campus evaluations during official visits will be permitted

Dixon: “It takes out another rule that was very hard to monitor. It’s almost ridiculous. My office overlooks the floor, so we had three different types of shades put in. There was a push to have actual tryouts, and I was really against it. I thought that would be bad press.”

Hewitt: “I think it’s good to watch them, and it’s not exactly a tryout. Watching a kid workout against your team, it will help reduce misses and fewer transfers.”

Greene: “Sure, why not? I would love for a college coach to be able to see the hard work I put in.”

Ramker: “I didn’t really see a reason why they couldn’t do that in the first place. They all play pick-up anyway, the coaches just couldn’t watch. The coaches could do everything else with them; I don’t know why they couldn’t watch them play pick-up. The changes cut out a lot of the shadiness.”

Lowe: I think it’s fine if the kid wants to do it. You’ll have kids that want to see how they fit in; other kids don’t want to expose themselves. I think it’s good if they want to do it, but not mandatory.”

Johnson: “I think that helps with being able to assess and evaluate. When coaches come out and see you practice or with the AAU teams, that can pique or develop your interest even more. But to be able to watch them and have them come on campus and play with the team – that adds another perspective on how to evaluate the player. And it gives the player a better feel for it as well. I see benefits and advantages on both ends. You can see where you need to be, ultimately, when you leave high school. This is what you’re preparing for.”

Rivera: “That may help the player with making his decision, by having a good feel for the players they could possible be playing with.”

Some contact at a recruit’s high school will be permitted beginning during a prospect’s junior year

Dixon: “It’s a sign of things, of where they are now. Kids are committing during their junior years often times, and so now you’re going to be starting with contact their junior year. The monitoring of it was a gray area. What one school considered a casual greeting, another considered a 20-minute sit-down.”

Pastner: “It will eliminate some of the gray area.”

Hewitt: “I think that’s very intelligent. That’s a very smart rule. If that rule is in effect, Bruce Pearl is still at Tennessee. What it does is help demystify the recruiting process and what you have to do to get to college. It opens it up for the family to ask questions. The more you can have that conversation, the more you put at the front of a kid’s mind. In the past, you’ve seen a kid gets bad advisement from someone, he comes back and he got the wrong information or took the wrong class.”

Ramker: “I thought that was an awful rule, that college coaches could go to a kid’s high school and pretend like they don’t even know them. It will help build a rapport, coaches get a feel for the players, players get a feel for the coaches and parents get a feel. It will cut down on transfers, lead to better evaluations by the players and the coaches. That’s been needed. I think that’s a great change. Coaches need to talk to the kids; kids need to figure out what they want to do.”

Lowe: “It forms a relationship early on. It helps starting to develop a relationship early, as long as it’s not too much contact.”

Johnson: “I think when you want to start trying to get a good vibe from who this person is, who they are as a coach, as a man. You need to do that through interaction, you need to do that through communication. The sooner you can start that, the better. That way, you are able to start building that relationship. It can only enhance how both parties feel about one another, and it’s not limited to I can call you or I can text you, or tweet you. I can see you and talk to you, face-to-face. I like that. I think that works. I don’t see anything negative unless there are several coaches there and they’re all waiting to talk to specific players. I can see that getting out of control, a little uncomfortable, maybe a little intimidating. If there are seven coaches there and they’re all waiting to talk to this one player, I can see that being a turnoff. They really don’t want to talk to all these people right after playing.”

Rivera: “I don’t see anything wrong with that either. As long as there are limitations, which I’m sure there would be. Maybe how many times they can visit, which is already in place I believe. And how long or private the contact is. For instance, if a coach talked with a recruit 10-15 minutes after a big game in the gym, seems OK to me.”

Photo: Blue Devil Nation, US Presswire, Recruiting Spotlight

Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: October 27, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Maryland loses Pe'Shon Howard for 2-3 months

By Jeff Borzello and Jeff Goodman

It was already going to be a long season for new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.

He inherited a mediocre team at best following Gary Williams' offseason retirement. The Terps are painfully thin up front after Jordan Williams' decision to leave early for the NBA. The strength was in the backcourt - but now that's taken a hit as well with the news that sophomore point guard Pe'Shon Howard will miss about 2-3 months with a broken foot.

"I did it one day in practice," Howard told Borzello by phone. "I thought it was a cut, it didn't really hurt that bad."

He said the doctors think it's a broken bone in his left foot, right under his big toe. Because he will miss up to three months, redshirting is a potential option for Howard.

"We're not sure," he said. "We'll see an MRI and decide. I'm taking it a day at time. I'll talk to the coaches and see what they think."

Howard averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 assists last season, and was expected to be one of the top guards on the team. During the summer, he worked to become more of a coach on the floor -- getting players in the right position, cutting down on his turnovers.

Turgeon still has senior Sean Mosley and sophomore Terrell Stoglin - as well as talented freshman Nick Faust - on the perimeter. But Howard was set to be a key component if the Terps were to make any sort of postseason appearances.

"If healthy, we have a great team," Howard said. "But that's with everyone perfect."

Turgeon is also awaiting word from the NCAA on 7-foot Ukrainian Alex Len. Howard said he has not heard any new information about Len.

While Howard is disappointed, he will spend his time on the mend focusing on the system and X's and O's so he will be ready to roll when he finally gets healthy.

"I was really excited, but it's not like it's life or death. It's still basketball," Howard said. "I'll just keep learning and getting better."
Posted on: October 26, 2011 12:50 pm
 

Pastner: Memphis will never play Arkansas



By
Jeff Borzello

Due to its location, Memphis is in prime position to have plenty of local rivalries. It’s in Tennessee, is close to Mississippi and Arkansas, and has access to most of the SEC.

However, head coach Josh Pastner wants no part of having a series with any of the aforementioned teams.

“As long as I’m the head coach at Memphis, I will not play Arkansas,” Pastner said this morning on Hog Sports Radio. “I don’t want to play Tennessee, but we do it. I don’t want to play Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida.”

People who have dealt with Pastner in the past know that he does not mean anything personal by saying that. The common thread that all of those teams have is that they recruit in Memphis – and Pastner does not want recruiting rivals getting free access to the city.

“I don’t want to have to play a team who wants to come in and try to recruit Memphis,” he said. “As a coach, my whole thing is, you don’t want to give anyone an advantage.”

Memphis plays Tennessee on an annual basis, but the Tigers have not faced Arkansas since 2003. They have not played Mississippi in the regular season since 2007, or Mississippi State since 1985. Memphis has only faced Florida once, in 1977 on a neutral court.

Pastner has a solution if these schools want home-and-home series with Memphis – vote the Tigers into the SEC.

“That will solve everything,” he said. “You don’t have to ask me; we would play twice. If you’re coming in here, if you want to play Memphis, go to your presidents and vote Memphis in the SEC. That’s the easiest way to do it.

“If you’re asking me for a non-conference game, it’s not going to happen.”

While Pastner did not mean the comments to be taken personally, Memphis might have some new unspoken rivalries on its hands.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 2:44 pm
 

Top-10 DaJuan Coleman picks hometown 'Cuse

By Jeff Borzello

The first time a big man named Coleman came out of Syracuse, he was an All-American in college and an NBA All-Star.

Now, head coach Jim Boeheim will get the closest thing to Derrick Coleman, as five-star center DaJuan Coleman committed to the Orange on Tuesday afternoon during a press conference at his high school.

"The school I'll be attending this coming fall will be . . . ," Coleman said, before donning a Syracuse hat. He said that he has known he wanted to pick the Orange for the last month, but took visits to Ohio State and Kentucky just to make sure.

"I wanted to make the right decision," he said. 

While DaJuan Coleman has no blood relation to Derrick Coleman, they have similar build and both are legends in Upstate New York. The elder Coleman did his damage at the college level, but the high school version has dominated at Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) for years.

Make no mistake; this was a recruit Syracuse could not afford to lose.

Coleman was right in the Orange’s backyard, and had been on the Syracuse campus a number of times. His high school teammate, Brandon Triche, is currently a starting guard for Boeheim, and the Orange have been the favorite since the beginning for Coleman’s services.

"It's close to home," Coleman said. "Hanging out with the players, they made me feel like I was home."

Moreover, whenever Kentucky’s involved, the smart money seems to always be on John Calipari and the Wildcats. In head-to-head battles over the past few years, Calipari has rarely lost, racking up the top recruiting class in the country more often than not. For Syracuse to defend its home territory and beat Kentucky – and Ohio State – for a five-star recruit, it’s a big win for the Orange.

As for Coleman, he should make an immediate impact for the Orange. With Fab Melo potentially leaving after this coming year, and Baye Moussa Keita and Rakeem Christmas very raw offensively, Coleman will add a dimension Syracuse will be lacking.

The No. 9-ranked recruit in CBSSports.com’s class of 2012, Coleman is a 6-foot-9 center who is one of the more dominant low-post prospects in the country. He carves out space down low with his mammoth, 280-lb. body. Once he gets position, his good hands and assortment of moves make him difficult to stop with his back to the basket. He rebounds extremely well in his area, and controls the lane defensively. Coleman has improved his passing and face-up game, but he still needs to get in better shape on a consistent basis.

"A double-double guy every game," Coleman said.  

With his talent level and potential, Syracuse could have its next All-America big man – and his last name just happens to be Coleman.

Photo: Syracuse Post-Standard

Posted on: October 21, 2011 11:35 am
 

Notebook: Big East Media Day news and notes



By Jeff Borzello

NEW YORK – Conference media days are a dream for writers that want a lot of information and people in one place. Simply put, they provide a treasure trove of nuggets on each team in the league. There were too many leftovers in the notebook to leave out and not share with everyone. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits gathered on Wednesday at Big East Media Day.

- Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis was recently suspended for four games after the NCAA ruled on a violation he committed three years ago. “We tried to fight it, but a rule is a rule,” Abromaitis said. “I accepted it.”

- Who will replace Ben Hansbrough at the point guard spot? Sophomore Eric Atkins (above), who led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio last season. “He was our sixth man last year, but he’s ready to elevate his game,” Abromaitis said.

- Sophomore Jerian Grant received rave reviews for his work over the summer and in the early part of the fall. “He’s playing really well,” Abromaitis said. “He’s learning things as a player, moving without the ball, guarding his man. That’s what we’ll need him to do.”

- DePaul received three pieces of bad news in the past week. Junior forward Tony Freeland will miss the season with a shoulder injury, while freshman Montray Clemons is done for the year after rupturing a tendon in his knee. Moreover, the NCAA ruled freshman Macari Brooks ineligible. “We thought we were pretty deep,” head coach Oliver Purnell said. “We can’t afford any more injuries.”

- Purnell thinks Cleveland Melvin (right) is somewhat underrated on a national level, after averaging 14.3 points and winning Big East Rookie of the Year honors. “Probably so,” Purnell said. “He had a good freshman year and a really good summer.”

- Rutgers brought in a highly-touted freshman class – and the incoming guards are impressing early on. “Our guards have a little more experience than our big men,” forward Dane Miller said, pointing to Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears. Coach Mike Rice, however, thinks Eli Carter could make more of an impact than both of them. “He might lead my freshman in points per game.”

- Rice is impressed with Kansas State transfer Wally Judge. “He’s a physical specimen. He just has to develop that consistency.”

- Forward Kadeem Jack will likely be out until mid-January with a foot injury. Jack was looking like he would have a major impact in the frontcourt. “He’s somebody where the light was already on,” Rice said.

- Marquette forward Jae Crowder is pegging sophomore Vander Blue (right) as a true breakout performer. “He had a great summer, played in the Pro/Am, played for USA basketball,” Crowder said. “His confidence is up; last year, he lost confidence. A lot of pressure is on him.”

- Out of the freshmen, California native Juan Anderson has stood out the most to Crowder. “He’s athletic, he goes hard, has a great motor,” Crowder said. “Buzz [Williams] loves it, I love it.”

- Despite the loss of three starters from last season, West Virginia forward Kevin Jones thinks highly of this year’s team. “This is the most talented team I’ve been on,” he said – and that includes the Elite Eight group that had Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks.

- Freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds was cleared to play late in the process, but he’s already been impressive. “He had to catch up,” Jones said. “But he’s looking real good, doing the right things.”

- With Czech Republican native Patrik Auda and Latvian guard Haralds Karlis in the fold, Seton Hall has taken a foreign turn recently. “It’s fun,” guard Jordan Theodore said. “I’m trying new foods, trying to teach them slang.”

- Fun fact: Auda knows five languages – Dutch, Spanish, Czech, English and Russian.

- Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson said the Hoyas still laugh about the infamous brawl in China over the summer. “It was a great bonding experience,” Thompson said.

- Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, Dwyane Wade and other NBA players came back to Georgetown to work out during the lockout. Thompson said the one who benefitted the most was Henry Sims, who played against Hibbert on a regular basis.

Photo: US Presswire (Eric Atkins, Cleveland Melvin, Vander Blue)

Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Pitt looks to take the next step this season



By Jeff Borzello

NEW YORK – In terms of winning percentage in the last decade, only Kansas and Duke can compare to Pittsburgh.

What separates the Panthers from the upper echelon of basketball powers, though, is the lack of Final Four appearances and national championships. They have reached the Sweet 16 five times in the last 11 seasons, but only advanced past there once. That happened in 2009, when Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds went coast-to-coast to knock off Pittsburgh in the Elite Eight.

“It hangs over our head,” senior guard Ashton Gibbs said. “The fact is, we built a tradition like this. Everyone is looking at us.”

“It’s a motivator,” senior Nick Rivers added. “We haven’t reached our goal yet, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to reach it.”

Season tips Nov. 7

Heading into this season, Jamie Dixon’s troops are on track for another 25-30-win season, ranking No. 10 in the CBSSports.com Preseason Top 25 (and one). They return seven of their top 10 players from last year, when Pittsburgh won 28 games and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Butler in the second round.

Moreover, the Panthers bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, including five-star big man Khem Birch.

“We’re good enough to win a national title,” Gibbs said.

It all starts with Gibbs in the backcourt. The preseason Big East Player of the Year decided to return to Pitt for his senior season, and is ready to shoulder a bigger load with Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee all moving on from last season’s group.

Gibbs is one of the top 3-point shooters in the country, knocking down nearly 47 percent of his long-range shots en route to a 16.7 ppg clip.

“He’s gotten better each year,” Dixon said. “It’s more of the same.”

Replacing Wanamaker on the perimeter will be a combination of players. Travon Woodall, who was second on the team in assists last season, will help Gibbs at the point guard position, while junior Lamar Patterson and redshirt freshman Cameron Wright are also getting rave reviews for their work so far in practices.

Up front, senior Nasir Robinson returns as a starter – but he will miss three more weeks with a torn meniscus in his knee. Juniors Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor are expected to take a major step forward this season.

With so many players fighting for spots, practices have been filled with energy and hustle.

“There’s a lot of intensity, like I’ve never experienced before,” Rivers said. “It’s wide open. There are a lot of good players. It’s going to depend on who’s consistent, who listens and who works hard.

“We’re a matchup nightmare. You never know who you’re going to have to play against.”

The key for Pittsburgh could be the arrival of Birch. Originally a class of 2012 recruit, Birch decided to reclassify to 2011 last November and play at Pittsburgh this fall. The 6-foot-9 Canadian was one of the best big men in the high school ranks last season, and will look to make an immediate impact.

“He has a great motor, runs the court really well,” Gibbs said, also mentioning fellow freshman Malcolm Gilbert as an impact player. “We just have to see if he lives up to the hype.”

Pittsburgh will be versatile, deep, talented and hungry this season – a difficult combination for most opponents.

Of course, the Panthers will also be as physical and tough as ever.

“We’re going to play Pitt basketball,” Robinson said.

This season, they hope that includes a Final Four berth.

Photo: US Presswire

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com