Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: August 16, 2011 3:10 pm

Trippin': Oakland moves on without NBAer Benson

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories

By Matt Norlander

Very few mid- and low-major programs have to go through what Oakland and head coach Greg Kampe will in 2011-12, the loss of an NBA-level player that was utterly dominant in his league during his junior and senior seasons. It’s a blessing every coach wants to be cursed with. I spoke with Kampe on the phone Tuesday, and he told me he’s never had to replace a player like Keith Benson (drafted 48th to the Atlanta Hawks) before.

It’s a challenge he accepts, and he acknowledged that this team will have a different identity, a different personality, than it did when Benson was with the team. And that speaks to Benson’s play, purely, because when asked if Benson was a man of few words, Kampe responded, “Fewer than that.”  The team was 50-3 in their last 53 league games while playing with Benson.

Oakland played in two locations last week — Windsor and London, Ontario. The team went 2-1 overall against Western Ontario and Windsor, which they split a two-game series with.

What Kampe learned: “I think the key was the 10 days of practice. We have three to four freshmen that are going to have to play a major part of our season. What we were able to do is get those freshmen game minutes in the summer. They weren’t very productive minutes, but I know we gave people the chance to go out and show us something. The freshmen have a ways to go for them to be good, but we’re going to need them to be good for us to be good.”

What or who impressed him: Freshman forward Dante Williams, a 6-6, 170-pound guy “who played well in all three games.” Kampe said Williams established himself as a player who can and should play a lot of minutes. Kampe also said Corey Petros, a  6-10, 243-pound 4 guy, made a noticeable impact. Petros is also a freshman. Those two stood out above the other young guys.

What concerned him: “We’ve been a dominant inside team, and now we have to get our veteran players to trust our freshmen in there.” Initially the concern was about rebounding, but the Grizzlies were dominant on the boards — despite the lower level of play.

— Despite Benson’s departure, Oakland does have a player-of-the-year candidate in Reggie Hamilton, pictured above with Kampe. Hamilton actually had a better offensive rating and a factored into Oakland’s offense more frequently than Benson last season. He was First Team in the Summit League last season. He scored 29 in the team’s first game against Windsor.  

— On the injury front, the Grizzlies do get a redshirt junior coming back. Guard Blake Cushingberry was a starter two years ago. Then, seven days prior to the start of last season he blew out his ACL. Cushingberry practiced all 10 days in August but did not play in the games due to some disciplinary issues, Kampe said.

— Other losses from last season’s team include all-league player Will Hudson, who recently signed with Gold Coast Blaze, an Australian pro team, and Larry Wright, the Summit’s Sixth Man of the Year.

— Kampe said despite the youth of the team, depth isn’t an issue. Just the opposite, in fact. “I think our strength is that we have depth. Now, do we have talent? I won’t know that until the start of the season. We’ve got five guys that have been a starter at Oakland or in the Big Ten.” Three of those starters are perimeter guys from last year in Hamilton, who scored 25 in the NCAAs against Texas; Travis Bader, who made 93 3-pointers last season; and Drew Valentine, a junior forward who Kampe said was the most important player on the team and the best defender in the league.

— The team also has Laval Lucas-Perry, a starter at Michigan who transferred two years ago. He’ll be the backup point guard and will see minutes, as well as Joey Asbury, a 6-7, 200-pound forward.

— With a small group of guys, don’t be surprised to see Oakland go with a four-guard look here and there. They play the dribble-drive as is, so it can be advantageous. “We’re not used to being that small, but there’s a very good chance that’s the route we’re going to go,” Kampe said.

— And the last time Kampe talked to Keith? Just before the trip. Because of the NBA lockout, Benson has been diligent in working out and honing his skills on Oakland’s campus.  

CBSSports.com's list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 16, 2011 1:32 pm

Reds sign St. John's freshman for $1 million

By Matt Norlander

Look: it's a college athlete that's going to get paid! Legally, too.

Not only is 6-foot-5 Amir Garrett a top-75 2011 recruit in hoops, he's also a heck of a baseball player. We've covered this before. And it -- the possibility that Garrett could get drafted into The Show -- was first brought into scope by Sports Illustrated in early June.

Soon after that Garrett was plucked by the Cincinnati Reds, and even then he said he'd play two sports going forward. Garrett went in the 22nd round back in June. Since then, it's been a waiting game. Garrett still hasn't registered for classes at St. John's, apparently, and because of that, Johnnies fans began to wonder if he'd choose to take the hardball route sooner rather than later.

But he also hadn't signed a contract yet, either, meaning he hadn't officially made his decision on whether or not he'd pursue baseball in addition to playing under Steve Lavin. The deadline for that decision was Aug. 15. Well, that was Monday, and it was then that Garrett was inked to a five-year, $1 million deal.
Yep. Million-dollar contract and getting to play college basketball all the while. Why's this so? I tracked down John Infante, who is the conduit for so many of us regular media folk's elementary understanding of many an NCAA bylaw. He told me this exception falls under bylaw 12.2.5, which states, "An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she has entered into any kind of agreement to compete in professional athletics, either orally or in writing, regardless of the legal enforceability of that agreement."

Infante said the key part of that bylaw stating "an intercollegiate sport" vs. "any sport."

Because Garrett's very talented in one doesn't preclude him from participating in another, regardless of if he makes money off his skill sets. This is a side of the NCAA that so often gets mocked, when in fact there are ways -- albeit rare ones -- for student-athletes to reap benefits while in school thanks to God-given abilities.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 16, 2011 11:42 am
Edited on: August 16, 2011 11:47 am

Get an early look at Deuce Bello, athletic freak

By Matt Norlander

Baylor's going to be a very fun team to watch this year. There's a crew of kids on this team that are athletic, agile and exciting.

Chief among them is incoming freshman Deuce Bello. This has been a near-consensus for awhile now. In fact, back when Goodman was running his blog at FoxSports.com, and I was happy to help in whatever capacity I could by playing the part of his puny little sidekick, we polled the Class of 2011, as they were preparing for their senior years, and asked them to rank their contemporaries. Bello was far and away considered the best athlete of his class.

He's already on his way to proving his reputation. Take a peek at what Bello did over the weekend, when Baylor played in Toronto against the Ontario Revolution in a scrimmage.

Not bad at all. I'm thinking we'll have a force-you-off-your-couch dunk from Bello on a once-a-week basis this season. After a rough go of it in 2010-11, the Bears will have high expectations and a much better team in 2011-12. The Bears finished out their Canadian road trip with a 3-1 record (not that these records really mean anything), and got in a few tourist-trap activities as well, like going to the top of the CN tower.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 15, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 3:53 pm

Bruce Pearl seems unfazed by damp housing market

By Matt Norlander

Would you like to own the property that's a part of NCAA investigation lore? A residence that helped lead to the firing of the most embraceable coach in the history of Tennessee men's basketball?

If you've got a gross income in the millions and don't mind the sticky Tennessee summers, then there's a bulky abode waiting for your signature. We're talking about the house where Aaron Craft and Josh Selby once improperly enjoyed an afternoon barbecue, only to later have Bruce Pearl deny said barbecue and its guests ever happened. A place that was temporarily unremembered.

That's a special kind of place. The undoing of Tennessee men's hoops all began in that brick-and-stone home you see to the right.

Pearl has put his lush, bold, modern (am I using the right real estate terms here? What really makes a house "move"?) 10,200 square-foot mansion in Knoxville, Tenn., on the market. According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the massive home sits on an acre and has five bedrooms, six and a half baths, eight (!!) fireplaces, three laundry facilities and a saline pool. Saline's much more expensive initially than chlorine, but there's no upkeep to it. It's really the wiser investment in the long run.

Pearl, who still hasn't accepted a job in the NBDL, is asking $2.69 million for it. He bought it three years ago for $2.1 mill. Uh, Bruce. Have you seen what's been happening all around the country?

Pearl said Monday that the property was "clearly my dream home", but that he needs to downsize. "Now that I'm not the basketball coach and may not be doing quite as much entertaining, it's bigger than what we need," he said. ... But when asked how he'll remember the home Pearl focused on better memories, saying he was married in the side yard and hosted a lot of charity events in it.

In fact, he said broker Debbie Elliott-Sexton, of Alliance Sotheby's International Realty, is "helping us with our next purchase." And what is he looking for? "We'd love something on the lake," Pearl said.

A lake is a natural fit for Pearl, as he's shown in the past.

So now I ask, what happens first: Pearl receives his punishment from the NCAA or his house gets a buyer? I'll go with the former.

(H/T, John Clay, whose lead for his own blog post is the best possible one anyone could concoct for this particular story)

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 15, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 3:31 pm

Kansas State now has its own network

By Matt Norlander

Hello, again. I'm back. If you hadn't noticed I'd left, there's no surprise or blame on my end toward you.

I actually took a vacation. Felt weird; hadn't had one in nearly three years. Vacations can be fun because you can unplug yourself from the outside world. And that's what I did. Then I came back to discover the Big 12 is more disorganized than that roommate you had freshman year -- who was the worst.

Texas A&M is now as flirtatious as the hot girlfriend you had for two weeks -- also during freshman year -- and you just know that's going to end up a mess, a bigger one than it already is.

And now we come to find Kansas State has its own network? Believe it, for it is so, albeit only an online network. (Full disclosure: Kansas State's network is affiliated with the CBS College Network.) This is nothing compared to the Longhorn Network, which I'm fairly certain is destined to be looked back at by historians as the reason college athletics changed forever, in addition to why California broke off into the Pacific and the determining factor behind why the nation's economic crisis was stalled in second gear for so long.

But back to K-State. Monday, it announced that K-StateHD.TV will go live to all subscribers come Aug. 30. Yes, that soon. Its first broadcast? A women's volleyball game against Creighton. Whoo! The football team's opener against Eastern Kentucky will be broadcast live on Sept. 3.

What this means, basically, is that any Kansas State sporting event that's not already tabbed by a major television network will be broadcast on the Internet via K-StateHD.TV. There's also going to be exclusive access to game replays, press conferences and other "original programming."

It's a smaller step, but eventually we're going to see most BCS-level schools get to this level. Put everything they can online, rake in the money and spread the brand as far as possible. Kansas State's just one of the first to do so -- and kudos to them for the catalyst mindset amid the complete chaos happening within its conference at the moment. This is something I won't say is critical, but I think it's valuable given the relative turbulence that's bouldering through the Big 12 at the moment.

To watch games live, the network will charge $9.95 per month, or $79.95 for a year. Will Wildcats fans pony up for this? It's likely. College fans have acted more famished while simultaneously having content shoved down their eyes, ears and throats in recent years. It's a phenomenon that doesn't seem likely to curb in the coming decade.

K-State athletic director John Currie said, via a statement: "We want to ensure that K-Staters anywhere in the world can watch the Wildcats, and the fact that all of our new programming will be produced in high definition will also put us in a strategic position as we continue to explore future avenues for distribution."

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 5, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: August 5, 2011 11:58 am

Notre Dame player's career could be over

By Matt Norlander

Eric Katenda, the 6-9 incoming Notre Dame freshman, may never play for the Irish.

Katenda went permanently blind in his right eye after taking a shot during a July pickup game, and since he's not yet approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse because of grades and academic requirements (Notre Dame is a lofty school to get into, after all), his chance to play D-I basketball may already be over.

Katenda is from Paris and is still attempting to finish up requisite courses to enable him to enroll at Notre Dame. The eye injury has set him back in every possible way. He now may go back to Paris to recover, see his family, and attempt to start classes in January.

But the eye injury could very well mean he's no longer able to play basketball at an elite level.
"It was just the perfect storm, he's coming down with a rebound and the guy kind of came up and was going for the ball and got him on an angle where it really caused an injury," Irish coach Mike Brey said.

"The injury, as it was explained to me, the trauma (caused) a build-up of blood and the pressure became so bad behind the eye and that severed the optical nerve. There's no surgery that fixes a severed optical nerve. Modern medicine doesn't have that yet."

Brey said doctors discovered the severed optical nerve when they performed a procedure to allieviate the pressure on the eye. The Irish coach said he learned of the injury July 8, right at the outset of a critical summer recruiting window, and has taken the news perhaps even harder than Katenda.
The good news is that Notre Dame will not take Katenda's scholarship away, even if he won't play. The Irish are certainly hurt, relatively speaking, by this, as the 2011-12 team will be much different from last season's. Notre Dame loses Ben Hansbrough, Ty Nash and Carleton Scott from the group, which overachieved to the point of a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 5, 2011 10:42 am

NCAA getting closer to nixing outdated rules

By Matt Norlander

Most coaches want a spread-out recruiting calendar and more liberation with text message and phone calls to recruits.

It looks like they're going to get their wish.

The Division I Leadership Council met in Indianapolis this week, and there was much time spent on these issues. What you need to know: We have another significant step toward improving the recruiting model and the recruiting calendar. It looks as though a ready-for-shipment proposal will be put together well in time for when conference presidents vote on such overhauls in October.

This was what the Council could agree on, per the NCAA:
  • A start date for official visits beginning after the men’s basketball championship in April of the junior year.
  • Deregulating the type of communication between coaches and prospects (including text messaging and other forms of electronic communication).
  • Allowing unlimited communication after Aug. 1 before the junior year in high school.
  • Permitting evaluations at certified nonscholastic events on two weekends in April, with some restrictions.
  • Permitting some contact at a prospect’s educational institution in conjunction with an evaluation, with some restrictions and requirements.
Think of it like this: if you consider coaches to be completely straight-jacketed when it comes to recruiting kids, now the jacket's off, but they've still got cuffs around their wrists and ankles. But these guys have been inside the walls for so long, this much progress feels like running through a meadow after years of confinement.

The ability to have juniors take official visits once the NCAA tournament ends could be pretty big, by the way. You'd have 16 programs coming off winning two or three NCAA tournament games, and so there could be tiny bursts of visible recruiting coups down the road because of it. Coaches also love this because, if a junior visits, say, April 10, and then there's a sanctioned AAU event two days later, a real connection, a relationship, can develop.

This could make April such a pivotal, critical month. For coaches, it will essentially be an extension of the stress of March. Their season won't really end until May begins. And the deregulation of text messaging and other forms of communication has been a long time coming. With this, you not only get up to date, but also eliminate a heavy amount of would-be violators.

The rule book is going to get a little lighter, and everyone can agree the NCAA needs that.

If approved in October, these changes would go into effect next summer.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 1:53 pm

Calipari tosses veiled shot at Coach K on radio

By Matt Norlander

Audio's at the bottom of the post, if you'd like to hop right to it. Frankly, I don't see how this isn't John Calipari lobbing a grenade the way of Mike Krzyzewski.

Calipari was on Memphia-area radio Thursday morning morning, a guest for "Sportstime with George Lapides," on Sports 56 WHBQ.

Before the knock at K came, Calipari was waxing -- which he's been prone to do as of late -- on the state of collegiate athletics, what's wrong, what can be fixed, etc. The man has many ideas, some of which do make a lot of sense. But his stream-of-consciousness suddenly took an abrupt turn when, while talking about the problems of college basketball spanning over two semesters, while football is just one, he then moved on to the NCAA needing an outside board with subpoena power.

And then the thinly veiled shot on Krzyzewski being Teflon to phone-call rules came whizzing by. 

"Start a clean slate," Calipari said. "Police each other, give it to league commissioners and schools to deal with. If it goes beyond that, there's a board there that's ready to deal with it. ... You've got coaches being fired over phone calls and text messages. Some. Other guys can make phone calls and it's not that big a deal."

There's a kaboom.

If you've spent the past few weeks on vacation, Calipari is referring to our initial report, wherein a top prospect admitted he talked to Krzyzewski during the July recruiting period. Duke is now working with the NCAA to decipher if a violation occurred, and if so, a minor punishment would likely ensue.

Calipari, for the record, has never publicly been dinged for a phone-call or text-message violation -- though it was reported he did have a former assistant break such rules while at Memphis and in his first year at UK.

Cal knocks K

Photo: AP
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