A special Kentucky Men’s Basketball Practice will air on Sunday, October 11, at 7 p.m. ET from the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky., featuring a two-hour look at ESPN.com’s preseason No. 3 ranked team. ESPN NBA and college basketball’s Doris Burke, college basketball analysts Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg and college basketball reporter Andy Katz will anchor the coverage, which will showcase the Wildcats participating in individual drills, 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 scrimmages.
The 2015-2016 Wildcats, coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, have six players in the top 60 of ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s Top 100 2016 NBA Draft prospects:
|Top 100 Rank||Player||Position||Year|
NBA scouts will be in attendance and fans can join the conversation by tagging their tweets with #UKPractice.
No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on ESPN
No. 3 Kentucky will take on No. 6 Duke (7:30 p.m. on ESPN) in the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from the United Center in Chicago. The double-header from Chicago concludes ESPN’s eighth annual college hoops tip-off marathon. Both team rankings are per ESPN.com.]]>
Backcourt Running Mates
C/O 2018 Point Guard Dakari Johnson- Dakari was impressive from the time I stepped into the gym , he has always been a very mature player but now is becoming more vocal and taking on a leadership role on the squad even though he’s only a sophomore. He displayed very good ball handling skills and the ability to be able to maneuver through small gaps to get into the lane and make good plays. Dakari has outstanding upper body strength and has no problem finishing through contact and on the defensive end was very effective by playing physical defense with his opponent. He has all the tools that you love for a Point Guard to have and is drawing interest from colleges at the Mid Major + level. We expect a big year from this young man and won’t be surprised to see him finish the year with multiple scholarship offers.
C/O 2019 Combo Guard Josh Nickleberry- Josh had an outstanding 8th grade season playing on the varsity level, he had numerous games where he put up very impressive scoring numbers and plays the game with a smoothness that is beyond his years. Following the season he recorded some dominant performances during the AAU season playing with Team Loaded 2019 finishing as one of the top teams in the country in their age group. Throughout the night he showed very good ball handling skills and a quick first step but His best attribute that he showed on this night in particular was his shooting. He can get his shot off very quickly and has good lift on his shot so even when his shot is defended well or contested he has no issue getting his shot off. This young man can flat out play and we are expecting another impressive year from him as well.
New Kids on the Block
C/O 2016 Wing John Maynor- John is a transfer in from Hoke County HS, his recruitment has been pretty quiet up to this point but that will definitely change before too much longer. At 6’5 he has nice size for a wing at the college level, he has a textbook shooting form and knocks down shots at a high rate from midrange and downtown with a minimal amount of dribbling. What makes him even more dangerous is that he has the ability to play inside as well , to make things plain and simple, this young man can score the ball at a very high rate while doing it all in the flow of the game. On the defensive end he really got after it, applying constant pressure and using his wingspan to come up with numerous steals, if you’re a Low Major coach you will definitely want to keep a close eye on this young man. In the words of J.Cole I can honestly say that ‘‘He’s about to blow up’’ when it comes to his recruitment.
C/O 2019 Max Farthing- As soon as you see Max walk into the gym he reminds you of former Fayetteville Academy and Current Manhattan Jaspers Forward Zane Waterman. Max has a lean frame but plays much stronger than he looks, he has no problem mixing it up inside but is a very efficient shooter. Throughout the night He showed his ability to find ways to get open and knock down midrange and perimeter shots as well as creating space for himself to get a shot off with his ball handling skills. Max was very impressive throughout the night and has the tools and size to be a very special player if he continues to progress, even on the defensive end he was constantly giving effort on every possession. Whether it was an opportunity for a rebound that was up for grabs or diving on the floor for a loose ball Max was involved in the play some type of way, He will definitely be one to keep a close eye on this season and in the upcoming years
The X Factor
Bench play will be solid for Northwood this season with some athletic players as well as some knock down shooters stepping in to give the starters some rest, but a player in the starting lineup that will have to come up big for Northwood to be a contender for a state championship is 2016 6’9 Center TeTe Armel . Throughout the open gym session he showed sparks of how good he can be if he plays with high energy, there were numerous plays where he threw down a dunk or finished a layup effortlessly. During drills he showed some ball handling skills that I had never seen from him in the past few years that were very impressive, His ability to rebound the ball and block shots was on full display throughout the night and will be needed during the season to hold down the inside for Northwood Temple]]>
1. Nobody wants to be known as a defensive specialist
Any serious basketball player wants to be good at defense. Some players make it a mission to be a lock down defender. But everybody wants to score. Even guys who can’t hit unguarded layups and know their role still wish they could dominate the scoring column. So when you see that guy on TV who always sets the right pick and passes to the star player like he’s supposed to, remember that he’s giving up a lot to make the team win – because everybody, deep down, wants to be a scorer.
2. Jammed fingers are a way of life
If you play basketball as a passion, your knuckles may constantly seem to be in a state of swelling and discomfort from jammed fingers. It’s so much a way of life that most of the time you don’t even think about it, but if the swelling from that missed dunk doesn’t go down within a few hours or a day, you should probably have it checked out. At the very least, use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation).
3. Basketball is a year-round sport
Most people think basketball starts sometime in January and ends sometime in March, except for the NBA playoffs, which last for-ev-ah. But for the players, it’s nonstop, whether you are playing high school, college, semi pro, rec league, AAU, summer league or even on a national team, the only month where very little organized basketball happens is August, but even then you can find a game somewhere. Unlike baseball or football, basketball can be played year round and technically only requires 2 people, a hoop, and a basketball to have a game. Even soccer, which only requires a ball, can’t compete with a real 1-on-1 game anytime of the year.
4. The crowd has less effect than the fans think
Most players are only rattled by big crowds when they first play in front of them. The situational blindness of playing generally means you see what’s happening on the court, and not much else. Players can tune out almost everything else, and it’s not even something that you have to work at – but that’s also why coaches can be yelling from the sidelines and none of the players react. It’s like their in their own hoop bubble, and it stops at the edges of the courts.
5. Music matters. A lot.
Hoopers may listen to a lot of types of music, but the reality is that hip-hop (or just called ‘rap’ if you’ve been balling since the 70s or 80s) is the music of basketball. The hard driving rhymes and looped joints of great hip-hop melds perfectly into the mindset of how you have to move and play on the court. Basketball might have been born under peach baskets in Massachusetts, but it grew up on the blacktop of the urban centers of the United States, just like hip hop.
6. Kobe Bryant’s Not A Ball Hog
Kobe Bryant isn’t really a ball hog because he’s one of the purest jump shooters that’s ever played in the NBA. Neither was Michael Jordan, Julius Erving or even Allen Iverson. You know what a real ball hog is? It’s that guy that takes the inbounds pass, races up the floor, never even looks at his teammates and launches the ugliest air ball that has ever been seen on a basketball court – and you know the very next time he touches the ball, he’s going to do it again.
7. Just because a guy is tall, doesn’t mean he can play
Being tall certainly helps playing basketball, but just because a player is 6’7″ or 6’9″ doesn’t make him an automatic NBA player. There are thousands of people who are 6’6″ or taller who aren’t anywhere near the talent level to play in the NBA, but there are just as many who aren’t really talented enough to play sports in general. Sometimes they do want to play and improve, but many times taller people are guided into basketball just because of their height, when they are possibly better suited to be flower arrangers or market analysts.
8. Sometimes coaches have no idea what they are talking about
It’s pretty easy to side with coaches, because players usually have a lot less experience and in general, if a mistake is made, it’s because the player wasn’t listening or didn’t run the screen properly. But sometimes – and all players have experienced this – there are coaches who yell things from the sidelines and nothing they say is meaningful or helpful. Good coaches make players feel like they have an advantage – bad coaches are sometimes just the loudest, dumbest fan in the building.
9. Refs get a lot of calls completely wrong
NBA players have taken to complaining about fouls that they obviously committed to an art form, but ignoring the pros, every player has been hit with bad calls. You do have to play through the bad calls, but every player has had calls go against them that they knew they didn’t commit – as in, ‘not even on that side of the court’ to commit the foul that was called.
10. A lot of basketball sneakers are just for show
Sneakerheads have new models to choose from all of the time, and many hoopers are sneakerheads. However, just because a pair of shoes looks good means they are meant to play in. John Wooden, the legendary UCLA coach, constantly preached to players to take care of their feet – from the way they tied their laces to the types of shoes they wore.]]>
ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU will combine to air every game of the third annual Big 12/SEC Challenge Presented by Sonic – staged for the first time on a common bye date of Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, during the conference schedule. The field is headlined by four preseason top-10 teams – No. 3 Kentucky, No. 5 Kansas, No. 7 Iowa State and No. 8 Oklahoma – and matches all 10 of the Big 12 members against 10 teams from the Southeastern Conference.
Eight of the 10 games will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2 and two games will air on ESPNU with each conference hosting five games.
ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm – the Saturday morning and evening roadshow that discusses the top storylines of the college basketball season – will originate from one of the Challenge games, to be announced at a later date.
In addition to No. 3 Kentucky, No. 5 Kansas, No. 7 Iowa State and No. 8 Oklahoma, the field includes nine total teams ranked in the ESPN.com’s revised too-early top 25. No. 17 Baylor; No. 18 Vanderbilt, No. 20 West Virginia; No. 22 LSU and No. 25 Texas A&M.
Additional Challenge highlights:
All 10 games will also be available via WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, and streamed on televisions through Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360 or Xbox One to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.
The 2014 Challenge, which saw the Big 12 winning six of the matchups, was held from December 3 to December 6. The inaugural event in 2013, won by the Big 12 with seven victories, was played across various dates in November and December.
2016 SEC/Big 12 Challenge Presented by Sonic schedule (schedule subject to change)
|Sat, Jan 30||Noon||No. 18 Vanderbilt at Texas||ESPN or ESPN2|
|No. 20 West Virginia at Florida||ESPN or ESPN2|
|2 p.m.||Tennessee at TCU||ESPN2|
|Ole Miss at Kansas State||ESPNU|
|4 p.m.||Texas Tech at Arkansas||ESPNU|
|6 p.m.||Georgia at No. 17 Baylor||ESPN2|
|8 p.m.||Oklahoma State at Auburn||ESPN2|
|No earlier than 2 p.m.; No later than 7 p.m.||No. 3 Kentucky at No. 5 Kansas||ESPN|
|No earlier than 2 p.m.; No later than 7 p.m.||No. 7 Iowa State at No. 25 Texas A&M||ESPN|
|No earlier than 2 p.m.; No later than 7 p.m.||No. 8 Oklahoma at No. 22 LSU||ESPN|
ESPNU will televise the 10th annual Under Armour Elite 24 featuring more than 20 elite college basketball recruits on Friday, August 21, and Saturday, August 22, from Pier 2 in Brooklyn with New York City’s iconic skyline as the backdrop. The two-night, outdoor event begins with the slam dunk contest (Friday at 7 p.m. ET) and concludes with the showcase game (Saturday at 7 p.m.). This year’s summer showcase is comprised of 16 recruits ranked in the ESPN 100 (Class of 2016), seven in the ESPN 60 (Class of 2017) and Thon Maker, one of the top international recruits from Canada. Only three of the participating players have committed to a college. Mike Couzens with call the action alongside ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi and college basketball analyst Jay Williams.
ESPN 100 (Class of 2016)
Elite 24 will feature four of the top 10 players in the ESPN 100 and nine in the top 20: No. 3 Josh Jackson (SF), No. 6 Kobi Simmons (PG), No. 8 Edrice Adebayo (PF), No. 9 T.J. Leaf (PF), No. 14 Terrance Ferguson (SG), No. 17 Jarrett Allen (C), No. 18 Dewan Huell (PF), No. 19 Udoka Azubuike (C) and No. 20 Frank Jackson (SG). Additionally, Class of 2016’s former No. 1 ranked player, Thon Maker, is also playing. Ferguson has committed to Alabama; however, the remaining top 20 recruits and Maker remain uncommitted.
ESPN 60 (Class of 2017)
Class of 2017’s No. 1 ranked player, Deandre Ayton, will play in the Elite 24, one of seven players ranked in the ESPN 60: No. 6 Troy Brown, Jr. (PG), No. 9 Jalek Felton (SG), No. 13 Trevon Duval (PG), No. 20 Billy Preston, No. 29 M.J. Walker and No. 30 Hamidou Diallo (SG). Felton has committed to North Carolina; the rest remain uncommitted.
A full roster of participants is listed below.
Elite 24 Alumni
Numerous NBA players have played in the event’s first nine years, including 84 current players. Furthermore, 55 alumni have been first round picks, including three former first round picks: Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Washington’s John Wall and Minnesota’s Anthony Bennett.
Fans can participate via twitter by following @ESPNU and @UABasketball throughout the week and tagging the tweets with #E24X to help commemorate the 10th anniversary. Additionally, the event is free and open to the public.
Under Armour Elite 24 Participants
Team: EZ Pass
|ESPN 100/60 Rank||Player||Hometown|
|No. 1*||DeAndre Ayton||San Diego, Calif.|
|No. 3||Josh Jackson||Southfield, Mich.|
|No. 6*||Troy Brown, Jr.||Las Vegas, Nev.|
|No. 9||T.J. Leaf||El Cajon, Calif.|
|No. 13*||Trevon Duval||Wilmington, Del.|
|No. 14||Terrance Ferguson**||Dallas, Texas|
|No. 18||Dewan Huell||Miami, Fla.|
|No. 20||Frank Jackson||Alpine, Utah|
|No. 29||Justin Jackson***||Canada^|
|No. 30*||Hamidou Diallo||Jonesboro, Ga.|
|No. 31||Seventh Woods||Columbia, S.C.|
*ESPN 60 (Class of 2017)
**Has committed to Alabama
*** Has committed to UNLV
^Plays high school in the USA, making him eligible to be ranked
^^International designation makes him ineligible for ESPN 100 rank
Team: Doo Be Doo
|ESPN 100/60 Rank||Player||Hometown|
|No. 6||Kobi Simmons||Alpharetta, Ga.|
|No. 8||Edrice Adebayo||Pinetown, N.C.|
|No. 9*||Jalek Felton****||Mullins, S.C.|
|No. 17||Jarrett Allen||Austin, Texas|
|No. 19||Udoka Azubuike||Jacksonville, Fla.|
|No. 20*||Billy Preston||Dallas, Tex.|
|No. 21||Markelle Fultz||Upper Marlboro, Md.|
|No. 22||Rawle Alkins||Brooklyn, N.Y.|
|No. 29*||M.J. Walker||Jonesboro, Ga.|
|No. 35||Mario Kegler||Jackson, Miss.|
|No. 66||Shamorie Ponds||Brooklyn, N.Y.|
|No. 83||Wenyen Gabriel||Manchester, N.H.|
**** Has committed to North Carolina
*ESPN 60 (Class of 2017)
Please note: Location and television coverage could change due to weather]]>
As the start of the college school season approaches it’s always refreshing to see young men headed to college who have worked hard and persevered through difficult situations to finally live out their dream of playing college basketball. To understand Jabrie’s story we have to rewind back to the summer of 2013, word had spread around Fayetteville that he and his close friend Jahi Hughes would be transferring to Northwood Temple for their Senior Year which would be the 2013-2014 Season.
So of course these young men were excited to finally play on the same high school team, which was a team that was viewed as a contender for a state championship prior to the season. Well the season begins with a Tip Off Tournament at Village Christian Academy where Northwood would play against Forsyth Country Day, I watched closely as the team seemed to be very talented but was still looking to mesh together which isn’t out of the norm for a new squad. Both teams were getting after it, playing hard and really competing, then one of the most unusual injuries that I have seen to this day happened. Jabrie was playing defense on an opponent and stuck his foot out as a way of deflecting a pass, something that you will see hundreds of times a season, the ball struck his foot and Jabrie would limp to the sidelines.
Initially we all figured it was just a minor injury, however after being evaluated by doctors we learned that he suffered an injury that would take away his entire senior season and force him to be a spectator. This is where the character of this young man really showed, every Northwood Temple game that I scouted he would always be there behind the bench. He would be seen clapping and encouraging teammates, giving instruction, and doing just about everything that you love to see a teammate on the bench doing, while keeping a smile on his face. Prior to the injury Jabrie was receiving interest from numerous D2 and Low major D1 schools but of course missing his entire senior season would leave him with a question mark as to where he would play the following year.
Fast forward a few months and he is playing at a Prep school called Combine Academy in the Charlotte area, putting together some impressive performance and showing college coaches that he still has the talent from prior to his injury. After finishing up his year of Prep School he made the decision to Sign with Williston State College in North Dakota for the next two years of his college career. We look forward to tracking Jabrie over the next few year and college coaches looking for a gifted SG should do the same!!]]>
|Bobby Grubbs, Jacksonville H.S, Class of 2016, 6’3, Wing- Bobby has been battling different injuries throughout the summer, and even during this event he was not even close to being 100% healthy but you would not be able to tell by the way he played. He’s a knock down shooter that knows how to get his shot of very quickly as well as using the shot fake to free himself for open looks. Although is still improving ball handling wise he does a pretty good job of getting from Point A to Point B with minimal dribbling. Bobby is also a very unselfish player that loves to make the extra pass to his teammates just as much as he likes to score the ball, he is definitely the type of player that you love to have running an offense set on your squad because he’s not going to look for his own offense before the teams. On the defensive end he works very hard and does a good job of crashing the boards after the shot goes up, he also battles inside with taller opponents and goes for every loose ball with the attitude that each ball belongs to him. Overall Bobby was very impressive at ECI and showed many attributes that coaches at the next level love to see in a player.|
|Carter Collins, East Chapel Hill H.S, Class of 2017, 6’2, Guard- If you don’t know who Carter is, then you need to get to know him ASAP! This young man is a smooth player that can fill up a score sheet in a blink of an eye. He understands how to use step backs, euro-steps, etc. to score with ease from the perimeter, midrange and inside, he’s not afraid to take it right into the chest of a bigger opponent even though he has a somewhat slender frame. Carter also showed very impressive ball handling skills that he has uses to keep defenders guessing, he understands that the more the defender has to guess what coming next, the more vulnerable they are. He also is a gifted passer that doesn’t try to overdo it when making plays, he has some flair to his game but not much, instead he make the fundamentally sound play to teammates to complete plays for buckets. One attribute that really stuck out to me about Carter was his ability to change speeds quickly, he brings the ball up the floor at a slow pace at times but once he sees an opportunity to make a play he switches gears quickly, which is something you love to see from a Guard.|
|Shaft Parker, Farmville Central H.S, Class of 2016, 6’2, Guard- Shaft was very impressive throughout camp, he can score the ball in multiple ways and is a knock down shooter that can pull from deep at any moment. Whether it be a floater, up and under move or stopping on the dime for a pull-up he is crafty when it comes to finishing plays. Clearly he is a very gifted scorer, but shaft also knows how to be a floor general and run a squad, he has excellent court vision and is a gifted passer which was on full display during camp. On numerous occasions he hit teammates with passes in stride so that they could score easily as well timely lobs to teammates over the defense. Although he doesn’t have jaw dropping athleticism he makes it up for with solid frame and his outstanding IQ for the game, he knows what to play to make at what time and where his teammates need to be for things to be successful. His overall performance was very impressive and I looking forward to watching him again throughout the next year.|
Zach Hobbs, Northside H.S (Jax), Class of 2017, 5’10, Guard- Zach is a natural scoring guard, he can knock down shots from the perimeter at a very high rate once he gets it going and has nice lift on his shot so shooting over opponents is not an issue for him. He knows to create enough separation from his defender with different jab moves and shot fakes as well as initiating contact when he sees the opportunity to draw a foul. Throughout the game I watched he’s seemed to have very good upper body strength and embraced contact well, he has a quick first step that allows him to get by defenders and into the paint where he finished plays at a pretty high rate. One of the things that I really lied about Zach during this game was the upper body strength and foot speed he has, he picked up his man and applied constant pressure while using his strength to make his opponent as uncomfortable as possible. Using these methods he was able to force his opponent into turnovers and bad passes, he had a very successful summer thus far and will be a major piece for his H.S squad next season.
Michael Taylor, Farmville Central H.S, Class of 2016, 6’5, Forward- Michael had a very solid showing in the games that I watched him play, he has a very long wingspan and sneaky athleticism that he used on both end of the court. Offensively he finished plays above the rim and knocked down the elbow and perimeter shot, on the defensive end he blocked and contested shots as well as rebounding the ball and getting it to the guards quickly to get his teammates into transition quickly. Although I would love to see him add a little more muscle to his frame, he was very productive for his team and is versatile enough to guard forwards as well as some guards on the perimeter. Michael is a player that seems as if you don’t have to run plays for, he gets offensive boards and put backs at a high rate so he creates his own offense, he is definitely a player that we will be keeping an eye on.
Although I was unable to attend all days of the ECI Team Camp we must give a S/O to Northside (Jax) 2016 Guard Robert Colon, according to multiple sources he put on a tremendous scoring exhibition on the third day of camp, scoring 35 Points off the bench against 2A Powerhouse Kinston H.S. Robert has been tearing it up all summer and definitely turning the heads of coaches at the division 1 level.]]>
LeBron James is an enigma. LeBron and I are the same age and we grew up in the same area. NORTHEAST OHIO. We graduated the same year of high school, 2003. I went to Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio and LeBron attended St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. I have been following LeBron pretty close since we were probably in 7th or 8th grade. That’s when I first heard of James. I heard about him on the AAU circuit. He was actually dunking back then which is pretty crazy to think about. Think about a middle school kid coming down and dunking on everybody. Crazy to think about right? Well LeBron was doing it. When we got to 9th grade I ended up moving from Columbus, Ohio to Cleveland, Ohio because my mother ended up taking a job in HR with General Electric in Cleveland. I was still following LeBron pretty close and also playing myself. He ended up starting for St. Vincent St. Mary under Coach Keith Dambrot. Dambrot is now Akron University’s head coach. LeBron had an amazing high school career and I really don’t even need to get into that right now. Long story short we all knew LeBron was for sure going to the NBA as the #1 pick in 10th grade. To say LeBron would end up as arguably the best player of all-time. I can’t say that I would’ve thought that would happen. To say LeBron would have made this big of an impact on an entire region I would’ve never imagined. LeBron returning to Northeast Ohio has revitalized us in a way I have never seen anywhere else and I have been all over. I will talk about the resurrection of a Cavaliers franchise, the economic impact on the region, and the future of the Northeast Ohio and LeBron’s place in that.
When James announced that he was returning to Cleveland Cavaliers it instantly brought hope to Northeast Ohio. I have never seen anything like this in my 29 years on this planet. LeBron is ONE MAN and has this much power. Imagine how that just feel for him. Pretty crazy to think about huh? In an instant the Cleveland Cavaliers were considered a favorite to win the Finals this year. LeBron downplayed everything saying that it would take a lot of hard work in and time and it may not happen his first year. However it is now the month of June and the Cavaliers are here, in the NBA Finals. Let’s see if the Cavs and LeBron can get it done. They are only 4 wins away.
The economic impact on the region as a whole is going to be unlike we have ever seen. The businesses in downtown Cleveland are beginning to thrive again now that LeBron is back in town. With LeBron comes a sold out Quicken Loans Arena every night. And that creates a trickle down effect from there. There is now a casino downtown that Dan Gilbert owns which is doing pretty well might I add. All of the restaurants and bars are now thriving again as well with the return of The King. If he can bring a championship to the city then imagine what is going to happen. PANDEMONIUM.
Lastly, LeBron James has brought a sense of hope and pride to a region that I admit was dying before. A lot of people leave Northeast Ohio to pursue what they think are greener pastures elsewhere. LeBron James even did it himself when he decided to leave all he ever knew and explore a once in a lifetime opportunity to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and join the Miami Heat. He had a very successful run in South Florida. He went to four straight finals, winning two of them. He decided that he had a chance to do something really special not only for his own legacy but for Northeast Ohio as a region. And that’s to bring us our first championship. I truly believe that this is DESTINY and that it will happen this year. Let’s go CAVS. #AllInCle #AllForOne]]>
Names and places have been changed to protect anyone who thinks this might hit too close to home…but these examples are based on true events from the past few years. These are, obviously, not the real names of these coaches, players or schools.
If you haven’t read part 1 of this series click here to start at the beginning
Assistant Coach Steve McKite arrives at Full Court Elite Academy at 9 am on a Thursday morning, wearing his new Eastbury College polo shirt and color coordinated Nike shoes.
Calling it an ‘Academy’ is generous. Steve found the address of the school online and drove there after finally getting it into his GPS, but where it took him was a tiny building with a small sign on it and locked doors. Calling the coach, he was the directed to drive a couple of miles away to an old high school gym which looked like it was built just after gargoyles went out of fashion. Finally walking into the gym, he sees seven folding chairs set up beside the court and a short, stocky man is setting up two more.
It looks like McKite won’t be the only college coach in the gym today.
Three players walk into the gym from a door on the far side and one of them is 6’8″ Luka Felix, who already looks like a college power forward, with big shoulders and and a lanky build. Looking like a prototypical European style big man (and much closer to 6’10”), he drops in a couple of layups before moving out to the perimeter and drains a three. His release is effortless and near perfect – at least while he’s not being guarded, in an empty gym.
The man setting up folding chairs sidles over to McKite and introduces himself as Darius Hager, the head coach and the man who Steve talked to in order to set up this visit.
“Nice, huh?” asks Hager, waving his hand in a broad sweep, indicating Felix, who drains another three, barely touching the net.
“He passes the look test, that’s for sure,” replies McKite.
One of the other players looks like an African center, about 6’8″, but he’s not shooting threes – he seems to be tying and untying his shoes continuously, trying to get some perfect configuration.
Rebounding for Felix is a wing player who looks to be about 6’5″ and also has the build of a college player. McKite knows the deal Hager is trying – get coaches to come see Felix, and add in the other two players hoping to get interest.
‘Well‘, thinks McKite, ‘I do need players.‘
Two more coaches walk into the gym, one from conference rival Delhurst University, and another from Halverson College. McKite knows the Halverson coach and introduces himself to the Delhurst assistant. They make some small talk, laughing a bit about shared experiences across the country. The Delhurst coach tells McKite he used to coach at Eastbury, too, about ten years ago.
“You gotta try the little rib joint on Seventh Street, if it’s still there,” he tells Steve, “that was my spot, after every game.”
Steve is about to thank him when his heart sinks a little; another coach walks in, and this time it’s trouble.
Alexander Lambrau, an assistant coach at Smoak University, has arrived. Wearing a dark blue T-Shirt emblazoned with ‘Smoak U’ and a much smaller ‘Final Four’ logo underneath, he’s smiling widely, stretches his hand out and meets Hager in a handshake mid-stride, like he’s meeting an old drinking buddy from his college days.
“Am I too late, coach?” Lambrau asks loudly, his voice ringing off the walls of the tiny gym.
Smoak is by all definitions a high major college. They just ended their season in the Final Four this year, and two of their starters left early to the NBA in the draft only a few weeks ago. It’s no secret their boosters have deep pockets; if Smoak thinks Felix is the right guy for their team, there’s no chance McKite is going to be able to get him. He already knows Hagar wants a payoff; if it comes to that, Smoak is going to write a check and make it happen. The only thing that could stop them is another high major swooping in and starting some type of undercover bidding war.
Of course, that’s all dependent on whether Felix is really worth their time. Smoak can get most players without dropping a dime; they would only slide money for players who were really worth it. Most aren’t.
Lambrau shakes everyone’s hands, cracks jokes with ease and drops himself into a folding chair. Suddenly the morning events have gone from a quiet workout to the Smoak University show, where the players are going to try to impress one of the biggest schools in the country.
The workout gets under way, and with only three players it’s a mixture of drills, twenty-one and limited open run. Felix runs the floor well and has great hands, but the African player – Ufuoma Amadi – doesn’t have great hands, but he is a beast in the paint. He fumbles passes, loses the ball when attempting a two-handed dunk, but he is a powerfully built athlete. The wing player runs like a college wing but really just feeds the ball to the other two on drills.
As they finish up, McKite waits patiently as Lambrau talks with Felix and then moves to a corner to talk with Hagar. McKite takes the opportunity to get in a word.
“Hey, Luka, I’m Coach McKite, from Eastbury College. Do you remember talking with me last week?”
“Um, yeah” replies Felix, nonchalantly glancing around the gym.
“I like your game a lot…I know you can play. But I’m going to ask, is Smoak actively recruiting you?”
“Don’t know,” Felix mutters, “they never came before. Coach said I have a good jump shot.”
“I guess you saw them in the NCAAs this year, right?”
“Well,” says McKite, “I’m not going to jump in here but if Smoak decides they want to slow play you, we wouldn’t do that. Just letting you know. I’m asking you to just keep us in mind.”
“Okay,” replies Felix, and McKite shakes his hand and walks over to the other two players and introduces himself. The wing player is named Jeremy Hoyle.
“Hold up,” says McKite, “didn’t I see you play some AAU last week? In Maryland, I think? I tried to call your phone but your aunt said you weren’t home.”
“Ohhh” says Hoyle, “yeah, she said some coach called but she didn’t know who it was. I thought it was Coach Hagar.” Hoyle explains that he doesn’t play for Hagar but he might this year. McKite gets his mobile number so he can text him later. Then he remembers he forgot to get Felix’s mobile number, but now Felix is talking with the other coaches. He turns to Amadi.
“So what about you?” he asks, “big man like you must have a couple of colleges who have reached out? Anyone?”
“No, coach,” replies Amadi, but then, his stoic face suddenly breaks into a huge grin, “except you, coach!”
McKite laughes. “Yeah, well, yeah, I guess so! We’re talking right now!”
McKite thinks for a second, then asks “what do you think you need to work on to play the post in college?”
Amadi turns the quesition over in his mind for a beat, then responds, “I need to be able to score better. I can defend my man but my scoring is not there yet.”
“Okay. Good, good. Yeah, you need to work on your hands – you should be able to catch the ball, and once you have it in the post, never let anyone get it out of your hands.”
There is a slight pause and McKite can hear the other coaches approaching, having finished talking with Felix. “Okay. Do you have a mobile number? I want to talk to you some more, too, if you’re interested.”
Amadi gives coach a number and then McKite tries to catch back up with Felix, but Hagar is back. Lambrau is nowhere to be seen.
“Let’s talk, coach,” says Hagar.
They walk over into an alcove and Hagar leans against the wall. “What do you think? Are you guys going to offer Luka? He’d be a big time add to your program. Turn things around in a hurry.”
“Do we even have a chance?” asks McKite, “Smoak is going to get him if they want him.”
“Not if I tell him to go with you,” replies Hagar.
“Okay, what would convince him to go with us?”
Hagar glances around the corner to make sure the other coaches are still out of earshot.
“What?!? 20 grand?” McKite snaps, “he’s not worth that kind of money, even if we had it.”
“Smoak thinks he is.”
“Don’t bullshit me, coach. If Smoak had already offered you that money we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Hagar steps away from the wall and holds up both hands in mock defeat. “Look, I’m just saying there’s a way to get him, and someone is going to get him. You guys want to win, you can get him.”
McKite suddenly has a wild thought dash through his mind: what if Smoak isn’t interested in Felix at all, and Hagar is using their presence to demand money from the lower colleges? It’s too stupid to work that way, he thinks. Why would Lambrau even bother? Would they split the money? No, it seems too stupid. Surely Smoak knows his school doesn’t have money to pay for players. Nothing about this conversation makes McKite feel very good.
“Look, coach,” he tells Hagar, “we are interested in Luka. We would offer him right now. We would take him. But we can’t pay for players. We just don’t have the money.”
Hagar looks at McKite like there’s no chance that McKite is telling the truth. “Well, let’s just say this. It’s out there. You have my info. He’s not committed. He’s available. You guys tell me what you can do for his school.”
‘You mean you and your school‘, thinks McKite.
Back in his car, navigating back through corn fields and rural back roads, McKite calls Lonnie Maxwell, his head coach.
“What did you think?” asks Maxwell.
“He’s a legit big man. Probably too good for us. I would want to see him play against some elite bigs. I need to see him in AAU or during the high school season. But my thoughts are we wouldn’t be able to get him. He’s too good.”
“Did you want to offer?”
“I want to offer. But his coach wants money.”
“Damn it. Of course he does.”
“I know. And Smoak was there looking at him. I don’t think we can get in. But there is another kid there – an African kid – he’s a project but I think he’s might be a Division I big man. Maybe not right away, though.”
“Smoak…?” Maxwell trails off. “How much did coach want?”
“Oh, no freaking way. No way in Hell…none. I just wanted to know…I wish I hadn’t asked. If I ask that again, don’t tell me.”
McKite hangs up and looks back out onto the road. He’s about 15 minutes from the highway, where he needs to try and make it to the next state in an attempt to catch some AAU games, including watching Marquise Davids, a guard who he’s spoken to and watched but still isn’t their priority player.
As he turns onto the road to merge into the highway, he sees a sign which reads “Thanks for visiting Ardorville! Come back soon!”.
‘How does a tiny made up school in a town with a single Taco Bell as their only restaurant have three college level players on their team, anyway?‘ he wonders.
TO BE CONTINUED]]>
Names and places have been changed to protect anyone who thinks this might hit too close to home…but these examples are based on true events from the past few years. These are, obviously, not the real names of these coaches, players or schools.
Seated at a minuscule desk forced into a weary office, Steve McKite is searching through scattered piles of dog-eared papers and small notes. McKite was just hired as an assistant basketball coach at Eastbury College, a Division I basketball program, which is his latest stop after his last gig ended as the head coach of a Division II program in the midwest. He had a good thing going in Division II, but coaching changes are inevitable; despite two winning seasons in a row, the new Athletic Director decided the school wanted to go in a ‘different direction’, and McKite, along with his staff, was let go.
Eastbury’s head coach, Lonnie Maxwell, is in his second year on the job; last year was rough, winning only 3 games in front of empty gyms. Maxwell and McKite played together in college and when Steve was fired from his head coaching position, Maxwell asked him to come to Eastbury and try and help him turn things around. Being an assistant coach means more recruiting; Eastbury not only was beaten on the floor last season by teams with better athletes, most of their starting five graduated as well. They need players, and they need them as soon as they can get them. But they need the right players – hopefully good kids who are overlooked.
So McKite’s first job is to hit the recruiting trail and see if he can find some players who are talented enough to help Eastbury win, and then see if he can convince those players to come and play for him – or rather, for Coach Maxwell.
The facilities at Eastbury are less than desirable. The college campus is located in a small, pretty town, but the gym looks more like a high school gym than a Division I college program. Faded paint of the team mascot adorns the entryways and exposed pipes run the length of the hallway leading to the locker rooms. McKite’s office feels like a janitor’s utility closet and he’s pretty sure it was exactly that at some point, because sitting directly underneath the fraying splinters of his desk is a rusty drain.
In order to get players to come to Eastbury he’s going to have to find kids who are unassuming and aren’t expecting the glitz they see on television during March Madness. Fortunately, he already dealt with a loads of that while coaching Division II. Unfortunately, he knows if he had been a bit more successful he might still have that job. He hasn’t finished unpacking yet, with scattered awards and a few boxes sitting on top of what was already in the office when he arrived two weeks ago.
McKite’s left hand finds what he is looking for – a roster list from an AAU tournament he attended a couple of days prior during a jaunt across this unfamiliar recruiting area. He had crisscrossed five states trying to catch as many quality AAU tournaments as possible in a region he has never scouted before. Next to a few players’ names are small notes or marks – indications of players that looked like they might be worth pursuing. On this list he’s got twelve names of players he wants to contact – three of whom he’s already pretty convinced are better than any player Eastbury had last season.
He picks up the phone and starts down with the first on the list.
After a few rings, the automated operator voice jumps in: “You have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”
Oh, well, cross that name off for now, he thinks. The reality is that many players’ contact details are wrong on AAU rosters. Even though he’s not writing off the player, the reality is he’ll probably have recruits lined up before he ever would be able to track the kid down.
On to the next name.
This time a woman answers the phone on the second ring.
“Hi, I’m coach Steve McKite, calling from Eastbury College. I’m trying to reach a player named Jeremy Hoyle?”
“Oh, that’s my nephew,” the woman replies, then after short pause, “uh…who did you say you were again?”
“Steve McKite. I’m an assistant coach with the basketball program at Eastbury College. I’d like to talk to Jeremy a little bit about his college recruitment, if I could…or I could talk to a parent if I need to.”
McKite waits in silence and looks back at his list of names. Hoyle is a 6’5″ small forward who played really well in two games he saw; versatile and athletic, with college size as a wing. It’s likely he already has colleges talking to him, but McKite has to start somewhere.
“He’s not here.”
“Okay, I’m sorry to hear that. Do you know when he might be back? Or does he have a mobile phone?” McKite asks, hopefully. A mobile phone would make the player easier to reach – via text, which is a lot more consistent way to contact teenagers at the moment.
“Yes, but I don’t know his number.”
McKite leaves his number with Jeremy’s aunt and hangs up. Pretty much oh-for-two at this point, he thinks. Ten more players to try on the list. He picks up his phone again and starts punching in the next set of digits.
On the fifth player, he finally reaches the person he wants directly. Marquise Davids, a shooting guard who also was playing a lot of point guard when McKite saw him, answers the phone immediately.
“Hi, I’m coach Steve McKite, calling from Eastbury College. I’m trying to reach a player named Marquise Davids?”
“Yes sir, that’s me, coach. I’m Marquise.”
“Marquise, I caught a couple of your AAU games last weekend. I wanted to reach out and ask you about your college recruiting. I know you don’t know me but I’m going to just come out and ask you – are you being recruited by any other colleges?”
“Yes sir, I did speak to a coach from State a couple of weeks ago. But that’s the only coach. He called me and talked to me a little bit. But nobody has offered me or anything like that.”
They talked for a few more minutes; Davids has a 4.2 GPA and plays for a public school about six hours away. When McKite tells him, “I can’t offer you today but we are interested and want to keep up with your recruiting. Would you be interested, if it worked out, to play for us at Eastbury?”
“I’ll play wherever I can, coach. Wherever is the best place for me, I’ll be there.”
McKite thanks Davids and hangs up. He likes the kid – he’s smart, he’s polite and he sounds mature. But he’s not the first option that Eastbury wants at guard right now. However, the conversation has McKite thinking – a player that grounded and mature might be someone to pay more attention to.
Back to the phone and the next name.
It takes three more calls before McKite talks to a player he really wants – a 6’8″ post player named Luka Felix; McKite is expecting a heavy accent, but is surprised to hear an American voice on the other end.
McKite introduces himself and asks if Felix has other colleges recruiting him.
“Yeah, a few coaches have talked to me, ” he says, “my coach says North Ambrose and Eastern offered me last week…I don’t really know all of the schools.”
“How are your grades?” McKite asks after a few more questions.
“Um, I think they are OK. You would have to check with coach on it.” McKite has heard this before. He gets the coach’s name and number and asks Felix if he would consider playing at Eastbury if they were to offer.
“Where is it?” asks Felix, “Is it D1?”
McKite laughs and says “Yes, it’s D1, man, c’mon, you need to know these things if you are going to be a hooper!”
Next phone call is to Felix’s coach, at a school called Full Court Elite Academy, which sounds less like a school and more like a gym with an administrative office. The school’s website doesn’t even list an athletic program.
Felix’s coach is a man named Darius Hager, who tells McKite that several schools have offered Felix already.
“What’s the possibility we could get involved with his recruitment?” McKite asks.
“Well, I don’t know if Felix wants to play for Eastbury, coach, he’s not sure if he wants to play in your conference. But I might be able to talk to him about it. I can probably help swing him your way.”
“That would be a big help, coach, we do need a big man. I’d like to come by and watch some workouts sometime.”
“Yeah, we can do that. Our gym is pretty tiny, I’ve been working on getting some renovations in here. It really needs some upgrades.”
McKite knows what he’s hearing – the coach wants money. The problem is that if Eastbury had money to pay for players, they would have money to upgrade their own gym. He’s not sure if the coach actually knows what he’s doing or if he’s trying to make money off of a lower end Division I big man. McKite asks about grades.
“His grades are good. We have him qualified, we are good to go. Just let me know when you can come down and we can talk about it.”
McKite agrees on a date to come by the school and hangs up, looking back at the list. Five states of scouting, hundreds of miles driven, hotels, bad road food, ice cold gyms in summer heat…has resulted in talking to 3 potential players, only one of which sounds like a definite Division I player and only one other player which sounds like he can actually stay in college for four years.
It’s late, and it’s been a long day for McKite. Calling the recruits was the last thing he needed to get done before he leaves for the day, and it’s a tough way to finish up. He pulls up Google Maps and starts to try and figure out where Full Court Elite Academy actually is, but the search just shows him an intersection in the middle of some rural fields.
As he grabs his car keys and tries, fruitlessly, to straighten up the already embarrassing mess of papers on his desk, his phone chirps.
It’s an email from Marquise Davids:
Thanks so much for reaching out and talking with me today. I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your taking the time and I hope to talk to you again soon. I also wanted to let you know that I am playing in an AAU tournament next weekend and if you are nearby I hope you can drop by. I will send you the schedule when the tournament publishes it.
Thank you again,
The tournament dates listed on his email are the same as the date he’s already agreed to visit Luka Felix at his school.
He turns off his phone, turns out the lights and walks down the pipe-lined corridor that leads to the parking light.
Next, Read Part 2: Rubbing Elbows]]>