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Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Gulf War vet, 39, plays at JuCo, dreams of D-I

Posted by Matt Norlander

Thirty-nine years on the planet, more than two decades away from playing organized basketball, and this man's in six times the shape of Renardo Sidney.

Jermaine Townes, a Navy vet who served in the Gulf War, is a freshman — yes, a freshman — at the College of DuPage, located in Glen Ellyn, Ill., about 30 minutes outside of Chicago. The junior-college program non-descriptly lists Townes on its roster, but his story is beginning to earn some notoriety.

Who doesn't love the age-old, old-guy-runs-with-the-young-pups piece like this? Two years ago it was Ken Mink, a cat in his mid-70s who was earning playing time at Division-III Roane State. Townes is the latest, and his military background makes for an interesting and compelling story. He's apparently got a smooth, smooth stroke according to Don Klass, the coach of the Chaparrals (such a non-threatening moniker).

Local TV stations have picked up on the scent and run features on the 6-4, 39-year-old Townes, who naturally goes by the nickname of "Old School." At 6-4, he's listed as a center. That's life at the junior college level, I guess. As is a general lack of awareness for recent American history, no offense. This quote was someone eye-opening.

"I didn't even know about Desert Storm until he got here," an unnamed teammate (thanks for that fact-checking, WLS-TV!) says in the video below. "So that's like a lesson to me, too."




As you heard, Towne is actually aiming to earn a full-on scholarship at a four-year university. Yes, D-I or D-II playing time is in his sights. Who knows if that's possible, but if there's one kind of person you don't want to doubt, it's someone who's been engulfed in a war.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 14, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: January 14, 2011 11:11 am
 

College basketball's Iron Man is ... British?


Posted by Eric Angevine


Throughout each week, the writers here at the CBSSports.com College Basketball Blog work to keep up with the fast-paced happenings of each day of the season. Every Friday, we'd like to take a step back and look at the big picture, in a segment we're calling the Friday Feature. Today's look at Ogo Adegboye is our first glimpse into the lives of the fascinating people that make our beloved sport so enjoyable to watch.

Which college player means the most to his team?

Is it Kemba Walker, driving UConn back to the heights after an off season? Maybe Jimmer Fredette, who may be the most famous BYU player of all time. Perhaps you’re also considering Talor Battle, Klay Thompson or LaceDarius Dunn.

No, young Jedi, there is another.

Consider Ogo Adegboye . The Nigerian-born, London-raised point guard is the only player in DI averaging more than 40 minutes per game, a statistical mirage made possible by a series of extra frames the Bonnies have gutted out this season. There was the four overtime home win over Ohio on December 18, followed by a single OT five days later in a loss to Virginia Tech. A-10 play has not been any easier: Adegboye and his teammates needed three extra periods to take down league rival Charlotte on January 8. In essence, Ogo and his mates have packed an additional regulation game into their season at this point.

Asked how he has kept from breaking down physically over that grueling stretch, Adegboye displayed a very British flair for understatement. “Stretching, icing, lifting weights,” he said, describing his between-games ritual. “There’s only so much you can do with the soreness. You’re going to feel a little bit tired, so you approach it mentally.”

A ‘little bit’ tired. Right.

Then again, his head coach, Mark Schmidt, doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for Ogo or any of his teammates (sophomore Demitrius Conger is not far behind Ogo, with a 38.3 mpg average).

“He’s in tremendous shape. In terms of being a coach on the floor and defending his position, he can do it. If he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be playing 40 minutes per game,” Schmidt said. “I tell guys all the time ‘you’re 18, 22 years old, there’s four timeouts per half; you shouldn’t get tired.’”

That said, Schmidt admits that Ogo’s situation is unusual. “We have a backup point guard who’s a freshman who’s still learning, and we’ve won five games by five or less points, so sometimes it’s hard to put in an inexperienced player to run your team,” the coach said. “We protect (Ogo) in practice, we don’t go long and we don’t do a lot of physical stuff.” If this were football practice, Adegboye would be wearing the quarterback’s bright red don’t-hit-me jersey.

The metaphor is apt, and that’s what makes Adegboye’s Iron Man streak so impressive. He’s not just showing up and scoring; he’s running the team. Not to lay it on too thick, but the Bonnies (9-6 overall, 1-1 A-10) would likely be lost without him.

He’s Been to the Desert

So, how does a smart, speedy Londoner end up playing basketball in the first place? It’s something of a fluke.

“I started out playing on my high school team after I got hurt playing Rugby and just kept on with it from then,” Ogo said. “It’s a growing sport in London, like. The main sport is football -- you call it soccer -- but in the last few years it’s really been growing.”

The hoops situation in Great Britain is analogous to what we experience here in the United States, where soccer is a growing youth sport that struggles to gain mainstream acceptance. Kids who want to excel at the sport feel they must play overseas against top competition in order to be taken seriously.

“It definitely hurts the local hoops scene when 90% of our best players are based abroad. How can it not?” said Sam Neter, editor of the pioneering UK website hoopsfix.com . “Younger players don't have role models, few players know what being 'good' really is as it's all relative, and the level of competition in this country becomes severely diluted. It's a catch 22 situation, because if the players stay here they risk not improving and developing as well as they could, but if they go then it hurts the local scene.” According to Neter, basketball is so low-profile in his country that NBA stars like Chicago’s Luol Deng (who honed his game at Duke) can walk their hometown streets without drawing so much as a nod of recognition from passers-by.

That’s why Adegboye traded the metaphorical desert of the local English hoops scene for the literal desert of Nevada. Following his senior year of high school, he opted for a year at famed Las Vegas hoops academy Findlay Prep . He played well enough there to gain the attention of Lamar Community College , a two-year school located in the arid southeastern corner of Colorado. It was there that Ogo began to transform himself from a nice bench option into a DI starter.

“My freshman year at Lamar is was a struggle because I was still making that transition, then in my sophomore year I was much more comfortable with the college game. Coach put a lot of trust in me.”

Ogo had to learn how to handle the speed of the American game while battling homesickness. Whatever he did, it worked. His team was winning, and that’s how he caught the eye of St. Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt.

“I saw Ogo play at the National Junior College Championships ,” Schmidt recalled. “I was trying to find a point guard and just watching games. I enjoyed watching him play. The more we researched the more he fit what we were trying to do from a basketball standpoint and a character standpoint. That’s how it all started.”

As a junior transfer, Adegboye was solid but not spectacular. He averaged 6.6 points per game and played right around 20 minutes per contest. The great leap forward has come in the 6-1 senior’s final season, which has seen his scoring double to 12.5 ppg. His assist numbers have taken a similar leap, and he notched a season-high four steals against the Hokies. Surprisingly enough, Ogo has fouled out of two games the Bonnies have played this season, but both forced benchings – one at Canisuis and one at home vs. Marshall -- came in non-OT games. However, both ended in losses, which just underscores the need for Adegboye to stay healthy and mind his Ps and Qs in the Bonnies’ man-to-man defensive scheme.

“Coach is always reminding me to be smart,” Ogo said. “Especially on defense. They want us to pressure the ball but at the same time, depending on how the flow of the game is, you can’t be too physical.”

U.S. colleges continue to see a steady trickle of British talent, and Ogo thinks others will join him and his countrymen in making the sojourn. Washington Huskies big man Matthew Bryan-Amaning (right) may be the most visible current player from Great Britain, but UAB’s Ovie Soko and Rider’s Justin Robinson are beginning to have an impact as well. Adegboye admits that there are plenty of his fellows on DI rosters who don’t ring a bell. “There are guys I haven’t even heard of. I’m like ‘oh wow, he’s British?’”

Hoopsfix editor Sam Neter isn’t crazy about that low number of stars. “At the start of this season we had approximately 40 British kids on Division 1 rosters which looks great on paper, but dig a little deeper and look at how many are actually playing and contributing, and that number drops to probably less than a quarter of that. What America offers in terms of practice time, access to facilities and competition, Britain just can't compete with and it's for that reason I guess we have such an obsession with going to the US, but the reality is that isn't always the best choice.”

London 2012

Right now, nobody wants to guess what lies ahead for Ogo Adegboye. There’s too much of this season yet to be played, and speculation on his future playing prospects would be premature. There is one rather huge goal on the horizon, however: the 2012 Olympic games, which will be held in his hometown of London. Ogo has a unique opportunity to show his hometown and the world at large that British basketball is on the rise.

Ogo was invited to try out for Great Britain's national team after a successful summer stint with the country’s U23 squad. The best guess was that he’d become a valuable bench and practice player, but once again, Ogo was in the right place at the right time, and worked his tail off to exceed expectations.

“Yeah, I think he was a bit of a surprise for them,” said Bonnies coach Schmidt. “He was invited, and I’m not sure if he was invited just to be another body in practice or what. Just talking to their manager, he was keeping me updated during the summer, and they were telling him ‘the coach really likes you and you’re going to make the team’. And Ogo played a lot. He started at the point guard position.”

The host nation is not guaranteed a spot in the Olympic basketball tournament, so all the pressure was on Ogo and his teammates to earn qualification by winning games last summer. The team, led by Deng and featuring former U.S. collegians Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Eric Boateng alongside current players like Bryan-Amaning and Robinson, won six of eight games in the Eurobasket 2010 tournament. That was enough to give them the top spot in their group and qualify them to compete in this summer’s event as well. It’s the first time the GB team has ever qualified in back-to-back years.

Adegboye says the bonds he’s formed with players from the national team have carried over now that they’re mostly back in the U.S. for the winter. Several of the national team players, including Ogo, hail from Brixton , a London district roughly analogous to a New York borough; think Brooklyn or the Bronx. Keeping tabs on friends from back home is a comfort for Adegboye.   “We speak every day. Especially Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Robinson at Rider. We talk all the time, they’re like my brothers. It’s not a thing where I wait and see them at home and go ‘hey, it’s been a long time!’ We keep in touch.”

Ogo will see his friends again this summer , as they prepare to seal their Olympic bid with a good showing at Eurobasket 2011. Getting Deng to spend August playing for his national team was clearly the catalyst for the squad’s recent turnaround, and the prospect of getting to play on the world stage in 2012 has lured current Detroit Piston Ben Gordon (above) into the fold as well . That addition will diminish Adegboye’s playing time, But Sam Neter doesn’t think it will diminish his enthusiasm one bit.

“What I personally love about Ogo is the energy, enthusiasm, leadership and hustle he brings to teams he's on,” Neter said. “No matter what his role, he will work his ass off, whether that's on the court guarding someone, or on the bench waving his towel and encouraging his teammates. He's always the first guy to run over and pick a teammate up off the floor, and provide guys with direction. He loves the game and you can see that watching him play.”

Look out world. The British – and Ogo Adegboye – are coming.

Photos: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:36 am
Edited on: January 14, 2011 10:12 am
 

Oregon court's glare a real pine for some



Posted by Matt Norlander


Well, this is the Oregon way: be outside the box and get people to talk about your program due to cosmetics.

The $227 million Matthew Knight Arena made its debut last night on Fox Sports Net, a debut that came with a 68-62 Ducks win over Southern Cal.

But who wants to talk about a meaningless result between two middling Pac-10 teams? No, let's get to beeching about that maple! See, throughout the game, those watching from home on their hi-def televisions barely even discussed the contest at palm, er, I mean ... hand. Instead, many of us on Twitter insisted on making wood-filled puns and were forced to put on a pair of shades in order to fight off our throbbing temples that were catalyzed by the hypnotic glare beaming off Matt Court's saran-wrapped surface.

The picture above doesn't do it much justice, but the flashing lights bouncing off the court started to have a Room 23 effect on me.

I knew this was what I would write about 15 seconds into last night's coverage, when brain fluid started to seep into my eyes. Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger had the same, immediate thoughts as well. Eisenberg also points out a very good point. Look at the photo above. Aside from the trees, what else seems different about the court?

It takes a minute to come to you, but then you realize: you can't see a mid-court timeline. But it's there. Barely. Pushing the boundaries — literally — that's the Oregon Way. It's why this design had to be the poplar choice. (K, you can all stop with the tomatoes.)

I think, fir sure, the university's got a branding team that knows exactly what it's doing, and that everything about last night's unveiling was known ahead of time. I'm not saying it's Oregon's desire to induce seizures to viewers across America, but there's no way they didn't realize the type of effect that shiny surface would have on those at home. Given the way the lighting structure is assembled in the arena, there's little that can be done now.

Oregon games now need to come with that cautionary disclaimer that video games are mandated to include.

Aside from the cosmetic commentary, two other notable things: the arena had a ridiculous 35-minute opening ceremony last night that will only be rivaled by this year's Super Bowl; and players did get a little chippy in the inaugural game. Both groups, despite having down seasons, still have plenty of passion, which was good to cedar.



Photo via @bubbaprog
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 14, 2011 8:27 am
Edited on: January 14, 2011 8:29 am
 

Layup Line Sidney flips bird to Ole Miss fans

Posted by Matt Norlander

Everyone freaking out over this damn zodiac thing has really got me rather apathetic about the stars. // Oh, right, it's all a massive overreaction. // Incredibly sad, but uplifting ...

• That's Renardo Sidney pictured to the right. He and the Bulldogs got a good win on the road at hostile Mississippi last night. He supposedly gave the finger to some mouthy fans. That's appropriate.

Gasaway, unfiltered. Clemson with the upset performance of the year, folks, and it's not even close.

• Good work by Andy here. How Arizona, in a small way, is part of/trying to help with the tragedy out in Arizona.

• Maya Moore: making the boy players ask for autographs.

• Purdue's chances going forward without Hummel, with loads of numbers included as evidence.

• The Tony Mitchell situation is one I let slip past my radar.

• Tom Crean is occasionally terrific on Twitter.

• Don't be talking smack about the officiating.

• The NCAA and Westwood One ink a new deal.

• This snark has truth to it. Definitely disappointing, in a way.

Such a robust power rankings piece this week. Luke, when will the work we do here earn a link? When we write something that's worth a damn, you say? Ah. Alas.

• Always funny to read these, then realize what happens in a game 12 hours later.

• Whaaaaat's the deal with all these rap songs?

• Do enjoy sharing the work of hard-working writers for big-time papers.

• Quietly, that Kansas ticketing scandal is cleansing itself out.

Video of Pullen's quote that made the rounds yesterday is below. Not the attitude I want from my leader right now. Not at all.



Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:58 am
Edited on: January 14, 2011 12:46 pm
 

Ranking the undefeateds

Posted by MATT JONES

As the horn ticked down the final seconds in Tallahassee on Wednesday night and it became clear that No. 1 Duke would drop from the rank of the unbeatens, the refrain from the pundits in the sports world could be heard once again. "It is impossible to go undefeated in college basketball now and I guarantee it will never happen again!" In reality, it is hard to argue that point. No team has gone undefeated since Indiana in 1976 and with the exception of UNLV in 1991 and Memphis in 2008, no team has really come all that close. College basketball has seen a seismic shift due to the increased attention on basketball in all BCS programs, early entry into the NBA Draft and a changed television landscape that allows more than just the top ten programs to sell the idea of regular national exposure. In that landscape, realistically there are simply too many land mines for a team to ever complete an undefeated season.

Realism however, is overrated. Anyone can say something can't happen. It is much more fun to imagine what could be. In that vein, it is worth exploring which of the four currently undefeated teams is most likely to finish the season without a blemish. To navigate such a road, a team must possess four important traits:

1.  Top-Level Coach:   Every team, no matter how talented, will be faced with 2-3 games that will be won with late coaching decisions and end-of-game scenarios in which a particular designed play, substitution or defensive adjustment is the difference between victory and defeat. A few years back, current Minnesota coach Tubby Smith told me that coaching was about two things primarily, pre-game preparation/motivation and making the right decision in the last two minutes. With close games inevitable for any team looking to go unblemished, there simply must be a master tactician on the sidelines.

2.  Adaptable Personnel:   Great teams can come in many shapes and sizes.  The 1992 Duke team was built around three superstars (Laettner, Hurley and Grant Hill) and a group of talented role players, the 2007 Florida team had a core starting five as good as any in the last 25 years and the 1996 Kentucky team simply tried to overwhelm its opponents with eight future NBA players. However each of these teams had a vulnerability that when exploited, caused the group to drop random games during the season. An undefeated team must have a very unique quality.  It must be adaptable to any style of play and with no obvious stylistic weakness. If your team can't shoot, isn't athletic enough, doesn't play hard-nosed defense or can't rebound, chances are you will face one team on your schedule whose best strength is exploiting that weakness, and your undefeated run will end.

3.  A Favorable Schedule:   In order to go undefeated, it isn't simply enough that a team be great, its opponents need to also be decidedly mediocre. Every team will face at least eight conference games on the road and potentially another couple of tough games on the road or neutral sites in the non-conference season. Those are at least ten chances to slip up without your home crowd there to rescue you from a bad game. If these opponents are teams like SMU and Houston, as Memphis faced in 2008, the chances of an undefeated season are much greater than if you get UCONN and Pitt.  Schedules matter and if an undefeated team is ever to exist, chances are they will play a weak one.

4.  Luck:   You don't go undefeated without winning at least one game you should/could have lost due to a favorable bounce, loose ball or questionable call. Again, go back to the team that came the closest to accomplishing this feat, the 2008 Memphis Tigers. In two games, Memphis was defeated by end of game shots. If Mario Chalmers misses one three-pointer just an inch to the left or right, John Calipari and the Tigers become immortal legends. Nothing Calipari did (well, except not fouling before the shot went off) had any effect on the shot, but rather his team's fate was in another's hands.  Chalmers takes the shot, the ball goes in and 1976 Indiana remains the gold standard. One moment changes history and for an undefeated team, that 50-50 moment must fall with them, instead of against them.

With those four requirements in place, the question then becomes, which of the current undefeateds best meet the criteria?   Currently, we are left with Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse and San Diego State as the sole remaining undefeated teams and in reality, none is likely to approach an undefeated season. However with realism not our goal, it is worth ranking the teams in order of potential to reach undefeated immortality:

1.  KANSAS
The Jayhawks' stellar play has been one of the surprises of the early season and with the experience returning from last year's disappointing NCAA Tournament exit, there is a core group of players who have tasted enough big games to contend come March. Bill Self has a National Championship under his belt, but he does have detractors who believe that his in-game adjustments leave something to be desired. Kansas has already survived two games it could have lost this year against USC and UCLA and has an overtime win on the road at Michigan that it was fortunate to escape. The roster is likely the most diverse of all the undefeated teams, with the Morris twins and Josh Selby ensuring that there will be no team the Jayhawks can't score on, or defend. The Big 12 is good, but not great, and with the disappointing play of Kansas State, a couple of games that seemed like hurdles now seem a bit more doable. The only ranked teams the Jayhawks will face on the road are Missouri and potentially Kansas State, thus putting Kansas in the spot of most likely to accomplish this impossible dream.

Most Likely Loss:   Missouri, in the final game of the regular season. In the unlikely event Kansas comes in undefeated, Mike Anderson's squad will ensure that no team goes into NCAA play without a blemish.

2.  OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes have a superstar in Jared Sullinger and a balanced attack that allows a number of different scoring options depending on how teams choose to defend them. Like Kansas, Ohio State can adapt to a number of different styles and are likely only vulnerable against a team that runs and can put up points in a hurry, a type of play that it doesn't see in the Big Ten. Thad Matta is one of the most underrated tacticians in college basketball and his ability to produce a gameplan specifically designed to exploit his opponent's weakness is consistently undervalued. He has in the past been to the national title game with a young big man and Ohio State wins more than its share of close games. Early this year, the Buckeyes haven't been tested a great deal, but they play in the Big Ten, which this season is the best conference in America. The schedule includes road games at Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Purdue. Matta gets Michigan State in Columbus, but the run of road games against good teams makes for a couple of likely stumbles.

Most Likely Loss:   Minnesota on February 6.  Tubby Smith's team does not necessarily like to run, but it can shoot and has size in order to attempt to neutralize Jared Sullinger. Smith will need a top win at home and this is exactly the type of game he takes pride in stealing.

3.  SYRACUSE

No team has been consistently overlooked more often this season than Syracuse. The combination of the "never leave New York" non-conference schedule and the disappointing ending in last year's NCAA Tournament has made the 'Cuse a team with more than its share of skeptics early. Jim Boeheim is one of the best coaches in America and is one of the best at the tactical side of the game. He does however have one of the least adaptable teams among the Top 10 however, as Syracuse has shown itself to be vulnerable to any team that tries to push tempo and can hit threes at a rapid rate.  The schedule is brutal, with road games at Pittsburgh, UCONN, Villanova and Georgetown. Syracuse isn't a contender to go undefeated, and its main concern should be finishing in the top three in the Big East.

Most Likely Loss:   Pittsburgh on Monday. Pitt is better on both offense and defense and will have a home crowd rocking for the national television audience on Martin Luther King Day. The Orange ride ends then.

4.  SAN DIEGO STATE

The Aztecs are a great story, playing in the forgotten Mountain West and bringing the name Steve Fisher back to the mainstream. The team is on the precipice of a top 5 ranking and is getting national attention for the first time in decades. After making the NCAA Tournament last year and with a roster of experienced and talented players, San Diego State is for real. Steve Fischer is a much-maligned figure, who is often given the label as "worst coach to ever win an NCAA title." Still, one can't argue with how he has built the San Diego State program and his winning percentage is impressive. San Diego State matches up well with a host of different teams, but could struggle with the talent gap if it plays one of the other top teams in America. The schedule is harder than it may appear, with three very difficult road games at New Mexico, BYU and UNLV highlighting the rest of the season. Even if it were to get through that run, San Diego State is not a team built to win a championship and would fall in March.

Most Likely Loss:  BYU on January 26.  The Aztecs could fall this weekend in the Pit vs New Mexico, but if not, will surely see a defeat when Jimmer is unleashed in two weeks.

Photo: AP
Posted on: January 13, 2011 8:16 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Memphis is a mess Wesley Witherspoon suspended

Posted by Matt Norlander

For the second time this season, second-year coach Josh Pastner has shown he's not afraid to run the Memphis men's basketball program by his exact, no-tolerance rules.

At least that's how it looks from the outside.

Who knows how long it's taking for Pastner to come to these domineering decisions privately — what series of actions behind closed doors are piling up — but at the very least the Memphis coach isn't letting things wiggle from his grip from a public perspective.

First it was Jelan Kendrick who earned a suspension under Pastner's rule in November. He eventually left the program and landed at Mississippi last month. And now, tonight, it's junior Wesley Witherspoon who's being put on ice for an indefinite amount of time. This coming one night after Memphis lost for the second straight season at mediocre Southern Methodist.

The news broke a short while ago, when Pastner informed the media after a Tigers practice.

From the outside, it seems Pastner's basically saying, if this team is going to lose, it's going to do it with the future of this program and the guys who are fully invested. That anyone who's immature, lacks leadership and embodies apathy, those guys, they can take a hike and do some soul searching. That's what Pastner's put in front of Witherspoon now.

Will he be back? After Kendrick's jettison act, who knows for certain? This team is young and talented and we all expected some drama. Who knew we'd get a fireworks show like this, though?

The 20-year-old, 6-9 Witherspoon was thought to be the leader of this team back in October. But the forward's had far too may non-impactful performances throughout Memphis' 12-4 season so far. He's been anything but a model alpha for this group. Many close to the program have seen the proof first-hand: he doesn't work hard, he doesn't guard anybody and he generally doesn't care too much about which way the ship sails.

Basically the feeling is losing doesn't bother him. And with Pastner, that's something he won't tolerate — all the way to the point where he'll temporarily remove a guy from the team.

The second-year coach is trying to change the tone. Pastner's a young guy too (33), so it's all the more impressive he's so insistent with his team like this. He knows this decision immediately creates a swirling melodrama around his already unstable team.

Tells all you need to know about how fed up Pastner is with Witherspoon.

Photo: AP
Posted on: January 13, 2011 4:17 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Jeremy Hazell is one tough SOB

Posted by Eric Angevine

We all know that guy who hangs out in college way too long , getting his second degree or filing for twelve minor concentrations like an academic version of Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption . Once you get inside that warm cocoon of institutional calm, you just don't want to leave.

Seton Hall guard Jeremy Hazell was starting to seem like that guy. Already 25 years old, Hazell seemed prepared to come back again next season after a series of personal setbacks assailed him. It was bad enough when he injured his left wrist in November, but while he was coming back from that injury, he was shot in the right armpit while on Christmas break in his hometown of Harlem, NY. Nobody would have blamed him if he chose to take a redshirt and come back to help Seton Hall win games next season.

But he didn't. Hazell visited the doctor on Monday - that much we knew right away. But he and coach Kevin Willard would only say that he was cleared to play, not whether he planned to actually do so. We started to suspect something was up when he joined the team on a road trip to Chicago, but still thought that the prospect of joining this season's tough sledding might not appeal to the senior.

If you're like me, your estimation of Hazell shot way, way up yesterday afternoon when you heard that he would, indeed, play at DePaul. It climbed a couple more notches when the news came down that he not only played, but scored 23 points after coming off the bench in the fourth minute of the first half.

Just to recap, Hazell came back from his wrist injury in the absolute minimum time his doctor would allow. He was also shot -- SHOT -- by a gunman just eighteen days ago, and he came back playing out-of-his-mind, not tentative or ginger on the ol' wings at all. As the Associated Press reported, "Hazell, a first-team preseason All-Big East selection, had an alley-oop dunk to make it 77-60 with 2:17 left. He scored 15 points in the second half. Hazell said he never doubted that he would return to the court even after being shot."

I think I'd be a DNP - quivering pile of goo for the rest of the season if I had been shot by a robber, but it wasn't nothin' but a thang to Hazell. That's pretty tough, both mentally and physically.

It also shows loyalty to his teammates, who will have absolutely no excuses for slacking off in practice any more this season. Turf toe? Man up. Broken ribs? Get in the gym, jackwagon. Hazell here was SHOT a couple of weeks ago, and do you hear him whining? No, you don't.

All kidding aside, this is huge for the Pirates. Hazell's presence on the court should inspire his teammates to, in essence, 'win one for the Gipper'. He's got Willis Reed cred now. Seton Hall is now a respectable enough 2-3 in the Big East, just behind West Virginia and UConn, which are both 2-2. Even Hazell probably can't help them win at Pitt on Saturday, but next week's home games against slumping Georgetown and rebuilding Rutgers are winnable.

When you know your team has the toughest player on the floor, anything starts to seem possible.

Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: January 13, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Sound the alarms in the District for Georgetown



Posted by Matt Norlander


Not how I planned it, but it's time I panned it.

(Very aware that comes off as Jay-Z-esque, but it's not what I was going for; goodness, was that lede awful, so let's move on. Like, now.)

Yesterday I praised Penn State and Boston College. Today, I've embraced my inner Billy Packer. The crankier, critical side of me, which is good to let out of the cage every now and again (just like Billy Packer!). I chopped down Kansas State around breakfast, and now I've got to do the same with Georgetown, which lost to Pittsburgh on its home floor last night. The Georgetown faithful are probably hating me plenty now, but I promise I'm not going out of my way to pick on their team. I love so much about how Georgetown plays and wins games ... but it's gotten uncomfortable pretty quickly, right Hoyas fans?

For the non-Hoya viewer, I posit you probably know Georgetown as the team that's consistently been relevant nationally ever since John Thompson III took over in 2004. The program has been good-to-great with JT3 running the show, which has been good for the Big East, naturally. The program's adapted to the Princeton offense and managed to recruit a variety of players with different skill sets, from big men like Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe to versatile wing players such as DaJaun Summers and Jeff Green. Now, of course, the three-guard look of Austin Freeman (above), Jason Clark and Chris Wright is the drink-stirring, three-pronged straw of the Hoya machine.

What we must recognize Georgetown as now: a team that can't handle too much success. Ever since its 2007 Final Four appearance, this group hasn't gotten back to an elite level. There's been pressure and expectation (and some really good wins mixed in with all that), but a lot of letdown. Remember the first round of last year's Tournament? A Lohan-like low point.

And now the Hoyas are 1-4 in the Big East — only ahead of winless DePaul, South Florida and Providence — carving their rears firmly into the bubble, which is forming before our very eyes. I don't think I'd be writing this today if Georgetown kept the game close and lost by five or six to Pitt. But that was a snoozer last night. Pitt ran its sets effectively and with ease.

Georgetown just off right now. It happens, but the worthwhile teams shake themselves out of it before a trend sets in, usually. The Hoyas had their chance to curb the crap last night and didn't get it done on their home floor. Something's not right, and I'm not talking about the ever-valuable Chris Wright — because that's been addressed, too.

Fortunately, the Hoyas get their gut check at the right time, you'd think, because the trinity of NYC-area games is next up on the slate. JT3's team plays at 10-6 Rutgers Saturday, then gets 8-9 Seton Hall on the road Tuesday, finishing up with 10-5 St. John's eight full nights later, on Jan. 26. A big break, and one Georgetown will want, even if it gets two wins upcoming on the road.

The sirens are now blaring, the lights crawling, because in a deep Big East, a 1-4 start can be like quicksand. Now's the time for the Hoyas to turn it around, lest they never get off that bubble and play the remainder of the year at an uphill pace.

Photo: Getty Images
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Georgetown
 
 
 
 
 
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