ESPN Events: Wooden Legacy

Wooden Legacy impacts NBA Draft

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
7:20
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Two players that earned all-tournament honors at the 2013 Wooden Legacy were selected in the National Basketball Association draft Thursday along with five other players that had competed in previous editions of the Anaheim Classic. Creighton’s national player-of-the-year Doug McDermott and Xavier Thames of San Diego State were competitors from the 2013 Wooden Legacy, which combined the Anaheim Classic and the John R. Wooden Classic in June 2013, picked in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Thames was named the 2013 Wooden Legacy most valuable player as he led San Diego State to three-straight wins in the Thanksgiving weekend event played at both the Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton and Honda Center near Disneyland.

Highlighted by a 29-point effort in the Aztec’s 67-59 win over Marquette in the December 1 championship game at Honda Center, Thames scored 66 points in three games as he made 11 of his 15 three-point shots.

McDermott scored 64 points in his three Wooden Legacy games last fall starting with a 27-point performance in the Bluejays’ 86-60 opening round victory over Arizona State. In the semi-finals at Titan Gym before a sellout crowd, San Diego State defeated Creighton 86-80 as Thames scored 26 points while McDermott tallied 30 points.

Other players drafted Thursday with previous playing experience in the former Anaheim Classic were Markel Brown (44th pick overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves) of Oklahoma State (2010 Anaheim Classic participant), Josh Huestis (29th, Oklahoma State Thunder) of Stanford (2010), Dwight Powell (45th, Charlotte Hornets) of Stanford (2010), Cameron Bairstow (49th, Chicago Bulls) of New Mexico (2011) and Semaj Christon of Xavier (55th, Miami Heat) of Xavier (2012, all-tournament selection).

For previous NBA drafts, here are selections where the players competed in the former Anaheim Classics.

THE WOODEN LEGACY PLAYERS IN THE NBA DRAFT (Anaheim Classic participation only)

2013 Draft

* Tony Snell, New Mexico 2011 (pick 20 by Chicago Bulls)

* Allen Crabbe, Cal 2012 (pick 31 by Cleveland Cavaliers, traded to Portland Trailblazers)

* Isaiah Canaan, Murray State 2010 (pick 34 by Houston Rockets)

* Erick Green, Virginia Tech 2010 (pick 46 by Utah Jazz)

* Romero Osby, Oklahoma 2011 (pick 51 by Orlando Magic)

* Colton Iverson, Minnesota 2010 (pick 53 by Indiana Pacers, traded to Boston Celtics)

2012 Draft

* Quincy Acy, Baylor 2008 (pick 37 by Toronto Raptors)

* Khris Middleton, Texas A&M 2009 (pick 39 by Detroit Pistons)

2011 Draft

* Shelvin Mack, Butler 2009 (pick 34 by Washington Wizards)

* Malcolm Lee, UCLA, 2009 (pick 43 by Chicago Bulls, rights traded to Minnesota Timberwolves from Utah Jazz)

2010 Draft

* Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest 2008 (pick 8 by LA Clippers)

* Gordon Hayward, Butler 2009 (pick 9 by Utah Jazz)

* Trevor Booker, Clemson 2009 (pick 23 by Minnesota Timberwolves)

* Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia 2009 (pick 42 by Miami Heat)

* Devin Ebanks, West Virginia 2009 (pick 43 by Los Angeles Lakers)

2009 Draft

* James Harden, Arizona State 2008 (pick 3 by Oklahoma City Thunder)

* DeMar DeRozan, USC 2007 (pick 9 by Toronto Raptors)

* James Johnson, Wake Forest 2008 (pick 16 by Chicago Bulls)

* Jeff Teague, Wake Forest 2008 (pick 19 by Atlanta Hawks)

* Taj Gibson, USC 2007 (pick 26 by Chicago Bulls)

* Jeff Pedergraph, Arizona State 2008 (pick 31 by Sacramento Kings, traded to Portland Trailblazers)

* Patrick Mills, Saint Mary’s 2008 (pick 55 by Portland Trailblazers)

2008 Draft

* O. J. Mayo, USC 2007 (pick 3 by Minnesota Timberwolves, traded to Memphis Grizzles)

Marquette, San Diego State Wooden finale

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
3:02
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With the stage set after two rounds of bracket play Thursday and Friday, Sunday’s championship game of the DIRECTV Wooden Legacy between Marquette and San Diego State (6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2) at Honda Center appears to have all the ingredients to add to the growing history of this Thanksgiving collegiate basketball tournament, writes Tim Simmons. MORE

Chatman runs the show for Creighton

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
3:15
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No one appreciated good point guard play more than the late John Wooden.

Long before he was “the Wizard of Westwood” as a coach at UCLA, Wooden was one of the best guards ever to play Indiana High School basketball and was a three-time All-American at Purdue.

Wooden would appreciate the play of Creighton point guard Austin Chatman, who leads No. 20 Creighton into this weekend’s tournament that bears the legendary coach's name, the Wooden Legacy, and especially love the Bluejays’ opening-round matchup with Arizona State when Chatman goes up against ASU sophomore point sensation Jahii Carson.

Chatman is shooting over 55 percent, over 58 percent from three and just north of 71 percent from the foul line. He entered Monday averaging 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists, one of six players in the nation to make that claim. While Chatman sounds like option No. 1 material in most offenses he’s only good enough for options No. 3 and 4 on a Creighton team that leads the Big East in scoring (92.0, almost 13 points higher than the nearest team), field goal percentage (.535), three-point field goals made (11.5 per game, four more than the next team) and field goal percentage (.460, more than 60 points higher than the next team).

Within the framework of the Bluejays’ offense, Chatman ranks third in scoring (11.0 ppg) and field goal percentage (.552, .583 from three) after scoring a career-best 19 in Saturday’s 82-72 win over Tulsa. He took the lead in three-point shooting following a career-best 4-for-5 day from behind the arc against the Golden Hurricane.

But sharing the court with the likes of forward Doug McDermott, a two-time Consensus First-Team All-American and preseason choice to make it three straight, and three-point marksman Ethan Wragge, as well as co-point Grant Gibbs, Chatman has found that being option No. 3 or even 4 for coach Greg McDermott (Doug’s dad) isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s something to celebrate.

“That just shows you what great shooters we have on the team,” Chatman said.

In only his second year starting, the junior from The Colony, Texas, who was named Missouri Valley Conference Most Improved Player last year, is a point guard in the truest sense. Like all true points, he relishes the idea of having plenty of options. While the ball most frequently winds up in McDermott’s more-than-capable hands, Chatman feels confident throwing to any of the other three players on the court at any time.

“It makes it easy,” he said. “I really don’t have too many turnovers because if you get into the lane somebody has to help and we have so many threats on the court that you really can’t go wrong no matter who you throw it to on our team. We have a lot of shooters and weapons on the court.”

Heading into the Wooden Legacy, Chatman only has four turnovers through four games vs. 25 assists, a 6.25:1 assists-to-turnover ratio. He almost forgot what a turnover was, as he didn’t commit his first until late in the first half of Creighton’s fourth game on Saturday against Tulsa. Taking care of the ball is contagious at Creighton, as the point guard trio of Chatman (25/4), Gibbs (23/5) and Devin Brooks (14/8) combine for a 62 assists vs. 17 turnovers.

“Really that’s what it came down to. Just making smarter plays and making the right reads,” he said. “I’ve been watching a lot of film the past year or so, trying to make the right reads in certain situations. It’s something that I was focusing on since last year ended, getting into the lane and making plays in the lane, finishing around the rim, things like that.”

Chatman is looking forward to showing people how that work has paid off and what Creighton, the newest member of the Big East, is all about, on Thursday and Friday at Titan Gym in Fullerton, Calif., and then Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

“It will be real nice,” he said. “Just getting different scenery, we’re looking forward to enjoying that for a little while, playing teams that we really haven’t played, different competition. That will be real fun.”

The fun — see the challenge — begins right away for Chatman, who will be matched up with Carson, the Sun Devils leading scorer (23.0) and assistman (5.4 apg). Carson is rolling, having dropped a career-high 40 on UNLV on Nov. 19 on 16-for-25 shooting, 2-for-3 from 3, 6-for-9 from the line, with seven assists, then followed that on Monday with a 25-point effort in a 78-77 home victory over No. 25 Marquette.

Carson and Chatman aren’t exactly strangers, as they met last year in the finals of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Carson won the duel (30 points, on 9-for-17 shooting, 7 assists vs. 5 turnovers and 4 steals) against Chatman (7 points on 3-for-7 shooting, 1 assist vs. 6 turnovers and 1 steal) but No. 14 Creighton prevailed, 87-73.

Chatman is better prepared for the likes of Carson this time around. He’s a year more familiar with Creighton’s offense. He also sharpened his skills during the off-season, working out with Brooklyn Nets point guard and three-time All-Star Deron Williams — both of whom attended The Colony High School.

He expects a challenge every night with every team coming after the Bluejays, who were picked to finish third in their inaugural season in the Big East.

“Every game we go into we’re going go get everybody’s best shot because that’s all they hear about is ‘Creighton this,’ ‘Creighton that.’ We’ve got Doug and things like that,” said Chatman. “So it’s on us to come to every game and give our best effort and leave it all on the court.”

It’s OK, Thanksgiving can be for hoops, too

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
5:57
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Thanksgiving and football go together like oil and vinegar, hot dogs and the Fourth of July, Kentucky and one-and-done star freshmen.

I grew up in Massachusetts, where not only did we sit down and watch the Lions and Cowboys play home games on TV, but we also trudged out in parkas to watch the local high school play its traditional Thanksgiving morning rivalry game. It wasn’t officially the holiday until I stuffed my face, plopped in front of the TV to watch another terrible Lions team and acted like I had dozed off to avoid the annoying relative’s mindless conversation.

But a few years ago, my eye wandered past the gridiron to college hoops, and I admit, I felt slightly ashamed at first. Instead of just that lone Great Alaska Shootout game late-night on the holiday, there were suddenly games spaced throughout the holiday. It didn’t seem right at first, but then I found myself staying on these games a little longer. I’d miss the Lions’ latest three-and-out and no longer did it feel un-American.

Last year I spent Thanksgiving at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, covering Davidson in the Old Spice Classic. I missed just about all of the football that day, but I didn’t really miss it that much. I watched a well-drilled Davidson team and a surprisingly good Gonzaga squad. I watched Bob Huggins rant and rave. I saw three-pointers and dunks and good defensive plays and didn’t really long for the the NFL’s extra point—commercial—kickoff—commercial sequence.

You know what, basketball on Thanksgiving works. “It’s a good thing for college basketball,” College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said.

And this year there’s plenty to choose from, including Wojcik’s Cougars. I’ll be in Phoenix on Turkey Day, so perhaps you can join me for a Hardwood Thanksgiving. Here's a road map:

10 a.m. for me in Phoenix (noon ET): I successfully avoid donuts 364 days each year, but give in on Thanksgiving. Hey, it’s a diet-busting day anyway, so why not go all out? Join me as I pound mini-powdered donuts and watch a much fitter Marcus Smart lead Oklahoma State against Purdue on ESPN2 in the Old Spice Classic. No doubt some NBA executives will also be watching Smart, who scored 40 points against Memphis this month.

Noon for me (2 p.m. ET): Get the clicker handy. Yes, you’re allowed to take a peek at Packers-Lions, but spend some time on Miami-George Washington from the DIRECTV Wooden Legacy on ESPNU, and Butler-Washington State from Orlando. on ESPN2. See how Miami is faring after losing all five starters from a year ago, and how Butler is holding up after losing coach Brad Stevens to the Boston Celtics.

2:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET): Time to race over to the buffet, but be strategic so this buffet not only has white meat, gravy, potatoes and plenty of rolls, but it’s near a TV tuned to ESPN2 and Marquette-Cal State Fullerton from the Wooden. You’ll notice that while Marquette’s Davante Gardner likely beat you to the buffet line, the guy can play.

4:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET): I covered Jimmy Patsos when he used the ultimate triangle-and-2 defense to hold Stephen Curry scoreless — and yet lose by 30. You never know what the colorful coach will do, and I look forward to watching him in his first year at Siena try to take down a deep Memphis team from Orlando on ESPN2. It’s OK if you catch the end of Raiders-Cowboys, too.

6:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. ET): Wojcik’s Cougars try to upset San Diego State on ESPNU at the Wooden, while Saint Joseph’s and LSU play in the final game of the day in Orlando on ESPN2. LSU features highly-touted freshman Jarrell Martin, who could be in the NBA a year from now.

9 p.m. (11 p.m. ET): The relatives are likely gone now, so you can settle in without distraction and catch a couple of the nation’s best players square off while picking at the leftovers. It’s Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who has already scored 37 points in a game this season, against Arizona State and speedy guard Jahii Carson on ESPN2. If you dare to miss a Carson fast break, you’re allowed to catch the end of Steelers-Ravens.

It’s just you may forget to click over.

Coming attractions: Carson, Smart

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
5:30
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Nearing the end of a long day of driving cross country Tuesday night I got stuck behind an accident in El Paso, Texas. I was tired, cranky and tailgating when I switched my satellite radio to Oklahoma State-Memphis. Then Marcus Smart made me smile.

Dave Hunziker’s voice kept reaching higher octaves as he described one driving layup and three-pointer after another. In the time it took me to go a half-mile, Smart had rolled up 24 points in 11 minutes. No really, he did. Smart finished with a career-high 39 points in No. 7 Oklahoma State’s 101-80 victory over No. 11 Memphis. It made for a much more enjoyable traffic delay, but I still wished I had watched it. Then I remembered everybody gets a chance to see Smart next week.

Smart and the Cowboys (4-0) are in the Old Spice Classic, which starts on Thanksgiving. In fact, Oklahoma State could face Memphis again on Dec. 1 in the final. Think the Tigers might try to come up with some defensive tricks in a rematch?

After finally getting past the wreck and long after my disdain at rubberneckers subsided, I settled into my hotel in Las Cruces, N.M., turned on the TV and stopped at Arizona State-UNLV. And I realized I was missing something big.

Jahii Carson couldn’t miss. And nobody could catch him. The speedy guard had been scoring every which way. You would have thought he was trying to one-up Smart. He did, in a way. Carson finished with a career-high 40 points to lead Arizona State (4-0) to an 86-80 win. I wished I had found the game sooner, but then realized ESPN Events will come to the rescue for me again.

See, Carson and the Sun Devils play in the DIRECTV Wooden Legacy next week, which also starts on Thanksgiving. That’s six opportunities in four days to watch two of the most electric guards in college basketball.

Count me in.

Ranked teams reign in early season tournaments

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
3:01
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Clear your calendars for Nov. 12, college basketball fans. You’ll want to be in front of your bigscreen when No. 1 faces No. 2 and the No. 4 squares off against No. 5. The State Farm Champions Classic will be a night to remember, and the rest of ESPN Events’ early-season tournaments aren’t bad either. Based on Thursday’s first Associated Press Top 25 poll, seven of the top 10 teams and 11 ranked teams in all will play in these events.

The marquee night is less than two weeks away at the United Center, when top-ranked Kentucky showcases its fabulous freshmen class against No. 2 Michigan State. It will be the first significant test for either team. Kentucky faces UNC Asheville and Northern Kentucky before that. Michigan State opens at home against McNeese State before traveling to Chicago.

And that’s not all. The other part of the doubleheader features No. 4 Duke against fifth-ranked Kansas. Top recruit Andrew Wiggins of the Jayhawks will face No. 2 recruit Jabari Parker. Not bad, eh? Both games will be televised on ESPN.

Here's how the rest of ESPN Events’ early-season slate shakes out:

Seventh-ranked Michigan and No. 14 VCU will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Nov. 21-24, with a potential matchup looming in the final. The rest of the field includes Georgetown, Kansas State, Charlotte, Florida State, Long Beach State and Northeastern.

Push away from the Thanksgiving table in time to see No. 8 Oklahoma State and 13th-ranked Memphis play in the Old Spice Classic Nov. 28-Dec. 1. The rest of that event features Butler, Saint Joseph’s, LSU, Purdue, Siena and Washington State. Memphis will play at Oklahoma State in an Old Spice Classic non-bracketed game Nov. 19, and they could meet again in the final.

Memphis isn’t shying away from tough competition. The Tigers will also play No. 10 Florida in the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 17 at Madison Square Garden.

No. 17 Marquette should be tested in the Wooden Legacy Nov. 28-Dec. 1. Creighton, which received the second-most votes of unranked teams, is also in the field along with Miami, San Diego State, Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, College of Charleston and George Washington.

No. 23 New Mexico headlines the field in the Charleston Classic Nov. 21-24, joining UAB, Clemson, Davidson, Georgia, UMass, Nebraska and Temple.

Mid-majors ready for major challenges

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
1:11
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There are countless positives for a mid-major program when it knocks off a big-name school, consistently wins 20 games or makes an NCAA tournament run. All the success, exposure and notoriety also produce one negative, however: scheduling headaches. Suddenly the big boys are wary of playing you.

“In my opinion, we’re a true mid-major. When I say that, I mean the kind of success we’ve had in our program, our fan base—we outdraw a lot of BCS schools here,” College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said. “So in that sense, it’s hard to get home games. Even when you potentially can get a decent series and say you have to go on the road, it may cost you $20,000 to $25,000. When you’re a mid-major, you have to manage that sort of a budget. So these are games I just couldn’t get otherwise.”

Wojcik is talking about early-season tournaments. The Cougars play in the Wooden Legacy in California Nov. 28-Dec. 1, opening with San Diego State, playing Creighton or Arizona State in the second round, and closing with another game against a quality opponent in a field that also includes Marquette, Miami, Cal State Fullerton and George Washington.

“Boy, those are good opportunities for us,” admitted Wojcik, who returns most of the team that went 24-11 last season and lost in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational. “It’s a big challenge and it puts a lot of pressure on a team. That’s why you always want to stay experienced and be an upperclassmen team. It really gives you a chance to win some of those games and help your RPI.”

Davidson has seen its Ratings Percentage Index benefit from ESPN Events tournaments in two of the past three seasons. The Wildcats beat Nebraska and Western Kentucky and lost to West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2010. Last year in Orlando, Davidson knocked off Vanderbilt and West Virginia before losing to Gonzaga in the final of the Old Spice Classic on the way to a 26-8 season that included an NCAA tournament appearance.

“You can’t put a price tag on how valuable that is to us, in terms of the way it prepared us for our Southern Conference experience, as well as for postseason play,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “That was a sensational experience.”

McKillop, who must replace graduated big man Jake Cohen, plays in the Charleston Classic Nov. 21-24. Davidson opens against Georgia, plays either Temple or Clemson in the second round, and will close against another potential RPI-boosting team in a field that includes UAB, UMass, Nebraska and New Mexico. “We’ve been to Charleston, to Puerto Rico, then Orlando and now we’re back to Charleston,” McKillop said. “And in each case we’ve been able to play high-powered programs on neutral sites in environments that are attractive for our fans, attractive for our players. It’s sort of a laboratory for our season.”

Northeastern in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and Siena in the Old Spice Classic are also in similar positions of facing several high-major teams on neutral floors. Added Wojcik about the opportunities such tournaments provide: “Gosh, as long as we stay even-keeled, positive, move on whether good or bad, I don’t know how it can’t prepare you for March.”

Newton Taking His Talents to Miami

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
5:15
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Ja’Quan Newton, the outstanding shooting guard from Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti High School, has always dreamed of playing big-time college basketball. A 6-2, 176-pound senior, Newton was heavily recruited by a number of Division I schools, including UCLA, Texas A&M and Minnesota. For Newton, however, one standout earned his verbal commitment—the University of Miami, which plays in the Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 2013).

“I selected Miami because it was the best situation for me,” reasons Newton, an All-Catholic League standout, who averaged 18.0 points a game last season. “Miami has a winning program. I wanted to be a part of a winner … and they also play in the best league in the country.”

For Newton, that would be the Atlantic Coast Conference, of course. The Hurricanes won the ACC conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament last season, finishing with an impressive 27-6 overall record.

Newton, who has scored 1,302 career points, knows a little something about winning. He has led Neumann-Goretti to three consecutive Catholic League championships.

Miami coach Jim Larraņaga would be happy to know that his newest star recruit is also a big fan of his coach: “He’s a good coach and a mentor,” says Newton. “He’s a great guy. He runs a lot of pick-and-roll and high-ball screens and stuff like that. I love pick-and-rolls. That’s how I excel on the court.”

Key transfer players to watch this season

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
7:39
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Duke will lean heavily on a transfer. Miami is counting on a transfer as it replaces five starters. Arizona State lost a key player to another school, but is gaining two transfers in return. Memphis won a key NCAA decision that allows a transfer to play this season. And many other schools are plugging holes with players who’ve transferred, many of whom bring gaudy numbers from their former schools. With transfers playing a big part in college basketball, it’s no surprise many will be featured in ESPN Events’ early-season tournaments. Here are 10 transfers to watch at these events:

Rodney Hood, Duke: The Blue Devils enter the season with national title aspirations, and Hood’s versatility may be the key to their chances. The 6-foot-8 Mississippi native sat out last season after leaving Mississippi State following a coaching change. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds as a freshman. Hood will team up with Rasheed Sulaimon and incoming freshman Jabari Parker by playing multiple positions. Expect Hood to see time at both forward positions, shooting guard and even point. The Blue Devils will be leaning on Hood on Nov. 12 when they face Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic in Chicago.

Tarik Black, Kansas: The Jayhawks also get immediate veteran help in Black (pictured), who graduated from Memphis in the spring and can play immediately. Black averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds, and shot nearly 59 percent from the field for the Tigers last season. Black and No. 1 recruit Andrew Wiggins give Kansas plenty of depth despite the loss of Ben McLemore to the NBA.

Michael Dixon, Memphis: The Tigers are celebrating the NCAA’s decision that made Dixon eligible to play this season. The 6-2 guard sat out last season at Missouri after being accused of sexual assault. (No charges were ever filed.) Dixon, who has one year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists two years ago, but will have to compete for playing time in a crowded backcourt for Memphis. The Tigers play in the Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1) in Orlando and against Florida Dec. 17 in the Jimmy V Classic in New York.

Jermaine Marshall, Arizona State: While the Sun Devils lost guard Evan Gordon to Indiana, coach Herb Sendek snagged a transfer of his own to replace him. Marshall averaged 15.3 points a game at Penn State last season, and is eligible to play immediately after graduating. He’ll be paired with Jahii Carson in one of the Pac-12’s top backcourts. Arizona State also got transfer Brandan Kearney from Michigan State, but he’s ineligible until December, after the Sun Devils play in the Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1).

Josh Davis, San Diego State: The 6-8 Davis, who averaged 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds for Tulane last season, should provide coach Steve Fisher with instant offense. Davis, another graduate student with immediate eligibility, was one of the most sought-after transfers and spurned Gonzaga to join the Aztecs. After starting his career at North Carolina State, Davis considered turning pro but decided another year on the college stage would suit him best. He’ll get that spotlight in the Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1).

Donnavan Kirk, Miami: Angel Rodriguez was supposed to be Miami’s top incoming transfer, but the Hurricanes decided not to appeal to the NCAA to make Rodriguez eligible immediately, in part because the ex-Kansas State guard has knee issues. He’ll play next season. Enter Kirk, who’s a familiar face in Coral Gables. He played in 17 games at Miami over two seasons before transferring to DePaul. The 6-9 forward averaged 6.2 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Blue Demons last season. He graduated from DePaul, so he’s eligible to play immediately. The Hurricanes, who lost all five starters, will need Kirk when they play in the Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1).

Derrick Gordon, UMass: The last time we saw Gordon he was averaging 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds for Western Kentucky’s NCAA tournament team in 2011-’12. The 6-2 Gordon left following a coaching change and wanted to be closer to his New Jersey home. Now he’s expected to play both backcourt positions for the Minutemen, who play in the Charleston Classic Nov. 21-24.

Terrance Shannon, VCU: Shannon might get a chance to play against his former team, Florida State, in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24). The 6-8 Shannon is another graduate transfer who can play immediately. In a career plagued by injuries, he averaged 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Seminoles last season.

Ty Johnson, South Carolina: The 2011 MVP of the ESPN RISE high school tournament averaged just 3.3 points and 2 assists while starting nine of 32 games as a freshman at Villanova. But he’s expected to contribute immediately and play a leadership role on Frank Martin’s young team. The 6-foot-3 Johnson won’t be eligible to play until December, meaning the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25) in Hawaii could be his first big test in a Gamecocks uniform.

Joshua Smith, Georgetown: It’s uncertain if the former UCLA big man will be eligible to play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24), but if he’s cleared he’ll be an intriguing player to watch. Highly touted out of high school, Smith was plagued by weight issues and averaged just 13 minutes a game before leaving the Bruins early last season. If Smith is fit and engaged—he’s listed as 6-10 and 350 pounds—he’ll provide a nearly immovable presence as the Hoyas rebuild their frontcourt.

Recommended reading: “Top impact transfers, remaining targets” by ESPN.COM’s Jeff Goodman

Numerical nuggets from the ACC

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
7:42
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As the start of the 2013-’14 college basketball season approaches, ESPN Events takes a look at the different conferences and hands out some tasty, bite-size numerical morsels to whet fans’ appetites. There’s no better place to start than the ACC. With at least one team ranking in the AP’s final Top 10 in each of the past 53 years — last year they had two, in No. 5 Duke and No. 10 Miami, added No. 3 Syracuse this year and will add last year’s national champion, Louisville, next season. Here’s part one of a two-part look at the 15-team gauntlet that is the new-look ACC. Bon Appetite!

Boston College (16-17, 7-11, 8th)
7:
The number of returning players with at least 20 starts. That’s the most of any team in the ACC. That includes sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year and junior forward Ryan Anderson, who rank two and three in the conference in returning points (Anderson also ranks third in returning rebounds). The Eagles are the only school to return its entire starting five and brings back 64.7 percent of its scoring, also a league-high — eight points more than the nearest school, Virginia (56.4).

Clemson (13-18, 5-13, 11th)
6-feet-6:
The height of sophomore forward K.J. McDaniels, Clemson’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, who led the ACC in blocks last season (2.1 bpg). That made McDaniels the shortest player ever to lead the conference in blocks. He also became the first Clemson player since Sharone Wright in 1992-’93 to lead the ACC in blocks. He blocked at least one shot in 25 of the Tigers’ 28 games and his seven swats on Jan. 15 against Wake Forest were an ACC season-high. McDaniels’ dominance on the defensive end overshadowed that he also was fifth in the conference in most improved scoring average, boosting his output by 7.0 ppg (10.9 from 3.9). McDaniels gets to show his stuff in the Charleston Classic (Nov. 21-24).

Duke (30-6, 14-4, 2nd)
2:
Junior point guard Quinn Cook’s rank in the ACC in assists (5.3 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.41) last season for the Blue Devils, whose will play its second game of the season Nov. 12 in the State Farm Champions Classic. Cook is the leading returning scorer (11.7 ppg) and is one of two returning starters, with sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon (11.6 ppg) — the third-lowest total in the conference. Cook will try to orchestrate Duke’s stay in the AP top 10, which begins at an ACC-record 113 consecutive weeks, second all-time only to UCLA’s 155. Duke teams hold four of the ACC’s top five streaks for consecutive weeks being ranked in the top 10 (the last time the Blue Devils were not ranked in the AP Top 10 was in the Nov. 19, 2007 poll, in which they were 13th.).

Florida State (18-16, 9-9, 6th)
43:
The team-high number of blocks by center Kiel Turpin last season. The redshirt senior, who debuted with FSU after transferring from Lincoln College (which he led to the NJCAA Division II National Championship as a sophomore) was a big reason why the Seminoles led the ACC in blocks and ranked 26th in the country with 5.1 bpg. Kiel is the son of the late Mel Turpin, who starred at Kentucky from 1985 through 1990 before playing five seasons in the NBA. You can get an early look at Turpin in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24).

Georgia Tech (16-15, 6-12, 9th)
6:
In 2012-13, Georgia Tech became the sixth team in ACC history to have freshmen finish as their top two scorers. Forwards Marcus Georges-Hunt (10.8 ppg) and Robert Carter, Jr. (9.9) led the way for the Yellow Jackets, who started only one senior and had a five-win improvement over the previous season. Georges-Hunt and Carter, who spent part of their off-season with USA Basketball’s U19 Training Camp, also ranked first and third on the Jackets in rebounding last season, with Carter leading the team with 6.7 rpg and Georges-Hunt pulling 4.9.

*Maryland (25-13, 8-10, 7th)
14:
The number of years prior to last season that one team led the ACC in both field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin. The Terps did that in 2012-’13, holding opponents to .385 shooting, while outrebounding them by 8.6 per game. Maryland grabbed more rebounds than its opponents in 35 of 38 games. They’ll need to replace leading rebounder Alex Len (7.1 rpg), but sophomore forward Charles Mitchell (5.4 rpg) should go a long way to doing that. Junior guard/forward Dez Wells and 6-9 forward Evan Smotrycz, a transfer from Michigan, is a 41.4 percent three-point shooter, also will work in the paint.

Miami (29-7, 15-3, 1st)
Zero:
The number of starters returning from last year’s ACC Tournament Champion (which is part of the eight-team field in November’s Wooden Legacy tournament). Senior guard Rion Brown, who averaged 6.4 ppg last year, is the leading returning scorer for the Hurricanes, who lost their top six scorers from a year ago and return only 13 percent of their scoring. Reigning Coach of the Year Jim Larranaga’s squad was picked to finish fourth by ACC coaches in the preseason poll and fifth by the media.

*Maryland will be leaving the ACC following the 2014 season.

New coaches, new expectations

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
3:36
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Jimmy Patsos (pictured) has a spotlight on him, and only a handful of coaches around the country know how he feels. The former head coach at Loyola (Md.) is now the head man at Siena, replacing Mitch Buonaguro. One of the most difficult duties of coaches whose teams play in ESPN Events' early-season tournaments is scouting the opposition. There's plenty of player turnover on nearly every team from a season ago. And there are just a few game tapes from this season to develop a game plan. It's even more difficult if you're facing a school with a new coach. While the number of coaching changes this past offseason was down from previous years, there are still 46 Division I schools with new staffs. Four of those teams, including Patsos', play in ESPN Events' tournaments. Here's a look at the new guys:

Butler: The move nobody—except Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge—saw coming. When Ainge nabbed Brad Stevens to be the Celtics' new coach, NBA observers were stunned. So was the college basketball world. The Bulldogs moved quickly to promote assistant Brandon Miller, who had just been hired in April after spending a year on Illinois' staff. The 34-year-old Miller, a Butler graduate in his first head coaching job, convinced the six incoming freshmen to stay at the school.

That's important because Butler has just two seniors and top returning scorer and rebounder Roosevelt Jones is out for the season with an injured wrist. Miller, who spent six years as an assistant under former Butler coach Thad Matta at Ohio State, was able to get some extra work with his team this summer during a 10-day, four-game trip to Australia. But that's also when Roosevelt was injured.

Miller, who opened practice last weekend, faces a challenge, and then some. Not only are the Bulldogs moving to the Big East this season, they play in the stacked Old Spice Classic Nov. 28-Dec. 1. Butler opens against Washington State in an event that includes Memphis, Oklahoma State, Saint Joseph's, LSU, Purdue and Siena.

Cal State Fullerton: Dedrique Taylor is another first-year head coach. Taylor replaced interim coach Andy Newman, who had taken over for Bob Burton. Taylor had worked as an assistant at Arizona State since Herb Sendek was hired there in 2006. Before that, the 39-year-old Taylor was on the staffs at Nevada, Portland State, Loyola Marymount and UC Davis, where he played.

Known as an elite recruiter with ties to the Los Angeles area, Taylor will try to stockpile talent in Fullerton and improve a team that went 14-18 overall last season, including 6-12 in the Big West. Not only is it a homecoming of sorts for the Pomona, Calif., native, Taylor could face his old boss in the Wooden Legacy Nov. 28-Dec. 1. The Titans are set to play Marquette in the first round on Thanksgiving, but also in the field is Sendek and Arizona State. The rest of the tournament includes College of Charleston, Creighton, George Washington, Miami and San Diego State.

New Mexico: The guy with the best nickname of all the new coaches around the country has to be Craig "Noodles" Neal. The 49-year-old was promoted when Steve Alford left for UCLA. Neal, a close friend of Alford, had worked under him at Iowa and for the past six seasons at New Mexico. Neal, who was a finalist a year ago for the head job at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, will take over a Lobos program on the rise. Neal lost Tony Snell early to the NBA, but reigning Mountain West player of the year Kendall Williams is back for his senior season. All-conference second team center Alex Kirk returns, too, from a club that went 29-6 last season.

Neal and the Lobos head East to play in the Charleston Classic Nov. 21-24 on the South Carolina coast. New Mexico plays UAB in the first round. Other teams in the event include Clemson, Davidson, Georgia, UMass, Nebraska and Temple. Oh, and why is Neal called "Noodles?" It comes from his skinny frame when he was a high school star in Muncie, Ind. When he joined Bobby Cremins' team at Georgia Tech as a freshman, he was 6-foot-5 and just 160 pounds.

Siena: The guy with the best press conferences of all the new hires around the country may be Jimmy Patsos. The always colorful Patsos left his head coaching job at Loyola (Md.) when he was offered the Siena position in the offseason. He replaces Mitch Buonaguro, who was fired after the Saints tied a school record for losses in a season by going 8-24 in 2012-13.

The move also allows the 47-year-old Patsos to stay in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. His old school, Loyola, is moving to the Patriot League. He took some heat for his bizarre coaching decision against Davidson's Stephen Curry nearly five years ago. But sometimes lost among the bombastic sideline rants is how he turned around a Greyhounds team that was coming off a 1-27 season when he arrived and made it a regular contender in the MAAC. Patsos reached the NCAA tournament in 2012 and last season's team went 23-12.

Patsos got a look at his new squad when it played exhibition games in Montreal this summer. But the competition will get tougher quickly. The Saints will open against Memphis in the Old Spice Classic on Thanksgiving. No matter the result, you might want to stick around for his postgame comments.

From Puerto Rico to Anaheim, notes abound ...

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
7:06
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Veteran reporter Tim Simmons is man of notes ... he's also a man of frequent flyer miles. Between airport stops, he filed a quick notes package on the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and the Wooden Legacy, two of ESPN Events' early season tournaments to which he's assigned. Got an idea for Simmons? Email him at BFISHINC@aol.com.

"10" FOR TOUGHNESS: Will Long Beach State face formidable opponents in its non-conference schedule this season? Without a doubt, maintains ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf, who rated the 49ers’ non-conference schedule a “10” on the “Toughness Scale.” Medcalf writes that the program “will face national title contender Arizona on the road in early November.” The 49ers open the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a matchup against Michigan, another national title contender. The tourney also includes VCU and Georgetown. Big East title favorite Creighton travels to the West Coast for a matchup in early December. The slate ends with a matchup against Missouri in Columbia. Now that's a non-conference schedule.

HIGH HOPES FOR VCU: Which teams have the most to prove this season? VCU is in the top 10, according to ESPN's Eamonn Brennan. “Word out of Richmond is that this may well be Shaka Smart’s most talented team,” wrote Brennan about the Rams, which will be competing in the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

SEMINOLE STANDOUT: The Sporting News lavished high praise on Florida State senior Okaro White, who was featured in the publication’s college basketball preview. White, who was featured on the cover of the magazine, is “precisely the sort of player head coach Leonard Hamilton has relied upon to build the Seminoles’ program: rangy, athletic, and willing to defend and block shots, all while steadily improving his polish,” noted the editors. “His ability to punish opponents inside and occasionally on the perimeter ensures that he’ll be a centerpiece as a senior.”

100 YEARS OF BASKETBALL IN PUERTO RICO: Led by Northeastern great Jose Juan Barea, Puerto Rico’s national team finished second in the 2013 FIVB Americas Championships in Caracas, Venezuela. Barea, the Northeastern standout from 2002-2006 who is coming off a career year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, led Puerto Rico to the championship game Sept. 11 in the 2013 FIVB Americas Championships in Caracas, Venezuela. Barea, who has scored 140 points and 38 assists in helping Puerto Rico to a 6-3 record in the tournament, dropped a 91-89 decision to Mexico in the finals after advancing to the finals with a 79-67 win over the Dominican Republic. By advancing to the “final four”, Puerto Rico earned a spot in the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

BUILDING A "LEGACY": Led by Doug McDermott of Creighton and Jahii Carson of Arizona State, SportingNews.com highlighted several players and teams that will be participating in the 2013 Wooden Legacy. McDermott was named a first-team pre-season All-American while Carson was named to the second-team. The site noted that McDermott “will be everyone’s preseason Big East Player of the Year." Carson deserves the honor. Some might initially question his ability to produce eye-popping numbers outside of the Missouri Valley Conference, but those questions won’t last long.

As for the top players by position, Marquette’s four players scheduled to compete in the 2013 Wooden Legacy were listed. In addition to McDermott (the top power forward) and Carson (the No. 4 point guard), Marquette’s Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner were the 10th-rated power forward and center, respectively. San Diego State senior Xavier Thames was featured on the publication’s regional inset. The Sporting News ranked Thamas as “one of the Mountain West’s top-10 players and senior classmate Josh Davis as one of the league’s top-10 newcomers. Coach Steve Fisher, who is considered one of the conference’s top-5 coaches, also brings in the 66th-best recruiting class nationally. Fisher’s incoming class is two deep and ranks 10th nationally among groups featuring two players or less.”

CHARLESTON CHALLENGE: The 2013-'14 Charleston schedule features a season-opening game at Louisville and three games at the Wooden Legacy. Eight other opponents advanced to postseason play a year ago, including San Diego State (Charleston’s first-round Wooden Legacy foe). The Cougars will play either Arizona State or Creighton in their second Wooden Legacy game. “It is a great schedule, especially when you have the defending national champions on the road in Louisville and the defending ACC champions at home in Miami [also a possible Wooden Legacy foe on Dec. 1],” said coach Doug Wojcik. “We will also be tested early with tournament games out in Anaheim with San Diego State and Creighton or Arizona State in the next game as well as Marquette and Miami on the other side of the bracket.”

Super Sophomores to Watch

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
8:17
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You've no doubt heard plenty of chatter about incoming freshmen in college basketball. You'll have a chance to see ESPN top recruit Andrew Wiggins of Kansas face No. 2 prospect Jabari Parker of Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on Nov. 12. In that same doubleheader in Chicago, Kentucky's great incoming freshmen class will be on display in a matchup versus Michigan State.

But don't forget about the sophomores. In an era where many of the nation's top players turn pro after one season, there's an intriguing crop of second-year players who could have a major impact in who walks away with the national title next spring.

Fortunately, you'll be able to see a number of them in ESPN Events' early-season tournaments. Here are the top five sophomores to watch:

5. Duke G Rasheed Sulaimon: The 6-foot-4 shooting guard not only contributed 11.6 points a game, but he became Duke's top perimeter defender as a freshman. Now that reinforcements are on the way in Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, Sulaimon could give opponents headaches on how to defend the Blue Devils. See how Kansas fares on Nov. 12 at the United Center.

4. Kentucky F Alex Poythress: The 6-7 Tennessee native came to college with plenty of hype, and disappointed some by averaging just 11.2 points and 6 rebounds as a freshman (despite shooting 58 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range). Now with Kentucky's big freshmen class on the way, Poythress will have to perform to get playing time. You'll get a chance to see how he responds on Nov. 12.

3. Michigan F Mitch McGary: The Indiana native carried Michigan to the national title game with a breakout NCAA Tournament. The 6-10 McGary only started two games before he reached another level in the NCAAs. McGary had 25 points and 14 rebounds in a Sweet 16 victory over Kansas. He added 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a Final Four win over Syracuse. Despite projections he'd be a first-round pick, the 21-year-old returned to school. He and the Wolverines will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Nov. 21-24.

2. Arizona State G Jahii Carson: With Allen Iverson-like fearlessness in driving the lane and a freshman school-record 177 assists, the 5-10 Carson was co-freshman of the year in the Pac-12 last season. Carson led all freshman in the nation at 18.5 points a game. Carson will be one of the most fun players to watch this season, and you'll get a chance to see the speedy guard play in the Wooden Legacy Nov. 28-Dec. 1.

1. Oklahoma State G Marcus Smart: There was disbelief at first when the reigning Big 12 player of the year announced he'd return for his sophomore season. Then pundits immediately began moving the Cowboys higher in their preseason polls. Smart, who was projected as a top-five NBA draft pick, brings scoring (15.4 points), toughness (5.7 rebounds), passing (4.2 assists) and quickness (2.9 steals) to a team that will challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. Watch Smart play three early-season games in the Old Spice Classic Nov. 28-Dec. 1.

Wooden Legacy teams getting ready

August, 22, 2013
8/22/13
6:56
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Arizona State’s “Global” Initiative: Arizona State’s trip to China as part of the Pac-12 Globalization Initiative ended with the Sun Devils posting a 3-0 record. Herb Sendek’s team played games in Beijing (Aug. 12, 104-70 ASU win over Tsinghua), Zhaoqing (Aug. 16, 94-69 win over Fujian SBS) and Nanning (Aug. 18, 99-77 win over Fujian SBS), and the coach took plenty away from the trip. “This trip was really good for us as we were able to see what the newcomers can do,” noted Sendek, whose team is among the eight schools participating in the Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1). “Spider [Sendek’s nickname for Calaen Robinson] and Drago [Sendek’s nickname for Egor Koulechov] really impressed. We wondered who our backup point guard would be this year, and it is safe to say that both Calaen and Chance [Murray] impressed.”

Carson Puts on a Show: Arizona State basketball standout Jahii Carson wowed those in attendance at the Adidas Nations basketball showcase earlier this month. Here’s proof.

Cal State Fullerton’s Growing Roster: Cal State Fullerton, another of the schools participating in the Wooden Legacy, added six more to its 2013-’14 roster, including freshmen Floris Versteeg and Hidde Vos of the Netherlands, walk-on Ian Spruce, and transfers Josh Gentry, Moses Morgan and Corey Walker. “We are excited to have these guys join ranks with us, as we expect them to all to contribute to building ‘Titan City,’” first-year head coach Dedrique Taylor said. While Versteeg, Vos and Spruce are true freshmen, Morgan and Walker must sit out the 2013-’14 season to serve a year in residence and will have one year of eligibility remaining with the Titans in 2014-’15.

Titan(ic) Challenge! Cal State Fullerton announced its 2013-’14 schedule last week. Titan coach Taylor will face “a challenging slate of 31 games for his debut season at Cal State Fullerton, including a possible nine contests against schools that saw some sort of postseason action a year ago.”

Welcome to Jamaica, Akpejiori! Miami Hurricanes senior forward Raphael Akpejiori (pronounced AHK-peh-jour-ee) competed for the Athletes In Action on the team’s recently completed Jamaican tour. According to a Miami website article, after the AIA’s first three games, “Akpejiori flooded the stat sheet with contributions in a multitude of areas.” Aside from his nine points and five rebounds, Akpejiori also added three assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field. AIA concluded the trip with two games against the Jamaican Senior National Team in Montego Bay, where the team dropped both games. In a 77-74 setback to the Jamaicans Friday, Akpejiori scored 10 points and had three rebounds and two steals. In a 90-82 loss Saturday, Akpejiori scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and was credited with two assists. He finished the five games with 29 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Winning early often means winning late

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
2:10
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Early season college basketball tournaments are more than just a chance to see some of the nation’s best teams and players square off on neutral floors. Past history indicates winning a grueling, three-game event in November or December – such as ESPN Events’ five in-season elimination tournaments – are often a precursor to winning it all in April. Or at least reaching the Final Four.

Louisville’s run to the 2013 NCAA title snapped a four-year streak in which the national champion also won an early-season tournament. And still, finalist Michigan (NIT Season Tip-Off) and fellow Final Four participant Wichita State (Cancun Challenge) raised a trophy early in the season.

Before that, 2012 national champion Kentucky (Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic), 2011 champ Connecticut (Maui Invitational), 2010 winner Duke (NIT) and 2009 champ North Carolina (Maui) all tasted success early before winning late.

That’s not all. Last season’s Old Spice Classic winner, Gonzaga, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. So did Legends Classic champ, Indiana. Duke won the Battle 4 Atlantis before reaching the Elite Eight. Before California knocked off No. 5 seed UNLV in the first round it took the Anaheim Classic.

Many coaches jump at competing in an early season event because it gives players a taste of what's to come in conference tournaments and the NCAA championship. And history shows teams that excel playing on consecutive days and against good competition at neutral sites often carry that over into March.

So while you watch teams play three games in four days at the Wooden Legacy, Charleston Classic, Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, Puerto Rico Tip-Off and Old Spice Classic this fall, tuck away the information. It just might help your NCAA bracket.

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