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Roundball Chatter


Each week I will look at the sport I love, college basketball.

• How about a salute to the Florida Gators, the first school to have three players drafted in the top 10. I was a little surprised that Joakim Noah fell down to No. 9, and some will be critical of his decision to return to school. I say it's great that he came back, even if he would have gone higher in last year's draft ... he will still make his millions! It is going to be interesting to watch the progress of Al Horford, Noah and Corey Brewer. Those guys played so well together and were so acclimated as teammates, we will have to see them playing on different teams, getting used to different situations. It was a pleasure watching them together at Florida.

• Speaking of Florida, great to see that athletic director Jeremy Foley got a long-term contract extension. My friends, Foley is a flat-out winner who does a great job of getting his coaches the resources to be successful. That is something most coaches dream about from an athletic director.

• Staying in the SEC, great news for Bruce Pearl and Tennessee. Transfer Tyler Smith is going to eligible immediately this season. That is a big deal for the Vols as Smith averaged just under 15 ppg. for the Iowa Hawkeyes last season. The NCAA granted Smith a waiver granting him immediate eligibility after the school petitioned for it. With Chris Lofton returning, plus another pair of Smiths JaJuan and Ramar the Vols are a potential top 10 team.

• Big news out of Lexington, where Billy Gillispie has already made an impact in recruiting. Versatile 6-6 forward DeAndre Liggins has given a verbal commitment to join the Wildcats' class of 2008. Several recruiting experts list Liggins as a top 20 prospect.

• If you were wondering which conference won in the NBA lottery, three leagues had three players each go among the top 14 choices. The Big 12 (Kevin Durant, Acie Law and Julian Wright); SEC (Horford, Brewer and Noah) and the ACC (Brandan Wright, Thaddeus Young and Al Thornton) tied for the lead if you wondered about bragging rights.

• Indiana has started work on the Indiana Basketball Development Center (target date for completion is September 2008). The new facility will serve as the daily headquarters for the men's and women's programs, featuring practice courts, locker rooms, coach's offices and meeting rooms for each team, as well as a training room and strength development area. Now the big question in Bloomington involves Assembly Hall. There has been discussion whether renovation is a viable option, or is it time for a new building. If the school builds a new facility for its home games, it is time to call it the Robert Montgomery Knight center.

• It is interesting to see how the players picked in the NBA draft fare. You never know how players will respond when they have big money and added responsibility, plus adjusting to a new environment. How do you judge that before the draft? You can have all the workouts in the world, all the conversations with the kids before the draft, and you never know how they will handle the pressure.

• Sad to hear of the passing of former Virginia Tech and Davidson coach Bobby Hussey, who died of an apparent heart attack. It has been a tough year for the coaching professional with the losses of Jim Killingsworth and Ray Mears.

• An unsung guard to keep an eye on is 6-5 Stefon Johnson out of UTEP. Conference USA players and coaches are well aware of him after he averaged almost 19 ppg. last season. Johnson also averaged over six boards per contest. How consistent was he? Johnson had 20 or more points 16 times last season.

• Mark down December 1s on your calendar. Talk about an interesting match-ups featuring two coaches that are new to their school. Saint Louis, led by Rick Majerus, will face Long Beach State and new coach Dan Monson. For the 49ers, the contest against the Billikens comes right after a test vs. Washington, a team Monson coached against while at Gonzaga.

• Who says you can't go home again? Rice coach Willis Wilson named former Owls star Brent Scott as an assistant coach. Scott recently retired from playing professional basketball in Europe after spending the 2006-07 season with AEK Athens in Greece. He scored over 1900 points with the Owls.

• Rutgers lost 6-7 forward Ollie Bailey, who opted to transfer to NAIA Oklahoma City. Bailey played three seasons for the Scarlet Knights. Oklahoma City won the NAIA national championship last season

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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