UR deals with loss of assistant, leading scorer
• Richmond coach Chris Mooney said he is embarrassed by the NCAA violation committed by an assistant coach who then resigned over the issue. The assistant, reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch as Carlin Hartman, sent text messages to recruits last year after the practice was forbidden under NCAA rules in August 2007."It's embarrassing, and it shouldn't happen at Richmond," Mooney said. He said he does worry about the perception of the Spiders' breaking a rule. The rule likely is broken by a number of coaches when they respond to players who text message. But Richmond was caught during a routine check of phone records by the school's compliance department. "One of the worst things is that a guy had to leave because of it," Mooney said of his assistant's losing his job. "Being made public makes it worse, too." The Spiders were on the verge of a breakthrough season under Mooney. But the offseason hasn't been as kind. The most significant blow was when Richmond's top returning player, 6-foot-9 junior center Dan Geriot (14.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), suffered a knee injury in July that will shelve him for the season. Geriot had surgery late last month to repair his ACL. He had been playing in the Sonny Hill League in Philadelphia when he suffered the injury after an awkward landing. "We were going to be picked second from what I heard prior to that injury," Mooney said of the Spiders' projection in the Atlantic 10. The good news is that the A-10 is in flux because a number of teams are retooling. There is an abundance of questions for every team. Xavier is still the team to beat, but there's no reason that Richmond, which finished a surprising tied for fourth at 9-7 (16-15 overall after a first-round College Basketball Invitational loss at Virginia) can't be in the mix with Temple, UMass, Saint Joseph's, Charlotte and any other team from the middling group you want to throw in at the top. Sophomore guard Kevin Anderson, who averaged 10.7 points last season, poured in 30 in a game against Illescas Toledo last month during the team's tour of Spain. But maybe the biggest reason for Mooney's continued optimism despite the injury to Geriot and the news of his assistant is how well redshirt Australian freshman Josh Duinker played on the trip. He scored in double figures in three of the four games. The 6-11 Aussie isn't countryman A.J. Ogilvy (17 ppg, 6.7 rpg) of Vanderbilt, but according to Mooney he could be the A-10's rookie of the year this season. "He's very good, a big-time player who is strong, fast and can shoot it really well," Mooney said of Duinker, who arrived at Richmond for the second semester last year but still redshirted. "He got to the free-throw line a number of times in every game in Spain. He's aggressive, talented, and if you come and watch him I don't think you'll be surprised if he's the A-10 rookie of the year."
• Minnesota coach Tubby Smith sounded relaxed and even more at ease as he begins his second year in Minneapolis this season. And he's not shying away from discussing the potential of the Gophers."I'm comfortable here, comfortable with the players, comfortable with the situation," the former Kentucky coach said. "We can compete for Big Ten championships and national championships. Minnesota has the potential to do that and has done it before in getting to the Final Four. It can be done." It won't get done this season. The Gophers have a young team with half the roster underclassmen and only two seniors on the squad. Smith also defended the Gophers' schedule. Minnesota plays 10 of its 12 nonconference games at home with only one game against a top six conference member in Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Minnesota didn't set up the Virginia game, but the Cavs figure to be one of the bottom three teams in the ACC. The one other nonconference game is a tough one, as the Gophers play Louisville at the Stadium Shootout in Glendale, Ariz., on Dec. 20. "We lost a few veteran players in Lawrence McKenzie and Dan Coleman [seniors last season who led the Gophers in scoring], and they're not easy to replace," Smith said. "We put together a schedule that will give us confidence." The Gophers who were 20-14 overall (8-10 in the Big Ten) and lost to Maryland in the first round of the postseason NIT. • When Memphis coach John Calipari was looking for a game, he had his staff call up Old Dominion. The Monarchs were willing to play, but not without a return. The Tigers said no thanks. This is nothing new for ODU coach Blaine Taylor. Each year he holds out one game at the end of the summer and sometimes into September to lure in desperate coaches looking to fill a game. In recent years, he has picked up DePaul, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgetown. The Georgetown series started with a shocking upset at Georgetown during the Hoyas' Final Four season two years ago. "John Thompson [III] said to me that was the significant game all year because we had to learn from it," Taylor said of the Georgetown coach. "We do this because everyone needs a game, and as the cast of characters dries up, the guaranteed amounts get so large and some of the schools get priced out of games." Taylor said the Monarchs had a deal in principle to play a home-and-home with South Carolina, but that recently was pulled. The Monarchs are expected to fill their schedule with a home-and-home starting at Duquesne. ODU is also playing Richmond and UAB and going to Charlotte and Marshall for a A-10/Conference USA hybrid nonconference schedule. That's not bad for a Colonial Athletic Association team. Taylor said he won't play one-way games without a return. He said after the win over Georgetown, the Monarchs called 10 Big East schools but were told no. "They shy away from us and quite honestly are afraid of us," Taylor said. "Everyone wants home games and sometimes they run out of patience, and that's why we hold a game late." • Gonzaga's staff says Austin Daye, who missed most of the summer nursing a knee injury that didn't require surgery, should be good to go for practice. So, too, should Gonzaga senior forward Josh Heytvelt, who is coming off foot surgery. Heytvelt is taking graduate classes. • Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, fresh off his introduction of his sister Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Denver two weeks ago, picked up the most significant commitment of his brief tenure. The Beavers got a commitment from ESPNU 100 No. 66 player Roberto Nelson out of Santa Barbara (Calif.) High. Nelson, rated the No. 17 shooting guard by ESPN.com, pairs with another L.A.-area player in the Beavers' class, 6-7 Joe Burton out of Hemet, Calif. The Beavers didn't win a Pac-10 game last season. • Calipari said he finalized his schedule by picking up a guaranteed, no-return game with Arkansas-Little Rock. Calipari said the Tigers will scrimmage Rick Majerus' Saint Louis squad in Saint Louis on Nov. 1. Meanwhile, Calipari and UMass assistant Vance Walberg will hold their Dribble Drive Motion coaching clinic again in Tunica, Miss., on Sept. 19-21. Calipari said that 400 coaches went to hear about the offense last year, and he's expecting a similar turnout.