Friday, October 27, 2017

Wichita State isn't trying to make a name for itself anymore

Myron Medcalf - ESPN.com
WICHITA, Kansas -- With his arm in a sling, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall marched around the Charles Koch Arena court and barked orders to the players on his roster.
Marshall, who underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his right shoulder this offseason, saved his most stern instructions for his freshmen during a September practice.
After fumbling through his assignment for the second consecutive play, 7-foot newcomer Asbjorn Midtgaard of Denmark didn't wait for Marshall to blow his whistle during a scrimmage. He caught one glare from the 54-year-old coach and spontaneously lined up to run wind sprints.
Marshall never holds back.
Marshall's "play angry" mantra and approach have turned Wichita State basketball into a national power with a legitimate opportunity to win the American Athletic Conference in its inaugural season with the league.
"He's obviously very fiery in practice," point guard Landry Shamet said. "He's a phenomenal coach and good guy."
With their seven top scorers from last season returning, the Shockers could finish the season in San Antonio at the Final Four.
Four years ago, Wichita State's run to the Final Four intensified the hype for a series between the Shockers and Kansas, the state's flagship school 160 miles away.
But that game hasn't happened. And it probably never will.
"It'll happen at some point -- probably not while Bill [Self] is the coach [at Kansas] and I'm the coach at [Wichita State]," Marshall said. "I'm not stressed about it, honestly. He's obviously not stressed about it."
But Wichita State does not need a series with Kansas -- which the Shockers defeated in the 2015 NCAA tournament -- or any other blue blood to validate its status as one of America's premier programs. That's the most impressive proof of progress under Marshall.
"I don't think we necessarily have to play anyone," Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright said. "I think the program Gregg has built, and the support we have, can stand on its own."
Last season, Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk blocked Shamet's 3-point attempt at the final buzzer of Wichita State's 65-62 loss to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Shamet finished with 20 points and one turnover against a squad that had three picks in last summer's lottery. That performance has led to the hype surrounding this season's Shockers.
"Going into that, it was just, 'I'm tired of people thinking we're some punks, like we can't play,'" Shamet said. "We show up every day. Our record speaks for itself. We beat good teams. We compete. We do all this stuff, and we're just as good, if not better, than everybody we play against. That was just my mindset going into that game. We hear all the talk, all the rankings, all the draft projections, and you're just like, 'That stuff didn't matter. I want to prove I'm better or just as good as them.'"
That battle with Kentucky changed the narrative about Wichita State.
"You look at some of the teams we beat. You're talking about blue bloods. You're talking about Kansas and Indiana. You're talking about Arizona, who we had by 20. Who beats Arizona by 20? Just tell me. We beat Kansas by 13. We beat Gonzaga. We beat Vandy and Pitt when Jamie Dixon was really good. Dayton last year. The only teams we lose to are Kentucky twice."
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall
But the Shockers will enter this season as an incomplete squad. Both Shamet and junior forward Markis McDuffie are nursing stress fractures in their right foot and left foot, respectively. Both players could miss the first month, but they're expected to play the bulk of this pivotal season.
Still, Wichita State can withstand the temporary absences of its top scorers from the past season. Marshall can move Conner Frankamp, the transfer from Kansas, to point guard while Shamet is sidelined. And the shifty Samajae Haynes-Jones, a junior college transfer and local product, played like a capable point-guard substitute in practice last month.
"I think we can win it all," McDuffie said. "That's the goal now. For years it's been just getting into the tournament, just getting wins. Nah, man. We have experience now. It's time to take that to another level. Coach has been really hard on us. He sees the potential. He's really motivating us to be the best we can be."
The mix of talented veterans and an explosive point guard feels familiar to the program's supporters. Wichita State relied on future pros Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early to secure a spot in the national semifinals in 2013. But postseason wins over Indiana, Kansas and Arizona since that Final Four berth have showed the college basketball world that the Shockers have earned their place at the game's head table.
"You look at some of the teams we beat," Marshall said. "You're talking about blue bloods. You're talking about Kansas and Indiana. You're talking about Arizona, who we had by 20. Who beats Arizona by 20? Just tell me. We beat Kansas by 13. We beat Gonzaga. We beat Vandy and Pitt when Jamie Dixon was really good. Dayton last year. The only teams we lose to are Kentucky twice."
When Marshall arrived from Winthrop in 2007, Mark Turgeon had just led Wichita State to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1988 before accepting an offer from Texas A&M.
Under Marshall, the crowds grew along with the hoopla -- Wichita State finished 34th in Division I last season, with an average attendance of 10,738 -- but the team hadn't reached its goals six years into his tenure.
With the program celebrating a win that snapped a three-game losing streak during the 2012-13 season, former Wichita State and NBA standouts Antoine Carr and Xavier McDaniel approached Marshall and asked him if they could talk to the team.
That's the night the team's "play angry" motto was born.
"It was Antoine Carr," Marshall said. "They're the ones that actually came up with it. And they were pissed. They were pissed how our guys had played. I think we won the game, but we didn't play great. So Antoine uttered the words, 'Man, you gotta play angry!'"
The motto was adopted by a Wichita State squad that blossomed into that season's Cinderella, reaching the Final Four two months after Carr's speech and commencing a historic chapter in the program's history.
"Our fans have embraced that mantra," Boatright said. "Wichita, as a community, sometimes has a chip on its shoulder."
Marshall sharpened that edge and shifted his program, even as NCAA tournament appearances became the norm. He continues to question the NCAA tournament selection committee's view of schools outside the Power 5, especially after the Shockers were assigned a 10-seed following last season's 31-5 campaign.
"I don't know if me complaining about it and being real and telling the truth bothers them -- them being the selection committee," he said. "I don't know if it's just a lack of respect for the conference we were in [the Missouri Valley Conference]. I don't know if, honestly, they just don't really want non-Power 5 teams in the tournament ... because every year it seems to be less and less, and then they put them together, like us playing Dayton."
That might invigorate Wichita State's backers. But the team's ongoing success and fan support are what attracted officials from the American conference. When Mike Aresco, the league's commissioner, visited Wichita State for a welcoming ceremony earlier this month, a strong contingent of fans ignored heavy rainfall to attend.
The Shockers are the lone non-football school in the conference, but Aresco said Wichita State's basketball brand is powerful and will strengthen the conference. He said he hopes the addition of Wichita State will also allow the league to push its "Power 6" narrative.
"Mainly," Aresco said of the Shockers, "they've become an iconic name in basketball."
That's why Marshall stays.
A conversation in his spacious office feels like a pitch from the local welcoming committee. He touts the city's position as an aviation hub known as the "Air Capital of the World." He loves its schools and neighborhoods, components in the city's current ranking of 68th in the "best places to live in the USA," per U.S. News and World Report.
He lives on a lake, next to a golf course, reasonable luxuries for a man who makes $3 million per season, more than Iowa State's Steve Prohm ($1.5 million) and Xavier's Chris Mack ($1.4 million) combined. His buddy Charles Koch is worth nearly $50 billion and is generous with his donations to the program, which the billionaire supported by contributing $6 million to a massive arena renovation 15 years ago.
Koch also reportedly put cash in the pot to keep Marshall, who made $1.85 million per season when he attracted a $4.2 million per season offer to coach Alabama in 2015.
The increase raised Marshall's salary to $3 million. That boost placed Marshall among the 10 highest-paid basketball coaches in America.
Marshall uses private jets to recruit, just like his Power 5 peers. He has rejected multiple offers in recent years to keep a gig he believes can compete with any job in the country and one he intends to keep, perhaps until he retires.
And if Wichita State -- again -- fulfills expectations, why would he ever leave?
"Here, we've put ourselves in a position in this program where it's a destination job, and I'll be able to live any lifestyle that we choose when that day comes, when we decide to hang up the whistle," he said. "Now, some people say, 'How can that be a destination job?' Come see what we've got going. Come see the type of young people that I get to coach every single day. I'm not dealing with handlers. I'm not dealing with the street agents. I'm dealing with dudes that want to do it right."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Five-star recruit Jahvon Quinerly decommits from Arizona; had hired lawyer amid FBI investigation

Jeff Borzell, ESPN.com reprint.
Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly decommitted from Arizona on Thursday night.
"After careful consideration, my family and I have determined it is in my best interest to retract my verbal commitment to The University of Arizona," Quinerly said in a statement released on Twitter. "I'd like to thank my extended family and fans for your continued love and support. Your positivity and kindness never goes unnoticed."
At the USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp two weeks ago, Quinerly said he remained committed to Arizona -- but was "not sure" whether he would end up there.
Quinerly told ESPN earlier this month that his family hired a lawyer because of the FBI investigation, but had not been in contact with federal authorities at the time. Quinerly was not named in the FBI documents but was recruited by Arizona assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson, one of the four coaches from various schools arrested in the probe. The documents allege a $15,000 bribe from Richardson to Player-5, who "verbally committed to attending" Arizona "on or about August 9, 2017."
Quinerly originally committed to Arizona on Aug. 8.
He told ESPN earlier this month his family hired Alan Milstein, who represented Maurice Clarett in 2004 in his fight against the NFL's age minimum.
Quinerly, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Hudson Catholic (New Jersey), is ranked No. 23 in the ESPN 100 for 2018 and considered the No. 4 point guard in the country. When he selected Arizona in August, Villanova was the other finalist.

Arizona also holds commitments from five-star power forward Shareef O'Neal (No. 24), the son of Shaquille, and four-star point guard Brandon Williams (No. 52).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Providence corrals four-star guard prospect Duke

After years of pursuing him, Providence has finally landed its guy, as 
committed to the Big East program. A 6-foot-4 lead guard and top-50 prospect in the 2018 class, Duke brings familiarity, upside, elite defensive traits and versatility to Ed Cooley’s program.
One of the top point guard prospects available this fall, Duke came to his final decision on Friday after visiting his hometown program last weekend. The Friars, Virginia TechIndianaVillanova and Florida made up his final five. The four-star guard has the chance to immediately stabilize Providence’s backcourt with the upcoming departure of senior playmaker 
.
After making his commitment to Providence official, Duke spoke on what made him choose the Big East program as his future destination.
“Coach (EdCooley is as good of a person as he is a coach,” Duke said. “He loves his players and also pushes his guys to be their best. He develops them off the court, as well, into becoming great role models.”
David Duke
Point guard
 RR: N/A
Cushing Academy
Ashburnham, MA
6'4" 190 lbs Class of 2018
VERBAL COMMIT
RANK
-
POSITION
 
37
NATIONAL
 
-
STATE

Chemistry won’t be much of an issue for Duke, as he will be rejoining two of his former Mass Rivals travel teammates next year at Providence.
“Playing alongside 
and Kai ( ) would be cool,” he said. “I played with each of them before and they’re both very good players.”
The fourth commitment in the 2018 class for the Friars, Duke will join good friend and fellow top-50 senior Reeves at Providence next season, creating a highly potent backcourt. They will be aided by mismatch forward 
 and sharpshooting stretch power forward  , making the argument for the best Big East recruiting class a month out from the early signing period.

North Carolina avoids major sanctions in academic fraud case

By Jeff Goodman - reprint from ESPN.com
North Carolina avoided major sanctions after the NCAA could not conclude the school violated academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies "paper courses" to the general student body, including student-athletes.
The NCAA said in a release Friday that the committee on infractions found two violations in this case: Former department chairman Julius Nyang'oro and retired office administrator Deborah Crowder failed to cooperate during the investigation. The only sanction connected with the investigation is a five-year show cause for Nyang'oro lasting until Oct. 12, 2022. Crowder was not punished, but the NCAA said it is making note of her initial lack of cooperation.
"While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called 'paper courses' offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes," Greg Sankey, the panel's chief hearing officer and commissioner of the SEC, said in the release. "The panel is troubled by the university's shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership."
Men's basketball coach Roy Williams was among the university's coaches to say he was looking forward to moving on from the investigation.
"We're certainly thankful the case has been decided and this great University can move forward. We appreciate the hard work and effort from so many people in presenting the facts of the case to the Committee," Williams said in a statement. "I thank Chancellor [Carol] Folt and [athletic director] Bubba [Cunningham] for their leadership. This is my alma mater and I love it deeply. We've all learned to be a better university from this case. Now we can focus completely on our mission of teaching and coaching our student-athletes and helping the university reach its dreams and goals."
Cunningham said in his statement that he was glad the case is over and thanked the committee for its time and effort.
Still, even with what had to be the best possible outcome -- a weight being lifted that has loomed over the Chapel Hill campus for years -- school officials greeted the news more with cautious relief than exuberance.
"This isn't a time of celebration," Folt said Friday in a conference call with reporters.
The NCAA investigation centered on a system in which a significant percentage of student-athletes took classes that had academic irregularities -- and whether that resulted in those athletes receiving an impermissible benefit. The classes were taken by more than 3,100 students -- nearly half of them athletes -- from 1993 to 2011. However, the investigation was focused from 2002 to 2011.

The independent study-style courses came in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and often required no attendance, as well as grade changes, forged faculty signatures and just one paper at the conclusion of the semester. The athletes were reportedly guided into the classes to help them remain academically eligible.
North Carolina has maintained that the NCAA has no jurisdiction over this academic matter and has denied that student-athletes received impermissible benefits due to the fact that the classes in question were offered to the entire student body.
The panel also did not conclude, based on the record before it, that extra benefits were provided to student-athletes. The panel noted the former secretary credibly explained during the hearing that she treated all students the same.
"While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body," said Sankey. "Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes."
The Tar Heels won a pair of national titles within the span -- in 2005 and 2009. North Carolina also won a national championship this past season, but that title was never in question.
The NCAA, which had investigated the football program in 2010, reopened a new investigation in June of 2014 and issued the first notice of allegations in May of 2015 -- which included a lack of institutional control and also offering impermissible benefits to athletes. There was a second NOA in April of 2016 in which there was still a lack of institutional control, but no mention of men's basketball or football and also no impermissible benefits charge.
Sankey asked the enforcement staff to look at new information in November of 2016 -- and a third notice of allegations in December of 2016 included both men's basketball and football once again and had UNC facing five top-level charges -- including a lack of institutional control and the initial extra benefit charge. Two other charges pertained to Nyang'oro and Crowder failing to cooperate with the NCAA enforcement staff requests -- violating the NCAA principles of ethical conduct. The final one involved an academic counselor providing extra benefits by way of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women's basketball players from 2003 to 2010.
North Carolina had a two-day hearing in mid-April in Nashville in front of the committee on infractions. Women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell, football coach Larry Fedora, Williams, Cunningham and Folt were all in attendance.
"We're just so excited to put this past us so we can concentrate on coaching these outstanding young ladies," Hatchell said in a statement. "I want to thank Chancellor Folt for her support and leadership. Everyone at the University, from Bubba Cunningham to the folks in compliance, worked together as a team to resolve this matter. Our basketball team is working hard in the preseason and we look forward to the start of the season."
The NCAA began investigating the North Carolina football program back in June of 2010 for impermissible benefits and academic fraud under former coach Butch Davis. The football program received a one-year postseason ban, lost 15 scholarships over a three-year period and also was forced to vacate 15 wins in March of 2012. The school conducted an internal faculty investigation in which it was found that there were issues with 54 classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies taught from 2007 to 2011. There was then another review from former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin who found the sham classes went back to 1997.
North Carolina hired Kenneth Wainstein in February of 2014 to work on an independent investigation into the scandal. It found that former African studies department chairman Nyang'oro and Crowder created bogus classes and enrolled student-athletes to help them remain eligible over a span from 1993 to 2011. Crowder left the university in 2009.
In a statement, attorney Elliot Abrams called Crowder "a lifetime public servant who treated all students equal." He added: "The truth of these facts is clear and has been affirmed by today's ruling."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.