Monday, June 29, 2015

Catching up with Troy Johnson

Basketball takes its participants, including coaches, to many places. Count Troy Johnson as one of its peripatetic travellers and he's loaded up with experience and knowledge as a result. Come July 1, he'll begin as an assistant coach at University of Texas Permian Basin in the Heartland Conference.

His roundball journey began at Highland Elementary School in Inglewood, California after his father moved there from New York City. The cross-country change took place soon after Johnson's mother passed away when he was eight years old. As Johnson explained his secret, "I'm a New York City guy but I started playing in Los Angeles."

But it was back to Brooklyn -- Prospect Heights High in particular -- as a 14-year-old. Johnson played on the junior varsity team in the winter and the Midnight Express AAU squad in spring and summer. The latter alongside talents such as Stacey (Wake Forest and Central Florida) Castle, Sherwin Anderson (who later played for the Harlem Globetrotters), Conrad (Syracuse) McCrae and Crafton (New Mexico State) Ferguson.

Then Johnson tested out and transferred to Park West High in Manhattan where he again played junior varsity ball as a sophomore. That spring, he started up again with Midnight Express and also the Riverside Church Hawks.

As a junior, Johnson earned a varsity spot but the next year, "I wasn't making grades so my Dad didn't allow me to finish the season."

Next for Johnson was Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina where he played for legendary Brooklyn area basketball coach Gil Reynolds. Talents such as Bernard King, World B. Free, Fly Williams, John Salley, Charlie Scott and Chris Washburn have donned the LI uniform.

"UNC Greensboro and UNC Charlotte were looking at me but I didn't do a good job on the SAT," Johnson recalled. He returned to New York City "but I kept playing at the Brooklyn YMCA and the St. John's Recreation Center."

A few New York City basketball figures -- Sonny Lewis, Henry "Bigger" Miller and Dennis Miller -- began cajoling Johnson, telling him he needed to go to college and it worked.

"I went out to Lassen College to play for Gary Kloppenburg," Johnson recalled. "But he left and I transferred to Merritt College and Coach Maurice Compton. I played two years there and got my A.A. degree."

One night in Fresno for an All-Star game, he was shot in the knee and injured. "It was being in the wrong place at the wrong time." D1 schools lost interest but Western New Mexico University offered and Johnson went to play for Coach Troy Hudson, a former Northern Arizona basketball standout.

Johnson married and graduated in 2001 from Western New Mexico. "I knew my knee wouldn't hold up on a professional level" so he turned to coaching. "If I couldn't play anymore, I still wanted to be part of it." He loved it as much as playing.

He returned to the Bay Area and landed a job as an assistant coach to City College of San Francisco's Harry Pantazopoulos. Johnson was at the Phelan Avenue school for four years until 2005 and worked with talents such as Derrick Tarver, Christopher Adams, Robert Hayes, Mike Travis, Johnny Bryant, Harry Brown, Jamal Holden and Lex James.

A one year stint at Ohlone College with Coach John Peterson fostered an influential relationship. "Coach Peterson is my guy, my mentor -- he's like a big brother. I love him to death." Again, Johnson mentored talented prospects: "Allen Hester, Willis Gardner, Jermaine Smith, Burt Whittington and more."

Following that year in Fremont, Johnson landed the head coach position at Merritt College. "It was like coming back home." He produced a 15-15 mark followed by an 18-10 one during his 2006-2008 tenure. "We had guys like Andre Martin, Chris Busch, Matt Busch and Kerel Mitchell."

San Jose State University beckoned so he moved a bit south to become the Spartan film coordinator and assist to the director of basketball operations for Coach George Nessman.

Then it was off to Colorado State University-Pueblo "where I started recruiting type coaching." That was followed by stints at Notre Dame de Namur (2010-11), California Baptist, Tyler Junior College in Texas and Adams State (Colorado).

Now, Johnson will be working with Andy Newman at University of Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, who landed the heading coach position after 10 years at Cal State Fullerton.

"I've lived and learned a lot," Johnson said, calling his affiliation with basketball "a passion. I've gained a lot of friends and relationships by working and grinding. Hard work precedes reputation."

From playing with Crafton "Aircraft" Ferguson to coaching Martin "The Problem Child" Bonaparte, later an And1 star, Johnson has has enjoyed a spectrum of hoops involvement. As to the future, "I definitely want to be a head coach again" His time leading the Merritt program was "a tremendous experience for me." One he wouldn't mind at all repeating elsewhere as a head coach at a California community college.

A super team versus a few superstars

Howard Beck offers an interesting take -- that it's now the time of the superteam rather than two or three players carrying a squad. Time will tell regarding this opinion because injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love blurred any such takeaway from this season's finals.

Forni passes

Casa Grande High Basketball Coach James Forni has passed.

The tributes to him here spell out the loss of someone special.

Here's a 2012 Santa Rosa Press Democrat feature on Forni.

MCH gets a young point

Tweeted from The Nor Cal Report: "Nationally-ranked 2019 PG Terrance Moorehead Jr (@tnasity2) will play high school ball for Modesto Christian."

Lawrence will run with the Bulldogs

Frank Knight tweeted: "Congrats to Moreau Catholic's 2016 Guard Brandon Lawrence @StayWigglin for officially committing to Fresno State University!"

Hendrix heading Justin-Sienna boys program

Damany Hendrix tweeted: "I know the draft is on but I am honored to announce that I have been hired as the new head coach at… https://instagram.com/p/4XzIA0JtOB/"

His biography:

"Damany Hendrix was raised in Vallejo California.  He attended Vallejo Senior High School for his last three years. He was part of the greatest team in school history going 60-6 in final two years of his career. In those last two years, he led his team in scoring and earned multiple honors within the state of California.  Upon graduating Damany accepted a scholarship to play at Gonzaga University.

While at Gonzaga things did not go as planned and at the end of his freshman year his scholarship was revoked. Damany then decided to attend Santa Rosa Junior College and play under Steve Done. This year was filled with turmoil and ended with probation for the team and the head coach being fired. Luckily, SRJC hired local legend Craig Mcmillan and he was able to help resurrect Damany’s basketball career. That year Damany earned Conference MVP and was top 10 in the state in 4 offensive categories and led the team to a 28-4 record. Damany earned Conference MVP, and All-state honors thanks to Coach McMillan and a loaded team that produced 5 D1 transfers.

Damany then went on to play at Lamar University under coach Mike Deane where he earned All-Conference both years he attended and averaged 17ppg in his two years there. Damany was the final person in his household and of his parents and their siblings to earn at least a bachelors degree. Education played a major role in his family. College graduation was an expectation and his parents would have stood for nothing less.

Damany was best known for his scoring prowess on all areas on the court, from the three point line all the way to the post and everything in between. A highly skilled scorer with a high IQ, Damany posed a matchup issue because he could post a wing and bring bigs out to the perimeter and go by them. Damany turned his skills on the court into those of an excellent skill trainer as well as a bright young coach.

Damany returned to his alma mater as a coach in 2003 and became one of the top AAU coaches in the country, having had a number 1 ranked team.  He then took his talents to the college level, first at NAIA D2 California Maritime (back to back to back CAL PAC Champs) and then to Cal State Northridge under Coach Reggie Theus.

Damany’s true passion is skill development.  Damany Has trained some of the Bay area’s best talent, some of who are in the 2014 NBA draft.  He has coached and trained of 20 Division 1 players, multiple players that are currently overseas.  Damany translates what worked for him as a player, and what he has seen others do that has been effective into his training.  With a wide array of drills and a rigorous regiment both physical and mental, he is able to get the most out the players he trains and that is why he is one of the better trainers on the west coast."

Justin Sienna High is in the Marin County League. Hendrix is taking over from Mike Boles.

Knight to the Lone Star State

Former El Camino High and Merritt College guard Anthony Knight is moving on to play at University of Texas, Permian Basin for former Cal State Fullerton Coach Andy Newman. UTPB is located in Odessa, famous as the area featured in the "Friday Night Lights" film and television series.

The 6-foot-3, 200 pound Knight, a First Team All Bay Valley Conference honoree for his play in the 2013-14 season, spent this year completing his academics. As a sophomore, he averaged 16.9 points, 4.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game, shooting 51%, 49% and 66% respectively.

New UTPB Assistant Coach Troy Johnson sees Knight as a valuable addition. "He's a big, strong guard who creates mismatch problems and can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward."

Johnson also noted, "Anthony is very unique in that he has great poise and understands shot selection. He can score from outside and also has a mid-range game."

Plus, there is another valuable element to Knight's game that didn't go unnoticed by Johnson -- "Anthony can really defend." Knight nabbed 66 steals as a Thunderbird sophomore.

Churchill down south

Didn't know that former Grant High guard Jeremee Churchill is at/will be at Chaffey College. Thought he sat out this season at Sierra?

DGordon to summer with the Pelicans

From Geoff Grammer: "In talking with former Lobo Drew Gordon today, it sounds like he'll be playing in @NBASummerLeague in Las Vegas w/ the New Orleans Pelicans."

Three more talents to Cañada

Cañada College Coach Mike Reynoso has added three more talents to his Colts roster:

* Paul Smoot (6-foot-2) SG - Serra High School

"Paul is a great addition to the perimeter. He is a knock down shooter, tough defender, and very high IQ player. He comes from one of the best programs and coaches in the area at Serra. I know he will help our program and team this next year" -- Coach Reynoso

* Brian Montgomery (6-foot-7) C - Terra Nova High School

"Excited to work with Brian, he is a very raw physically gifted athlete. He will be a tough presence inside and will be a dominate force for us this upcoming season" -- Coach Reynoso

* James Testa (6-foot-2) SG - Carlmont High School

"James Testa returns for his sophomore season at Cañada after a 2 year hiatus.  James is one of the best shooters I have ever been around, his maturity in his 2 years off has been immense. I can't wait to see what he does for us this next year" -- Coach Reynoso

Artis interviewed

From UTEP Miners: "Get to know UTEP MBB transfer guard Dominic Artis!"

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Wilson headed south in order to go north

Danny Penza writes at length about Latrell Wilson's move from Arcata High to Cabrillo College and now to Concordia University in Oregon.

Armstead to Vallejo

Via John Bynum/Signal The Light Hoops: "Adam Armstead (Porterville JC) has verbally committed to California Maritime. Armstead averaged 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season."

He's out of Bullard High in Fresno and stand 6-foot-5.

Young taking unofficials

Solomon Young hit San Jose State University on Saturday and Nevada on Sunday.

His level of college landing spot will be fascinating.

Dancer breaks the ice

From Streak One: "Beyer 2016 guard George Dancer has picked up an offer from Sacramento State."

Happy, exhilarated, over the moon...

Catch Delon Wright hearing his name called out as the 20th selection in the first round of the NBA draft.

Jackson to the 76ers

That Man Coach Taylor tweeted: "S/O My Lil Bro @CharlesJackson6 On Signing With The 76ers Ball Out In Summer League!!! Stay Humble & Keep Grinding."

Ashley now will rep Atlanta

Shams Charania tweeted: "Arizona's undrafted Brandon Ashley has changed course from the Los Angeles Lakers' summer league, going to the Atlanta Hawks."

Academic updates on former Skyline College basketballers

Via Skyline College Men's Basketball: "Three years removed from our 2011-12 team, all three sophomores have now earned their Bachelor's Degree. Big congrats to:

Kyle Wong (Mills) - BS from Cal Baptist
Anthony Smith (El Camino) - BA from Howard Univ.
Naim Tate (El Camino) - BA from Univ. of San Francisco

Three quality young men who have bright futures. This is what our program is all about!!"

The game of life begins and this trio now has the foundation to head in any direction each wishes.

Williams getting noticed

Down Fresno way, young Cash Williams looks like a special prospect.

The Nor Cal Report: "Cash Williams probably the best 2018 PG at Santa Clara Elite camp. Impressive reads and passes, makes shots."

Via California Chaos: "2018 PG Cash Williams measures in at 6'1, with 6'5 wingspan & 8'5 standing reach at Santa Clara Elite Camp."

He plays at Central High in Fresno.

The most accurate NBA draft predictor turned out to be...

Whose NBA Draft Was The Most Accurate?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Phil Williams and the South Bay Saints

The world would be a much better place if it contained more Phil Williams'. AAU travel team basketball most definitely so.

Williams runs the South Bay Saints, a basketball program he founded in the Gilroy area in 2003. His hoops raison d'être is "when this is all over, bring back a college education and contribute to the community."

He first ventured into hoops territory years ago with the Arizona Stars, a basketball travel team in the the Grand Canyon State. This despite starting out as a football and baseball participant himself and also later coaching those sports.

His basic policy is "working with kids others don't. If they love the game and are willing to work hard, it's giving give them the opportunity to prepare for the future. Academics is #1 with us and we're proud of that."

Next level has a special meaning for Williams and Company. To most, it's either landing a athletic scholarship at a prestigious school or making it in the NBA. With the Saints, the definition of success is extended to also include the development of fundamentals and skills sets that earn a spot on a high school or junior high roster.

Despite the horror stories of AAU parental overinvolvement, Williams is grounded in the basics. It's "be prepared and know the rules of engagement" and he cites his background as a technology director and having worked at a number of prominent Silicon Valley-based companies as preparation. In fact, a broken ankle in his playing days actually resulted in an even stronger educational direction and now, "I'm living the dream."

Throughout the Saints organization, the mantra is "be humble, focused and all business." He has worked with prospects well known throughout the Bay Area, "adding to what they had. But we are not going to chase anyone. Having kids go on to college [whether they plays sports or not] is accomplishing my goal as a leader and mentor."

"Sometimes I'll get asked by players how they can repay me  -- I'll tell them to   reach back and help someone younger and we're good."

Wright selected with 20th pick

Kyle Goon writes about the selection of Delon Wright by the Toronto Raptors with the 20th pick in the NBA draft.

Lakers nab Upshaw and Ashley

LALakersUnited tweeted: "Lakers have reached summer league commitments from undrafted bigs Robert Upshaw and Brandon Ashley."

Upshaw's history cost him millions of dollars he will never recover.

Would Ashley have been selected (or chosen high enough to make it worthwhile) after another year in Tucson? He would have been a team leader but not necessarily the recipient of many more shots considering the incoming Wildcat class. Maybe free agency is actually he best path for him, or better than tied to a single team after being a late second round selection.

Go for winning and learning but only one is decided by you

Seth Godin:

"Did you win?"

A far better question to ask (the student, the athlete, the salesperson, the programmer...) is, "what did you learn?"

Learning compounds. Usually more reliably than winning does.

Another prospect heading to William Jessup

Via John Bynum/Signal The Light Basketball: "Carlos Jimenez (Saddleback JC) has committed to William Jessup University."

The 6-foot-6 205 forward is the fourth California recruit this season for Coach Lance Von Vogt.

Really good article on LeBron

Dan Le Betard provides an insightful and fair look at the operations of LeBron James. Regardless of what we construct it to be in our minds, the NBA is a business first and foremost and a life-defining career for many and thus a continual power struggle between all involved. He who has leverage, aka the gold, rules.

Toles to Yuba

Eric Toles tweeted: "My new home for the next year. Yuba College."

The 6-foot-4 guard is a freshman out of Cosumnes Oaks High.

Profiling Payne

UC Davis Men's Basketball serves up both an update and interview with former Aggie Mark (St. Mary's High) Payne.

Edwards moving to CM

Via Hoop Dirt: "Word on the street is that UC Davis video coordinator Alex Edwards has accepted a similar position on Keno Davis’ staff at Central Michigan. Edwards has been at UC Davis for the past two years serving in an operations and video role. UC Davis won the Big West regular season championship this past season and had an overall record of 25-7. "

The Urban Knights land a JC guard

From IVC Lasers: "MBBALL: Irvine Valley all-conference guard Chris Salas signs with Academy of Art" LINK

Five ACL tears later

A bit different direction here but felt it was important to post: a great day for Jacki Gemelos.

Chappell already making the rounds

From Josh Gershon: "2018 Team Superstar wing Zach Chappell visited Nevada today." Obviously an unofficial for the 6-foot-2 youngster out of Capital Christian High.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Introducing Lewis Hayes

Ask most northern California prep basketball fans about Lewis Hayes and, other than some living in the Stockton area, a shrug will probably be the response.

For the record, Hayes just graduated from Chavez High, stands 6-foot-5 and 240 plus he averaged 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds a contest as a senior. He was honored as San Joaquin Athletic Association Co-Most Valuable Player because of his play.

Now, such anonymity is about to change because, in November, he'll be taking to the court for Merritt College.

Here's Thunderbird Coach Keenan McMiller about his underappreciated newcomer: "Lewis has a opportunity to be a special player here at Merritt College. He is a humble, kind, likeable young man. He's very skilled with very solid footwork. I look forward to helping Lewis get in better shape, improve is jump shooting, overall tenacity and aggressiveness on the court. I want to continue to motivate and push him in the classroom. I am excited to work with Lewis -- he will be a force to deal with this season and in the future."

Why Merritt? "I went on a couple of visits to other schools then I committed on my first visit to Merritt . It felt right and comfortable. Coach McMiller has my best interests in mind just like my high school coach [Mack Harris]."

And what about this lack of recognition? "It messes with me a lot. Not being too cocky or selfish but  I look at myself as a player. Maybe my high school was too small or my city. I wasn't in Sacramento or the Bay Area. So it put a chip on my shoulder. But my day will come as the first shall be last and the last shall be first."

However, it was first baseball as Hayes' favorite participatory sport. Then, "my  Grandma took me to a game and my Dad bought me a court [one of those basketball hoops and poles] and I began staying out there for hours. I dropped baseball."

Another critical influence was "my high school coach Mack Harris took me under his wing as a freshman-sophomore." That bond continues and is even stronger now.

In recounting his progress on the court, Hayes explained, "from my freshman year to now, it's mainly been a change in my mindset. I had a long way to go as a freshman. I didn't take it seriously. But by my junior year I realized I was legit."

Asked to describe his best basketball moment, Hayes offered, "that's easy, it was senior night. A lot of stuff had been happening -- I had lost a friend of mine, Alvin Joiner, in a car accident in January and I was always thinking about it. He played as a freshman and stayed around basketball. He was kind of inspiration for the season. During the game, we learned the team in first place in our league was down to another team (they eventually lost). I don't know what came over me but we went on a run in the third quarter and I finished with 41 points and 17 rebounds. We won league."

Hayes is looking to major in communications. "I want to be a broadcaster. I love to talk." Add and produce on the court, incognito or otherwise.

Smith not heading to the Wolf Pack

Chris Murray reports that  former CCSF and McClatchy High talent Shawn Smith will now not be joining the Nevada basketball program.

Kone heartin' Corvallis

Ben Kone tweeted: "blessed to have received an offer from Oregon State."

Andrew Nemac offers more.

Seems like a good spot for growth as Coach Tinkle, besides being one himself, has a good track record with developing and utilizing bigs.

Andoh chooses the Bonnies

Jon Rothstein tweeted: "Liberty transfer David Andoh has committed to St. Bonaventure, source told @CBSSports. Sit one, play one."

Coach Bob Walsh's latest

Coach Bob Walsh on "Acceptable versus Unacceptable" -- a snippet:

"...We have a lot of new faces in our program, and the foundation of our culture is the way we compete every day, both on the floor and off. Competing is perhaps the most important value in our program. It’s pretty easy to tell your guys you want them to compete, but we want to make sure we define it for our guys in behavioral terms. To get it right, we have to show them what competing looks like.  Competing is being prepared for class every day, and being prepared for study hall to get your work done. Competing is making sure you eat right even when you have a very busy day scheduled with few breaks. Competing is giving a great effort in the weight room even when you are tired. We don’t just want our guys to hear the word ‘compete’ – we want them to see exactly what competing is. And not being ready to compete in our program is unacceptable..."

Pope measuring up

From the USA Basketball team player measurements:

* Malik Pope 6-foot-9 (with shoes), 211.5 pounds, 86 inch wingspan, 108.75" reach

He's listed at 6-foot-10 and 205 on the San Diego State roster.

Talking with Gary Smith

Michael Moynihan talks with Gary Smith, the extraordinary writer whose work often appeared in Sports Illustrated.

Powe's brother to AVC

Mel Grussing writes that Leon Powe's brother has enrolled at Antelope Valley College in southern California.

Fonolla to the Sooner State

From Las Positas College men's basketball: "LPC's Marti Fonolla, a 6-3 guard, has accepted a scholarship to play at Division II Southeastern Oklahoma State University next season.

Fonolla, who played only one season for the Hawks, was named first-team All-Coast Conference North Division as a freshman. He averaged 12.6 points, 6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 43 percent from the floor, including 39 percent from three-point range.

During the conference season, Fonolla averaged 12.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. He shot 39 percent from the floor, including 33 percent from beyond the arc.

Southeastern Oklahoma State, located in Durant, OK, had a 15-14 overall record last season, and the Savage Storm were 11-9--tied for third place--in the 11-team Great American Conference."

Wright says no

Delon Wright has declined an invite to be in the 2015 NBA Draft Green Room for Thursday's event.

A Peter Hewitt feature

John Murphy serves up a feature on St. Francis High's Peter Hewitt, a 2016 'big' prospect.

Didn't know this

A year or so ago, new 6-foot-9 Hawaii transfer forward Jack Purchase was deciding between St. Mary's and and his eventual choice Auburn:

...Prior to becoming head coach at Hawai’i two months ago, Ganot was an assistant and associate coach at Saint Mary’s for five seasons. The Gaels are renowned for recruiting Australian players, and nearly got Purchase a year ago.

“It came down to Auburn and Saint Mary’s when I was picking my college the first time,” Purchase said. “It was another coach who was recruiting me (to Saint Mary’s), but obviously Coach Ganot was there, and so I knew who he was from then...”


Not looking good LeBron

Mark Stein's latest is a damning indictment of LeBron's behavior and role.

On the other hand, Tom Ziller has a different take.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cameron Oliver to Nevada

Per Chris Murray, former Grant High big Cameron Oliver has committed to Nevada.

It's DeAndre Stallings (thank you for the feedback)

A few days back, I was wondering if it was Jordan Roberson who signed with Coach Rob Hoyt and Columbia College but two individuals have written to inform me that it's DeAndre Stallings. Thank you.

This appeared June 1 on the Columbia College Men's Basketball Facebook site:

"RECRUITING ALERT!!

The Jumpers are pleased to announce the commitment of a 6'7" guard out of Elk Grove, CA. This young man averaged 25.6 ppg his senior season as well as connecting on 90 three point FGs. As a result for his efforts he was named to both the All Sacramento Area Team and All State Team; just being nudged out as the Division IV California Player of the Year!

"This young man is one of the most decorated players to have committed to Columbia since we have been here. He is going to be the tallest guard we've had in the program and maybe the best shooter we've ever had. He comes from a great program with a great coach. There aren't too many players who can say they played for a Section Championship once, let alone twice, as he has. We have no doubt that he is ready to come in and make an impact on the upcoming season."

- Coach Hoyt "

Omari Brown to fly with the Thunderbirds

Good athletes, good players and good citizens is the sought after trifecta of basketball recruiting in a nutshell and count former Sacred Heart Cathedral-incoming Merritt Thunderbird Omari Brown as checking the box in all three of those categories.

The 6-foot-1 Brown chose Merritt based on "it's a great school and they we're very welcoming. It's a good fit for me and they get their players better." He'll play at the point.

It seems there was never any doubt that he would end up playing hoops. "Basketball has been in my family since before me. My grandfather, my mother and my brother all played it. Brown tried football but "didn't like it." Then it was baseball and basketball and the latter won out because "I think I can take the game really far."

He cites his grandfather as his greatest roundball influence. "He's the first person to teach me how to play and is my greatest supporter."

So what will Brown bring to the squad located in the Oakland hills? "Leadership, being a team player and playing hard. I want to put my teammates in the best position possible. His Sacred Heart Cathedral squad made it two games into the state championship tournament before running into the eventual state runnerup Campolindo High buzzsaw. Still, he scored 12 points in that loss.

He described his leadership style as "getting on people when they aren't doing what they need to do but also encouraging my teammates when something goes wrong."

"Omari is a quality student, person and athlete," Thunderbird Coach Keenan McMiller offered. "He wants to improve as a player and desires to win a championship. Omari want to improve his leadership and wants to be a great teammate. We will improve his overall game mentally and physically. He is a sleeper prospect waiting to emerge with hard work. I am excited to work with Omari and welcome him to Merritt College."

As far as growth in his skills set, Brown explained, "in my freshman year, I didn't look for a shot, I was more of a passer who could take it to the basket and shoot layups. I was good defensively but couldn't shoot. So I lifted, got stronger and made varsity in the 11th grade. I became a much better shooter in 12th grade."

With a 3.3 grade point average, he is looking to major in kinesiology with the idea of becoming a physical therapist or trainer.

Kelbert with a unique opportunity

Dave Edole/The Daily News (out of St. Croix, The Virgin Islands) has an article on the latest involving 6-foot-2 James Kelbert of Leland High. There is always a lot going on with the three-sport star and academic ace and now something more: Kelbert's family has roots in The Virgin Islands and the senior-to-be has been invited to a two week training camp with the 17u national team in St .Croix at the end of July, and a tourney in Puerto Rico August 4-8.

What if...

David Astramskas' "31 Years Ago. The Chicago Bulls drafted (But didn't Want To Draft) Michael Jordan with the Third Pick" is a fascinating whatif read.

Johns honored

Taylor Johns Named UC Riverside Male Student-Athlete Of The Year"The UC Riverside Athletics Department hosted the annual Scotty Awards Wednesday evening to celebrate the many successes of the 2014-15 season. Men's Basketball player Taylor Johns took home Male Student-Athlete of the Year honors.

Johns was named to the All-Big West First Team this year after finishing third in the conference in scoring, second in rebounding and first in blocked shots. He also helped lead the Highlanders to the program's second most overall wins, and second most conference wins, in its Division I history.

Johns punctuated his season in the Big West Conference Tournament by dunking over UC Irvine's 7-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye, earning himself a place on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays of the day."

Portland State makes it official

Via Portland State men's basketball: "Portland State Basketball has signed Bay Area high school star Armani Collins to a grant-in-aid agreement for 2015-16. Head Coach Tyler Geving announced the signing of Collins, a 6-5 shooting guard, on Friday.

Collins prepped at San Francisco's Stuart Hall High School. As a senior, he averaged 19.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Stuart Hall was 30-4 on the season, 10-0 in league play. Collins was named first team All-Division 5 and fifth team All-NorCal by Max Preps. As a junior, he averaged 18.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Collins brings pure outside shooting ability to the Vikings, something Geving has been looking to replace on the Viking squad. "The main thing Armani would bring to our program is he is a knock-down shooter," said Geving. "He has the ability to hit jump shots behind the three-point line and that is a valuable skill in college basketball. 

"The other thing we like is he is a long, lanky athlete that can get to the rim. We project him as a kid that will be a key player for the next four years at Portland State and in the Big Sky."

Portland State completed a 15-14 season in 2014-15. The Vikings were sixth in the 12-team Big Sky Conference with a 9-9 record. PSU will return five letterwinners, three starters and two redshirts in 2015-16. 

Geving has now signed seven student-athletes for next season. Although Collins is the seventh player signed by the Vikings, he is the first freshman in the recruiting class. Geving has also added one sophomore and five juniors."

Isaiah (Placer High/Sierra College) Pineiro and De'Sean (Grant High/Salt Lake City College) Parsons are also heading to the City of Roses.

Draft Express on Jordan Brown

"One of the most improved players from October to June among those that attended both the USA Basketball Development Camp and this training camp, 2018 recruit Jordan Brown (#6 Future150) not only grew an inch and added 7 pounds to his now 190-pound frame, but also became a significantly better player.

He has good size for a big man at 6-9, to go along with a near 7-foot wingspan and nice athletic ability. Offensively, he showed very intriguing versatility, with the ability to create his own shot from the perimeter in a straight line, execute pretty spin moves with impressive body control, and very soft touch on his floaters. He has good shooting form, with the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers fairly consistently, and even some off the dribble shooting prowess too. He was active on both the offensive and defensive glass utilizing his length, quickness, explosiveness and solid timing, even if his lanky frame doesn't always allow him to finish around the rim. 

While Brown's frame has a long ways to go, it looks like should fill out nicely considering he's only 15 years old and has big shoulders. That will help him defensively, where he struggles at times. He's not going to wow anyone with his production anytime soon, but has a chance to develop into a nice versatile power forward down the road if he continues to work hard."

Pikeville with two Nor Cal signees

Pikeville University basketball in Kentucky has two of its signees from northern California:

Daniel Afeaki | 6-9 | 235 | C | Jr. | San Bruno, Calif. | Skyline College (Calif.)

Afeaki comes to UPIKE after two strong seasons at Skyline College (Calif.).  As a sophomore, Afeaki posted averages of 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 62.9 percent from the field.  His shooting percentage was the fifth highest in the California JUCO's.  His team also experienced success during the 2014-15 season, making an appearance in the Northern California Regional Tournament.  

and

Bobby Barnes | 6-5 | 210 | F | Sr. | San Francisco, Calif. | Fresno Pacific (Calif.)

Barnes comes to UPIKE after a stellar season at NCAA Div. II Fresno Pacific.  As a junior, he led the Sunbirds in scoring at 14.5 ppg. Barnes also added 4.5 rpg while shooting 60.5 percent from the field, which ranks ninth all-time at FPU for a single season and led the PacWest Conference in 2015. 

Andoh visiting St. Bonaventure

Bonnies Fan tweeted: "Hearing #BONNIES have Liberty tramsfer DAVID ANDOH on campus. 6-7 sr averaged 10 & 5.5 last year. Eligible immediately!"

Not so sure about the eligibility part (San Jose State University, Merritt College and Liberty University each for one season) unless he has earned his degree in three years.

The Draft Express crew on Jordan Brown

"One of the most improved players from October to June among those that attended both the USA Basketball Development Camp and this training camp, 2018 recruit Jordan Brown (#6 Future150) not only grew an inch and added 7 pounds to his now 190-pound frame, but also became a significantly better player.

He has good size for a big man at 6-9, to go along with a near 7-foot wingspan and nice athletic ability. Offensively, he showed very intriguing versatility, with the ability to create his own shot from the perimeter in a straight line, execute pretty spin moves with impressive body control, and very soft touch on his floaters. He has good shooting form, with the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers fairly consistently, and even some off the dribble shooting prowess too. He was active on both the offensive and defensive glass utilizing his length, quickness, explosiveness and solid timing, even if his lanky frame doesn't always allow him to finish around the rim. 

While Brown's frame has a long ways to go, it looks like should fill out nicely considering he's only 15 years old and has big shoulders. That will help him defensively, where he struggles at times. He's not going to wow anyone with his production anytime soon, but has a chance to develop into a nice versatile power forward down the road if he continues to work hard."

No go on Golson

It turns out that CCSF's Vincent Golson is not heading to USF and is still available for signing.

The 5-foot-8 guard averaged 13.8 points per game this season shooting 48%, 43% and 83% respectively. Golson also put up 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds an outing. His production earned him All State honors.

The latest on Prolific Prep

Yousef Baig catches readers up to date on the staff additions and more at Prolific Prep Academy.

More on AmayaWood's signing with Menlo

Guy Dossi goes long in covering Columbia's Rosendo AmayaWood's upcoming move to Menlo College on a full ride basketball scholarship.

Chappell getting looks

Jerina again with: "Team Superstar 2016 6'4 Combo Ryan Chappell @rdotzero: interest from Bakersfield, Cal Poly, Portland St, St.Mary's,Sac & Montana."

Chappell plays at Capital Christian High in the winter.

Chris Murray on David Carter

"THE WOLF PACK HAS AN INTERESTING situation after former basketball coach, David Carter, landed a volunteer job at Saint Mary's. Per Carter's contract, if he gained employment, Nevada wouldn't have to pay him the $600,000 buyout his contract stipulates. However, Carter's agent said the Saint Mary's job isn't employment because he's a volunteer. Clearly, Carter could have found a full-time assistant job if he wanted, but that would have cost him the buyout money. Will Nevada challenge his "employment" status? The Pack isn't saying. If I was Nevada, I'd just let it go. You fired the coach. He found a loophole of sorts. Pay the money you contractually owe him and move on."

An Orlando Johnson update

Via John Devine: "Through 10 games with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel of the Philippines Professional Basketball League, Orlando Johnson is putting up LeBron numbers.

 The former Palma product is averaging a double-double, leading the team in scoring at 35.5 points a game and rebounds at 11.70.  Johnson is also doling out 3.7 assists in 42.2 minutes a night.

 Last year the 6-foot-5 Johnson spent the season with the Austin Spurs of the NBA's D League.

 A former second round pick of the Sacramento Kings, the 26-year-old Johnson spent a season and a half with the Pacers."

Johnson moving south

Pioneer Basketball tweeted: "University of Antelope Valley (CA) welcomes
NCAA D2-Bobby Johnson 6'9 235 Dominican Univ. (CA)."

Johnson is out of Castlemont High and played 83 minutes in 16 games this season up in Marin.

The Spartans and Pioneers looking at a Sacto prospect

Jerina tweeted: "2016 6'6 G/SF Isaiah Bates COS Elite interest from SJState, Eastern Michigan, CSU East Bay (Sacramento,CA)."

He plays for West Campus High during the winter.

Sterling Smith ankle surgery

From Pittsburgh men's basketball: "Pitt head men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon announced today that two players successfully underwent recent surgeries: senior guard James Robinson (right foot) and graduate transfer guard Sterling Smith (right ankle).

...Smith's recovery is expected to be six weeks.

It is anticipated that both players will be ready for action when practice opens in October."

Colin Gruber honored

"The UC Riverside Athletics Department hosted the annual Scotty Awards Wednesday evening to celebrate the many successes of the 2014-15 season. Colin Gruber was named the recipient of the Stan Morrison Best Teammate Award, named after former UC Riverside Athletics Director Stan Morrison. Coach Morrison, was the ultimate teammate for UC Riverside student-athletes, coaches and staff members alike during his 12 years at the helm of the Highlanders ship.

Gruber's year came to a premature end due to injury midway through his senior campaign, but rather than feel sorry for himself, Gruber turned his full attention towards being as supportive as possible of his teammates, cheering them on when times were good, and motivating them to remain focused when times were tough.

Perhaps more importantly, he embraced the role of a team leader with regards to the program's four new international students, each of whom was trying to acclimate, not just to a new school and a new team, but an entirely new country, making their transition to becoming Highlanders that much easier."

Gruber played at Harbor High in Santa Cruz County and then one season at both Northern Arizona and Cabrillo College.

The official announcement of the Thompson & Hammel signings

Not news at this point but Alaska Anchorage has officially announced the signings of two northern California-based talents: Tayler (Sonora High/Cuesta College) Thompson and Corey (Cardinal Newman High/Santa Rosa Junior College) Hammel.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tention back in Bay Area

Credit bulldogseventy for originally posting this at the InsideTheSpartans basketball message board"At a lunch function Monday at Harry's Hofbrau, word that Rodney Tension hired as new assistant. Any confirmation of that? He is very experienced. Loyola as Head Coach I think."

According to two contacts, one from the north of here and the other from the southland, this is true.

With two stints as a head coach, Tention brings background and understanding regarding both leading a program and assisting. That should be beneficial in making Coach Dave Wojcik feel a greater level of comfort with his overall group.

Another aspect is Tention has recruiting credibility throughout California. There won't be any 'who is this calling?' when he dials up a coach to discuss a recruit.

The 2014-15 Toreros roster has a number of southern California guys on it as well as -- and this is intriguing -- four foreign talents from The Netherlands, Serbia, Germany and Georgia respectively but it's impossible to identify the lead recruiter for each.

With San Diego being a West Coast Conference member, Tention is also already likely familiar with a number of prospects possessing the potential to play in the WCC and thus also the Mountain West Conference.

This hire also goes a long ways towards getting the demographics of the Spartan coaching staff right.

Mike Burns, another San Diego assistant who was let go when Bill Grier was fired in mid-March, just landed at Pacific. None of the Torero coaching staff was retained when new Head Coach Lamont Smith took over.

Tention's playing/coaching career:

Played: USF

Coached:
1988–1989 Skyline CC (assistant)
1989–1991 South Florida (assistant)
1991–1994 College of Notre Dame (assistant)
1994–1997 College of Notre Dame head coach
1997–2005 Arizona (assistant)
2005–2008 Loyola Marymount (head coach)
2008-2011 Stanford (assistant)
2011–2015  San Diego (assistant)

As for his running the Argonauts and Lions programs, Tention enjoyed some degree of success. Now this is not making excuses but nobody has been able to be a consistent winner at either place.

For those interested, here's a fascinating longform look at the LMU program for the last 30 years and why success has been fleeting.

A Damon Powell update

Prime Sports Group offers a feature on former McClymonds High star Damon Powell.

Towns, Russell and Okafor -- who do you draft?

Ryen Russillo’s NBA Draft Confidential: Real Scouts on Towns, Russell, and Okafor 

This is based on his interactions with three NBA scouts.

Davidson reaches out to Poorsina

Lester Diaz announced: "Arash Poorsina 2016 PHPS /St Ignatius offer was from Davidson U. Not Davis.. keep it 3 stripes."

Poorsina is 6-foot-8.

By the way, Davidson is the alma mater of Steph Curry.

Jordan Roberson's whereabouts

This appeared June 1 on the Columbia College Men's Basketball Facebook site:

"RECRUITING ALERT!!

The Jumpers are pleased to announce the commitment of a 6'7" guard out of Elk Grove, CA. This young man averaged 25.6 ppg his senior season as well as connecting on 90 three point FGs. As a result for his efforts he was named to both the All Sacramento Area Team and All State Team; just being nudged out as the Division IV California Player of the Year!

"This young man is one of the most decorated players to have committed to Columbia since we have been here. He is going to be the tallest guard we've had in the program and maybe the best shooter we've ever had. He comes from a great program with a great coach. There aren't too many players who can say they played for a Section Championship once, let alone twice, as he has. We have no doubt that he is ready to come in and make an impact on the upcoming season."

- Coach Hoyt "

Jordan Roberson?

Do note the comment -- not Jordan Roberson

Polack to Columbia College

5-foot-11 Beyer High backcourter Jake Polack is headed to Columbia College.

From the Columbia College Men's Basketball Facebook page:

"RECRUITING ALERT!!!

The Jumpers are proud to announce the commitment of an ALL District (Modesto) point guard!. This student-athlete was also an ALL League selection as well as the Columbia College High School Classic MVP. He represented his school with pride and led his team to an impressive 24-5 record.

"Words can't explain how excited the coaching staff is to coach this young man. He is a relentless worker, a great shooter and a leader. The culture of our program will improve from having this student-athlete in our program for the next two years. He comes from one of the top high school programs in the area and has played under one of the best coaches in the area. Things are looking up in the Jumper Nation!"

- Coach Hoyt"

Sierra with a Hoosier guard

Via Brandon Cole: "Sierra College would like to welcome combo guard Omari Robinson from Indianapolis, IN to the family! https://youtu.be/qalt_Xo-WKM."

He's out of Oscar Robertson's high school -- Crispus Attucks -- in case that pops up on Jeopardy anytime soon.

Gaels expanding foreign ties

With Associate Head Coach Coach Marty Clarke as well as other contacts, St. Mary's is well-entrenched in Australia hoops. So will the hire of Danny Yoshikawa as assistant basketball coach/director of basketball operations, who coached in Japan the last two seasons, provide entry for the Gaels into Japan? Keep a watch out.

Carter with interesting situation

Hoop Dirt offers the intriguing background on the David Carter to St. Mary's situation.

Here's a tweet from Chris Murray and subsequent comments.

The Aztec program is rolling on and off the court

Malik Pope is featured in this article about San Diego State's basketball practice facility.

The case can be made that Steve Fisher has enjoyed a more dramatic effect on the San Diego State program overall than what he enjoyed at Michigan. But people forget it took him some time to get the Aztecs rolling as his early records indicate: 5-23, 14-14, 21-12, 16-14, 14-16, 11-18 and then it has been consistently at 20 wins or higher ever since.

AmayaWood to the Oaks

John Bynum tweeted: "Rosendo Amayawood (Columbia JC) has committed to Menlo College. Amayawood averaged 5.1 points and 4.0 rebounds last season."

Here's more.

He's a 6-foot-7 sophomore out of Summerville High in Tuolumne.

Surround yourself with good people

From Joe Davidson: "Great to hear that @folsomhshoops top assistant basketball coach Matt Mills lands on-campus history teaching gig. He's is big-time terrific."

Coach Levelle Moton

Via Derrick Jones: "Powerful words from a guy I really look up to coach moton....... #hashtagtrick #jonesrealitytv 

https://instagram.com/p/4FqSBHNapx/ "

Lavelle Moton is the head coach at North Carolina Central. where he has finished 107-63 in five years and soon will be on various shortlists for prime openings. A thank you to him for speaking out.

Malik Pope being interviewed earlier at the USA U19 training camp

During the training camp ahead of the 2015 FIBA World Championships in Greece, Hoops Factory TV was privileged enough to speak with Malik Pope of San Diego State. Malik talked about his decision to stay in school despite being projected as a first round pick last year.

Merzwinski nabs a 'ship

Via Columbia College Men's Basketball Facebook page on May 18:

"Congrats to Ian Merzwinski!!!

Ian has accepted a scholarship worth 32K to play at Bethany College in Kansas!

"Ian is and will continue to be a success story. He started his college career being cut from the baseball team at Cabrillo College before transferring here to Columbia. His freshmen year here included zero games in which he started. He worked relentlessly over the summer and improved more than any player I have ever had. Ian ended up starting every game this year as a result of his commitment to our program and his game. I will always have a close place in my heart for Ian, I’m very proud to consider him a friend.

- Coach Hoyt"

Here's more.

He's a 6-foot-5 sophomore out of La Grange in Stanislaus County who averaged 8.0 points plus 6.7 rebounds this season.

How and why the Warriors are champions

Marek Warszawaski details the multiple reasons which nicely dovetailed into a championship for the Golden State Warriors.

It's so difficult to get matters right but the new owners, latest general manager and assorted braintrust members are on a decisionmaking streak of renown.

The Wolverines bringing in a frontcourter

Brandon Cole tweeted: "Sierra College would also like to welcome 6' 7" Devandre Haywood from Victor Valley to the family!"

Coach Bob McKillop Interview @ USA Training Camp

During the training camp ahead of the 2015 FIBA World Championships in Greece, Hoops Factory TV was privileged enough to speak with Coach Bob McKillop of Davidson [Steph Curry's college coach]. Coach McKillop talked about pitfalls that can come from having a high ranking in high school and the amount of work that is required to go from high school to the pros.

Coach Kyle Smith talks about Delly & Green

Coach Bob Walsh reposts Kyle Smith on Dellavedova and Draymond Green. It's a video running 5:36.

The Gaels offer a backcourter

Left Coast Recruiting tweeted: "Saint Mary's has offered 2016 David Jenkins Jr (Wilson HS)."

He's a 6-foot point out of Tacoma. Boise State, Portland State, San Diego and Montana have also offered

The latest on Armon Johnson

Chris Murray catches up with Armon Johnson although mention of any affiliation with the East Bay is absent.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Carter to Moraga

Jon Rothstein tweeted: "Saint Mary's Randy Bennett has hired former Nevada head coach David Carter as an assistant, source told @CBSSports. Replaces Eran Ganot."

Nice catch for the Gaels -- Carter is a genuinely good human being.

A great 'inside' look of a college coach out recruiting

Apologies for posting this entire article but it would have required each individual going to the original site and answering a handful of questions for access. A tip o' the hat to Brent Briggeman for his excellent work here.

Evaluation period: Air Force men's basketball coach Dave Pilopovich keeps eye out for future cadets
Brent Briggeman
The Gazette 
May 30, 2015

Players with unreal vertical leaps were throwing down dunks, lobbing alley-oops to each other off the backboard and generally treating an AAU tournament like it was a Harlem Globetrotters performance.

Dave Pilipovich expressed no interest. He scarcely glanced that direction.

The Air Force coach's attention was monopolized by a player on another court who was new to his radar. Recruited by some Ivy League schools and available, this 6-foot-4 guard could drive, shoot, defend and play above the rim. That he had been vetted academically by some of the top schools was an obvious bonus, and Pilipovich was excited.

Evaluation periods in college basketball set when NCAA coaches can scour the country to watch high school-age players. Contact with players at these events is forbidden, but plenty can be learned from watching a teenager on the court and in his interactions with teammates, officials, coaches and, sometimes most telling, his parents. There's also a chance to see players against a variety of competition.

Pilipovich allowed The Gazette's Brent Briggeman to join him for a weekend of observation at the Pangos Sports Spectacular in mid-April. Plenty of conditions were attached, as Pilipovich couldn't break NCAA rules regarding discussion of particular athletes. This isn't about that, but the process, pace, strategy and emotions of a weekend spent evaluating potential recruits.

It became apparent quickly that above-the-rim flash wasn't what Pilipovich was after. He wanted to use his time on players who could be future cadets.

Dave Pilipovich remembers the first time he saw future Air Force players on the court

***

The first game the Air Force coach watched was played in an auxiliary gym at Bishop Gorman High School.

The school, made famous by the ESPN-produced documentary about Snoop Dogg's football-playing son, is a breathtaking ode to Vegas' excess. The sprawling campus and its $96 million facilities put most colleges to shame.

Randall Cunningham's son went there. Gary Payton's son is there now. In fact, Julian Payton played in this tournament, showing up in a red BMW convertible.

Despite the impressive surroundings, the quiet auxiliary gym served as a reminder this weekend was going to be spent watching amateurs in mostly empty venues.

Pilipovich pulled out his list of about a dozen players to watch and pointed out the ones playing in this first game. This sheet proved to be like a grocery list in that it was only a starting point. By the end of the weekend his cart contained many new names, while many others were left on the shelf.

One player, who Pilipovich had learned about through a tip and had seen only in an online video, was removed from the list almost immediately in the first game. Overly skinny and displaying no outstanding skills, "he's two years away from being two years away," Pilipovich noted.

Then came the second game, featuring a team Pilipovich had seen many times over the years and that has provided a steady pipeline for recruits.

This is where Pilipovich began picking up on the details.

Two players left him far from excited. One had altered his shooting form, starting down around the waist. The other showed little in the way of an outside shot.

Neither played his way off the list, but the weekend wasn't off to a resounding start.

In the next game, a red flag arose. The player on Air Force's list showed no touch around the basket, but his height alone made him worth tracking. Pilipoivich saw that the player's eyes moved not to his coach but to his dad at every stoppage and each time he sat on the bench. The dad was keeping stats, monitoring the clock, tracking each movement closer than the pit bosses a few miles away.

Was this a kid and family Pilipovich wanted to invite onto his team? Was this a kid who was going to fit as a cadet?

Again, not an electrifying start. But the outlook quickly changed.

***

The first game Pilipovich saw the 5-foot-11 point guard play, he took note. There was nothing special about him athletically, but there was something about his feel for the game that the coach liked.

The excitement came on a second viewing, after some research.

The kid was the son of a high-level basketball coach, which explained his poise and court savvy. Pilipovich's sources told him this player was sharp academically and available.

Pilipovich does nothing to hide his emotions, and he was bouncing at this point.

Still, he had to exhibit some restraint. He wasn't going to be able to talk to anyone directly about this player for a few days. And even in his euphoria, he's fine with the need for a little patience. After all, he knows what these evaluation periods used to be like.

Before the no-contact rule was implemented, games were followed by a receiving line like a wedding. Pilipovich recalled waiting for at least 15 minutes to talk to a player. Often he would have to skip the next game, particularly if it was at another venue.

And it didn't stop there. Coaches would learn where the players were staying and send notes and faxes to the hotel. Letters were slipped under doors.

Pilipovich didn't talk to any players or AAU coaches at this event, but made a point to make his presence known. One 20-minute trek across town to see half a game was made for the sole purpose of being seen. The game included no one on the recruiting list, but it was a program with a strong relationship with Air Force that Pilipovich values, so he wanted to make sure the coach saw him there.

These efforts were noticed. In a staff meeting two days after the coaches returned from the evaluation weekend, one of Pilipovich's assistants said a parent of a player reached out via email to say he had noticed the Air Force coach at a game and wanted him to know his son was extremely interested. The coach had already made positive notes about the player, so he jumped up the priority list.

***

Most schools are working just as diligently as Air Force, just focusing their attention in other areas. The Falcons don't need to check the waiver wire that is the transfer community, they waste no time looking into junior colleges and exert little effort on players younger than juniors.

Coaches at AAU basketball tournaments stick out via their shirts

Major programs closely track freshmen and sophomores, catching them early in the process. Air Force has the luxury of waiting and seeing which players develop into those who might fit their profile.

Pilipovich watched just one game of players full of in-state sophomores, and if anything he came away disappointed. The team looked good, to the point where they would play themselves right out of Air Force's range.

It's not waving a white flag when Air Force backs off a talent beyond its reach, it's just reality. If this were car shopping, Pilipovich wants no part of wandering onto a lot beyond his price range. Why become attached to something you can't have?

And if you're begging someone to come to the academy, what happens when the road grows truly difficult? No one benefits from a player who can't or won't stick it out.

When Pilipovich says, "We can't get him," on multiple occasions, it is without a trace of defeat in his voice.

Assistant Kurt Kanaskie spent nine years as an assistant at Penn State in the Big Ten and two years in the same capacity with Virginia Tech in the ACC before arriving at Air Force last year. The difference he has seen is that the Falcons' initial pool of recruits shrinks faster than others because of the qualifications and interest, but while a Virginia Tech might spend its attention on just a handful of players after it whittles down the list, the number Air Force seriously pursues is much larger.

"We're trying to get guys who can compete academically, that can compete in the Mountain West Conference and are willing to serve their country for at least five years," Kanaskie said. "That's a tough task."

Also, Air Force must find enough recruits to not only account for a few direct-enter players each year, but also another 12 to fill the prep school roster.

And the crop has to be deep enough for attrition.

Pilipovich wishes he could trust all that is told him by recruits, their families and even their high school and AAU coaches, but that's not the case. All are trying to sell something. Besides that, even if the intentions are pure, unforeseen variables can change everything.

That's why observing can be so valuable. You can project a lot about a player just by how he carries himself. A Texas recruit lost his spot on Air Force's list in Las Vegas not just because he barely played in the game that Pilipovich witnessed, but as a result of his lethargic body language. Passive isn't going to cut it at Air Force, and Pilipovich would rather see that firsthand than have a coach falsely sing the players' praises.

In listening to what is discussed at the staff meeting, where coaches share notes, basketball talent is far from the only topic. One potential recruit has a stepfather who is a former Marine and would love to send the player to an academy. Another kid already has his pilot's license, offering Air Force an obvious advantage.

Height, quickness and shooting touch are considered, but other factors - particularly mutual interest - are just as important.

***

"We just fell into something," Pilipovich said. "This is big."

Pilipovich, days before the event, learned that the son of a well-known pro basketball executive was still available as his senior year was coming to a close. Pilipovich had watched film and came away impressed, but he didn't realize that player was here until he noticed the famous father in the gym.

So, the day's schedule was amended on the fly.

Pilipovich was impressed with his size and, particularly, his shot. From a talent perspective, there was no doubt he would be good enough for Air Force.

The list grew by one and Pilipovich was again giddy. Air Force may spend much of its time shopping in the bargain bin, but that just makes the quality finds that much more exhilarating.

Days after the tournament, the executive's son was removed from Air Force's list after failing to return six phone calls. But all was not lost. In the process of watching him, Pilipovich had been given an extra chance to see another potential recruit who had started the weekend on the list but hadn't dazzled in a previous viewing. In this game, the players even frequently guarded each other.

Pilipovich became more and more intrigued by this other player, so even as the executive's son was removed as quickly as he was added to the list this new player improved his status.

This was how the list continued to evolve. Another player was added after a chance conversation when Pilipovich and a coach he trusts from another school crossed paths on the way to a gym (Pilipovich, by the way, knows everyone. Even the facilities manager at Bishop Gorman is a longtime acquaintance with whom Pilipovich worked at Eastern Michigan). That coach told Pilipovich of a recruit his team no longer had a spot for, but who met every qualification for Air Force. Pilipovich was pressed for time, as the deadline to get seniors started on the application process hung just days away, but this was something he was going to explore.

"How about that," he said. "We spend all this time watching games and then we might get someone because of a conversation in a parking lot."

***

Pilipovich's list, by the time he presented his notes to his assistants two days after returning, was vastly different than when it began.

Those names were combined with those gathered from his assistants after their weekend observing in different cities. In all, about 65 potential recruits were discussed.

Checking in with Pilipovich a month later, many of the players he watched in Las Vegas remain in consideration. He knows some will drop off over time. Others may arrive at the prep school and drop off after that. Fewer will actually be welcomed into the cadet wing. And how many will one day graduate as officers? Who knows? Only one, Chase Kammerer, did after the 2014 season. Six more threw up their hat in Falcon Stadium on Thursday.

That process has to start somewhere. And for some it started when they caught the coach's eye at a tournament in Las Vegas. In almost every case, it didn't happen because of high-flying theatrics, but because of a display of intangibles that provided reason for hope that they could fit at Air Force and see this long journey to its completion.

That's what Pilipovich wants to see most of all.

Smith gets a MWC offer

Josh Gershon tweeted: "2017 Team Superstar PG Jadé Smith picked up an offer from New Mexico." Nevada and New Mexico State also recently joined the line.

Smith is a St. Joseph Notre Dame High backcourter

A lowlight of lowlights

George Dohrmann tweeted "So much wrong with AAU hoops and so much wrong with ESPN celebrating this kind of behavior LINK"

So did the 'coach' pull his offending player? Sit him the rest of the game? Drop him from the team?

Memory test: anyone recall that happening here in the Bay Area by a player who shall remain nameless? Definitely a lowlight for him and basketball.

Prognosticating the 2016 Big West First Team

ccman @ the Long Beach State basketball message board posted his prediction that three northern California talents will be on the 2016 Big West First Team: Taylor Johns (UC Riverside), Michael Bryson (UC Santa Barbara) and Rodney Bobbitt (Hawaii).


Two halves versus four quarters

Craig Hislop writes that the college men's game also needs to be broken into four quarters rather than two halves but such isn't happening because the women's hoops went there first.

C'mon male basketball powerbrokers, humility never hurt anyone, overinflated ego has and does everyday.

Connie Hawkins - the guy had style

Who remembers Connie Hawkins? Brian Lutz helps out.

In his hands, a basketball looked like a ping pong ball.

"Still Got Game"

Carlton Greene's book "Still Got Game" sounds like a good read.

An excerpt from the article:

...When we spoke on Saturday, Greene said that by the time he arrived at Intercession, he had lost his innocence. He had already become the protector of his mother when his father grew violent. He had also become the object of his father’s abuse.

While I argue that basketball has become too much of an addiction for children, [Cari] Jackson believes that basketball probably saved Greene’s life.

“There were incredible opportunities that the sport provided that helped this young boy know that he had some value and purposes that he did not get from his home,” she said...

Verlin fill out staff

Ron Verlin is bringing in Mike Burns, late of San Diego and with extensive hoops experience in the state of Washington, for the opening on the Pacific coaching staff. Burns was let go with the coaching change in the Toreros program.

Brown with three on his way to 30

Josh Gershon interviewed 2018 big Jordan Brown who has three current offers. Expect that number to be 30 or so before Brown makes his decision.

James and The Wall

Tom Haberstroh's "LeBron James' unfathomable workload" highlights the amazing effort of the Cavaliers' star, moving it past what is endured by finishers in the Tour de France.

Much adds San Diego

Via AMHS Mens basketball -- add San Diego to Sebastian Much's list of offers. Montana and Weber State got in line earlier.

Don't forget Elgin Baylor (what a great name for a superb talent)

Martin Springall offers up "The Slept On Legacy Of Elgin Baylor." He was 'showtime' before the phrase was coined.

Terrell with a Nevada offer

Josh Gershon tweeted that Sac High 2016 guard Christian Terrell has received an offer from Nevada -- sounds like a good landing spot.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Golson to the Dons

Vincent Golson has committed to Coach Rex Walters and San Francisco. The 5-foot-8 guard out of CCSF and Skyline High averaged 13.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season, shooting 48%, 43% and 84% respectively. Golsen also earned All State honors for his production.

Here's a May 3, 2015 Golson feature by Shaleisa Daniel.

Bellot going with the Dustdevils

Merritt College guard Denzel Bellot has made the call and he has cast his lot with Coach Bryan Weakley and the Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) Dustdevils.

The 6-foot-2 Bellot averaged 12.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in aiding the Thunderbird run to the state Final Four this season. He shot 53%, 38% and 66% respectively.

"I first saw him last July in the Jerry Mullen's JC Showcase in St. Louis," Weakley explained. That same month, another viewing took place in the JUCO Shootout event in Los Angeles. Making the third time the charm, Weakley also caught Bellot in action during the Final Four in early March. That was enough to convince him.

"He's poised, has a high IQ and let's the game come to him," Weakley said. "He can handle and shoots the ball well. We're looking at playing him at the one, two and three."

The Dustdevils have been quite successful during Weakley's association which began as an assistant at TAMI before he became the head coach in 2012 -- try two Heartland Conference Conference championships plus a tournament championship in 2013-14.

Weakley concluded, "when Denzel feels challenged, he rises to the occasion."

Ali to BG

Per Brad Winton, Ismail Ali has given a verbal commitment to Bowling Green of the Mid-American Conference. Out of San Leandro High, the 6-foot-1 point played the last two years at Antelope Valley College in southern California. He averaged 8.9 points and 6.3 assists this season while shooting 45%, 42% and 64% respectively. Ali earned First Team All Western Conference honors for his play in 2014-15.

Two new talents to FCC

Fresno City College Assistant Coach Nicholas Podesta tweeted: "Sac Connection: Fresno City MBB welcomes Sac High standouts @_swaggyp1 and Aaron Cameron to the Ram family."

Stevie Matthews is a 6-foot freshman out of Sacramento High



The 6-foot Cameron played at Cal State East Bay in 2013-14 and redshirted this season.

Fayne to the Cornhusker state

6-foot-7 Phillip Fayne, out of Franklin High, has signed to attend Western Nebraska Community College. He averaged 17.6 points plus 10.8 boards a game this season.

Again, wonder if Bobby Jackson was involved in this decision since that's his JC alma mater?

Payne to the Cornhusker state

6-foot-4  Austin (Franklin High) Payne will be at Western Nebraska Community College this coming season. He averaged 15.4 points, 6.9 boards and 4.1 assists this past season.

Wonder if Bobby Jackson was involved in this decision since that's his JC alma mater?

Gomes to the Sunshine State

6-foot Dominic Gomes, who graduated from Bishop O'Dowd High in 2013 has signed to play basketball at Palm Beach State College. He also played football for the Dragons and was on the 2014 CCSF football roster as a wide receiver.