The WDRB College Basketball Notebook is off and running, and while the NBA Finals are center stage in the hoops world, they do show that Final Four experience can be valuable even at the highest professional level.
Think about the Final Four alumni playing in the NBA Finals for either the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder -- Shane Battier (Duke), Mario Chalmers (Kansas), Udonis Haslem (Florida), Juwan Howard (Michigan), Mike Miller (Florida), Dwyane Wade (Marquette), Russell Westbrook (UCLA), Nick Collison (Kansas), Nazr Mohammed (Kentucky), Daequan Cook (Ohio State) and Cole Aldrich (Kansas).
Final Four experience, of course, is no requirement. But it doesn't hurt.
Now on to the notes . . .
Cards recruit Harrell hits boards in first Team USA game
U of L signee Montrezl Harrell grabbed eight rebounds in 15 minutes of play and drew praise from U.S. coach Billy Donovan in a 105-42 rout of the U.S. Virgin Islands by the Team USA Under-18 squad in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil.
Harrell scored eight points and went 3 of 4 from the field but just 1 of 7 from the line. The U.S. was led by Memphis incoming freshman Shaq Goodwin, who went 12 of 12 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line to lead all scorers with 30 points.
"I thought we took advantage of our frontcourt players," Donovan said. "In the first half we turned it over a little too much, but we did a great job getting to the free-throw line; we went to the free throw line 33 times in the first half. The problem was we only converted 16 of33. We left a lot of points out there. But I thought as the game started to unfold we did a better job of recognizing that we had a huge advantage up front and I thought Shaq Goodwin, Jarnell Stokes, Montrezl, all those guys did a nice job finishing around the basket.
U of L coach Rick Pitino describes Harrell, who had 18 dunks in a single game at Hargrave Military last season, as "6-8 with a 7-4 wingspan who plays every minute like it's his last on Earth."
Davis picks an agent
Here's one that will disappoint the conspiracy theorists. Former University of Kentucky star and soon-to-be No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Anthony Davis hired an agent last week, but it wasn't with the Creative Artists agency that represents John Calipari, employs Leon Rose and uses William Wesley as a consultant. (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist signed with that agency in May.)
Instead, Davis is going with the Wasserman Media Group, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports. He's the second Wildcat, joining Terrence Jones, to sign with Arn Tellem and the Wasserman Group, which also represents Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kendrik Perkins, Brandon Knight, Jamaal Magloire and many others.
Crean praises IU fans for "hostile" environment
Speaking to a crowd at the Huber Winery last week, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean praised the intensity of the Hoosier faithful, encouraged them to show that same excitement for football, and then offered them a little red (crimson?) meat.
"The way that you come and support the program, the way that you come and support at the road games, the way that you come and make it an atmosphere. All you gotta do -- look at it: could any of you ever imagine that there would be teams in the country that are really, really good that wouldn't want to come back (to Assembly Hall) because of how [air quote] hostile the atmosphere was? Because of how excited we got? Come on, let's call it what it is. Think about that. We're not giving that back. Are we? We're not giving up home court."
And speaking of that buzzer-beating win over UK, Crean said his emotions weren't quite as euphoric as many of the fans who stormed the court.
"I'm still mad we didn't win by 15 or 20," Crean said. "I'm still mad. Everybody asked what were you thinking at the end of the game, I'm thinking I'm mad that we blew a 10-point lead. But everyone else was so happy I was good with it."
Hulls, Elston make quick work of degrees
Crean went out of his way to mention the academic work of seniors Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston during a lengthy speech at Huber Winery.
"Our senior class takes a back seat to no one in (academics)," Crean said. "Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston both walked across the stage as three-year graduates this past May. That's a big deal."
Crean said he's hoping Hulls becomes a more versatile scorer this summer.
"Jordan is getting better all the time," he said. "We want him to become as good as there is in the pick-and-roll. He's become a multi-dimensional scorer. He can read screens, he can come off either way, but in this day and age you've got to be able to score off the dribble as well as you can score off the screens. And we think certainly the guy who can get the most open shots with the emergence of some of our veterans and bringing in a guy like Yogi (Ferrell) would be Jordan Hulls. But we can't bank on that. He's got to be able to score a lot of different ways. He's got to be able to manufacture points not only for himself but for his teammates. And he's getting better; he's getting stronger."
Of Elston, Crean said he's just hoping for a heathy season -- and maybe a new haircut.
"Derek Elston, the best thing he can do is be healthy," Crean said. "We saw an idea of what it looks like last year, he was healthy for the most part. It's not been easy for him in that sense. But outside of this slanted sloped haircut that he's wearing right now -- you remember when Will Sheehey shaved his head? This haircut might be five times worse. You won't see it, because he won't be public with it when we play games, but it's kind of sloped. Other than that, he's doing a good job."
Awards still coming in for Hobbs
Braydon Hobbs was named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year for men's basketball on Friday. Hobbs, who also was named the GLVC player of the year and won the league's prestigious Paragon Award for on- and off-the-field excellence, graduated with a degree in criminal justice. He posted a 3.67 grade-point average in his final semester and graduated with a 3.53 GPA over his four years. He was a Capital One Academic All-American and was recipient of the Bellarmine Faculty Merit Award.
He signed to play professionally for the McDonalds Meteors of the Queensland Basketball League and has been with the team in Australia since mid-May.
O'Neill pursuing Olympic berth
UK sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill has been selected to compete on the Puerto Rican women's national team, and hopes to help that squad to the 2012 London Olympics. If she does, she'll be the first-ever UK women's hoops players to play in the Olympics.
A former McDonald's All-American, O'Neill sat out her sophomore season at UK with a foot injury.
"It's an honor to be asked to play for this team," O'Neill said. "Playing for Puerto Rico will allow me to represent my family in a very special way. It's been a great experience so far because I'm learning a lot in practice, getting a lot of reps and learning how to read defenses better. After not playing last season because of my injury, this allows me to get game experience and it can only help me for next season at Kentucky. I'm really thankful for this opportunity."
O'Neill's mother, Maritza Robles, is full Puerto Rican and her maternal grandmother is a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, which qualifies O'Neill to be eligible for its national team. O'Neill, along with 11 other women, is currently in Morovis, Puerto Rico, competing at the Centrobasket, a FIBA-sponsored basketball tournament where teams from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean compete.
U of L WOMEN
McCaughtry ready for Olympic moment
Former U of L All-American Angel McCoughtry has her trip to London already locked up.
"It's one of the greatest honors you can have," McCoughtry said recently while in town to be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. "A chance to win a gold medal for your country is something everyone dreams about, but I never really thought it would be me getting to do that."
The U.S. women will play a doubleheader with the men's team on July 16 in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
In an interview with WDRB's Steve Andress, McCoughtry also fessed up to a problem she disclosed recently on Twitter. She's seeing a guy who she says doesn't know he's dating one of the best women's basketball players in the world. She told him she works at Target.
"Yeah, I'll have to tell him before the Olympics," McCoughtry said. "I just didn't want to make him uncomfortable. … I'll keep you all updated on that."
McCoughtry has led the WNBA's Atlanta Dream to back-to-back Eastern Conference championships, and also plays for the Fenerbache professional team in Instanbul, Turkey.
The USA Women's team is coached by UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
AROUND THE NATION
C-USA Tourney to be played on Tulsa time
The Conference USA Board of Directors voted Monday to move the league's postseason men's basketball tournament from the FedEx Forum in Memphis to Tulsa.
With Memphis leaving C-USA for the Big East after next season, league officials didn't want to reward a departing member with the chance to host (yet another) conference tournament.
The only problem, of course, is that Memphis was the one city in the league guaranteed to deliver a major crowd at the postseason event.
Chances are, the league hurt itself more than it's hurting Memphis, which actually had to spend considerable resources in terms of rent and manpower to host the event.
College hoops going offshore next season
In the wake of last year's successful game between North Carolina and Michigan State on an aircraft carrier, Yahoo! Sports college basketball blog The Dagger reports that at least five games will be played on ships next season.
Marquette will play Ohio State off the coast of Charleston, S.C. Syracuse and San Diego State will play on the flght deck of the U.S.S. Midway off the shore of San Diego. Florida and Georgetown will play on a ship off the coast of Jacksonville and an all-military doubleheader is planned on the U.S.S. Yorktown off the coast of South Carolina.
Until next week, bon voyage.
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