WDRB HOOPS NOTEBOOK | Russ Smith on FedEx, Pitino on Blackshear, - WDRB 41 Louisville News

WDRB HOOPS NOTEBOOK | Russ Smith on FedEx, Pitino on Blackshear, UK schedules up

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The College Basketball Notebook makes its return here on WDRB.com, with updates from Rick Pitino, the NCAA once again tinkering with basketball rules, Russ Smith's lost jersey and more. Straight to the tipoff.

RUSS SMITH FUMING AT FED EX FOR LOSING JERSEY

University of Louisville guard talked after his graduation ceremony about the frustration of losing his NCAA championship jersey when FedEx apparently discarded it after it was returned to the company to assess damage.

Smith said he had framed the jersey and shipped it to his dad in New York, but the glass was cracked when it arrived. Per company policy, they returned the frame to FedEx for damage compensation, but a spokesman for the company says it the frame -- with the jersey still in it -- was thrown away for safety reasons.

"The frame was broken going there," Smith said. "And in order to get the frame fixed and have the insurance taken care of, you have to send everything back the way it was, so there wouldn't be any suspicion of the jersey, or something being messed up on our part. The next thing you know, the jersey was gone."

Smith first took to Twitter with the problem Friday night to complain about the company's handling of the situation.

U of L trustee John Blue later took to Twitter to offer a $3,000 reward for the return of the jersey, "no questions asked."

PITINO SAYS MATHIANG FACES PUNISHMENT FOR OAKS ARREST

U of L basketball coach, speaking with WHAS Radio's Terry Meiners late last week, said sophomore center Mangok Mathiang has been facing some internal penalties for his arrest for not cooperating with police on Oaks Day, but won't miss any game time.

He said the incident happened at Third and Central by the Starbucks location, and that the friend of Mathiang who was arrested was Mathiang's ride. When Mathiang tried to intercede with police after they'd asked him to move along, they arrested him too. Pitino said the beer Mathiang dropped at the scene was one he was holding for the friend, and that he had not been drinking.

"He should've listened to the officer and walked on, but didn't listen to him, was trying to tell the officer that that was their ride, but police are working 10-hour days and they just want to work and get home like everybody else," Pitino told Meiners. "Mangok didn't do anything real serious, but he learned a valuable lesson -- that you just have to walk on, even if his ride home is getting arrested.

"He paid some small consequences, in this case. It wasn't a major deal, community service, fine, whatever. Mainly he learned the lesson that when a policeman says move on, you move on."

UK'S HAWKINS HEADED OVERSEAS WITH SPORTS REACH

University of Kentucky sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins has headed to the Far East for a two-week tour with Reach USA, which will play an eight-game schedule against local teams.

The Reach USA team will be on a cultural exchange basketball trip in order to learn more about the Far Eastern culture, while sharing its own culture. Reach USA is a ministry group based in Campbellsville, Ky.
 
“Traveling to the Far East is something I’ve never dreamed of,” Hawkins said. “I’m excited for this experience made possible by Sports Reach. I look forward to immersing myself in the culture and bettering my skills on the court.”
 
Hawkins played in 33 games for UK’s national runner-up squad. He scored 25 points and hauled in 23 rebounds while dishing out 12 assists in his first season. The 6-foot guard from Richmond, Ky., served as a top defensive performer during UK’s NCAA Tournament run with John Calipari citing his efforts against Michigan’s Nik Stauskas as a key to UK’s win over the Wolverines.
 
Hawkins is one of several Wildcats who have participated in the cultural exchange during Calipari’s tenure. Other players who have participated include Josh Harrellson, Jon Hood and Eloy Vargas. Harrellson’s trip came in the summer of 2010 and was followed by a breakout senior campaign in which he averaged 7.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 61 percent from the field.

Murray State's Cameron Payne also is on the Reach roster.

PITINO SAYS BLACKSHEAR IS PUTTING IN MORE GYM TIME

Asked about his decision to make senior Wayne Blackshear a team captain, Pitino said that he has responded with a much improved work ethic.

"I have never in three years seen Wayne Blackshear this devoted to the game of basketball," Pitino told Meiners. "He's putting in incredible time. I'm very proud of him."

Pitino said Blackshear always has given good effort in practice, but said he told him after last season that he was going to have to do more work on his own if he wanted to return to his prep All-American form as a senior.

"With all people, showing up for practice and giving 100 percent is really not enough today," Pitino said. "If you want to make it in this world, you have to do more than that. . . . When I come in early in the morning who do I see? Peyton Siva. He's here an hour or two early in the morning every day."

On the whole, Pitino said he likes the way his team responded after losing in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky last season.

"When you win 30 games, win your conference, and go to the Sweet 16 and your guys are disappointed, that shows where you are," he said.

JODIE MEEKS COMPLETES DEGREE AT UK

As a Los Angeles Laker, former UK star Jodie Meeks said he actually began to look forward to his time in the summer, taking classes to finish his degree in business marketing.

"For me, once I get my mind set on something, I usually do it," Meeks said. "When I left school early, I made a promise to myself and my family that I would finish."

Meeks said he didn't get the star treatment when he returned for classes.

"It's quiet, nobody bothers you," Meeks said. "If they bother you it's in a good way. Picture, autograph, it's nothing. In L.A. it's all about glitz and glamour so to get away from that is fun. For me it's not hard, just to come here and focus for four weeks."

Meeks did say he occasionally wonders what would've happened had he stayed to play with Calipari's first team at UK. With his outside shooting, he could've been a key player.

"I don't think we would've lost a game, in my opinion," Meeks said. "It would have been a fun team. . . . But I felt like it was a good decision for me personally."

PITINO TALKS FRESHMEN, SCHEDULE

Pitino said there will be little warm-up time before his team is put to some major tests this season. He told Meiners on WHAS Radio that he sees a starting rotation of Montrezl Harrell, Mangok Mathiang, Wayne Blackshear, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier, and that Anton Gill will see a significant increase in minutes.

Beyond that, he said, he needs to see what freshmen are ready to contribute right away and which ones will redshirt.

"We've got to push the envelope a lot earlier than prior years," Pitino said. "We open up with Minnesota. It's interesting, their private plane is picking them up, then picking us up, then we're traveling together to a military base (in Puerto Rico). We'll mix and have a great time going down, and one team won't want to speak to the other coming back."

Pitino said the return of Harrell changes the outlook for his next U of L team, and his first in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"When I looked at that schedule and what was happening, without Montrezl we would've had a very difficult time," Pitino said. "With him, it's going to be a very challenging schedule. Without him it would've been very difficult."

Pitino said the team will open with two Red-White scrimmages and exhibition games against Bellarmine and Barry University. And he talked about the overall difficulty of the schedule, which features home games against Kentucky and Ohio State, and conference games against Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse on the road and others.

"Duke has nine McDonalds All-Americans," he said. "That doesn't always tell the tale, but Duke and Kentucky seem to be heads above everybody in terms of talent and what they have returning. Wisconsin has most of their players back. Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke and will be top three in the country. We'll be right there around the Top 10. I don't think it matters for us. I don't really care about preseason rankings. I like the five guys we have, then Anton Gill is going to play a much larger role. I'm hoping Akoy Agau works really hard in the summertime. . . . We normally want to peak mid-February, but we need to get it together early or we're going to take some losses."

Pitino said David Padgett has been added to the coaching staff as director of basketball operations, which puts him in charge of travel and other logistics but that he cannot instruct players on the court.

"I'm as excited as I've ever been since I've been a coach," Pitino said.

KENTUCKY SCHEDULE TAKES ANOTHER STEP UP

UK continues to book marquee non-conference matchups for next season. The Wildcats already were slated to play Kansas on Nov. 18 in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, as well as at Louisville and at home against North Carolina.

They also have added a Dec. 20 meeting against UCLA in the inaugural CBS Sports Classic and a game against Texas on Dec. 5 at Rupp Arena in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

NCAA MULLS OFF-YEAR CHANGE TO CHARGE-BLOCK CALL

More tinkering from the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee, which met Wednesday through Friday of last week in Indianapolis.

The rule was changed this past season to require a defender to be set in position before an offensive player began his upward move toward the basket if he wanted to draw a charge. The committee appears ready to rescind that requirement, replacing it with one that requires the defender to be in legal guarding position before the offensive player leaves the floor, while not allowing the defender to move in any direction, except vertically in an effort to block a shoot.

The committee was responding to input from coaches and officials that the rule needed adjusting.

"We didn’t disagree that it created less charges. We thought a product of that was coaches felt like you couldn’t draw a charge. They started telling players don’t even try anymore," Belmont coach Rick Byrd, chair of the committee, told The Sporting News.

“The biggest reason was, it just was almost unworkable – unteachable, unlearnable by John Adams, our NCAA coordinator, and the officials’ supervisors in the conferences. Therefore, the coaches were unclear and definitely the players were unclear. Going forward, across the board people felt like they couldn’t understand it. The upward motion is not nearly as definitive as leaving the floor."

THE LIST

Sometimes, you wonder if that day will come when Bleacher Report Runs out of things to rank. So far, it hasn't. Our list this week comes from them: The Ten Best Rebuilding Jobs in College Basketball History. Check it out:

1. Scott Drew, Baylor
2. John Thompson, Georgetown
3. Steve Fischer, San Diego State
4. Lute Olson, Arizona
5. Guy Lewis, Houston
6. Bob Huggins, Cincinnati
7. Gary Williams, Maryland
8. Ray Meyer, DePaul
9. John Calipari, UMass
10. Tom Crean, Indiana

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