St. Catharines, Canada: After the first day of the preliminary round at the FIBA U18 America’s Championships a hastily worded media advisory was circulated to all accredited media. It cautioned media that “player only” areas within the Meridian Center in St. Catharines had been infiltrated by media and scouts. Given that the scouts outnumbered the media one can only conclude that the perpetrators were not representing the fourth estate. Extra security was posted and tunnels were closed off to give tournament players and coaches some breathing room. 63 scouts had registered for the event with 34 representing American schools and 29 from the NBA.
College coaches, expert recruiters of young basketball talent, came draped in their own irony. They were nattily attired in logo infested ball caps, polos, tack suits and other colorful clothing items that invades the landscapes of most campuses. Coaches and Assistant Coaches could be seen scattered in clusters throughout the 5,000 seat arena. There was nothing subtle about their presence yet their availability for media requests drew a code of silence. Hall of Famers inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame mixed in with future Hall of Famers. Behind the baseline games were taking on the life of an exclusive country club while battling an endless list of NCAA do’s and don’ts. Recruiters were walking billboards advertising one of America’s biggest one sided sporting debates. “Is college basketball a business?”
For Marist College Assistant Coach Serge Clement the tournament was an opportunity for him to stop in to see the progress of Red Foxes new recruit Matthew Harasme. The slick guard was representing the talent rich but underachieving Dominicans. Harasme, a 6’3” New York City kid, had recently signed a letter of intent with Marist. It was the hope of Coach Clement that the infusion of talented players like Harasme would resurrect the Red Foxes basketball program, a D1 outfit that occupied the cellar of the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) last season. Clement had his eyes wide open describing the talent pool at the FIBA event as being “tremendous.” You could sense he was there to see one recruit but could easily have been smitten by others.
“We are looking for anyone who can help Marist get to the next level in terms of play, so it could be a guard or a big,” announced Clement.
But interaction between scouts and players is limited by NCAA rules. In their senior year of eligibility high school players can only be contacted a maximum of seven times by recruiters.A friendly nod from afar while dressed in logo emblazoned clothes doesn’t seem to count. Using a friendly journalist to get the message across to a player may be a strategy worthy of detouring the NCAA rule book. Even meeting up in a hallway away from prying eyes to plant a seed with a player is a sound tactical maneuver. Much like a sharp backdoor cut.
For University of South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin the tournament gave him the opportunity to watch two high level USC recruits participating against each other in the international arena. Martin, who was dressed head to toe in Gamecocks’ gear stood out like an oversized garnet and black cheerleader. Even patrons in the private boxes near the rafters knew that USC was in the house. New Gamecock Alanzo Frink of the Dominican Republic and American International Josiah James are the centerpieces of Martin’s 2018 recruiting class. Frink, a mountain of a man at 6’7” in height and weighing 260 pounds is a tough post player with a daft outside shot to appease requirements of the modern game. Basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla described the Dominican big man as: “a classic wide body, he’s a human Humvee but stronger.” American James shone bright throughout the tournament proving his worth as a relentless defender and slicing offensive threat.
While some Assistant Coaches appeared to be taking copious notes others seemed satisfied with the banter among their brethren. For them to share an opinion outside their tried and tested circles or give a hypothetical opinion was a lesson in futility. One Big 10 Assistant Coach even proclaimed that: “I’m not sure if I’m really supposed to be here.” But he was certainly fixated on Minnesota native Matthew Hurt on Team USA who’s older brother is a Golden Gopher.
But for Michigan coach John Beilein (3.37 Million salary annually) and Cincinnati Bearcat Head Coach Mick Cronin ($2.2 million salary annually) their larger than life presence was felt despite NCAA officials circulating among the masses. It didn’t stop the two coaches from making a mad dash to the scorer’s table and press row to ask for a donation of box scores.
University of Kansas Head Coach Bill Self , who took on the dual role of American headmaster during this competition, was able to test drive his two new recruits before they are exposed to the iconic pressure cooker known as the Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
Giovanni Santiago, the talented Puerto Rican guard who calls Cincinnati home, was able to showcase his talents to a wider range of assessors and he left the tournament with an impressive offer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was not alone by leaving the tournament with offers to extend his basketball careers.
While the Meridian Centre in St Catharines now lies dormant for the summer, attracting the occasional summer concert, the small army of college recruiters who called it a temporary home have scattered across North America to uncover a gem or two at AAU Live weekends. All with their endless college swag, advertising who they represented, packed into suitcases. Along their journey they hope to master the skill of massaging the NCAA’s endless rules around protecting the sanctity of student athletes. This unique job requirement is no exercise for the faint of heart.
Go Cat Go! Walter McCarthy’s Evansville Ace’s Kentucky Alma Mater
Before starring in Spike Lee’s ‘He Got Game’ with Denzel Washington and Ray Allen. Before starring in the NBA with the storied Boston Celtics. Before forging a post playing career as an R&B star. Triple-threat, triple-teamed, Robert Horry like with the clutch triple, off the bench, role playing great Walter McCarty won a National Championship with John Calipari’s U.K., University of Kentucky Wildcats, cutting down nets.
Twenty three years later with Coach Cap’s head in his hands in an indelible image, COACH Walter McCarty aced an upset in the NCAA with an epic win for his Evansville boys against his legendary Kentucky Wildcats alma mater.
Once an alumnus, always an alumni.
But last night it was tears of champagne joy he shed as the cats out their cradle cried.
All this madness…and we’re still a long way from March.
But the Evansville Aces keep marching in a purple haze with this ace in the hole.
And it all happened at the legendary Rupp Arena for these two teams first ever match-up.
When Walt continued his Celtics career post-playing days by becoming an assistant coach in Boston, he not only soaked up the experience but he also was such a cult icon in the city he had his very own ‘I Love Waltah’ t-shirts for the fans in the stands (that even this purple and gold Laker fan rocked…we go back some). But last night as he bounded into the locker room his shirt and tie where soaked in bubbly as he bounded around with his team, embraced in jubilant joy and the made dreams of some young men looking to grow in this college game.
And how about this for a coming of age?
Kentucky where looking for the perfect season with their latest NBA prospects this year for a college that sends them all to the big leagues (Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall and of course…our man Walt), but Evansville left their mark and their one on history.
Nobody deserves it more than McCarty and his boys.
And for all the teams to beat. This is Basketball God poetic. Walt Whitman couldn’t have wrote it better for Walt McCarty.
Ending his teams 39 game winning streak just like that, Calipari said of Walt’s men, “Walter and their team deserved to win. If we would have somehow pulled it out, it would have been, kind of wouldn’t even have been fair because they fought us the whole game and they were the tougher team.”
And as McCarty tells is, “this is the top”!
Beating the first seed U.K., we all know whose number one tonight.
For the aces.
Canadian Nate Darling 37-point explosion keeps Delaware unbeaten at 4-0
Canadian sharpshooter Nate Darling (Bedford, NS) wrapped-up an excellent opening NCAA week with a 37-point career-high explosion to help the Delaware Blue Hens win the 2019 Sunshine Slam tournament.
The Blue Hens defeat the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Road Runners 91-79 to remain unbeaten at 4-0 for the first time since 1999-2000.
Darling buried 12-of-19 field goals, including 8-of-10 triples and 5-of-6 free-throws in 40 minutes of action in the non-conference win.
“I got in the zone where the ball was constantly going in, and was just living in the moment. I’ve built confidence in myself and my teammates, and Kevin and Ryan take the pressure off me as well. UTSA started doubling me and Kevin really took over down the stretch, so kudos to him.”
The Bedford, Nova Scotia native connected on 19 first-half points and caught fire in the second-half by scoring the Blue Hens first 18 points of the half — increasing his total to 37 points with 10:28 in remaining in the game.
The 6’5″ red-shirt junior transferred from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) after two seasons and scored 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, plus 6 rebounds in the Blue Hens win over Oakland Golden Grizzlies. The former Nova Scotia basketball standout was equally impressive with 20 points and 6 rebounds in the win over the Southern Illinois Salukis.
Darling averaged 25.7 points per game, shot 26-of-49 (53%) from the floor and knocked down 17-of-27 (63%) triples on his way to be being named MVP of the tournament. Fellow Canadian guard Kevin Kangu (Burlington, Ont.) was also named to the all-tournament team.
The Blues will look to keep their perfect start alive when they take on the Lafayette Leopards on November 16.
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