Monday, April 23, 2007

NBA's one-year rule not designed to help players

The NBA’s new age limit might have helped North Carolina gain the services of forward Brandan Wright for one year, but Tar Heel coach Roy Williams hardly sounded grateful Monday.

"The NBA is not our partner," Williams said. "They can act like that all they want to, but they view college basketball as competition. And every rule they make is what’s good for them. They don’t make rules for the good of the kid. I mean, give me a break."

Wright announced Monday that he was leaving North Carolina after his freshman season for the NBA draft. He was part of the first high school class affected by the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, which stipulates that players must be at least one year past the graduation of their high school class and at least 19 years old by the end of the calendar year in which they enter the draft.

Williams said he supports Wright’s decision, but lashed out at the NBA’s new rule. He said he would prefer that players be required to attend college for two or three years before the NBA allows them to be drafted.

Another year or two in college would allow Wright to put more muscle on his skinny, 6-foot-9 frame, Williams said. Having players spend one year in college merely shields NBA scouts from making poor evaluations of players, Williams said.

"The rule that they changed, everyone goes to school for one year, that gives them the opportunity to evaluate Brandan Wright against great competition," Williams said. "So they’ll make better evaluations. They don’t have to evaluate Brandan against five guys that are 5-11 surrounding him in the post like he had to play a couple of games in high school."

The rule has sparked concern among college coaches and administrators that players with no intentions of pursuing a degree will make a mockery of college athletics by doing just enough to stay academically eligible, then bolting for the NBA as soon as possible.

Wright, who said he plans to continue pursuing his degree, apparently won’t do that. Neither did the Atlanta Hawks’ Marvin Williams, who left North Carolina in 2005 after his freshman season but has returned for classes during the offseason.

Williams said he won’t stop recruiting players who might only stay for one season, as long as they display the same character as Wright and Williams.
"I don’t mind being a conduit to some other place for some youngster’s dreams, as long as they give everything they have while they’re here," he said.

But that doesn’t diminish Williams’ disdain for the NBA rule he believes primarily suits the NBA’s interests. – Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Donovan: No time to talk Kentucky job

ATLANTA - Florida coach Billy Donovan hugged athletics director Jeremy Foley on Monday night on the floor at the Georgia Dome after the Gators won their second consecutive NCAA title with an 84-75 defeat of Ohio State.

"He was certainly an integral part of having a belief that Florida’s program could do this," Donovan said of Foley.

Now Foley probably will have to try to prevent SEC rival Kentucky from taking his coach. Donovan declined to address the speculation about Kentucky’s job after the game.

He said "all that stuff" will get addressed later.
"I just got off the court," he said. "Right here at the University of Florida, I’m going to enjoy it right now."

Gators inspire Oden?
Donovan said he hopes the decisions of Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer to return to defend their title as juniors will inspire other underclassmen to return if that’s what they want to do.

"If Greg Oden is out there and really in his heart he wants to go back to Ohio State, he should do what he wants to do," Donovan said.

Oden is projected as a top-two pick in the NBA draft if he decides to leave college. Donovan said he doesn’t know what the future holds for Horford, Noah or Brewer.

Florida now has two NCAA titles in basketball and two Associated Press national titles in football (1996 and 2006). The only other school with multiple wire service national championships in football and two NCAA basketball titles is Michigan State. . . .Donovan is the fourth active coach with multiple NCAA title wins, joining Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (three), Texas Tech’s Bob Knight (who won three with Indiana) and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun (two). . . .Florida seniors Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard finished with a school-record 111 victories. - Ken Tysiac

Ohio State postgame notes

ATLANTA - Some odds and ends after the championship game about Ohio State, where at least the basketball players can be consoled by the football players, who know what it feels like to finish in second place to Florida:

  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was asked after Florida's 84-75 title-game win whether he thought Buckeye star freshman center Greg Oden would be returning for his sophomore season. Matta said he couldn’t put a percentage on whether Oden would stay or go, but that the two would talk about it after returning to campus.
  • Oden afterward said of his 25-point, 12-rebound performance: "It really doesn’t matter." Oden, for once, was very good at staying out of foul trouble Monday night and played a team-high 38 minutes.
    "We had guys come in fighting and hitting shots," Oden said, "but they had an answer for everything."
  • Ohio State is now 1-4 in NCAA championship basketball games. The only win? 1960.
  • Ohio State had trouble the entire tournament defending the three-point shot. In six NCAA tournament games, including Florida’s 10-for-18 performance on treys Monday, the Buckeyes allowed opponents to shoot 43.3 percent from beyond the arc.
  • Brick city: The Buckeyes’ 4-for-23 three-point shooting performance Monday night was the worst by a team in the NCAA final since Michigan shot 1-for-11 in its 1992 title-game loss to Duke.
  • The last word, from Ohio State coach Thad Matta: "I thought we fought about as hard as we could. We just couldn’t turn the corner on them, which is what teams like that do to you…. They [Florida] have really got everything, you know…. We made some major, major mistakes defensively, and great teams make you pay." -- Scott Fowler

Monday, April 2, 2007

NCAA finals at the half

ATLANTA - Observations from the first half of the NCAA championship game in Atlanta:

  • If you’re an Ohio State fan, you’d probably rather have center Greg Oden in foul trouble than point guard Mike Conley.
    Oden is the first-team All-American who might be the best American-born, teen-age center in the last 15 years, but the Buckeyes were fine without him for 17 minutes in the first half of the national semifinal against Georgetown.
    But when freshman point guard Conley went to the bench with two fouls in the first half, Florida immediately took advantage.
    "White back to two," coach Billy Donovan called from the bench, signaling the Gators to press on made baskets.
    Ohio State’s Jamar Butler immediately turned it over, giving up a fast-break three-point play to Walter Hodge.

  • Florida forward Joakim Noah might have the most unorthodox shooting delivery in college basketball.
    The ball spins sideways out of his hands when he’s shooting free throws or a jump shot, a flaw that certainly will have to be corrected when he gets to the NBA.
    His poor shooting is one reason there’s a chance teammate Al Horford – who has improved his perimeter shooting – could be drafted ahead of Noah if both players enter the draft after this season.

  • Noah, Horford and Lee Humphrey get more publicity than Corey Brewer, and they have been excellent players in their own right the last two seasons. But Brewer has been by far the most outstanding player in the Final Four.
    Brewer made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the first half as Florida grabbed a 40-29 halftime lead. He led the Gators with 19 points in the national semifinal victory over UCLA.
    And at 6-foot-9, he moves his feet quickly enough to defend opposing guards. He held Ron Lewis – who averages 12.7 points per game but is five inches shorter than Brewer – to two points on 1-for-3 from the field in the first half.

  • Duke and North Carolina fans may differ in their opinion of the selection of Karl Hess to referee his first NCAA championship game Monday night. Hess was the lead official on the crew that ejected Duke’s Gerald Henderson for the flagrant foul that broke North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough’s nose March 4.
    Whether you agree with that call or not, Hess is one of the ACC’s best officials and deserved his position in this game. Edward Corbett and Tony Greene, who both worked their third NCAA title game Monday night, also are excellent referees. - Ken Tysiac

NCAA finals pre-game notes

ATLANTA, Ga. - We are about two hours from tipoff of the Florida-Ohio State NCAA final as I write this from the Georgia Dome – which is surprisingly empty at the moment but about to fill up with 53,500 fans. While we’ve got a few moments, here are a few of my favorite things about this Final Four so far:

  • Joakim Noah’s hair. Greg Oden saying he wanted to "tear the rim down" on that ferocious missed dunk Saturday. Thad Matta’s odd resemblance to Gene Hackman.
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this one. There was supposed to be this great Final Four party thrown by a couple of high-society artists on Saturday night, March 31. "Backs were stabbed to get on the guest list," the newspaper wrote, because the guest of honor was going to be actor George Clooney. At 12:01 a.m., the party hosts rolled out a large cardboard cutout of Clooney. It was April Fools’ Day by then, you see.
  • Atlanta’s Olympic Centennial Park. On a sunny day like Monday, it is always filled with kids, happy and getting wet in the fountain.
    (bullet) Ohio State’s colors – one of the best combinations in the college game.
  • The fact that Florida is only four hours away from an unprecedented trio of national championships – basketball-football-basketball in a 12-month period – if the Gators win tonight. That’s astounding, and gives this game a little more weight. -- Scott Fowler