Monday, February 29, 2016

Zach Brown back at Miami Beach High, still committed to UConn, may run track!

After a whirlwind past few weeks that saw him commit to UConn, transfer from Miami High to Putnam Science Academy, then leave school to return to his Miami home, Zach Brown is back at his original school: Miami Beach High.

Brown played there for coach Jacob Shaw his first two years of high school before transferring to Miami High this past year, then PSA a few weeks ago.

“We’re happy to have him back in our program," said Shaw. "It’s not just me, it’s my whole coaching staff,  the principal, the administration, our goal is to make sure Zach’s in the right mind, playing good basketball. This is something Zach wanted. Everything is all about what he wants right now. He’s ready to get back and have some fun in a positive way."

Brown is still fully committed to UConn, and Shaw said he's spoken to Kevin Ollie and that the Huskies are still committed to Brown. One thing is certain, however: Brown will absolutely not re-classify to 2016. That's the main reason he transferred to PSA, but the adjustment and the academic stress became too much for him. He was also involved in a postgame fight a couple of weeks into his tenure that led to his being released from the school.

Miami Beach High's hoops season is over, so Brown is concentrating on academics. He's also thinking of running track this spring.

It's a long way from now until the summer or fall of 2017. Whether Brown ever makes it to UConn remains to be seen. But it appears he's in the right place for him right now, and that all parties involved would still like to see the UConn thing work out.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My AP Top 25 this week

We fully realize that the AP Top 25, while never overly meaningful, is even less so at this time of the year. Teams and their fans are more worried about whether or not they'll be invited to this year's NCAA tournament -- and if so, what their seed's going to be, etc. -- than whether they're ranked.

Still, we must fill out ballots throughout the entire regular season -- even on Selection Sunday (talk about an irrelevant Top 25 that day). There are many fans still interested in how (or if) their teams are ranked each week, so here's the ballot I filled out this evening:

1. Kansas
2. Villanova
3. Michigan State
4. Xavier
5. Oklahoma
6. Virginia
7. North Carolina
8. Miami
9. Oregon
10. Indiana
11. Purdue
12. West Virginia
13. Maryland
14. Utah
15. Louisville
16. Texas A&M
17. Arizona
18. Seton Hall
19. Kentucky
20. Duke
21. SMU
22. Iowa
23. Saint Joseph's
24. California
25. Baylor

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Juwan Durham talks injuries, positive attitude, possible red-shirt while at UConn game

Had a chance to chat with Juwan Durham at halftime of UConn's 81-51 dismantling of USF on Thursday night. As others who know him or have met him have stated, he seems to be a tremendous kid, full of positive energy and very excited to head to UConn this summer.

Durham, a Tampa native, sat on the baseline for the game and high-fived the UConn coaching staff as they returned to the court from the locker room at halftime. Here's the story I wrote off Thursday's interview, in which Durham talked about his injuries, his positive attitude, and even the possibility of red-shirting next season. Assistant coach Ricky Moore and Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon also had nice things to say about the young man.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Here's how the AP Top 25 ballot I'm submitting tonight. Had UConn won at Cincinnati on Saturday, it would have been on it. Instead, another missed opportunity for the Huskies. In fact, I considered the Bearcats (briefly) this week, but wound up still with only SMU from the American.

1. Villanova
2. Kansas
3. Oklahoma
4. Xavier
5. North Carolina
6. Virginia
7. Michigan State
8. Arizona
9. Iowa
10. Maryland
11. Oregon
12. Indiana
13. Louisville
14. Miami
15. Kentucky
16. Purdue
17. Duke
18. West Virginia
19. Utah
20. SMU
21. Dayton
22. Saint Joseph's
23. Baylor
24. Texas A&M
25. South Carolina

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Zach Brown no longer at Putnam, dealing with personal health issue

Zach Brown is no longer enrolled at Putnam Science Academy, and is in fact back in Miami right now with his biological family. Whether or not he ever plays basketball for UConn is the furthest thing from anyone’s minds right now, as he deals with a “personal health issue.”

Here's what PSA coach Tom Espinosa wrote in an email on Wednesday morning:

"I wanted to pass this along to all of you regarding Zach Brown. Its official that Zach Brown is no longer enrolled at Putnam Science Academy. Unfortunately, Zach Brown had an incident and was asked to leave the school."

Brown has spent about a week in Miami before flying back up to Connecticut on Saturday night and had planned to meet with officials from Putnam on Monday, according to a source. But it never materialized, and after spending the past few days in Connecticut, he flew back to Miami on Tuesday.

Brown was involved in an altercation between PSA and Montverde Prep in the locker room after a game on Feb. 6 at Rhode Island College in Providence. He returned to Miami for what had been a pre-planned trip the next day, and stayed a few extra days to try to sort out some personal issues before flying back to Connecticut on Saturday night.

He never made it back to Putnam, however. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get a chance to meet with Caron Butler, a shining example of a young man from a troubled background who turned his life around at UConn.

At this point, Brown isn’t looking at any other colleges, or even prep schools. The No. 1 priority is for him to get healthy.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

I could go on with another "what a crazy year in college basketball" post, and mention how nutty this year's NCAA tournament promises to be. But I won't.

We all know how volatile the Top 25 has been all season, and particularly this week. There are dozens of teams that could be ranked, particularly once you get past the first 10-12 spots. But there are only so many spots, so we're at the point now where we're rewarding teams that are playing well. In other words, if you lost a game or two this past week and were in the lower echelon of my Top 25 last week, you're probably getting booted.

So, with that in mind, goodbye Texas A&M, USC, Providence, Gonzaga and UConn. Hello Duke, Notre Dame, Saint Joseph's (I love teams that win on the road), Michigan and South Carolina.

1. Villanova
2. Kansas
3. Oklahoma
4. North Carolina
5. Xavier
6. Maryland
7. Iowa
8. Virginia
9. Michigan State
10. Arizona
11. West Virginia
12. Miami
13. Dayton
14. Kentucky
15. Purdue
16. SMU
17. Duke
18. Oregon
19. Notre Dame
20. Saint Joseph's
21. Indiana
22. Louisville
23. Michigan
24. Iowa State
25. South Carolina

Friday, February 12, 2016

UPDATED: Zach Brown heading back to Putnam after dealing with "personal issue" in Miami

After spending the past week in his hometown of Miami to deal with some "personal issues," Zach Brown, the 7-foot-1 Class of 2017 center, was scheduled to have returned to Putnam Science Academy on Saturday night.

Brown left Putnam Science Academy on Sunday morning to deal with something that was already on his docket. Brown had been involved in a confrontation involving several players from both PSA and Monteverde Prep after a game last week, but his return to Miami had nothing to do with that.

Brown's chief goal upon his return to PSA is to improve upon his academics.

Brown committed to UConn last month. He is one of the top-rated centers in the Class of 2017, and he has stated a desire to re-classify to 2016.

Meanwhile, here's a nice piece by Caron Butler on The Players' Tribune. Butler will have his number retired to the Huskies of Honor at halftime of Saturday's game with Tulsa at Gampel.

Labels: ,

UConn recruiting profile: Makai Ashton-Langford

Makai Ashton-Langford hails from Worcester, Massachusetts, not far from the Connecticut border.

He grew up rooting for UConn and has admitted he's dreamed of someday being a Husky. But it's not as sure a shot as one might think.

UConn has offered Ashton-Langford, a Class of 2017 point guard, but by all accounts, he's going to wait at least through the spring and summer circuits to make any commitments anywhere. UConn and Providence have been his most dogged pursuers, with DePaul also showing keen interest. Louisville has inquired about him and, more recently, so has Kentucky.

John Calipari saw Ashton-Langford play back in November, shortly after the Cushing Academy guard had broken his hand. No one knew his hand was broken at the time, and he didn't have his best game. Ashton-Langford sat out the next 6-7 weeks, but he's back now, shooting the ball as well as ever, and sure to start attracting more interest outside of the New England schools (who can and have seen him play numerous times over the winter) once the college basketball season winds down.

"People have done a good job getting out the word, in a general sense, that Makai's got a heavy UConn lead," said Cushing's first-year head coach, Mike Wolf. "I think they're clearly high, high on his list. But the idea that other schools aren't in the mix is a false one."

With Jalen Adams (another former Cushing point guard) and Alterique Gilbert in tow, Ashton-Langford could see two point guards ahead of him by the time he'd hit campus in the fall of 2017. Ashton-Langford is more of a true point guard than Adams, although Wolf believes he's can't be labeled as a classic point guard.

"He's got some Allen Iverson-esque point guard in his game," said the coach.

Both Wolf and Vin Pastore, who coaches Ashton-Langford on the Mass Rivals AAU team, agree that the kid is an elite defender.

"He's an elite defensive ball-stopper," said Wolf. "He guards the best player on any team at pretty much any position except the post, and if we asked him to do that, he'd probably do that, too."

Added Pastore: "He's the best defender at that position in the country, which fits UConn to a 'T.'"

Now, it's just a matter of whether UConn fits Ashton-Langford's needs to a 'T.'

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Lotta change on my ballot this week, as I'm sure is the case with all the other 64 voters.

The biggest change will be at No. 1, where Oklahoma resided in the AP poll (and North Carolina resided on my ballot). The Sooners lost to Kansas State, while Carolina lost twice, so there'll be a new No. 1 this week.

For me, it's the team I had atop my ballot at the very start of the season: Maryland. The Terps had some early-season struggles and haven't always looked dominant. But they're 21-3, fresh off an 11-point win over Purdue, and, quite frankly, may have the most talented starting five in the country. I simply think they're the best team right now.

Among the other notable changes, Providence plunges from No. 7 down all the way down to No. 21 after a two-loss week. Sure, a home loss to Villanova isn't the end of the world -- especially considering the Friars beat 'Nova a couple weeks earlier in Philly. But it's the way the Wildcats thoroughly dismantled PC on Saturday that raised my eyebrows (and also convinced me to catapult 'Nova up to No. 2, even though I haven't been a huge fan of theirs this season).

Oh, that and the fact that the Friars lost to DePaul earlier in the week, too. Yeah, that's worthy of a 14-spot drop.

I dropped Baylor, Saint Mary's, Iowa State and Wichita State from this week's poll and added USC, Gonzaga, South Carolina and ... UConn. Yeah, I went with the Huskies. Really like what I'm seeing from them right now, even if they haven't exactly knocked off a huge opponent lately (though at Memphis Thursday night wasn't bad). Bottom line, there are about 15 different teams that could very deservedly occupy the final 2-3 spots on the ballot. Having witnessed what the Huskies have done over the past couple of weeks up close, I went with them.

1. Maryland
2. Villanova
3. Oklahoma
4. Xavier
5. Iowa
6. Kansas
7. Virginia
8. North Carolina
9. Michigan State
10. Oregon
11. West Virginia
12. SMU
13. Arizona
14. Purdue
15. Louisville
16. Miami
17. Dayton
18. Kentucky
19. Texas A&M
20. USC
21. Providence
22. Gonzaga
23. Indiana
24. South Carolina
25. UConn

Friday, February 5, 2016

Is UConn hitting its stride right now?

Impressive win for UConn last night. The Huskies thoroughly dominated Memphis in the second half, holding it to one offensive rebound over the final 20 minutes (just five for the game) and to just four field goals. UConn may have hastened Josh Pastner's departure from Memphis, though his $10.6 million buyout may muddle things.

It seems to me that the Huskies may be hitting their stride right now. Amida Brimah is back (though still a bit limited). Daniel Hamilton is back (though he never really left ... just playing much better the past couple of games). UConn's defense is as good as any in the nation. The Huskies seem to have settled on a rotation, and the players seem to be buying into their respective roles.

UConn could be really on to something here -- though Kevin Ollie is loath to say the Huskies have "turned a corner."

Getting back to Hamilton, his terrific night on Thursday (16 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) wasn't the product of any pep talks from Kevin Ollie or his teammates, or even necessarily any extra work in the gym. It simply came from some inspirational text messages from the person who knows him best -- his mom, Karen.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Correction to Zach Brown story

One small correction I must make regarding the Zach Brown feature I posted here yesterday: Boo Willingham was not an AAU coach of Zach Brown. Rather, he coached him in sixth grade on a team called the South Beach All-Stars. Mike Jarvis, Jr. was Brown's AAU coach.