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Monmouth's 5-8 guard Justin Robinson makes big impression

Monmouth's 5-8 guard Justin Robinson makes big impression

, USA TODAY Sports 6:16 p.m. EST December 1, 2015

Monmouth coach King Rice likes to recruit in a rather old-fashioned way, with one tool — his eyeballs.

“Everybody has a scouting service, and everybody has their ideas about who can play, who’s this level, who’s that level,” Rice told USA TODAY Sports. “I respect everybody’s opinion, but I go on what my staff sees and what I see.”

Justin Robinson caught Rice's eye the summer before his junior year of high school. He’s good, Rice and his staff thought. By the time Robinson entered his senior year, Monmouth realized he was really, really good. Even if no one else was really recruiting him.

“Everybody was saying, ‘Well, he’s so small. He’s so small. I don’t know if he can play point. I don’t know if he can do this,’ ” Rice said. “I just kept watching this kid outplay everybody.”

Now Robinson is essentially outplaying everybody in college basketball. He’s averaging 24.4 points a game, the driving force behind Monmouth’s 4-2 start — including a season-opening win at UCLA, and two victories (vs. then-No. 18 Notre Dame) and Southern California at last week’s Advocare Invitational. Robinson, the 5-8, 175-pound junior guard, scored a tournament-record 77 points (and tied his career-high with 28 in a loss to Dayton).

“He’s the real thing,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told USA TODAY Sports. “He’s a really skilled guy, really hard to deal with off the dribble and he has the ability to rock you back and make the shot. Then, the perfect storm part of it is the new rules — I mean that as a compliment. He has that real innate ability to get in there and draw contact. All you’ve got to do now is draw a little bit of contact, and it’s automatic.

Monmouth Hawks guard Justin Robinson (12) scores a basket over UCLA Bruins forward Tony Parker (23) in the first half of the game at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo: Jayne Kamin Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)


“His whole team builds confidence off him. I’m very, very impressed with him and his team. They’re for real.”

Brey isn’t the only one who thinks so. The Hawks received votes in both the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll and the AP poll this week for the first time in program history.

Robinson — and his five consecutive 20-point games — is a huge reason why; he’s already notched five consecutive 20-point games. His career-high entering this year was 25 points; he’s already scored more than that four times this season so far. Robinson credits a heavy appetite of film and a great deal of time spent getting stronger in the weight room for his offseason improvement.

It all goes back to those high school days, and summers spent at AAU tournaments. And all those coaches who saw him play but didn’t think he could do this, at this level. Tyler, Justin’s brother and freshman on the team, said that’s always served as motivation for Robinson. He’s always wanted to prove everyone wrong.

Justin Robinson drives towards the basket in Monmouth's win against USC. (Photo: Getty Images)


“I remember we were at The Hoop Group camp, and I played pretty well in one of the games,” Justin Robinson said. “A coach came up to me and asked me if I wanted to play for his program. I asked him what school he was from, and it was a Division III program. I said, ‘Oh, thanks for the offer but I'm hoping for a Division I scholarship,’ and he kind of laughed at me.”

No one is laughing now. Except Robinson, and he’s probably laughing at his bench players and their hilarious choreographed celebrations.

But Robinson hasn’t made Monmouth college basketball’s biggest darling on his own. Redshirt freshman guard Micah Seaborn and junior guard Collin Stewart have also been major contributors through six games, helping Monmouth do what it does best: Take care of the ball (the Hawks rank ninth in the nation in turnover percentage, per and make free throws (they rank 10th in free throw %).

King credits part of the team’s success to chemistry and experience gained during its offseason trip to China, in which it played against professional teams and explored the Chinese culture. Robinson’s favorite part was walking up the Great Wall and then taking a toboggan sled down it.

King also believes his team has narrowed the gap with high-major programs the last couple of seasons. Monmouth always plays a few “buy” games, but last year its average losing margin was down to single-digits. Now, the Hawks have shown they can win these games, even against ranked foes.

Monmouth Hawks guard Justin Robinson (12) is congratulated by the bench after being fouled against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Monmouth beat Notre Dame 70-68. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)


Without a fortuitous circumstance, though, they wouldn’t have been on display this last week. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference always sponsors the Advocare Invitational — thereby guaranteeing one of its teams a chance to compete against a stacked field — but Iona was supposed to be the MAAC representative this year.

“When they talked to us at the league meetings, Iona wasn’t sure this year that it was good for their program,” King said. “I said, ‘Hey, I’ll do it. We’ll be in the tournament if Iona isn’t.’

“You’re supposed to be the sacrificial lamb because it’s all high-major schools. We were fortunate enough — I watched it again last night, the Notre Dame game was a very, very good game. … That kind of topped the UCLA game for us because Notre Dame was ranked. That was really, really cool for our kids.”

And it’s pretty cool for the kid who everyone else overlooked.

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Monmouth's Robinson named MVP of AdvoCare Invitational

Monmouth's Robinson named MVP of AdvoCare Invitational

, @Joshua_Newman 10:47 p.m. EST November 29, 2015

Despite Monmouth not playing in the championship game, Monmouth's Justin Robinson was named MVP of the AdvoCare Invitational. He is the first tournament MVP from a non-finalist team since 2006


Early on in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale indicated it would be a shame if Justin Robinson wasn't named MVP of the eight-team event.

That stance is well-taken given the Monmouth University junior guard set a tournament record by scoring 77 points over three games, but the thing is, Robinson was not playing in Sunday's championship game.

Earlier in the afternoon, Robinson and the Hawks played in the third-place game against USC, registering an 83-73 victory for their third win over a Power 5 program this season. Robinson's play was so strong over the weekend, that despite not playing in the championship game, he got his just due anyway.


Following Xavier's 90-61 throttling of in-state foe Dayton in the championship game, and the fifth-place game between Alabama and Notre Dame, Robinson was announced as MVP. That came seven hours after his game-high 27 points and seven rebounds helped Monmouth past USC at HP Field House on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus.

Sunday marks the first time a player not playing in the championship game was named MVP since 2006 when former Marist star Jared Jordan was given the award. That Red Foxes team defeated Western Michigan in the third-place game.

"The kid from Notre Dame (junior point guard Demetrius Jackson) is so doggone good,(Dayton junior guard) Scoochie (Smith) is really good, too," Monmouth head coach King Rice said when asked after Monmouth's game if Robinson was the best player at the tournament. "Justin definitely played the best, but those kids are right there. The Notre Dame guard, he's strong and explosive. Justin just had a better game that night. I would be happy for Justin if he won the MVP. I think he did enough to win the MVP."

Robinson helped fuel a massive weekend for his program, first by scoring 22 points, including a 14-for-15 showing at the foul line, in a 70-68 Thanksgiving-night win over the 17th-ranked Fighting Irish. That was Monmouth's first-ever win over a ranked program. The next night, Robinson had 28 as the Hawks fell behind by 16, got to within one twice late, but ultimately fell, 73-70. 

Through six games, Robinson is averaging 24.8 points, while shooting 47.4 percent from the floor, 47.5 percent from 3--point range and 93 percent from the foul line. All of those numbers are team-highs.

"I give the credit to my teammates and coaches," Robinson said. "They gave me the ball and they gave me the confidence, I just found a way to put the ball in the bucket. To come out here and get two wins is big."

Staff writer Josh Newman:

Justin Robinson leads Monmouth to 70-68 upset of No. 17 Notre Dame

Justin Robinson leads Monmouth to 70-68 upset of No. 17 Notre Dame

Notre Dame vs. Monmouth

Monmouth's 900th win was a special one.

Justin Robinson scored 22 points, including two free throws with 3.6 seconds left, and Monmouth upset No. 17 Notre Dame 70-68 in the first round of the AdvoCare Invitational on Thursday night.


"I'm very excited that our kids believed in each other, that they felt like they belonged on the court," Monmouth coach King Rice said. "When you believe in each other, anything can happen."

"And the good thing is, we can still play better," he added.


Robinson was fouled driving to the basket and calmly sank the decisive shots. Demetrius Jackson's midcourt jumper at the buzzer was well off the mark.

"I have to get to the rim and finish, or I've got to draw a foul," Robinson said. "I don't care about the points I get. I care about winning. If my team needs me to score to win, that's what I do."

Micah Seaborn added 15 points for Monmouth (3-1), which also won at UCLA this season.

"They're a good team than can win their league," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We lost to a good team."

Jackson had 20 points for Notre Dame (3-1).

Robinson hit two free throws before the Fighting Irish tied it at 68 on Jackson's three-point play with 32 seconds to go. Jackson had five points during an 8-0 run that cut Notre Dame's deficit to 62-59 with 4 minutes left.

Collin Stewart's long jumper lifted Monmouth to a 51-47 lead 8 minutes into the second half. The Hawks extended it to 62-51 on a fast-break basket by Seaborn.

"I think our second-half start hurt us," Brey said. "They get really confident. Their transition is so effective."

After being held to three first-half points, Robinson had six during the first 4 minutes of the second period to help Monmouth pull to 39-37. His three-point play gave the Hawks a 44-43 advantage with 14 minutes left.

V.J. Beachem had 11 points and Steve Vasturia chipped in with 10 as Notre Dame went up 37-29 at halftime.

Beachem finished with 14.

Monmouth held a 17-14 lead 8 minutes into the game before Jackson scored his first five points, including a 3 just before the shot clock expired. Vasturia added a 3 to put Notre Dame up 22-17.

Jackson had nine first-half points, including a slam dunk during the final minute.

Notre Dame's Zach Auguste was held to two points during the opening 20 minutes and ended up with 12.

Je'lon Hornbeak and Seaborn both scored seven points in the opening half for Monmouth.

Associated Press










Second-year Knick starting to find some success at NBA level


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There were lots of problems last season as a rookie — so many Cleanthony Early doesn’t have time to go through them all as he puts on sneakers in the locker room and heads onto the court for pregame warmups.

But that’s in the past. Now the 34th pick of the 2014 draft is getting unsolicited kudos from Knicks coach Derek Fisher as he embarks on what has appearances of a much more successful sophomore campaign.

Team president Phil Jackson’s first-ever draft pick looks leaner, less tentative, is defending harder, getting his nose dirty. The 6-foot-8 small forward even has a more comfortable jersey number — 11 — which he wore at Wichita State and Sullivan County CC in the Catskills.

The 24-year-old Bronx product who played high school ball in upstate Orange County lost five pounds from last season’s disaster of a rookie year and resumed yoga, which he did in college.

“Going into a new situation, you know it’s more physical, but you don’t know how physical it is until you get there,’’ Early told The Post before his smooth 17-point, 7-of-12, four-rebound outing in the Knicks’ 97-93 loss to the Hornets in a preseason game on Saturday night. “You know it’s fast. You don’t know how fast until you get there.

“I wouldn’t say it took me by surprise. I knew it’d be fast and knew things I had to learn. But I thought I had enough of an estimation or guess of how fast it would be. It was a little bit faster than that.’’

Early looked splendid in Friday’s win over Boston, scoring 10 points, grabbing an offensive rebound that led to an assist, scoring on a wicked fast-break dunk, cutting sharply to the basket to take a feed for a layup, draining a 3-pointer. Against Charlotte, he was even better, scoring in different ways, driving down the right side of the lane for a layup — something he rarely did as a rookie.

The Knicks are versatile and deep, and erratic combo forward Derrick Williams is scoring in bunches. But Fisher seems to want to find some minutes for Early as a backup 3 because he’s up-tempo.

“He looks more confident this year,’’ Carmelo Anthony said. “I think it was good for him to go through the season last year, this offseason and even right now he looks a lot more confident.’’

Early wore No. 17 last season because departed Samuel Dalembert had his No. 11.

“I just feel more connected to this number,’’ Early said.

Fisher has gone out of his way to praise Early after they had issues his rookie year for not being in proper shape. Early blames a lot of his troubles on arthroscopic knee surgery in November. He didn’t return until January and was woefully out of shape. That partly was because the Knicks were so injury-riddled, they had few practices to get Early going.

“It wasn’t just weight last year — people don’t know I didn’t do any basketball stuff until I got thrown on the court,” Early said. “My conditioning was part of me going to the D-League [for three games]. I gave up a month-and-a-half not doing any basketball or conditioning. [When I came back], I was out there running, getting winded while trying to play basketball.’’

Early’s knee surgery and assorted ankle sprains convinced him to get back to yoga, which he does it daily at home.

“I did it at Wichita State here and there, wasn’t anything consistent,’’ Early said. “I thought it would help as far as me becoming more in alignment and flexible — be a better defender and better basketball player.I just started doing it more often and feel it’s working. After surgery it was something I needed to do to become more flexible, stay on top of certain correctives, stretching — yoga incorporates all that.’’

Fisher was effusive.

“The first part of him was physically getting to a point he could perform night in, night out without breaking down,’’ Fisher said. “He’s taking care of his body. He’s attacking the basket. That’s really the strength of his game, using athleticism and size. He’s doing really well and proving with minuets he can handle it responsibly. He’ll be able to help us this year.’’

If Early turns into a competent two-way force, that’s more rest for Anthony.

Discussing his defensive improvement, Early said, “Everywhere as far as movement, getting over screens, contesting, rebounding, being physical with a guy, positioning, closing out.’’

Anthony, who has taken a special interest in Early, sometimes will get on the second-year wing. During training camp, Anthony teased Early for getting dunked on by Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Early protested it wasn’t his man.

“He’s like a big brother pretty much since I came in,’’ said Early, averaging eight points and three rebounds. “As far as telling me to relax and play basketball, he compliments me on the things I do good, and things he sees I can improve on, gives me the best advice possible.’’

Darnell Edge looking forward to Division I challenge

BASKETBALL: Former Saugerties standout Darnell Edge looking forward to Division I challenge

Darnell Edge signs his letter of intent to attend Fairleigh Dickinson University as his family and coaches look on. Photo provided

Freeman Player of the Year Darnell Edge, left, helped lead Saugerties to the Section 9, Class A title last season. Freeman File Photo

SAUGERTIES >> Former Saugerties High basketball standout Darnell Edge made it official recently by signing his National Letter of Intent to attend Division I Fairleigh Dickinson University on a full scholarship.


Last season’s Freeman boys basketball Player of the Year said he was offered the scholarship to the Teaneck, New Jersey college at the end of July.


Until the offer, Edge said he planned on paying to attend a post-graduate prep school for a year, after several Division I programs expressed more interest in him as a 2016 prospect than a 2015 player.


“They (Fairleigh Dickinson) called me up, and told me they liked my game, and they thought I could be a huge part for them,” he said. “I decided why wait, it’s a good fit for me, so I might as well take it and see where it goes.”


When his family received news, Edge said they celebrated with a big party.


And he’s already looking forward to starting his Division 1 career, with classes and practices beginning Monday.


“I’m excited to come into school having something to prove,” Edge said. “A lot of people feel I was under-recruited.”


He said the Knights, members of the Northeast Conference, are rebuilding under a coaching staff that came in a couple of seasons ago and were looking for a point guard to run a guard-oriented offense.


“The coach (Greg Herenda) wants me to come in and be a big part of their scoring offense and be a leader for them,” Edge said.


While the Knights finished 9-20 last year, with a tough non-conference schedule, Edge said several players recently transferred in and he’s optimistic about this season.


He said he hopes to start at point guard and play a key prole in helping the Knights make a run at the NCAA Tournament.


During his Saugerties career, Edge scored 1,016 points and averaged more than 20 points a game.


But, he acknowledged, moving from high school to Division I will be a challenge.


“I will be going from playing Kingston, Red Hook and Newburgh to playing Villanova,” he said, referring to the Knights’ opener on the road on Nov. 13, which will be nationally televised.


“They were ranked No. 1 for a good portion of last season,” he said.


Another notable matchup for the Knights is a Dec. 23 contest at Rutgers.


But Edge said the challenge is something he’s ready to take on.


“As long as you work hard you can do anything,” he said, adding he hopes to put on a little weight and hopefully grow a bit.


And while Edge said many people told him he wasn’t good enough for Division I, he got the chance to prove them wrong at a tournament at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.


He said that opportunity came by fate when another team forfeited, moving his team from an obscure 8 a.m. contest to the showcase game where many Division I scouts were on hand.


“If wasn’t for this opportunity, I never would’ve been seen by our coaching staff,” he said.


Edge said he made up his mind to go to Farleigh Dickinson on an official visit when he met the coaching staff and players.


“I had a real good connection with them as soon as I met them,” he said.


Edge said he likes the campus, which is just 12 miles from Manhattan — close enough to see the Empire State Building from parts of the grounds.


Yet is reasonably close to home and family an friends, he added.


Majoring in sports management, Edge said internship opportunities for juniors and seniors are available with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden or with the Giants at MetLife Stadium, which is just 15 minutes away.


Edge added while he will miss his family and friends, he’s glad Fairleigh Dickinson is nearby,


He said his favorite moment from his Saugerties career was winning the Sawyers’ first Section 9 title this past season against Red Hook.


“We lost to them last year,” he said.


He said he always loved playing at Saugerties, where the atmosphere has amped up in recent years as coach Mike Tiano has taken the basketball program to new heights.


“It’s super how it brings the community together,” he said.


Looking beyond college, Edge said he’s been told he could have a future professional career overseas.


“I’m hoping to play basketball professionally,” he said.


If doesn’t pan out, Edge said he’s focusing on getting his degree.


But right now the focus is on this season.


“I’m just ready to get to work,” he said.


Tiano said Edge is the first basketball player in school history to play Division I basketball.


“He worked tremendously hard to get there,” Tiano said. “I’m proud of him, who he is and what he represents.


“It’s an honor, not only for Darnell and his family, but for the community members of Saugerties who saw him from the time he was little.”


Tiano said his fondest memory of Edge off the court was watching him come in as seventh grader and mature to the person he is today.


“A lot of people look up to him for what he did,” he said.


Tiano added his favorite memory on the court came in a sectional contest against Monticello earlier this year on the Sawyers’ run to New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A Regional final where they fell to Spring Valley 65-62.


He said Edge dominated in that game against Monticello.


“He put the game away,” Tiano said. “We knew we were going to make it to the sectional championship.”


Tiano said he knows Edge will do well in his next chapter in life.


“Best of luck to him,” he said.

2014 - 2015 NCAA Recruiting Calendar

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Recruiting Calendar August 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014
(See NCAA Division I Bylaw 13.17.2 for Men’s Basketball Calendar Formula)

The recruiting calendar allows high school basketball players to sign National Letters of Intent twice during the year. Other dates to watch out for in 2013-14'.

2013-2014 NCAA Division One Men's Basketball Recruiting Calendar

Men's College Basketball Recruiting Calendar for 2013-14

Calendar runs 08-01-13 through 07-31-14. Reference the definitions if needed.

08-01-13 thru 09-08-13 Quiet Period

09-09-13 thru 03-31-14 Recruiting Period *with the following exceptions

*11-11-13 thru 11-14-13 *Dead Period

*12-24-13 thru 12-26-13 *Dead Period

04-01-14 thru 07-05-14 Quiet Period *with the following exceptions

*04-03-14 thru 04-10-14(noon) *Dead Period

*04-10-14(noon) thru 04-23-14 *Recruiting Period **except for (i) below

(i) 04-14-14 thru 04-17-14 (i) *Dead Period

04-24-14 thru 07-05-14 Quiet Period *with the following exceptions

*04-25-14 thru 04-27-14 *Evaluation Period (certified events only)

*05-22-14 thru 05-30-14 *Dead Period **except for (i) below

(i)TBD (NBA Pre Draft) (i)*Evaluation Period

07-06-14 thru 07-31-14 Dead Period *with the following exceptions

*07-09-14(5 p.m.) thru 07-13-14 (5 p.m.) *Evaluation Period

*07-16-14 (5 p.m.) thru 07-20-14 (5 p.m.) *Evaluation Period

*07-23-14 (5 p.m.) thru 07-27-14 (5 p.m.) *Evaluation Period


Men's College Basketball Recruiting Rules:

As a Sophomore in high school:


Recruiting Material

  • You may receive brochures for camps and questionnaires.
  • You can receive material June 15th after your sophomore year.

Telephone Calls

  • You can call the coach at your own expense.
  • College coach can call you unlimited starting June 15th after your sophomore year.
  • Emails and text messages are unlimited.

Off-Campus Contact

  • Not Permitted

Official Visits

  • Not Permitted

Unofficial Visits

  • Unlimited

As a Junior in High School:

Recruiting Material

  • You can begin to receive recruiting material and information from the coach.

Telephone Calls

  • Phone calls, texts and emails are unlimited between college coach and student-athlete.

Off-Campus Contact

  • At prospect's educational institution (other than during April Recruiting Period).
  • April Recruiting Period - contact at prospect's educational institution or at the prospect's residence.

Official Visits

  • Beginning January 1st.

Unofficial Visits

  • Unlimited

As a Senior in high school:

Recruiting Material

  • You can receive material and information from the coach

Telephone Calls

  • Phone calls, texts and emails are unlimited between college coach and student-athlete.

Off-Campus Contact

  • Allowed starting September 9th.

Official Visits

  • You get one per college and a maximum of 5 visits to D1, and unlimited visits to D2, D3 and NAIA schools.

Unofficial visits

  • Unlimited

Other important information:

  • College coaches have 130 evaluation days to recruit you during the academic year.
  • During a contact period college coaches can make only one visit per week to your high school.
  • College coaches can evaluate and/or contact you no more than 7 times during your senior year.
  • During your senior year a college coach cannot contact you more than 3 times.


Guess which young Knicks has regressed, you might be surprised


In wake of the Phil Jackson’s fire sale, it’s show-me time for the Knicks’ last two high draft picks — last year’s rookie, Tim Hardaway Jr., and current rookie Cleanthony Early.

Shockingly, Hardaway’s game looks on the way down, while Early’s seems on the way up. Hardaway is the lone Knick on the roster with legitimate trade value and is a pre-Jackson pick. Hardaway and Early are
two of just five players on the roster with guaranteed contracts for next season.

The Knicks have committed to a youth movement and both will see plenty of action across the final 43 games — if Hardaway makes it — that will likely feature more boos and bags over the heads of embarrassed fans.

The only reason to watch now is to see the young guys develop — and that includes the rookie 39-year-old coach Derek Fisher, who has guided the Knicks to a 5-34 record. Fisher takes a 14-game losing streak into Saturday’s 1 p.m. matinee against the Hornets at the Garden.

If they lose to Charlotte, the baby Knicks will take their bloody mess across the pond 30 games below .500 with a 15-game losing streak for Thursday’s game in London against the Bucks.

Early, with a more modest pedigree than Hardaway, was selected with the 34th pick in last June’s draft, but his rookie season was interrupted by arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 18 that cost him six weeks.

Early, out of Wichita State via The Bronx and Middletown, didn’t return until Jan. 2 against the Pistons. He had his best game as a pro against the Rockets on Thursday, scoring 16 points with six rebounds, showing his athleticism.

“My body feels fine as far as moving,’’ Early said. “I got to continue to get my conditioning up. I didn’t get a chance to practice or get any contact before I got thrown in there. So each game is conditioning, getting my wind back and getting a feel for the game.’’

The Knicks, because Early was a second-rounder, could have signed him to a one-year deal at the minimum. But they had him in the 24-range on their draft board and gave him two years. Early has $845,000 still on his pact next season.

“He’s just getting comfortable as a player in this league,’’ Fisher said. “Injuries set him back a little bit. He missed several weeks and hasn’t had a lot of time to practice. His game minutes have been his practice minutes. After Saturday, we’ll get some practice time and he’ll continue to get better.“He has tremendous amount of potential.’’

Early is starting to create his own shot better than in preseason and summer league.

“Just experience,’’ Early said.

The Knicks’ summer-leaguers are bringing more than the triangle offense, they are increasing the pace. Both new point guard Langston Galloway and Shane Larkin like to run, and so does Early.

“It’s pretty exciting,’’ Early said. “Hopefully New York likes what it’s seeing. Hopefully we can continue to keep that up and build off that.It’s very important — speeding the game up. Those things matter.’’

Hardaway is in a deep funk, his shooting percentage down to 38.4 percent — 32 percent from 3-point range. It’s a stunning decline following his sensational rookie year after being selected 24th. Jackson exercised his option and he counts $1.3 million against next year’s cap — still a bargain.

“Looks like his game is dying,’’ one NBA scout said.

With Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith in Cleveland, the shooting guard glut is over and Hardaway Jr. can get major minutes. But because of poor play, he logged just 17:17 against the Rockets and bolted the locker room before reporters arrived. He was benched after a 3-for-9 showing — 1-for-6 from 3-point range.

After the loss to the Wizards on Wednesday, Hardaway seemed as dejected as ever following a 3-for-10, 0-for-3 performance.

Hardaway’s defense is worse than last season, as is his shot selection. He also is believed one of the slower learners to the triangle philosophy. The good news? He’s got plenty of games to reverse his sophomore jinx.



Coffey Served Cold as D2 Adelphi beats Manhattan

Michael Coffey


Men's Basketball | 11/9/2015 8:21:00 PM | Adelphi Athletics

Men's Basketball Sinks Manhattan at the Buzzer, 89-86


Riverdale, N.Y. – The Adelphi men's basketball team inbounded the ball with four seconds on the clock, tied 86-all against Manhattan College in Riverdale, and Michael Coffey sunk a 30 foot three-pointer as time expired to give the Panthers a 89-86 victory in the exhibition contest.

Manny Suarez and Coffey led the Panthers with 26 points each, combining to shoot 12-23 from beyond the arc. Suarez also led the Brown and Gold in rebounds with a team-high eight, while Ryan DeNicola grabbed six boards. Tavon Ginyard had a solid debut for Adelphi, dropping in 12 points and adding six assists, while fellow freshman Conor McGuinness netted 14 with three helpers.

Adelphi opened the first frame with a barrage of triples, making four of eight including three from Coffey, to lay claim to a 12-6 lead at the 15:09 mark. The Panthers pushed the advantage to eight twice in the first half -- first on a Suarez make from beyond the arc, 17-9 and the second time on a Ginyard deep make with 9:12 to play, 25-17.

The hosts answered with an 18-8 run that put the Jaspers on top by two, 35-33, with 3:16 remaining in the first stanza. However, the Brown and Gold proved equal to the task, reeling off an 11-0 spurt that gave them the largest lead of the first half, 44-35 with less than a minute to play. But, Manhattan got two points back on two Shane Richards made free throws, giving the Panthers a seven-point lead at the intermission, 44-37.

The Jaspers outscored Adelphi 16-8 in the opening four minutes of the second half, claiming just their second lead of the contest, 53-52 on a Richards triple. The Brown and Gold responded by taking control of the contest and building the largest lead of the game over the next 10 minutes, laying claim to what seemed like an insurmountable 16-point bulge, 83-67 on a McGuinness corner three-pointer with 4:14 left in the contest.

However, in the final four minutes of the contest, Manhattan turned up the defense and threw a full court zone press at the Panthers, sparking a 19-3 run that knotted the game at 86-all with just four ticks on the clock. Fortunately for Adelphi, they had all the answers to the test, pushing the ball up the court and finding Coffey 30 feet from the basket. He was able to collect and hit a triple as the buzzer sounded to hand Adelphi a three point, 89-86 win over the reigning MAAC Champions.

The Panthers will travel to Queens, New York on Friday, November 13 when they face East Coast Conference member, Dowling College in a 5:00 pm contest as part of the Northeast-10/ECC Challenge.  

Saugerties standout Paton Gibbs to attend Pace University on full scholarship

Saugerties standout to attend Pace University on full scholarship



Surrounded by family and coaches, Paton Gibbs signed his letter of intent to attend Pace University on a full scholarship. Photo provided



SAUGERTIES >> In the end, it wasn’t a very hard decision between a myriad of options for Saugerties High basketball standout Paton Gibbs.


When a school with good academics and available playing time, Pace University, gave him a full ride, it became an easy choice.


Gibbs, who graduates next week, had been considering a few different options, including playing at a prep school for a year, but settled on the NCAA Division-II school.


“I think that this is just as good or better than going to a prep school,” Gibbs said. “I have an opportunity to play as long as I work hard.”


Gibbs said that it was a good situation for him, as he would be joining alongside a new coach and several other incoming freshmen.


In fact, Gibbs and many of those freshmen will show up early to Pace on July 5 and live together as they work out and take summer classes. Gibbs said he’d be there until the middle of August, then he’ll come back home for a break before returning for the start of the school year.


Gibbs said he hasn’t met any of the other new freshmen, but he did meet a player on the team who was a freshman last year, and Gibbs said they got along well. When he went on the tour of the campus, Gibbs said he was impressed with the work they were doing, including renovations to the football field and construction of new freshman dorms.


He said the closeness of the campus played a factor, as well as how alive the campus felt.


“It was good to see a lot of people out and about,” Gibbs said about his visit.


Gibbs had initially considered studying kinesiology, or the study of how muscles work, in order to become an athletic trainer, but considering his squeamishness around blood, he may be looking at a different field of study.


Gibbs wanted to make sure to thank his coaches, who helped motivate him.


“They’ve really pushed me,” Gibbs said. “They told me I’m good, but not as good as I could be. They told me to stay out of trouble and keep up good grades.”


All those things paid off for Gibbs, as did the help and support of his family and friends.


He said his friends would always support him and push him to get even better. And his parents might have been the most important part of his success, giving up their time to drive him to out of state tournaments and regular practices and also making sure he had the right equipment to play basketball at a high level.

NCAA Changes Eligibility Requirments

September 14, 2012

Dallas Jackson Football Recruiting

Being a student-athlete on the FBS level may have taken a strong shift towards the student side of the equation as the NCAA recently made changes to its initial-eligibility requirements.

The rules are in effect for current freshmen in high school -- or the recruiting Class of 2016 -- and include a higher minimum core-course grade-point-average, a sliding scale for GPA versus standardized test score, and 10 required core classes to be completed before the senior year.

The changes were met with positive reviews from national recruiting analyst, Mike Farrell.

"It is great to have academic reform at the high school level," Farrell said. "I think this will increase the pool of success stories on the college level because there will be less kids flunking out since they will have had to take education more seriously for a longer period of time and not just doing crash courses as seniors to get the numbers in their favor."

The new minimum core-course GPA is 2.3 and student-athletes must complete a total of 16 core classes, as well as satisfy graduation requirements.

The core classes are: Four years of English, three years of math at an Algebra I level or higher, two years of natural or physical sciences (one of which must have a lab if it is offered by the high school), two years of social sciences, one additional course year in either English, math, or natural/physical sciences, and four cumulative years combining foreign language, philosophy, or religion.

High school football coaches and the support staffs at the local level will be shouldered with more responsibility as well, but that is a role that has already been embraced by many.

Robert Wiener, head coach at Tampa (Fla.) Plant, said that he and his staff have always tried to be ahead of the curve on academics.

"We have a very advanced academic program here," Wiener said. "We work with the kids to schedule correctly and hit the books hard. We've found that if we push the kids hard as freshmen, they will be more prepared down the line.

"Ultimately, we try to be proactive and not work in recovery mode."

Since began tracking recruiting classes back in 2002, Plant has sent 28 players on to FBS-level football programs and nearly twice that to FCS and Division III football. The school has also had numerous student-athletes in other sports go on to participate in collegiate athletics.

Weiner said that the school has tracked its academic numbers and he is pleased with just how little his team will need to improve its standing in the classroom.

"We only have 17-percent of our kids across all sports that would not have been full-qualifiers by the new rules," he said. "It is just important to have a plan in place and start working it as soon as possible and we tell all of our kids to work hard on that front end."

A change that Wiener felt was a major benefit to student-athletes was the new sliding scale that aligned the 16-course GPA with a minimum ACT or SAT score.

Weiner said that it levels the field for students who learn differently and does not try to force everyone into the same category.

"Everything in education points to the fact that not everyone learns the same and not everyone can be evaluated the same way," Wiener said. "Some kids can work hard in the classroom and make the grade but are poor at test taking. Some kids are the opposite, not active in the classroom but have the aptitude to test well."

The full scales can be found on the NCAA Eligibility Center by clicking here, but one example would be that a 2.5 core-course GPA would also require a student to make a 1000 on his SAT or an 85 on the sum ACT.

The biggest change to the initial eligibility will be the elimination of senior year remedial courses.

Of the 16 core classes required, 10 must be completed before the beginning of the senior year of high school. Of those completed courses, seven will be locked in as ineligible to be changed.

What that means is that every course of every year matters much more than it has in the past when athletes would be able to take multiple online classes or make-up tests to boost grade point averages in an attempt to get qualified last in the senior year.

The impact on recruits, according to Farrell, is going to be largely positive.

Lane Kiffin's USC team has the No.1 ranked recruiting class for 2013.
"You are going to get what you expect out of kids," Farrell said. "Asking them to do more is good for their future. It has been about four or five years since the last major shift in the NCAA eligibility requirements (when they took away supplemental courses) and it made kids focus on academics. This will do the same.

"Schools like Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Boston College will likely not be affected at all in their recruiting, but schools with lower academic standards will have to make sure their recruits are doing what they need to do."

Attempts for comments on the changes from major college football programs were declined, but many shared similar thoughts of that of USC Sports Information Director, Tim Tessalone.

"As a practice, our coaches don't talk about recruiting or any practices/tactics USC uses in recruiting or how issues relate to the way USC recruits," Tessalone said.

USC is currently leading the nation in recruiting and was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 24 overall best college with an acceptance rate of just 23 percent.

Farrell said that the pool of players for FBS-level schools like USC is likely to remain unchanged.

"We won't really know the full impact for a few years after the requirements are in place, but ultimately, I don't think there will be a major drop in eligible players," Farrell said. "There isn't going to be a major rise in kids going to Junior College or forced into prep schools because they will know what is required of them and they will work harder to get there.

"That is what the kids do who want to compete at the highest level. They will rise to the occasion."

Burke grad Rufer shows energy off bench for Lafayette

Burke grad Rufer shows energy off bench for Lafayette

Even three years into his college basketball career, John S. Burke Catholic standout Zach Rufer doesn’t mind being bypassed for starting assignments and actually prefers his role as Lafayette’s first person off the bench.
“Everyone at the high school level is a starter, so it took a while to adjust to,’’ Rufer said. “I have gotten used to it. I like it. The starters will set the tone and then I will come in and pick them up with some more energy.’’
Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon says Rufer has embraced his so much that when Rufer had a chance to start recently, O’Hanlon went with his seventh man because he likes what Rufer brings as sixth man.
“Some people feel more comfortable in that role,’’ O’Hanlon said. “He brings such great energy to our team. He comes in, gets lots of deflections and brings lots of energy on the defensive end.’’
It’s a contrast to his playing days at Burke Catholic, when Rufer was not only a starter but a major contributor on offense in leading the Eagles to consecutive appearances in the state finals.
“I told my dad I never thought I would go Division I and see myself as a defensive player,’’ Rufer said.
Recruited by O’Hanlon as a point guard, Rufer now plays more as a combination guard and shoots a team-high 61 percent. “He has been shooting the ball extremely well the last two years and really well this year,’’ O’Hanlon said.
On Saturday in a loss to Navy, Rufer hit 4-of-5 shots and posted a new career-high of 14 points. His previous high mark was 11 points, also against Navy, as a freshman.
Rufer said coming off the bench is not so difficult because he usually enters at the first media timeout, generally four or five minutes into the game, so he mentally prepares himself on the bench.
“After you have been doing it for a year and a half, I have gotten into a rhythm,’’ he said. “I know coming in, I primarily focus on defense and bring as much energy to that facet of the game. I’ve been able to knock down open shots.’’
Rufer has no regrets about his decision to attend Lafayette.
“It’s the best time of my life, not only through basketball but the school was a great choice as well,’’ he said. “It’s been an amazing experience. Hopefully we can potentially win a championship this year and make it even better.’’
Lafayette has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2000. Rufer hopes to change that.
“The dream is to get to the tournament; it’s been that since I was a little kid,’’ Rufer said. “Hopefully we can get it done. I’m just going to keep doing what I am doing. If I do remain the sixth man, I am completely happy with that. It’s a role I have gotten used to and enjoy it.’’
Twitter: @KenMcMillanTHR

Nike IS8 - Fall 2015

October 12, 2015

IS8/NIKE: Pool Play (Final Day)

Mike Libert Staff Writer

RICHMOND HILLS, NY- The regular season came to a close on Sunday at the iS8/Nike Fall Tip-Off Classic as the four games that were played each held important ramifications for playoff spots that were to be determined.

One game in particular saw Team Long Island take on the Early Risers in a contest that would see the winner advance to the Round of 16 next weekend, while the loser would be eliminated from the tournament in a true winner take all matchup.With big games on tap on Sunday it was important to, as league commissioner Pete Edwards says, Bring Your Game, Not Your Name. The winners all certainly did that as we recap the day's action from the Boys and Girls Club in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Team Long Island put Early Risers to sleep, 68-52

The Early Risers were in one of the most interesting positions any team could be in. At 2-1, a win would have seen them go to 3-1 and more than likely, win their pool. A loss would drop them to 2-2 and 4th place in their pool, and with only 3 teams from each pool making the playoffs, they would've been out.Team Long Island, while without a chance to finish first in pool play, needed a win to advance to next weekend's playoffs, and knocking down 13 threes in a game certainly will help get the job done and that's exactly what the Long Island squad did as they downed the Early Risers, a team comprised of players who hail from Section 9, by 16.With just 6 players it was going to be tough for the Early Risers to stay as fresh as a Team Long Island squad that was 10 deep, but early on the Bobby Rahn coached team was able to stay tight behind the perimeter shooting of guard Nate Garvey (St. Joe's Montvale, NJ '16).Garvey was able to knock down a couple treys in the early going, but the tempo was in favor of Team Long Island as Steve Torre (Kellenberg '16) was able to get good looks from the outside and connect, while Shane Gatling (Baldwin '16) was his running partner in the backcourt as they each hit 3 first half threes, and while it looked like they could've run away with it, Garvey and Chris Paul (Don Bosco Prep, NJ '17) were doing all they could to keep the team close.A big three ball right before the half by Gatling from the right corner really seemed deflating for the Early Risers though as Team Long Island took the lead from 4 to 7 as the halftime buzzer sounded to go into the breakup 35-28.The lead was soon pushed to double digits for the first time in the game when Alex Sorensen (South Side '16) connected on a long ball, as the Early Risers perimeter defense struggled to matchup with all the shooters that Team Long Island had. It seemed like it was a non-stop assault from the outside as the well-coached team from Nassau and Suffolk was able to keep the pressure on and keep draining it from deep.While the Early Risers made one last effort early in the 4th quarter getting the deficit to just 7 with 7:22 to go, it was soon negated by back to back corner threes from Lukas Jarrett (Northport '16), and that ultimately did the team from Upstate, NY in.The combination of made threes and strong pressure defense by Team Long Island wore down the Early Risers as they took control late for a strong 68-52 victory.Team Long Island advances now to the Round of 16 next weekend, and they do it off of great performances from both Torre and Gatling who had 18 points apiece, while Jarrett added 8 as well in the victory.It was a tough loss, and a tough way to be eliminated from iS8 for the Early Risers who were decimated by injuries on Sunday. Garvey had a game high 22 points to lead the way with Paul adding 12 as well in the defeat.

Early Risers best NYC Finest 51-47.

The second game didn't go as the Early Risers had hoped, but to start the day they were able to give themselves a chance at the playoffs with a hard fought 4 point win over a scrappy and young NYC Finest squad.Both teams were extremely well coached, but Garvey made enough plays late, and Riley Hayes (Burke Catholic '16) was able to hit some clutch FT's in the closing seconds to seal it and give the Risers the win.Garvey and Paul each had 13 to lead the Early Risers, while Hayes added 12 and a good number of important rebounds to help them get the win. NYC Finest was comprised of players from John Bowne H.S. and the youth on the team showed that the PSAL Queens Class "A" school has a promising future as sharpshooting freshman guard Alejandro Vasquez (John Bowne '19) paced the Finest with 17 points, and another freshman in Errol James (John Adams '16) chipped in with 11 as well to help the cause that came up just short.

Rivera commits to Patriot League School

September 29, 2014

Rivera commits to Patriot League School

M. Libert
Lonnie Rivera

Northeast Hoops Festival 17U - Early Risers vs Redemption Prep

Northeast Hoops Festival 17U - Early Risers vs Redemption Prep

April 18, 2015

     The first game I watched on Saturday at the NERR NE Hoops Festival (the tournament was held in Hanover, Mass) was between the BC Early Risers of Upstate New York and Redemption Prep out of Northfield, MA. Early on, it looked like the Early Risers were going to run away with this one as they took a ten point lead into the half. Redemption, however, responded and tied the game late in the second half. After a steal and layup by guard Ismael Chisolm (2016) put the Early Risers up two with less than a minute, a pair of free throws would seal the victory. The Early Risers were led by smooth combo guard Darnell Edge (2015) (pictured below) and power forward/center Justin Powell (2016) (pictured right gray). Redemption got a strong second half from  6-4 wing Osbel Caraballo (2018), who had some nice finishes around the basket.


Justin Powell (2016) - Powell, a 6-6 post player, had a nice game battling inside on both ends of the court. He is a good athlete and finished strong around the basket.


Upstate guard gains momentum

Upstate guard gains momentum

6'5" guard Lonnie Rivera (Don Bosco Prep, NJ '15) got it all started this summer by having a great showing playing with the Puerto Rican National Team. 

M. Libert
Lonnie Rivera
He then continued his strong play once he came back in July by shining with the B.C. Eagles on the AAU circuit, and now the Spring Valley, NY native has a long list of schools interested, with his process of taking visits to colleges just now beginning.

Rivera, who really broke out and became a coveted Division 1 recruit after his fine summer, said on Sunday that he has recently taken a pair of visits the prior two weekends and came away impressed with what he saw at each school.

"I have visited Marist and Manhattan the past couple weeks," Rivera stated. "Both were great. I enjoyed my time at both getting to know more about the schools and the coaching staffs."

While he has taken just two visits so far, an official visit is planned coming up for the talented wingman.

"I am going down to take an official visit to American on September 27th," Rivera said.

That is the only official he has planned as of right now. Rivera did say that Appalachian State will most likely be getting an official visit sometime in November, but the exact date right now has not been worked out.

Other schools that he says are in the running include Campbell, Elon, Lafayette, and LIU Brooklyn, but he adds that he doesn't have finalists or favorites at this point.

"No I don't have leaders or a select few I'm looking at. I want to make sure I visit the schools and get a feel about them first to make sure they have what I am looking for," Rivera explained.

What he is looking for he says in a college is a bond with the coaching staff and players, a good academic environment, a nice location, good athletic facilities, and a smaller campus size.

There is no set date for Rivera to decide either, with that being determined by ultimately how long the process to visit each school takes. He would like to have a decision he says by sometime during the H.S. season, but he says once the high school season does begin, that his focus goes squarely to leading Don Bosco to a state championship.

"I expect us to do very well this season. We are a senior based team and I believe we have the potential to win a county championship, and really contend for a state title."

Early talks transition to NBA life

  • Early talks transition to NBA life

  • By Ian Begley | August 10, 2014 8:00:51 AM PDT


Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Cleanthony Early will have to keep his eye on the ball now that he's in the NBA.
Cleanthony Early has spent his summer preparing for life in the NBA. 

Some of that preparation involves studying the Knicks’ offensive and defensive schemes. 

But there’s another element that has nothing to do with X's and O's. 

Early and the rest of the NBA’s rookies spent three days in Florham Park, New Jersey, earlier this month learning the ins and outs of life as a professional athlete during the league’s Rookie Transition Program. 

The program is designed to help first-year players gain “the skills and information necessary for a successful transition to the NBA.”

One session included talks from former playersAntoine WalkerChris HerrenJayson Williamsand Jason Collins. Each player brought a unique perspective to the conversation. Walker had financial troubles after his career ended; Herren battled drug issues; Williams had legal troubles that resulted in jail time; Collins is the first openly gay player in the NBA. 

Below, Early discusses his impression of the program and the guest speakers. 

Q: What did you think of the stories? 

Cleanthony Early: They were powerful stories. Jason Williams’ story, Jason Collins’ story, Antoine Walker’s story -- the things that those guys had to go through to get to the point of where they are today, it’s kind of astonishing. It just gives you some things to look out for. It kind of can establish an order of what to do and what not to do. Certain things you probably should stay away from; certain people you should probably stay away from. Decisions you should probably make. It just helps you just to understand the struggles that people deal with. ... Even if you’re not dealing with it, just to be a helping hand to a teammate that’s going through something, just to try to support them. 

How did you benefit from this? 

CA: I feel like I’ve benefited just by going through life and just understanding certain things through my community or hearing certain stories ... but to connect with them and have conversations is just adding on to the experience and reinforcing what to do and what not to do. 

What are some of the biggest challenges that you face as a rookie? 

CA: It’s pretty much the attention. It’s completely different from everything that you’ve ever experienced. The people that’s trying to throw themselves at you for whatever reason; some people come along with personal agendas, some people come along with pure intentions, to honestly get to know you. And I think you need to be a person that can distinguish the two and continue to build real relationships with real people. Because if it’s not, if it’s something that’s cancerous, it can be something that’s completely detrimental to something that you’re trying to build so you have to be aware. ... So you just have to make sure that you keep certain people around that are going to make you better. 

What resonated with you most from the stories? 

CA: It was always a connection with people that they kept around them and the choices that they made. Like with Antoine Walker; the people that he kept around him, he felt like they were his boys and he grew up with them. And once the money went, they kind of went, too. Now that he reflects back on it, he can see the signs that the people wanted to be around just for the money. And certain things that he probably should have paid a little bit more attention to, like giving certain family members a certain amount of money or a certain types of cars. [You shouldn’t] try to live too lavish or above your means. As far as Jason Collins, the message was ... having people support you for who you are and that’s being a good person rather than anything else ... trying to be a good person, regardless of what your sexual orientation is. As far as Chris, his friends and the people that always offered him drugs and falling victim to that. It was kind of like he needed someone to grab a hold of him or reach him and he said for a while that he was unreachable. But eventually it got to the point where he almost lost his family and he had to make a decision and he opened up to God and started praying and took a completely different road and he’s been on the right track ever since. 

You see kind of a pattern -- everyone’s situation is different -- but I think once you continue to get to know yourself and keep positive people around you, I don’t think [difficult] situations will be too tough to go through. 

Cleanthony Early: I’m ready to be Carmelo’s backup

Cleanthony Early: I’m ready to be Carmelo’s backup


The Knicks appear to have a potential opening for minutes behind Carmelo Anthony at small forward on their roster. Second-round draft pick Cleanthony Early, having signed his rookie contract over the weekend, said winning that job is his goal heading into training camp.

“Melo is a small forward, he can play the power forward, I’m a small forward, and I think I can play a little power forward,” Early said Sunday at the NBA’s annual rookie photo shoot. “I’ll be backing him up, so as far as my role it’s Melo’s backup. … How many minutes I get depends on how much I produce and how well I do, so that’s all on me.”

And now that he’s officially become a professional basketball player, the former Wichita State star is looking forward to being able to focus on nothing but basketball.

“With no school, I have nothing else to do but time to work on my craft, and I’m all for it,” Early said.

“That’s what I’ve wanted to do for my whole life, and now it’s here,” he added with a smile. “You think I’m not going to do it?”

Early, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in four summer league games in Las Vegas last month, and said he got a lot out of the experience.

“It was real fun,” he said. “It was a great experience, just to be able to get a feel for [new coach Derek] Fisher and Phil Jackson and the rest of the guys. It was a real good atmosphere.”

Early said the biggest thing he gained from the summer league experience was getting time in the triangle offense, which the Knicks will be feature under Fisher this season.

“The pace of the game is a little faster, but as far as just knowing the spots of where to be in the triangle, stuff like that,” Early said.


Knicks sign Cleanthony Early

  • Knicks sign Cleanthony Early

  • By Ian Begley | August 1, 2014 4:44:45 PM PDT


Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
Cleanthony Early, at 6-foot-7, can score inside and outside and is a solid rebounder.
The Knicks have signed rookie Cleanthony Earlyto a contract. The team announced the signing on Friday afternoon. 

New York drafted Early with the 34th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. Contract details were not released. 

Due to the Knicks’ salary cap restraints and Early’s status as a second-round pick, the most New York would be able to offer Early is a two-year contract worth the minimum salary ($507,336 in Year One and $845,059 in Year Two). 

The Knicks hope that Early can step in to the rotation and backup Carmelo Anthony and others at small forward. In four games in the Las Vegas Summer League, Early averaged 11.5 points on 45 percent shooting. 

The Knicks also may still re-sign Toure' Murry. The free agent guard has drawn interest from the Heat, Jazz and Clippers, according to a league source. 

NY Small Forward Picks Up 5ive Offers

July 18, 2014

NY Small Forward Picks Up 5ive Offers

M. Libert
Lonnie Rivera
The Spring Valley, NY native has spent the past 30 days in Puerto Rico, playing with the Puerto Rican National Team. It was a huge honor for Rivera, and getting the chance to play with some of the best players around has already helped his recruitment with 5 new offers recently coming in for the versatile wing.

The experience of playing with the Puerto Rican National Team was almost something Rivera didn't get to have. He actually had no idea about the team until he was approached by someone who saw him play and noticed his last name. He was told about a tryout and made the team, and got to experience something he could never have dreamed about.

"The atmosphere was amazing, it was a great experience to play with and against some of the top Puerto Rican players, and if feel it's helped me grow as a player." Rivera said.

He came back just in time to shine for the B.C. Eagles at the Basketbull Summer Championships this weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Eagles head coach Bobby Rahn explained how crazy the timing for him to suit up here was for Rivera.

"He got back from Puerto Rico on Friday, we picked him up, and drove up here to Massachusetts to play, there was no break," Rahn said.

That he was able to shine the way he did with so little rest makes his play even more impressive, and that could be a part of the reason he is becoming a bit of a hot commodity for college coaches, with Rahn saying that Rivera has landed 5 offers recently.

"NJIT, Columbia, Cornell, Colgate, and Winthrop have all offered Lonnie," Rahn said.

Rivera added that he has visited both NJIT and Columbia, and hopes to schedule a trip to Winthrop for August if possible. He would like to decide he said before his season at Don Bosco starts up, but says if he has to wait 'til afterwards, he is fine with that as well.

The fact that Rivera is not just a 3 now, and that he has become a much better shooter with an ability to handle the ball as well has really transitioned him from a good player, to a great player, and Rahn sees in Rivera a prospect with a high upside and one who is just about to take off.

"He has a great shot, but it's that ability to put the ball on the floor now, along with his strong work in the classroom that I believe is going to take him to another gear."

As of Sunday, July 20th 2014, Lonnie Rivera has added offers from American and Lafayette. 

Basketbull Showcase Top Performers

July 12, 2014
by: Mike Libert
SPRINGFIELD, MA - Friday at the Basketbull Summer Championships saw a day full of showcase games. 

M. Libert
Dupree McBrayer
The tournament itself won't actually get underway until Saturday, but with the July Live Period in full swing, and college coaches out watching games, Friday was a good chance to see some quality players in intriguing games. It was an excellent way to start the weekend, and here are player evaluations of some of the better prospects on hand on Day 1.

Dupree McBrayer, 6'4" PG, New Heights 17's (The Patrick School, NJ '14) - Quite possibly the best overall player on Friday as with his vastly improved jumper, he has become a complete guard whose playmaking ability, along with his perimeter shot, make him a guard who beat his defenders in a variety of ways on the day. Comfortable getting out on transition and leading the break, he showed added range, and was consistent on his release, and scored from just about anywhere. A couple of behind the back passes showed his high level court vision and ball control. A difference maker on both ends of the floor on Friday.

Mamadou Diarra, 6'8" PF, NYC Jayhawks 17's (Putnam Science Academy, CT '16) - Strong, yet in control of every aspect of his game, Diarra was a force on the inside on Friday displaying great footwork in the paint, along with a physicality to punish defenders inside and finish against contact at the rim. Moved well defensively in the Jayhawks zone, sliding as a help defender well, along with getting his hands on shots and showing an impressive motor that never stopped.

Dyaire Holt, 6'0" PG, Albany City Rocks 16's (Troy '16) - While others on his team may get more attention, the most consistent player on Friday was Holt who showed an extra gear when attacking the basket, along with a great pull up jumper when in transition to keep defenses from laying back on him too much. Pushed the tempo well and was key on helping City Rocks pull away for a dominant win. One of the quicker playmaking guards who ran the point extremely well, limiting his mistakes while making everyone on the court better with his ability to see the court well and find the open man in transition and in the half court.

M. Libert
Dyaire Holt

Ty Jerome, 6'3" PG, New Heights 16's (Iona Prep '16) - Was a deadly shooter early on his teams runaway victory. Knocked down 3 first half threes to set the tempo that you need to press up on him, but in the 2nd half it was his ability to use the defenses collapsing on him to his advantage as he took it inside, and found the open man more often than not when he got into the lane. Was smart and heady in his decision making, controlling the game both offensively and defensively, while showing that he can be an elite level shooter.

Jordan Roland, 6'2" SG/PG, Syracuse Select 17's (Westhill '15) - Played primarily off the ball this season at Westhill, but he is showing more and more that he can play the one, and is comfortable playing on the ball. His decision making is significantly improved from where it was even in April, seeing the floor better off the dribble, and scoring better off the dribble as well proving to be more than a catch and shoot guy, instead focused in becoming a complete guard whose size won't be held against him. Still was a lights out shooter on Friday connecting on 4 threes as he continues to shine as an underrated combo guard with a wide variety of skills.

Ryan Preston, 6'7" PF, Brooklyn Rens 17's (South Shore '15) - Really was emphatic finishing on the inside, throwing down a pair of dunks that rattled the gym. His back to three basket skills have rapidly improved, proving to be more than a face up 4 who could hurt you with his footwork and ability to put the ball on the floor. Still has wing skills as well as proved by his ability to connect from deep, hitting a pair of threes, but it's his ability to block shots, rise high above the rim, and run the floor as good as anyone his size, that stands out, and continued to stand out on Friday.

M. Libert
Carl Balthazar

Lonnie Rivera, 6'5" SF, BC Eagles 17's (Don Bosco Prep, NJ '15) - In great shape, Rivera was great on the wing, catching and shooting off screens while also proving he could put the ball on the floor and score off the dribble. Has a good wingspan and can showed he could play any of the 1, 2, or 3 spots on the floor. Was a team player who didn't force shots, and made sure when the help defense came over to him to find cutting teammates or get the ball in the post, and then moving to free himself again. A complete wing who defended solidly as well, he flies a bit under the radar but played the role of a very solid prospect.

Carl Balthazar, 6'8" PF, Long Island Lightning-Mark 17's (Benjamin Cardozo '14) - Balthazar isn't a Division 1 prospect like the rest of the players on this list, but he may have been the best defensive player on the day. Had well over 10 blocks as he times his jumps so well, especially when opponents think they are out in transition, his motor never stops and he rose high to swat shot after shot. As good a leaping ability as anyone, he changed the game considerably with his ability to alter every shot that went up. Offensively he was raw, but his hands and footwork were solid, and while prep school is still an option, he could easily be a Division 2 player with high upside if his offensive skills click in.


Basketbull Summer Championship July Live Period

BasketBull Summer Championships Recap

July 14, 2014

Over 110 teams and 150 college coaches descended on the birthplace of basketball for the first weekend of the NCAA Live period.  What transpired was some of the best basketball that has been played on the AAU circuit this spring with upsets, heartbreak, and players making a name for themselves.  This tournament has been a launching pad for players in the past and this year followed suit.  Pat Connaughton of the Middlesex Magic went from a Division II scholarship player to receiving offers from Notre Dame, California and many other high-majors in 2012.  I'm not sure we saw that same jump this weekend, but we definitely saw a number of players earn scholarships, many at higher levels, along the way.  Let's take a look at the results of the weekend.  

17u Division Results

Co-Champs - Mass Rivals and City Rocks 2016s

Runner-Up - Maine MAC and BABC 2016s

16u Division Results

Champs - Middlesex Magic (MA)

Runner-Up - New Heights (NY) 2017s

15u Division Results

Champs - Team Scan (NY)

Runner-Up - Albany City Rocks (NY)


July 12, 2014

The first game of the day on court 1 was Syracuse Select vs Bluejays Elite (OLSH). From the tip off, 5'9" Senior point guard Boyd took it to the basket and was fouled 10 seconds into the game. Thats the hardnose play-style he showed throughout the contest, but 6'2" Senior shooting guard Roland showed his smooth shooting stroke and true atheletisism to put down an alley-oop with 2 hands. Once he got going, the bigs #44 Walser and #22 Reynolds ran both paints. The OLSH front court was outsized and that lead to the 75-57 defeat to Syracuse Select.

In the 10:00 AM slot, the B.C. Eagles faced Lone Wolf on court 2. The 6'5" Senior small forward Rivera was fighting to the basket, dishing when possible and scoring when needed. He has a stature similar to Giannis Antetekempo's (Bucks) with good defense to compliment the long frame. Senior point guard Darnell Edge brought the ball up and set the tempo for most of the game, findng their knock down shooter Senior forward Paton Gibbs. The Lone Wolf squad seemed to be out of it with 6 minutes to spare being down by 10. Their Senior point guard #33 kept his course feeding his shifty Senior shooting guard Shungu and 3-point specialist Senior guard Ross to go on a 17-0 run. Junior power forward Delorenzo anchoring his team to shut out the Eagles offensive attack. The Lone Wolf won 49-48.

3's rained today on court 3 with the match up between Game Point and Syraucse Select. Game Point lead by Senior shooting (and I mean shooting) guard Soffer with 7 3's of his own and their nifty Senior point guard Monroe. Monroe hit back the back 3's on opposite wings and every aspect of his game resembles Kirk Hinrich, even down the the glasses. 'Cuse wasn't going down without a fight though, their Senior shooting guard Roland beat everyone with his quick first step and finishing proficently. It ended up not being enough in the 78-68 loss to Game Point.

During the 2:00 PM slots, two power teams Maine and The City faced off, Maine being the underdog. The City has the highly recruited and watched Senior combo guard Mitchell who has incredible leaping abilities and a great corner 3-ball, but the life of the team is Junior point guard Novogratz. He is a floor general with superb vision and communication skills. It was all trumped by Maine's all-round play-style on offense. The main contributers were Senior point guard Savage, with his great on-ball defense, pushing the ball north to south and stepping into open 3's, and Senior wing Bouchard who was scoring from all over the court, a strong finisher and actually finished with game with a free throw to put his team ahead by 1 with 2.7 seconds remaining. 59-58 in the underdog victory over The City.

Top performers:

Jordan Roland 6'2" SG Syracuse Select: Excellent player, can do it all

Dalton Soffer 6'5" SG GamePoint: Shooter with college range

Darrick Boyd 5'9" PG Bluejays Elite (OLSH): Tough defender that plays with the same agression on the offensive side. He will turn you over, but you can't return the favor.

Lonnie Rivera 6'5" SF B.C. Eagles: Great scorer that creates attention and he uses that against the defense to find open teammates.

Donovan Mitchell 6'3" The City: Attacks the basket at will and can shoot, defenders haven't figured out how to guard him yet, he follows his shots as well. 

Wolfgang "Wolf" Novogratz 6'2" The City: The team player in this tournament, great communication, praises teammates makes and misses, and a hard working defender

Isaiah McLeod 6'1" Middlesex Magic: (Giordano) and Middlesex Magic (Crotty/Boyle) he played PG in back to back games on court 1 with 2 different teams, with high energy and confidence.

Kyle Bouchard 6'5" Maine Athletic Club: Strong player that can handle the ball and score from all over. Came very clutch for his team by making 1 of 2 free throws with 2.7 seconds to go.


Cleanthony Early headlines Knicks summer league roster

Cleanthony Early headlines Knicks summer league roster

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Derek FisherPhoto: AP

Fisher is still discussing whether he will take on summer coaching duties as he tries to form a staff with Kurt Rambis.

As already reported, second-year point guard Shane Larkin, obtained in last week’s trade with the Mavericks, also will be playing. Larkin missed the summer league with Dallas last year after breaking his ankle.

In a surprise, Knicks free-agent center Cole Aldrich also will be on the squad, as will free-agent guard Shannon Brown, who was signed late last season and knows Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. First-Team All-Rookie selection Tim Hardaway Jr. will play as well. Jeremy Tyler, whom the Knicks have a team option on, completes the marquee part of the roster.

Early and Antetokounmpo, a defensive specialist, will make their Knicks debuts after being selected 34th and 51st, respectively. On draft night, the Knicks also traded for the rights to late second-round French project big man Louis Labeyrie, but he won’t participate. He is to play in France next season.

Coaches say newest Knick Cleanthony Early is perfect fit for Phil Jackson's offense

Coaches say newest Knick Cleanthony Early is perfect fit for Phil Jackson's offense

Whether it was knocking down 3-pointers on pick-and-pop possessions or throwing touch passes from the high post, Early excelled in the areas of the game Jackson prizes.





Saturday, June 28, 2014, 11:23 PM


Cleanthony Early's coaches all say the New York native will fit in perfectly with the Knicks and Phil Jackson's offense.CHARLIE RIEDEL/APCleanthony Early's coaches all say the New York native will fit in perfectly with the Knicks and Phil Jackson's offense.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Thursday inside Brooklyn’s 40/40 Club, a group of 15 family members and friends celebrated the Knicks’ selection of former Wichita State small forward Cleanthony Early with the No. 34 pick of the NBA draft.

At the same time, more than 1,300 miles west in Wichita, Greg Heiar, the Wichita State assistant coach who recruited Early from a Division III junior college in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., processed the pick. A Knicks scout visited Wichita before Phil Jackson assumed the role as team president, and Early never worked out for the Knicks in the pre-draft process. Still, Heiar believed Jackson’s approach suited Early’s abilities.

“Perfect fit,” Heiar said. “Cleanthony’s perfect for the triangle offense.”

Whether it was knocking down 3-pointers on pick-and-pop possessions or throwing touch passes from the high post, Early excelled in the areas of the game Jackson prizes. He will bring an interesting outlook to the Knicks locker room, as well, engaging anyone and everyone in conversation, quoting Buddha, reading “The Art of Seduction” and embracing the challenging positions of yoga. Once an immature student with a Steven Seagal ponytail at Pine Bush High in Orange County, Early kept an open mind on his journeys through prep school, junior college and a Final Four run at Wichita State. There are elements to his life that dovetail with Jackson’s spiritual ways.

“I’d love to be a fly on the wall for their conversation,” said Bob Rahn, who coached Early with the B.C. Eagles AAU team in high school.

Several experiences in New York helped shape Early’s worldview. He grew up on 188th St. in the Bronx and moved with his mother to Middletown, N.Y., when he was nearing high school after his cousin, Ezekiel, was shot dead on the street. In July 2010, he learned that his brother, Jamel, the one who introduced Early to basketball, had suffered a heart attack while swimming in the Schoharie Creek outside Schenectady. He drowned, and Early decided to attend Sullivan County Community College close to home rather than leave his mother, Sandra Glover, alone in grieving.

“The divine is working repeatedly in people’s lives,” Early said. “Always be willing to tell others how you feel.”

Early never shied from showing opponents his talents. He scored more than a thousand points in two seasons at Sullivan County and another thousand in two years at Wichita State. He was the electric swingman who sparked the Shockers to the Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 record last season, proving to be the best player on the court in the NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky. His ability to outrun Kentucky’s future lottery picks in the open floor and outscore them all punctuated his development in the Midwest.

Before that run, Early spoke about drawing closer to his dreams. He discussed the need to strengthen his legs and stretch his talent. He was open to all growth.

“I like when I dream and I realize I am dreaming, then I can do whatever I want,” Early said after a practice. “That happened a week ago, then I could fly and it’s the most random dream.”

His strength and conditioning coach at Wichita, Kerry Rosenboom, noted the willingness that Early had for incorporating all kinds of workouts into his development process.

The most important step for the Wichita State basketball program last summer was the introduction of yoga. Rosenboom’s evaluation of Early seemed to fit Jackson’s methods.

“We had guys who looked like the mighty oak tree trying to do it. It looked like a bad game of Twister,” Rosenboom said. “Cle was the one perfectionist.”

Blessing’ for Cleanthony Early to fall out of 1st round to Knicks

‘Blessing’ for Cleanthony Early to fall out of 1st round to Knicks


Jackson selected Early, the Bronx product who moved to upstate Middletown at age 14 and who was projected by some as a late first-rounder, with the No. 34 overall pick.

On a conference call Monday, Early realizes he likely was “overlooked’’ on draft night by some teams.

“It’s a blessing, honestly,’’ said Early, who led Wichita State to the Final Four in 2013 and took an unbeaten record into a classic NCAA Tournament Round of 32 showdown with Kentucky in March. “I can’t think of a better position. This is where I was born and raised.

“I feel I’m a good player. I feel like I have much room to improve to work to reach that goal. I’m more happy I got to play for my city. The attitude would’ve been there regardless, and it’s even more now. You fall a little bit. So you feel someone overlooked you or slept on you. It’s the ultimate blessing to wind up here.’’

Early, who said he’s heard comparisons to Kawhi Leonard — the Spurs’ young forward who just won NBA Finals MVP — did not work out for the Knicks before the draft. Jackson interviewed him at a hotel in Chicago during the pre-draft camp. The club had seen enough of his college career to envision a versatile, scoring combo forward, playing the same position as Anthony.

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Early said he would like to have Carmelo Anthony as a mentor.Photo: Anthony J. Causi

Though the two haven’t talked, Early said he would enjoy having Anthony as his mentor if Anthony re-signs with the Knicks. Anthony becomes a free agent at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“Definitely [want to play with him], he’s a great player,’’ said Early, who will play for the Knicks summer league team beginning in two weeks in Las Vegas. “Just to be with somebody like that would be great learning experience and learning curve for me because he’s so good. The way I’d want to listen [to him], that would really, really help.’’

But even if Anthony leaves, Early said at least he has Jackson. Though he grew up in the Bronx, Early followed Jackson’s Michael Jordan-led Bulls teams closely at a young age.

“I’ll start by saying Phil Jackson is Phil Jackson,’’ Early said. “It was just awesome to get to meet him, to have them know who I am. It’s very special. Everything happens for a reason. He picked me for a reason. Whatever that reason is, he’s seen something. I feel I’ve seen it, too. I just got to continue to develop and get it out where it means to be. I’d rather not be anywhere else doing this. I honestly believe that.’’

After a career at Pine Bush High outside Middletown, Early first played at Sullivan Community College in upstate Loch Sheldrake before transferring to Wichita State. He helped put the Shockers back on the map. Recently, he said he has heard comparisons to a young Spurs forward.

“When it comes specifically, I’m hearing Kawhi recently,’’ Early said. “I just like to play basketball. And if I like a move somebody does, I’ll definitely try to put it in my game.’’
After a family tragedy in which his cousin was fatally shot in the Bronx, his mother, Sandra, moved the clan up to Middletown.

“I can’t have any regrets,’’ Early said. “Something my mom decided. It was her call. I completely backed her up. It was culture shock coming from the city going upstate. There’s different type of people everywhere. Certain adjustments had to be made. I did it. I loved it. No way I can regret anything.’’

Early, however, wasn’t walking around in a Knicks jersey as a kid.
“I started watching basketball at 4, 5 — Michael was still playing then and I was a big Michael fan and my mom was a big Knicks woman,’’ Early said. “She loved the Knicks. I had an interest in them, but it wasn’t my go-to team.’’


With Phil’s first pick, Knicks grab Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early

With Phil’s first pick, Knicks grab Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early


The Knicks selected small forward Cleanthony Early, an upstate Middletown product, with the 34th pick of the draft. Early, who starred at Wichita State, was projected in some mock drafts as a first-rounder.

The Bronx-born senior averaged 16.3 points per game in 27 minutes and was a high-energy scorer who led Wichita State to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four berth two years ago and an unbeaten regular season in 2013-14. Early played at Pine Bush High in Orange County.

Early moved upstate at age 14 after being raised in The Bronx and has an eerie similarity to Carmelo Anthony in body type and scoring prowess.

“I’m a New York kid,’’ he told The Post’s Steve Serby in March. “I grew up in The Bronx. I’ve been in Brooklyn, I’ve been in Queens, I’ve played basketball a lot of places in New York. It’s pretty much the same, it’s that gritty attitude, that New York City swag.’’

The Knicks nabbed three prospects on Draft Night after not having a pick 24 hours before the draft. With their 51st pick, the Knicks took defensive specialist swingman Thanasis Antetokounmpo of Greece, a 21-year-old who played last season in the D-League.

His younger brother Giannis, a small forward known as “the Greek Freak,” had a solid rookie year for the Bucks. The Knicks had acquired Dallas’ 34th and 51st pick in the blockbuster trade Wednesday.

Then at midnight Thursday, Knicks president Phil Jackson was still working, buying the 57th pick from Indiana to take French center Louis Labeyrie, whom they likely will stash in the French League. The Knicks have added seven players in the past two days.

“Everybody says I’m a good athlete, that I have a lot of energy and that I really have a love of the game,” Antetokounmpo told USA Today this week. “The things I do best is that I have a good work ethic, have good character. I’m a reliable person. I’m a person you can depend on doing stuff. I’m a humble person and the thing that drives me is the love for my family and the game.”

The Knicks failed to move up into the first round with the asking price too high, the club reluctant to give up Iman Shumpert.

Jackson held a press conference before the draft but did not comment afterward.

Asked about the type of player he was seeking, Jackson said, “We’ve earmarked players who will give the team some of the things we’re looking for — activity, peppiness, guys who get after balls for steals and interceptions. That’s one of the directions we’re going.’

Knicks select Cleanthony Early in Second Round with 34th Pick


Knicks Select Cleanthony Early With No. 34 Overall Pick


On Thursday night, the Knicks selected Cleanthony Early with the No. 34 overall pick in the NBA Draft.  The 6-7 forward averaged 16.3 points per game for the Wichita State Shockers last season. 

Three Metro Area Players Get Drafted

Three Metro Area Players Get Drafted

It would be one of the deepest NBA drafts in years with Andrew WigginsJabari Parker and Joel Embiid taking numbers one through three of the 60 slots available on Thursday night. 

J. Mumford
Cleanthony Early at the iS8/Nike
Of the New York Metropolitan area players in the draft, only three players made the grade with only one getting guaranteed money as a first round pick.

Kyle Anderson - The St. Anthony HS star, who frequented NY's iS8/Nike Tournament with the Playaz Club AAU team, would go on to UCLA and help lead his team into the NCAA Tournament. One of the best passers in the draft, Anderson is a point guard trapped in a small forward's body. Better categorized as a Point forward, Anderson was picked up #30 in the first round by the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. The knock on Anderson is his un-athleticism but he more than makes up for it with his high I.Q. and floor generalship which should be a great fit for the team oriented Spurs. Anderson will join fellow Metro area player in Danny Green.

Cleanthony Early - NY Knicks president Phil Jackson pulled a Zen like move by trading with Dallas to acquire two draft picks. He used his 34th pick on Early from Middletown, NY. Early attended Pine Bush HS and played AAU basketball with the B.C. Eagles. He went to Wichita State and made an immediate impact for the Shockers, averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He was named first team All-Missouri Valley Conference and the MVC Newcomer of the Year. In the post-season, Early led the team to the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta. Early dropped in the draft probably due to Wichita State's Cinderella team label and is a steal for the Knicks.

Russ Smith - Smith was born in New York City, played for the NY Gauchos AAU team and went to Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, N.Y. and played basketball for head coach Jack Curran. He led the New York City Catholic league (CHSAA) in scoring as a junior averaging 24.5 points a game and as a senior averaging 29.6 points. Smith attended Louisville and after a slow start led the Cardinals to the national championship over Michigan. Known as a scorer, Smith remained at Louisville an additional year increase his stock by displaying his point guard skills. Smith will at least get the chance to continue his quest to prove that he is a more than capable NBA point guard. He was drafted #47 by the Philadelphia 76ers and then traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Undrafted Metro Area Players :

  • Sean Kilpatrick
    As one of the oldest players in the draft at 24, age may have been a factor for the Cincy star from Yonkers, NY.

  • Chaz Williams
    The 5'9" undersized NYC point guard was fighting an uphill battle. Williams vows to continue the fight. 

  • Jakarr Sampson (St. John's, NY)
    The Red Storm star probably could've used an extra year in the Big East. Sampson has signed to play in the summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers. While technically not from the metro area, he played for NYC College.

@AdamZagoria: The Knicks may lose one Anthony but gained another on Draft Night


Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall says Knicks’ pick Cleanthony Early is a winner

June 26th, 2014 11:34 pm


Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter

The last time the Knicks had two Wichita State Shockers on their roster, they won an NBA championship.


USATSI_7708087_110579513_lowresThat was back in the 1969-70 season when the Knicks roster included Nate Bowman and Dave Stallworth on a team that featured Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Dave DeBusschere .

“The last time two Shockers were on the New York Knicks in 1969 they won the world’s championship,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told and The Knicks Blog over the phone minutes after the Knicks selected forward Cleanthony Early with the No. 34 pick in the NBA Draft.

The Knicks also have guard Toure’ Murray, a former Shocker.

Early himself seemed over-joyed to be headed to the Knicks.

“I love them,” he said by text.


Marshall believes the Knicks — who traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday in exchange for the Nos. 34 and 51 picks — are getting a player with a big upside in the 6-foot-7 Early, who averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game for the Shockers last season

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” said Marshall, who led the Shockers to back-to-back Final Fours with Early. “He can really shoot ti. Very coachable. A tremendous competitor. We’re just toasting the fact that he’s going to New York.”

The Knicks may or may not have their main Anthony — Carmelo — next season, but Cleanthony, who hails from Middletown, N.Y., is a natural small forward who might help pick up some of the slack.

“He’s a small forward,” Marshall said. “He really shoots it. He’s got to continue to work on his ball-handling and putting it on the floor. And he’s getting better with that, he’s really improved with it.

“He’s a good defender, he could be better but he’s a very good defender,” Marshall said. “I just think he’s a tremendous pick for the Knicks.”



Knicks select Cleanthony Early with No. 34 pick

With the No. 34 pick in the NBA Draft, the Knicks selected Cleanthony Early out of Wichita State.

“I love them,” Anthony said about the Knicks, according to SNY’s Adam Zagoria (June 26).

Early helped lead his team to a 34-0 record heading into the NCAA Tournament last year.

At 6 foot 8 inches and 210 pounds, he averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game for the Shockers last season. He averaged 25.5 points per game per 40 minutes.

He scored 1,135 points and had 425 rebounds in two seasons for Wichita State.


Cleanthony Early Drafted by New York Knicks

Cleanthony Early Drafted by New York Knicks: Latest News, Reaction and Analysis

From unheralded recruit to college superstar to NBA 2-round pick, Cleanthony Early's journey to professional basketball has been anything but typical. The Knicks selected Early with the 34th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, capping the former Wichita State standout's unlikely rise.



Early entered the draft graded as a late-first- early second-round choice. ESPN's Chad Ford ranked Early No. 32 on his big board,four spots behind than my final projections. 

A two-year starter at Wichita State, Early finished with career averages of 15.1 points and 5.7 rebounds while emerging as one of the nation's toughest defenders. The Shockers were the nation's first undefeated team heading into the NCAA tournament since UNLV two decades prior, though they lost to national runner-up Kentucky in the round of 32.

Early, 23, played two years of community college basketball prior to heading to Wichita. He was the two-time NJCAA National Player of the Year winner.




As a senior and one of the oldest players in the class, there is a fundamental misconception that Early is an instantly translatable NBA player. Seniors like Adreian Payne and Doug McDermott are largely seen as safe, lower-ceiling players because teams have so much tape to study.

While Early matches both players in age, he decidedly lacks that same polish. His tape shows a player still learning the ins-and-outs of the game—most notably on the offensive end.


Jeff Roberson/Associated Press


Early is a non-elite shooter who could become a spacing hog at the next level if he's unable to fix his inconsistent shot. At the NBA combine in Chicago, he ranked among the worst shooters who participated in drills. His release has a bit of a hitch, at times leading to an inconsistent rotation and misses on what should be easy attempts. Though he improved to a 34.8 percent three-point shooter overall in two years at Wichita State, NBA teams are going to ignore him until he starts knocking them down consistently.


Mostly a power forward in college, Early will transition to a swing role professionally. He measured only 6'7" in shoes at the combine and weighs just 209 pounds. There could be times when the Knicks move him to the 4 as part of small-ball lineups, but those situations should be rare. Early has fine lateral quickness and top-end speed, and he plays with a relentless tenacity fostered by Shockers coach Gregg Marshall.

"Very versatile," Early told reporters of his game. "I've got a high motor and I want it. I'm hungry. There's nothing but free lunch out here so I'm going to eat. I guess I'm bigger and I'm taller butKevin Durant is a big guy."



Early, like all rookies, will have to get better at understanding team-defense concepts. Wichita State's ultra-aggressiveness would play right into NBA teams' hands. Being aggressive is fine; being wildly aggressive and sloppy with rotations is a one-way ticket to death by way of the corner three. Early needs to be more careful about the chances he takes, especially when it comes to gambling for steals.

Ball-handling is also an issue. Early can't create for himself off the dribble at this point, as evidenced by his struggles in Chicago. He'll need to be a more stationary part of an NBA offense at first, which is an issue because of his inconsistent shot.

There is a very solid rotation player resting within Early; he is just much further away than your typical 23-year-old and won't have as long to develop as a typical player. Aaron Gordon is raw, but he's also more than four years Early's junior.

It will be interesting to see how New York utilizes Early as a rookie. It's possible that he can develop enough consistency from the corner and harness his good aggression on defense to become an instant-impact bench guy. But it's more likely that Early spends most of his rookie campaign moving back and forth between the D-League and the big club.

This is certainly a huge pick for Phil Jackson. While Carmelo Anthony's future remains uncertain, Knicks fans have to be thrilled with landing Early this late in the draft.


Nike Rumble in the Bronx - HOS (Sat)

ARDSLEY, NY -The Rumble in the Bronx continued on Saturday with a games taking place at numerous venues in and around New York City. 

M. Libert
Elijah Davis & Wolfgang Novogratz
The main venue for the tournament is House of Sports and that's where we were on Saturday to catch a days' worth of action. It was a day of solid pool play games in the 17u Division along with opening round playoff games as well. The action was great from start to finish, and here is a recap of the games from Ardsley.

One of the top local NY teams of Saturday proved to be The City. Even though they were limited to having just 5 players, they seemed to be firing on all cylinders as they eased past the NJ Panthers early in the day. They struggled a bit more against Stamford Peace of Connecticut, but Elijah Davis (IMG Academy, FL '15) was a scoring machine, pouring in 19 in the opening half, and scoring a couple big buckets late. Wolfgang Novogratz (Poly Prep '16) was the consummate floor general late creating and getting into driving lanes to finish. He also knocked down 4 FT's late to help push The City to a 9 point win.

Their last game was not what they expected though. Facing an 0-2 Dallas Hoyas team from Texas, fatigue seemed to wear The City down. Davis, who again had a strong opening 16 minutes, didn't have the same lift on his jumpers late, and Novogratz struggled to finish in the lane like he did earlier. <b(St. Anthony's, NJ '15) at 6'8" did a solid job on the glass and on putbacks to close the deficit late, but it wasn't enough as the Hoyas pulled out the 50-45 win.

The City still advanced to the Gold Playoffs though winning out in a tiebreaker that sent them on and they made the most of their second chance.

M. Libert
Travis Atson
Playing Hoop Heaven Heat from New Jersey, which is Gill St. Bernard's H.S., a team that was led by top 2016 prospect, 6'4" guard Tyus Battle, The City played far and away their best game of the day, with Novogratz finding his way to the lane time and again, Davis scoring at will, especially when putting the ball on the floor and using his strength, and Reggie Quezada (Cardinal Hayes '15), while slender, showed toughness on putbacks and offensive rebounds in the paint.

It was a back and forth contest that could've gone either way, but a big drive with under 2 minutes to go put The City up for good, and he and Davis combined for 51 points as The City moves onto Sunday's quarterfinals with a 74-70 victory.

One of the bigger shocks of the day and tournament came from Pool A where on Friday night, the B.C. Eagles shocked the Juice All-Stars with Rashond Salnave (Cardozo '16) and Travis Atson (Christ the King '15) on a three pointer with 2.2 to go to claim the 48-47 upset win. Juice cruised in two wins over Open Season and Douglas Brothers of Georgia on Saturday, and to advance, the Eagles were going to need to match them.

They had Open Season to start the morning and though they fell behind 11-2 to start the game, Paton Gibbs (Saugerties '15) came up big late in the first half as B.C. closed the half on a 14-2 run to take a 6 point lead. Eric McCollum (Newburgh Free Academy '14) used his size on the inside to control the paint in the 2nd half, and Isaiah Strickland (Brooklyn Collegiate '15) was solid from the perimeter and they closed out the game late for a comfortable win.

The 2nd game of the day for B.C. was much more challenging, with the team comprised of mainly Section 9 players struggling from the perimeter, and Douglas Brothers were able to find space to shoot, grabbing a 12 point lead in the first half, and maintaining that lead for much of the 2nd half as well. It was 43-34 Douglas Brothers with 5:10 to go when B.C. for the 3rd time in 3 games, made a run.

M. Libert
Eric McCollum & Paton Gibbs
Darnell Edge (Saugerties '15) was a spark off the bench knocking down a couple big jump shots, and solid defense all around, be it McCollum in the front court, or the combination of the many guards the Eagles had, they were getting the job done. Douglas Brothers seemed to wear down against the constant pressure and in the last 4 minutes of the game, the B.C. Eagles closed with a 12-0 run, including 6 late from Gibbs, including a pair of big FT's to seal the win and the pool, 46-43.

Gibbs had 31 points in his 2 games on Saturday as the 6'4" wing continues to prove to be an underrated offensive weapon in pushing B.C. to the pool victory and a Gold Bracket playoff berth.

The Eagles moved over to Mott Haven for their playoff game where it proved to be the end of the road for them as they ended up falling to the NY Gauchos in the Bronx to end their tournament.

No other 17u local New York team advanced into the Gold Bracket, but a couple more looked very good and will advance into the Silver Bracket where the 2nd place pool teams will go.

The Juice All-Stars may not have achieved their goal of going deep into the Gold playoffs, but they did have a good Saturday with Atson scoring 26 while grabbing 14 rebounds early in the morning to beat Open Season. They then cruised over Douglas Brothers from Georgia by 22, and while the Silver Bracket wasn't what the team was hoping for when the tournament started, they are making the best of it, with Salnave leading the way as they took down Starting 5ive of Texas at Mott Haven H.S. on Saturday night. They look to keep it going on Sunday when they get the NJ Roadrunners in the Silver quarterfinals.

The New York Falcons lost to the Iowa Barnstormers in a game that was pretty tight until the last 8 minutes of the game, and went 2-0 otherwise routing both Albany City Rocks (Oshea) and the Connecticut Playmakers. Troy McLaughlin (Old Tappan, NJ '14) was a potent scorer taking it to the rim using his quickness at 6'3" to get by defenders and finish going in, while Connor McGuinness (Clarkstown South '15) was a lethal threat from deep connecting on 9 threes in the teams two wins to propel them on. They fell through to the Roadrunners in a right one by 7, with McGuinness leading the way with 22 in the loss.

M. Libert
Kevin Huerter & Clifton Tracey
ICC Truth won't advance, but the team from Western New York State has nothing to hold their head down about. They gave both Hoop Heaven Elite and South Florida Elite competitive games, with Donte Williams (Bishop Timon '14) going on a scoring outburst against South Florida, scoring 29 points, and proving that even against high level competition, that the 1st Team All State performer can thrive.

City Rocks (Oshea) won't advance either, but they had big 6'4" point guard Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa '16) who showed good burst and court vision against tough defenses, while Clifton Tracey (Utica-Proctor '15) once again thrived from behind the arc, and with his 6'6" size, definitely stood out.

It was a truly compelling and interesting day with great action all day on all four courts. House of Sports will host all the playoff games on Sunday on the 15u, 16u, and 17u Divisions, so Ardsley, NY is truly the place to be for good basketball Sunday. Here are the quarterfinal matchups in the 17u Gold Bracket on Sunday to whet your appetite for what is to come.

  • NY Gauchos vs. Iowa Barnstormers 
  • House of Sports vs. The City
  • Sports U vs. Wisconsin United
  • NYC Jayhawks vs. Southern Kings


Nike Rumble in the Bronx 17U Top Players

RITB 17U Top Local Players

The 17U division of last week's Rumble in the Bronx provided some excellent performances by local players this past weekend. 

M. Libert
Elijah Davis & Wolfgang Novogratz
The talent level was high, and the top flight competition certainly brought out the best in many of New York's best ballers. Here are player evaluations from some of New York's top standouts from the weekend.

Wolfgang Novogratz, 6'2" PG, The City (Poly Prep '16)- You can't deny the major impact that Novogratz had in The City's run to the Gold Bracket semifinals. He seemed much more confident from the perimeter, pulling up and hitting numerous jumpers off the dribble, rising high and having good arc on his release. He was one of the best floor generals in attacking the rim and finishing as well. Had the game winner in the quarterfinals over House of Sports when he hit a contested runner at the buzzer, showing to be clutch. Steady with the ball, kept his turnovers down, and just an overall fantastic weekend.

Salim Green, 6'1" SG, House of Sports (Rye Country Day '15)- Green was HOS's top three point shooter of the weekend, and their top perimeter player. He handles the ball adequately, but doesn't get many opportunities to beat defenders off the dribble as he primarily played off the ball and was a catch and shoot player who did move well without the ball, and got himself in the positions needed to score. A solid perimeter defender as well who had good lateral quickness.

M. Libert
Travis Atson

Travis Atson, 6'6" PF/SF, Juice All-Stars (Christ the King '15)- Atson did just about everything all weekend for Juice, helping them to the Silver Bracket title. He was the team's leading scorer on the weekend, and while he is one of the bigger players size wise on the team, he showed versatility on the offensive end of the floor. He scored on putbacks on the inside, but he also had no problems putting the ball on the floor and throwing it down hard going to the basket, and he ran the floor extremely well in transition to really beat bigger defenders time and time again. Fantastic play from start to finish this weekend, it's the growth of his versatile that kept shining this weekend.

Lavar Harewood, 6'3" SG, Sports U (Brooks School, MA '15)- The Brooklyn native and former Bishop Loughlin guard, Harewood was as physical a guard as you would find this weekend. He handles the ball especially well for his size, and he is an attacker, unafraid of contact, and uses the fact that defenses didn't want to help against a talented Sports U frontline to his advantage. A slasher who scored in double digits in 2 of 3 games on Championship Sunday, he's come a long way from where his game was when at Loughlin.

S. Davis
Lavar Harewood
Mamadou Diarra, 6'8" PF, NYC Jayhawks (Putnam Science Academy, CT '15)- Offensively the Queens native wasn't looked for much in the post as most of the Jayhawks scoring was done by the guards this weekend, but Diarra's positioning for offensive rebounds was impressive, his strength in boxing out opponents was top quality, and defensively he was one of the better post defenders in the tournament. Great length, and strong lower body to not lose ground, he may not have put up gaudy numbers, but his toughness and ability to change or alter shots defensively was impressive.

Elijah Davis, 6'4" SG, The City (IMG Academy, FL '15)- Just a flat out scorer, the former Abraham Lincoln guard from Brooklyn may have been the top overall scorer this weekend in the 17u Division as he averaged 25 points per game on Sunday alone against top playoff competition. Davis always had strength on the perimeter with a good well developed physical body, but his perimeter jumper has massively improved, as he was able to have the ball in his hands, show much quicker feet, and create his own space to 15 feet and score. He drove the rim and was strong as well, and he was a solid rebounder for someone his size in helping The City advance to the Gold semifinals.

M. Libert
Nukoy Singleton

Rashond Salnave, 6'2" SG/PG, Juice-All Stars (Cardozo '16)- Salnave admitted that he didn't feel that he had a solid weekend, but that's truly just because his expectations for himself are very high. He kept showing improvement with the ball in his hands, and is gaining more of a mentality to find the open man when he does cut inside and defenses close out on him. He pushed tempo quite a bit, helping Juice win the Silver title, while also making the team one of the higher scoring outfits in the tournament. His long range shot wasn't on for much of the weekend, but his consistent rhythm and quick release show his huge upside going forward.

Nukoy Singleton, 5'11" PG, NY Gauchos (Mt. St. Michael '15)- Played both the 1 and 2 spots this weekend, and thrived offensively in the open floor. He had seemingly no problems getting free of double teams who tried to pressure him in the backcourt, and his court vision once out in the open was very solid. His team got down in a big way, by as many as 19, in the Gold quarterfinals, but Singleton was able to create defensive pressure in the backcourt, pick off a number of steals, and find his way to the rim, scoring 9 points in the last 3:30 of the game. The Gauchos still came up short, but Singleton proved he could play at a high level.

M. Libert
Jonathan Nwankwo

Ramel Powers, 6'2" SG, Positive Direction (Campus Magnet '15)- His team went just 1-2 and didn't advance to Sunday's playoffs, but give Powers credit for being one of the best flat out scorers of the day. He scored 27 points against Crossover, the team that ended up winning the pool, and thrived going at defenders, showing excellent athleticism and a good ability to finish. He has good handle too and played the 1 for a good stretch of the game for Positive Direction, and while he hasn't seen a ton of court time for Campus Magnet, he is another under the radar Queens player who could shine and be a name to watch the rest of the summer.

Jonathan Nwankwo, 6'9" PF, House of Sports (Victory Prep, FL '15)- The big man finished when he was able to get touches in the paint against The City, but there opponents played a defense that seemed to try and shot down interior passes, and make it tough on him to get his hands on the ball. He was fronted with help coming from behind, and it gave hi. Little space to operate. He still managed to score 11 points in the game, mainly because of improved footwork, and a tireless work ethic. He was a dominant space eater in pool play where he seemed near unstoppable as he continues to grow on the offensive side of the floor.

M. Libert
Clifton Tracey

Clifton Tracey, 6'5" SF, Albany City Rocks-Oshea (Utica-Proctor '15)- Tracey was a surprise performer at the Gym Rat Challenge a few weeks back, and he continued his impressive play this time at the Rumble. His team didn't advance to the playoffs, but he had 13 threes in 3 games, including 5 in his team's final game where he scored 21 points. His size gives him the advantage to shoot over defenders, and he has a high release, though it was very quick out of his hands. He runs the floor well, and though thin, maintains good positioning defensively with good footwork. Added strength definitely will help his game, but he really has proved to be a solid player to watch over the past month.

Paton Gibbs, 6'4" SF, B.C. Eagles (Saugerties '15)- Gibbs, who went down with a serious head injury in late April after falling hard on his head in a game is now back on the floor and at 100%. He seems more known for his midrange game, which tends to be a lost art at times in games these days, but his ability to catch, go with one dribble, and then pull up for the jumper was impressive. Made a living on Saturday scoring from 12-15 feet, and did stretch out and show even deeper range from time to time. Unfazed by his injury, he was in there defensively mixing it up, and proving to be a top rebounder and defender inside for his team.

  Paton Gibbs (Right) Picture by Mike Libert

BC Eagles 16u 2014 King of the Mountain Champions

BC Eagles 16u went 5-0 in Winning the King of the Mountain Tournament in Albany 


BC Eagles 17u gets knocked out in Final 4 by eventually Tournament Champions SHEN Basketball

BC Eagles 16u wins Hall of Fame Basketbull Championship

Gotham Hoops Draft Preview: Cleanthony Early

Draft Profile: Cleanthony Early

Mike Pudlow
June 24, 2014

We first talked with Cleanthony in February of last season during the beginning of Wichita State’s magical two-year run when Early was just beginning to emerge as a star. Preseason, we named Early one of our players to watch and one of the most NBA-ready mid-major players. We have always been high on Early, even when he was flying under most people’s radar.

Yet, with that being said, no one expected Early to explode onto the national scene and become one of college basketball’s most complete, most dominant players. But that is exactly what Early accomplished this past season, averaging 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and nearly 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal per game. The Wichita State star also is extremely efficient, scoring 1.11 points per possession. Early is one of those rare superstars that regularly posts huge statistical performances but is the epitome of a humble, team player. 

"There is a recipe for success.  It’s not about 2-on-2 or 1-on-1, it's about everyone on the court doing their part to succeed.  It is about caring about setting screens, running the pick-and-roll, playing defense, and rebounding.  It's about everything.  Basketball is a team game.  That's why so many people think San Antonio was playing such beautiful basketball during the finals, because they understand what it takes to succeed as a team," states Early.

Besides Wichita State’s supreme ability to work within the team concept, Early also notes that the team essentially had a perfect storm of talent and work ethic. For Early, this work ethic and passion is the fuel for his success.

"There are some things that you just can't teach. At Wichita State, a lot of our success was because we were willing to do some things that others would not do. You can’t teach someone hustle or heart. It’s hard to make someone want to go after every loose ball. But that’s what we did. It is that type of heart and energy that has made me successful,” describes Early.

Before stepping on the court for Wichita State, Early was a two-time National Junior College Player of the Year for Sullivan County Junior College (NY).  Early became a highly coveted asset and was recruited by 16 programs including Pitt, Memphis, Baylor, San Diego State, Missouri, Georgetown, and St. John's.   Ultimately, Wichita State was the best fit.

Now, Early is preparing to take his game to the next level.
"I have been working on everything, trying to improve every part of my game.  That's what being a basketball player involves.  You can't just settle, you have to always keep working.  No one is going to tell you how many hours it takes to succeed.  No one is going to tell you how long you need to be in the gym, that's on you.  You have to be willing to put in the time.  You have to be willing to out-work everyone.  So, for me, that's what I try to do.  I want to improve everything, shooting, passing, rebounding, defense, ball-handling… Everything," states Early.

Early continues, “Right now, it’s all about being a professional. I wake up and start training at 9 and my last session doesn’t end until 6. There is no more school. I am just focused on being a basketball player and working hard. That’s what it takes, that’s what professionals do.”

During individual workouts, Early hopes teams saw his versatility on the court. Furthermore, Early wanted to prove he can be successful at the small forward position.

“My team workouts were great. I enjoyed having the opportunity to work out for so many great organizations and I thought I performed well. I just want teams to know that I can play the 3. I played a lot of 4 in college because of the mismatch problems, but I have no trouble playing small forward. The bottom line is I am a basketball player. No matter where I am on the court I’m going to find a way to help the team. That’s what I did at Wichita State playing the 4, but just because I had to do that sometimes in college, I just want teams to know that there is no question I play the 3,” states Early.

With leading the Shockers to a Final Four appearance in 2013 and a perfect 34-0 regular season in 2014, Early is certainly no stranger to media attention. Early also had one of the most impressive NCAA Tournament performances of the year, posting 31 points and 7 rebounds on 12 of 17 shooting. So, for a mid-major player who skyrockets to popularity, do you embrace or ignore the media attention?

"It's a little bit of both, you know.  You want to embrace your success and it is great when your team succeeds and receives attention.  But at the same time, you have to ignore all of that.  You just have to focus on the job that you have to do.  You can't worry about what everyone else says.  You just have to stay focused,” notes Early.

Early’s drive and pinpoint focus have been crucial to his journey from relative obscurity to emerging superstar. Versatility and success on the court; professionalism and work ethic of the court… Early is the whole package.

“I would just tell [NBA teams] that I have what you want in a player. Obviously, basketball-wise there are things you can always improve, but I feel like I have the intangibles that teams are looking for. I’m going to play hard all of the time, all game, every game. I’m going to do whatever needs to be done to help the team. I’m going to hustle. I have a lot of heart and I’m always going to fight to win,” states Early.

As Early gathers with family and friends this Thursday to watch the draft, America will also be watching and waiting for one of the most hard-working, complete players in the country to have his name called to see which team will be lucky enough to have him wear the team colors.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and check our site for more updates on Early’s journey

2014 NBA Combine Results

The picture of Andrew Wiggins soaring to what looks like incredible heights during a workout in California has become the talk of the NBA.

Now, we have the numbers behind the picture.

According to Chad Ford of ESPN, Wiggins jumped a whopping 44-inches in the photo, giving him a higher vertical leap than any player at the NBA Combine in Chicago.

It isn't known if Wiggins hit 44-inches from a standstill or with a running jump, but either way, his 44-inch jump was the highest of the weekend.

By comparison, here the other vertical leap measurements from this weekend:

Maximum vertical leap (running start):
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State, SG......43.50 inches
Jahii Carson, Arizona State, PG............43.50 inches
Zach LaVine, UCLA, PG........................41.50 inches
Nick Johnson, Arizona, SG....................41.50 inches
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, SF..........41.50 inches
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, SF......40.00 inches
Deonte Burton, Nevada, PG..................39.50 inches
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, NBADL..39.50 inches
Aaron Gordon, Arizona, PF-C,...............39.00 inches
Jordan Clarkson, Tulsa, PG...................38.50 inches

Standing Vertical Leap:
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State, SG......36.50 inches
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, SF..........36.50 inches
Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, SF......34.00 inches
Zach LaVine, UCLA, PG........................33.50 inches
Nick Johnson, Arizona, SG....................33.50 inches
Jahii Carson, Arizona State, PG............33.50 inches
K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, SF................33.00 inches
Jordan Clarkson, Tulsa, PG..................33.00 inches
Cory Jefferson, Baylor, PF-C................33.00 inches
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St.,PG..........33.00 inches

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks


Cleanthony Early Draft Combine Interview

Cleanthony Early

2014 NBA Draft Combine Interview

How High Will Cleanthony Early Go in the 2014 NBA Draft?


Wichita State'sCleanthony Early declared for the 2014 NBA draft. How high will he go?

Check out the video above as AdamLefkoe asks draft expert JonathanWasserman where Early could be drafted.

Seniors at NBA combine hoping to prove they have room left to grow

Brian Hamilton

Seniors at NBA combine hoping to prove they have room left to grow


Doug McDermott is one of a host of seniors trying to shirk the stigma of being a low-ceiling player. Credit: Greg Nelson

CHICAGO — On Thursday night, a former Creighton sharpshooter connected with another, fittingly via long distance: Doug McDermott called up Kyle Korver before another day at the NBA combine to collect any more morsels of advice Korver had about the process. The two ended up sparring about who would own the better vertical jump.

“I think I got him,” McDermott said Friday after touching 36.5 inches, a figure that indeed bested Korver’s 2003 mark by five inches but is the far less pertinent leap for last season’s consensus player of the year.

How McDermott’s prolific scoring ability translates to the NBA is the issue that follows him everywhere, even as he is projected as a possibly lottery pick in June. The top of the draft is populated again by teenagers coveted for what they might be, while McDermott and other four-year college prospects will have earned their spots by what they already accomplished. Misgivings about how much more these players can offer is the ironic price paid for having an actual track record. It’s a bit ageist, actually, a senior discount. Even as McDermott and his classmates emphasize that room for growth isn’t restricted to the younger set.

“The four years for me was just developing,” McDermott said. “I feel like I can continue to get better.”

Still, the first round likely again will be dominated by underclassmen. Yet seniors participating in the NBA combine over two days in Chicago like McDermott, Michigan State forward Adreian Payne, Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier and Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early all have very realistic chances of hearing their name called among the first 32 on draft night. They also all can argue that they are far from finished products — that what teams see now is not necessarily all they will get down the line.

Here’s a look at some notable senior prospects who attended the combine and what they might offer in the way of upside come draft night:

Doug McDermott, Creighton

He scored 3,150 points over the course of his career but arguably played out of position at the end of it. McDermott spent his senior season as Creighton’s nominal power forward but will be a wing player at the next level, and that cuts both way. While he’ll perhaps have to guard perimeter players more instead of being able to hide somewhat defensively, he’ll also be on the outside offensively and therefore in his preferred spot to maximize his offensive gifts. Ball-handling, playmaking and lateral movement have been McDermott’s workout emphases since his final college season came to a close, with a keen eye to how the pros will view him.

“I really don’t think I’m just a shooter,” McDermott said. “I feel I can make people around me a lot better. I’m not going to be the focal point right away in the NBA like I was at Creighton, so I think I’ll have a lot more space to work with. A lot of NBA actions are off the pick-and-roll. I can be a guy that can be in the corner but also move around and find open seams on the floor. Just being able to play off other people, I think that’s a strength of mine. It’s not going to be the same as it was in college, that’s just the way it is. There are a lot better players in the NBA and I’m going to have to be able to adjust to a different role.”

Still, there won’t be a remarkable difference between what Creighton asked of McDermott and what any NBA team would ask of him: Make shots. The book may be as complete on him as anyone in the draft. But if he slides back into a primarily perimeter role and look for others as much as himself, is there not a little bit of reinvention on tap for one of the draft’s most well-known commodities?

BUKOWSKI: C.J. Fair knows he has plenty to prove before draft

Adreian Payne, Michigan State

Payne was pretty much as expected at the combine: Nearly 6-foot-10 in shoes, weighing 239 pounds — even after battling mononucleosis for months — and boasting the third-longest wingspan (7 feet 4 inches) among participants in Chicago. He didn’t take part in the physical testing, but those numbers alone reconfirmed the value that has Payne coming off the board as early as the late lottery: A stretch power forward who will be able to hold his own on the glass and guard his position defensively.

But as rote as all that was, consider this: Payne didn’t come on as any sort of top draft prospect until the end of his junior season with the Spartans, at earliest, when he finished that season with seven double-doubles in his last 11 games. As a senior, his scoring average jumped from 10.5 to 16.4 points per game. His three-point production nearly tripled from his junior season to his senior year (16 three-pointers made in 2012-13 to 44 in 2013-14). Maybe he’s a late bloomer and there’s no more flowering to do. Or it might be that he’s a veteran prospect who only is just approaching what he can become.

“It’s incredible — I don’t know how high [my ceiling] can get, but I haven’t screatched the surface, I know that,” Payne said Friday. “I started playing basketball at a late age, starting in eighth grade, so I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can in a short amount of time. I’ve learned a lot. It’s just me trying to continue to get better and keep my eyes open.”

Shabazz Napier, Connecticut

He was the unquestioned leader on a national championship team and paced his team in every important statistical category during the regular season except rebounding — and there he was one-tenth a board per game off the pace — but now Napier most likely slides into a primary role of distributor. Maybe that’s merely a distinction without a difference, but much like the McDermott case, it also can be viewed as a reinvention of sorts.

Napier will have fewer responsibilities and those that he has will play to his strengths, including that floor generalship he honed during his last couple seasons in Storrs. In fact, staying four years allowed him to make that NCAA tournament run this spring, and Napier believes that was his most effective audition for those who gauged him as a potential point guard in the pro ranks.

“It helped the teams see I was able to run a team,” Napier said. “I always knew that, but it’s kind of hard sometimes to get other people to understand that.”

Cleanthony Early, Wichita State

If there are areas in which Early can improve for NBA eyes, they will not surprise him. Because it is the question he said he asked during every pre-draft interview: What do you want to see from me? Fairly predictable answers followed for the excitable 6-foot-8 forward: A positive energy guy who can knock down open shots and guard multiple positions.

“I’m just a work in progress, you know?” Early said Friday. That he is, but maybe more than in just a cliched sense. He spent just two seasons at the Division I level after transferring in from a junior college. Those two seasons featured a Final Four trip in his junior year and a 35-0 start to his senior year, during which he averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. But it might not have been until Early dropped 31 points on Kentucky in an NCAA tournament defeat in March that he was ushered into first-round pick consideration.

As such, the NBA team that chooses him may get a 23-year-old who is far from at peak potential while also fairly motivated to prove that.

“I’ve been working on everything,” Early said. “Defense, checking out, closing out, staying low in positon, keeping my hands moving, knocking down shots more consistently, knocking down shots coming off ball screens, finding teammates, doing whatever. Creating a shot for myself off the dribble, step-backs, one-dribble pull-ups, two-dribble pull-ups, one-dribble step-back. Whatever it is I can improve on. I’m a student of the game, I’m a student of life, I’m paying attention and I want to be good.”

Patric Young, Florida

From behind the black curtains on one side of the interview room Friday, a series of guttural shouts grew louder and louder until they just about drowned out anyone talking on the other side. The noise emanated from the area in which players did bench-press testing. Patric Young wasn’t the one making the noise, but he did cause it, and he explained why when he emerged into the media area dripping with perspiration.

“Twenty-five,” the ripped-up former Florida forward said to a fellow participant with a wide smile. Twenty-five reps at 185 pounds on the bench press, two off the combine record. Not that anyone needed additional proof that Young is a physical specimen, but they had it, and it may be increasingly intriguing to see what Young does with it.

WOO: ULL’s Payton prepares to make jump from mid-major to NBA

He mostly projects as a second-round pick, and he joked about the simplicity in his game Friday. “Defense, rebounding, right hook, left hook, that’s about it,” said Young, who averaged 11 points and 6.2 rebounds in 2013-14. He added that he wants to bring a gritty “Kenneth Faried-type mindset” to the league, and Young said he has spoken to the Denver Nuggets power forward about finding a niche and sticking to it, about being effective and productive without perhaps the most abundant skill. But Young also insists there’s an expanded game in the works.

“If you were watching out there, my shot was looking pretty good today,” Young said. “I didn’t make as many as I would have liked, but I was shooting the same exact shot every time.” That probably won’t guarantee Young much on draft night, but should he add to his repertoire or simply find a way to be effective with what he has, he might be even more productive than his Florida career suggested he could be.

Russ Smith, Louisville

The former Louisville star checked in at 6-foot, 160 pounds at the combine, which seemingly would thrust him almost exclusively into point guard-only consideration. So here’s another two-ways-to-look-at-it dynamic: Either Smith is out of sorts running a team after spending the last couple years as a score-first weapon — 18.7 points per game as a junior, and 18.2 as a senior — or he blends the ability and confidence to produce points with a more refined aptitude for directing a team.

Smith’s assist rate did jump in his final college year, up nearly two full dimes a game to 4.6 per night. He said Friday his pre-draft process has revolved around everything one might imagine a point guard’s process to revolve around. Smith said he’s shot a lot from the NBA three-point line and also worked through pick-and-roll situations to polish that element of his game.

“I can still improve my assist-to-turnover ratio, I can always shoot a better percentage from the field,” Smith said. And to suggest he’s done improving is to earn a rebuke from a four-year player who feels, like others, that he’s only just begun in some ways.

“Potential is all mental,” Smith said. “What I mean by that is, a 17-year-old, if he’s willing to get better, he’ll get better. If you have a 25-year-old and he’s willing to get better, then he’ll always get better. It’s just a mental block sometimes that doesn’t allow people to get better. For me, as a 23-year-old, I’m still trying to learn and improve my craft. Saying that a senior doesn’t have potential is kind of disrespectful.

Hall of Fame New England Championships

April 29, 2014

The 6th annual Hall of Fame New England Championships came to a close this past weekend in the heart of Connecticut with the 11th grade playing at Wesleyan University and Plainville High School and most other age groups playing in Hartford.  Over 75 college coaches from all levels came to the 2-day event including Marquette, Seton Hall, Iona, Binghampton, Monmouth, New Hampshire, Columbia and more. 

Players that stood out:


Michael Coffey, BC Eagles – The lefty shooter/scorer had double digits each game and probably averaged about 16 a game over 3 games where the Eagles went 2-1 losing by 10 to a very talented F.O.E.

Paton Gibbs, BC Eagles- smooth stroke and the ability to score in different ways. Whether attacking the rim of spotting up he is a threat and he really stepped up on the defensive end of the floor as well.


Anthony Salmon, BC Eagles – Leading scorer in game against eventual champ, MBR.  Handles the ball well and ran the team solid this weekend. 

Jordan Bryan, BC Eagles – Had some monster dunks this weekend.  Super athlete that plays both ends of the court well. 


Malique Vaval, BC Eagles – Very good ball-handler that also showed the ability to score.  Does a good job at running the team this weekend – just needs more consistency. 



NBA Draft 2014: Best Value Picks for Late First Round

NBA Draft 2014: Best Value Picks for Late First Round

NBA Draft 2014: Best Value Picks for Late First Round
David J. Phillip

While college basketball fans often put a significant amount of stock into postseason performances from players, NBA front offices are more interested in the entire body of work and the ceiling of certain prospects.

Who will be the better NBA player?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Who will be the better NBA player?

  • Shabazz Napier

  • Cleanthony Early

  • K.J. McDaniels



That’s why players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, who both struggled in the Big Dance and saw their teams eliminated earlier than expected, are still going to be taken before Shabazz Napier or any of the other national champion Connecticut stars.

Still, there will be a tremendous amount of value available to teams near the end of the first round in the 2014 draft.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best value picks that playoff teams can make after the Parkers, Wiggins, Joel Embiids and Julius Randles of the world are off the board come draft day.


Cleanthony Early, Wichita State



Those who didn’t regularly tune in to watch Cleanthony Early and the Wichita State Shockers dominate the Missouri Valley Conference during the regular season got a taste of just how talented Early can be when his team lost to Kentucky in the round of 32.

Early finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, one steal, one block and eviscerated every defender and future NBA player that the Wildcats threw his way.

Early’s overall skill set is enticing to NBA teams because he is physical enough at 6’8” to play down low and quick enough to use as a small forward. Throw in the fact that he can shoot from behind the three-point line, mid-range and on the low block, and Early’s ceiling on the offensive end will attract plenty of attention.

On the defensive side, Early has quick hands to match with his length and athleticism.

Charlie Riedel


However, when looking forward to project Early’s role in the Association, questions arise on that side of the ball.

Whether he can handle himself against the larger NBA power forwards or more athletic small forwards remains to be seen. He may need to improve his overall strength to bang bodies with the best bigs in the world at the next level, but that could cost him some of his lateral quickness that will be necessary to play small forward. 

Which spot Early is used in will ultimately be a function of where he is drafted.


Shabazz Napier, Connecticut

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


Clearly, Napier helped his draft stock by leading his Connecticut Huskies to the national title. 

He dominated the tournament on both ends of the floor and combined with Ryan Boatright to stifle some of the best backcourts in the country, including those of Florida and Kentucky. One person Napier impressed along the way was LeBron James, who thinks he should be the first point guard taken on draft day:



However, Napier’s draft stock consists of much more than just his incredible postseason performances.

He shot better than 40 percent from behind the three-point line this year, averaged nearly six rebounds a game from the point guard spot and tallied nearly two steals a night. Throw in the five assists and 18 points, and you have yourself an absolute superstar who can stuff the stat sheet on any given night.

He will do just that for whichever team takes a chance on him in the late first round.


K.J. McDaniels, Clemson

K.J. McDaniels may not be the household name that Napier is, but he certainly left an impression on SMU coach Larry Brown, who compared the Clemson star to some notable NBA names, via Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier:

He reminds me of Paul George and Andre Iguodala, the kid (Kawhi) Leonard at San Antonio.

(He’s) a human stat sheet. Guys that find ways to help your team win. He’s going to be playing at the next level doing the same thing.

Brown spent many years on the sidelines as an NBA coach, so for him to offer that kind of praise should turn some heads.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images


McDaniels averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.1 steals a game this year for the Tigers. It was the 2.8 blocks a game, though, that really stood out, especially for someone who checks in at 6’6” tall.

He is an absolute force on the defensive side of the ball, which will appeal to teams like the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers who value that type of production and will likely be picking late in the first round. McDaniels is an impressive athlete who can jump out of the gym, which is how he is able to tally those blocks and rebounds nearly every night.

He isn’t the best outside shooter (30 percent from downtown this year), but he gets to the rim as well as almost anyone in college basketball. 

Look for a team to bolster both its offense and defense by selecting McDaniels.

Cleanthony Early's improved draft stock

Cleanthony Early's improved draft stock 

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25

Following Wichita's States loss to Kentucky on Sunday,'s Chad Ford tweeted: "Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker both really helped their NBA Draft stock here."

Ford ranked Early as the No. 22 best prospect on his Top 100 Big Board prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament and when it's updated the small forward will probably be higher.

ESPN's Jay Bilas is also impressed with how Early played in the two games.

Jay Bilas
Early among best performers of the first weekend
"Players usually don't get accolades after a loss, but Early was the best player in the first weekend of play. In two games, the versatile, stretch big averaged 27.0 points and 7.0 rebounds while hitting 21-of-32 field goal attempts, including 7-of-14 from three-point range. Early hit big shot after big shot, ran the floor and defended at a high level. For anyone that doubted whether Wichita State had any pros, the Shockers did. Early is an NBA player, and was magnificent in the tournament."

8 Prospects Who Raised Their NBA Draft Stock In The NCAA Tournament



Cleanthony Early

Cleanthony Early (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

March is over–isn’t that hard to believe? Not many people would have guessed that the University of Connecticut would be the team ripping down the nets when all was said and done. I mean, I had them losing in the second round to St. Joe’s–but they kept coming back and proving why we should never doubt a program as prestigious as UConn in the tournament.

Over the course of the tournament, there was a certain group of players that made statements about their draft position, making it clear why they deserve to be high picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. No Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, who bowed out early in the tournament with unimpressive performances. This is a group of players that took advantage of the bright lights and enormous stage of the NCAA tournament. These are the players that showed the grit and hustle and proved why the world deserves to know their names.

Players like Cleanthony Early, Shabazz Napier and Elfrid Payton were catapulted onto the national stage by tearing apart the tournament. Early and Payton are from mid-major conferences, which proves how much uncovered talent there is outside of the powerhouse schools. It doesn’t matter who you play, if you have the talent and determination to win, anything is possible. That was never more evident than Shabazz Napier leading his UConn squad to a national championship–something that only insane UConn fans could’ve imagined before the tournament began.

Here are eight players who raised their NBA Draft stock during the NCAA tournament.

*** *** ***

Cleanthony Early
Before the NCAA tournament, Cleanthony Early wasn’t known by many besides hardcore hoops fans and wasn’t on the radar of most mock drafts. The Wichita State Shockers only appeared in two games in the tournament after an undefeated regular season that garnered a lot of attention, but that was enough for Cleanthony Early to shoot up draft boards. After not helping his stock much in the regular season with a schedule full of mid-major opponents (16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds), the tournament set a fire in Early’s eyes.

Early went off for 23 points and seven boards on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 from deep in an opening-round victory against Cal Poly. The Shockers would move on to face Kentucky and everyone knows the outcome of that game. Even though the Shockers were shocked by Kentucky, Cleanthony Early give the world a performance that would have NBA fans around the world screaming his name.

Against a very physical and brute Kentucky team, Early went off for 31 points and seven rebounds. Early shot 12-of-17 from the floor, which is a remarkable 71 percent. This includes hitting 4-of-6 shots from deep for 67 percent and 3-of-3 from the foul line. Cleanthony Early gave fans and NBA GMs a performance to remember and a reason to hear his name called early in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Draft Range: 20-30

James Young
If you watched James Young play at Kentucky this season, he embodies the stigma of a freshman to the highest degree. He’s always rocking a crazy new hairstyle and he has this sort of flamboyance about him that only Swaggy P could admire. Saw what you want about him, but James Young can ball. Like the rest of his freshmen squad, Young had a lot to prove in the NCAA tournament. His regular season was mildly successful, scoring 14.3 points and grabbing 4.3 rebounds per game. However, only shooting 41 percent from the floor, 35 percent from deep and 70 percent from the line was a concern. A lot of recognition for Kentucky’s run to the title game was given to the Harrison twins. While Aaron Harrison made the necessary clutch threes, James Young’s scoring was a huge reason why Kentucky was in a position to win those games.

James Young averaged 12.1 points and 5.0 boards in the tournament, shooting 43 percent from the floor and 43 percent from deep. His improved shooting from deep was something fans had been waiting for. The 6-6 guard shot 3-of-5 from deep in the third round against Wichita State and 3-of-4 in the Elite 8 vs. Michigan.

Perhaps the most striking part about James Young’s performance in the tournament was his increased play as the stakes were raised. In the Final Four against Wisconsin (a one-point victory for UK), Young scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished two assists, while also picking up two steals. Young hit 5-of-11 from the floor, 1-of-2 from deep and 6-of-7 from the charity stripe. In the National Championship Game, Young scored 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting (making two shots from deep) and hit eight of nine free throws.

The aptness to perform bigger as the stage gets bigger and the lights get brighter is something that can’t be taught. When the microscope was beamed on Young and his Wildcats, they performed. With his size and shooting ability, Young already has a lot of things NBA GMs are looking for. Hitting 43 percent of his attempts from deep in the tournament is another reason his stock increased. James Young had a lot to prove in the NCAA tournament after his team barely made it into the tournament field, and he proved quite a few things to a lot of people. That’s a reason his name will be called early on draft night.
Draft Range: 13-20

NBA Draft stock: Tournament Edition


NBA Draft Stock, NCAA Tournament-Edition: Harrison Twins Up, Jerami Grant Down




aaron and andrew harrison

UP: Harrison Twins (Kentucky): Going against one of the top backcourts in the tournament Sunday, Aaron and Andrew Harrison played like the elite point guards they were in high school, combining for 39 points. The Harrison twins will both admit their regular seasons were disappointing, whether you want to use the eye test or any statistical metric. Sunday, they looked like future pros, going to work on Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker by attacking the basket or making 3-pointers (5-of-10). Can they do it again against Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier in the Sweet 16? A month ago, Andrew and Aaron Harrison looked like they had played their way out of the 1st round, and into a sophomore season in Lexington. That’s definitely no longer a given heading into the Sweet 16.


Wesley Saunders scoop shot against  Cincy

UP: Wesley Saunders, G, Harvard: He’s a pro. Whether he comes out this year or stays for his senior year, it doesn’t matter. He’s too talented not to get drafted. Great size, length, very skilled at getting to the foul line, and while he shot the ball better as a sophomore than a junior, one wonders how much better he’d look coming off the bench surrounded by NBA players. I thought he outplayed Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati and more than held his own against Michigan State (22 points).

UP: Dwight Powell, F, Stanford: He’s 6-foot-10, 240, and a terrific athlete for his size. Had an inconsistent first two games – 0-for-8, 3 points in 29 minutes against New Mexico; 15 points and seven rebounds against Kansas – but NBA teams will give him a look because fluid 6-foot-10 guys are hard to find. A role-playing power forward who will play defense and rebound? Sure, I can see him getting a look in the late 2nd round.

DOWN: Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse: Emerged this season as a real nice pro prospect, but then hurt his back. The question I can’t get past is what position does he play? Undersized 4. Not quick enough to be a 3. He was terrible in 34 foul-plagued minutes against Dayton.Does he return for his junior year? He should. But if he’s told the lottery is an option, is he turning down millions? Grantcould return – like CJ Fair did – and improve his all-around game and NBA stock. But Fair graduates, and if Tyler Ennis goes to the pros, Grant definitely becomes a marked man on a less formidable team.


Aaron Gordon reverse alley-oop slam against Gonzaga

UP: Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona: The mouth-watering stats – 15-of-21 shooting, 34 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, five blocks, four steals – in two games are only a part of why he’s so good, and could begin to creep into the Top 5 of the June draft. He has the ability to play a point-forward position, sort of like Scottie Pippen used to. Gordon’s shooting isn’t quite there yet – he’s a dunking machine – but he’s also a tremendous defender. I assume Nick Johnson will defend SDSU’s Xavier Thames Thursday, but if Thames goes nuts (30 points vs. North Dakota State), it wouldn’t shock me if Gordon went out to shut him down.

UP: Langston Hall, G, Mercer: The senior was pivotal in the upset of Duke in the first round. Was recruited by Georgia, for those who wonder about the level of competition he faced in the Atlantic Sun. He’s probably got the size and enough game to get invited to the pre-NBA draft camp. OK offensive game (39/39/85 as a senior) but I’m not sure he gets drafted. Is he more likely to end up in the NBDL initially, or go overseas?


UP: Scottie Wilbekin, G, Florida: Seems to get better every time I see him. Is he “6-foot-2″ or 5-foot-11? Probably closer to the latter. He’s only 20 and has a frail build, but man, what a player. Maybe he ends up just being a “great college point guard” like Khalid El-Amin or Mateen Cleaves. Clutch offensively, a terror defensively, and he falls into that category of being a “gamer.” Very curious to see how he does in the NBA summer league.

DOWN: Zach LaVine, G, UCLA: Teeming with athletic ability, 6-foot-5 freshman struggled coming off the bench over the weekend: 1-of-8, six fouls, three points. He didn’t get the minutes with Jordan Adams (sophomore) and Norman Powell (junior) playing so well. LaVine glides, but here’s the problem – what if Kyle Anderson, Adams and Powell all return next year? It’s tough to imagine LaVine getting 30+ minutes a game regularly. Maybe Anderson leaps to the pros, freeing up some PT … but I don’t think it’d be a smart move for LaVine to leave early.

UP: Shabazz Napier, G, UConn: One of the best guards in the nation, Napier struggled initially against St. Joseph’s, but finished strong. And he was brilliant against Villanova, hurling daggers in the second half to help the Huskies pull the upset. The only issue to me with Napier is whether he goes in the 1st round or 2nd. I think he can sneak into the 1st round. I can see him having a solid 10-year NBA career.

UP: Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State: No need to recap his tremendous performance against Kentucky – 31 points – but he’s a 1st round pick. [Jerami Grant should watch tape of Early and do whatever he did in the offseason.] The only question is where. Like a moron, I omitted Early from my pre-March Madness Mock Draft. How embarrassing. I can see him going in the late-lottery, depending who comes out. What a fantastic all-around player.


Cleanthony Early with a huge slam against Kentucky-b

UP: Nik Stauskas (Michigan) and Jordan McRae (Tennessee): Yes, this is partially here because you keep clicking on thegirlfriend of Stauskas, but also because he’s such a damn good player. What a shooter. Can he be a better offensive player than JJ Redick in the NBA? I think he can. There are obvious concerns at the defensive end. Very curious to see him against McRae Thursday. McRae will certainly be drafted – terrific athlete, potential to be a volume scorer, and great size/length for the pros – and might someday be a nice 7th or 8th guy off the bench providing an offensive spark.

DOWN: Russ Smith, G, Louisville: Let’s start with the good – Ken Pom loves him. He’s the current leader to be the Ken Pom player of the year (a stats-only award), and he won it last year. And he’s fast. And he had an unselfish regular season, his best as a college player. Now, the bad: Boy was he pressing (in a bad way) against Manhattan and Saint Louis. He’s 6-for-19 shooting, has 13 turnovers, 10 assists, and is only 1-of-6 shooting three-pointers. When Smith struggles, Louisville struggles. Smith faces the Harrison twins Friday, and though he was inefficient in their last meeting (7-of-20 shooting, 0-for-5 on three-pointers) he did do this to Julius Randle.




Hello Everyone,

TRYOUT INFORMATION: Updated - Monday, March 17th 2014, 2:30pm

13u Coach Frank Memoli  - Please check u13-Memoli tab for team roster and practice schedule. 

14u Coach Ken Stam - Stay tuned for updates and Coach Stam will be in contact w/the players. 

14u Coach Dan Luedke - check team tab u14-Luedke for team roster and practice schedule. 

14u Coach Bill Garneau - Coach will contact you

15u Coach Matt Lawrence - Check team tab u15-Lawrence for team roster and practice schedule. 

15u Coach Bill Aussenheimer or another coach will call/text or email all players

16u/17u Coach Jack LaRegina - Check team tab u16-LaRegina for team roster and practice schedule. 

15u/16u/17u Elite tryouts are over and coach will call all team members. 



Announcing Lady Eagles Middle School Tryout for all girls in 5th through 8th grades on Thursday, MARCH 20TH FROM 5:30-7PM @ Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 205 Wawayanda Avenue, Middletown. Doors open at 5:15pm.


The way the registration process works is you can download and print the forms from this website. Go to Online Forms. Once they are completed you can mail them with a check for $25.00 (Non-refundable) to the following address. This is the mandatory registration fee!

B.C. Eagles A.A.U. - 9 Boyd Road, Monroe, NY 10950

If you do not pre-register, that means register before the day of the tryout, then you will have to pay $35.00 at the tryout. No Exceptions!

We will call all the participants as we get closer to a tryout date. As of right now we do not know when the tryouts will be. 

Please email us with any questions at

Tourneys top risers and fallers

  • Chad Ford
  • ESPN Insider | March 25, 2014


Julius Randle, Andrew HarrisonAP Photo/Charlie RiedelAndrew Harrison and Julius Randle have both improved their stock so far in the NCAA tournament.


March Madness is back, baby, and the most exciting event in sports is delivering.

NBA scouts and GMs tend to minimize the influence a great tournament can have on a player's stock. Yes, NBA talent evaluators never judge a player based off one or two games. But the tournament is some players' final chance to show off, and last impressions can be, well, lasting.

NBA scouts and GMs were all over the country last week watching the NCAA tournament. Some prospects shined. Others struggled mightily.

Here's the latest feedback from NBA GMs on a number of top prospects.

Also, be sure to check out our updated Top 100 and our updated Lottery Mock Draft.



Andrew WigginsKansas Jayhawks



Wiggins is the No. 1 ranked player on our Big Board, but he played nothing like it in a devastating loss to Stanford on Sunday. Wiggins scored just four points and took just six shots from the field -- amplifying criticism that he is too passive and lacks the aggressiveness to be a star in the NBA. Wiggins' disappearance was troubling. Stanford played great defense, but he should have tried to force the issue more.

Will it affect his draft stock? Before that game, Wiggins was averaging nearly 28 points per game in his past four and his defense against Stanford helped keep the Jayhawks in the contest. Virtually every scout and GM I spoke with had him, even after the game, ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect on their board. The passive play may dampen the enthusiasm a bit, but unless Joel Embiid comes in with an absolutely clean bill of health, Wiggins is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick.



Jabari ParkerDuke Blue Devils



Parker's disappointing finish to the season was even more shocking than Wiggins'. While Parker's game wasn't nearly as passive -- he went 4-for-14 from the field -- most NBA scouts see him as more NBA ready and were shocked at how much he struggled to score and defend against Mercer in Duke's opening-round loss. The defensive issues, especially, are troubling. Parker has been getting dinged by NBA scouts all season for this. But when Coach K had to sub him out on defense toward the end of the game, I think it exposed just what a liability he had become.

Again, these criticisms don't really damage Parker's draft stock too much. Every scout and GM I spoke with had him ranked in their top four. However only a couple had him No. 1. The game is played at both ends of the floor, and more GMs seem to be sensitive to the fact Parker will have some real struggles defensively at the next level.



The Kentucky kids Just when it seemed like the freshman revolution of college basketball was going to fall completely flat, the much-maligned Kentucky kids went out and beat the only undefeated team in the country -- Wichita State. And all of them played well. Julius Randle was a standout with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. That followed a 19-point, 15-rebound performance against Kansas State. Randle's stock had been sliding in recent weeks, but his strong play in the tournament so far has helped remind scouts of why they loved him early.



James Young overcame a shaky opening round against Kansas State to play a big role in the win over the Shockers. He had 13 points, 8 rebounds and was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. When Young is hitting his 3-pointers, UK becomes very dangerous and he looks the part of a lottery pick.

The Harrison twins both played big roles, too.Aaron Harrison is averaging 18.5 points per game in the tournament and shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line. His brother, Andrew Harrison, outplayed one of the top point guards in the country, Fred VanVleet, scoring 20 points with three assists for Kentucky. He also has 12 turnovers in the tournament, which means not everything is well, but when the Harrison twins play with the confidence they showed against the Shockers, they start to look more viable as first-round picks. I have both of them still in the early second round, but if Kentucky can win a few more games and they play well, they'll move back into the first. NBA scouts want to like them.

Willie Cauley-Stein is the other UK player who deserves mention here. He's scored only six points in the tournament so far, but he has five blocks and 10 rebounds. While he looks miles away offensively, he's so fluid and athletic and such a terrific rim protector that some teams will take a serious look at him late in the lottery to mid-first round.



Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-JeffersonArizona Wildcats



The two freshmen for Arizona also had some big moments this weekend. Gordon absolutely terrorized Weber State and Gonzaga, filling up the box score in each game. He had five blocks against Weber State and four steals versus Gonzaga and just as importantly, he's gone 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. No one believes he's a shooter, but a dominant performance in the tournament has scouts buzzing about all the intangibles he brings to the table.

Hollis-Jefferson has also been a favorite of scouts despite not putting up big numbers this season. However, he had two breakout games this weekend, scoring 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field in 22 minutes versus Weber State and following it up with a career-high 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks versus Gonzaga. Here, for the first time this season, Hollis-Jefferson was doing more than just relying on potential. He was playing at a lottery-pick level.

While most scouts believe he will return to school for his sophomore year, if he does declare for the draft, expect him to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round. He's a jump shot away from being a true difference-maker on both ends of the floor.



Tyler EnnisSyracuse Orange



Ennis has been lauded all season for his steadiness as a rookie point guard, but that sheen has begun to wear a little bit thin over the course of the past month as Syracuse has struggled. Ennis was the best thing Syracuse had going for it in an opening-round loss to Dayton, but his 7-for-21 shooting from the field and 0-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc wasn't what NBA teams were hoping for. Ennis' struggles to finish at the rim, combined with just so-so shooting numbers from the perimeter, worry scouts a bit. However, he's still projected as a late lottery pick on most draft boards.



Marcus SmartOklahoma State Cowboys



Smart began the season ranked as the No. 2 point guard prospect in the country (behind Australia'sDante Exum) and despite a very up-and-down season, he remains there after his sophomore season came to an end at the hands of Gonzaga. Smart has been playing much better since his suspension, and against Gonzaga he had one of his better games of the season, scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 boards, dishing out seven assists and collecting six steals. That's a pretty complete box score and Smart competed as fiercely as ever.

With that said, his six turnovers and 1-for-5 shooting from 3-point range continue to highlight the two areas that are major concerns -- his jump shot and his penchant for trying to do too much. Some NBA teams love him. Others aren't so sure. But he still looks like a safe bet to go somewhere between No. 6 and No. 10 on draft night.



Doug McDermottCreighton Bluejays



McDermott might be the best pure scorer in college basketball, and showed it with a 30-point, 12-rebound performance against Louisiana-Lafayette. However, against a long, athletic Baylor team, his stock fell back down to earth.

McDermott recorded his third-lowest output of the season (15 points) in a blowout loss to the Bears. McDermott struggled to get good looks all game and may have given us a glance at what he'd face from more athletic teams in the NBA. Nevertheless, he, too, looks like a lock to fall somewhere in the No. 10-to-No. 20 range.



Rodney HoodDuke Blue Devils



Hood has been a remarkably consistent performer all season, but he struggled mightily against Mercer, scoring a season-low six points on 2-for-10 shooting from the field. His season-high five assists made up for some of his offensive woes, but it wasn't a pretty outing for Hood. Teams aren't really looking for more than 3-point shooting from Hood, so he should be fine. But it was a tough way to end his career. Look for him to go in the No. 10-to-No. 20 range, as well.



Adreian PayneGary Harris andBranden DawsonMichigan State Spartans



Payne had one of the two or three best performances of the tourney on Thursday, scoring a career-high 41 points on 10-for-15 shooting (including 4-for-5 from 3-point range) versus Delaware. For NBA teams that were still struggling to get on his bandwagon, this was a seminal moment and drew praise from just about everyone. If he was two years younger, he'd be a top-8 pick in this draft. But at 23, teams sort of expect that you'll be dominating younger talent. His draft range looks to be No. 13 to No. 20 right now.

Harris was solid in the win over Delaware on Thursday and even better against Harvard on Saturday, scoring 18 points and dishing out five assists for the Spartans.

Dawson also had his best game of the season on Saturday, pouring in 26 points on 12-for-15 shooting with nine rebounds for the Spartans. He has an NBA body, flaunts athleticism and he can be a tenacious defender when he wants to be. Scouts have seen him as a borderline first-round pick for several years and a continued strong performance in the tourney could make him a lock.



T.J. WarrenNorth Carolina State Wolfpack



Warren continued to prove that he's one of the best scorers in college basketball with a combined 43 points in the opening two rounds against Xavier and Saint Louis. Unfortunately, everyone in the NBA already knows he can score. The issue for Warren is his lack of a credible 3-point jump shot (he's missed his last 13 from long range) and a less-than-stellar athletic profile. His stock has been rising the past few months, but there's a ceiling there somewhere in the mid-to-late first round.



Cleanthony Early and Ron BakerWichita State Shockers



No one did more to help their draft stock this weekend than Early. Often pegged as a tweener by NBA scouts, he had two terrific performances against Cal Poly (23 points and seven rebounds) and Kentucky (31 points and seven rebounds) this weekend. Early's 3-point shot has been failing with much more regularity lately (he was 7-for-14 from the perimeter in the tourney), making him a much more viable candidate as an NBA small forward.

He's already 22 years old, but I had a number of both scouts and GMs claim he had moved from the second round into the mid-first round with that performance against the athletes of Kentucky. His lack of great competition clearly had hindered his stock this season, but one game against UK seems to have resurrected it.

Baker also showed off his shooting chops against UK, going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. His defense was borderline terrible, but many NBA scouts think he can be an effective point guard at the next level thanks to his ballhandling skills and shooting touch. Baker is a definite sleeper for the late first round if he declares.



Zach LaVineUCLA Bruins



LaVine continues to disappoint. There's no question he has the physical tools to be a pro, but his production has been way off lately. He scored a combined three points against both Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin and hasn't made a 3-pointer (his specialty) in the past four games. NBA teams are crossing their fingers that he stays in school at least one more year. He has a future as a pro, but he's so far away right now.



Elfrid PaytonLouisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns



Payton was patiently waiting for his moment on the big stage and put up a very solid game against Creighton. He had 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks for the Ragin' Cajuns. He lacks a solid outside jump shot and he can sometimes struggle around the rim, but his length, athleticism, speed and ability to get to the basket make him a unique point guard prospect. He's a likely first-round pick if he declares.



Cory JeffersonBaylor Bears



Jefferson has been a beast for Baylor this season. He was great attacking the rim against both Nebraska and Creighton and ended up with a combined 30 points in two big wins for the Bears. When he plays well, the Bears are a tough team to beat. His age works against him likely cracking the first round, but he's becoming more and more of a second-round lock.



DeAndre KaneIowa State Cyclones



Everyone keeps asking me why Kane isn't ranked higher on our Board (currently at No. 53 on the top 100). He's a big, physical, aggressive point guard who keeps coming up big in huge games. He had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists against UNC (along with 7 turnovers) and a solid 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against North Carolina Central.

The issue for Kane is age. He'll turn 25 in June. He's roughly six months younger than Derrick Rose, who has already been in the league for six seasons. That's why. Can you imagine what a healthy Rose would do in the NCAA tourney now? Scouts discount what you do if you're that old playing against 18- and 19-year-olds. Of course you are supposed to dominate. That doesn't mean Kane won't get looks by NBA teams. He can really play, but they take his big games with a grain of salt.



Aaron CraftOhio State Buckeyes



Craft isn't your traditional NBA point guard by almost any standard. But his toughness and defense have led many NBA scouts to contend that he'll find a way to make and stick on a team. He's a likely second-round pick to undrafted, but so many scouts admire the way he plays that someone will give him a chance.



Jarnell StokesTennessee Volunteers



Stokes may be an undersized center, but he's been a beast on the boards in the tournament, averaging 15 rebounds per game in his first three games. You can't ignore that. The fact he's still just 20 years old also really helps his stock. He probably doesn't crack the first round, but if he declares, he's going to get a lot of looks in the second.

NBA Draft 2014: Predicting Biggest Potential Steals of This Year's Class


NBA Draft 2014: Predicting Biggest Potential Steals of This Year's Class
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

As the end of the NCAA tournament approaches and the NBA draft comes into focus, much of the hype is surrounding sensational freshmen such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid.

While all of them promise to be early selections if they decide to declare and all of them have the potential to be great at the next level, this could be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Because of that, there is definitely value to be had late in the first round and even into the second.

Here is a look at three potential draftees who will exceed expectations and outperform that draft status once they become NBA players.


Adreian Payne (Michigan State)


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As the Michigan State Spartans continue to pursue a national championship, senior forward Adreian Payne continues to impress. The 6'10" forward has been a key player for the Spartans since his sophomore season, but he has taken huge steps forward as a player this year. Payne set a career high with nearly 17 points per game while adding seven rebounds and one block per contest as well.

Payne is a big-time factor in the paint, but his true value relates to his ability to step out and hit jumpers. Payne is pure from inside the arc, and he has improved his three-point stroke significantly as well. Payne has made nearly 44 percent of his attempts from downtown, which should make him an intriguing and dangerous NBA player.

On top of that, Payne manages to raise his level of play in big situations. That was on full display in the NCAA tournament's round of 64 as he dropped 41 points on Delaware. According to ESPN's Chad Ford, that put him in position to potentially get into the lottery pick conversation. 

With that said, Payne's name hasn't come up much in that regard due to the amount of talent among the underclassmen. Payne is already 23 years old, and while that means he is mature, some teams may look at his age as a negative.

Payne is a polished and NBA-ready prospect, though, and teams will certainly regret passing on him.


Cleanthony Early (Wichita State)

Payne still has an opportunity to improve his draft stock should he play well throughout a lengthy Michigan State tournament run, but Wichita State's Cleanthony Early no longer has that luxury. The Shockers were ousted in the round of 32 by Kentucky, but Early didn't go down without a fight. 

He was spectacular in scoring 31 points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc, but it still wasn't enough to push the Shockers into the Sweet 16. Early's career ended on a bittersweet note with his team suffering a disappointing defeat, but he may have improved his draft stock in the process. As pointed out by SNY's Adam Zagoria, Early is currently viewed as a borderline first-round selection: 

All Early did in his two years at Wichita State was make big plays. He helped the Shockers surprisingly reach the Final Four in 2013, and his individual level of play got even better in 2014. Early averaged over 16 points and nearly six rebounds per game along with almost two trifectas per contest as well.

Early has great size at 6'8", and although he could benefit from filling out his frame a little bit more, the fact that he can shoot the ball so well should make him an immediate threat in the NBA. He may not possess the athletic ability that many of the prospective top picks do, but he is the type of player who simply finds ways to produce. There is no reason to believe that will change in the NBA.


Javon McCrea (Buffalo)

While Payne and Early figure to be steals in the latter part of the first round, University at Buffalo forward Javon McCrea is a guy who seemingly isn't even on most radars as a second-rounder. McCrea never led the Bulls to a MAC title or earned an NCAA tournament berth in his four collegiate seasons, but he was a dominant force to say the least.

McCrea won the MAC Player of the Year Award for the 2013-14 season as he put up 18.5 points, a shade under 10 rebounds and better than two assists and blocks per contest. Few players in the nation were more versatile and efficient in all aspects than McCrea. In fact, ranked him as seventh in Player Efficiency Rating ahead of highly-touted players such as Parker, Embiid and a host of others.

 Which player will be the biggest steal of the 2014 NBA draft?

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Which player will be the biggest steal of the 2014 NBA draft?

  • Adreian Payne

  • Cleanthony Early

  • Javon McCrea


Opposing coaches marveled at McCrea's ability, including Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins, who raved about the powerful forward ahead of the Broncos' NCAA tournament meeting with Syracuse, according to Jeff DiVeronica of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

"He's just a beast, an absolute beast, one of my favorite players, a big, strong physical kid and he just loves to play basketball. You could tell," Hawkins said. "I'm glad we don't have to play him again."

The biggest knocks on McCrea are his size and his shot. McCrea is a load at 250 pounds, but some scouts may believe that he is too small to play power forward in the NBA at 6'7". Also, moving him to small forward could prove problematic since his shooting stroke is still a work in progress.

With that said, McCrea compares favorably to Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, who was knocked for his size when he entered the NBA. Millsap has thrived, though, and McCrea can as well provided he continues to improve as a shooter.

Early is right on time


Early is Right on Time


As the Fabulous Freshmen of the Class of 2017 continue to dominate NBA Draft talk, there might just be a Dark Horse steadily quickening his pace as we turn for the finish line of June 26th. 
On Sunday, A Wichita State team with something to prove lost to a sizzling Kentucky team that, thanks to a little dose of Calipari Magic, or perhaps of MJ’s Secret Stuff, seems to be coming together at just the right time. But the Shockers can take solace in one thing: the performance of Cleanthony Early came under some of the brightest lights in college basketball.


As ball after ball left a scorching hand, I’m not sure any of which touched rim, Early was simply money. With a swagger that resembled the Mamba himself, immense passion and effortless poise, this kid was more than just The Answer to Wichita State’s problems; he was The Solution.
And his solution was buckets:
He shot twelve for seventeen (strong shooter? Check) in a deadly close game (Clutch? Lil’ bit) while shooting 3 for 3 from the line and grabbing seven boards (fundamentals? Solid) against some of the most highly ranked recruits in the country: a win for Mid-Majors everywhere. That’s not to mention a couple additions to the highlight reel, at the hapless expense of Mr. Willie Cauley-Stein.
All this came in a season where he shot 48.6% from the field, 37.5% from behind the arc, and 84.4% from the line, averaging 16.4 points per game alongside 5.9 rebounds in what was a measly 27.4 minutes per game compared to other college stars. The game against Kentucky was only Early’s 14th game in which he played over 30 minutes this year, compared to Jabari Parker’s twenty-one.
If the 6’ 8’ Senior put up thirty-one against an iron-strong Kentucky team, playing big minutes in a competitive game, imagine the numbers he could have averaged if he hadn’t been subject to the various blowouts that were a part of Wichita State’s immaculate regular season?
If that were so, Parker wouldn’t be the first name to come to mind when someone heard the words “number one pick.”
The only thing Wichita did wrong was take the ball out of Early’s hands down the stretch, dousing what had been a blazing shooting performance and ultimately extinguishing the Shocker’s fiery streak, bringing their season to a taunting 35-1.
Jubilation became pain; hope, despair. This didn’t feel like a conclusion, it felt like a termination, and along with it Mid-Major fell back into the darkness.
But from it might emerge one of the best players of this year’s draft class: Cleanthony Early. 

The 5 Best Wichita State Shockers Since 2000



Fred VanVleet

Fred VanVleet (Scott Kane/USA TODAY Sports)

I’m shocked, to say the least. I never thought the Shockers would reach the apex of college basketball and go undefeated. They thrashed each opponent on their way to 34 wins. Then again, can you really be shocked? Coach Gregg Marshall drew out the blueprint. His team epitomizes the new hip-hop adage “started from the bottom” as their spry play has ESPN commentators gushing over their dream season.

Since his tenure began, Marshall took his team to two NIT tournaments–winning one in 2011–and back-to-back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2012, 2013 and now 2014, with a Final Four appearance last year. Now Marshall and his team are craving bigger dreams. They’re craving an NCAA title. With the reputations of mid-major teams constantly sullied because of their lack of competition, Wichita State has emerged as the lone warrior among all.

Here are their five best players since 2000.

*** *** ***

5. Sean Ogirri
While the senior Paul Miller was receiving the accolades for his play down low in the paint, Ogirri was a dominant second option during their ’05-06 season. He was a sniper from deep and shot near 45 percent from deep while averaging 12 points a game that year. He ingratiated the nation with his performance against Seton Hall in the first round of the tournament when he dropped 23 light ones, sprinkling four threes in the faces of Pirates defenders. He also dropped another pair of threes to help oust No. 2 seed Tennessee to clinch a Sweet Sixteen berth for his team.

Despite leaving the team for his final season to play for Wyoming, his heroics in the ’05-06 tourney won’t be forgotten by Shocker nation.

4. Paul Miller
Before Gregg Marshall took over, Mark Turgeon was at the helm. While Marshall took the Shockers to new heights, Turgeon had a Cinderella run of his own back in ’05-06. Forward/center Paul Miller had a very turbulent start to his collegiate career where he broke his ankle three games in. After watching his freshman year collapse right in front of his very eyes, Miller insisted on bulking up to return stronger his following year. He would be named on to the MVC All-Freshman team by averaging seven points and four rebounds.

But it would be his senior year where he burst onto the national forefront. Serving as the engine to the Shockers in their rapid fire run to the Sweet Sixteen, he averaged 13 points and seven rebounds, shooting over 51 percent from the field. His play earned him MVC Player of the Year and an All American honorable mention.

3. Toure’ Murry
New Yorkers didn’t know who Toure’ was when he inked his contract with the Knicks. He was another product of Marshall’s who performed, especially on the defensive end. Prior to his arrival, the Shockers’ future seemed murky. Yet when he walked onto the court, everything changed. A defensive guru, who relished in playing the passing lanes and providing pesky defense, Murry earned his stripes in the Missouri Valley Conference. He was on the All-Missouri Valley Freshman Team and All-Missouri Valley Newcomer Team in 2009. In addition to that, he was a two-time All-Defensive Missouri Valley Conference selection.

By helping his team win the NIT championship in 2011 and being a spark plug during their run in the tourney in 2012, he proved how his hustle and heart could outshine talent on a national stage.

2. Cleanthony Early
Dick Vitale salivates over guys like this. Early is what Dickie V likes to call a PTP’er. After manhandling the toddlers on the JUCO level, Early decided to take his talents over to Marshall’s Wichita State Shockers. He would bring that same voracity over to the Shockers his first year by walloping his opponents with 14 points and five rebounds a game. His play garnered a variety of accolades in the form of being a First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection and MVC Newcomer of the Year. He helped steamroll the Shockers to the Final Four last year, where they would eventually lose to the Louisville Cardinals in a game in which he dropped 24 and 10.

This year, he thrived under the bright lights and lifted his averages of 14 and five to 16 and six while also earning another MVC First Team placement in route to his Shockers undefeated season.

1. Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is a baller. The man has heart. He gives little guys like me hope to ball so hard. The 5-11 sophomore has played a huge role in the Shockers resurgence. He plays with efficiency and care at the point guard position. Here’s exhibit A–his game against Loyola last month–where he posted 22 points, eight rebounds and six dimes. If those stats aren’t enough to cajole you as to why he’s considered one of the top players in the country, listen to this: he went 6-6 from the field and 10-10 from the line. That would be considered an A+ game in My Player for NBA 2K.

The All-Conference First Teamer and the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year has already etched himself among Shocker greats. Another run to the Final Four can have him in the best ever conversation for his program.

What do you think?

Early turns in another NCAA masterpiece

Bob Lutz: Early turns in another NCAA masterpiece
By Bob Lutz
Published Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 7:22 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at 6:49 a.m.

Wichita State’s undefeated season ends in 78-76 loss to Kentucky Wichita State fans experience unfamiliar feeling of defeat Wichita State assistant Chris Jans takes Bowling Green job VanVleet foul trouble puts Kentucky on attack Wichita State players talk of learning from only loss Randle powers Kentucky to second-half comeback Shocker report (March 23) Bob Lutz: Wichita State gets national eye for Kentucky matchup Bigger, athletic Kentucky presents challenge for No. 2 Wichita State NCAA Gameday Live: Follow KU, Wichita State tournament games Read a transcript of The Eagle's Bob Lutz morning chat with's John Clay Order Wichita State commemorative poster pages
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ST. LOUIS – Cleanthony Early is a young man who, more than most his age, understands life’s ups and downs.
Almost four years ago, his older brother, Jamel Glover, drowned.
Sunday, Wichita State lost a basketball game.
There is no comparison.
Which is probably why Early, a senior who has played his last game as a Shocker, was so matter-of-fact after the game. While teammates Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet looked emotionally flushed, Early checked his phone for text messages while taking questions from reporters in a news conference.
It’s not that Early, who was the best player on the floor against Kentucky during the Shockers’ first and only loss of the 2013-14 season, wasn’t upset. He was.
But he has perspective.
“I wanted it to end a little different, but I have to understand certain facts,” said. “I’m sure I’ll continue working hard to be successful. I am sure my teammates will. And it is what it is.”
Early was superb, outstanding, scintillating. There isn’t an adjective too strong to describe the way he played. He scored 31 points, 16 of them in the game’s final 9:53 as the Shockers were fighting tooth and nail with a young but supremely talented Kentucky team that was a different animal in the second half.
He was even better than he was in last season’s national semifinal loss to Louisville, when he exploded like a meteor with 24 points.
Early’s best two games as a college player came in NCAA Tournament losses. That’s not such a bad thing to put on a resume.
“I think that’s a pretty good indication of the quality of player that he is,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “He’s just athletically gifted and he’s been shooting the ball great. I didn’t even sub him in the second half. Maybe that’s my fault, but he was going so well.”
No, no, Early belonged nowhere near a bench in Sunday’s second half.
He made two big shots to put the Shockers up by three with 8:57 left. He made another basket to re-establish that three-point lead with 7:25 to go. He made a three-pointer to give Wichita State a 66-62 lead with 5:47 left and another three-pointer to make it a five-point lead with 4:32 to play. His basket at the 2:14 mark made it a 71-70 lead. And his two free throws with nine seconds left brought the Shockers within a point.
Kentucky got a lot of Early early and a lot of Early late. And in the middle, too.
“He rises to the occasion, doesn’t he?” Marshall said. “On the big stage he plays his best. I am just sorry that his career is now over here, but I will guarantee you his career is just starting at the next level. He is going to be a dynamite player because he is a great person, he works extremely hard and he wants to be a great player.”
I’ll be surprised if Early doesn’t start showing up on some of the NBA mock drafts that are out there. He’s 6-foot-8 with tremendous shooting range. He can rebound and fly to the basket. Most of all, he’s a much-improved defensive player.
And there’s his perspective. His maturity. He wasn’t devastated by Sunday’s loss because he recognizes there are more important things.
“It sucks,” he said. “But there’s always a chance of winning or losing, so I wouldn’t say I’m shocked. I wouldn’t have been shocked if we had won. It’s just that bittersweet zone, you know?”
Early, a junior-college transfer who played two seasons at Wichita State, played in a Final Four and was the best player on a team that made a 35-0 run before losing in the NCAA Tournament.
That’s what you call leaving a mark.
“I was fighting for a win today,” he said. “That’s what I was thinking about. I wanted to continue in this tournament, to survive and advance. But I’ll continue to be optimistic because that’s the type of person I am.”
Early had fun Sunday. The loss wasn’t fun, but the game was.
He got to run up and down the floor at the Scottrade Center with the thoroughbred athletes from Kentucky, guys who are sure-fire future NBA lottery picks. He was in his element.
“I’ve got that confidence that I’m the best guy on the court,” Early said. “And I’m pretty sure they’ve got that confidence, too. What’s left to do then is just to play basketball and show them proof. They won that game, but we went out fighting.”
One of the messages Early checked on the interview podium after Sunday’s game was from Kansas sophomore and Wichita native Perry Ellis, whose Jayhawks also lost Sunday, to Stanford.
“He said he’d be down to Wichita soon,” Early said. “And that we’ve got to go to work.”
Early moves on now, driven to be his best. But life’s events have made him mature enough to know that, at the end of the day, it’s just basketball. And win or lose, it’s fun.

Read more here:

NCAA men's tournament: Wichita State's historic season ends too early

Pine Bush grad Cleanthony Early scored 31 points for Wichita State in a loss vs. Kentucky on Sunday.


ST. LOUIS — Wichita State's season came to a conclusion long before even Kentucky coach John Calipari thought it deserved, at the hands of his Wildcats in a thrilling NCAA tournament game.

Yet in the immediate aftermath of the loss on Sunday, two things became clear: The Shockers had put together a season to remember and they're poised to do it again.

After making the Final Four a year ago, they became the first team to start 35-0. They won their first Missouri Valley tournament title since 1987. They went toe-to-toe with the mighty Wildcats, a team stocked with NBA talent, until the final buzzer finally sounded.



Wichita State Basketball: Cleanthony Early’s Draft Stock Soars Despite Loss

Cleanthony Early NBA

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The big names coming into the NCAA tournament were very well known. Names like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Doug McDermott were the headliners. All of these names are expected to be great players at the next level, but after today there is one name people will start talking about a lot: Cleanthony Early.

The Wichita State senior played marvelous in defeat. The Shockers saw their season end, but Anthony might have just secured his spot in the NBA. In defeat he had 31 points on 12-for-17 shooting. He also shot 4-for-6 from three and had the dunk of the tournament so far.

In an age where every high draft pick is 19 or 20, it is refreshing to see a player who has stuck it out in college get some recognition. And believe me that recognition is coming for Early. If you were watching this game you could just see something about him. He had a look in his eye and a desire to have the ball in his hands.

Early is not the prospect that Joel Embiid is; he doesn’t have the raw athleticism that Wiggins possesses, and he doesn’t have the brute strength that Randle and Parker have. But he is pretty darn close to having all those things with those players.

Early will be drafted come late June — make no mistake about it. Where is he going to get drafted? Well, after this performance expect his name to climb a lot on draft big boards. Anthony is a star and his draft stock is finally going to reflect that.

Wichita State's Cleanthony Early threw down one of the tournament's best dunks over Kentucky's Willi


Sam Cooper
The Dagger
NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-3rd Round-Wichita State vs Kentucky

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Mar 23, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Wichita State Shockers forward Cleanthony Early (11) reacts against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at Scottrade Center. (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)



Though Kentucky would end up pulling out a close 78-76 win to end Wichita State's undefeated dream season, Shockers forward Cleanthony Early wowed fans with what was arguably the best dunk of the tournament so far. 

With the Shockers up six late in the first half, point guard Fred VanVleet picked the pocket of Kentucky standout freshman Aaron Harrison. As VanVleet took the ball back in the other direction on a fast break, he had forward Ron Baker streaking down the left side, but Van Vleet had his sights set on the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Early.

VanVleet hit Early in stride with a perfect bounce pass and Early skied for a forceful slam over Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, plus the foul.

Watch the whole thing here:

Early then completed the old-fashioned three-point play to give the Shockers a nine-point lead.

Fortunately for Kentucky, James Young hit a tough three on the other end on the next possession to keep his team within striking distance. It should be a close one the rest of the way

Kentucky comes of age against Shockers

  • Kentucky comes of age against Shockers

  • By Mitch Sherman | March 23, 2014 8:49:22 PM PDT


ST. LOUIS -- It couldn’t really happen. 

The billing for Kentucky and Wichita State on Sunday called for a battle of talent versus experience, potential versus accomplishment, the perennial front-runner that underachieved versus the underdog on a magical ride. 

They were on a collision course here, primed to meet in a moment that tested wills on both sides: a classic confrontation with all the storylines in place. 

It wouldn’t happen, right? 

It happened. 

Kentucky outlasted No. 1 seed Wichita State 78-76 in a heavyweight rumble fit for a later round of the NCAA tournament. UK ended the Shockers’ season, perfect at 35-0 until Sunday, by playing like it hadn’t played all year. 

With a team of future pros, the Wildcats -- attacked all season, according to coach John Calipari, bludgeoned even -- finally clicked. 

And still, the Shockers came up just one shot short as Fred VanVleet’s 3-pointer from the top of the key clanked the rim and bounced away at the Scottrade Center, leaving a crowd of 19,676 to ponder what it had seen. 

“You all understand,” Calipari said, “this was an Elite Eight game. The winner of this should have gone to the Final Four.” 

It was a round-of-32 gem, one of those unforgettable, back-and-forth tournament games that may mark a coming-of-age moment for Calipari’s young group, which advances to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis this week to face nemesis Louisville. 

“We don’t worry about that,” Kentucky forwardWillie Cauley-Stein said. “I’m just really trying to enjoy the moment right now.” 

What’s that, a Kentucky player refusing to look at the next game, just days away, against Louisville? 

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Kentucky's Aaron Harrison looked to pass against pressure from Wichita State's Fred VanVleet.
The UK fans ought to try that. Well, on Sunday night they could, because this victory over Wichita State was something to savor. 

“A lot of people were down on us all year,” senior guard Jarrod Polson said. “We’re just trying to make this run and prove everybody wrong.” 

The Wildcats’ run, which started as the preseason No. 1, continues. For Wichita State, it ends prematurely. The Shockers got a raw deal, matched against the size and athletic prowess of Kentucky at this stage. At every position, the Wildcats were bigger, starting with twin guards freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison

Wichita State, of course, did not back down. Its sophomore backcourt duo of VanVleet and Ron Baker matched the Harrisons, big moment for big moment. 

“You go through some humps in your life, kind of like this one,” Baker said. “It’s tough to see us go out like this. We all wanted more, and at the end of the day, you know, somebody’s got to go home. 

“I thought we had a great year, and it’s just unfortunate we won’t be back playing next week.” 

In the hallway outside the Wichita State locker room, officials from the Missouri Valley Conference -- the Shockers’ league and host to this event -- wore long faces. One breathed a deep sigh of apparent regret as the doors opened to unveil the Wichita State players, silent and still on the benches inside. 

Gregg Marshall had left. The time between coach and players after the game, he said, turned emotional. It was raw. But now, they stared ahead with blank looks. A few of the Shockers toyed with their cell phones. Others tried to answer questions. 

But really, they had no answers. 

“They made plays,” senior forward Chadrack Lufile said. “They capitalized.” 

Wichita State made plays, too. Plenty of them, primarily by Baker and senior Cleanthony Early, who arguably outplayed all of the Kentucky hotshots -- even freshman Julius Randle, a physical force who took over the action for a few minutes early in the second half. 

Early, an elite pro prospect himself, scored 31 points on an array of perimeter shots and slicing moves to the rim. His dunk in transition over the 7-foot Cauley-Stein late in the first half left all in attendance to wonder which of these teams, in fact, was stacked with talent. 

Baker was just as good at times. When Kentucky, which trailed by six at halftime, went ahead for the first time in the second half at 41-40, Baker rushed down the floor to score and draw a foul. After another Kentucky bucket to tie it at 43, Baker drilled a 3. 

Seemingly, the Shockers would not be denied. Until, at the end, the final shot sailed off target. 

“It’s hard,” Marshall said, “the finality of it. We won’t be able to coach these seniors anymore. But it’s been such a fun, enjoyable season, magical season. I mean, it’s literally been a magic carpet ride. And to have it end is going to be something that we have to get used to. 

“But I still think, in retrospect, we will look back and just be so proud.” 

Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports
The Wildcats celebrated reaching the Sweet 16 and a date against Louisville.
Kentucky, meanwhile, looks ahead. Louisville, which it beat back in December, awaits after a crazy week back home. If the Wildcats survive, perhaps they get Michigan, who lost to Louisville last year in the national title game. 

Calipari, nursing a sore hip of late, said he was “whistling and skipping” in the hallway outside the UK locker room, though not because he felt relieved. 

“If wins are relief,” he said, “it’s time for me to retire. This was great joy in seeing a group of young men come together and start figuring this out. It took longer than I’d hoped.” 

The coach said he failed to define roles adequately among the young Wildcats early in the season. Now, they’re starting to lose themselves within the team. They’re growing as a unit, not lurching forward and backward as individuals. It was evident on the court against Wichita State. 

“I just wish we had another month of the season,” Calipari said, “because we’re getting better every day.” 

He won’t get a month, but Calipari could get two weeks. It’s a scary thought for the remaining teams in the tournament, because Kentucky, as a No. 8 seed at not even close to its best, takes a backseat to no opponent. 

Still, just how close were the Wildcats to a sour finish on Sunday? 

Consider this: Andrew Harrison, who runs the point among the 6-foot-6 twins, hurt his right elbow in a collision with Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu on Friday. Calipari said on Saturday that the Wildcats were ready to play without Harrison.

Trainer Chris Simmons spent the night before this game in Harrison’s hotel room, keeping ice on the injured elbow as Harrison slept. 

Harrison played well. He made 6-of-9 from the field and scored a team-high 20 points. 

Score one for the trainer. 

“Without him, obviously you know now, it would have been a different game,” Calipari said. “We couldn’t have won the game.” 

That Wichita State had one shot to win, with three seconds on the clock and the ball past half court, speaks to the Shockers’ resolve and their own level of play. 

“That’s how good they are,” Calipari said, “and how good we’re playing right now.” 

Good enough to make for a classic. 


MBB: Shockers End Season With 78-76 Loss to Kentucky

Courtesy: Wichita State
MBB: Shockers End Season With 78-76 Loss to Kentucky
Courtesy:Wichita State

ST. LOUIS - Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker combined to score 51 points but it was not enough for the Shockers to advance to the Sweet 16 as Kentucky upended Wichita State 78-76 in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Andrew and Aaron Harrison led the Wildcats with 20 points and 19 points, respectively. Julius Randle posted a double-double for Kentucky with 13 points and 10 rebounds. 

Wichita State ends the season 35-1, the best record in Shocker basketball history. Early's 31 points ties the third best scoring performance in a single game of an NCAA tournament in Wichita State history.  

Aaron and Andrew Harrison combined to score the first seven Kentucky points, but the Shockers had an answer for every Wildcat basket early on as Chadrack Lufile scored back-to-back buckets to give Wichita State a 7-6 lead before the first media timeout. Baker hit a trey from the corner to start the scoring for Wichita State and Lufile came off the bench and scored four quick points to give Wichita State the early lead. 

Early popped a three-pointer for a 10-8 Wichita State lead but Kentucky answered with back-to-back threes from Aaron Harrison and James Young to take a 14-10 lead. Baker quickly stopped the Kentucky 6-0 run with a driving layup and free throw to cut the Wildcat lead down to one at 14-13.

Andrew Harrison drained a three from long distance after two Kentucky offensive rebounds to get the Wildcat lead back to up to four at 19-15, but Wichita State went on a 7-0 run that gave the Shockers a 22-19 lead and forced Kentucky to use a timeout. Tekele Cotton scored five consecutive points and Fred VanVleet picked Andrew Harrison's pocket and dished it off to Darius Carter for a breakaway dunk that ignited the Shocker crowd inside the Scottrade Center. 

After a running jumper by Kentucky's Young, VanVleet hit a jumper, and Early and Baker finished two driving lay ups to give Wichita State a 30-23 lead with 5:14 to play in the first half.

Kentucky answered with four unanswered points, including a dunk from Willie Cauley-Stein that cut the Shocker lead to five, 32-27. 

The Shocker faithful rose to their feet once again towards the end of the first half. 

VanVleet came up with his second steal of the game and delivered a perfect bounce pass to a cutting Early as Early finished with a thunderous dunk and added a free throw after being fouled on the play. 

The old fashioned three-point play gave Wichita State a nine point lead in the first half before Young connected on his second trey of the game as the shot clock expired to get the Wildcats back within six at 37-31.

Early led all scorers at the half with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Young led Kentucky with eight points, including 2-of-3 from beyond-the-arc. Both teams shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24) from the field. The Shockers were 3-for-8 from long distance, while the Wildcats were 4-for-10.

Wichita State scored the first three points of the second half on an Early three-pointer, but Kentucky went on a 9-0 run in a span of 2:15 seconds to close the gap to 40-39. Julius Randle finished a one handed put back dunk, Aaron Harrison added a three-pointer from the left wing, and Randle grabbed his own miss and laid it back in with a foul that added a free throw. 

Alex Poythress gave Kentucky its first lead of the second half with a transition layup but Baker quickly regained the lead for Wichita State with and-one lay up that gave Wichita State a 43-41 edge with 16:15 remaining in regulation. 

Aaron Harrison hit his third three-pointer of the game that put Kentucky on top 48-46 and Cauley-Stein gave the Wildcats a four point lead with an alley oop dunk from Andrew Harrison. 

Carter hit one of two free throws and Early drained a 17-foot jumper to cut the Kentucky lead to 50-49, but Randle answered with a driving up and under layup and added a free throw to get the lead back to four at 53-49. 

Nick Wiggins brought the Shockers back to within one after a trey from the corner, while Lufile and Early gave the Shockers a three-point lead at the 8:54 mark of the second half. Lufile powered up for an easy lay in and Early made back-to-back transition lay ups for a 58-55 Wichita State advantage. 

Kentucky tied the game once again at 60-60 when Aaron Harrison banked in a three-pointer, but Baker took a handoff and nailed a step back three-point jumper for a 63-60 lead with 6:27 remaining. 

The Wildcats converted on the other end with another layup to get within 63-62 on an Andrew Harrison layup.

 Early, a senior from Middletown, N.Y. hit a three from straight away and then hit another three from the corner right in front of Shocker bench for a 69-64 Shocker advantage with 4:36 remaining in the second half. 

Kentucky used a 6-0 run to regain the lead at 70-69. Four of those points came from free throws by Aaron and Andrew Harrison.

Early hit a jumper for a 71-70 Wichita State lead. Young followed Early's jumper and gave Kentucky a 73-71 lead with a three from the right wing with 1:41 to play in the game. 

Two free throws by Andrew Harrison put Kentucky up 75-71 with 42 seconds to play before Baker banked in a three-pointer from the left wing that cut the Kentucky lead to 75-74 with 29 second remaining. 

The Shockers were forced to foul and sent the freshman Randle to the line. Randle sank both free throws for a 77-74 Kentucky advantage. Baker's three-point attempt to tie the game with 10 seconds left was short, but Early grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Early drained both free throws to get Wichita State within one again at 77-76.

Baker fouled Andrew Harrison with seven seconds left and a one point Kentucky lead. Harrison made made the first free throw but missed the second and the Shockers had possession, down 78-76 with 3.2 seconds left on the clock.

Head coach Gregg Marshall called timeout to draw up a last second play and a chance for Wichita State to force overtime or win the game with a three. 

VanVleet went for the win with an attempt from straight away three but the ball bounced off the rim and into Kentucky's possession. Wichita State ended its season with a 78-76 loss in the third round of the NCAA tournament. 

Wichita State Basketball: Cleanthony Early Can Lead Shockers To Victory

Wichita State Basketball: Cleanthony Early Can Lead Shockers To Victory

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

When the lights are the brightest and the games are tightest, there is no player more valuable than a team’s best player. As the NCAA tournament heats up, Wichita State will need its most talented player to rise to occasion if the Shockers are to survive an extremely difficult Midwest Region.

The question needs to be asked: who is the Shockers’ best player? Fred Van Vleet is the team’s field general and playmaker. Ron Baker is the team’s sharpshooter and is a great utility guy. Tekele Cotton is the team’s most dominant defender. That said, senior Cleanthony Early is Wichita State’s best and most talented player.

The 6-foot-8 New York native has great size for a small forward and also possesses guard skills. He has made almost 60 3-pointers on the year and averages 36 percent from the arc. Astonishingly, Early has an incredible handle for a man his size and is able to use his length to get around defenders. He is truly a special college player, which is why he’ll be an NBA draft pick in a few months.

Early’s teammates make WSU a tough and competitive team, but he is why they can win the entire tourney. The senior averages less than 16 points per contest, but he can explode into a scoring frenzy at any time. He has a knack for getting to the line, and he is money from the charity stripe where he shoots 84 percent.

This is Early’s opportunity to will his team to victory like Carmelo Anthony did with Syracuse and as Kemba Walker did with Connecticut in 2011. Although this year’s draft is loaded with top-heavy talent, the middle-to-lower half of the first round will be his for the taking with a strong showing in the national tournament.

Cleanthony Early scores 23 points as Wichita State rolls over Cal Poly

Cleanthony Early scores 23 points as Wichita State rolls over Cal Poly

Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early shoots against Cal

Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early shoots against Cal Poly during the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Friday, March 21, 2014, in St. Louis. (Credit: AP / Charlie Riedel)

ST. LOUIS - The NCAA Selection committee made the road to the title as difficult as possible for undefeated Wichita State by loading the Midwest region with quality opponents. But the top-seeded Shockers caught one break when Cal Poly, a bottom-feeder in the Big West Conference, miraculously played its way into the NCAA Tournament with a losing record.

The Shockers ran up a 19-point first-half lead and coasted to a 64-37 victory in their second-round opener while resting many of their key players in the second half Friday night at Scottrade Center. The rout gave Wichita State a 35-0 record, breaking a tie with the 1991 UNLV team for the best start in NCAA history.

"Going 35-0 means a lot to the program," said senior Nick Wiggins, older brother of Kansas star Andrew Wiggins. "It shows how far the program has come, and we're not done yet."


Cal Poly (14-20), which was led by Maliik Love's nine points, scored the opening basket and trailed only 6-5 just under five minutes into the game. But Cleanthony Early scored nine points in a 17-0 Wichita run, and it was all downhill from there for the Mustangs, who were held to 20.7 percent shooting.

"Once we started playing Wichita State basketball, playing angry," Wiggins added, "they couldn't stop us."

WSU advanced to the third round against the winner of Friday night's late game matching eighth-seeded Kentucky, the preseason No. 1 choice in the polls, against ninth-seeded Kansas State. That figured to be a knockdown, drag-out battle, so, the Shockers should come into Sunday's third-round game as the fresh team.

Leading scorer Early totaled 19 of his 23 points in the first half and made only a couple of cameo appearances in the second half while playing 19 minutes. Guard Tekele Cotton was scoreless but in just 19 minutes, and his backcourt partners Fred Van Vleet (four points, 28 minutes) and Ron Baker (seven points, 27 minutes) also were not extended.

The Shockers were also coming into the game off a 12-day layoff since winning the Missouri Valley Tournament in the same building.

"With the extra time off, we got our bodies back and a little rest," Cotton said. "Those two weeks were well-needed."

Cleanthony Early's shock factor

Sachin Shenolikar

Cleanthony Early's Shock Factor0

  • Hoophead
  • Posted by: Sachin Shenolikar
  • March 21, 2014, 3:23 PM


cleanthony early wichita state shockers

Get to know Cleanthony Early, the star forward who wants to lead Wichita State back to the Final Four

Last spring, Cleanthony Early and the Number 9-seeded Wichita State Shockers became the darlings of the Big Dance when they won four straight games to reach the Final Four. (They lost to eventual champion Louisville.) The Shockers' hot streak has carried into this season: They enter the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball tournament as the nation's only undefeated team at 34-0 and are the top seed in the Midwest bracket. Early, a 6′ 8″ forward, was leading the team with 16.0 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. SI Kids asked the former junior college player about the emotions of the NCAA tournament, what music pumps him up, and how he expects to close out his senior season.

How would you describe the feeling of stepping on the court during March Madness?

It's like everything you've ever dreamed about, but it's right there — right in front of you to go capture.

Fill in the blank: Wichita State basketball is:

Really, really, really good!

What was it like playing in the Final Four last year?

That was crazy. The whole experience was great, especially to go there with a group of guys like we went with. It was awesome.

How would you describe your style of play?

I'm very versatile. I try to do everything on the court that I possibly can, whether it's getting steals, deflections, rebounds, blocks, and obviously scoring. Doing whatever it takes to win.

If you could have any superpower on the court, what would it be?

I'd be super-duper smart. The smartest guy on the court, along with physical talent — that would be perfect.

What is the origin story behind your first name?

My dad's name is Cleveanthony and I guess my mom just took out the V and the E. People call me Cle here, but before, everyone used to call me Anthony or Ant.

What music do you listen to before a big game?

I listen to a lot of artists — Jay Z, Drake (left), Lil Wayne, J. Cole, and also gospel, pop, and rock and roll songs. I have 3,000 to 4,000 songs on my phone. It's been that way since 2009.

What's one thing people may not know about the city of Wichita?

The first Pizza Hut ever was started out here.

Fill in the blank: The best way to end my college career would be to:

Win the national championship and then go in the first round in the NBA draft!


Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (6 votes)

Tobey living boyhood dream

Monroe kid is a big cog in Virginia attack

Monroe resident Mike Tobey, right, helped lead Virginia past Duke in the ACC title game on Sunday, and into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed in the East Region.ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Times Herald-Record

Mike Tobey grew up in a house that celebrated March Madness almost like a holiday.

Leading up to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, there was a buzz as the close-knit family gathered together in their Monroe home to watch all of the games.

As for the latest round of Tobey Family March Madness memories, well, it doesn't get much more exciting than this. Mike Tobey will be front and center again, but with a much more different vantage point, wearing a jersey for the University of Virginia — the top seed in the East Region of the NCAA tournament.

"Growing up, the NCAA was always the biggest thing," said Tobey, a 6-foot-11 sophomore forward/center. "Especially the first-round games because they were so many. They all were good and I'd be up late. I always thought about playing in the tournament myself as a kid. This is a dream come true. That's what it is, a dream come true."

And not only for Tobey. He and his family were loyal Duke fans, Tobey even went to the Blue Devils' basketball camp on campus every summer. However, the family's allegiance changed — rather quickly — when Tobey verbally committed to Virginia in January 2011.

Tobey's father, Ken, seemed giddy talking on the phone about Virginia's 72-63 win over Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game last Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. It marked the Cavaliers' first ACC title since 1976.

"This is it, this is what you dream about," Ken Tobey said. "We have been watching the tournament since our kids were little babies. Once Mike was going to Virginia, we put all of our Duke stuff aside. We drank the Virginia Kool-Aid, we were all in. To beat Duke, it doesn't get any better than that. My phone is blowing up about Mike. It's really amazing."

At 9:15 p.m. Friday, Ken Tobey and his wife, Kathleen, expect to be in Raleigh, N.C., when Virginia (28-6) plays No. 16 Coastal Carolina in a NCAA tournament second-round game. It marks the first time since 1983, when Ralph Sampson led the Cavaliers, that Virginia has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"It's extremely exciting how we have played in the second half," said Mike Tobey, who has started 25 games, averaging 6.5 and 3.8 rebounds. "It's been phenomenal and we look forward to going on a deep run in the tournament. For us, the No. 1 seed is just a number. This is just another game. We're just going to go out and do what we do, play our defense and be competitive."

Virginia, which has won 16 of 17 games, has frustrated opponents with its frenetic and physical defense. The Cavaliers rank first in the nation in scoring defense (55.3 points per game) and have held 21 straight opponents under 50 percent from the field. Tobey, long and wiry, is a formidable part of the machine.

He came to Virginia specifically for this moment, playing in the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers qualified for the NIT last year, losing to Iowa in the quarterfinals. That isn't March Madness. Coastal Carolina on Friday certainly is.

Tobey hopes its part of a special run — one he grew up dreaming about as a basketball-crazed kid.

"Everyone on this team wants to win a national championship and we think it's a reasonable goal," Tobey said. "Just based on our defense, we think we can do it. We have the best defense in the country, we are tenacious and get stops. If we continue to frustrate teams with our defense, we can do it."


mike tobey file

Hometown: Monroe

School: University of Virginia

Year: Sophomore

Position: Center/forward

Stats: In 34 games, including 25 starts, Tobey is averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18.2 minutes.

As a freshman: Tobey averaged 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 30 games, starting two.

You should know: Tobey helped the U.S. Under-19 men's team to the gold medal at the FIBA World Championships last summer in Prague, Czech Republic. ... Before Virginia, Tobey played for prep power Blair Academy, N.J., averaging 21 points and seven rebounds as a senior. Tobey began his high school career at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., playing two years there before transferring to Hotchkiss School (Conn.) Prep. He left Hotchkiss for Blair for one season (2011-12) to be closer to home and face better competition. ... Tobey verbally committed to Virginia in January 2011. Along with Virginia, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Miami (Fla.), Xavier, Siena and Maryland also offered Tobey full scholarships before his junior year in high school. Stanford, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech were also interested in him/ ... Tobey's sister, Liz, is a star volleyball player at Monroe-Woodbury. A junior, Liz Tobey helped the Crusaders to their first Section 9 title since 2000 this fall, and was named a Varsity845 first-team all-star.

For Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, a long road from Bronx to perfection

For Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, a long road from Bronx to perfection

Through it all, the bus rides and the flights, the losses and the 34 consecutive wins, Early, always on edge, considered his mother 'my motor, my love, my everything.'

UPDATED: MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2014, 10:27 AM
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 28:  Cleanthony Early #11 of the Wichita State Shockers goes up for a shot against Jerrell Wright #25 of the La Salle Explorers in the first half during the West Regional of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


In four collegiate seasons, Cleanthony Early has won 30 or more games each year, proving his mettle from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Atlanta Final Four.


WICHITA, Kan. — Once Bruno, a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, and his handler, a Kansas state trooper, perform their security sweep of Koch Arena on March 1, elderly ladies wearing black-and-yellow leis file into the Roundhouse alongside students in face paint. It is 90 minutes to tipoff. Some rush; others relish the final moments of an undefeated regular season. Trailing them, Sandra Glover, daughter of the Bronx and mother of Cleanthony Early, a loud, lean Wichita State forward with an open face and gap-tooth smile, negotiates her way through the crowd. She is in no hurry, settling into her fourth-row seat on the aisle behind the Wichita State bench. She wears a yellow Shockers T-shirt and starts shuddering when the school band plays the alma mater.

“Jesus!” she says, staring up at the scoreboard. “Jesus! They’re coming out!”

Anxiety overwhelms her. She grows hysterical, yelling with a revivalist’s fervor. She reaches into her pocketbook and retrieves a pack of Kleenex. She clears tears from her eyes with tissues as her son and the rest of the Shockers run onto the court. She shakes her head.

“Oh, my God,” she says. “I can’t handle it. I gotta go.”

She stays standing for the contest’s first two minutes; fans clap rhythmically on Senior Day, her son’s unofficial sendoff. Early is fouled as he cuts to the basket; he takes a deep breath and knocks down a free throw, then misses his second. It is all too much for Glover, though. She sprints back up the cement steps, running away from the courtside action to the quieter concourse area and a familiar usher. She looks on from her removed position as her son converts two catch-and-pop three-pointers. She exhales slowly.

“I’ve tried to nail her butt down,” says Early’s aunt, Dorinda, as she looks back at Glover. “It doesn’t work.”

Glover’s son, meanwhile, appears unflappable. He plays with aplomb, distributing the ball with a touch pass and defending with elbows-out aggressiveness. Coach Gregg Marshall monitors Early, his leading scorer, knowing the slightest slip can derail the Shockers’ 30-game win streak. Marshall likes to refer to Early as “an interesting bird,” easily capable of having his feathers ruffled. He knows better than to look away. 

“It’s a constant thing we have to be cognizant of. When he’s focused all his energy, passion and emotion in the right direction, woo, it’s really, really good,” says Marshall. “Every once in a while, he can kind of teeter, like the train’s teetering a little, but you just can’t let it get off the track.”

Early’s whistle-stop in Wichita will soon be over. He’s moved on before, from 188th St. in the Bronx, where he watched his cousin, riddled with bullets, die outside a pharmacy, to a rural upstate town to a prep school to a junior college. He lost his brother, Jamel, felled by a heart attack as he drowned in Schoharie Creek outside Schenectady, then shot the moon, scoring a thousand points at Sullivan County Community College, and another thousand at Wichita State. In four collegiate seasons, he has won 30 or more games each year, proving his mettle from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Atlanta Final Four. Through it all, the bus rides and the flights, the losses and the 34 consecutive wins, Early, always on edge, considered his mother “my motor, my love, my everything.

Wichita State star Cleanthony Early sporting a tux and tail, ponytail that is.


Wichita State star Cleanthony Early sporting a tux and tail, ponytail that is.

“I was born on the bottom,” Early says. “I wasn’t bad, just mischievous, lacked guidance. I had to overcome those adversities, understand the world is a certain type of way. I’m not gonna cry about it or dwell. I have an opportunity to improve by rational decisions.”

Mother wondered whether Wichita was an irrational choice, at first. Marshall promised her that Early would be under his thumb, living with fellow transfers in a modest house across the parking lot from Koch Arena. Still, she worried about such a remote locale. Early insisted that he understood the need to eliminate distractions and employ tunnel vision. Marshall’s plan is evident on the court in the early minutes of the second half on Senior Day. Early, already in the book for 11 points, fails to defend a pick-and-roll properly. Marshall, a balled fist of a coach on the sideline, calls Early back to the bench for a lecture. Early comes over as teammates make way for him to find a seat.

“Now sit your a-- down!” Marshall says.

* * *

To get to Sullivan County (N.Y.) Community College, you drive north on Route 103 to Loch Sheldrake, a Catskills town best known for its heyday featuring Jerry Lewis as the headliner in a Borscht Belt hotel. Signs hint toward a destination for teenagers looking to get away. “Miami Beach Cottages” are advertised on the first billboard, but that’s really an illusion. Breezeway Farms and a hut for ice fishers follow. Continue past the Sullivan County Museum and the college is on the left. One dormitory dots the campus, and inside the fieldhouse, down in the basement, four words painted in green above the doorway to the basketball court greet all who enter: “Welcome to the Bunker.”

Kevin DeVantier, then coach of the Sullivan County Generals, lured Early to campus. DeVantier observed Early as a high school senior while at a previous junior college job, and liked his lively body on the boards, as well as his athleticism. He reviewed his transcript from Pine Bush (N.Y.) High and admits, “It was scary.” There was, after all, a reason that the 6-foot-8 Early was available. At Pine Bush High, he entered school around 5-foot-4; he was awkward, wore his long hair in a ponytail and drifted in and out of class, retreating to the gym during class time. There was an in-school suspension, countless detentions and meetings with principal Aaron Hopmayer. He matured, both physically and emotionally, but fell short of Division I requirements.

“He was so busy trying to be the macho man of Pine Bush,” his mother says. “The ponytail? He was trying to be Steven Seagal.”

He wasted three years of eligibility before playing a full season as a senior. That brief display bought him an opportunity. Bobby Rahn, an assistant dean at nearby Burke Catholic High, watched Early pick up a technical foul 15 seconds into a game. What some saw as petulant behavior, Rahn called passionate. He offered Early a spot on his traveling AAU team, and assisted in enrolling Early at Mount Zion Academy, a prep school in Durham, N.C. When Donald Q. Fozard Sr., the school’s pastor, was introduced to Early, he flashed back to Mount Zion’s first great player, a similarly sized swingman.

“Who is this, the next Tracy McGrady?” Fozard Sr. said.

The wall above the entrence to the Sullivan County (N.Y.) Community College gym, where Early honed his skills says it all.


The wall above the entrence to the Sullivan County (N.Y.) Community College gym, where Early honed his skills says it all.

Discipline that Early typically rebelled against was introduced at the door. He had to cut his cornrows, wear a shirt and tie and attend church services every Wednesday and Sunday. During one long session on a Sunday, Early phoned his mother from the church.

“Ma, we’re still in church!” he said. “It’s 1 p.m. We’ve been here since morning.”

“Then get off the phone!” she said.

Recruiters began to dial his number more often. He did not commit anywhere immediately and returned home after the school year. On the evening of June 27, 2010, Early’s mother received a phone call from the New York state police. Her older son, Jamel Glover, had drowned after a day of swimming with his pregnant wife in Schoharie Creek. Early and his mother drove up to the hospital to identify the body, and Early, crying uncontrollably, could not handle the funeral. He left his mother’s side to settle himself, but would not go far in the days following the burial. A month later, he decided to attend Sullivan, a junior college with a proud basketball tradition. DeVantier welcomed his raw potential. “Probably spent more time talking to him than anyone in my life,” says DeVantier. “He was very emotional. I don’t think he realized how far he could go.”

There was plenty to improve. Early’s hips were tight; he always stood upright. He did not jump while shooting. Every time he lifted himself for a layup or dunk, he did so with his left foot and right hand. He was “a relentless complainer,” prone to whining about fouls in every setting, whether pick-up games or practices, and couldn’t understand why his teammates did not play to his level. DeVantier attempted to toughen up Early, and he did. Early led the Mid Hudson Conference in points, rebounds and gripes about being bored. He had no car, and spent most of his time in the gymnasium. His father, also Cleanthony, purchased a set of hair clippers for him. Early’s mom watched him set up his barbershop in the hallway. She asked who his clientele was on campus.

“Anyone who will pay,” he said.

It was far afield where Early finally distinguished himself. Steve Gosar, then the coach at the College of Southern Idaho, invited the Generals to Twin Falls, Idaho, for a tournament in Early’s freshman year. Southern Idaho paid for their travel with a guarantee. Early played three games, and blew away the competition. Soon after, Gosar mentioned to Jerry Mullen, a connoisseur of all things junior college, that Early was legit despite playing for a nonscholarship junior college. Mullen then invited Early to his JuCo Top 100 camp, a window-shopping showcase for coaches to evaluate potential Division I players. Wichita State assistant coach Greg Heiar, a former junior college player in Iowa and junior college coach in Florida, caught wind of the names on the list a month ahead of its public release. Heiar started sending Early and other players messages on Facebook and via email. The head start helped in gaining Early’s attention.

Wichita State would also benefit from an extended stay. When Early made his official visit to campus, Hurricane Irene ravaged the East Coast. Early’s flights were delayed time and again. He wound up staying five days total, and eventually returned to Sullivan. He previously had visited San Diego State and Washington State, but committed to the Shockers. It was one less carrot that DeVantier had in motivating Early for his second season at Sullivan, and opponents did all they could to stop the Generals’ best player. There were box-and-one schemes, and triangle-and-twos. Opposing coaches sent in brash defenders to talk to Early and try to intimidate him. He could be his own worst enemy.

“He could be the best player on the court and then 10 minutes later the worst player,” says DeVantier. “We needed to constantly re-adjust his goals with ridiculous numbers.”

Cleanthony Early is a loud, lean Wichita State forward with an open face and gap-tooth smile.


Cleanthony Early is a loud, lean Wichita State forward with an open face and gap-tooth smile.

Talent-wise, Early is the best to ever come through Sullivan. His legacy is evident inside “the Bunker.” By the American flag hangs a glossy banner emblazoned with his 2011 national player of the year honor. His 2012 banner for the same award hangs from an adjacent wall. The schedule from the 2011 campaign is encased in glass, but DeVantier is no longer on campus. He took a job at Norfolk State last summer, and considered his experience with Early to be “a career changer.” He keeps game videos of Early’s efforts on his computer’s hard drive; Early’s random thoughts echo in his ears.

“I can still hear him arguing in the locker room,” says DeVantier. “I can still see the image of guys just walking away from him after a while.”

* * *

“Marshallville,” an assemblage of tents and sleeping bags outside the student entrance to Koch Arena, was bracing for winds off the prairie on Feb. 28. It was 36 degrees out nearing midnight; propane gas heaters provided warmth for one group. More than 80 students camped out for prime seating; two wrapped themselves in blankets emblazoned with last year’s Final Four logo. They wore yellow wristbands, checked in with an organizer and made pancake runs to the Delta Gamma Sorority house. In between sessions of “Never Have I Ever,” they discussed all things Shockers, ranging from the amount of cologne Marshall wears (too much, they say) to the emergence of sophomore guard Fred VanVleet to Early’s adjustments from last season for the current campaign.

“Last year, in March Madness, we needed a scorer to step up, and Clee stepped up, did he not?” says freshman James Hamilton. “This year, we have more talent, more scorers, do we not? You have to understand that what he’s doing is for the best of the team.”

“If he was on any other team in the Missouri Valley Conference, he’d be dropping at least 25 per game!” another student asserts.

“What about the four points he scored last game?” a third student says.

Early has endured ebbs and flows within Marshall’s system. The point guard is the show in an offense that runs plays called “Bounce” and “Big City,” “Punch” and “Bulldog.” VanVleet, averaging 12.1 points per game and 5.3 assists, emerged during the Final Four run, and drew national interest as this season went on. He claimed the Larry Bird Trophy as the conference’s top player even though Early was the preseason choice. Coaches were concerned how Early would take that, but Early shared in the accolades, earning All-American honors as a stretch-four forward. The balance between their contributions has evened out since they first arrived on campus two summers ago. VanVleet did not foresee Early’s star turn after watching his initial runs on court.

“I was kinda skeptical at first, having heard all the hype,” says Van Vleet. “But then we saw how dangerous he could be. He frees up the game for all of us. He’s allowed me to be the leader that I am. He’s not fighting me as he could or should, being the star. He lets me run the show. He knows how to take leadership now.”

Pictures of Cleanthony Early and family.


Pictures of Cleanthony Early and family.

Early and VanVleet are most effective on pick-and-pop plays at the top of the key. Early’s ability to set screens, then gain separation from defenders frees both of them up often, as it did for a game-winner against Illinois State last season and on countless possessions this year. His most eye-opening plays, though, come on alley-oops off back screens and the fast break. No run-out better displayed his two-way potential than last year’s national semifinal when he finished a break with an emphatic one-handed dunk. Broadcaster Clark Kellogg exclaimed, “Cle-Anthony! Bouncing to ecstasy!”

Early’s celebrity translates off screen, as well. T-shirts with his No. 11 emblazoned on them are on sale next to blue examination books and yellow foam fingers in the school bookstore. Mike Ross, Early’s instructor in a sports management course, was scheduled to hold class the Monday after Senior Day. Snow fell the night before, and the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for Kansas due to bitter cold and wind chills ranging from minus 10 to minus 20. Ross’ son, Trent, had his school canceled that day and asked to join his dad since Wichita State stayed open. Ross was somewhat surprised by the request, but brought his son along. During the commute over, son asked father if he was teaching Early that morning.

“No, I just canceled the class,” Ross said.

“Oh,” he said.

Ross, sitting in his office, looked at his son, wearing headphones and typing on his laptop.

“I promised him that if they reach the Final Four we’ll go for that,” Ross said.

* * *

Kerry Rosenboom, a former college pitcher, keeps an office in the bowels of Koch Arena’s weight room. He’s been a strength and conditioning coach at Wichita State for 27 years. His office walls are decorated with major league baseball players, and he was on the job for the only national championship in school history, the 1989 baseball squad. On the gray double doors that lead into the weight room, he posts 11 declarations for all athletes to adhere to during lifting sessions. They include, “Lactic acid is my friend;” “I fear no man but I fear my workout;” “I may puke. I may cry, however, I will not quit. Ever;” and “I will bite off challenges. Spit Out Results. And beg for more.”

Rosenboom found a willing worker in Early when he arrived on campus standing upright and weighing 200 pounds. Some days that year, Early dipped below the 200 mark, and Rosenboom recognized a weakness. Early was fatigued when he stood in a defensive stance for extended amounts of time. Post players pushed him out of the lane. Early wanted the flexibility to defend perimeter players, and tightened his technique, ranging from leg whips to lunges. It was all about leverage. On his first day in Wichita, Early took a selfie and posted it on Instagram, but he’s bulked up over time, now tipping the scales at 219 pounds. He will add more weight to his narrow-waist, wide-shoulder frame as he prepares for the NBA draft, and notes, “I need to get some thighs and a butt on me.” Heiar likes to remind Early of his progress, texting him archive photos from Sullivan and Mount Zion, the bony frame staring back. He adds: #OneDayAtATime.

A young Cleanthony with an older cousin.


A young Cleanthony with an older cousin.

Early’s growth is measurable in multiple ways. When he was home last spring, following the Final Four, he stopped by Pine Bush High and spoke with principal Hopmayer. Once the undisciplined student cutting class, Early quoted Socrates in their conversation. Hopmayer then had Early address a group of at-risk students in the school. “When he brought up Socrates I almost fell out of my chair,” Hopmayer said. “I didn’t know who I was talking to.”

His mother notes changes, as well. Early first got a tattoo during an AAU trip to Las Vegas. It was his initials “A.E.” by his left wrist, and he tried to hide it but couldn’t when she picked him up at the airport. He asked to go to a pharmacy for Vaseline. She laughed at the memory, the big man with the low pain threshold, but then he added a cross and basketball on his sternum and abdomen after his brother died. His mother knew it was for pain; he wanted to absorb more. His latest inking was an eagle, wings and all, needled into his skin over his clavicle. The wing tips are visible beneath his game jersey.

“I like what it represents in multiple cultures, the messenger of God, precision, the ability to fly,” he says.

Rosenboom wanted the Shockers to come out soaring again this season. Over the summer, he incorporated a yoga routine to their workouts. Some players, especially the taller ones, were “trying to move the mighty oak.” Early took to it, as he typically does Rosenboom’s instruction, and added his own music as a soundtrack. As flexible as Early was on the mats, he can also dig in his heels about music choices in the room.

“He argues about everything,” Rosenboom says. “They debate whether the sun’s yellow or red. They can go for 45 minutes.”

Early’s voice is unmistakable to Rosenboom. The weight room lies around the bend from the locker room in the Roundhouse; voices carry in the hallway. When Early is approaching, he is often audible from a distance. Rosenboom turns to his assistant coach.

“It’s Clee coming down the tunnel,” he says. “Get ready.”

* * *

It’s 5:30 p.m. on March 3 and Early, dribbling a basketball after a high-functioning practice, is talking with teammates about a dream he had the night before. It involved his father and their intermittent relationship over the years. In the dream, Early learned that his father was ill. In real life, his father has been sick and living in Connecticut for some time. Still, the dream was darker: his father died and someone informed Early by phone. Early awoke with his pillow wet from tears and sweat. He wondered whether he would have any regrets if he actually lost his father in the coming days. He decided their relationship was more friends than father and son.

“I’m pretty sure he tried his hardest to make things work, but I wonder if I were to lose him,” says Early. “I’d probably cry a little, then move on. It’s nothing like my relationship with my mom. I love her unconditionally. It’s divine almost. I’d go to the end of the world for her. I don’t know if I could say the same for him.”

March is a month with mixed emotions for Early. His brother was born on March 20, and the NCAA Tournament commences on that date this year. His mother always visits her late son’s grave at a cemetery in Hackensack on his birthday. She bought a plot there because Jamel, father of two, planned to move to New Jersey before he died. “His death was the worst night of my life,” she says. “I don’t answer my phone at night anymore. Too many losses. I send Cleanthony a text message every night.”

Early has never visited the cemetery, but his brother, the person who put a basketball in his hands, is remembered in his mom’s living room at her Middletown, N.Y. apartment, 65 miles north of the city. She looks at the image every day when she wakes up at 4 a.m. to report to her job as a foster care worker in the Bronx. She hops a bus to White Plains and transfers there for her second bus ride. Her commute is two hours each way, but each night she returns to the wall with her sons’ faces on it. One image was used for Jamel’s funeral service; the other captured Early’s ecstatic reaction to reaching the Final Four. His mother eyed both on a recent evening. She read the words painted on the wall: “Remember to cherish each moment for this is what memories are made of.”  

Read more:

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Pine Bush grad Early feeling no pressure

  • Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early (11)

  • Wichita State's Cleanthony Early is the leading scorer for the Shockers, averaging 15.8 a game.

Pine Bush grad Early feeling no pressure

Sure, there will be a hearty celebration, complete with some carrying on and hamming it up for the cameras.

Cleanthony Early can't wait to whoop it up with his Wichita State teammates after, as expected, the Shockers receive a top seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday. However, don't expect the party to last long.

After all, this isn't some 16th seed overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance of the NCAA Selection Show, just happy to be in the mix during the first signs of March Madness.

This is undefeated Wichita State, playing angry as Early and the Shockers like to say, a team on a mission. Early, a Pine Bush graduate and former SUNY Sullivan star, of course, serves as one of the faces of a Wichita State team trying to make history with the country watching.

"It's going to feel good. You definitely congratulate yourself," said Early, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, who leads Wichita State in scoring with 15.8 points per game. "But you have to understand, there is still business to take care of. I think everyone on this team wants to be great. We want to do something special and, we understand, we have to go get it."

Making history

Wichita State, the second-ranked team in the country behind Billy Donovan's Florida Gators, is certainly flirting with greatness. The Shockers are just the second team in Division I history to open a season with 34 straight wins and the first to reach 34-0 since the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) in 1990-91. That UNLV team crashed and burned in the Final Four, losing to Duke 79-77. Wichita State is trying to become the first team to go undefeated and win a national championship since Indiana went 32-0 in 1976.

However, here's the thing, Wichita State's run to glory has been met with a small pocket of cynicism, rearing its head with the Selection Show looming. Some in the college basketball world might tell you that coming out of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Shockers don't deserve a No. 1 seed. Wichita State won its first MVC tournament title since 1987 last week and the league hasn't seen a run like this since a scraggly Larry Bird led Indiana State to a 33-0 record, before losing to Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the 1979 national championship.

Early is, among other things, outgoing and personable. He's a thinker, often quoting the Bible, and isn't only always up for a good debate. Early will stir it.

"I'm an open-minded person," Early said. "It's unprecedented to go 34-0. At the same time, I'm not going to sit here and lie and tell you that our schedule was the toughest. But, still, we played with a big 'X' on our back with everyone giving us their best. You have to give credit where credit is due. We haven't lost a game."

Love for the game

And what about pressure? Early and his teammates have to be feeling it with all the hype, the fanfare, the Sports Illustrated cover last month and all the attention on ESPN's SportsCenter. In mid-January, with Wichita State 19-0, Early politely laughed at a Times Herald-Record reporter when asked about the pressure factor during the run.

He was seemingly smiling on the other end of the phone when the topic was brought up earlier this week.

"I remember laughing," Early said. "I remember that. I'm the type of person who is like, pressure? In a basketball game? That's nothing compared to what I've seen in life. I've seen pressure in life, but not in basketball. We just love the game and that comes out when we play. Win or lose, you are going to get a fight from us. I can say that."

Wichita State is a tough, ferocious and intimidating team, now preparing for its final battle. For Early and his teammates, the hope, the belief, is that the last run will end with six more wins and a national title. Imagine that: 40-0.

The Selection Show sets the stage for the so-called madness. Early will certainly take a No. 1 seed, but he wants so much more than that.

"I thank everyone for thinking of us and giving us a No. 1 seed with the politics and all of that," he said. "But I don't care if we are a No. 1 seed, a No. 2, a No. 3. Whatever, it's cool. We're just going to go out and play basketball, and I have a lot of faith in my team."

Look for Louisville to go back-to-back

Look for Louisville to go back-to-back

Orange County basketball history was made Sunday night when Wichita State and Virginia were selected as No. 1 seeds in the Midwest and East.

The 845 is proudly represented on both teams.

Wichita State senior forward Cleanthony Early, a Pine Bush graduate, looks to lead the Shockers to the first perfect season since the field was expanded to 64 teams.

Virginia sophomore center Mike Tobey, a Monroe resident, has contributed in a starting role for the Cavaliers, the Atlantic Coast Conference's regular season and tournament champions.

If their teams win five straight games, Early and Tobey could meet in the national final on April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

But the NCAA committee didn't make that easy.

Wichita State, the first team to enter the tournament undefeated (34-0) since UNLV in 1991, has Michigan (No. 2) and defending champion Louisville (No. 4), both Final Four teams last year, in its region. Virginia may have to get past Tom Izzo's Michigan State just to reach the Elite Eight.

Here's a breakdown of the tournament:


Top seed: Virginia (28-6)

Local connection: Virginia sophomore center Mike Tobey, a Monroe resident, has started the last 22 games.

Final-Four bound: This isn't Tom Izzo's best Michigan State team, But the Spartans will be tough out for anybody. Expect solid guard play from senior Keith Appling and Gary Harris and an established post presence from 6-11 senior Adrien Payne.

Watch out for: No. 10 St. Joseph's defense can stifle opponents. Senior guard Langston Galloway is a proven scorer. Freshman DeAndre Bembry, who plays like a point forward, is a matchup problem.

Player to watch: Providence senior guard Bryce Cotton has led the Friars in scoring in 27 of 34 games this season. He tops the nation in minutes played (39.9 per game, 1,360 of a possible 1405 minutes). Providence feeds off Cotton's energy and leadership. Listed at 6-1, Cotton appeared to be the same height as Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews (5-10) during interview after Big East tourney win.

By the numbers: 5 — Delaware players who are averaging double figures in scoring this season. Three players — Devon Saddler (19.7), Davon Usher (19.4) and Jarvis Threatt (18.1) — score more than 18 points per game.

Upset special: No. 12 Harvard over No. 5 Cincinnati. Harvard returns three starters from a team that knocked off No. 3 New Mexico in the first round last year.


Top seed: Florida (34-2)

Local connection: Will Brown, former coach at SUNY Sullivan, has led Albany to its fifth NCAA tournament appearance. Albany needs to defeat Mount Saint Mary's in a first-round game to meet top-seeded Florida.

Final-Four bound: This year's Florida team has drawn comparison to the Gators' 2006 and 2007 national-champion squads. The Gators are balanced, long, athletic. Florida can play at any tempo and has pulled six games by four points or fewer.

Watch out for: Senior point guard Aaron Craft has led No. 6 Ohio State to nine tournament wins in the past three seasons, including berths in the Elite Eight and the Final Four the previous two years. The Buckeyes need forward LaQuinton Ross to continue his consistent scoring — 20 points per game last six games — to make a deep run.

Player to watch: Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins has the talent to take Kansas to the Final Four. When Wiggins takes the ball to the basket, he's almost unstoppable. But Wiggins has had a handful of no-shows this season. Which Wiggins takes center stage for the tournament?

By the numbers: 115 — Steals by VCU guard Briante Weber, the Atlantic-10 defensive player of the year. Weber ignites VCU's "havoc" pressure, which has forced 609 turnovers — the most in the nation.

Upset special: No. 14 Western Michigan over No. 3 Syracuse. Syracuse has lost five of its last seven games and has shot just 36 percent from the field during the stretch. Fifth-year seniors David Brown, a 6-4 guard, and Shayne Whittington, a 6-11 center, have experience to help Western Michigan solve Syracuse's zone defense.


Top seed: Wichita State (34-0).

Local connection: Wichita State senior forward Cleanthony Early, a Pine Bush graduate and a two-time junior-college player of the year at SUNY Sullivan, leads the Shockers in scoring (15.8 points per game).

Final-Four bound: Louisville, the defending national champion, has the offensive talent of a No. 1 seed. The Cardinals have scored 90 or more points 13 times this season. Experienced seniors Russ Smith and Luke Hancock should get fourth-seeded Louisville past Wichita State in the Sweet 16 in a rematch from the semifinals last year.

Watch out for: Michigan and Nik Stauskas have overcome the loss of star forward center Mitch McGary to a season-ending back injury. If forward Glenn Robinson continues his improved play, No. 2 Michigan could be cutting down the nets in Arlington.

Player to watch: Duke freshman forward Jabari Parker brings a polished NBA game to his first NCAA tournament. If Parker doesn't force his offense and plays within the game's flow, he could be dominant in this region.

By the numbers: 117 — Blocks by Manhattan's 6-foot-7 forward Rhamel Brown, third in the country.

Upset special: No. 12 North Carolina State over No. 5 St. Louis. N.C. State forward T.J. Warren has offensive talent to lead the Wolfpack to a win over Xavier in the first round and knock off St. Louis in second round.


Top seed: Arizona (30-4).

Final-Four bound: Third-seeded Creighton has Doug McDermott, the best player in the country, and a hard-nosed supporting cast. Center Ethan Wragge has hit 104 3-pointers, 10 more than McDermott, and is the key to Creighton's title hopes.

Watch out for: Arizona State is a dangerous No. 10 seed. The Sun Devils outlasted Arizona, the top seed in the West, in two overtimes earlier this season. Guards Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall are one of the nation's top backcourts, combining for 34.2 points per game.

Player to watch: Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, one of the country's most talented players, returned for his sophomore season after a disappointing second-round loss to Oregon last year. He needs to look to his teammates for more production if he wants a deeper run this time.

By the numbers: 293 — Free-throw attempts by Louisiana-Lafayette 6-foot-3 guard Elfrid Payton, second in nation.

Upset special: No. 11 Nebraska over No. 6 Oregon. Nebraska, one of the last team selected, has won at Michigan State and defeated Wisconsin and Ohio State this season. Baylor is a streaking team, which lost eight of 10 games in middle of the season.

Dance finalists

Final Four: Michigan State over Florida; Louisville over Creighton.

Championship: Louisville over Michigan State

Wichita State jockeying for undefeated season — and respect

Wichita State jockeying for undefeated season — and respect

Midnight has yet to strike for Cinderella. Last March’s magical Final Four run, in fact, may just be the start of Wichita State’s fairy-tale story.

The Shockers enter the regular season’s homestretch as one of two undefeated teams left in college basketball — Syracuse is the other — with a series of gritty comebacks and impressive performances lining their résumé.

“I think one really runs hand in hand with the other. The 25-0 start is a derivative of what we accomplished in that run last year,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said in a phone interview. “We’ve been playing one-and-done basketball for a while. Now that we got this streak going, you lose and the streak’s done. It’s kind of been that way for a while. Our guys have thrived in that type of environment.”

Fourth-ranked Wichita State is emblematic of the gutsy, blue-collar city in Kansas it represents. Marshall spent nine years at Winthrop, reaching the NCAA Tournament six times, and the members of his staff did their time in the junior college ranks.

The team’s star, Cleanthony Early, went from a Division III JUCO to landing on the Wooden Award Watch List. Small forward Ron Baker paid his way for a redshirt freshman year at Wichita State, after his only two scholarship offers in high school were from South Dakota State and Arkansas-Little Rock. Shooting guard Tekele Cotton was lightly recruited.

“We haven’t had the peachiest road to get here,” said the multi-faceted Early, a 6-foot-8 NBA prospect who grew up in The Bronx and hails from Middletown. “We’ve seen struggle, we’re not in the worst position in the world. People are going through far worse situations. We’re really blessed to be in that position, playing a game that we love. This is everything I lived for. This is what I asked for. This is what I dreamed of. That’s our attitude, and that shows.”

The Shockers hear the talk of an undefeated season everywhere — on social media, on campus, in talking to reporters. It’s impossible to ignore, particularly now that they have entered the final stretch of the season. Just six Missouri Valley Conference games stand between Wichita State matching the 2003-04 St. Joseph’s team, the last to finish off a regular season with a perfect record. The players talk about it among themselves, but it is far from a rallying cry.

“We hear about it and we think about it, but we don’t try to let it consume our minds,” Early said. “We’re happy to be here, and we’re hungry and humble at the same time. We’re having fun with it.”

Marshall said: “We talk about winning the next game. We’ve talked about that now 25 times so far this year.”

Marshall is quick to point out Wichita State wasn’t healthy last year, one reason it entered the NCAA Tournament last year as a 9-seed and lost six games in the conference. Baker missed most of the season, returning from a stress fracture in his right foot in March, while several others missed a handful of games.

Among the Shockers impressive wins are victories over SEC foes Tennessee and Alabama, a win over bubble team BYU, and a road victory over No. 13 St. Louis, the class of the rugged Atlantic 10. St. Louis head coach Jim Crews was impressed by Wichita State’s versatility, its ability to score in a variety of ways and defend on the perimeter as well as in the paint.

“I think their greatness is their balance. They don’t beat themselves,” said Crews, whose team has won 16 straight games since the Dec. 1 meeting with the Shockers. Early is the Shockers’ leading scorer, at 16.3 points per game, but four others average at least eight points per game.

There is debate regarding where Wichita State should be seeded in the tournament if it does run the table. ESPN analyst Jeff Goodman tweeted the Shockers shouldn’t be a No. 1 seed, and many question their level of competition, having played just one ranked opponent. Furthermore, the Missouri Valley Conference was weakened by this season’s defection of Creighton to the Big East.

CBS Sports Network analyst Steve Lappas said knowledgeable basketball minds believe the Shockers are as good as anyone in the nation. He pointed to their defensive prowess (holding teams to 39 percent shooting), rebounding acumen (a plus-8.4 margin) and the frequency with which they get to the free-throw line (26 times per game).

Crews said “they would do extremely well” in any conference in the country.

“They can win a national title,” Lappas said.

Early and his teammates enjoyed the hoopla from their memorable Final Four run a year ago, but once the summer came around, they began to focus on this season, wanting to create new memories.

“I don’t think we’re trying to forget about last year. We’re trying to leave last year where it’s at, and at the same time, do what we’re trying to do this year,” Early said. “Now … we still have so much of the season left to capture and take advantage of.

“It can be better. We have a chance to make it even more special, and that’s awesome to be able to talk about.”

Wichita State wins Missouri Valley title

Wichita State wins Missouri Valley title

Scott Kane / USA TODAY Sports

Wichita State's Fred VanVleet (left) scored 22 points to lead the Shockers.


What fuels Wichita State? Your hate, college basketball


What fuels Wichita State? Your hate, college basketball

Pat Forde
NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-Final Wichita vs Indiana
Mar 9, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Wichita State Shockers celebrate defeated the Indiana State Sycamores 83-69 to win the Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament at Scotttrade Center.. (Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports)




ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Valley Conference extended a wonderful Arch Madness parting gift to the undefeated Wichita State Shockers on Sunday afternoon.

Seconds after they finished beating Indiana State 83-69, the players were handed T-shirts commemorating their Missouri Valley tournament championship. The shirts had a bracket on the back that said the Sycamores actually won the thing. Nobody noticed until the Shockers were wearing them.

One league’s gaffe is another man’s gold.

For a program that relishes bathing in the icy water of disrespect, this was perfect. Total domination of the conference ends with a printing mistake that denies the Shockers their first Valley tourney title in 27 years. The players were proudly cloaked in insult as they cut down the nets in the Scottrade Center.

“Hey, hey!” a gleeful Gregg Marshall said upon seeing the shirts. “Someone get a picture of this.”

They got pictures. And they will keep the shirts, too. The conference eventually will send a shipment with the correct bracket on the back, but these may remain the Shockers’ favorite souvenir from this three-day tour de force.

“We won,” point guard Fred Van Vleet said. “[The Sycamores] don’t get to wear the shirts today.”

As motivated masochists, the Shockers will wear the hairshirts of external doubt from now through Selection Sunday and into NCAA tournament play – which almost assuredly will begin in this same arena on March 21. From now until then they will hear an increasing chorus of criticism aimed at the Wichita State schedule (ranked 131st by Ken Pomeroy) and conference (ranked 11th). The power-conference snobs will be out in force, railing against the No. 1 NCAA seed that is assuredly heading Wichita’s way (many of them already are, and a high percentage of those hail from Lawrence, Kan.). Others will wonder whether the ensuing 12-day layoff without a game will leave the Shockers flat and rusty (didn’t happen last year). And, yeah, there is at least one guy who thinks that being the first undefeated team to enter the NCAAs since UNLV in 1991 is a potentially problematic burden.

All of it will be music to their rabbit ears, which detect slights the way Tiger Woods hears camera clicks during his backswing.

Marshall was asked Sunday whether he had a message for the skeptics who will be prowling Bracketville. Marshall said he did not. But then he doubled back a couple minutes later.

"I want to get back to you," he said to the reporter who asked the question. "I might have an answer. I’m going to go with [Wichita State center] Chadrack Lufile’s tweet about two weeks ago: ‘Wolves do not fret over the opinions of sheep.’ "

Then Gregg Marshall flashed a wolfishly predatory stare from the podium.

Thus the Shockers embark on their NCAA tourney journey as the most highly-regarded and highly-scrutinized team from outside the power-five conferences since Memphis in 2008. Gonzaga was a No. 1 seed last year but didn’t grab the nation’s imagination the way Wichita State has – and for good reason, as it turned out. The Shockers eliminated the Zags in the round of 32, on their way to a surprise Final Four as a No. 9 seed.

There will be no hiding behind a low seed this time around. No sneaking up on anyone. Marshall’s team will be the national talking point from now until they lose.

If they lose.

It will take a really good team playing really well to beat the Shockers. What they lack in résumé sizzle they make up for in eyeball-test substance. They perfectly embody the play-hard-smart-together ethos of great teams, and they augment those qualities with plenty of talent. There may be a couple of teams with better players than Wichita State, but the list is short – and the teams on it don’t always maximize their talent the way the Shockers do.

“They’re the best team in the country,” said Indiana State senior Jake Odum.

The Shockers are blessed with four go-to guys. On a day when their most prolific 3-point shooter, guard Ron Baker, went 0-for-6 outside the arc, the rest of the team went 9-for-16. That continued a torrid shooting weekend, with Wichita State making 28 3-pointers in 63 attempts (44.4 percent).

The two shooting stars Sunday were Tekele Cotton and Van Vleet, each of whom was 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Cotton was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and forward Cleanthony Early is the team’s best talent, but it is Van Vleet who is the most indispensible Shocker.


Members of Wichita State take a team selfie after winning the MVC championship. (USA Today)

When the game got close, and with Early struggling through a poor second half, Van Vleet showed why he was named the Missouri Valley Player of the Year. Indiana State battled back from a 15-point deficit to close within four points, and suddenly Van Vleet became Van Gogh. He produced a masterpiece over the final 13 minutes.


He scored 16 of Wichita State’s next 33 points, nailing four 3-pointers and driving for a pair of baskets. Content to be a facilitator when the situation calls for it, the sophomore is perfectly capable of taking over when needed.

“I had opportunities all game that I was passing up because I didn’t want to be overly aggressive and force the issue,” Van Vleet said. “But coming down the stretch, I just was a little bit more aggressive and took advantage of some opportunities I had.”

The opportunities for the Shockers grow larger from this point forward. And the noise surrounding this team will grow louder.

They are chasing immortality, the first 40-0 season ever. But they are also being chased by a horde of doubters who will be waiting to fire told-ya-so arrows at them if they fall short.

For a team with a perfect record and a permanent chip on the shoulder, those doubters are as welcome as the erroneous Arch Madness T-shirts they wore while cutting down the nets Sunday

Early made most of two years at Wichita State

Early made most of two years at Wichita State
By Paul Suellentrop The Wichita Eagle
Updated: 2014-03-03T18:21:40Z
February 28

Cleanthony Early will leave Wichita State just like he entered — shooting, scoring, never hesitating. Junior-college transfers can waste half their career if they’re not confident.

Wichita State’s top juco transfer scorers

F Cleanthony Early (2012-14), Sullivan County (N.Y.) — 69 games 1,015 points, 14.7 per game
2014 Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Finalist and Wooden Award mid-season top 25 … All-MVC 2013 … 2013 NCAA All-Tournament Team … 2013 MVC Newcomer of the Year
F Richard Morsden (1972-74), Hutchinson — 51 games, 802 points, 15.7 per game

All-MVC 1973 … 1972 second-team NJCAA All-American … Averaged 27.2 points as a sophomore at Hutchinson
G Clevin Hannah (2008-10), Chipola (Fla.) — 66 games, 766 points, 11.6 per game
2010 All-MVC … 2009 MVC All-Newcomer Team … Made 85 of 94 free throws (90.4 percent) in 2009-10, third on WSU’s season list
G Tony Martin (1980-82), Casper (Wyo.) — 62 games, 753 points, 12.1 per game
Ranks eighth on WSU’s career list with 336 assists … 184 assists in 1980-81 rank second on single-season list
G Randy Smithson (1979-81), Cowley — 61 games, 732 points, 12 per game
Ranks 10th on WSU’s career list with 319 assists … 163 assists in 1980-81 rank sixth on the single-season list
G Joe Ragland (2010-12), Western Nebraska — 69 games, 688 points, 10 per game
G L.D. Swanson (1993-95), Jacksonville (Texas) — 54 games, 678 points, 12.6 per game
G Robert George (1990-92), Southeastern (Iowa) — 56 games, 637 points, 11.4 per game
F Aaron Hogg (2002-04), Jacksonville (Texas) — 62 games, 630 points, 10.2 per game
G Leonard Kelley (1961-64), Labette — 54 games, 630 points, 11.7 per game
G C.C. McFall (2000-02), Southeastern (Iowa) — 58 games, 596 points, 10.3 per game
G Preston Carrington (1969-71), Butler County — 52 games, 587 points, 11.3 per game
F Ben Smith (2010-12), Northern Oklahoma — 70 games, 571 points, 8.2 per game
G Terry Hankton (1996-98), Butler — 58 games, 526 points, 9.1 per game
F Ramon Clemente (2007-09), Paris (Texas) Junior College — 64 games, 479 points, 7.5 per game
G Lillard Harris (1965-67), Labette — 52 games, 415 points, 8.0 per game

Early, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, has always been sure the next shot is good. Maybe great.
“The summer he got here, we were playing pickup and he had the most confidence out of anybody on the court,” teammate Ron Baker said. “His body language — very confident. Always wanted to win pickup games. We knew he was a big-time recruit and all the talk … was true.”

The second-ranked Shockers (30-0, 17-0 Missouri Valley Conference) play Missouri State (19-10, 9-8) at 1 p.m. Saturday with history at stake at Koch Arena. With ESPN cameras leading the way, the national media and a growing bandwagon of fans will watch to see if the Shockers can grab this milestone and prove their worthiness as an NCAA Tournament contender.
Here’s some of what’s at stake:
•  WSU can add to its NCAA-record regular-season unbeaten streak and become the first school to finish the regular-season unbeaten since Saint Joseph’s in 2004.
•  It can add its name to a list of seven schools to win 31 or more games without a loss, most recently 1991 UNLV.
•  WSU can also become the first MVC team go unbeaten since Bradley went 16-0 in 1985-86 and set the school record for conference victories.
•  No modern-era MVC school has won 18 conference games; Oklahoma is the only other school to do so, going 18-0 in 1927-28.
This stage is made for a player such as Early, who is the first junior-college transfer to score 1,000-plus points for WSU and the second Shocker, along with Maurice Evans, to do it in two seasons. Some transfers need time to adjust. Early scored 21 points against Western Carolina in his third game and 25 against Iowa in his sixth. It took him 16 games to score 39 points, against Southern Illinois, tied with Dave Stallworth for 10th in school history.
By the end of the season, Early earned All-MVC honors, the first Shocker to do so in his debut since Bob Wilson in 1973, and a spot on the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

Always confident. Always talking. Always smiling. Always on Twitter. Early, from Middletown, N.Y. and Sullivan County (N.Y.) Community College, hasn’t spent much time on idle in his two seasons at WSU.
“It turned out like I thought it would — even better,” he said. “We went to the Final Four. I got to meet a great group of guys, guys I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. I’m going to get a degree.”
Early’s confidence started as a youngster in New York, when to keep playing pickup games his team had to win.
“If I lose a game, I wasn’t going home until I felt like I was going to win a game, or a couple of games, and feel good about myself,” he said. “I wanted to play all night. That’s the attitude I had coming from the city.”
Early’s confidence needed molding during his first days of practice.
“The first day we coached him, if he touched it, he shot it,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “He didn’t care if he was guarded, how open he was. He just kept shooting.”
Coaches told him many of those shots didn’t make sense. Then they began counting Early’s bad shots as turnovers, meaning he had to run full-court sprints at the end of practice.
“He probably didn’t like that, either, and I guess he wanted to stop hearing that from us,” Marshall said.
Early averaged 13.9 points as a junior and made 45.5 percent of his shots and 31.8 percent of his three-pointers. His shooting percentages grew as the season wore on, much like this season. Early is averaging 15.7 points, shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from three-point range. In 17 MVC games, he is shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent (32 of 82) from behind the arc.
“He’s shooting the ball tremendously well the past 10 games,” Baker said. “We’re getting him better looks. I think, early on, he was trying to force a little too many difficult shots. Now we’re starting to get him open looks and he’s making uncontested shots.”
With that confidence and passion comes moments of emotion. Early is the Shocker most likely to chatter with officials after a call he disagrees with, much to Marshall’s displeasure. Those moments are growing less frequent.
“He’s always going to be the brash, energetic guy,” WSU guard Fred VanVleet said. “He’s more calm. He’s more developed as a friend and a voice in the locker room.”
While Early came to WSU with an advanced offensive game, his defense needed much work. That work continues. He is playing better defense in recent weeks as coaches continue to point out his deficiencies and prod him with the words of NBA scouts who doubt his defense.
“He’s taking more responsibility on himself,” VanVleet said. “We can win with him not guarding and not being engaged, because we’re good enough. To be special and to be great, we’re going to need him locked in on that end.”
On Saturday, Early will walk out of the home tunnel at Koch Arena before a game for the final time. In two years, he’s packed four seasons of production and memories, helping the Shockers to two of their greatest seasons.
“I don’t want to think about it too much,” he said. “I’ll miss playing here, but at the end of the day we’ve got a game to win.”

Wichita State finishes perfect regular season with 83-69 win over Indiana State

 The No. 2-ranked Shockers remained the nation's lone unbeaten team at 34-0 thanks Fred VanVleet's 22 points and another strong emsemble effort in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final.

Published: Sunday, March 9, 2014, 5:45 PM
Updated: Sunday, March 9, 2014, 5:45 PM
ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 9: Cleanthony Early #11 of the Wichita State Shockers looks to get past Khristian Smith #32 of the Indiana State Sycamores during the MVC Basketball Tournament Championship game at the Scottrade Center on March 9, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Cleanthony Early (r.) and Wichita State make it 34-0 in the regular season against Indiana State.


ST. LOUIS (AP) — Fred VanVleet scored 22 points including several key baskets late to lead another strong ensemble effort and No. 2 Wichita State remained the nation’s lone unbeaten after defeating Indiana State 83-69 on Sunday in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final.

Tekele Cotton added 20 points — with four 3-pointers — and Ron Baker had 14 points for the Shockers (34-0), who got tested in the second half before putting the title game out of reach with a 13-0 run capped by two 3-pointers from VanVleet that put them up by 18 points with 5:38 to go.

Wichita State matched the NCAA record for victories to start the season held by UNLV in 1990-91 with its third straight convincing tournament win after going 18-0 in the conference regular season. The Shockers won their first conference tournament since 1987.

Manny Arop and Justin Gant had 18 points apiece for second-seeded Indiana State (23-10), which has one of the closer calls against Wichita State with a seven-point loss at home in early February. Arop totaled 12 points the first two tourney games.

The Shockers had runs of 17-0 and 24-0 while beating Missouri State by 25 points in the semifinals.





Ron Baker (r.) drives by Indiana State's Jake Odum in the first half of Sunday's MVC tournament final.

Bill Boyce/AP

Ron Baker (r.) drives by Indiana State's Jake Odum in the first half of Sunday's MVC tournament final.

Wichita State’s last nine victories have all been by double digits. The Shockers have won 12 of 14 in the Indiana State series.

VanVleet scored 13 points in the final 6 minutes and was named to the all-tournament team along Cleanthony Early and Cotton, who was voted the tourney MVP.

The only way the Valley could get two teams in the NCAA tournament is if Wichita State lost. The Shockers earned the conference’s automatic bid after going to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed and Valley tourney runner-up last March.

Wichita State got some early breathing room with an 11-0 run for a 23-11 lead not long past the mid-point of the first half, and led by at least nine points the rest of the half while taking a 39-29 halftime lead. Darius Carter led the way off the bench with nine points and five rebounds in 9 minutes.

VanVleet hit a layup and Baker had a three-point play in the opening minute of the second half to open a 15-point gap, then Wichita State went cold missing eight straight shots while Indiana State scored nine straight points to shave the deficit to six. Indiana crawled back within five points twice, the last time on two free throws by Jake Odum with 10:20 that made make it 55-50.

Indiana State cut the gap to eight points with about 3 minutes left but VanVleet hit a 3-pointer and made two layups the rest of the way.

Early helps Wichita State stay perfect

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6

It continues.

The streak. The unblemished campaign. The possibility of perfection.

The idea that 24-0, still-playing-angry Wichita State will finish the 2013-14 regular season without a loss becomes less incredulous by the day.

A snowstorm created travel problems for the fourth-ranked Shockers, who didn’t reach Terre Haute until Wednesday morning. But it didn’t seem to impact the team during its 65-58 win at Indiana State.

It wasn’t easy, though. Per ESPN Stats & Information data, Wichita State lost the rebounding battle for only the second time this season, and its nine forced turnovers was its second-lowest tally of the year.

Indiana State's Manny Arop hit a deep jumper at the buzzer before the break, when Wichita State had just a one-point lead despite maintaining a nine-point advantage earlier in the half.

In the second half, Ron Baker helped Wichita State quiet Arop, who had 13 points in the first half and just three points after halftime. With 10 minutes to play, the Shockers had a comfortable double-digit lead, but the Sycamores didn’t break.

[+] EnlargeCleanthony Early
AP Photo/AJ MastCleanthony Early showed again Wednesday that he's Wichita State's rock and its ace in the hole as the Shockers prep for another tournament run.
The game wasn’t sealed until Cleanthony Early (19 points, five rebounds) finished a three-point play with 1:03 to go. Early, a member of the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25, drove from the top of the arc, drawing a foul as he scored. The free throw gave Wichita State a five-point cushion.

Chadrack Lufile made four of six free throws in the final 43 seconds. Game: over. Spotless record: preserved.

Ken Pomeroy gives Wichita State a 78 percent chance of defeating Northern Iowa on the road on Saturday. He gives the Shockers more than a 90 percent shot at defeating their final six Missouri Valley opponents after that. Even if that happens, the Shockers will still endure criticism.

Until its postseason journey begins, Wichita State will be scrutinized. If the Shockers lose in conference play, the naysayers will call them frauds. If the Shockers enter the postseason without a loss, those same people will put an asterisk next to their noteworthy accomplishment.

Not that the Shockers worry about negative opinions regarding their accomplishments thus far -- they weren’t exactly favored to make the Final Four last season after finishing second to Creighton in the MVC -- but that’s not something that they’ll overcome until the NCAA tournament arrives.

But they have Early now. And if he’s on the floor, Wichita State can play with anyone.

He scored 15 points in the second half Wednesday night. In a contentious game that included a quiet outing by the typically sound Fred VanVleet (2-for-5 shooting, two turnovers, six points) and foul trouble for Baker (eight points), Early gave the Shockers a much-needed boost.

The Shockers can finish the regular season with a perfect record. And they can make a return trip to the Final Four because Early can guide them there. But not by himself.

Baker, VanVleet, Tekele Cotton (14 points), Early and a fleet of capable reserves are all valuable to this program. But Early can be a closer when the Shockers need one, whether they’re playing MVC competition in the coming weeks or high majors in the Big Dance.

Early had 24 points, 10 rebounds and a block against eventual national champion Louisville in the Final Four last season. He was an honorable mention on the Associated Press preseason All-American squad this year. He has the highest offensive rating in the MVC (114.9) among players who’ve participated in a minimum of 25 percent of their team’s possessions, per Ken Pomeroy data.

Early is capable of doing what he did on Wednesday against top-25 teams. He has already proven that.

That’s significant in this polarizing discussion about Wichita State, a team that’s clearly equipped with individual playmakers who aren’t simply products of Gregg Marshall's system. You don’t tussle with Louisville and dismiss Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State because you’re lucky or just abiding by a system.

You do it because you have the athletes to compete at that level.

Early and his teammates can play with anyone. He’s more than a great tale -- he arrived in Wichita after a stint at a low-level junior college. He’s the next-level competitor who will lift the Shockers in the tough matchups they’ll encounter the rest of the way.

If you don’t believe in Wichita State’s defense (ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy data) ...

If you don’t believe the Shockers have faced adequate competition (won at Atlantic 10-leading Saint Louis) ...

If you don’t believe VanVleet will maintain his poise against elite guards (he entered Wednesday’s game ranked third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio) ...

Then believe this: Early would be a star on any level, in any league, against any opponent. And the players around him anchor a squad that can clearly compete with the best.

Don’t believe it?

Let’s see how you feel when Early & Co. end up in your favorite team’s region on Selection Sunday. Maybe you’ll change your mind.

Wichita State basketball team on Sports Illustrated regional cover

Wichita State basketball team on Sports Illustrated regional cover



The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita State Shockers are cover models again.

The men’s basketball team, which heads into Wednesday’s game against Loyola with a 27-0 record, is on one of two regional Sports Illustrated covers this week, with the headline “Go Ahead, Try to Jinx Us.”

The photo of Cleanthony Early, Tekele Cotton, Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Chadrack Lufile was taken last week in Wichita. It accompanies a story by Thomas Lake. Duke’s Jabari Parker is on the cover of the other regional edition.

The Shockers were on one of three regional covers in April, 2013 after they reached the Final Four.

In 2006, WSU was on a regional cover when the Shockers advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Read more here:


Wichita State with zero to lose

Wichita State with zero to lose

Shockers have no losses, and they aren't afraid of being undefeated

Originally Published: February 5, 2014
By Dana O'Neil |

WICHITA, Kan. -- At the start of the season, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, his coaches and his players each made two lists of goals -- personal and academic for the players, personal and professional for the coaches.

Then Steve Dickie, the team chaplain and character coach, asked them to boil those goals into one word that would define their season.

Marshall's word: appreciate.

"I don't want to wait until I'm 70, sitting on the beach and looking for a buddy to drink a beer and try to remember it all,'' Marshall said. "I want to appreciate now.''

Should he succeed, should he and his players enjoy the moments as they are actually occurring, that might be an even greater accomplishment than what Wichita State is doing on the court.

The Shockers are currently No. 4 in the country, ninth in the RPI, 12th in the BPI and passing every eye test as well as I test.

But above all else, they are undefeated, standing alongside Syracuse as the lone teams left without a blemish.

Alongside and yet separate, that is. Separate because for Syracuse, this will all come along again. Maybe not undefeated into February, but national relevance, a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, those things are as certain as snow falling in central New York.

For Wichita State, who knows? Who knows when three national reporters will make the ride from Lawrence to Wichita in three successive days as they did last month? Who knows when the Shockers will see their name along a No. 1 seed in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology again? Who knows when anyone will be talking about Wichita State again?

That's not a knock on a reliable and well-constructed program but the reality of the dollars and cents of college sports. Ten years ago, Saint Joseph's triumphantly marched into the Atlantic 10 tournament with a perfect 27-0 record, the first team to finish the regular season unscathed since UNLV in 1991. The Hawks have made it back to the NCAA tournament just once since.

Two years ago, Murray State rolled to a 23-0 mark before losing in early February. Last season, the Racers didn't make it to the postseason.


[+] EnlargeGregg Marshall and Fred VanVleet
Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsGregg Marshall and Fred VanVleet are determined to enjoy this season and the chase of perfection.


"I don't know if I would put the word enjoyment on it,'' St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "I was amazed by it. ... And I used to agonize over the fact that my players were so non-pulsed, that I was hoping and praying they were enjoying it, that they realized they were walking on a path that very few athletes, forget college basketball players, had walked. I really wrestled with, 'What does this mean for our guys?'"

That's the funny thing about a goose egg in the L column.

Every coach, every athlete sets out to win every game, and yet when it happens, when one victory steamrolls into another and the schedule grows shorter, the big fat zero starts to feel more like an albatross than an accomplishment.

It can be constraining and all-consuming at the same time, so massive that people actually wonder if it would be better for a team to lose, which flies in the face of the entire concept of competition ("So H&R Block does 11,000 perfect tax returns, they should throw in a bad one once in a while just to take off the pressure?'' Martelli said).

Marshall knows all of that. He knows the St. Joe's story and the Murray State one, knows even more the odds at what his team is doing -- coming off a Final Four, gunning for another, undefeated, all out of the Missouri Valley.

That's why he's preaching to his team to embrace the big, fat zero, celebrate it and all the goofy stuff -- the autograph seekers, picture takers and media questioners -- that comes along with it.

And so far they seem to be listening. Instead of playing deaf, dumb and blind to the goose egg, pretending that it doesn't matter or more, doesn't exist, they admit that yeah, it's pretty cool.

"You work for this, to win every game,'' sophomore guard Fred VanVleet said. "That's why you play. We take pride in it.''

The truth is, no one expects Wichita State to be doing what it is doing. As top-10 teams go, the Shockers are all wrong. They are more an amalgamation of well-matched misfits than an amassment of talent.

No one on this roster was born with a silver Nike on his foot. Each came through success' back door.

Leading scorer Cleanthony Early is a future NBA player by way of a Division III junior college, which would be called the long road if it were even a road that ever had been paved. Early opted for Sullivan Community College, just 30 miles from his Middletown, N.Y. home, after his older brother, Jamel, drowned.

Ron Baker, the shaggy-haired, second-leading scorer on the team, is a country boy who grew up in Scott City, Kan. (population 3,816). His parents drove him 24 miles each way to high school and he only came to Wichita State after his coach essentially begged the Shockers' coaching staff to look at him one time. He paid his own way as a redshirt his first year.

"From where I come from, it's pretty amazing where I sit right now,'' Baker said. "If you had told me I'd be sitting here back in the day, I would have said you were crazy.''

VanVleet, who ranks third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, grew up in Rosemont, Ill. His parents struggled to make ends meet but willingly made sacrifices so their boys could pursue their basketball dreams and stay out of trouble. Even after all that hard work, his choices boiled down to Kent State, Northern Illinois and Wichita State.

Tekele Cotton, he of the monster-dunk highlight reel, played the better part of his high school career with a serious groin injury. He needed rest but refused to miss time and the injury likely cost him several scholarship options. In the end he chose between Wichita State, Morehead State, Murray State and Tennessee State.

"They do play with a little chip on their shoulder because none of them were blue chip recruits out of high school,'' Marshall said. "People always told them what they couldn't do as opposed to what they could.''

That freedom of expectation, though, might just make the Shockers best suited to do the impossible.

Can't-miss players can't miss. These guys? They're expected to miss.


[+] EnlargeCleanthony Early
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesCleanthony Early wasn't on the fast track to Division I basketball. But much like some of his teammates, here he is -- and here they are still unbeaten.


They are a big deal, but a big deal in a small setting. Devoid of a pro team in the city, Wichita is devoted to the Shockers, and has been long before this season. Fans want to send Marshall bottles of wine at dinner and pose for pictures with the players at the mall.

But it's a nice kind of devotion. There would be disappointment, certainly, if they lost, but there isn't that day-to-day angst over winning them all and winning it all because, until recently, that's never been a reachable goal. Even with a big gym, big budget and a Final Four run on its résumé, Wichita State remains more the little engine that could than the sports car that must.

Of course it was the same for Martelli's squad. Little St. Joe's with its tiny gym and tiny point guard (Jameer Nelson) and unheralded 2-guard (Delonte West) was a warm, fuzzy story that snowballed into a monster. By the time the Hawks hit February, the feel-good part was being pecked to death with questions. Was St. Joe's, for example, deserving of a No. 1 seed or even the No. 1 ranking it inherited for a week? Their competition, after all, wasn't the same and when the Hawks did receive a top spot in the tourney, analyst Billy Packer memorably went on a vicious rant attacking the decision.

Wichita State is entering that vortex now. The Missouri Valley isn't the power mid-major that it used to be, currently with the 12th-best RPI of any conference in the country, behind the West Coast and Mountain West, narrowly beating the Mid-American. Losing Creighton robbed the Shockers of a worthy adversary for the long term, but especially hurts them this year.

"Calling into question their league, that's not fair,'' Martelli said. "Straight up, here's the game, win or lose. Twenty-however-many times it is now, they've won. This is a numeric game and zero is a big number in the loss column.''

The straight-talking Marshall isn't playing that game. The man who jokingly refers to himself as a 29-year-old overnight sensation, referencing his long climb up the coaching ladder, isn't about to let outsiders spoil his fun.

He already told USA Today how he feels about his team's future seeding -- "We'd be 34-0. I don't care who you are playing. If you are playing a damned NAIA schedule, you should be a No. 1 seed." -- a comment that further endeared him to his players, who get the chip on their shoulder from his.

"I grew up around a lot of trash talking and a lot of confident, arrogant guys who didn't have the right to be confident and arrogant,'' VanVleet said. "So seeing someone in his position, to have that confidence, it really empowers us to be our own men. Some of the older, more established coaches, they have to act like they've been there before. We don't have to do that because he lets us enjoy it.''

And the Shockers are bound and determined to enjoy it.



Dana O'Neil | email

College Basketball

SLAM ONLINE: Grind Hard - Cleanthony Early

                                             Monday, January 20th, 2014 at 11:04 am  

Grind Hard

Cleanthony Early plays with a toughness that defines the unbeaten Wichita State Shockers.


by Leigh Klein / @leighalanklein

It is the mantra of former Wichita State head coach Gene Smithson and continued on by current Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall. Mental toughness and extra effort defines this Shockers team. It also defines one of their players, Cleanthony Early.

Through an unconventional recruitment, the death of a brother and a hurricane, Early landed in the Midwest as one of the leaders of his team and a player with NBA potential.

His basketball journey started in Middletown, NY, after his mother Sandra Glover opted to raise Cle away from New York City. It was his big brother Jamel who first introduced basketball to Cleanthony, and while there was some rec ball in the city, it was baseball that was his first passion. It wasn’t until the move to Middletown that he started to be more interested in basketball.

The development continued at Pine Bush (NY) High School where Early starred and averaged 20 points per game for the Bushmen as a senior. It was during that season that he turned the corner regarding his ability.

“I felt that I would have opportunities through basketball, I had a good senior season and a real good game against Newburgh Free Academy that took the state champion, Rice High School to the buzzer,” Early told SLAM.

Opportunities to play college basketball were hindered by his grades—by his senior year he was still in his evolution “from knucklehead to being a regular kid.”

It was his senior year, when Bobby Rahn, Burke Catholic assistant, first saw Cleanthony when the Eagles played at Pine Bush.

“It was within the first 15 seconds of the game and this long athletic kid gets a technical. People had told us about him, they called him ‘uncoachable’ but I saw it differently, he was so passionate, every play meant the world to him,” Rahn said.

“Later that year I was scouting and I met him up in Newburgh. He was there because the local Division III school, Mt. St. Mary’s of Newburgh, was one of the only schools showing him interest. I found him to be very personable, with a firm handshake and eye contact and offered him a spot with our AAU team, the BC Eagles. We have the Newburgh starting five, Cleanthony and some other local guys and we are playing down that June in New York City at the Rumble in the Bronx and Cleanthony, who had now grew to 6-6, 6-7, outplays two high-major post prospects as we lost in double overtime. His confidence grew from there.

“The next month we are in Springfield at a live tournament with college coaches circled around the Mass Mutual Center and he opens the game with energy, a thunderous one hand dunk, next possession—a block and then next trip down he hits a three-pointer. All the coaches start flipping the pages in the book and the look they had was, ‘Who’s that kid?’ I knew then, his dream of playing Division I was possible.”

One math credit short of qualifying, Cleanthony worked out for Division II programs Mercy and Dominican. Ultimately, looking to pursue his dream of playing Division I, Rahn introduced the idea of going to prep school.

Early and a fellow AAU teammate journeyed to Mt. Zion Christian Academy in Durham, NC, where he averaged 24 points per game.

“It seemed like a good idea, I was just thinking about working hard and improving, the school inspired me in a different way,” Early said. “It balanced me and connected me spiritually. It gave me guidance and affected my approach in a positive way.”

This spiritual foundation was needed to map through what happened next for Early and his family.

That summer, life would never be the same as his brother Jamel drowned in Schoharie Creek. Jamel was not only a big brother he also was a father figure; a man 14 years old with a family of his own.

“The loss of my brother propelled me to want to do more for my family. It motivated me. I kept working hard,” Early said. “I felt there was a lot on my shoulders both with basketball and as a person. It was time to stay focused and take advantage of my ability. I was now the man of the house and people were going to look at my example.”

Cleanthony was still in need of junior college and with many options, he decided what would be best is to stay close to home, enrolling in Sullivan County Junior College, a DIII junior college. Very few Division III junior college players get an opportunity to play NCAA Division I, nonetheless he had faith that it would happen.

“I learned from people who made mistakes and took the positives out of everything. Each year I got closer to my dream with the support of great people in my corner,” he said.

Former Sullivan County head coach Kevin DeVantier knew he had something special in Early.

“He has contagious passion and energy for the game. What separates him from the rest is his desire to compete and win every situation. It didn’t matter if it was a two-on-two drill, a rebounding drill in practice, he would refuse to let his team lose,” DeVantier said. “When others would tighten up, Cle would come through with a clutch block or basket. The bigger the game, the better he would play.”

The two-time NJCAA Division III Player of the Year had several of high-major offers including the likes of Baylor, San Diego State, Alabama, Missouri and Washington State. Fate would have him on a visit at Wichita State when Hurricane Irene struck New York and stranded him in Kansas for three additional days. After five days, he left convinced that Wichita State was the program for him.

“Last season, I had an early inkling that we can be something special from playing pickup before the season even started. [That feeling] continued to knock me in the face whenever we survived adversity…next man up,” Early said.

Final Four good? “We felt prepared for Pitt, people didn’t believe in us but we took pride to ‘Shock the World.’All of the sudden we are in the Final Four, two more wins and we meet the President. It was bittersweet.”

The Shockers leader in scoring and rebounding, he prides himself in being able to defend bigger players. He models his game after Kawhi Leonard and prior to this year was named a pre-season Wooden Award top-50 selection.

Scouts worry about what position he would play on the next level. Can he create off the dribble? What about his left hand and his lower body strength? There is no question about his resolve.

“The NBA has crossed my mind but I’m patient,” Early said. “If I continue to get better, if I continue to grind, I have faith it will happen.”

Leigh Klein was formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island and is a popular guest on radio. He now ownsFive-Star Basketball Camps, the nation’s top basketball camp where the likes of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Patrick Ewing all learned and got better. He contributes now to SLAMonline and their coverage of college basketball and the NBA Draft. Klein can be followed at @LeighAlanKlein 



Early Named MVC Player of the Week 1/27/14

MBB: Early Named MVC Player of the Week
Courtesy:Wichita State 

WICHITA, Kan. --  Cleanthony Early was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week, it was announced today.

The senior averaged 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in Wichita State's two wins last week, shooting 62.5 percent (15-24) from the field, 69.2 percent (9-13) from the arc and 75 percent (3-4) from the line.

At Illinois State he had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and at Drake he had 19 points and seven boards to go with two assists.


Early Named to Midseason Top-25 Wooden Award

Courtesy: Wichita State
MBB: Early Named to Midseason Top-25 Wooden Award
Courtesy:Wichita State 
Related Links

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Senior Forward Cleanthony Early has been named to the Midseason Top-25 for the John R. Wooden Award today, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced today on ESPN’s SportsCenter and ESPNU will follow up at 6pm EST/5pm CST with a half-hour show focusing on the candidates.

Chosen by the Wooden Award Advisory Board, the list is comprised of 25 student-athletes who are the front-runners for the sport’s most prestigious individual honor based on their play so far this season.

Early is not just the only Shocker, but is also the only member of the Missouri Valley Conference to make the Midseason Top-25.

Last season, Early helped the Shockers to the 2013 Final Four while becoming a 1st-team All-MVC selection and earning the MVC Newcomer of the Year award. Heading into this season, he was named the MVC Preseason Player of the year for the 2013-14 season and was named to the Associated Press' 2013-14 preseason All-America team as an honorable mention selection.

Early has started every game for the Shockers, helping lead them to a 19-0 record and currently a No. 5 ranking in the nation. He averages 15.3 points per game and grabs 6.6 rebounds per game.

About the John. R Wooden Award:

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball.  It is bestowed upon the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. 

Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), Candace Parker (’07 and ’08), Kevin Durant (’09) and Maya Moore of Connecticut (’09 and ‘11). Michigan’s Trey Burke won the 2013 Wooden Award presented by Wendy’s.

The Wooden Award All American Team, consisting of the nation’s top 10 players, will be announced the week of the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA Tournament.


Nothing about Wichita State's Cleanthony Early is conventional

'We could shock the nation'

Nothing about Wichita State's Cleanthony Early is conventional

Originally Published: January 22, 2014
By Andy Katz | ESPN The Magazine

Cleanthony EarlyStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesEarly scores 1.394 ppp in transition, placing him in the 89th percentile among D1 players.

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WICHITA STATE'S Cleanthony Early has a unique name, but a standard game. He boards, defends and finishes around the basket. The Shockers stunned the sport by reaching the Final Four in 2013 and now, Early's return combined with a full season from Ron Baker, has produced a lengthy undefeated start and a belief that the one team from the state of Kansas with a better chance to reach the Final Four may actually be in Wichita, not Lawrence.


Andy Katz: Why did you decide to go to a junior college close to your New York home town after a year at Mt. Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina?
Cleanthony Early: I had interests from a number of Division I schools. But that summer my older brother [Jamel Glover] drowned in the Hudson extension. He was swimming, jumping off the docks. I've done it. He had done it. He was like a father figure to me. Maybe not the best, but he was like one. He protected me, had my back and gave me comfort. I didn't want to be too far from home after that and that's why I chose a junior college 45 minutes [Sullivan County CC] from home.

Katz: How did you hear about his death?
Early: I was actually at my friend's crib. It was a summer day. It was so sunny. And then as soon as I got that call, the weather changed. It got nasty out. There was a storm. We had to go identify the body up river where they had recovered it. It was awful. I can see it like it was yesterday.

Katz: How did that affect you?
Early: My mom was a single mom. Everything wasn't all peachy. But there was love. I play for him. I play for my mom, my grandma, people that have my back. I don't take anything for granted. I live for a purpose.

Katz: Why did you choose a black and white avatar photo for your Twitter account with you in deep thought, head down, arms outstretched at the top of Koch Arena?
Early: It's a paradox for me. The black and white photo with me in deep thought. The positioning of the photo shows me in deep faith.

Katz: Why do you start the day by tweeting "Thank God for Today?"
Early: I've done that every day since prep school. It's something so simple. It is a reminder to be appreciative and grateful for what we have. I just want to Thank God for today.

Katz: What's the origination of your unique name?
Early: My dad's name is Cleveanthony. I'm not really sure. But my mom decided to just take off the V and the E.

Katz: During your recruiting trip to Wichita, you got stuck there due to Hurricane Irene. How did that influence your choice over San Diego State?
Early: It was crazy. I was here an extra four or five days. I went past the glamour of the two days when they do the meet and greet. I was a part of the program. Everyone thought I was going to San Diego State. I had so much fun out there. But there was too much temptation. I wanted to be at a place that was under the radar. I wanted to go somewhere where we could shock the nation. I'm from a big city and I wanted to go where there weren't a lot of options.

Katz: What's it like to play for coach Gregg Marshall?
Early: He's intense. You've got to buy in and lock in. There is a method to the madness. You've got to believe in the system as much as you believe in yourself. If you don't buy in, you don't play. If you're not diving on the floor, you're not getting playing time. Practices are intense, a dogfight. Not too many people practice like that. We guard each other really well.

Katz: What's it like to play at the Round House?
Early: It's so compacted. You can barely hear each other. We have to scream to each other to talk. Not a lot of teams are used to it.

Katz: Why did you come back instead of head to the NBA draft after the Final Four?
Early: I had so much more to learn and improve and understand. I knew we could be so much better than we were. I knew I could increase my stock. I knew I could get in a position to think like a pro. I know I can compete with anyone playing the game of basketball.

Katz: How did the Final Four change Wichita State?
Early: People knew us before but now we can't go anywhere without people knowing us. Even when I go back home now, everyone knows me. They want to take pictures, sign autographs every time we go out.

Katz: Why is this Wichita State team better than the Final Four team?
Early: I feel like we can score better than that team. We rebound just as good and our defense is just as good. We've got enough talent and can go punch for punch with teams.

Katz: What are the chances Wichita State can go undefeated in the regular season?
Early: I think they are pretty high. I can't say it's guaranteed. But if we can continue to work then the only team that can beat Wichita State is Wichita State. We can't take plays off. We have enough leaders to do it. If everyone stays healthy, what's stopping us?


Katz: How much do you miss Creighton in the Missouri Valley?
Early: I miss Creighton a lot. I would love to play those guys. Doug [McDermott] is a great kid. They're all pretty cool. I would love to play them again.

Katz: How much does Wichita State want to play Kansas?
Early: Everyone wants to play Kansas. I'm sure Kansas would love to play us. But everyone knows there are politics involved.

Katz: How realistic is it that Wichita State can win the national title?
Early: We have some of the top players in the nation. We just need to stay hungry and stay humble and continue to fight. I don't see nothing stopping us. I feel comfortable with our five, six, seven, eight or nine. You don't have to have the better team in March Madness. We want to play angry. We feel we belong. We're Wichita State.

Katz Korner is on Tuesdays 1-4 p.m. EST on ESPNU, running through the national championship game in Arlington, Texas.


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Junior college players show process works

By Myron Medcalf |

Baylor point guard Kenny Chery worried about his future.

He had solid grades and a proven work ethic. He was a strong competitor who had left his family in Montreal to pursue Division I basketball opportunities.

After he finished high school in Washington, D.C., and the time arrived for the Canadian prospect to apply for colleges, however, he encountered a challenge that his 3.2 GPA could not help him overcome.

The NCAA Clearinghouse refused to grant Chery eligibility to play at the next level. The Canadian classes on his transcript, some of which weren't deemed adequate, complicated his journey.

"Some classes back home, they don't use them here as core credits," Chery said. "For example, history. We don't learn the same history."

Kenny Chery
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesKenny Chery had to a travel a longer road to get to Baylor. "But it worked out pretty well," he said.

So he had to take a detour to State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo.

It's unfair to stereotype an entire pool of talent, yet the "junior college" tag often elicits skepticism within the college basketball community. But that perception might be changing, especially for coaches seeking mature players who can fill key holes on their rosters.

"I just knew that I had to do what I had do to get here," said Wichita State's Darius Carter, who attended Vincennes University in Vincennes, Ind., before joining the Shockers. "I wasn't really worried about how I'd be labeled. I just wanted to stand out as one of those guys that's not a 'juco guy,' one of those types of people."

There are many examples of athletes who have succeeded after junior college. Players such as Steve Francis, Jimmy Butler, Avery Johnson, Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman were all juco products before successful NBA runs.

This season, Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson, Memphis' Geron Johnson, Louisville's Chris Jones and Chery have all played significant roles for their respective programs. But there are far more casualties than stars who have entered Division I basketball from the junior college circuit in recent years.

And even some of the players who have made it have had to battle a negative perception about athletes who come from those ranks. Concerns about prospects' academic aptitude, athletic ability and character have been obstacles for players in Chery's position.

"I didn't want people to think, he didn't qualify [out of high school] because he got bad grades," Chery said. "At first, I was really worried."


There are definitely some juco players who are not playing high-major basketball because of academic issues or other "red flags." There are others who were good kids who just needed junior college to prepare them for the transition to Division I basketball. In that regard, junior college is not always a last chance for bad seeds. It's also a haven for players who can boost a program on and off the court from the moment they arrive.

And coaches recognize that.

"With Kenny, we're like there's nothing he can't do," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, who relied on junior college transfer Pierre Jackson last season. "He's got the midrange, the 3, the floater. [He] can finish at the rim, can defend, good student, good leader, diligent. No red flags."

When Larry Brown coached Kansas in the 1980s, he stayed away from junior college players. He didn't think it was fair to sign them and potentially reduce playing time for the players who had spent two or three years in his program.

He's changed his stance since returning to college basketball at SMU, although new academic requirements make it tougher to add junior college players today than it was 30 years ago.

"I love junior college kids, personally, because they're hungry," Brown said. "There's great coaching on the junior college level."

Mustangs big man Yanick Moreira drew interest from Division I schools after participating in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. The Angola native, however, had plenty to learn off the court too. He had to adjust to the American academic system.

There was another potential hindrance when Moreira and his family decided that some time at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, would be best for his basketball and scholastic career.

He didn't know the language.

"I think it was because of my English because I had to learn how to speak English," Moreira said. "Actually, I had a couple of Division I offers [out of high school], but that wasn't good enough for me. Me and my family, we decided, if I went to junior college, it would be great and open up other opportunities for me."

For others, academic problems are their main barriers.


Yanick Moreira
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesYanick Moreira didn't go to junior college before SMU because he had character or academic problems. He just needed time to better learn the language.


There is definitely a group of junior college prospects who warrant scrutiny because they struggled in the classroom in high school.

Iowa State's Dustin Hogue admits that he failed to meet the academic bar. But the Big 12's No. 2 rebounder doesn't regret the experience. He matured at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. He studied the game and evolved into a better player and a more disciplined student.

He's not sure he would have possessed those tools had he played Division I basketball after high school.

"It helped me polish my game more," he said. "I just became more focused. My coaches were on top of me."

Mining the field is not easy, though. The uneven competition among junior colleges results in deceptive stat sheets for players who can't make the same impact at the next level. So the analysis of a potential juco prospect, both on and off the floor, is an exhaustive undertaking.

"There's no doubt," Fred Hoiberg said. "That's not just junior college kids. That's everybody. That's high school kids. That's obviously transfers. You have to do as much work on them as possible to see if there are some things, to see if they won't fit in your program. We've had great luck with our junior college players."

The Iowa State coach has found some of the gems among junior colleges. Last year, Tyrus McGee, a junior college transfer, earned the Big 12's sixth man honor. Hogue is averaging 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for him this season.

"I think you just have to do as many evaluations on a kid as you can, put the whole package together and see if they fit in your system," Hoiberg said.

That pursuit of certain junior college standouts can lead to products like Chery, a guard who has the Big 12's highest assist rate, per Ken Pomeroy.

"I thought it was a little setback," Chery said. "I didn't really like junior college at first. I was like, 'Oh, why am I here? I should be at a Division I school right now.' But it worked out pretty well."

Who is the next mid-major star?

August, 30, 2013
PaytonMike Carter/USA TODAY SportsElfrid Payton could emerge as a star this season.
No one could have predicted Damian Lillard being chosen sixth overall in the NBA draft prior to the start of his final season at Weber State. When C.J. McCollum entered Lehigh as a freshman, he wasn’t considered an overseas prospect, never mind someone who would be selected in the NBA lottery. Gordon Hayward was a mid-major guy who came out of virtually nowhere to be selected ninth in the draft a few years ago, and Paul George was hardly a household name when he was taken 10th out of Fresno in 2010.

Who will be this year’s Lillard or McCollum? We’re not sure there is one, but here are 20 or so candidates (below in alphabetical order) that A) you should keep an eye on this college basketball season and B) have the potential to come out of nowhere to become an NBA prospect.

We obviously aren’t including the high-profile leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, American, Mountain West) and decided not to include anyone from the A-10 or WCC, either. But I will make one exception. I’m going to allow a pair from Utah State on the list, since the Aggies are a legit mid-major and enter their first season in the Mountain West.

Adjehi Baru, 6-foot-9, 230, PF, Soph., College of Charleston Cougars -- The native of the Ivory Coast is big, athletic and can rebound at a high level. Imagine a poor man’s Kenneth Faried. He averaged 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds last season and his skill level should continue to improve.

Jerrelle Benimon, 6-8, 245, PF, Sr., Towson Tigers -- The Georgetown transfer is the best player in the CAA. He’s 6-foot-8, big and strong and more skilled than most realized. He can obviously score in the paint and rebound (11.2 RPG), but he also shot 41 percent from beyond the arc and averaged 2.5 assists per game. The questions from NBA folks will involve his size and ability to shoot it consistently.

Sim Bhullar, 7-5, 355, C, Soph., New Mexico State Aggies -- He’s mammoth. There just aren’t guys around like the big Canadian, and not only does that make him fun to watch, but it’ll give him a chance to make an NBA roster. He averaged 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as a freshman and was the WAC Freshman of the Year.

Taylor Braun, 6-7, 205, SG, Sr., North Dakota State Bison -- He is long, athletic and can score in a variety of ways. He shot 44 percent from beyond the arc, but he’s also able to create off the dribble. Scouts are aware of him from when he played well against Nate Wolters last season in the Summit League tourney.

Alec Brown, 7-1, 235, C, Sr., Green Bay Phoenix -- He’s been on the NBA’s radar for a couple years, but hasn’t yet taken the next step, especially in terms of physicality and toughness. He’d be more of a pick-and-pop guy at the next level unless he puts on weight and gets stronger to handle post players in the NBA.

John Brown, 6-7, 200, F, Soph., High Point Panthers -- He’s coming off a broken foot, but I saw the 6-7 athlete prior to last season. He’s ultra-athletic and wound up averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in his first season of college ball.

Kyle Casey, 6-7, 230, SF, Sr., Harvard Crimson -- He didn’t play last season, but the Massachusetts native is a strong and athletic wing who is on the radar for several NBA teams. He shot it well two seasons ago, making 35 percent of his 3s while averaging 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Allan Chaney, 6-9, 235, PF, Sr., High Point Panthers -- Obviously, the heart issue that kept him off the court for nearly three seasons will impact his chances at the next level. However, Chaney has the combination of size and skill to be under consideration by the NBA folks.

Torrey Craig, 6-6, 215, SF, Sr., USC Upstate Spartans -- He’s long, athletic and can create his own shot. He's a terrific rebounder for his position and also able to shoot well enough. He averaged 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Spartans last season.

Cleanthony Early, 6-8, 215, F, Sr., Wichita State Shockers -- He’ll need to improve his handle and his left hand, but he’s long, athletic, can really score and isn’t afraid of the moment (just watch the tape of the Shockers' Final Four loss to Louisville).

Corey Hawkins, 6-3, 195, SG, Jr., UC Davis Aggies -- The son of former NBA scorer Hersey Hawkins can also fill it up. The younger Hawkins isn’t as athletic as Hersey, but he can shoot it from deep, is strong enough to get into the lane and finish and ended his first season at UC Davis averaging 20.3 points while shooting 40 percent from deep.

Damion Lee, 6-6, 195, SG, Jr., Drexel Dragons -- There are those who question his toughness, but Lee has what the NBA wants -- length and the ability to shoot the ball. He put up 17.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, but he needs to improve his handle.

Walt Lemon Jr., 6-3, 180, PG, Sr., Bradley Braves -- A Chicago native who is a terrific athlete and plays extremely hard, Lemon needs to work on his decision-making and also his perimeter shot, but he’s got the physical tools to be on NBA draft boards.

Preston Medlin, 6-4, 185, PG, Sr., Utah State Aggies -- He is a point guard with good size who can really, really shoot the ball. He was averaging 16.3 PPG prior to suffering a season-ending broken wrist 16 games into the season.

Jake Odum, 6-6, 170, PG, Sr., Indiana State Sycamores -- He’s got some Matthew Dellavedova in him. Odum is extremely tough, can really run a team and can make shots from the perimeter. The questions will involve his athleticism and ability to guard at the next level. Averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game for the Sycamores.

Elfrid Payton, 6-3, 170, PG, Jr., Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns -- He made the U-19 team this past summer and more than held his own. He’s sort of a poor man’s Rajon Rondo, extremely athletic and fast, but he needs to develop a solid perimeter shot, work on his decision-making and also get stronger.

Kendrick Perry, 6-0, 175, PG, Sr., Youngstown State Penguins -- He’s extremely quick, and can score at all three levels -- from deep, midrange and also in the lane. He still needs to continue to get stronger, but he averaged 17.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists last season and has a bit of Norris Cole in his game.

Elijah Pittman, 6-8, 220, F, Sr., Marshall Thundering Herd -- Think of a poor man’s Paul George. He’s a big, skilled and athletic wing who can shoot it from deep. He’ll need to work on his decision-making and also become a better rebounder for someone his size.

Augustine Rubit, 6-7, 230, PF, Sr., South Alabama Jaguars -- He’s a skilled forward who can score in the post and also step out and make shots from the perimeter. He’s also a proven high-level rebounder. If he were two inches taller, he’d be a lock. He’ll still have a chance to make an NBA team.

Jarred Shaw, 6-10, 235, PF, Sr., Utah State Aggies -- Shaw is a skilled and fairly athletic big man who transferred in from Oklahoma State and made significant improvement over the course of last season. He has good size and can step out and make shots. Averaged 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for Stew Morrill last season.

Tyler Stone, 6-8, 230, PF, Sr., Southeast Missouri State Redhawks -- He’s an athletic, face-up forward who plays with a motor and can really score. The question will be his size and his ability to make shots from the NBA 3-point line. He averaged 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds last season for the Redhawks, but he shot just 24 percent from beyond the arc.

Pine Bush grad Early isn't content with perfect record

  • Wichita State's Cleanthony Early

Pine Bush grad Early isn't content with perfect record

The question kept popping up in Wichita State's postgame press conference Wednesday.

Cleanthony Early and the Shockers had just improved to 28-0 with a 14-point win at Loyola (Chicago). Earlier that night, Syracuse suffered its first loss in overtime to Boston College, leaving No. 3 Wichita State as the nation's lone undefeated team.

How did Early, a Pine Bush graduate and John Wooden Award semifinalist, feel about Syracuse falling?

"I think those questions that they ask us repeatedly after we have already made a statement is trying to get us to slip up and say something they can put it on the front page," said Early, one of three returning starters from Wichita State's Final Four team last year, Friday. "They are trying to get us to say something different than you said already and make a mistake. I don't think we are the guys to do that. We are going to tell you the truth. We don't care if they lose or win. We are focusing on ourselves."

Early and the Shockers may be college basketball's front-page story for the next six weeks. Wichita State's starting five, which includes Early, who is averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game, graced a regional cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

If Wichita State wins its last three Missouri Valley Conference games, it will be the first team since St. Joseph's (Pa.) in 2004 to enter its league tournament undefeated. If Wichita State wins its first Missouri Valley championship since 1987, the Shockers would be in the same company as the 1991 UNLV team, the last to start the NCAA tournament unbeaten. Bobby Knight led Indiana to Division I's last perfect season in 1976.

"Last year, they (Wichita State) was under the radar," said Steve Lappas, a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports Network. "This year, they have the experience factor. But, right now, they have expectations and with expectations comes more pressure.

"They have a good chance of going into the NCAA tournament undefeated and that's a big cross to bear. They are the only undefeated team left so the pressure is getting to get bigger."

Wichita State is packing arenas across the Missouri Valley Conference. Loyola drew 4,577 fans Wednesday, almost 2,000 more than its best crowd this season. The Shockers nearly filled Indiana State's 10,200-seat Hulman Center, bringing in 9,245 fans.

"Everyone wants to beat us," Early said. "They view it as kind of turning their season around and it makes their season. ... We are above that radar now."

Early and Wichita State host Drake (14-13) Saturday, travel to Bradley (11-17) Tuesday and close their regular-season schedule against Missouri State (17-10) next Saturday at home. Early has a warning for the Shockers' future opponents.

"I always understand that there's always room for improvement." Early said. "I'm pretty happy how we are playing because we are winning games. But, I know that we can play way better than we have been playing. We've been playing good but I don't think we have played our best basketball yet and that's what excites me the most." Twitter: @salinterdonato

Early, Wichita State are on a roll


With each Wichita State win this season, there has been more attention, hype and fanfare, which means one thing — Cleanthony Early is in his element.

Early seemingly plays his best in the spotlight, feeding off the bright lights and big stage, and this has been some show. With Early reprising his role as Wichita State's poster boy, a part he first played in last season's NCAA tournament, the Shockers have opened the season with 19 straight wins.

At 19-0, fifth-ranked Wichita State has tied the 1962-63 Cincinnati team for second-best start by a Missouri Valley team. Indiana State, led by Larry Bird, didn't lose until the 1979 national championship game. Only two other teams in the country are undefeated this season — No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Syracuse, which are both 18-0.

Wichita State goes for its 20th consecutive win at Illinois State in an MVC game on Wednesday.

"A lot of people in Wichita are going crazy," said Early, a Pine Bush graduate and former SUNY Sullivan star. "A lot of people in the country are going crazy. We try not to pay attention and just play basketball. But we knew how good we were coming in, we knew how much we wanted it. We just had to go out there and go get it. We go out there every night like we want it, you know?"

Last season, Early and the Shockers, of course, shocked the nation — reaching the Final Four for the first time since the 1965 season. The Shockers defeated No. 1 Gonzaga and second-seeded Ohio State on the way to Atlanta. In a 72-68 loss to Louisville, the top seed, Early battled to keep Wichita State in the game.

He finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds against the eventual national champion. Early, a 6-foot-8 forward, and Wichita State set a school record for wins (30) and became the first MVC team to reach the Final Four since Bird and Indiana State in 1979.

With plenty of talent returning, Wichita State was supposed to be good this year. But this good? After the Shockers defeated Indiana State 68-48 on Saturday, Sycamores coach Greg Lansing told reporters that this Wichita State team is better than the one that went to the Final Four, and could run the table and win a national championship.

Before the season, there was already hype surrounding Early, a senior. He was named the MVC's preseason player of the year in October by a panel of league sports information directors, media and coaches. Several NBA scouts have visited Wichita State to watch Early, and Shockers coach Gregg Marshall told the Times Herald-Record before the season that he thinks Early could be a first-round NBA draft pick in June.

Faced with big-time expectations, he's never flinched. He leads Wichita State in scoring with 15.3 points per game and continues to develop his explosive game.

"Not everybody knew about Cleanthony last season," said Norfolk State assistant coach Kevin DeVantier, who coached Early at SUNY Sullivan. "What's impressive is that everyone knows him this year, he's the guy to stop on the scouting report. The brighter the lights get, the better he gets. Nothing phases him."

Not even Wichita State's 19-game winning streak. If the Shockers keep winning, it will bring only more attention, hype, fanfare and, no doubt, more pressure.

Not a problem.

Cleanthony Early can handle that, too.

"We're playing basketball," Early said. "This is the regular season. Pressure? You know what I mean? It's not like we are in the tournament. It's conference play. We're pretty sure we can play with anyone."

Mike Tobey takes step forward in Virginia’s beating of N.C. State

Mike Tobey takes step forward in Virginia’s beating of N.C. State


Jan 11, 2014, 8:02 PM EST


Less than two weeks ago Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers took their worst beating of the season, losing 87-52 at Tennessee with many wondering if Virginia had what it took to turn things around and be the ACC contender they were expected to be. Since that result: three wins, all by double digits, with their latest conquest being a 76-45 win at N.C. State.

One reason for the margin was Virginia’s defending of T.J. Warren, who they limited to just four points on 1-for-9 shooting. The Cavaliers were also solid offensively despite shooting 3-for-13 from deep, with three starters finishing in double figures and the other two scoring eight points apiece.

Joe Harris scored 16 points on the evening, and since leaving the Florida State win early in the first half due to injury the senior’s averaged 13.5 points per game and has been a more efficient player on that end of the floor. Against Tennessee Harris, a first team All-ACC selection last season, shot 2-for-9 from the field and turned the ball over three times with the Volunteers doing all they could to limit his quality touches.

Saturday’s win marks the second consecutive game in which Harris has shot 50% from the field, and while the shot attempts may not be all that high (4-for-8 in both games) he’s still an offensive threat that opponents have to be mindful of. But even with Harris’ two-game stretch, his play on Saturday may not be the most important development to take from Saturday’s blowout win. That would be the play of sophomore center Mike Tobey.

After averaging 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game as a freshman and making the United States Under-19 team that won a gold medal at the U-19 World Championships this past summer, Tobey was pegged as a possible breakout player in the ACC by more than a few pundits. With Tobey up to 7.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game it can be argued that he hasn’t reached that status just yet. But against N.C. State’s talented (but young, with the exception of Jordan Vandenberg) front court Tobey tallied 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds.

Tobey’s afternoon comes on the heels of a two-game stretch in which he accounted for a total of six points and six rebounds, with the 6-foot-10 big man going scoreless at Florida State. Tobey’s now reached double figures in scoring in five games this season, so the ability to be an impact player offensively is there. The next step for Tobey, beginning with Monday’s game against a Duke team that is lacking in the post, is to do so on a consistent basis.

That would certainly help the Cavaliers in their quest to make a run at the ACC title, because Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell can always use some help carrying the load.


Early and the Shockers improve to 13-0 with 80-71 win over Davidson

Courtesy: Wichita State
MBB: Shocks Improve to 13-0 With Win Over Davidson, 81-70
Courtesy:Wichita State 
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WICHITA, Kan.  – Cleanthony Early recorded his second double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds as the Wichita State men’s basketball team defeated Davidson, 81-70, Sunday afternoon in Charles Koch Arena. The Shockers improved to 13-0 on the season, the second-best win streak in school history. 

Ron Baker scored 15 points and led the team with five assists, while Darius Carter added 13 points and six rebounds and Tekele Cotton scored 10 points in the victory.

Wichita State shot 42 percent (23-for-54) from the field and 36 percent (7-for-19) from three-point range, while Davidson shot 42 percent (24-for-56) from the field and 39 percent (11-for-28) from behind the arc. The Shockers forced 15 Wildcat turnovers and outrebounded Davidson 39-35 on the day.

The Shockers jumped out to an early 11-5 lead in the first six minutes of play, capped by a jumper from Darius Carter at the 14:04 mark. Davidson (4-9, 0-0) took a 16-15 lead with 10:11 left in the first half but Wichita State (13-0, 0-0) went on an 8-3 run to extend its lead, 23-18.

The Wildcats hit back-to-back threes in the final minutes of the first half to regain the lead, 32-31, but the Shockers hit some free throws and a last second jumper by Carter put Wichita State on top, 36-32, going into the locker room.

Early led the Shockers in the first 20 minutes of play with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and three rebounds, while Carter added six points and Tekele Cotton contributed five points.

The Shockers shot 46 percent (12-for-26) from the field and 30 percent (3-for-10) from three-point range, while the Wildcats shot 42 percent (11-for-26) from the field and 28 percent (4-for-14) from behind the arc. Wichita State forced 11 turnovers but was outrebounded 18-to-15 in the first half of play.

Cotton hit a quick layup to extend the Shocker lead, 38-32 in the second half but Davidson responded on the other end with a three-pointer to cut the deficit, 38-35. Wichita State went on a 5-1 run on a three by Early and a jumper from Carter to take a 43-36 lead at the 17:35 mark, but the Wildcats would not go away, hitting three straight shots to pull within one, 45-44.

A three-pointer from Early at the 12:14 mark capped a 10-2 Shocker run, giving them the 55-46 advantage. Davidson would not go away, however, responding with two three-pointers and a dunk, cutting the lead, 58-54 with 9:10 left to play.

Baker hit a three at the top of the key and Early followed with a layup at the 8:18 mark, giving Wichita State a 63-54 advantage before a Wildcat three quieted the crowd and brought Davidson within six, 63-57 with 7:57 left on the clock.

Early ended a four minute field goal drought with a layup at the 4:25 mark and VanVleet hit a three shortly after to extend the lead, 71-64, heading into the media timeout. Davidson could not find its offensive flow in the final minutes, however, and the Shockers went on to win, 81-70.

The Shockers travel to Carbondale, Ill., Thursday, Jan. 2 to take on Southern Illinois in the first Missouri Valley Conference matchup. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN3.


MSG Varsity Hudson Valley Top 30 High School Players

The boys basketball season in the Hudson Valley is right around the corner and 2013-14 is shaping up to be one loaded with talent.

MSG Varsity boys basketball expert Kevin Devaney Jr. attempted to rank the Top 30 players in the region, which consists of Section 1, Section 9 and local CHSAA and private schools.

(Also coming soon: The Top 15 Rising Stars of the Hudson Valley)



Grade: Senior  Position: Guard  Height: 6-1

Scouting report: By the end of the season, we could be talking about Coffey as a Top 10 player in the region. He enters the season among the best pure shooters in the Hudson Valley, averaging 11.5 points per game off the bench, and will look to carry the momentum of a stellar effort in the Class A state final four into this season. Coffey had 15 of 19 points in the fourth quarter of the state quarters, 13 of his 21 points in the second half of the state semis and then 19 in the title game. 


Grade: Senior    Position: Point guard    Height: 5-10

Scouting report: As far as ball-handlers go, you might not find any better in the region than Dwyer. He’s deceptively quick and incredibly strong for a player his size, making it almost impossible to press the Eagles when he’s on the floor. Dwyer is a quality shooter who’ll likely need to score more on an undersized but deep Burke squad. 


Grade: Junior     Position: Wing    Height: 6-2
Scouting report: The much-hyped veteran is worth the price of admission at any game this season. Ray is a complete player who averaged 17.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He commands the ball on every possession and will look to carry the Middies to a Section 9 title this season.

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Mt Zion vs. Word of God NC

Jason Porter Scouts: Mt Zion V Word of God

rdu logo

Last night I was out at Mt Zion in Durham to see their varsity take on a very talented Word of God team. The JV game had been very fun to watch with great back and forth action, threes falling from everywhere, and fast breaks where plentiful. I just knew that the varsity game would hold more of the same for us.

Word Of God looked ready to deliver on that promise early by jumping out of the gate with 8 quick points but that was not to last. After that initial burst to start the game, Mt Zion started to take the air out of the ball and made WOG work for all they got. After 1 the score was 14-9 and the slow down was in full effect.

Mt Zion got a five quick points to start the 2nd quarter to get the game to within 2 and from that point up until the last 2 minutes or so of the game, there was really no separation of note between the 2 teams. Jaylen Fornes led all scorers with 8 at half for WOG while Travis Cook set the pace for Mt Zion with 7.

We got more of the same to start the 2nd half, slow, methodical basketball from Mt Zion. I will be honest in saying that it made for some boring ball to watch at times but what may be boring to the fans was actually really smart coaching from the Mt Zion staff. Mt Zion really can not run with WOG for a full game and the way they made the game slow down gave them the best chance to win. The problem with this approach though showed up late in the 4th quarter when WOG was able to ice the game away.

High School hoops, like most hops is all about runs and who gets hot when. WOG was able to get a 5 point lead with under 2 to go in the game and Mt Zion was not able to speed the pace up in order to really mount a comeback.  Add that to the fact that they were in the bonus and that WOG had Mr Automatic from the line (Alex Moore) in the game and getting the free throws and you get a final that looks more one-sided than what the game really was. WOG walks out with a 53-43 win in this one. Player notes are as follows:


Travis Cook, 6’4 jr wing – Usually when I see Travis play he is doing damage from deep. Tonight he showed me more than just an outside shot though as he was driving more than I have seen from him. The jumper is always there (hit 2 from deep) but the ability to take guys off the bounce will help elevate his game. I had him leading all scorers with 15 in this one to go with 2 boards and a block. If he can show me more than the ability to score (rebounding, assists, all around player) then he has a shot to really make a splash. He has the height, the shot, and the athletic ability to be a solid 2 guard at the next level.

Early leads Shockers past Alabama

Courtesy: Wichita State
MBB: Early Leads Shockers to 72-67 Win over Alabama
Courtesy:Wichita State 
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Cleanthony Early had a season-high 26 points and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the charity stripe as No. 11/9 Wichita State executed down the stretch to beat Alabama 72-67 and improve to 11-0 on the season. 

Both Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton chipped in 11 points, while Darius Carter scored nine points and pulled down seven rebounds off the bench for Wichita State in the win. The Shockers shot 44 percent (22-50) from the field and made 25-of-27 free throws during the contest.

 Wichita State jumped out to a 16-6 lead early in the first half that was highlighted by five straight points from VanVleet. VanVleet drained a three-pointer from the top of the key and followed it up with a layup off of an Alabama turnover. 

 Alabama took advantage of a four minute Wichita State shooting drought and cut the Shocker lead to 26-24 after a Retin Obasohan three-pointer and would tie the game at 26-26 on a Trevor Releford driving lay-up that capped a 12-4 Crimson Tide run. 

Evan Wessel's offensive rebound and put back gave the Shockers a slim 29-26 lead with 2:07 to go in the first half but two Alabama threes by Releford and Rodney Cooper gave the Crimson Tide their first lead of the game at 32-31. 

Tekele Cotton made two free throws in the final minute of the first half to give Wichita State a 33-32 lead at intermission. 

The Shockers shot 45 percent (10-22) from the field and made 12-of-13 free throws in the first half, while the Crimson Tide shot 47.6 percent (10-21) from the field and 40 percent (4-10) from behind the arc. 

Cleanthony Early scored the first five points of the second half and gave the Shockers a 38-32 advantage. Ron Baker found a cutting Early and Early threw down a base line jam to open up the second half, and followed the dunk with a corner three to increase the Shocker lead to six points. 

Alabama cut the lead to 40-38 after a Cooper lay-up, but an old-fashioned three-point play by Darius Carter put Wichita State back up by five, 45-40 at the 12:43 mark of the second half. The Crimson Tide would take its first lead of the second half at 52-51 after back-to-back threes from Releford, but Baker connected on hist first three-pointer of the game that tied the game at 56-56. 

Baker found Early again in transition for an easy dunk that put the Shockers up 62-59 with just under three minutes to play in the game. Early followed the dunk with a three-point play after a made jump shot and a free throw, but Cooper hit a three-pointer to cut the Wichita State lead to 65-64 with two minutes left in regulation.

VanVleet hit a running jumper and Carter had a crucial offensive put back as Wichita State made enough plays down the stretch to escape with a 72-67 win.

The Shockers are next in action on Sunday, Dec. 22 when they take on North Carolina Central at 7 p.m. inside Charles Koch Arena.


Keystone's Jesse Longmire

November 23, 2013

Hoopsville Classic: Splitsville

More news about: Keystone | La Verne | Ohio Wesleyan
Freshman guard Jesse Longmire brings a unique skill set to Keystone
Photo by Larry Radloff,

By Rob Knox

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Keystone College interim men's basketball coach Brad Cooper had one simple goal for his team against La Verne College.

"We wanted to really attack the basket from the start of the game," Cooper said.

Mission accomplished.

The Giants unleashed a furious assault on the basket that yielded a 73-64 victory over the University of La Verne in the Hoopsville Classic Saturday afternoon at Stevenson University. It was La Verne's first loss of the year.

It was a much different strategy for Keystone than the one it used against Trinity in a loss on Friday. In that game, the Giants hoisted 45 three-pointers. Against La Verne, the Giants attempted 12 three-pointers. Instead of trying to shoot from distance, Keystone went hard to the rack. In ending a two-game losing streak, the Giants attempted more foul shots (42) than field goals (40) in earning the wire-to-wire victory.

"I thought we did a good of attacking instead of settling for threes when we came off screens today," Cooper said. "La Verne took away the three-point line and that opened up some opportunities for us."

Despite battling the flu, Keystone freshman guard Jesse Longmire was a whirling dervish of activity. The cough he experienced didn't stop him from driving to the basket and finishing with a career-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Duncan Lunsford added 21 points to lead Keystone. Both players attempted 12 foul shots. Dan Candemeres, who attempted 19 three-pointers Friday, made his only three-point try. He finished with 15 points.

"We still played the same pace today, but today we made an effort to keep attacking the rim," Longmire said. "We wanted to come out today to get a win against a good team and stop our losing streak."

Longmire, who is from Harlem, is making a difference for the Giants. He's used to winning and has been a nice addition to Keystone's fast-paced offense. A 6-4 point guard, Longmire can drive past taller defenders and see over smaller ones. He is averaging 14.2 points per game through five games and has reached double figures in scoring four times on the young season. Longmire credits his teammates for helping him to play with an edge and keep improving.

"It starts in practice because my teammates push me every single day and I am thankful for that strong competition," Longmire said. "At this level, dudes are faster and stronger. I like the up-tempo style because I like to get out and run. It was one of the things that attracted me to the school. Plus, we get a chance to turn the other team over."

Longmire was an equal opportunity scorer as he had eight in the first half and 12 in the second half.

Keystone was at its attacking best to start the game and the beginning of the second half. The Giants swooshed to a 10-2 lead four minutes into the game. Then Keystone roared out of the locker room scoring the first eight points as part of a 14-2 burst to open a 49-37 advantage with 16:13 remaining. Even though La Verne, got to within, 55-51 with less than nine minutes remaining, it could get no closer.

La Verne was led in scoring by Ronn See’s 14 points. Eric Becker added 10 points for the Leopards, who had at least 12 players see at least 10 minutes of action.

"Keystone had a great game plan coming in," La Verne coach Richard Reed said. "They switched from man to zone when we brought in our shooter off the bench and they did a nice job of confusing us early with their switching defenses."

Email Rob Knox at and follow on twitter at @knoxrob1.


Robinson and James Freshman Duo Making Big Contributions For Monmouth

Freshman Duo Making Big Contributions For Monmouth

Josh James RiderBeing a college freshman can be tough, what with academic requirements, dealing with professors, acclimating yourself to dorm life and presumably being on your own for the first time.

Now, take all of those factors, add on being a big contributor for a Division I basketball team and that’s what you have in Monmouth freshmen Justin Robinson and Josh James.

The guard duo finished its first semester of college earlier this month and will play in its 13th college basketball game this afternoon when the surprising 6-6 Hawks face former Northeast Conference foe Wagner College at 3 p.m. at the Multipurpose Activity Center.

After getting through the end of classes and final exams while mixing in basketball, Monmouth head coach King Rice noted after an 87-78 win over Fordham on Dec. 21 that he thought it was a good time for Robinson and James to be getting a break for a few days.


For King Rice, a Long Christmas Break Was Too Long

Justin Robinson2WEST LONG BRANCH – When you’ve won five of your last seven games to get to .500 through 12 games for the first time in a decade like Monmouth has, the last thing you want to do is take an extended break.

The problem is, Christmas break came and Hawks head coach King Rice didn’t have much of a choice after his team defeated Fordham, 87-78, on Dec. 21. Most of his players left campus following that game in the early evening before the team reconvened in West Long Branch for practice on Thursday afternoon.

In defense of his players, Rice readily admits that the timing of the break was good given they have gone hard since late September, with only a short Columbus Day weekend break mixed in.

“I never want to take days off, but sometimes, you just need it,” freshman point guard Justin Robinson said after practice on Friday afternoon.

Prep Phenom Hoop Report

Mt Zion Varsity V Carlisle School


Whatever gym 7′ 2016 F Thon Maker walks into is sure to create some buzz. Thon’s Carlisle School, fresh off a huge victory over Huntington Prep, brought their winning ways to Mt Zion to play their Varsity team. Carlisle School has only dropped one game this season, that was to Oak Hill (who they play again next).

From the get go this game’s pace was slowed down. Carlisle decided to pack into a zone and Mt Zion decided to take time off the clock. At half time the the score was 21-15. The Mt Zion Varsity  wings did a good job getting into the lane and finishing. An attack led by 6’4 senior wing Britton Reed and his 8 first half points. 6’3 junior wing Travis Cook also had 6.

The second half was a different story, the game opened up a bit and Carlisle School gained the lead for good. Kick starting the charge was the interior play of 6’5 senior forward Kevin Cuesta and Maker. Cuesta had 9 second half points and Maker 11.  6’6 junior wing Kaleb Johnson had 5 rebounds and 6 steals in the second half, getting Carlisle School in transition for easy buckets.

Mt Zion Varsity utilized very quick and active hands in the lane. The first half would not allow Carlisle School to attack the basket. Once the second half came around and they began passing instead of attacking, things worked out better.

Carlisle School won the game 46-41 behind 16 points and 9 rebounds from Thon Maker. Kevin Cuesta and Malcolm Ndiaye had 9 points each and Kaleb Johnson had 5 points 8 rebounds and 8 steals. For Mt Zion Varsity Britton Reed finished with 14 points and Travis Cook finished with 12 points.

Thon Maker – The size to skill set is tantalizing. Shows perimeter skill, but was most effictive when he get in the post and used his length. Needs strength, but no denying big time skill.

Kaleb Johnson – Couldn’t get shot going, but found ways to affect the game regardless. Defends on and off the ball at a high level and a good rebounder for position.

Britton  Reed – Fearlessly attacked the basket and was able to finish consistently and draw contact. Defended with a motor and made his free throws.

Travis Cook – Came off the bench to provide a spark to the team. Attacked the basket hard and finished craftily at the rim. Quick and active hands in the lane.

Draft Express NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Cleanthony Early

Top NBA Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Two: (#6-10)
October 31, 2013

From DraftExpress.com

Derek Bodner

After being one of the top rated junior college players while at Division three Sullivan County Community College, forward Cleanthony Early made an immediate impact at Wichita State, culminating in an unexpected run to the final four that Early featured prominently in.

While Early was always likely to go the junior college route out of high school due to academic issues, family tragedy would ultimately influence his early college career, when his older brother died in an accident after Early's senior year of high school. Early would select Sullivan County, a DIII junior college, due to its proximity to his family. He dominated at that level, becoming the two time NJCAA DIII player of the year before transferring to Wichita State last year.

The lanky 6'8" forward worked his way into becoming a potent inside-outside threat for the Shockers, scoring 22.7 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted. He showed ability from both the inside, where his 1.2 points per possession on post-ups would rank as the highest level of efficiency for any player with at least 50 possessions used, and from the outside, shooting 32% from three point range on 3.8 attempts per game.

In the post, Early was incredibly efficient overall, thanks in large part due to the frequency with which he drew fouls from post-ups and how rarely he turned the ball over. That being said, his overall offensive repertoire isn't all that advanced down low, relying largely on a turnaround jump shot and a hook over his left shoulder. He has a quick spin move and gets off of his feet quickly, allowing him to get quality shots at the basket despite not having the most advanced footwork around. He's not all that developed in terms of lower body strength, and struggles to establish deep position or move defenders after receiving the entry pass, something that is sure to become even more pronounced at the next level.

Despite his efficiency on the block, he's a fairly low-usage post scorer at two possessions per game, which, while good that he plays within his limitations, also suggests this is something that is not likely to translate at a high volume once he goes up against stronger, more physical competition.

Early's overall a good athlete, and he uses this in transition, off of cuts to the basket, and offensive rebounds, which all represent a fairly sizable portion of his offense. Early pulls down a solid 3.7 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, combining his explosive leaping ability with a relentless pursuit of the ball to generate extra possessions for his team.

Showing very little ability to create off the dribble and virtually nothing with his left hand, Early has a ways to go in terms of refining his perimeter skills. He's also an extremely poor passer, dishing out an assist on just 5% of his possessions last season, one of the worst rates among players classified as draft prospects.

His jump shot shows a little bit more progress, as he connected on 32% of his nearly 4 three point attempts per game. Perhaps more encouraging was him making nearly 80% of his free throws, although this by-and-large didn't translate into game action, as he connected on only 31% of his mid-range jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology. His jump shot was incredibly streaky throughout the season, going through extended hot and cold periods that would seemingly come and go at a moment's notice. For example, Early had made only 2 of his previous 15 three point attempts heading into the NCAA tournament, then went 0-6 in the opening round victory over Pittsburgh. He responded by making 8 of his next 17 attempts from beyond the arc during Wichita State's run to the Final Four.

The overall form on his jump shot appears to be solid, albeit a bit long and deliberate, with a high release point and good follow through, suggesting that it could be something he becomes more consistent with if he is able to get enough repetition and put the necessary work in. Becoming more consistent with his jump shot is undoubtedly one of the keys for Early's development as a prospect, and something NBA scouts will be watching closely this season.

On the defensive end, Early is somewhat of a mixed bag. He's an active defender, with quick hands and ample length and athleticism to get the occasional block or deflection. He moves his feet fairly well on the perimeter and does a passable job defending the pick and roll, but would likely struggle initially if asked to defend the small forward position at the next level.

His lack of lower body strength comes into play quite a bit on this side of the court, as he struggles to hold position in the post and, perhaps most glaringly, on the defensive glass, where his 5.1 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted and 14.6% defensive rebounding rate were both very poor numbers. Besides physical attributes, Early doesn't appear to be all that instinctive of a defensive rebounder, and will not always show the best form or technique when boxing his man out. He'll frequently forget to locate his man when the shot goes up, and also tends to box out with his arms rather than getting good leverage, something even more important considering his slender build.

Cleanthony Early displays many of the problems typically associated with a 'tweener', lacking the lower body strength or technique to defend down low and without the foot speed or advanced perimeter skills to switch out to the perimeter. That being said, his athleticism and ability to score from both inside and out presents some intrigue, particularly if he could show more consistency on his perimeter shot going forward and become a little bit more comfortable creating off the dribble.

From DraftExpress.com

Wichita St.'s Cleanthony Early carries added motivation into Sweet 16

Wichita St.'s Cleanthony Early carries added motivation into Sweet 16



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Wichita State's Cleanthony Early scored 21 points in the Shockers' Round of 64 win over Pitt.
Wichita State's Cleanthony Early scored 21 points in the Shockers' Round of 64 win over Pitt.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's hard to miss Wichita State's 6-foot-8 junior forward Cleanthony Early. In the Shockers' locker room, he's the one doing the raspy-throated Dick Vitale imitations, or arguing with senior forward Carl Hall about the superiority of LeBron over Kobe, or laughing louder than anyone else. On the court he stands out even more. If you watched the Shockers upset No. 1 seed Gonzaga 76-70 last Saturday, you had to notice No. 11 in black, the lean, springy forward with the gap-toothed smile who is quick around the basket and lethal from the arc. In just 24 minutes against the Zags, Early, the team's leading scorer as a reserve, had 16 points -- including four threes -- seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Afterward, Early and all his teammates danced in celebration on the court with their coach, Gregg Marshall. But it was the image of Early with his arms back, face turned upward and mouth agape, mid-scream, that made the rounds on the web.

"Cle is loud, but he plays with passion and heart, he plays with soul," says Shocker senior point guard Malcolm Armstead. "He makes shots, he can stretch the D, he plays way above the rim. He's a mismatch all over the floor."

There are a lot of matchup headaches in college basketball. But Early brings an extra element of entertainment to his role. "He is a high-wire act as an athlete," says Marshall. "When he's running and jumping, there's no more beautiful player in the NCAA."

When he arrived in Wichita last summer as a junior college transfer, Early was more raw than beautiful, especially on defense, the keystone of Wichita State's game. ("He'd be the first to tell you he was horrendous," says assistant Greg Heiar.) A quick succession of December injuries to starters Evan Wessel, Carl Hall and Ron Baker forced Early to evolve quickly. "He was thrown into the fire and he had to grow up and accept a larger role," says Heiar. "To his credit he took off."

On Jan. 9 Early offered a glimpse of his offensive potential by delivering 39 points -- including five threes -- six rebounds and two blocks in a 82-76 win over Southern Illinois. It was the most points by a Shocker in a game since Xavier McDaniel scored 44 against West Texas State in 1985.

"When some people step out, some people have to step up," says Early. "That happens all the time in life." It happened to him two and half years ago when his 32-year-old brother, Jamel Glover Biggins, drowned in an upstate New York river, leaving behind two children and one on the way. "He was way more than a brother to me," says Early. "He was a role model, a father figure. He was someone I could confide in; I knew he had my back. He was pretty much my everything."

The two were 14 years apart and at different poles when it came to personality: Jamel was quiet and self-contained, while Cleanthony was a social butterfly who loved to read, write and share anything he had, whether it was a game or an opinion. "Cleanthony loved to debate people, on any subject," says his mom, Sandra Glover. "I always thought he'd grow up to be a lawyer."

When Early was a 10-year-old devoted to baseball, Jamel handed him a basketball and taught him a few moves. Early played the game at rec centers in their Bronx neighborhood, but he didn't get serious about basketball until Glover, a Brooklyn office manager, moved the family upstate to Middletown, N.Y., so Early could attend high school outside the city. (Glover still works in Brooklyn, making the two-hour commute both ways five days a week.) After averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds as a senior at Pine Bush High, Early spent a prep year at Mt. Zion Academy in North Carolina, where he averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds. With his academics still in need of polish, he was considering a number of DI junior college options. Then, on June 27, 2010, his path was suddenly altered. That day Jamel and a bunch of friends were enjoying an outing at Schoharie Creek, near Charleston, NY, when he slipped on rocks trying to get out of the water, panicked and drowned.

Early was devastated. He had to leave the funeral, and he has never been to his brother's gravesite. "It was really hard; it hurt," says Early. "But at that point I had an epiphany: you're the man of the house. I felt like those children were my own and they would follow my example. I realized l could really influence a lot of people if I made the right decisions."

His first decision was to stick close to home for his first two years of college. Glover didn't know he had decided to attend nearby DIII Sullivan County Community College instead of attending a higher-level college far away, until she read about it in the paper. "I told him he didn't need to do that," says Glover, "but he said, 'Mommy, you don't want me to leave you now."

Early made the most of his time at Sullivan, averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds both years and becoming a two-time NJCAA DIII Player of the Year. The only DIII player invited to Jerry Mullen's JUCO Top 100 Camp in July of 2011, Early grabbed the attention of several DI schools, including San Diego State, Baylor, Washington State and Alabama. "It was crazy, schools you dream of like Georgetown were suddenly knocking on your front door and sending emails tying to get in touch with your mom," he says. Early chose Wichita State because of a connection with Heiar, a former coach at Chipola College, and because, as he told Sandra, "it felt like the perfect fit and the best opportunity to grow."

Heiar doesn't think Early, who earned MVC Newcomer of the Year and MVC First-Team All-Conference honors, is anywhere near his limit. "If you're supposed to be a 10 as a player when you leave a program, he's a three right now," says Heiar. "He still has that much potential."

Early has found a good time to tap it. Wednesday, March 20, would have been Jamel's 35th birthday. On the Facebook page friends set up after his death, Early wrote, "Happy Birthday, Big Brother. I'm going to give you a gift."

In the Shockers' Round of 64 game against favored Pitt the next day, Early wiped out the memory of a disappointing Missouri Valley Conference performance (15 points in three games) by scoring 21 points -- despite going 0-6 from the three -- grabbing seven rebounds, making a block and a steal, in 28 minutes off the bench, in the Shockers' 73-55 win. Against Gonzaga two days later, he rediscovered his outside touch, hitting four of seven from long range, including one that cut the Zags' lead from seven to four with 5:09 to go. In the delirious Shocker locker room afterward, he could barely contain his excitement. "I love this team, I love this moment," he said. "But we have to stay focused and realize we have a whole other opportunity in front of us. We all have another chance to step up."

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Justin Robinson soars for the Monmouth Hawks in loss to St. John's

November 23, 2013

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Friday night marked 23 years almost to the day since St. John's last included Monmouth on its schedule. November 23, 1990 to be exact.

Ravi Rozier
Phil Greene IV

Judging from the surprising performance Monmouth turned in at Carnesecca Arena Friday, St. John's may want to wait another 23 years before seeing the Hawks again.

On a night where St. John's looked ripe for an upset, the Johnnies needed a pair of 3-pointers from D'Angelo Harrison in the final 4:07 and another clutch three-ball from Phil Greene IV, the latter coming with just 1:04 to play, as St, John's held off upset-minded Monmouth, 64-54.

Greene finished with 22 points, Harrison added 15 and JaKarr Sampson chipped in with 14 for St. John's (3-1). Monmouth was led by Justin Robinson's 15 points. - See more at:

Early Named AP Preseason All-America 2013-2014

MBB: Early Named AP Preseason All-America
Courtesy:Wichita State
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WICHITA, Kan. --  Wichita State's Cleanthony Early was named to the Associated Press' 2013-14 preseason All-America team as an honorable mention selection, it was announced today.

Early, a 6-foot-8 senior forward from Middletown, N.Y., is the first such honoree for the Shockers. The AP Preseason All-America Team was first announced for the 1986-87 season.

The honorees are below with school, height, year and votes from a 65-member national media panel (key 2012-13 statistics in parentheses):

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6-4, sophomore, 65 votes (15.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4,2 apg, 3.0 spg)

Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6-8, senior, 63 (23.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 54.8 fg pct, 49.0 3-pt pct)

Russ Smith, Louisville, 6-0, senior, 52 (18.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 80.4 ft fg pct)

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6-8, freshman, 42 (HS: 23.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 58.0 fg pct)

Mitch McGary, Michigan, 6-10, sophmore, 34 (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 59.8 fg pct)

Others receiving votes (alphabetical):

Isaiah Austin, Arizona State; Jahii Carson, Arizona State; Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky; Aaron Craft, Ohio State;Cleanthony Early, Wichita State; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Aaron Gordon, Arizona; Gary Harris, Michigan State; Joe Harris, Virginia; Rodney Hood, Duke; Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa; James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina; Jabari Parker, Duke; Adreian Payne, Michigan State; Julius Randle, Kentucky; James Young, Kentucky

Early Named to Preseason Top-50 Wooden Award

 Early Named to Preseason Top-50 Wooden Award

Published: Nov 12, 2013, 2:58:00 PM EST
Updated: Nov 12, 2013, 3:25:00 PM EST  


Senior Forward Cleanthony Early has been named to the Preseason Top 50 for the John R. Wooden Award today on Chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball experts, the list is comprised of 50 student-athletes who are the early front-runners for the sport’s most prestigious honor.

The Middletown, N.Y. native helped the Shockers to the 2013 Final Four and represents Wichita State and the Missouri Valley Conference on the list.  Early was a 1st-team all-MVC selection last year and the MVC Newcomer of the Year.  He was tabbed the MVC Preseason Player of the Year for 2013-14.

Early has started two games for the Shockers and is averaging 16 points and six rebounds to start the 2013-14 season.

About the John R. Wooden Award:

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball.  It is bestowed upon the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. 

Highlighted By Nine Freshmen, Wooden Award Watch List Released

November 12th, 2013 4:52 pm

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG

The 50-player preseason watch list for the John R. Wooden Award was released on Tuesday afternoon. To the surprise of no one, with freshmen allowed on the list for the first time, the young guys are well-represented.

Kansas (Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden Jr. Joel Embiid), Kentucky (Andrew Harrison, Julius Randle, James Young) each got three first-year players on the initial list, while Arizona (Aaron Gordon) Duke (Jabari Parker) and Indiana (Noah Vonleh) each got one.

A upperclassmen-heavy list, the non-freshman contingent is headlined by Creighton senior forward Doug McDermott, who 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds last season, the Bluejays’ final one as a member of of the Missouri Valley Conference. McDermott, who will play this season as a walk-on after Grant Gibbs was granted a sixth year of eligibility, was named Big East Preseason Player of the Year last month. 

The entire Wooden Award preseason watch list is below.

Jordan Adams/UCLA/Pac-12/6-5/So./G
Kyle Anderson/UCLA/Pac-12/6-9/So./G/F
Keith Appling/Michigan State/Big Ten/6-1/Sr./G
Isaiah Austin/Baylor/Big 12/7-1/So./C
Jahii Carson/Arizona State/Pac-12/5-10/So./G
Willie Cauley-Stein/Kentucky/SEC/7-0/So./F
Semaj Christon/Xavier/Big East/6-3/So./G
Aaron Craft/Ohio State/Big Ten/6-2/Sr./G
Sam Dekker/Wisconsin/Big Ten/6-7/So./F
Spencer Dinwiddie/Colorado/Pac-12/6-6/Jr./G
Cleanthony Early/Wichita State/Missouri Valley/6-8/Sr./F
Joel Embiid/Kansas/Big 12/7-0/Fr./C
C.J. Fair/Syracuse/ACC/6-8/Sr./F
Aaron Gordon/Arizona/Pac-12/6-9/Fr./F
Jerian Grant/Notre Dame/Big Sky/6-5/Sr./G
Montrezl Harrell/Louisville/The American/6-8/So./F
Gary Harris/Michigan State/Big Ten/6-4/So./G
Joe Harris/Virginia/ACC/6-6/Sr./G
Andrew Harrison/Kentucky/SEC/6-6/Fr./G
Tyler Haws/BYU/WCC/6-5/Jr./G
Andre Hollins/Minnesota/Big Ten/6-2/Jr./G
Rodney Hood/Duke/ACC/6-8/So./F
Joe Jackson/Memphis/The American/6-1/Sr./G
Cory Jefferson/Baylor/Big /12/6-9/Sr./F
Sean Kilpatrick/Cincinnati/The American/6-4/Sr./G
Alex Kirk/New Mexico/Mountain West/7-0/Jr./C
James Michael McAdoo/North Carolina/ACC/6-9/Jr./F
Doug McDermott*#/Creighton/Big East/6-8/Sr./F
Mitch McGary/Michigan/Big/Ten/6-10/So./F
Jordan McRae/Tennessee/SEC/6-6/Sr./G
Shabazz Napier/Connecticut/The American/6-1/Sr./G
Kevin Pangos/Gonzaga/WCC/6-2/Jr./G
Jabari Parker/Duke/ACC/6-8/Fr./F
Adreian Payne/Michigan State/Big Ten/6-10/Sr./C
Elfrid Payton/Louisiana/Sun Belt/6-3/Jr./G
Dwight Powell/Stanford/Pac-12/6-10/Sr./F
Julius Randle/Kentucky/SEC/6-9/Fr./F
Juvonte Reddic/VCU/Atlantic/10/6-9/Sr./F
Glenn Robinson III/Michigan/Big Ten/6-6/So./F
LaQuinton Ross/Ohio State/Big Ten/6-8/Jr./F
Wayne Selden, Jr./Kansas/Big 12/6-5/Fr./G
Marcus Smart/Oklahoma State/Big 12/6-4/So./G
Russ Smith/Louisville/The American/6-0/Sr./G
Jarnell Stokes/Tennessee/SEC/6-8/Jr./F
Rasheed Sulaimon/Duke/ACC/6-4/So./G
Noah Vonleh/Indiana/Big Ten/6-10/Fr./F
Dez Wells/Maryland/ACC/6-5/Jr./G/F
Andrew Wiggins/Kansas/Big 12/6-8/Fr./G
Kendall Williams/New Mexico/Mountain West/6-4/Sr./G
James Young/Kentucky/SEC/6-6/Fr./G

Players listed alphabetically
* indicates player chosen to the 2013 Wooden All American Team
# indicates player chosen to the 2012 Wooden All American Team

Photo: Associated Press

Top Performers

New England Academic Top 100 had a nice showing this past weekend at Wesleyan University. Many players showcased some of their best attributes on the court, but here are the players that edged the competition with their  performances.

Tyonne Malone | Williston Northampton (Ma.)| 6-5 | 2016
Malone dominated the competition using his versatile to score around the basket as well as from deep. His effort on defense was great as well as he deflected and block a number of shots.

Kenny Paramore | Storm King (N.Y.) | 6-3 | 2014
Despite the smaller height, Paramore made up for it with his wide frame. The quick-footed big used a number of spin moves and drop-steps to evade defenders and compile a collection of baskets in the paint.

Steven Milhaven | St. Mary’s (N.Y.) | 6-5 | 2014
Milhaven was great around the basket converting on tip ins and a few nice jump hooks. The southpaw created a number of matchup problems as he showed off a nice mid-range game to go along with his production around the basket.

Robbie Kennedy | Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.) | 6-1 | 2014
Kennedy made number of high IQ plays as he did a great job of finding the open man in addition to picking spots on the floor to look for his own shot. He pushed the tempo when needed, which led to a nice rate of converted baskets in transition.

Jack Dwyer | Burke Catholic (N.Y.) | 5-10 | 2014
Dwyer seemed to have made all the right decisions on the court. He took what the defense gave him and seemed composed and under control at all times. Dwyer was instant offense from right inside the three-point arc and also did a solid job finding teammates open in the pick and roll.

Aidan Hirsch | Northampton (Ma.) | 5-10 | 2015
Hirsch was extremely hot from deep all day which caused defenders to come out and respect the range. Hirsch used the added attention that he received to pump-fake and blow past defenders to finish floaters in the lane.

Brandon Hurst | University HS (Ct.) | 6-0 | 2016
Compiling quite a few baskets from the perimeter, Hurst used his great elevation to rise up and shoot over the opposition.

Harrison Dunne-Polite | Trinity Pawling (N.Y.) | 6-5 | 2015
Dunne-Polite owned the paint for his squad making a number of defensive plays and finishing a list of layups on the offensive end.

Nisre Zouzoua | Boston Trinity (Ma.) | 6-2 | 2015  
One of the most improved players to feature in this event, Zouzoua emerged as a strong junior that was getting better as the day went on. At 6-foot-2 he shot with ease over anyone matched with his assignment. Great athleticism and hesitation allowed him to get to the rim whenever he wanted.


Hoop Group Top 100 – Event Recap


October 6th, 2013 

New England Recruiting Report

The Hoop Group came into New England this weekend for two of their prestigious Top 100 Showcases.  The New England Top 100 took place on Saturday at Wentworth College in Boston while the New England Academic Top 100 was held on Sunday at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  Here’s a look at who stood out through the full weekend of action with the Hoop Group:

Arkel Ager, St. Joseph’s (CT) – The top prospect on hand on Sunday, Ager showed both the skill and physical tools necessary to emerge into a priority recruit at the division I level.  

Tarchee Brown, Rockville (CT) – The six-foot scoring guard is quick off the bounce with a handle to match, allowing him to make plays both in the open floor and half-court.  

Michael Coffey, Burke Catholic (NY) – A crafty southpaw scoring guard who just has a knack for putting points on the board, Coffey is unorthodox but very productive.  

Harrison Dunne-Polite, Trinity Pawling (NY) – A long and athletic junior forward with a high upside, Dunne-Polite was one of the better long-term prospects in the building on Sunday.  

Jack Dwyer, Burke Catholic (NY) – He’s the epitome of a pure point guard.  He’s tough and hard-nosed with a distinctive pass first style that makes all those around him better.  

Jarvis Garrett, Notre Dame Prep (MA) – He’s going to be a name on the rise this season as he’s not just the best available point guard in New England, but perhaps the entire northeast region.  

Sean Hoehn, Morristown (NJ) – A highly talented young player with a nice fundamental base to his game, Hoehn has a bright future ahead of him in the New Jersey high school ranks.  

Curtell & Curtis Hyman, New Britain (CT) – The senior frontcourt tandem is one of the better kept secrets in the CIAC, but don’t expect that to be the case for long as they’re poised to make big noise this season for the Hurricanes. 

Malik James, Notre Dame Prep (MA) – James looks more explosive than ever with increased speed in the open floor and an extra bit of burst to his first step, making him a consistent playmaking presence.  

Tyrique Jones, Bloomfied (CT) – The junior forward showed why he’s an intriguing prospect moving forward with his length, athleticism, and flashes of playmaking ability around the rim.  

Tyonne Malone, Putnam Tech (MA) – The southpaw sophomore put points on the board in every which way, both Saturday and Sunday alike, and was virtually impossible to stop at both events. 

Owen McLeod, Bishop Ahr (NJ) – Another New Jersey native who made the trip to Connecticut to prove himself among the academic elite, McLeod made a series of high level plays in the open court. 

Justin Stewart, Putnam Tech (MA) – A slightly undersized guard with a big game and well rounded skill set, Stewart was one of the more consistent guards at Sunday’s Academic Top 100.

B.C. Eagles Prove to be top dog in the areas best summer league

B.C. Eagles win there 2nd straight Rock Summer League Championship!

Second year in a row B.C. Face off against Coach Fodor however this year was a BC vs. BC Final!

BC Eagles-LaFrance - 78  vs  BC Eagles-Fodor - 5
BC Eagles-LaFrance (Junior Champions)       BC Eagles-Fodor (Junior Runners-up)

Hasahn French takes home the MVP and Jordan Bryan had a huge playoff and championship run as well. 

BC Eagles Fodor was led by sharpshootervBrian Piccone who also had to step up and run some point guard in the absence of Tim Rybacki who was out with an ankle injury. Nate Samuels and Brian "B-Mac" McDonough had great playoffs runs too for the well coached BC Eagles-Fodor team. 

Hasahn French, Ishmael Chisolm and Ruben Jimenez were three of the returning players from last years team. Also in picture are Marques Vaval and Anthony Salmon who were key pieces of last years team that won the chip. Those two along with Travis Cook(pictured) and Tuka Nugent(not pictured) served as Asst Coaches for this years summer league team. 

Manhattan Elite Camp: Evals & Offers

August 26th, 2013

RIVERDALE, NY - On Sunday, over forty-five of the top 2014 - 2018 players in the metropolitan area assembled at Manhattan College for their elite camp. 

M. Wingate
Desure Buie was on hand, identifying some of the best of the best on hand in each class, four of whom received offers on the spot.


The superior and primary players in the senior class were the already committed to the Jaspers. Samson Usilo and 6'8" Sam Akilo, both from Nazareth HS, and 6'8" Calvin Crawford (St. Thomas More/BC Eagles) all showed why Jaspers Head Coach Steve Masiello pulled the trigger and made the effort to acquire such talent.


Desure Buie (Wings Academy) - Coming off a stellar summer and multiple offers, Buie's point guard skills earned him an offer from the Jaspers early on. The junior showed his floor generalship as well as his abilty to score. While still on the thin side, Buie has been working on bulking up and it's beginning to show.

M. Libert
Rickey McGill & Kai Mitchell received offers on Sunday

Rickey McGill & 6'5" Kai Mitchell (Spring Valley HS) - Both players from the Westchester school played well recently in the Ball by the Beach Tournament and continued with impressive performances at the Elite camp. Both players earned offers from the Jaspers on Sunday.

Juwan Gooden (Milton HS (MA)) - An uber fast guard, Gooden rose to the top of the food chain as the 6'2" junior got to the rim at will. While he had some hiccups finishing, Gooden is definitely player to watch.

Jonathan Nwankwo (Monsignor Scanlon) - As his skill set continues to progress, the 6'9" big has become a player to watch. Showing the eagarness and ability to run the floor and bang at both ends of the court, Nwankwo already holds an offer from Manhattan amongst others. The junior made his mark on the camp early but unfornunately had to leave early as well.

Cheyenne Nettleton (Brooklyn Collegiate) - The 5'10" point guard caught the eye of Jaspers coaches by surprise. Displaying good basketball IQ and a nice balance between passing and scoring, Nettleton's assist to turnover ratio put the junior in the forefront on Sunday.

Joel Wincowski (Lake George HS) - The 6'2" junior, who led his team to a Class C state championship with 33 points, lived up to the hype as he shot his way into the coaches favor by knocking it down from the perimeter consistently.


Jonathan Middleton (Holy Spirit HS (NJ)) - - The 6'3" junior was solid finisher at the rim. A relentless and powerful guard, Middleton who plays for Team Final during the summer is a player to watch as his game develops and diversifies.

Players of Note: Jashiya Smith (6'0"/John S. Burke HS/BC Eagles), Mike Jurzyzewki (6'4"/ Masters School/BC Eagles), Marlon Adams (6'3"/Middletown HS/BC Eagles)

- See more at:

NERR Elite 75 - Frosh Recap I

September 18th, 2013

Paul Lazdowski & Derek Marchione

HANOVER, Mass. – Throughout this week we will be taking a look back at the 6th annual Elite 75 Showcase – Frosh/Soph Edition and examining some of the major stars, stock-risers and breakout performers from the event.
Following a two-hour regimen of drill stations – which tested players ball handling, passing and shot making abilities, along with how to properly run a fast break – teams squared off in a series of highly competitive scrimmages.
We begin our review by highlighting the freshmen frontcourt players (big-men and wings alike) who distinguished themselves during the four-hour session.
Hassahn French – Perhaps no player in the freshmen session was as physically imposing as French. Built like a linebacker, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound forward was particularly effective banging down-low on the boards. Though he did step outside to attempt a few 14-16 footers with mixed results, most of French’s success came from inside the paint. 

Summer Jam Fest: Day 1 Notebook - City of Love Basketball


Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

The Hoop Group’s biggest tournament of the July live periods got underway on Friday afternoon, with hundreds of teams in multiple age brackets taking the courts at various locations in and around the city. I was at Philly U and Penn Charter, taking in the early rounds of the 17U main bracket. Here’s a notebook of several players, from the D-I to D-III level, that impressed:

Calvin Crawford (2014/St. Thomas More/B.C. Eagles)
It’s always easy to notice the tallest kid on the floor. It’s even easier to notice when he opens the game by drilling a long three, crashing the boards on the defensive end of the floor and then slashing to the hoop for a tough two a possession later.

At 6-8 and 185 pounds, Crawford is a skilled combo forward with a nice jumper and decent bounce, though he definitely has to add some weight to his frame. That’s one reason he’s attending St. Thomas More this year for prep school before attending Manhattan College next fall.

“I heard a lot of good things about coach (Jere) Quinn, how he can help your game and help you get bigger and ready for the next level,” Crawford told CoBL; he’ll be focusing on “just getting stronger, getting my handle better and focusing on defense a lot” in his prep year.

Crawford was one of three New York-area players to commit to Manhattan on Wednesday, joining Samson Usilo and Samson Akilo, both from Nazareth HS. He picked the Jaspers over offers from Towson, Vermont, Binghamton and LIU-Brooklyn.

“Just Steve Masiello and their whole tradition there and they recruited me really hard,” Crawford said about why he chose Manhattan. “They got two other commitments from Riverside so I said ‘why not?"

LIVE IN AC: DAY 1 NOTEBOOK - City of Love Basketball


Posted on July 25, 2013 by jmverlin

The final week of the 2013 July live period is also the final week of the 2013 AAU season. Elevate Hoops’ Live in A.C., the last major area event, tipped off on Wednesday with a number of high-profile 17U teams matching up in showcase games before bracket play starts Thursday morning.


Eric Carter (2014/Jackson Memorial/Raritan Roundballers)

One player clearly enjoying his final week of AAU ball, Carter left his usual Team Final program to join the Raritan Roundballers this week mostly for a chance to play with Matt Farrell.

“We knew each other kinda from the Shore Conference, being some of the better players in the league,” Carter said. “And then we just kind of hooked up over the summer and we’re pretty good friends now, it’s cool to play with him.”

Back in June, Carter had a long list of offers that included Drexel, Delaware, Fairfield, Vermont, New Hampshire, Binghamton, Florida Atlantic, St. Peter’s, Buffalo and Rider; he’s now added scholarships from High Point, Towson, Monmouth and Northeastern (who he said will offer upon his visiting the campus).

After this week, he plans on cutting his list to “about eight” schools, with a few planned official vists.

“I’m planning definitely Fairfield and I want to visit Florida Atlantic so I’ll take an official down there,” he said. “I want to take a couple unofficials to some schools too and then after that I’ll start my officials whenever I possibly can and hopefully get my commitment done towards the end of September.”

Those unofficial visits will include “definitely Northeastern, Towson, Quinnipiac and probably a few others–Vermont, maybe.”


Satchel Pierce (2014/Kiski Area HS/Team Adidas)

The biggest body on the courts at Atlantic City High School on Wednesday night belonged to Pierce. A 7-foot, 250-pound center, Pierce certainly has the size to play at the highest levels of college basketball.

He told CoBL he has offers from “Kansas State, Texas Tech, James Madison, Drexel, Cleveland State, Miami (Ohio), Kent State, Florida International, Duquesne, and more,” with Texas Tech offering after the last week of the live period and Kansas State coming aboard in June. He cited interest from Michigan, Notre Dame, Indiana, Pitt and Penn State.

Pierce’s biggest asset, aside from the obvious, is his passing ability; he made several nice outlet passes and had a few nice high-low looks in the post. He’s working on his endurance and his body, saying “I didn’t really lose a lot of pounds, I lost a lot of fat and turned it into muscle.”

At Kiski, Pierce was teammates with incoming Drexel freshman Major Canady, a 6-3 combo guard who seems likely to take over at point from rising senior Frantz Massenat next year. The two helped lead Kiski to its best season ever, reaching the finals of the state’s independent school tournament.

“Me and (Major) have got a real good relationship, coming from when we played on Ohio Basketball Club last year together, we hit it off real well together,” Pierce said. “And (at) Kiski it just started getting better.”


Justin McFadden (2014/Lower Merion/Jersey Shore Warriors)

Not usually thought of as a scorer, McFadden has been a consistent double-digit scoring threat over the last few weeks for Jersey Shore. It’s a trait he’s certainly going to have to continue at Lower Merion, which needs players like McFadden and Jule Brown to step up with seniors B.J. Johnson (Syracuse), Yohanny Dalembert (James Madison) and Raheem Hall (prep school) moving on.

“We’re just going to go out there, we have to work hard to make up for what we lost but we have a group of guys who are willing to work that hard,” McFadden told CoBL.

A high-academic prospect, the 6-5, 200-pound wing is hearing from Columbia, Penn, Yale and Colgate. McFadden had earned his minutes for his defense, energy and rebounding, but lately he’s been putting the ball in the basket more often as well. His skill set is certainly coming along, helped by his attending a John Lucas skills camp out in Oklahoma last month.

“It just helped me build my skills up so I can be comfortable handling the ball,” he said. “It was more than ball-ghandling, it taught us about the whole entire game, how to handle tempo and deeper things like that. Helped me meet a lot of new people as well.”

While he’s playing well with the Warriors in the AAU world, his summer isn’t purely limited to sports.

“I’m actually doing a sports business program at Penn,” he said. “It’s just professors in the sports business field come in and speak to us, so we learn a lot about the industry.”


Jackson Donahue (2014/Northfield Mt. Hermon/RI Hawks)

This is a big week for every rising senior, especially those who might not be rising seniors. Donahue has one offer, from Vermont; if that number doesn’t increase by the time the live period ends, he might not stay a 2014 prospect for long.

“What’s circling around which a lot of people don’t know,” he told CoBL, “is that if I don’t make a decision, I think the decision might be I will reclassify. Because I’m going to be a 2014 going into Northfield but I can still change that and I might, if necessary, go to 2015.”

A 6-foot, 165-pound combo guard, Donahue can be described in one word–shooter. He dropped 21 points in a win on Wednesday night, hitting four from 3-point territory. He’s not purely one-dimensional, however; he’s got a good handle and has the ability to run his team’s offense, though he’s clearly at his best coming off screens with range out to the NBA 3-point line.

Donahue’s older brother, Sam, took a similar route at NMH, doing a postgraduate year before accepting a preferred walk-on spot at Boston College with a chance to earn a future scholarship. Right now, Jackson Donahue said Quinnipiac, Yale and Brown among others, were looking at him, but that option of taking an extra year is looking better and better.

“I didn’t think it was going to be necessary,” he said. “Coach (John) Carroll thought it would be good for me, but we just weren’t sure at this point; but now looking back on what my brother has accomplished in his two years and how he’s grown as a player, I’m really starting to think that can expand what I can do on the court.”

–A rising junior playing up with the 17Us, Kason Harrell (Hempfield Area/Team Adidas) is a solid-bodied guard with a nice skill set. The 6-3, 190-pound combo guard scored 11 points in Team Adidas’ loss to the B.C. Eagles, hitting a 3-pointer, a midrange jumper and a floater as part of his outing. So far, Harrell said he has no offers and only has gotten some interest from Liberty, but based on the way he played on Wednesday night he certainly should start getting looks this school year.

–Todd Hughes (2014/Sanford/WE R1) had another solid showing with ; With a few days remaining in his final live period, he’s got one offer from Wagner, and he said he’s hearing from Florida Atlantic, Northeastern, Northwestern and Fairfield.

Final note of the night goes to an intriguing forward from New York. Eric McCollum (2015/Newburgh Free Academy/B.C. Eagles) just moved up from the Newburg Zion Lions, and the 6-7, 195-pounder is certainly raw but was an active body around the boards. A two-sport athlete, he said he’s “used to the contact” and was perfectly comfortable banging around in the paint. If he continues to work on his skill set and develops a jump shot, he could be a late-blooming mid-major type player by next summer.

Former Quinnipiac basketball star Justin Rutty signs new contract

Justin Rutty

2010 Northeast Conference Player of the Year and NEC and Quinnipiac all-time rebound leader Justin Rutty will play basketball in France next season for Boulazac Basket Dordogne franchise. Boulazac is a member of the Pro National Basketball League A, the top professional league in France.

“We are all very excited about Justin Rutty signing a new contract with Boulazac in Paris,” said Quinnipiac men’s basketball Head Coach Tom Moore in a press release. “After earning MVP honors in Switzerland a year ago, this is the next logical step in his professional career.”

Last season Rutty dominated in Switzerland’s top basketball league, averaging a double-double per game. His 20.8 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game led the league in both categories. Rutty was named the league’s Center of the Year and Import Player of the Year. He also earned a spot on the All-League First Team.

The Newburgh, N.Y. native’s new French team will be hoping for similar production from Rutty. They could use his help. Boulazec finished the 2012-2013 season with an 11-19 record, putting them in 15th place in the 16-team league.

Boulazac hasn’t produced any NBA players, but Pro National Basketball League A was the start of one NBA player’s pro career. Current NBA center/forward Boris Diaw played in the league from 2001-2003. Since then he has had a 12-year NBA career with the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats, and San Antonio Spurs.

Though Rutty hasn’t played for an NBA team, Boulazac will be the 6-foot-7 center/forward’s third professional team since graduating from Quinnipiac in 2011. He started his professional basketball career in Uruguay in 2011.

Terms of Rutty’s contract with Boulazac have not been disclosed. His first game with the club is scheduled for October 5.

Valley Central's Crawford commits to Division I Manhattan


After another year of developing and working on his game, Valley Central center Calvin Crawford planned on making his college decision while at prep school this coming winter.

The plan has changed, however, and Crawford has verbally committed to play at Division I Manhattan College on a full athletic scholarship, starting in the 2014-15 season.

This year, he will attend St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn.

"I just decided to do it," said Crawford, a 6-foot-7 Varsity845 first-team all-star who averaged 23 points and nine rebounds for Valley Central last season. "I just thought that Manhattan was the best fit for me. It's also a big stress reliever for me."

When Crawford chose St. Moore in May, he had full scholarship offers from Vermont, Binghamton University and Long Island University. Loyola (Md.), Towson State and Manhattan later made offers to Crawford, who said he also visited Marist. Like Marist, Manhattan plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Crawford said he first stood out to Manhattan coach Steve Masiello playing at a tournament in Massachusetts in April with his AAU team, the BC Eagles. Manhattan went 14-18, including 9-9 in the MAAC, last season.

"I like coach Masiello," Crawford said. "He is young and he is aggressive. I definitely think this was the right decision for me."

BasketBull Summer Chip 17U Evals


July 18, 2013

BasketBull Summer Chip 17U Evals


BasketBull 17u Summer Championships concluded Sunday evening with USAD of Connecticut knocking off the Juice All-Stars and the Westchester Hawks to take home the title.

M. Libert
Isaac Vann

With many Division 1 and 2 coaches watching throughout the weekend, players stepped up and showed off high level skill sets in trying to prove they could play for the coaches watching. Here are player evaluations from some of the top talents on display in Ardsley this past weekend.

Isaac Vann, 6'4" SG, USAD (Bunnell, CT '14)- Vann seemed to rise to the challenge in each game he played. He showed a smooth perimeter shot with a quick release with good rise. Aggressively was able to put the ball on the floor and challenge defenders to help on him as one man could not stop him from getting inside. Got into a bit of foul trouble in the semis again Juice, but more than made up for it with 35 in the championship including 4 threes in probably the most impressive all around individual performance of the weekend.

Samuel Dingba, 6'6" PF, Westchester Hawks (Salisbury School, CT '14)- What Dingba lacks in height for playing his position defensively, he more than makes up for in wingspan and timing. He had the task of guarding CBC big man Paschal Chukwu for large stretches of their game, and he threw down a dunk over the big man, and blocked him twice as well, which says a lot since Chukwu is 7'1". He is a huge finisher inside, thought 6'6" you hope he could step out and connect more from the perimeter. Didn't show that much this weekend, but if that develops, he would truly be a fantastic complete player.