Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
DeMatha Teammates Could Split Time in Big East, ACC
When Jerami Grant committed to Syracuse last Friday, he and his DeMatha Catholic teammate, Pittsburgh-bound point guard James Robinson, joked about playing one another in the Big East Conference across their college careers.
“The next morning we find out we’re probably going to end up being in the ACC, so we laughed and joked about it,” Robinson told SNY.tv, referring to the breaking news on Saturday that both Pittsburgh and Syracuse were ditching the Big East for the ACC.
While it’s a fortuitous coincidence that the two teammates both pledged to teams leaving the Big East, consider this potential course of events.
If Big East Commissioner John Marinatto holds to his promise of keeping Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the league until 2014, Grant and Robinson could play two years in the Big East and two years in the ACC.
“Yeah, it’s definitely kind of weird,” said the 6-foot-3 Robinson, who also considered Virginia and Notre Dame. “It should be fun either way. I think we’re going to be able to compete in either conference, you know?”
“That would kind of be the best of both worlds,” DeMatha coach Mike Jones told SNY.tv. “You get to play in the Big East for two years in the super-conference that it is now, and then you get to move into an even more super-conference, I guess you could say, and play in the ACC your last two years.
“I think they’re both in great situations regardless of what happens and they’re excited.”
Robinson said Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon was in New Zealand when the news broke, but he called Pitt assistant Brandin Knight to talk it over.
“He just said it’s a money-making decision, which I understand,” Robinson said. “He pretty much told me that things would be run the same no matter what conference we’re in.”
Jones said the Syracuse staff has also reached out to the 6-8 Grant, who also considered Rutgers and Notre Dame.
“I think both of the staffs have reached out to the kids and their families just to make sure that they understood that nothing much is going to change, other than the conference affiliation,” he said.
Luckily for both players, they will now get to play closer to home because Maryland is less than a mile from DeMatha, whereas Georgetown is slightly further away.
“As a player I don’t really think it impacts me too much,” Robinson said. “Georgetown would’ve been on our schedule if we were in the Big East, and now Maryland’s on the schedule in the ACC. So I still have the opportunity to come home and play in front of my family.”
Going forward, Jones said his younger players, including 2013 big man Beejay Anya, are paying attention to all the realignment talk because “they want to know what the heck is going on and what the heck is causing all of this.”
Jones believes mid-major basketball powers could ultimately suffer because of the realignment.
“In the grand scheme of things, and this is just my opinion, I think it’s going to wind up hurting the mid-majors more than anything,” Jones said. “If you do go to these super-conferences, some of the best basketball schools in the country that don’t possess football teams may be left out in the cold and their profile may be diminished some. And that’s going to be a worry because a lot of kids get wrapped up into, ‘Well, what conference do you play in, and who do you play?’
“And if you’re not able to present to them, ‘I’m in the Big East’ or ‘I’m in the SEC’ or ‘I’m in the Pac-12’ or whatever that’s going to be, that just changes everything for the mid-majors. I think it’s going to wind up hurting the mid-majors.”
In stark contrast, Pittsburgh and Syracuse can now add to their recruiting pitch by saying they’re not only recruiting to the Big East for the immediate future, but to the ACC in the long run.
“Not to overstate what my guys are in terms of D.C.-area basketball, but James and Jerami both are two young men that are very well-liked by younger guys in this area and the best players coming up look up to both of those guys,” Jones said.
“So it’ll be easy for Jamie Dixon to come in here and talk to a kid that right now is a big James Robinson fan. Or it will be easy for Jim Boeheim to come in and say, ‘Well, hey I coach Jerami Grant right now.’
“So that’s going to make a lot of young men around this area get very wide-eyed, not just because you have a Hall of Fame coaching talking to you but because he coaches one of the guys you grew up watching.”
**James Robinson to Pitt
**Jerami Grant to Syracuse
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.