February 2015 | Page 12 of 20 | Zagsblog
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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.
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Sunday / September 25.
  • NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at KentuckyThis could turn out to be some special year for Kentucky coach John Calipari.

    In 2015, he could complete an undefeated season with the Wildcats, win an NCAA championship and make the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Calipari on Saturday was announced as one of 12 finalists for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

    “I’m at a loss for words,” Calipari, who has had two Final Four vacated from his time at UMass and Memphis but who won an NCAA title at Kentucky in 2012, said of being named a finalist. “I want to thank the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame committee for even considering me. The process is by no means over – I’m just a finalist at this point – but to even be mentioned as a finalist among these worthy candidates is an unbelievable honor. I am absolutely humbled by this.”

    In 2013, Louisville coach Rick Pitino entered the Hall of Fame and won an NCAA championship.

    Calipari could pull a similar feat this year and also has the potential to guide the first unbeaten team since Bob Knight’s Indiana club in 1976. Kentucky began the day at 24-0 entering their game with South Carolina.

    AJ ENglishBy CHRIS RUSSELL

    NEW YORK – With 18 NBA scouts on hand to watch Iona’s electrifying point guard A.J. English and power forward David Laury, the Gaels put away crosstown rival Manhattan in thrilling fashion, 70-67, in an ESPNU game on Friday at Draddy Gym.

    When the game was on the line, head coach Tim Cluess looked no further than his talented junior lead guard.  English connected on a contested 3-pointer, giving the Gaels a 68-65 lead with 32 seconds left.  English led the Gaels with 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 6-for-9 from behind the arc in 40 minutes of action.

    “As much confidence as I have in anyone,” Cluess said.  “A.J. [English] has been our best player in making shots since I’ve been here in Iona.”

    Malik NewmanUNION, N.J. — Isaiah Briscoe and Ben Simmons both want to see Malik Newman land in the SEC next season.

    The 6-foot-3 Briscoe wants Newman to join him at Kentucky, and is confident that will happen.

    “He’s coming to Kentucky,” Briscoe said confidently after scoring 18 points in a 71-64 loss to Simmons and Montverde (FL) Academy in the Metro Classic at Kean University. “It ain’t a done deal but I’m going to try to get him to come down to Kentucky with me.”

    The 6-10 Simmons hopes Newman chooses LSU, and says they could form a devastating recruiting class along with Antonio Blakeney.

    ben-simmonsBy ADAM ZAGORIA & JOHN PAVIA

    UNION, N.J. — Nineteen miles from where the NBA All-Star Game will take place Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, several high school stars with designs on one day playing in such a game battled it out before an electric capacity crowd at Kean University’s Harwood Arena.

    In the end, LSU-bound Ben Simmons and Montverde (FL) Academy prevailed over Kentucky-bound Isaiah Briscoe and Roselle (N.J.) Catholic, 71-64.

    “He played well, he did his thing. His teammates played well and overall they’re a good team,” Simmons said of Briscoe.

    “That’s my guy, we was chit-chatting at the free throw line,” Briscoe said of Simmons.

    Both players are headed to the McDonald’s All-American Game April 1 at Chicago’s United Center, and both are projected as Top 10 picks in the 2016 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com.

    The 6-foot-10 Simmons battled foul trouble and finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists for Montverde, while Briscoe recovered from a slow start to score 13 of his 18 in the second half for Roselle.

    Anthony DavisNEW YORK — Anthony Davis may not be playing in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game because of a shoulder injury, but he is making the most of his All-Star appearance here.

    He spent Friday morning as a guest on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike,” where he later Tweeted, “Can confirm the rumors that ESPN is considering a switch to the Mike and Mike and AD in Morning Show.”

    Davis covered a number of topics on the show, including answering the question of who would win if Davis’ 2012 NCAA title team faced the currently unbeaten No. 1 Wildcats.

    “We’d destroy them,” Davis said, according to the Herald-Leader.

    Later, when speaking on Media Day, I asked Davis if he the current team can go unbeaten en route to the NCAA title.

    “They have a chance,” Davis said. “I think so. They just gotta go out there and compete.”

    irving-shootout-apjpg-83d6d5adcd9a0f62BY JEREMY FUCHS

    ROSELLE, N.J. — The NBA All-Star Game is set to take place on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, the so-called Mecca of New York City basketball.

    But just 23 miles West, at the PrimeTime Shootout at Roselle Catholic High School last Sunday, a realization is taking place.

    “Jersey has surpassed New York City in talent,” Tom Konchalski, a legendary NYC-based talent evaluator, told SNY.tv.

    Indeed, New Jersey has become a talent hotbed, with former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick star Kyrie Irving (who was born in Australia) winning the All-Star Game MVP in 2014 and again set to represent the East in Sunday’s game.

    NBA players Kenneth Faried, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and former Knick J.R. Smith all hail from the Garden State. At the collegiate level, Karl-Anthony Towns is making waves at No. 1 Kentucky, while future potential collegiate stars like Isaiah Briscoe (a McDonald’s All-American who will play Sunday on national TV before the All-Star Game), Tyus Battle, Chris Silva, Malachi Richardson, Markis McDuffie and Moustapha Diagne are next. New Jersey has become one of the best states for basketball talent in the country.

    New York City didn’t produce a single McDonald’s All-American this year, while New Jersey has two in the Kentucky-Bound Briscoe and the Syracuse-bound Richardson.

    “New Jersey high school basketball is just as good as it is anywhere in the country,” said Dave Boff, the coach of Roselle Catholic.

    PitinoRick Pitino returned to his old stomping grounds in the New York/New Jersey area Thursday night to watch 2016 combo guard Tyus Battle of Gladstone (N.J.) Gill St. Bernard’s.

    The 6-foot-6 Battle went for 16 points and 9 rebounds in a  72-36 beatdown of Montgomery in a game also watched by Villanova assistant Ashley Howard and Notre Dame assistant Martin Ingelsby. Notre Dame head man Mike Brey is due in to watch Battle later this month.

    “[Pitino said] they would play him similarly to how they play Terry [Rozier],” Gary Battle said, referring to Louisville’s sophomore combo guard. “They love his size and athleticism.”

    Battle visited Louisville (along with Kentucky) over the summer, and has also tripped to UConn, Duke and Michigan, among others.

    The five-star combo guard is also looking to cut his list from 11 at some point in the future.

    Battle has cut his list to 11 schools, but his father said the time off during Tyus’ recent stress fracture injury has allowed them to watch a lot of college basketball and “hone in” on several schools.