Dick VitaleSPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
August 18, 2006
Each Friday I will write about the sport I love, college basketball
Congratulations to UTEP for hiring Tony Barbee. He gets his shot after being a star player for John Calipari at UMass, then moving along in the coaching ranks as an assistant, paying his dues. Barbee spent six seasons as an assistant at Memphis under Calipari and now he will get to face off against his mentor in Conference USA. Barbee got the job over a number of talented contenders. So much in life is about being in the right place at the right time. The new coach has familiarity with his new conference, and that will help. Now he has to go out and recruit players of the caliber he had at Memphis.
It has been a rollercoaster ride for Herb Sendek at Arizona State. He lost guard Kevin Kruger, who transferred to play at UNLV under his dad, Lon. The Sun Devils also lost 6-7 guard Bryson Kruger, who was thrown off the team following his arrest on drug and gun possession. The news got better for the former Wolfpack coach when he landed top-flight recruit Jamelle McMillan, the son of Portland TrailBlazers coach Nate McMillan. The younger McMillan is at Seattle's O'Dea High School.
New Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson was recently given a reprimand by the National Association of Basketball Coaches over recruiting violations during his tenure at Oklahoma. Sampson was the first person to be punished by the group and he did not need that type of publicity. He will be denied his tickets for the Final Four. I firmly believe that he has learned a big-time lesson. This was all due to excessive use of the telephone to go after recruits, making over 500 illegal calls. The NCAA jumped on that situation. I feel he will move on in a positive way.
My colleague Jay Bilas recently talked about the unbelievable use of text messaging by coaches to get around recruiting rules these days. I couldn't agree more with Jay's assertion. I think it is absurd and ridiculous that someone will sit there and think that kids don't know what they are doing and coaches also know they can get to a kid through text messaging. We need to have a period of recruiting where the rules are clear and there is a level playing field.
Wow, defending national champion Florida has quite a difficult non-league schedule. Billy Donovan's talented team will take on Kansas in a marquee matchup early on in Las Vegas. Ohio State, Florida State and UAB are also on the docket before league play begins.
Talk about the power of the Connecticut program! Over the years Jim Calhoun has put so many players in the pros, guys like Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, and now this year's class that includes Rudy Gay and Hilton Armstrong among others. Calhoun recently received verbal agreements from two players entering their SOPHOMORE seasons, AAU teammates 6-8 Alex Oriakhi and 6-6 Jamal Coombs. They have a few years before they go to Storrs but it shows how powerful the name UCONN is.
New Nebraska coach Doc Sadler received good news when 6-11 Aleks Maric, who previously announced he was not returning to Lincoln, changed his mind. Maric originally opted to leave the Cornhuskers because Barry Collier wasn't returning. Then the big man was swayed by Sadler's visit to Australia to talk him into returning. Maric averaged 10.9 ppg. and 8.1 rpg. last season.
Bo Ryan had to be smiling with the recent news that junior center Greg Stiemsma and sophomore forward Marcus Landry were eligible to compete on the Badgers' trip to Italy. The fact that both are now academically eligible makes Wisconsin that much stronger and deeper. Having Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor in the lineup made Ryan's squad one of the Big Ten elite for the upcoming season.
It recently came out the ACC Associate Commissioner Fred Barakat will be retiring after this upcoming season. Barakat has been a superstar working for the conference, representing the likes of John Swofford and Gene Corrigan (ACC commissioners over the years) in a positive manner. Everywhere he went, he took a positive attitude about the conference. He has been as honest as one could be. He will be missed big time. Barakat has been in charge of the ACC tournament over the years and it has been the crème de la crème. He has been super, scintillating and sensational and he has been a friend for many years, going back to coaching high school in the Bergen County, New Jersey area. We also coached against each other when I was at Detroit and Fred was at Fairfield. I watched him as an administrator and have admired him for years. I wish all the best to him, his lovely bride Florence and his entire family in the future.
Keep an eye on Boston College's recruiting. Al Skinner feels the move to the ACC has broadened his recruiting base further South and should pay off dividends in the future. The Eagles will be led by a solid Jared Dudley among a good corps of returning players.
Norm Roberts continues to rebuild the St. John's program. He recently added a verbal commitment from one of the top point guards in New York City, 5-8 Malik Boothe of Christ the King High School.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.