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Roundball Chatter


Each Friday I will write about the sport I love, college basketball…

•Great news for the SEC this week. Florida and Kentucky won the recruiting wars for the two undeclared McDonald's All-America players. Jai Lucas will be a Florida Gator, giving Billy Donovan an outstanding recruiting class to help rebuild following the loss of his starting five from the two-time national champions. Lucas, the son of John Lucas, should be an immediate impact performer, teaming up with another McDonald's All-America, Nick Calathes. Kentucky signed Patrick Patterson, the power forward from Huntington, West Virginia. That shows how Billy Gillispie can bring in star talent and the big blue fans in Lexington have to be ecstatic with the news.

•Last weekend was very special for Providence basketball fans. An event was held at the Rhode Island Convention Center honoring one of the hardest-working college basketball teams in recent memory. It marked the 20-year reunion of the Friars' 1987 Final Four squad. That club was directed by Rick Pitino, who took advantage of the three-point shot, which came into play that year. He utilized it so effectively and had it as a key weapon in his march to the Final Four. The biggest three-point threat for the Friars was a young guy, who arrived to Providence a little bit overweight. Mr. Pitino gave him a message to get in shape, do the things I want or transfer. That young man was Billy Donovan, who has led the Florida Gators to back-to-back national championships. There were many dignitaries in attendance, including Providence legend Dave Gavitt, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim (whose team knocked off Providence at that Final Four) as well as ESPN's own Bill Raftery and Sean McDonough. The stories were rolling, my friends.

  •Gregg Marshall may see his former school a lot earlier than he thought. The new Wichita State coach will lead his team into the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands November 16-19. Also in the field is his former employer, Winthrop. The two teams are in different halves of the bracket and would not meet until the final or in a consolation round. The field also includes Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.

  •Big-name coaches are already paying dividends. At Minnesota, Tubby Smith landed guard Nathen Garth from Texas. The 6-3 Garth admitted he would not have joined to Golden Gophers if Tubby wasn't there. Rick Majerus landed 6-11 Brad Thompson to the class of 2008 via verbal commitment. Thompson was considering the likes of Indiana, so Saint Louis was a big winner. Colorado's new coach, Jeff Bzdelik, got a verbal commitment from 6-4 Cory Higgins, the son of former NBA veteran and Golden State Warrriors general manager Rod Higgins.

•You need a scorecard to keep track of the coaching changes in the Mountain West this season. Of the nine schools, five will have new coaches (Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). The Missouri Valley Conference also had five changes out of 10 schools (Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State and Wichita State).

  •The Mid-Continent Conference has decided to change its name. The league, which includes Oral Roberts, will now be known as the Summit League. Remember when there was a name change and the Horizon League has had some great success in the NCAA tournament.

•John Beilein made a great move bringing in Jerry Dunn to his staff at Michigan. Dunn, the former Penn State head coach, was a valuable member of Beilein's staff at West Virginia.

•Frank Haith had to be a happy camper when word came out recently that Anthony King was granted an extra season of eligibility. King was sidelined most of last season due to a wrist injury. New legislation has athletes sitting down at least 30 percent of the season to have any shot of having a redshirt season granted.

•If you can beat them, join them too. That was the case for Vermont transfer Joe Trapani. The 6-8 forward scored 13 points in a Catamounts stunner over Boston College last season. Trapani, who suffered a broken foot later in the season, decided to transfer and Al Skinner was the lucky winner, as the forward will contribute to the Eagles in the future.  

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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