Category Archives: Big Ten Conference

Watch this video of a Northwestern walk-on getting a scholarship

New Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins called walk-on James Montgomery in front of his teammates.

Montgomery is no longer a walk-on.

The video may give you chills.

Five quick college football predictions

I should really get out of the prediction business; I’m terrible at it.

Quitters never win.

Here are five very quick predictions I have on this college football season…

1. Alabama wins the national championship. Mount Union wins the Div. III national championship. Perhaps you’ve seen this movie before.

2. I am previously on record with this: Ball State will get to 12-1 by beating 9-4 Ohio in the MAC Championship Game.

3. There’s plenty of hype surrounding Louisville, but the Cardinals will lose their season finale at Cincinnati and the Bearcats will claim the AAC’s last automatic BCS bid.

4. Braxton Miller will sit on the stage at the Downtown Athletic Club for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December. Johhny Manziel will sit there, too. A.J. McCarron will win it, and we’ll all hope Katherine Webb is there.

5. Ohio State will win. And win big. And win its first 11 games, then lose at Michigan. Then, the Buckeyes will turn the tables on the Wolverines and win the following week in the Big Ten Championship Game to get to 12-1 and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they’ll beat Stanford.

A bunch of summer basketball stuff

Before we go into full football mode, a few leftover basketball notes…

*Earlier this week I wrote about Quincy Diggs and his return from a year’s suspension to the University of Akron basketball team.

You can read that story here.

If you want to see highlights from Diggs in the Cleveland-Akron Summer Pro Am at Walsh University, the guys at 3rd Coast Hoops have put this together. Diggs looks like a guy who can play point guard if Akron ends up needing him to, right?

The guys at 3rd Coast Hoops do an outstanding job covering basketball in Northeast Ohio and sharing highlights online. If you want to burn a couple hours, their site is a great place is a start.

*3rd Coast Hoops has landed highlights on major networks and websites all summer, and their timing is right with a bunch of talented prospects coming through the high school ranks in Ohio right now. During major shoe-company showcase events last week, Franklin’s Luke Kennard added offers from Kentucky and Michigan State, while Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph’s Carlton Bragg added offers from UCLA and Georgetown to what was already an impressive list. Bragg and Kennard are Ohio’s top two prospects in the class of 2015.

Those who know say the class of 2016 could be the best basketball class Ohio has produced in years. That group is headlined by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s VJ King.

*Speaking of Diggs and Akron, the Zips are headed to Hawaii at Christmas for the Diamond Head Classic. Dayton is going a month earlier for the Maui Invitational, and the Flyers will play a marquee first-round game there against Gonzaga.

Dayton won the Maui Invitational in 2003; Gonzaga won it in 2009. The Maui Invitational is one of the best early-season tournaments every year, and this year should be no different with Syracuse, Minnesota and Baylor also in the field.

The Dayton-Gonzaga game is Monday Nov. 25 and the Maui championship game is in its traditional spot two nights later on the night before Thanksgiving.

Akron opens its tournament against Oregon State. Iowa State, Boise State, George Mason, South Carolina, Hawaii and St. Mary’s are also in the field.

*Things didn’t go as planned for Team USA at the World University Games in Russia earlier this month as the Americans went 6-2 but did not medal.

Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick averaged 7.5 points per game off the bench but shot just 32 percent. Iowa’s Aaron White, a native of Strongsville, Ohio, averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Michigan State’s Adreian Payne started three games and averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds.

*Xavier sophomore guard Semaj Christon has accepted an invitation to the exclusive Chris Paul Elite Camp next month in the Clippers’ point guard’s hometown of Winston-Salem N.C.

At least two other Ohio players have been contacted by the camp but their attendance hasn’t yet been confirmed.

Game back on for basketball recruits

The college basketball recruiting game is officially back on Wednesday afternoon.

The first of three NCAA open evaluation periods begins today, and it’s no coincidence they take place during some of the biggest events on the high school basketball travel circuit. Nike’s Peach Jam is underway in Augusta, Georgia, while the Adidas Invitational is tipping off in Indianapolis.

Later this month, many of the top teams will play in long-standing events in Las Vegas while others will play in the AAU nationals in Orlando. That’s during the third of the three NCAA evaluation period, which runs July 24-28.

The rules are so specific that today’s evaluation period doesn’t start until 5 p.m. ET and ends promptly at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Coaches can attend these events and jockey for position to be seen — wearing their school’s colors and shiny (insert shoe company) gear, but can’t talk to the prospects.

It’s quite a business.

The open communication period for class of 2015 (rising junior) prospects began last month, meaning coaches can have unlimited phone and text communication. In short, these players know what coaches are coming to see them.

Scout.com released new national rankings for the class of 2015 late last month and listed two Ohio prospects in the top 20, forward Carlton Bragg of Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph (12th) and shooting guard Luke Kennard of Franklin, Ohio (18th). Small forward Mickey Mitchell of Prestonwood Christian in Plano, Texas is 15th; he’s the younger brother of incoming Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell.

Ohio State might not be Mitchell’s leader, but the inside connection can’t hurt.

Bragg plays in the summer for Adidas-sponsored Ohio Basketball Club, so he’s playing this week in Indianapolis. Kennard plays for King James, which as you may have guessed is a Nike program. Kennard’s King James teammates include fellow priority recruits A.J. Harris of Dayton Dunbar, Josh Williams of Barberton and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s V.J. King, a class of 2016 prospect who holds offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Carolina State and Miami (Fla.).

(ADDITION: Per various Twitter reports, head coaches watching Bragg on Wednesday night included Ohio State’s Thad Matta, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Indiana’s Tom Crean and John Groce of Illinois.)

Ohio State already has four commitments for the class of 2014: Pickerington Central guard Jae’sean Tate, small forward Keita Bates-Diop of Chicago, guard D’Angelo Russell of Louisville and center David Bell of Garfield Heights. It’s believed that the Buckeyes are involved with some other big men, including Scout’s No. 5 prospect, Myles Turner of Texas.

The Buckeyes will lose four-year point guard Aaron Craft and three-year swingman Lenzelle Smith Jr. after the 2013-14 season and also must be prepared to lose LaQuinton Ross to next year’s NBA Draft.

Bates-Diop (20), Russell (21) and Tate (52) are ranked by Scout.com. Bates-Diop and Russell are five-star prospects, while Tate is a four-star prospect.

Ohio flavor on World University Games team

USA Basketball’s roster for the World University Games is set — and it has a strong Ohio flavor.

Among those making the final cut announced Saturday were Adreian Payne (Dayton/Michigan State), Aaron White (Strongsville/Iowa) and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick.

A minicamp with 26 players began last week, and the 12-man roster will train through Monday in Colorado Springs and depart for Russia on July 1. World University Games play begins on July 7.

Other notable names on the roster include Final Four MVP Luke Hancock of Louisville, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Treveon Graham of VCU and a pair of Indiana Hoosiers, Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell.

Davidson’s Bob McKillop will coach Team USA and is assisted by Michigan’s John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin.

What I’d do with the No. 1 pick tonight

I get paid to watch basketball all winter long (great gig, by the way) and though I don’t have a single NBA scout in my rolodex and have never spent a second in an NBA draft room, I usually trust my eyes when forming my NBA Draft opinions.

So here are my opinions on the top of tonight’s draft. By clicking and reading this far, you have asked…

If I was the Cleveland Cavaliers, I’d have spent the last four weeks in court trying to find a way to draft the rights to Andrew Wiggins.

Hasn’t happened, which leads us to tonight. To the 2013 NBA Draft that’s happening despite reports that it will be the demise of 10-plus franchises, and to the No. 1 overall pick that the Cavaliers own.

I’d try like crazy to trade that pick. Knowing this would be a big problem — if the Cavs don’t see a slam-dunk No. 1 pick, it’s safe to assume other see the same — I’d have to turn down my expectations and demands and take just about anything. This was the year that winning the lottery wasn’t winning as much as it has been in previous years, and the Cavs are in the position of still needing lots of pieces.

I just think that if the Cavs like two or three players at the top, there’s a chance they can add something and move down 4-5  slots and still get one of the guys they like, plus whatever veteran player or future pick they’d acquire. It would be nice to see the Cavs contend for the playoffs in 2013-14, but this is still very much about the future.

When the Cavs won the lottery last month, one name came immediately to mind. In fact, I tweeted that Nerlens Noel’s flat top just became the fourth tallest building in Cleveland. I think Noel is such a rare, gifted defender that he has to be the No. 1 pick here.  So much of this is about youth and upside and development and I just like Noel’s tools and believe that such a natural shot-blocker can be an impact player for a long, long time.

My only concern is the knee issue — the multiple surgeries and how he’ll hold up over the years as he goes through an 82-game schedule and fills out physically and tries to keep his body in top shape. And that’s a huge concern, obviously. But this whole thing is a gamble, especially this year and especially with the Cavs having a bunch of draft-salary-trade assets but no certain direction/answer for how they’ll use them. The sort-of-unwritten basketball rule is to gamble with the big guy, and gamble that Noel will truly be a game-changer over the next several years.

It would be a gamble to trade out of the No. 1 pick, even with the perceptions about this draft class. The gamble is supposed to be on greatness, and I see star traits in Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter and to a lesser extent C.J. McCollum and Ben McLemore but in this situation I’d roll the dice with Noel if I couldn’t trade the pick.

I just don’t see in any way how a gamble on Alex Len would be a gamble on greatness. You pay scouts to find guys with Len’s ceiling from picks 11-25, not with No. 1. No way; not for me, not even this year.

Oladipo has a long way to go offensively, but he’s explosive and a proven defender and seems to bring no off-court baggage. The comparisons to Dwyane Wade are somewhat valid; I guess what I’ve seen with Oladipo’s athleticism and improvement curve outweighs what he can’t do, and I think that’s key. If the Cavs can’t trade the pick, they’d better find something(s) to really love about the ones they can have.

It’s going to be just one, and I’d rank them Noel-Oladipo-Porter. If they do manage a trade, I’d take a long look at McLemore, Anthony Bennett (unique talent; gets less risky with each slot he drops) and McCollum, who can really shoot the ball and should be an instant impact guy.

You’d want the next Steph Curry on your team, wouldn’t you?

My two cents are worth just that. Thanks for playing along.

Isn’t it about time to get this thing started?

AND ANOTHER THING…I think it will be a tremendous upset if either Ohio University’s D.J. Cooper or Akron’s Zeke Marshall are drafted tonight. I do think both have a shot to be NBA contributors, and given what people who know say about this draft I won’t be shocked by anything. It all makes for good TV tonight and it’s made for good (yet at the same time painful) social-media discussion over the last weeks, but remember: Tonight marks the beginning, not the end.

Lighty, Linhart among those in Bucks’ mini-camp

Former Ohio State guard David Lighty is among the prospects working out in a free agent mini-camp being held by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Lighty was named second-team All-Big Ten following his senior year in 2011, when he averaged 12.5 points and 1.5 steals. He wasn’t selected in the NBA Draft, and has spent the previous two seasons playing overseas.

This past season, Lighty played for Nanterre of the French league, averaging 12.5 points in 35 games.

Ex-Akron forward Nate Linhart and former Cleveland State guard Cedric Jackson (Cleveland, Washington, San Antonio) are also participating in the Bucks’ mini-camp, which began Monday.

Others taking part in the camp:

Tom Abercrombie, G, Washington State/New Zealand
Craig Brackens, F, Iowa State/NBA
Dwight Buycks, G, Marquette/D-League
Gary Flowers, F, Southern Mississippi/D-League
Sundiata Gaines, G, Georgia/NBA
Jonathon Gibson, G, New Mexico State/Turkey
Mickell Gladness, C, Alabama A&M/NBA
Ricky Hickman, G, UNC-Greensboro/Israel
Tyler Honeycutt, F, UCLA/NBA
Dennis Horner, F, NC State/D-League
Rick Jackson, F, Syracuse/D-League
Damion James, F, Texas/NBA
Dominique Jones, F, South Florida/NBA
Gal Mekel, G, Wichita State/Israel
Hamady N’Diaye, C, Rutgers/Senegal
K.C. Rivers, G/F, Clemson/Russia
Salim Stoudamire, G, Arizona/Venzuela
Jermaine Taylor, G, Central Florida/NBA
Terrico White, G, Mississippi/Serbia
Chris Wright, G, Georgetown/D-League

The camp concludes Wednesday.

Buckeyes well represented on Steele’s All-Big Ten teams

Noted college football savant Phil Steele has released his preseason All-Big Ten teams, and to the surprise of few Ohio State was very well represented.

Quarterback Braxton Miller heads six Buckeyes on the first team. Six more made the second team, and five others are either on the third or fourth team.

Other Ohio State first-teamers were cornerback Bradley Roby, safety Christian Bryant, linebacker Ryan Shazier and offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell. Roby, like Miller, will be on just about every major preseason award list throughout the summer.

Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, a native of the Dayton area, was on the first team. Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington and Curtis Grant were on the second team, and both are interesting projections because they’ll be in totally new roles this season. All four of Ohio State’s returning offensive linemen were represented in Steele’s four-tier projections.

Steele is based in Cleveland. His annual magazine — the absolute annual college football encyclopedia — will be released later this month.

View the full list here on Steele’s site

UPDATE: Michigan St. yanks rapper’s scholarship

DatBull spun it like he has better things to do than play dat ball.

Michigan State sees it a little differently.

As we blogged last night, according to this story, a Michigan State wide receiver recruit from Pennsylvania informed his parents and the school that he’s picking a rap career over a college football career.

But this Philly.com story says Jay Harris was stripped of his scholarship after releasing a rap video that showed him lighting a marijuana cigarette and using explicit lyrics.

Genius.

Harris does have an album slated for a June 1 release, and it’s not like we’re rooting against him. He was removed from the roster of the prestigious Big 33 Game set for June and is apparently done with football. Dat is bold.

Travis Howard, other Buckeyes awaiting NFL calls

Several Ohio State players, most notably John Simon and Reid Fragel, are still waiting to hear their names called in the NFL Draft.

Cornerback Travis Howard is one who could be a seventh-round pick — or could have to go the long route and try to make it as  an undrafted free agent. Howard had a solid senior season and plays a priority position, but he really only has the one good season of tape to state his draft case.

His position coach last season, Kerry Coombs, believes Howard will and should be drafted today. Now, that’s neither unusual nor groundbreaking; of course a coach is going to stand up for his guys. But Coombs does everything with extra energy and passion, and he’s passionate that Howard is primed to have a successful pro career.

“Travis, in my estimation, is an NFL defensive back — no doubt about it,” Coombs said. “I’ve coached seven guys who have been in NFL camps and I think he’s every bit as good or better than those guys. He has a tremendous upside. He’s nowhere near a finished product. He’s explosive, he’s long, he can play man to man and he sees the ball well in zone. He gets off the ground.

“He’s a great kid. You don’t have to worry about, is he hanging out in the bar at 2am? That kind of stuff? No. Travis is who he is. He loves the game. He’ll play special teams. He’ll make your team. That’s what I tell scouts. He’ll make your team. I would take him, and I think he’ll be a good player.

“Coming into last year his effort was minimal, his academics were poor, his work ethic was questionable. I think all those things. And I think he had a real good look in the mirror, and he had a lot of help from head coach and his position coach. He didn’t like what he saw and we didn’t like what we saw. I remember driving on vacation last July with my wife and calling him, and what I heard was, ‘I got you coach, I got you coach.’

“I called him every day from the dog gone beach because I wanted to make sure he was taking care of business, and he was. There’s something to be said for that.

“He’s not as good as he would have been had he taken that approach for four years. He has first-round talent. Now, he won’t be drafted that high but he’s a better player than a lot of guys (who got invited) to the NFL Combine. Travis is going to play a lot of football.”

Johnathan Hankins is the only Buckeye selected so far, having gone to the New York Giants in Friday night’s second round.

Fellow Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, a third-year sophomore last season, elected to stay in school another year. I asked Coombs if he thought Roby would be a first-round pick next year, and he looked at me like I’d asked a silly question.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Only a surprise pick of Wisconsin center Travis Frederick by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 31 overall on Thursday night saved the Big Ten from not having a player drafted in the first round for the first time since 1953.

Here’s a hint: With Urban Meyer in Columbus, that streak is probably safe for a while.