Category Archives: NCAA Basketball

Small-Time Basketball Report: Elliott Williams stepping up for Sixers

Note: The Small-Time Basketball Report is Sam Amico’s regular feature covering the NBA, the NBA D-League and pro basketball overseas.

Former Trail Blazers first-round draft pick Elliott Williams is off to a solid start with the 76ers.

Williams, a 6-foot-5 guard, is only averaging 2.9 points and 1.4 rebounds in 9.5 minutes, but has offered underrated intangibles that don’t show up on a stat line. The Sixers signed Williams (along with rookie guard Lorenzo Brown) on Nov. 20, when they waived center Kwame Brown, a former No. 1 overall pick, and guard Darius Morris.

Williams was selected with the No. 22 pick in 2010 but appeared in just 24 games with the Blazers after suffering an array of injuries. They included multiple knee surgeries and a ruptured Achilles tendon.

He was not re-signed by the Blazers over the summer — although he did attend training camp with the Cavaliers. Williams appeared in six of the Cavs’ eight preseason games, and was waived before the regular season started.

He has appeared in nine games for the Sixers.

• Former Akron center Zeke Marshall was obtained by the D-League’s Maine Red Claws in a three-team trade with the Reno Bighorns and Santa Cruz Warriors. Marshall, a 7-foot center, was not drafted by an NBA team after his senior season this past summer. Nor has he played for a D-League team. He most recently played with Yulon Luxgen in the Taiwan league, compiling averages of 12.7 points and 4.0 rebounds.

• Former Cavs forward Jamario Moon is averaging 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds as a member of the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League. Moon, 33, has started four the D-Fenders’ first five games.

• The D-Fenders also obtained the rights to ex-Cavs guard Manny Harris from the Canton Charge for a 2014 first-round D-League draft selection Harris last played for the Charge in 2011-12.

• Speaking of the Charge, second-year forward Kevin Jones (another ex-Cav) has caught the eye of NBA scouts with his start to the season. When asked Wednesday about the odds of a call-up, Jones says he feels “like I have a pretty good shot.”

• Former Lakers and Cavs forward Luke Walton discussed his role with the D-Fenders on podcast on Ridiculous Upside, a website devoted to D-League coverage. Listen to it or read more here.

• Ex-Cleveland State forward J’Nathan Bullock has signed to play professionally in Finland.

• Also, former Youngstown State forward Damian Eargle has signed with the Saint John Mill Rats of NBL Canada. Eargle was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO

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.

Canton’s McCollum undergoes successful surgery

Former Canton GlenOak High School standout and current Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum underwent successful surgery on his broken right foot in Charlotte, N.C., team officials announced Tuesday.

McCollum’s status will be updated in six weeks.

The 6-foot-3 guard out of Lehigh was selected with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. He missed most of his senior season with the same injury to his right foot.

He re-injured the foot on the second day of his first NBA training camp.

Former GlenOak standout McCollum breaks foot again

Bad breaks continue to surround Trail Blazers rookie guard C.J. McCollum. Actually, McCollum isn’t entirely unlucky — he was, after all, selected by the Blazers with the No. 10 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

But when he will play is anyone’s guess.

McCollum, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Lehigh, broke his left foot in practice Saturday, and the injury will require surgery.

The surgery has not yet been scheduled and the Blazers say McCollum’s status won’t be updated until after it takes place.

McCollum played high school ball at Canton (Ohio) GlenOak alongside Grizzlies center Kosta Koufos. McCollum then went on to Lehigh, leading the Explorers to the NCAA tournament (which included a win over Duke) during his junior season.

But he missed almost all of his senior year with the same injury he suffered over the weekend – a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot.

McCollum is expected to be a key player in a Blazers backcourt that also includes reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard and former Cavs guard Mo Williams.

Another Mitchell commits to Ohio State

Urban Meyer scored a recruiting coup last January when he secured a commitment from Plano, Tx., linebacker Mike Mitchell.

According to multiple reports, now Thad Matta has secured a commitment from Mike’s younger brother, Mickey.

The Brothers Mitchell count as big gets for Ohio State. lists Mickey Mitchell as a five-star recruit and a top-20 player in the class of 2015. Meyer said earlier this month that Mike Mitchell will play as a freshman; he, too, was a five-star recruit.

They come from good bloodlines. Their father, former NFL linebacker Ken Mitchell, told me last winter that he has “three more sons coming, and they’re all freaks.”

Both Meyer and Matta will likely remind the remaining two that Columbus is a very good place to be.

The Basketball Buckeyes last week got a verbal commitment from class of 2015 point guard Amos “AJ” Harris from Dayton Dunbar.


Ex-Ohio State F Deshaun Thomas headed overseas

It appears that former Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas will begin his professional basketball career overseas, as opposed to the NBA.

According to several reports, Thomas will sign to play in France, perhaps as early as Friday. Thomas had been deciding between offers from teams in both the French and Spanish leagues.

Thomas was selected by the Spurs in the second round of the NBA Draft (No. 58 overall) in June. He entered the draft after his junior season with the Buckeyes, in which he averaged a team-high 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds.

But questions about whether the 6-foot-7 Thomas would be a small forward or power forward at the next level contributed to his slide on draft night. He was not guaranteed a roster spot on the Spurs.

Thomas averaged 12.4 points for the Spurs’ entry in the Las Vegas summer league.

By opting to play overseas, Thomas allows the defending Western Conference champions to retain his rights through the 2014 draft should he decide to make a go of it in the NBA. The Spurs would have surrendered his rights had he not made the final cut at the end of training camp.

“I needed to make a decision,” Thomas told The Columbus Dispatch. “In this business, you have to think about family. I still could have gone to (training camp) and tried to make the roster, but with my (17-month old) son and a family to provide for, I had to look at that. And developing a year ain’t going to hurt.

“It was kind of tough, because I wanted to make the roster. But if training camp didn’t go well, I’d probably be in the (NBA Development) League, and when you go in the D-League you need another part-time job.”

Thomas added he spoke with the Spurs and received no assurances about making the team.

At least one Ohio State player has been selected in each of the previous seven drafts — the longest streak in college basketball.

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.

Jardine gets summer call from Cavs’ Brown

Former Syracuse University guard Scoop Jardine, a friend and former teammate of Dion Waiters, has been added to the Cavaliers’ summer roster.

Jardine is 6-foot-3 and compiled averages of 9.0 points and 4.4 assists per game in four seasons at Syracuse (2007-2012).

Jardine joins Waiters, entering his second NBA season, for the tournament portion of the Las Vegas summer league. The Cavs open the tourney Thursday vs. the Spurs at 4 p.m. ET.

Jardine and Waiters remain close following their time together with the Orange. The two talk regularly and ate dinner together Monday in Vegas.

But Jardine actually came to the Cavs via coach Mike Brown, with whom Jardine also once dined. Brown and Jardine know each other through a mutual acquaintance. Brown called the acquaintance and arranged for Jardine to join the Cavs.

Jardine broke his foot on the night prior to the 2012 NBA Draft and was not selected. He underwent two surgeries on his foot and did not play organized basketball last season — instead working for television and a sports memorabilia and marketing company.

He most recently took part in a Mavericks mini-camp.

Jardine, who redshirted his second season at Syracuse with a stress fracture in his leg, was given a physical and his foot tested upon arriving in Las Vegas.

Cavs added Jared Berggren to Vegas squad

The Cavaliers added a player to their summer league roster in Las Vegas. Here’s the official press release:

The Cavs have added Jared Berggren from the University of Wisconsin to their summer league roster. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound center appeared in two games for the Orlando Magic in the Orlando Summer League earlier this month. In four years at Wisconsin, he averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 119 games. He will wear number 37.

Well-traveled V.J. King aims for improvement

It’s been quite a year for V.J. King.

Whether or not you’ve been reading previously, it’s been quite a spring and half-a-summer, specifically.

His first season of high school basketball in Ohio was as good as many expected it to be — at least until the Div. II state championship game, when V.J. struggled and St. Vincent-St. Mary lost.

Angry at himself, V.J. wanted in the gym the next day. As had been the plan win or lose, his dad, Vincent, forced him to take three days off.

Three long days, those were. The Kid feels lost without basketball.

This series tracking V.J.’s pursuit of his basketball dreams started about a year ago, when the Kings moved to Akron and V.J. enrolled at St. V-M. Already ranked nationally in his class — yes, there are people who rank middle school basketball players — he arrived with fanfare and expectations. St. V-M, as you may remember, previously had a pretty good player who answers to the name King.

So far, he’s (mostly) dodged that. And settled into his new surroundings nicely, averaging 17 points per game as a freshman and carrying a 3.6 grade-point average over the first three quarters of the school year. He couldn’t dodge someone creating a fake Twitter account using his name and likeness later in the spring, but that got resolved (and deleted). By April he was into a groove with his King James — who would have guessed? — AAU team, playing on weekends anywhere from Detroit to Dallas to New Jersey.

V.J. King in Team USA gear

In the last week of May, V.J. flew to Colorado Springs as one of 25 participants in USA Basketball’s 16-and-under camp. He didn’t come back for more than three weeks, not until he’d become one of 12 who made the team and then become one of the first guys off the bench for a team that not surprisingly rolled to a gold medal at the Tournament of the Americas in Uruguay.

Yes, Uruguay. Playing for Team USA.

So, it’s been quite a spring and half of a summer for V.J. King.

He took his final exams when he came home from Uruguay and took one more day off of basketball. Then, he was right back into the flow. This week, he’s back on the circuit playing in Nike’s prestigious Peach Jam event. The AAU nationals are a few weeks away.

College coaches are watching all the way. Ohio State and Wisconsin offered last fall; Miami (Fla.) and North Carolina State have offered since the high school season ended. Plenty of others have watched and continue to do so.

All V.J.’s father says about his recruitment is “we’re going to take it slow. There is no hurry.” What V.J. says about it is this: “I’m used to people asking. I never get riled up about who’s there to watch. It’s still a few years away and I’m just honored to have colleges showing interest in me.”

Those who come to watch immediately see his talent and basketball IQ. He was 6’7 last season and comfortable shooting from 22 feet. He’s worked hard on improving not only that jump shot but being able to create it himself. Going 1-of-6 for 5 points in that state championship loss to Columbus Bishop Watterson has driven him.

“The way I played and we lost, I was sick,” V.J. said. “And I was ready to get back immediately and start making sure that never happens again. It stings more because we got there and then just didn’t get it done. And I pin a lot of it on myself. It still hurts.”

He’s human. And though he needs to add bulk and work on his left hand, his assertiveness and improve his overall athleticism to truly get where he wants to go, he is a 6’7 (at least) 16-year old making NBA-range 3-pointers. He’s good enough that some  other kid, somewhere, had a Twitter account purporting to be him.

In today’s social media age — V.J. prefers video games to Facebook — that’s a high compliment.

Said Vincent King: “I think he’s starting to taste it. He won’t be outworked. I think he’s figuring out there might be something special inside there, and that light coming on a little bit can be what helps it go to the next level.”

He’s a little taller now, a little stronger, a little more comfortable in his own skin — and in his seemingly never-ending supply of really large Nikes. Going to LeBron’s school and playing for his AAU program has its perks. In his freshman season V.J. said he “learned a lot. I really focused on playing better defense. My coaches pushed me. I could have had more rebounds, made more hustle plays. I’ve learned those things can decide games.”

Maybe his father’s favorite moment of high school season came in a long-forgotten regular-season game, on a play when V.J. came from the back side of a play to block a shot into the fourth row. He not so politely told the shooter to “get that (stuff) out of here” and was assessed a technical foul.

In the stands, Vincent King saw that assertiveness he’d been pushing to see. On the court, those two points and one extra possession didn’t keep St. V-M from winning the game.

“Heat of the moment,” V.J. said. “The ref had a good view of what I said.”

He laughed. He said “be more assertive, be a little meaner” is part of what Ohio State coach Thad Matta told him last winter.

He knows he’s getting better, and he says that’s his only focus for the rest of the summer. He looks forward, already, to next winter. He has a bunch of new friends from his Team USA experience to track, too, players who also already hold offers from top college programs nationally. Accolades and attention and a new home arena — named for its primary benefactor, LeBron James — await, but V.J. said he’s thinking only about getting the chance to redeem himself for that state championship clunker.

“I know what the water is like here, so to speak,” he said. “I know my coaches and my teammates. I know we’re getting everybody’s shot in every gym.

“I pay attention to college and that outside stuff to an extent but I don’t put myself in it. One day I’ll be an upperclassman and I might be more involved with that stuff. Right now what people say or anything outside doesn’t matter. I just need to get better.”

His daily workouts with his father are done with that in mind. With any luck, he’ll get a couple workouts in with LeBron in August or September. And by December, he’ll be chasing the state title he feels he let slip away last season.

“One thing I’ll never forget from the season is one of the opposing student sections getting on me while I was taking the ball out of bounds,” V.J. said. “They were calling me a little kid, telling me I was lucky to make one shot, that I didn’t belong on any list of the best players. I just kept hearing ‘overrated, overrated’ and a bunch of other stuff I can’t repeat.

“These guys kept going, mocking me, yelling me. I know it’s heat of the moment stuff and they just want their team to win, but I think early last year I let it get to me a little bit.”

Later in the year, he handled it with a smile. He knows it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

“After one game,” V.J. said, “the same kid who was screaming ‘overrated’ asked for my autograph before we got on the bus.”