September 6, 2007

College Hoops notes: Tide returns wiser

Alabama got a glimpse of what life is like without Ronald Steele again over Labor Day Weekend. On the surface, the results could lead to cause for concern.

Alabama, Illinois and Villanova - all three programs are in Rivals.com's Top 64 Countdown - played a series of exhibitions over the weekend in Canada. The Tide, playing without Steele, who had his third knee surgery of the offseason last month, fell to Carleton University, 83-72.

But losing to Carleton isn't all that embarrassing. The Ravens have won five consecutive national titles in Canada, and two of their players are on the Canadian national team.

"I like the fact that we got challenged by Carleton," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "Not winning the game, I think, was actually a positive. I think there's a lot to learn. They are an excellent team, and that's going to be good for our team to have done that."

Illinois needed a clutch 3-pointer in the final minute to get past Carleton, 74-72. The Illini, though, did lose a game, 86-82 to Concordia University.

Last year, Louisville needed a last-minute layup to edge Carleton 67-66. The Cardinals went on to finish second in the Big East and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Overall, there were some promising signs for the Tide, which won their other three games. Freshman guard Senario Hillman was the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 14.8 points a game. Hillman was the 40th-ranked prospect in the class of 2007. Junior power forward Richard Hendrix, whom the Tide will be leaning on more with the loss of big man Jermareo Davidson, averaged a team-high 22.3 ppg and 10.0 rpg.

If Steele can return to his sophomore form (14.3 ppg, 4.3 apg), he and Hendrix will form one of the nation's top inside-outside duos.

Reynolds Roars Back

Where was this Scottie Reynolds during the Pan Am Games?

Reynolds, the Villanova guard who shot the ball so miserably this summer as the U.S. team finished out of medal contention in Brazil, blistered the nets on the Wildcats' recent trip to Canada. Villanova played three games in two days, including a day-night doubleheader, and won them all. Reynolds didn't play in the middle game, but in the two in which he played, he sank 16-of-18 shots, including 12-of-13 from 3-point range. He capped the trip with 33 points in a 77-62 victory over the Carleton All-Stars (not Carleton University).

"Scottie had a great summer in a lot of ways," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, who also coached the U.S. team in Brazil. "He made the Pan American team and helped our team. But I think he saw in Rio how physical the game is at the next level and how prepared you have to be.

"I sense a renewed commitment in Scottie after that experience. This was a game that was similar to the games we played in Rio, with older, veteran players. Scottie did a great job."

Reynolds started the first two games for the U.S. team, but after shooting 5-of-22, including 1-of-11 from 3-point range, Wright benched him. Things didn't get much better for the rising sophomore as he went 3-of-15 for the remainder of the tournament to finish at 21.6 percent (8-of-37).

"I feel that (the Pan Am experience) helped me out a lot," Reynolds said after the successful trip to Canada. "I learned so many things, good and bad, that will help me this season and beyond."

Deron Williams II?

Illinois may have found its next great point guard. Freshman Demetri McCamey's play north of the border drew comparisons to the Illini's last one.

"He's very talented. He's deceptive athletically, plays a lot like Deron Williams (point guard on Illinois' national runner-up team in 2005)," Illini coach Bruce Weber said. "He uses his body well and changes speeds to get by people. He's still learning, but he's already shown that he can create scoring opportunities and make plays, and that's what we're looking out of him this year."

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound McCamey (Williams is 6-3, 190) dished out five assists, including a clutch pass that junior-college transfer Rodney Alexander used to hit the game-winning 3-pointer, in the Illini's narrow victory over Carleton. McCamey, the 68th-ranked prospect in the class of 2007, handed out a game-high seven assists in the following contest, a 73-56 win over Ottawa.

Another freshman also showed signs of being able to contribute. Guard Jeff Jordan, the son of Michael Jordan, averaged 6.0 ppg and shot 50 percent (10-of-20). Jordan accepted an invitation to attend Illinois as an invited walk-on. He is wearing No. 13.

New Kids On the Block

Several other teams finished foreign trips over Labor Day weekend, and many newcomers impressed.

Oklahoma freshman forward Blake Griffin scored a team-high 21 points as the Sooners rolled to a 90-61 win over Douglas College in Vancouver.

It was the third time during Oklahoma's four-game trip that Griffin led the team in scoring.

Douglas beat Boise State 109-100 on Sunday night.

Highly touted USC freshmen O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson led the Trojans with 29 points apiece in a 102-82 win over Caballeros de Culican, a semi-pro team, in Mexico.

LSU appears to have found a new scoring threat with junior-college transfer Marcus Thornton. The guard averaged 26 ppg during LSU's three-game trip to the Toronto area.

Tip-ins

  • Memphis guard Jeffrey Robinson and power forward Shawn Taggart were arrested after a fight at a Beale Street club Sunday morning. Robinson was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot. Taggart was charged with disorderly conduct and inciting a riot. There are reports that starting center Joey Dorsey started the brawl. Coach John Calipari said no punishment will be given until after a police and school investigation, but he did say he will institute an 11 p.m. or midnight curfew and won't allow any players to visit nightclubs.

  • Five UAB players were arrested at a Birmingham dance club Friday night. Guard Channing Toney was charged with physically harassing a police officer. Guard Edward Berrios was charged with physical harassment and disorderly conduct. Guard Robert Vaden, forward Walter Sharpe and center Keenan Ellis were charged with disorderly conduct. Sharpe had a previous warrant for not appearing on another case involving a charge of possession of marijuana. Coach Mike Davis said the players are being disciplined, but did not give the details of their punishment. Vaden, Toney and Sharpe are high-profile transfers and expected to play heavy minutes.

  • Florida coach Billy Donovan has more pressing concerns than dealing with the lure of the NBA. Apparently, Donovan just hopes to have enough big men to field a team next season. The school's official athletic site carries an ad that reads, "The Gator Men's Basketball Team is interested in possible walk-on candidates. If you are an interior player (forward or center only!) please call (assistant coach) Darren Hertz in the basketball office at 352-375-4683 x 4200." The Gators are trying to replace their top six scorers after winning back-to-back national titles.

  • Boston College has extended the contract of coach Al Skinner through the 2012-13 season. Skinner is 196-120 in his 10 seasons at BC, taking the Eagles to six NCAA Tournaments.

    Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.
    Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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