Reaching the Summit: HoopsHD interviews Team USA player Joshua Langford

Michigan State’s season ended on a sad note last month after getting upset by Middle Tennessee, but they plan to advance a bit farther next March thanks to some of their incredible incoming recruits.  1 of those is Joshua Langford, who has had 1 heck of a spring: winning a state title for the 3rd time in 4 years, winning the McDonald’s All-American Game, and a spot on the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Select Team for Saturday’s Nike Hoop Summit.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Langford late last night about surviving a near-death experience and why he wants to play for Coach Tom Izzo. 

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At age 12 you were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis: how close did you come to dying, and how were you able to survive? I was very close to dying, like on the borderline, but I just thank God and my doctors for helping me make it through.

You teach Sunday school and speak at chapel services: what role does your faith play in your life? It plays a big role. The ball will eventually stop bouncing for everyone but God will always be there, so my faith is very important to me.

You work out several times a day and even use an altitude mask to increase the intensity: how has your hard work in practice translated to your success in games? I feel like I have made a big jump from my freshman year, and even from last year, to now, and hopefully I can keep it going in college next year.

Last summer you signed to play at Michigan State for Coach Tom Izzo, who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame: what makes Izzo such a great coach, and why did you choose the Spartans? He gets the best out of his players with tough love and is always there for his players. Gary Harris had a chance to leave a few years ago after his freshman season but he came back because Coach has so much love for the team.

You are 6’7” and played combo guard in high school: what position are you most comfortable at on the court? I am comfortable at every position from the 1 to the 3 thanks to my skills and basketball IQ.

In early March you scored a game-high 25 PTS for Madison Academy to help beat Midfield and win your 3rd Alabama state title in 4 years: what is the key to winning titles? You have to play within your team and take care of business on the defensive end. You also need good chemistry.

The Spartans were upset by Middle Tennessee State in the 1st-round of the NCAA tourney: did you watch the game, and do you think that it puts any extra pressure on you to succeed next March? It was tough to watch them lose like that but it did not define their entire season. I hated to see the seniors (like Denzel Valentine) not win it all but we just have to move on and prepare for next year. There is not much pressure because there are still plenty of players around who can teach us the ropes.

In last month’s McDonald’s All-American Game you scored 12 PTS in a 7-PT win by the West: which player impressed you the most? I loved my whole team: we played together and were all unselfish. Lonzo Ball tied a McDonald’s record with 13 AST and we all shared the ball, which I think is why we won.

1 of the players on the East team was Miles Bridges: how excited are you to team up with him in East Lansing this fall? I am very excited: Miles is a great player and I look forward to playing with him. We have talked and we have the same mindset as all the other incoming freshmen: work hard and win a title!

On Saturday you will play for the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Select Team in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, OR: what do you know about the World Select Team, and how do you think your team is going to do? We just had a mini-film session: I am holding the scouting report in my hand as we speak! The World Team looks big but I think that we can really spread them out with our strong guards. I think we are the better team so if we play together and treat them like they are better than us, I think that we will win.

Call from the Hall: HoopsHD interviews Roger Cushman about Doug Collins

We are approximately 10 weeks away from the 2016 NBA draft: sometimes you pick a future Hall of Famer like Tim Duncan or LeBron James…and sometimes you pick Greg Oden.  This year marks the 43rd anniversary of a pick that did turn into a future Hall of Famer: Philly selected Doug Collins from Illinois State.  For all of his positive accomplishments (3-time All-American, 4-time All-Star, coaching Michael Jordan, etc.), many people remember him most for making a pair of go-ahead FTs for team USA with 3 seconds left in the 1972 Olympic gold medal game (before it turned into 1 of the most controversial endings in the history of sports), but the happy ending is that last month Collins was finally elected to the Hall of Fame.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to chat with former Illinois State SID Roger Cushman about Collins scoring 57 PTS in a game and being a 3-time Academic All-American.  We congratulate Collins and the rest of the 2016 class of the Hall of Fame! 

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In the controversial 1972 Olympic gold medal basketball game against the Soviet Union, Collins made 2 FTs to give the US a 50–49 lead with 3 seconds left, but after the refs restarted the game’s final seconds a couple of times the Soviets made a layup at the buzzer to win the game: what impact did that game have on Doug either on or off the court? The whole experience changed him in a lot of ways. We were just a small college when Doug arrived in the 1960s and he kind of grew with our program. He was an unknown quantity when he went to the Olympics but came back to the US as a celebrity. We always knew that he was good, but when you prove yourself against the best players in the world it just changes your whole outlook. He was a real hero throughout the state of Illinois: almost everywhere we played there was a pregame ceremony recognizing his achievements. Everyone in the US felt that our country had been robbed.  Doug’s steal/FTs under immense pressure after recovering from getting clobbered was great…until the travesty occurred, so people liked that he came through in the clutch.

His coach at Illinois State was Will Robinson, the 1st African-American coach in D-1 history: how big a deal was it at the time, and what kind of relationship did the star have with the coach? It was a big deal. Doug was a sophomore when we hired Will and they developed a good relationship. Doug came from Benton, IL (where he was a neighbor of John Malkovich!), and Will would tease him about the lack of African-Americans in Doug’s area. Will had coached quite a few players who went on to success in the pros like Spencer Haywood/Mel Daniels. Will had a unique philosophy: instead of recruiting players at specific positions like guards/forwards/centers, he wanted to have shooters/rebounders/playmakers: Doug was his shooter. There is a statue of both of them in front of our arena.

On January 3, 1973 he scored a school-record 57 PTS in a win vs. New Orleans: was it just 1 of those situations where every shot he put up seemed to go in because he was “in the zone”? He was spectacular in that game: we won in OT so we needed every single point he scored. He had another game with 55 PTS so it was nothing unique for him to score a lot: he has 5 of our top-7 all-time scoring performances!

He finished his 3-year varsity career with 2240 PTS: what made him such a great scorer, and do you think that anyone will ever break his record? We had a player named Tarise Bryson who was on pace to break the record before getting injured as a senior. The amazing part is that Doug set the career scoring record after only 2 seasons! From what people said, Doug was always in motion and when he got the ball he had the quickest 1st step that you could imagine. Back then they played in those Converse canvas shoes: I cannot tell you how many shoes he went through every year from tearing them up! He was deadly from the top of the FT circle and was terrific on backdoor plays: he was like a blur. Someone wrote a song about him after the Olympics and it was quite a hit in the local area. He worked hard at improving his reaction time and was great on fast breaks: he was the total package.

He was named All-American and Academic All-American during each of his 3 years: how did he balance his work on the court with his work in the classroom? He had a terrific competitive desire, which I am sure he still has today. He would go to class and some people would call him a jock, so he would make a point of getting a better score in the class than they did! He left before graduating but made sure to pick up his degree after his playing days were over. He is in the Academic All-American Hall of Fame.

He was selected 1st overall by Philly in the 1973 NBA draft: did he see that as a validation of his college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? We all knew that he was great and we were hoping that he would make the NBA, but after the Olympics he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. By then there was a dawning that he would be really special, and to be drafted #1 in that era from a basketball-obscure place was just amazing. You expect #1 picks to come from blueblood places like Duke/UCLA: we had a very average season and did not even play in the NCAA tourney.

In Game 6 of the 1977 Finals vs. Portland George McGinnis missed a jumper with 4 seconds left in a 2-PT loss to Portland as the Blazers won the title (their only 1 to date): where does that rank among the most devastating losses of his career? I am sure that it must have been a great disappointment because everyone wants to win a championship.

He was a 4-time All-Star during his 8-year NBA career and averaged 17.9 PPG, but only had 3 seasons of 60+ games due to various injuries: how good a player do you think he would have been if he could have stayed healthy? Even with his injuries he still had some great stats: some people think that he could have been like the gold standard for guards at the time (Jerry West). When he was actually able to play he had a terrific career. I do not know if they had weight training back then but his quickness took its toll on his legs. He arrived on campus around 6’2” as a 1-year high school starter but by the time he was a sophomore he had grown to 6’6”. Back then you never heard of 6’6” guards: that was the size of the centers!

His career 83.3 FT% remains in the top-100 all-time: what was his secret for making FTs? I do not know about any secrets but he had good hand-eye coordination and practiced a lot. He was motivated and wanted to make himself into the best. He is highly intelligent: I remember our AD telling a story about Doug.  They were watching TV 1 summer and Doug would just keep predicting which players would be drafted by which team over and over: he got the entire 1st round correct!

In the 1989 Eastern Conference 1st round as coach of the Bulls, Michael Jordan made his famous series-winning shot at the buzzer in a 1-PT win at Cleveland in the decisive Game 5 (despite the Cavs winning the season series 6-0): how did he get along with Jordan, and where does that rank among the greatest wins of his career? 1 of my interns ended up becoming the PR guy for the Bulls and our broadcaster later became a broadcaster for the Bulls, so they would let me come in and see the games quite often. Doug is 1 of those guys who never forgets you, even after 20 years.

In the 2012 season Eastern Conference 1st round as coach of the 76ers, he led his team to an upset of the Bulls (the 5th time in NBA history that a #8-seed beat a #1-seed in playoffs): how did his hometown friends feel about him ruining their season?! I imagine they did not like it, but it is a business after all.

He later got into TV: what do you think of him as a broadcaster? I was really happy when he did that. He was such a celebrity as a senior that even I wanted to call him “Sir”! Every time we had a road game all the columnists in the area wanted to arrange an interview with him. I was updating our stats on a plane ride 1 day and Doug asked me if he could try to do it because he wanted to learn. He had a curious mind: he was interested in every facet of the game and you could see how analytical he was, which is why it is no surprise to me that he became an award-winning TV analyst.

When people look back on his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? I remember him as the best player and as fine an alumni representative that any college could want. He represented us with class as both a player and alum and set a standard that is awfully hard for people to reach, not just as an athlete but also as a student. The court is now named for him so the school honors him in return.

The Hoops HD Report 2015-2016 Season Finale

Chad and the panel look back on what was a boring, yet amazing, Final Four, and a championship game that was the complete opposite of boring.  The also look back on the entire 2015-2016 season and discuss various topics such as the rules changes and the impact that they played, the pivotal games from early in the year that help shaped the season, how more out of conference showcase match ups could help the game, and of course, they pay tribute to this year’s Team of the People, the Grand Canyon Antelopes.  All that, and much more…

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show…..

Hoops HD State of the Game 2016

This was recorded just hours before the 2016 Championship Game.  At the time we recorded it, we had no idea that we were two hours away from witnessing an absolute classic.

Galen Clavio is back as he hosts David, Chad, and special guest and college basketball expert ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.  They attempt to address, and solve, all of the issues facing college basketball!!

Topics include the current selection process, a critique of how the committee seems to  presently be evaluating the teams and how it differs from a few years back, out of conference scheduling and how teams playing bigger games and local rivals would be good for both college basketball and the teams themselves, the lack of interest early in the season, how Under the Radar teams are at a disadvantage because they don’t have enough chances to make a strong case for themselves, what can be done to open up more bids, how the power conference teams may not want anymore opportunities for the smaller leagues, and much more…..

 

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the show…..

Puppet Ramblings: April 5th

DG

-We are planning on recording a season wrap up podcast some time this week, so be on the lookout for that.

-Chad and I were joined by Galen Clavio and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi yesterday for where we recorded what we called a State of College Basketball podcast, where we focused on several aspects of the game such as out of conference scheduling, the current selection process, the lagging popularity of the game early in the season, how the season plays into the NCAA Tournament and whether or not the field is structured the right way, and other various topics.  We’re having some technical difficulties getting the mp3 version of that created, but we hope to have those ironed out in the next couple of days.  Once we do, we will post that.  We are anxious to get that posted, but it isn’t like the state of the game is going to change in the next 48 hours or so.

 

-We have begun the countdown to next season!  The season will officially begin, as always, on the second Friday in November.  We are assuming there will be a noon tip as there has been in year’s past.  Our countdown clock is already running!  CLICK HERE

 

-I’m so glad the championship game was as good as it was, because it erased two of the most boring Final Four games that we’ve seen since 2006.  What Villanova did against Oklahoma was insane.  It was absolutely shocking to see them absolutely pile drive the Sooners.  Not only was it the best I’d seen Nova play all year, it may have been the best game I have seen any team play in the last several years.  In fact, maybe ever!  The 1990 UNLV win over Duke was impressive.  This may have been even more impressive.

People are saying last night’s championship game was perhaps the best ever.  We seem to hear that every three or four years after we’ve seen an outstanding championship game.  I didn’t realize this, but apparently it was the first time a championship game had ended with a buzzer beater since 1983.  There was a buzzer beater in 2008 when Kansas tied Memphis at the end of regulation, but that didn’t end the game.  It merely tied it and sent it to overtime.  I was enjoying last night’s game so much that I was almost selfishly upset to see him hit the shot.  It dawned on me that instead of getting an extra five minutes, that the game and season were now over.

But…a big time congrats to Villanova.  They are the first non FBS (previously div 1A) football school to win the national championship since….Villanova in 1985.  The last two tournaments saw Nova go out in the round of 32 in heartbreaking fashion.  Last night the frustration finally came to an end.  Not only was Nova’s run impressive, they beat three teams that had been ranked #1 in Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina, two other teams that had been ranked in the top ten in Iowa and Miami FL along the way.  Not once were they the beneficiaries of a major upset, and their road to the championship was as challenging as anyone’s in recent memory.

 

-We talked about this some with Joe Lunardi yesterday, but as big as college basketball is at the end of the season, it never seems to carry over into the following season.  College basketball begins so unceremoniously, and it is genuinely frustrating to those of us who love the game and want it to be more popular.  There are 351 teams.  68 make the tournament.  About 45 of them will actually land inside the bubble.  That’s 306 teams that are basically eliminated throughout the course of the 30ish game season.  That is an incredibly high stakes season with tons of meaningful games all year long!  Right out of the gate in November, especially with the exempt tournaments, we have games that shape the course of the entire season!!  And, DOZENS of people tune in to watch!!  That’s what is so frustrating.  Their are exciting high stakes games all year long.  If people love the tournament, then they should also love the regular season.  That’s how teams get to the tournament.  I say it every year, but March starts in November!!!

Call from the Hall: HoopsHD interviews Sam Jones about John McLendon

Tuesday marks the 101st anniversary of the birth of John McLendon.  Recognized as the 1st African-American basketball coach at a predominantly White university (Cleveland State) and the 1st African-American head coach in any professional sport (the American Basketball League), he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday for the 2nd time (after previously being elected as a contributor in 1979 for inventing the full-court press and the 4-corners offense).  He was not allowed to play basketball at Kansas in the 1930s because the team was segregated but was still able to pick up some tips from Athletic Director James Naismith, the inventor of the sport.  He later became coach at North Carolina Central and led the Eagles to 8 CIAA titles, followed by a stint at Tennessee State that included 3 NAIA COY awards and 3 straight NAIA titles.  Coach McLendon passed away in 1999, but HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with 1 of McLendon’s former college players, Sam Jones, about his fellow Hall of Famer.  HoopsHD congratulates all the new members of the 2016 class of the Hall of Fame! 

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McLendon enrolled at Kansas in 1933 as the 1st black student in the school’s PE department where he learned the game from his adviser (Dr. James Naismith, who also happened to be the inventor of the sport), but he was not permitted to actually play because the varsity remained segregated until 1951: why did he choose the Jayhawks, and what was the most important thing that he learned from Naismith? His father gave him a choice: go to Kansas or do not go anywhere! He learned a lot from Dr. Naismith after his father said that he was going to become his mentor. There were very few blacks at Kansas. He was an accomplished swimmer and there was some talk of draining the pool, but Naismith said that he would leave if they did that.

In March of 1944 as coach at North Carolina College he was part of “The Secret Game” played in a locked gym against Duke (an 88-44 win), the 1st college basketball game with Blacks and Whites competing on the same floor: how were the schools able to make the game happen, and how were they able to keep it a secret for more than 50 years? Back in those days you either kept it a secret or went to jail! I do not know if the entire Duke varsity team showed up but they figured out a way to sneak them onto the campus without any spectators.

He won 8 CIAA titles in a 12-year span from 1941-1952: how was he able to be so dominant for such a long period of time? Coach liked what he did and recruited people who could play in his system. It was not about the individual but rather about the team. He hated to fly so if there was a tournament that he could reach by car then he would just drive.

He is credited with increasing the pace of the game from its slow early years to the fast-break tempo that is still being used today: how did he come up with the idea, and what made it so successful? All of his players were in tip-top condition. I remember my 1st day of practice when we ran from the gym to the railroad track and back: it was a total of 5 miles with some hills that made it feel like an obstacle course. When we got back to the gym we immediately started practice by shooting layups. He never cursed and only said positive things to us.

In 1958 he was named NAIA national COY: what did it mean to him to win such an outstanding honor? It is 1 of the highest honors you can get as a coach so I am sure that he was thrilled to be named COY.

He won 3 straight NAIA titles at Tennessee State from 1957-1959, becoming the 1st college basketball coach to ever win 3 consecutive national titles: what did it mean to him to win all those titles? It was hard to repeat every year because every team wanted to knock them off.

In 1962 he became the 1st African-American head coach in pro sports after he was hired to lead the Cleveland Pipers (owned by George Steinbrenner) of the American Basketball League: how did he get the job, and how big a deal was it back then? Certain people look at it differently. He had a good team in Cleveland and was winning before getting fired by Steinbrenner because they disagreed about which players to play. It was a big deal when he 1st got the job because nobody in pro basketball had ever taken a chance on an African-American coach. Black people were unhappy that he got fired because he had been successful: they wondered what it took to become a long-term success.

In 1966 he became the 1st African-American basketball coach at a predominantly white university after getting hired at Cleveland State: what kind of reaction was there to his hiring? Coach felt that he could be successful anywhere he went and it was a great honor for him. The athletic department saw what he had done for the Pipers and they wanted to see what he could do for their school.

In 1966 he became the 1st Black coach to serve on the US Olympic Committee: how did he like the job? He had traveled overseas for the USOC for years to scout foreign basketball teams, which not a lot of people are aware of.

After retiring from coaching he spent 2 decades as a representative for Converse and was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979: when people look back on his career, how do you think that he should be remembered the most? He was probably the 1st Black person hired to represent Converse. Coach Mac was 1 of the 1st Blacks to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a contributor, which I think was a shame because he should also have been inducted at that time as a coach because of what he had accomplished (not only at NC Central and Tennessee State but also for inventing the 4-corners offense that Dean Smith later made famous at UNC). The fast-break made it so much easier for me when I got to the Celtics because I learned it from him as a freshman back in 1951. I want him to be remembered as a man who was well-respected around the world.