1 Hall of a Player: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Jimmy Hall

Jimmy Hall has been a winner for most of his life: he was part of an undefeated national title team at St. Anthony’s High School, then finished his college career with a MAC tourney title and a trip to the NCAA tourney. Plenty of players come close to averaging a double-double, but he was the only 1 in the nation last year with 19 PPG & 10.5 RPG. As Jimmy prepares for the NBA draft in June, HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with him about playing for a Hall of Fame coach in high school and what it would mean to him to get drafted.

In 2011 you went 33-0 and won a national title at St. Anthony’s High School with teammate Kyle Anderson and Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr.: have you talked to Kyle at all about what the NBA is like, and what make Hurley such a great coach? I have talked to Kyle a lot about pro basketball. Playing at St. Anthony’s gave me a great work ethic because Coach Hurley taught us to remain consistent and grind through things. From the weight room to off-court situations, he taught us to work hard and be humble.

Your mother/sister ended up moving to Kent to be near you: how important was it to have that support network so close, and will they follow you to your next basketball city? Their support has been very helpful. My mom has always been there for me but it is great to have her and my sister come to my games in college: they act as great motivation. My mom is a big part of my life so I think that she will stick with me through the next step in my career. However, she is very big on education so she might stay because if she works at Kent State then she can receive free tuition.

As a senior you became the only player in the nation to average 19 PPG/10.5 RPG: how do you balance your scoring with your rebounding? I just continued to grind and out-work my opponent. I go for every rebound I can and try to hit open shots when I get to my spots. I know that I can get a couple of points every game just by grabbing some offensive rebounds and then making a put-back.

You also finished the season #1 in the conference with 49 BLK: what is your secret for blocking shots? I try to use my length because I have a long wingspan. I also try to stay vertical and jump straight up, which is a big thing in the NBA. I also try to watch a lot of the best shot-blockers in the NBA like the Greek Freak and Rudy Gobert: a lot of their success on defense is about timing/length.

In the 2017 MAC tourney title game you had 19 PTS/9-12 FG/10 REB in a 5-PT win over Akron: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most, and what did it mean to you to win the title? I had a lot of confidence in myself and believed in my game plan because what I had been doing had been working well. Growing up in New York City there are a lot of people who attend the biggest games and cheer for the best players: it is hard to explain but I have always liked playing well in big games. Winning the title as a senior meant everything to me. We fell short the year before and had some ups and downs earlier this year, but we stuck together as a #6-seed to beat each of the top-3 seeds (Akron/Ohio/Buffalo).

In the 2017 NCAA tourney you had 20 PTS/15 REB in loss to UCLA: what did you think of fellow big man TJ Leaf, and how important was it for you to show what you could do against top-level competition? It was real fun to play in the NCAA tourney. TJ is explosive and has a great post game so I was very impressed. It was good for me to show everyone that I can do well against top competition. I always tried to rise to the occasion when I had the opportunity: we played a big-time schedule at St. Anthony’s when we went undefeated.

What part of your skill set makes you different from other forwards in this year’s draft? I think that I have the ability to handle the ball and guard small forwards. I have been working on my dribbling a lot and my skills in the post will set me apart. I feel like I am a very unique player and can score on anybody: if you throw it to me in the post I will either get a bucket or find an open man for a 3-PT shot if I get double-teamed.

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and which NBA player is your game most similar to? My favorite team is the Knicks because I am from New York. I like players like Zach Randolph/Paul Millsap because I think their games are similar to mine, so to play with either of them would be a great feeling. I also like Draymond Green.

What would you be able to bring to an NBA team? I feel like I can bring great energy, an extremely solid work ethic, and the ability to be a great teammate. I am fun to be around but will work hard on the court, which is what you need on a team. I will do whatever it take to make an NBA team and then stick around.

What would it mean to you to get drafted: a validation of your college career, the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? At the start of my senior year I set a goal to make the NCAA tourney, and we ended up making it. I have been playing basketball since age 7 so to make it to the NBA would be unbelievable. I want my family to be proud of me and show them that I can accomplish my dreams.

In Search of Paradise: HoopsHD interviews draft sleeper Milton Doyle

English poet John Milton gained fame for writing “Paradise Lost”, but a modern-day Milton (Doyle) is trying to find his way to paradise…and all he needs is an NBA team to draft him this June. He has shown much progress over the past 4 years: MVC ROY in 2014, a CBI title in 2015, and the 1st player in Loyola history to be named 1st-Team All-MVC in 2017. He began his college career in Kansas, ended it earlier this month in Portsmouth, and would love to begin the next stage of his career in the Bay Area playing alongside the great Kevin Durant. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to speak with Milton yesterday about what sets him apart from the rest of the guards in this draft and what he would bring to an NBA team.

You originally committed to FIU, then signed with Kansas before transferring to Loyola-Chicago: how difficult was it to keep changing schools before ever playing in an actual game? It was very difficult. FIU coach Isiah Thomas was fired in 2012, so it was a blessing to go to Kansas under Coach Bill Self. It was tough to leave the Jayhawks but I had a great 4 years at Loyola so I guess it all worked out for me.

In 2014 you were named conference ROY: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I learned a lot sitting out during my redshirt year. I got to learn the system and watch a lot of film. I also competed against the rest of the guys every day in practice, which made me feel comfortable once I began to play actual games.

In the 2015 CBI title game you scored 13 PTS in a 1-PT win at Louisiana-Monroe: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most, and what did it mean to you to win a title? It meant a lot to win a title. We had a lot of practice on how to handle pressure situations and focused on end-of-game strategy, so we were relaxed down the stretch even thought it was such a close game. We just went out and played our game.

In January you had a career-high 35 PTS/11 REB in a win at Bradley: where does that rank among the best all-around games of your career? I would rank it 2nd or 3rd because I think that I had 1 or 2 better all-around games. However, I felt like I could not miss that night so it was definitely 1 of the most enjoyable games of my career!

You finished last season 2nd in the MVC with 55 STL: what is the key to playing good defense? You have to know what the other team wants to do based on their tendencies. You can never be too prepared so I tried to watch a lot of film, know what sets our opponents liked to run, and stay active.

You also became the 1st player in program history to be named 1st-Team All-MVC: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It meant a lot. When Coach Porter Moser 1st recruited he talked about how to set the tone. I will always cherish that honor because it showed all of the hard work that I put in over the past 4 years.

Earlier this month you played at the Portsmouth Invitational: how good was the competition, and which of your teammates impressed you the most (Amida Brimah/Obinna Oleka/Xavier Johnson/Jamel Artis/Canyon Barry/TJ Williams/Scoochie Smith)? The competition was great: all of the players there are so accomplished. I was impressed by all of my teammates but I enjoyed playing with Brimah the most because we did not have anyone that tall on our team in college: I could just pass the ball to him in the post and watch him do his thing.

What part of your skill set makes you different from other guards in this year’s draft? I have a high IQ on the court and know how to find guys in the right position to make plays. As a bigger guard I can also look over my defender and see the floor better than smaller guys can.

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and how amazing would it be to end up joining them? I do not have a favorite team at the moment. I used to like the Oklahoma City Thunder…until Kevin Durant left. I have studied his game for years an admire his scoring ability so I would love to play with him in Golden State.

You have been labeled by some as a “draft sleeper” and there is a bit of a buzz around your name as someone to keep an eye on: which NBA player is your game most similar to, and what would you be able to bring to an NBA team? My game is probably most similar to Damian Lillard: his scoring ability, the way he creates space, etc. I can pass the ball, play defense, and help a team out in any way possible. I am willing to do the dirty work and step up during the biggest moments.

HoopsHD at the Final 4: Photo Essay (Day 1)

The Final 4 is not only the culmination of the best 3-week tournament in sports: it also serves as the final step of our season-long journey from Midnight Madness to 1 Shining Moment.  With his home state of Arizona playing Final 4 host for the 1st time ever, there was no way that HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel was going to miss the chance to head out west and check out as much of the action as possible.  While he was unable to finagle a press pass from the NCAA, he was able to attend all the ancillary activities including the College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Contest, an open practice featuring all 4 teams, the College All-Star Game, and the Fan Fest.  See below for a photo essay from Final 4 Friday, and stay tuned for the Saturday and Sunday editions in the days ahead.

I attended the Slam Dunk/3-PT contest at GCU on Thursday March 30th: great crowd but bad seat so no photos from that.  On Friday it was off to Glendale to check out a little bigger gym.  The 1st thing you notice when approaching University of Phoenix Stadium is the larger-than-life statue of former Arizona Cardinals player Pat Tillman.  You do not have to be a Sun Devil alum to appreciate all the sacrifices he made before losing his life:

The 2nd thing you notice is the spectacle involved with playing a basketball game in a gargantuan football stadium:

 

 

Just when I thought that I had seen every mascot alive, I was confronted by the title sponsor of the College All-Star Game: I will let you guess which company he represents.

I made it to the Final 4, and this is what I looked like while wondering if Sean Miller will ever get there someday as well:

The open practices were a neat idea but it was not much fun trying to watch a bunch of teenagers shoot baskets from 100 rows up.  The highlight for me was the autograph session prior to the All-Star Game:

Since I did not have a press pass that required me to remain a journalist, I decided to be a fan and get a picture signed by some of the best seniors in the country:

JJ Frazier (Georgia):

Jack Gibbs (Davidson):

London Perrantes (Virginia):

Troy Caupain (Cincinnati):

Steve Vasturia (Notre Dame):

Evan Bradds (Belmont):

Reggie Upshaw (Middle Tennessee):

Tyler Cavanaugh (George Washington):

Moses Kingsley (Arkansas):

Tim Kempton (Lehigh):

DeWayne Russell (Grand Canyon):

Paris Lee (Illinois State):

Bryce Alford (UCLA):

Luke Nelson (UC Irvine):

Deonte Burton (Iowa State):

Sterling Brown (SMU):

Ben Moore (SMU):

Derek Willis (Kentucky):

Nathan Adrian (West Virginia):

Josh Hawkinson (Washington State):

The game itself was unmemorable beyond 2 good sightings.  The 1st was the woman 2 rows behind me who kept saying “Come on Timothy!” anytime Kempton missed a shot: since he grew up in Arizona, I assume it was his grandmother.  The 2nd was Bryce Alford’s dad, who has attended many of his son’s games during the past 4 years, but finally had the chance to do so while not coaching Bryce at the same time:

Walking out of the stadium I saw an enormous reminder of what was at stake the following Monday:

That is a wrap for Friday, check back later this week for a terrific trip to Saturday Fan Fest!

Filed Under: CBB

Mack the Nice: HoopsHD interviews ABA legend Mack Calvin

Some players make a difference on the court, some make a difference off the court, and some make a difference everywhere they go.  Mack Calvin went to college at USC and all he did was help beat a UCLA team featuring Lew Alcindor/John Wooden at Pauley Pavilion.  After school he joined the ABA, where he appeared in 5 straight All-Star games and was later named to the ABA All-Time Team.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Mack about his fantastic career and what made him such a great scorer.

On 3/8/69 as a player at USC you beat UCLA 46–44 in Lew Alcindor’s regular season college finale at Pauley Pavilion to give him only the 2nd loss of his 3-year varsity career and snap the Bruins’ 41-game overall winning streak/51-game home winning streak: how were you able to pull off the upset in what you called the “single greatest thing that happened to me in basketball”? It was! I was a senior: we had practiced all year on the stall technique but had no idea we would put it to use in that game. The game plan worked to perfection. The best game was actually the night before at the LA Sports Arena: I scored almost 30 PTS but we lost in double-OT. We came back to the hotel and were crying even though we lost to the greatest college player ever in my opinion. Our coach told us to keep our heads up and that we were going to beat them the next night: I could not believe it because they had not lost at Pauley Pavilion in several years. The headline the next day in the LA Times was from Coach John Wooden: “Stalls are for horses”, which infuriated our coach Bob Boyd.

You played 7 years in the ABA and then 4 years in the NBA: why did you originally choose the ABA, and what was the biggest difference between the 2 leagues? I did not really choose the ABA: they chose me. I had 2 great years at USC and was fortunate that the LA Stars drafted me in the 7th round. The Lakers drafted me in the 14th round but I chose the Stars because they offered me the best opportunity: a $2500 bonus and a salary of $12,000/year. In contrast, the Lakers offered me a tryout, a free Jerry West autograph, and a bus ticket, so it was no choice at all! There were 7 guards ahead of me on the Stars with guaranteed contracts, so after every practice I left the gym with my clothes on before Coach Bill Sharman had a chance to cut me. After 2 weeks I was scared as hell but I played well and ended up making the team.

In your 1st year you scored 16.8 PPG for the Stars and made the ABA All-Rookie Team: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? We won 23 of our final 27 games just to make the playoffs. My scoring average increased to 24 PPG in the playoffs and we made the Finals before losing to the Pacers. The ABA was made for me because I was a quick guard who could make 3-PT shots and drive to the basket. We were more of a methodical team at USC, whereas the NBA was a big-guard league. The ABA was a little man’s league, kind of like the way the game is played today without a prototype center. I played for a former guard in Sharman, who was 1 of the greatest coaches ever, so it was a no-brainer.

The following year you scored a career-high 27.2 PPG for The Floridians (#3 in the league behind Dan Issel/John Brisker): what is the secret to being a great scorer? For me it was just the ability to make FTs/jump shots. I learned my craft from Jerry West: I followed him as a young kid and patterned my game after him. Coach Sharman allowed me to run the show like Steph Curry/Chris Paul and my quickness was finally unleashed.

You also set an ABA record that season with 696 FTM, and your 3554 career FTM is #1 in ABA history: how were you able to get to the line so often? Speed, quickness, and being very crafty. I always initiated the contact and then did my Hollywood act! I played against a lot of older guys who I learned a lot of tricks from. Coach Sharman taught me that you had to make FTs to be a great guard and always be in attack mode.

Your 3067 career AST is #2 in ABA history behind Louie Dampier: how were you able to balance your scoring with your passing? I just had the ability to see if help was coming and then find the open man. Sharman taught me to push the ball up the court, beat my man, drive to the basket, and then dish off if necessary. I did that with regularity, which I am very proud of. I did not play as well after the merger due to some injuries, but the ability to create is key.

You led the ABA in FT% for 2 years in a row and your 86.3 career FT% remains top-40 all-time among both leagues: what is the key to making FTs? Repetition and using your legs. You have to shoot it the same way every time and focus on a certain spot on the rim. Sharman was an amazing FT shooter yourself.

You were an ABA All-Star each year from 1971-1975: did you feel like you could hold your own against anyone in the league? I really did not feel like I had a peer in the ABA and did not think that anyone was better than me. We had some good guards but I thought that I was a far better scorer who could run a team. I think I was the Chris Paul of the 1970s: when you have so many weapons to break down a defense you can create a lot of havoc. I was a 3-time 1st-team All-ABA player, which means that I was 1 of the top-5 players in the league: numbers don’t lie!

In 1997 you were 1 of 30 players named to the ABA All-Time Team: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? I am very proud of that. I was nominated as the top PG and today I stand around #13 or #14 when ranking the best ABA players ever. It meant a lot to be recognized by both my peers and the media. My only disappointment is that I got injured in the last year before the merger when I tore the tendon in my quadriceps, so the opportunity was not there. If I had been healthy then I have no doubt that I would already be in the Hall of Fame. I only played on 1 team with a losing record and was secretary of the ABA’s union. For a 14th round pick you are often yesterday’s news but I have been tremendously blessed: it would be a great honor if the Hall of Fame would vote me in. That would be the pinnacle of my career. I do a lot of speaking at schools and it would be a great platform to show kids that no matter your size or humble beginnings you can still make it. I started at Long Beach CC but ended up with over 100 scholarship offers. When you get older you hope that your family can enjoy it: I had a good run and basketball helped me do great things off the court.

HOOPSHD AT THE BIG 10 TOURNEY: PHOTO ESSAY (DAY 5)

HoopsHD is always hovering around the edge of legitimacy (see Puppet, The), but thanks to the good folks at the Big 10 we kicked it up a notch last month with a media credential to the Big 10 Tourney in DC. From his prime perch in the 3rd row Jon Teitel has been bringing you daily updates of all the action from the Verizon Center via a series of photo essays. Championship Sunday brought us a pair of heavyweights with Michigan vs. Wisconsin battling for an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney, but since we are already a month behind let’s get right to the photos.

We have the red and we have the blue:

  

Let’s tip it off:

The arena had some pockets of Badger faithful but was overwhelmingly a sea of maize and blue, including the band:

When the final horn sounded and the Wolverines found themselves on top with a 71-56 win, it was time to celebrate:

A lot:

  

There was barely any breathing room for Coach Beilein but many indications of what he had won:

    

Then it was time to hand out the hardware, with a trophy for the whole team due in large part to the work of tourney MVP Derrick Walton Jr.:

  

After that it was some final kind words from the coach before the 1 thing that might ruin their great day (getting back onto an airplane):

It was fantastic to get such a great view of 1 of the best basketball conferences in the nation, so thanks to the Big 10 for hooking me up, hope you enjoyed the photos, and stay tuned for an upcoming series of photo essays from the Final 4 in Arizona!

Filed Under: CBB

Standing at the Summit: HoopsHD interviews Team USA big man Mo Bamba

If you want to see the NBA stars of tomorrow then forget the Final 4: the Nike Hoop Summit tonight in Portland is the place to find them.  The 20th annual game features the USA Junior National Select Team (AKA America’s top high school seniors) taking on the world (AKA the World Select Team).  Each of the 1st 3 picks in the 2016 NBA Draft (Ben Simmons/Brandon Ingram/Jaylen Brown) were former Nike Hoop Summit players, and tonight’s game should be no different with guys who will be college super-freshmen this fall including Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke), Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), and Collin Sexton (Alabama).  1 member of Team USA who has not yet made his college decision is Mohamed (Mo) Bamba, but the 6’11” McDonald’s All-American has his pick of spectacular schools with his “Final 4” down to Duke/Kentucky/Michigan/Texas.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Mo earlier today about winning a gold medal last summer and what position he hopes to play at the next level.

You grew up in Harlem and went to high school in the Philadelphia suburbs: why did you make the move, and was it difficult? There were a bunch of reasons but the most important was that I just needed a change of scenery. It was a definite culture shock when I arrived.

Your brother Sidiki Johnson played for Arizona/Providence: who is the best athlete in the family? I think it might be me now but I learned a lot from both him and my middle brother Ibrahim who played NAIA/D-3/D-2.  They might have had me beat in a couple of areas but I am finally catching up.

Last summer you played for team USA at the FIBA Americas U18 World Championship in Chile: what did it mean to you to win a gold medal? It meant the world to me to represent my country at such a high level and play my best. Our team had instant camaraderie, which made it all the better.

You have a 7’8” wingspan: how much of an advantage is your length on the court? It is a huge advantage because it allows me to intimidate both passers/shooters.

Fellow Class of 2017 top prospect DeAndre Ayton said that you are “dominant” on the defensive end: what is your secret for blocking/altering shots? There is no secret: you just have to go out there and want to dominate. Not many people like to play defense but I enjoy it because it leads to easy offense.

You have stated that you prefer to play a stretch 4 rather than be a true center down in the post: which position do you feel will be your best fit in college, and what if the team you pick already has an established PF? I think that I can have an impact anywhere on the floor but as a 4 I can move out to the 3-PT line and make some shots.  However, when I play for team USA I often play inside at the 5.

Last week you had a game-high 17 PTS/4 BLK for the East in a 2-PT loss to the West in the McDonald’s All American Game in Chicago: which of your fellow honorees impressed you the most? I would say Mike (Porter Jr.): he went out there and played his butt off (17 PTS/8 REB). Colin (Sexton: 8 PTS/7 AST/4 STL) and Mitchell (Robinson: 14 PTS/7-9 FG) were other notable guys who also played really well.

Tonight you will play for team USA at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland: what do you know about RJ Barrett (1 of the top prospects in the Class of 2019 who is from Canada), and how is Kentucky commit Quade Green doing after suffering a concussion earlier this week (while also pleading with you on TV to join him in Lexington!)? Quade hit his head but is just dinged up: it sucks that he is out because I like playing with him. I do not know much about RJ so I guess he will just have to prove himself to me later tonight!

Your own “Final 4” list of schools includes Duke/Kentucky/Michigan/Texas: how excited are you for the process to finally reach a conclusion? It is winding down so I am looking forward to getting on campus and starting to make an impact.

You mentioned that a school’s head coach is a “big rock” for you when it comes to picking a school: do you feel like you cannot go wrong when your choices are John Beilein/Mike Krzyzewski/John Calipari/Shaka Smart? Absolutely: that is what makes the decision so hard. I want to go somewhere where we can win games…in April!