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 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!

HoopsHD at the Big 10 Tourney: Photo essay (Day 4)

HoopsHD is always hovering around the edge of legitimacy (see Puppet, The), but thanks to the good folks at the Big 10 we are kicking it up a notch this week with a media credential to the Big 10 Tourney in DC. From his prime perch in the now-3rd row Jon Teitel will be bringing you daily updates of all the action from the Verizon Center via a series of photo essays. Day 4 brought us a pair of semifinals with Minnesota vs. Michigan and Wisconsin vs. Northwestern, but since we are already a couple of weeks behind let’s get right to the photos.

The Gophers brought their band and some determination:


Unfortunately, Michigan brought a team of destiny:

You know it’s a big game when Nantz/Hill/Raf are in the house:

Derrick Walton Jr. was simply unstoppable in the 84-77 win: 29 PTS/10-10 FT/9 AST/1 TO:

Coach Richard Pitino even called him 1 of the most underrated PGs in America:

Northwestern brought its mascot and you know I like a good Wildcat!

Usually I do not like it when parents are looking over their kid’s shoulder at a basketball game, but when Grant Hill’s mother Janet ends up sitting 1 row behind me, I give her the benefit of the doubt:

The Badgers are known for their 1-2 frontcourt punch of Nigel Hayes/Ethan Happ, but it is their backcourt of Zak Showalter/Bronson Koenig who make this a Final 4-caliber team:

Even though Northwestern lost 76-48 I still got to sneak a peek on the way out at Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose son Charlie plays on the team: the Veep is in DC!

I asked Coach Chris Collins about the alums who had waited their entire lives for the Selection Show the following day, and he admitted that it would be exciting if they heard their name called:

The best part was the postgame locker room access with the Badgers:



Check back sometime soon for my Day 5 photo essay about the Michigan-Wisconsin title game!

Filed Under: CBB

Teitel Tripleheader: HoopsHD does 3 games in 1 day

HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel does love his college basketball, but watching 3 different games from 3 different locations in a 10-hour span is utterly unprecedented.  On Saturday March 4 he pulled off this terrific tripleheader in DC: Villanova-Georgetown at the Verizon Center, Arizona-Arizona State at a bar, and Dayton-GW at the Smith Center. Here is his report, filed in triplicate:

It was Senior Day at Georgetown, which allowed grad transfer Rodney Pryor to take a well-deserved bow in the company of his family, complete with custom-made attire:

However, it was Villanova senior guards Josh Hart (Silver Spring, MD)/Kris Jenkins (Upper Marlboro, MD) who looked the most comfortable during the Wildcats’ 81-55 grinding of Georgetown on Saturday afternoon.  Then again, if my head coach dressed like this, I would like my chances as well (nice seats right under the basket, eh?):

Hart scored 21 PTS and looked as relaxed as a national POY candidate should while wrapping up his regular season:

Jenkins scored 19 PTS and seemed ready to make another championship-winning buzzer-beater if necessary:

I think Georgetown coach John Thompson III is a good coach who had to deal with 2 key players transferring out of the program during the past 12 months (Isaac Copeland to Nebraska/Paul White to Oregon), but there were some “Fire Thompson” chants so I would not be surprised if someone else is manning the sideline this fall.  It was a busy day at the Verizon Center so I even got a peek inside the visiting locker room before the Flyers filed in to face the Caps that evening:

I did not get a chance to ask any questions at the postgame press conference because there were so many other media folks in attendance to see the defending champs in the nation’s capital but pick against them this month at your own peril…and work that vest!:

Then it was off to a nearby bar to watch Arizona travel to Tempe for the big in-state battle with ASU.  No photos from this 1 (what happens at the bar stays at the bar!), but it does not get much better than beating your archrival on its homecourt to clinch a share of the conference title.  The most exciting aspect was the possible defensive late-blooming of freshman Lauri Markkanen, who had 3 BLK after only blocking 3 shots combined during the first 17 games of Pac-12 play: Bear Down!

I expected the final game of the night to be the 2nd of back-to-back wins by the Miller brothers (Sean/Archie) but it surprisingly turned into the Tyler Cavanaugh Show.  GW did not make the NCAA tourney but they ended the regular season in super style with an 87-81 win over Dayton, a performance that George himself felt deserving of 2 thumbs up:

I thought that Cavanaugh had peaked last March after being named NIT MVP, but apparently he had a little something extra saved up for his own Senior Night:

Sitting in the 2nd-level corner gave me a great view of each of his career-high-tying 6 threes, and after scoring his 30th and final point of the night he was subbed out to a thunderous ovation from the entire Colonial crowd.  It had appeared to be over early as GW built up a 16-1 lead before you could even blink, but the Flyers refused to give up and whittled the lead down to only 5 PTS in the final 30 seconds thanks to 24 PTS/8-10 FG from Kendall Pollard.  I got to ask Cavanaugh after the game if this was the best week of his life between making a trio of FTs with 0.9 seconds left to beat Fordham on Wednesday and then upsetting Dayton on Saturday.  He replied that it was great to play so well with about 30 of his family/friends in attendance that evening:

I also was unsure if this was going to be interim coach Maurice Joseph’s final game on the sideline, but GW offered him the full-time job on March 14 and it appears that he may accept it any day now:

To recap: 3 games, 3 locations, 3 NCAA tourney teams (Villanova/Arizona/Dayton), 3’s Company, 3’s a Crowd…sorry, have not gotten much sleep during the past week, enjoy the postseason everyone!

Filed Under: CBB