Summer Reading List: HoopsHD interviews author Alan Eisenstock about “Hang Time”

Summer is upon us and there are no college basketball games to watch for a few more months, which means you can sit at home and read a book or go to the beach…and read a book. “Hang Time: My Life in Basketball” is a new memoir by Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, covering his time from Lakers’ All-Star to Clippers’ general manager. Baylor did it all during his career: 1959 Rookie of the Year, 1977 Hall of Fame inductee, and 2006 NBA Executive of the Year.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Elgin’s co-author Alan Eisenstock about Elgin’s tourney MOP performance in a losing effort, his 71-PT game with the Lakers, and his legacy.

Elgin averaged 31.3 PPG at Seattle, was a 2-time All-American, and in 1957 he led the NCAA with 20.3 RPG: how was he able to balance his scoring with his rebounding, and how was he able to dominate on the boards despite standing only 6’5”? Of all the things he did as a basketball player, he is proudest of his rebounding because he was undersized. His high school coaches taught him that the team that wins the battle of the rebounds usually wins the game. He was very athletic and had very strong hands and could get himself in good rebounding position. He had a knack of knowing where the ball would go off the rim so he was really good at offensive rebounding. He did so many things that people have never seen before so the other players often stood around and simply watched.

Take me through the 1958 NCAA tourney:
He scored 35 PTS including a 40-footer with 2 seconds left in a 2-PT win over San Francisco: how did it feel to have the fans storm the court and parade him around the Cow Palace for 10 minutes? It was a magical tourney and was just 1 of those shots! I saw Steph Curry hit a similar half-court shot during the 2018 playoffs. He thought that his team was good enough to win it all both years so I think that he was disappointed to not make the NCAA tourney in 1957 during his 1st year at Seattle. The powers that be at Seattle thought the team could win the NIT that year so that is why they may have pushed to go to that tournament instead.  He was a really competitive guy even if he did not appear that way to others.

He had 25 PTS/19 REB and was named tourney MOP despite losing the title game to Kentucky: how much of a home-court advantage did the Wildcats have while playing in Louisville, and do you think that Seattle would have won if he had not gotten into foul trouble in the 1st half? I absolutely believe that they would have won: his foul trouble caused the coach to switch to a zone defense that they had never played before and were not familiar with. He was worried about fouling out so he was very careful on the defensive end. They had a substantial lead before he got in early foul trouble and he called it “home cooking” by the refs: if it was on a neutral court then I think Seattle would have won because they had a better team than Kentucky.

Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short said that if Elgin had turned him down, then he would have been out of business because the club would have gone bankrupt: how much pressure was there on him to save the franchise after signing with the Lakers, and how was he able to deal with that by being named ROY and leading the team from last place the year before to the NBA Finals the year that he arrived? He is very modest so I do not think that he felt any pressure at all. After a few games in the NBA he figured things out and was more concerned with fitting in with the grown men on his team. He had low expectations in a way but he soon realized that he was 1 of the best players in the league along with Bill Russell. He actually saved the franchise.

He was known for his running bank shot: how did he come up with it, and what made it so effective? He never thought about any specific shot: it was just something that he probably developed early on. When he 1st started playing basketball most people took 2-handed set shots: when you look back on that footage now it was rather ineffective. He improved the jump shot because he was always trying to find an advantage. He hated practice and just wanted to play games. He did not go out and take 1000 jump shots: he was always looking for a game.

On November 15, 1960 he scored a then-NBA-record 71 PTS (28-48 FG/15-18 FT) in a win over the Knicks, which remains 1 of the top-10 scoring performances in NBA history: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot he put up seemed to go in because he was “in the zone”? I think it was that but he never kept track of how many points he was scoring. His teammates knew that he was onto something so I think Coach Fred Schaus directed everyone else to get the ball to him. You also have to remember that Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 PTS against the Knicks in 1962 so I think they were pretty terrible on defense! 1 of the things I learned during my research was about Wilt.  I had no idea that he was a “Darth Vader” character but he clearly wanted to outscore Elgin and get the record for himself.

In the 1961-62 season he only played 48 games while on weekend passes after being called to active duty as a US Army Reservist: how big a deal was it at the time, and which gig gave him a better workout? It was crazy: I am still scratching my head as to how remarkable it was to schlep from Washington state to wherever the Lakers were playing that weekend. His stats that season were through the roof (38.3 PPG/18.6 RPG/4.6 APG) but he said he did not really play that much on the Army base. I am astonished that he was able to keep his level of play that high.

The Lakers lost to the Celtics in the NBA Finals all 5 times that they met from 1963-1969: how intense was the rivalry, and was it just a case of bad timing that he happened to keep running into 1 of the greatest dynasties in sports history? Unlike Jerry West who is bitter to this day, I think Elgin played it down a bit. It was incredibly intense but the Lakers’ centers simply could not stop Bill Russell. If you look at footage of Russell he was 1 of the most athletic players you ever saw: he would sprint up and down the court and come out of nowhere to block shots. He had these ridiculous games where he would block 20 shots and tap them out to his teammates while also getting 30 REB. Even when Elgin was at the height of his powers the Lakers came close a couple of times but just did not have enough to push it over the top.

After he retired 9 games into the 1971–72 season due to knee problems, the Lakers went on to win an NBA-record 33 straight games and the 1972 NBA title: how long do you think that he could have kept playing if he was healthy, and does he have any regrets about not winning a title? He was probably 37 years old at that point: Coach Bill Sharman had made the decision to not start Elgin and he could not see himself coming off the bench. I think that he played as long as he possibly could. He was really great after the knee injury but before the injury he was Michael Jordan. He always wanted to win a title but feels adamant that winning titles is not the mark of greatness. He is so modest about it but I am sure that he really wanted to win a title: he never really won a title at any level. He was able to accept the fact because it is a team sport and his teams simply did not match up with the Celtics.

In 1977 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame: where does that rank among the highlights of his career? Really high. When he signs copies of his book he always writes that he is in the Hall of Fame. It was a great honor for him and he was very humbled by it.

When people look back on his career, how do you think that he should be remembered the most? I have a bias but I believe that without Elgin we would not have the Lakers. He finally got a statue this year but I think that he should have got the very 1st statue. There are no lakes in LA so the name does not even make sense! He was 1 of the greatest players of all time and was the force that caused the team to move from Minneapolis. He changed the game from a horizontal game to a vertical game so in a sense he is responsible for the pace of today’s game. Someone asked me who else changed the functionality of the game and the only person I could think of is Steph Curry because now everyone shoots threes from way behind the line. He brought the game to a literally high level and was the 1st guy to play consistently above the rim. I was really gratified to write the book with him because once he became known as the GM of the Clippers his value as a player was completely obliterated.

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The Agent Perspective: HoopsHD interviews Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics panelist Jon Fetterolf

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is an independent organization that promotes reforms to support/strengthen the educational mission of college sports. Formed in 1989, the Commission has a diverse composition that includes university presidents, former college athletes, and leaders in the field of higher education. At its meeting last month in Washington, DC, which HoopsHD was invited to attend, the Commission discussed recommendations made by the Commission on College Basketball that is chaired by Condoleezza Rice. 1 of the many panelists that day was Jon Fetterolf, a partner, at the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder who is also an MLB-certified agent. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Mr. Fetterolf about a wide array of topics including transfers, contact with agents, and the 1-and-done rule.

Even though your professional background is in baseball, what is the biggest change you would suggest that the NCAA make in regard to its basketball rules? The 1 area I was asked to talk about at the Knight Commission meeting was about advising players whether to go pro/sign a contract. I think it is crazy to take away the chance for college kids to talk to professional agents/legal advisors. Baseball players can turn pro after high school and I think that basketball players should be treated the same way. Who are we to keep kids from pursuing their careers, and if they are ill-equipped to negotiate a contract on their own then they should have someone who can help them to get ready for such a situation. They should not get paid any money while they are still an amateur, but I think that they should be allowed to receive free advice.

If 40% of incoming D-1 freshmen end up transferring by the end of their sophomore season and 60% of players who transfer do not go to another D-1 school, then what can we do to address this epidemic? As a fan I am aware of it but I have not studied the issue in depth at my job. 1 of the more famous examples was Alex Fernandez: he started at Miami and was an All-American pitcher but later transferred to Miami-Dade Community College to be eligible to enter the MLB Draft: that is crazy that he needed to do this. You read articles about how certain coaches do not allow/approve of transfers, but maybe we should give people the avenue to become a pro athlete without having to go to college 1st. I assume that a lot of basketball players who decided transfer often just want to get some more playing time.

The NCAA Committee on Academics has recommended an academic benchmark (minimum 3.0 GPA) for athletes to be able to transfer without any restrictions: do you agree or disagree with this proposal? If you ultimately take the view of giving people the option to turn pro without any restrictions, then I think a minimum GPA is relevant/important because we want the players who stay in school to get the benefit of a college education. On its face it seems okay, but if it is unfairly applied to different segments of society then it would require some more analysis.

The graduation rates of African-American athletes in the Power 5 conferences still trail those of the general student population: any thoughts on how to fix this situation? If you are going to offer a scholarship to an athlete, you have to understand the commitment involved with being a college athlete. I played D-3 basketball with a bunch of guys who were not going to play pro basketball, yet we spent a lot of hours working on our skills, which took time away from our studies. There are certain segments of the population who are admitted to the school because they bring certain things to the table: if they are not as academically-inclined as other students, then they might require more assistance. We have to make sure the kids get the “benefit of the bargain” because many 18-22 year olds need help with managing their time. I think it is abhorrent when you hear about schools passing kids so that they can remain eligible because it ultimately harms the kid. Dexter Manley went to college for 3 years and could not read: where were the adults in the room?!

In the wake of the FBI scandal, do you think that student-athletes should have more or less contact with agents, and why? As someone who is also a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, I think there were regulatory violations but I have real issues with whether anything involved a violation of criminal law. From the agents’ standpoint, when you make things transparent then it becomes less likely that the people who operate on the edges will be involved, and then we might have less issues going forward. I do not know the particular agents who were involved in the FBI scandal, but when there is a lot of money at stake it becomes rife with corruption. You should get rid of the agents who people have a problem with and focus more on the process of getting certified/meeting strict criteria.

What do you think about the idea of setting strict standards for certifying agents who can engage with high school players, and would it require a joint approval by both the NCAA/National Basketball Players Association? I believe the NBA has a certification process to become an agent and I know that MLB does. You can represent a player in the MLB draft without being an agent because the eligible players are not yet part of the union. I think stricter standards would be better. I am biased but we need the people who do this for a living to be good at their jobs and have some sort of ethical standards so that they do not end up harming the players. You hear story after story about players who go broke because their agent/financial advisor took advantage of them: I do not want that to happen to any player whether or not they are my client.

What do you think of the 1-and-done rule, and if the NBA does not get rid of it can you imagine going back to a world of freshman ineligibility? That just feels like we are going backwards. I can guess what the thought process was back in the day but just look at today’s college freshmen: they do not look like the freshmen of 30 years ago. I do not really understand the 1-and-done rule because it does not make any sense. If someone can go out and get money for their services, then they should have a right to do that. It might be the wrong decision and they might get bad advice…but we all have a right to make bad decisions.

If a player declares for the NBA Draft but does not get drafted, do you think that he should be allowed to remain eligible until signing a pro contract? I do not think that signing with an agent should affect your eligibility, but taking money should. Take Villanova as an example: Coach Jay Wright recruits guys who will probably stick around for 3-4 years (although he had a lot of players turn pro this spring!), which is a big reason for their success. When you have a program like Kentucky you need to keep figuring out who to recruit based on who is turning pro every single year. In baseball there are guys who are eligible for the draft who just end up returning to school if they go undrafted.

What are your thoughts on paying players? I am for it but did not used to be. I sat on an airplane once with a former Penn State football player who explained to me that when he was in college he did not even have money to take a girl out for a slice of pizza or to go to a movie. I do not know how to measure stipends at different schools or within different sports, but they should get enough money to enjoy the regular fruits of being a college student.

If a school is found guilty of major rules violations, would you support a 5-year NCAA tourney ban, a loss of revenue, or some other serious type of sanctions? From watching the manner in which the NCAA has dealt with some of these issues, I have no faith in them as the arbiter of punishment, but there certainly should be ramifications for schools that break the rules. The punishment should be consistent (if you break rule X, then you get punishment Y) but I do not know all the ins and outs of the violations.

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Sell It: HoopsHD interviews D-1 Transfer Working Group chairman Justin Sell

Most fans only focus on college basketball from November-March but there are always a few off-season notes that catch our eye. 1 such occurrence last week involved an important change to the current system of NCAA transfer rules. Beginning this fall, D-1 student-athletes will be allowed to transfer and get a scholarship at new school without asking their old school for permission. This rule change will also allow other coaches to contact the player, which could signal a monumental power shift between coaches and players. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to chat with Justin Sell, the chairman of the D-1 Transfer Working Group, about a wide array of topics including transfers, academic benchmarks, and paying players.

If 40% of incoming D-1 freshmen end up transferring by the end of their sophomore season and 60% of players who transfer do not go to another D-1 school, then what kind of reforms are you recommending to address this epidemic? What I would say is that our group (which has been meeting for more than 12 months) has utilized a lot of the data/information out there to understand the transfer space in college athletics and will keep using that to guide our direction. We have a couple pieces of legislation that will be voted on soon regarding notification systems and permission to contact. We want to create stiffer penalties for violations to maintain some integrity and ensure that all recruiting of players who wants to transfer take place above-board. We do not want to deny their financial aid at another school so we have taken that off the table. We want to be more responsive to both student-athletes and coaches. We need to look at whether there should be uniformity across all sports as well as look at graduate eligibility.

Do you think that coaches should shoulder some of the blame if they are over-recruiting players? I think that student-athletes have a variety of reasons why they might transfer and I think coaches are certainly willing to help with that process. If you are not happy at a school, then it will not be beneficial if you are forced to stay there.

The NCAA Committee on Academics has recommended an academic benchmark (minimum 3.0 GPA) for athletes to be able to transfer without any restrictions: do you agree or disagree with this proposal? We asked the Committee on Academics to figure out where some of those numbers might fall and see how they compare to graduation rates of players who do not transfer to another school. Those are discussions we will continue to have into the fall so I would not call it a “proposal”: it is just data.

What do you think about the idea of setting strict standards for certifying agents who can engage with players, and would it require a joint approval by both the NCAA/National Basketball Players Association? I think that we need stricter requirements and the interaction with players should be very well-regulated.

If a school’s basketball program is found guilty of major rules violations, would you support a 5-year NCAA tourney ban, a loss of revenue, or some other serious type of sanctions? They should have some serious sanctions but it would probably need to be spelled out further.

What are your thoughts on paying players? I am not for paying players outside of the cost of attendance. I feel strongly that we are tied into higher education so the experience we provide as a place of amateurism creates an incredible experience with tremendous value. Even if you are on a partial scholarship or not on scholarship at all there are tremendous benefits to intercollegiate athletics: it is a privilege to participate.

What accomplishments are you proudest of as athletic director at South Dakota State? We have an FCS football team that transitioned from D-2 to D-1 a decade ago and has made 6 straight playoff appearances, we have been in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament during 5 of the past 7 years and in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament during 8 of the past 10 years, and we currently have about $115 million in facility development. Our cumulative GPA is 3.29 and some of our top majors are pharmacy/pre-med: we attract really talented students. When you can combine that with the ability to win some games at a land-grant school, I think that we have a great story to tell and a great model for college athletics.

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2018 NBA Mock Draft (Final Version)

The NBA Draft will take place tonight so this is our final attempt to predict where everyone will get selected. Some websites do their mock drafts based on “best player available” but we try to focus on team needs: for example, if a team like Dallas already has Dennis Smith Jr. at the 1-spot then they are probably not selecting a PG with the #5 overall pick. So, please see our 1st round predictions below and then tweet us your comments regarding what looks good and what might need a re-pick.

1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton, C (Arizona/FR)
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley, PF (Duke/FR)
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic, SG/SF (Slovenia/INTL)
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF (Michigan State/FR)
5. Dallas: Mohamed Bamba, C (Texas/FR)
6. Orlando: Trae Young, PG (Oklahoma/FR)
7. Chicago: Michael Porter, SF (Missouri/FR)
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter, PF/C (Duke/FR)
9. New York: Mikal Bridges, SG/SF (Villanova/JR)
10. Philadelphia: Kevin Knox, SF/PF (Kentucky/FR)
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG (Kentucky/FR)
12. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton, PG (Alabama/FR)
13. LA Clippers: Lonnie Walker, SG (Miami/FR)
14. Denver: Miles Bridges, SF/PF (Michigan State/SO)
15. Washington: Robert Williams, PF/C (Texas A&M/SO)
16. Phoenix: Zhaire Smith, SG (Texas Tech/FR)
17. Milwaukee: Jerome Robinson, SG (Boston College/JR)
18. San Antonio: Aaron Holiday, PG (UCLA/JR)
19. Atlanta: Donte DiVincenzo, SG (Villanova/SO)
20. Minnesota: Kevin Huerter, SG (Maryland/SO)
21. Utah: Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF (Boise State/SR)
22. Chicago: Elie Okobo, PG (France/INTL)
23. Indiana: Troy Brown, PG/SG (Oregon/FR)
24. Portland: Josh Okogie, SG/SF (Georgia Tech/SO)
25. LA Lakers: De’Anthony Melton, PG/SG (USC/SO)
26. Philadelphia: Grayson Allen, SG (Duke/SR)
27. Boston: Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF (Ohio State/JR)
28. Golden State: Dzanan Musa, SF (Bosnia & Herzegovina/INTL)
29. Brooklyn: Khyri Thomas, SG (Creighton/JR)
30. Atlanta: Jacob Evans, SG/SF (Cincinnati/JR)

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The Hoops HD Report: June Session

Chad and the panel are back for the June Podcast.  They begin by discussing tomorrow’s NBA Draft and where some of the recent college stars will likely end up going.  Next, they look at the new transfer rules that were just passed and discusses the pros and cons, as well as how it may impact college basketball.  We also look at the new scheduling structures that some of the new conferences are developing, including the P5 conferences that are going out to 20 games, and how Conference USA and the Sun Belt are arranging it so the top teams end up playing each other at the end of the season.

And for all you radio lovers, below is an audio file of the show…

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Draft Dreams: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Robert Johnson

There is only 1 day left for the college kids to impress the scouts before the NBA Draft takes place on Thursday. We will spend that time talking to the stars of tomorrow as they prepare for the next phases of their careers. Robert Johnson finished his career in Bloomington as 1 of the best 3-PT shooters in Hoosier history and started his pro career early by winning the inaugural 3X3U national championship in March. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Robert about making 9 threes in a game, playing for 2 different coaches, and what it would mean to get drafted.

You grew up in Virginia: what made you choose Indiana? The primary reason was Coach Crean: his vision/plan for me, showing me how I could develop there, etc.

You played for a pair of coaches in Tom Crean/Archie Miller: how difficult was the transition from 1 to the other, and what is the most important thing that you learned from either of them? It is always challenging to have change during your final year but I am glad that I got to play for the both of them. The main thing I learned from Coach Crean is to trust my preparation: if you work hard enough then you can trust whatever you have been working on. Archie taught me to approach every day the same and get a little bit better every day so that the team could reach a common goal.

In February of 2017 you became just the 2nd player in 20 years with 19 PTS/6 REB/7 AST/5 STL in a 6-PT OT loss at Iowa: where does that rank among the best all-around games of your career? It definitely ranks up there as 1 of my better all-around games. I also had a nice game the following month against Ohio State (26 PTS/6 REB/6 AST/2 STL/0 TO). I was locked in the whole time and effective in so many different ways.

In February of 2018 you scored a career-high 29 PTS and tied a school record with 9 3PM in a 2-PT win at Iowa: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”, and how happy are Hawkeye fans that you are finally graduating?! I remember talking to our strength and conditioning coach before that game: I had a lot of faith that something special would happen. God let it play out that way and I ended up tying the school record: it was just a blessing.

You graduated #4 on the school’s all-time list with 239 3PM: what is the secret to making shots from behind the arc? Just repetition. It is something I have always been taught to do so I put in the work and then expect the results that come with that. I just became better and better as a shooter.

Take me through the inaugural 3X3U national championship in March when you scored 5 PTS including the title-winning shot in a 21-13 win for the Big 10 over the Big West:

Where does that rank among the highlights of your career? It was definitely big and I was glad to be a part of something like that. It was a cool moment.

Was it weird to have guys like Jae’Sean Tate (Ohio State)/Nate Mason (Minnesota)/Vincent Edwards (Purdue) switch from opponents to teammates? After getting used to competing with them for so long it was a special moment. It is a transition as you finish your college career but it really was not weird: we clicked right away and it was evident on the court. Basketball is a big brotherhood and we have mutual respect for each other.

What are you going to do with your share of the total winnings ($55,000)? I am just saving it! If different situations come up and I can help my family then I will do that, but otherwise I will just use it as financial security during this transition period.

During your college career you played both PG/SG: what position do you feel most comfortable at on the court? Either 1: I am excited to play more PG as a professional and I think it will add a lot of value to my game.

You turned 23 last month: what did you do for the big day? I did not do a whole lot. I was staying with my aunt in Atlanta while doing some training so we just stepped out for a second.

You played with a couple of guys who made it to the NBA in OG Anunoby/Yogi Ferrell: have you talked to them at all about what it takes to make it to the next level? I talk to those guys all the time and it comes down to the same thing: grinding every day and just waiting for your opportunity.

What would it mean to you to get drafted? It would mean a lot. It was a dream of mine as a kid and 1 of my main goals has always been to hear my name called on draft night.

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