Q&A w/ former Pitt star Jason Matthews re: Lakers, Calipari v Miller, Obama camp & more…

Jason Matthews, the smooth-shooting guard from Los Angeles who was never afraid to take the big shot, took a few minutes with us to reminisce about his days as a Pitt Panther.

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BEH 24/7: How does a kid from Los Angeles, CA land in the Big East playing for the Pitt Panthers?

Matthews: Dave Gavitt was BRILLANT with creating Big Monday with ESPN. Also, Coach Calipari really helps you see the vision he has for you as a player.

BEH 24/7: What have you been up to since your playing days at Pitt?

Matthews: I’ve been involved in the real estate industry for the past 21 years. I also have a skill development program for girls and boys. I’ve enjoyed being an assistant coach at Obama Academy over the past 5 years as well.

BEH 24/7: Who were the top 5 guys you had to guard in your Big East days?

Matthews: In no particular order:   Dana Barros, John Morton, Doug West, Eric Murdock, Chris Smith

BEH 24/7: Do you keep in touch with any of the guys from your era?

Matthews: I keep in touch with my Pitt teammates and many of the guys I played against.

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BEH 24/7: Did you surprise yourself by starting 112 of 123 games over the course of your career?

Matthews: Yes, I didn’t know how much I’d play when I arrived at Pitt but I’ve always been a fierce competitor. I was also willing to put in thousands of hours of skill work, conditioning, and weight lifting.

BEH 24/7: Explain if you could, how it felt to wear a Lakers jersey after your college days?

Matthews: That was a very SURREAL experience. Jerry West called the day after the draft and asked if I’d like to play with the Lakers in NBA Summer League. I played well enough to receive an invite to Laker Vet Camp. I still have the Lakers contract I signed in 1991. I grew up going to several Laker games.

BEH 24/7: Are you able to appreciate all of your accomplishments looking back after all of these years?

Matthews: When you’re in the moment, you don’t really understand what you’re accomplishing. Once you’re done, you can analyze what you’ve achieved compared to other players. It’s a lot of fun to do that, but then you can say “WOW” I guess I was a good player.

BEH 24/7: Who was the most influential person that got you where you are today?

Matthews: I can’t pick one person because I have a great family, I’ve had great AAU/HS coaches, best friends who encouraged me to play, great teammates, special mentors, Pitt Fans, Tony Salesi (Pitt Trainer), and Coach Calipari to name just a few.

BEH 24/7: If you were a high school recruit today who would you rather play for John Calipari or Sean Miller?

Matthews: That’s a TOUGH one that I’ll leave alone. I love and appreciate both of them because they’ve both had a significant impact on my life.

BEH 24/7: What is your favorite Big East Tournament moment?

Matthews: In 1990 vs BC. It was my best tourney game at MSG and I scored 32 Pts

Our thanks to Jason for the time and info.  You can follow him on Twitter @JMatty22

Check out this prior interview via The Neil Haley Show Jason Matthews Pitt Basketball

Fireside chat with Rod Sellers

Rod Sellers played for Uconn from 1988-1992 and was a cornerstone of that 1990 “dream season”.

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We recently caught up with Rod to get his perspective on those years & grabbed a few comments from Donyell & Chris Smith.

BE Hoops 24/7: How does a kid from Florence, SC land in the Big East playing for the UConn Huskies?

Sellers: I was getting recruited by a few ACC and SEC schools. My brother went to Central Connecticut State University and his coach came to see me play. He thought I was pretty good and better than that level so he told the assistant coach at UCONN about me. He came to see me play and they had a scholarship left and offered me. I was basically a last minute throw in there. But I knew with my work ethic that I had a chance to play up there. I knew the Big East was a tough league but I wanted to prove to myself that I could compete. So to UCONN I went and I will say that I had a pretty good Career for a guy not heavily recruited.

 

BE Hoops 24/7: How long did it take you to understand Jim Calhoun’s New England accent?

Sellers: Understanding Coach Calhoun was definitely something I had to focus on. I’m from South Carolina and coach has a strong Boston accent and he speaks fast. I would stare at him to make sure I knew what he was saying. It was a challenge at first but after about 3 to 4 months it became a lot easier

 

“For me, he brought a leadership role.  A big brother for me.  I was so skinny; he was always so protective of me.”  – Donyell Marshall

BE Hoops 24/7: Did you surprise yourself by starting 112 of 126 games over the course of your career?sellers 1

Sellers: I don’t mean to sound cocky but going up to UCONN I knew I had an opportunity to start. It was one of the reasons I chose UCONN. I knew with my work ethic and my being a team player that if I just did what I needed to do that I would have that chance at starting. Freshman year was a huge challenge of ups and downs with me starting 17 out of 31 games. But it helped me greatly and after that I became a full time starter.

 

BE Hoops 24/7: What did it mean for the state of Connecticut in 1989-90 when UConn finished 31-6, won the Big East Championship, and advanced to the Elite 8?

Sellers: I think the 89-90 season, which they call the Dream Season in Connecticut, was huge for the state. It was the building blocks for the UCONN program. I think it helped build the program from a regional school to a National Powerhouse. But the love we received in the State was tremendous. It was like a dream come true. Now we are not just playing for the school anymore. We are now playing for the state.

 

BE Hoops 24/7: What did it mean to your family and friends to beat Clemson in the Sweet 16 in the 1990 NCAA Tournament?

Sellers: Coming out of High School I was recruited by Clemson but they wanted me to Redshirt my freshman year. It was a school I wanted to attend but they had lukewarm interest in me. So for us to play them in the tournament was a huge opportunity for me. The bad part was I was playing with an injured knee so I was extremely limited against a great Clemson Front Line of Dale Davis and Elden Campbell. I was happy we got that win and that game still goes down as one of the greatest in UCONN history. That was The Shot! The game that took us to the Elite 8.

 

“Rod was a monster for us under the rim.  He was a great rebounder & defender of the paint. If we needed a score in the paint, Rod was our man.” – Chris Smith

BE Hoops 24/7: Who was the most influential person that got you where you are today?

Sellers: The most influential persons in my life have always been my brother Patrick Sellers (@SellersanlyzNBA), my mother, Coach Calhoun and Coach Dickenman. They all have had a huge impact on the person I am today. My work ethic, my resolve, my willingness to compete, my passion for the game, and my character.

 

BE Hoops 24/7: What is your favorite Big East Tournament moment?

Sellers: Favorite Big East Tournament moment definitely has to be winning the Big East Tournament in 1990 against Syracuse. I didn’t play that much due to my knee injury but that was a culmination of a great season. To watch the fans storm the court after winning it and then watching the committee give us a number 1 seed in the East immediately after was something many players dream about. And to live that was simply beautiful.

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BE Hoops 24/7: Who were the top 5 guys you had to guard in your Big East days?

Sellers: The Top five guys I had to defend in my Big East days were; Derrick Coleman, Alonzo Mourning, Rob Werdann, Brian Shorter, Dikembe Mutombo

 

BE Hoops 24/7: Do you keep in touch with any of the guys from your era?

Sellers: I stay in constant Contact with the guys I played with at UCONN. Even the guys I played against. I played against quite a few Big East guys while I was playing ball in Europe and we always talked about how tough the League was and how much fun we had. My old teammates from UCONN always talk about how great the UCONN days were. The fun we had.

 

BE Hoops 24/7: Are you able to appreciate all of your accomplishments looking back after all of these years?

Sellers: Now that I’m in the working world I think back to my college days and all the fun we had and all the experiences that I was afforded just by playing a game that I love and I can’t help but be thankful for everything. Basketball has given me so much. It has taught me so much. It has helped shape me into the person I am today. It also pushes me to help others achieve their dreams of playing college ball. I live in Atlanta now and I get asked everyday where did I play college ball, and when I mention UCONN the reactions I get are priceless. It’s amazing how far the program has come. I remember telling someone my freshman year that I played at UCONN and the guy asked me how I like playing in Alaska (Yukon). Now whenever I mention that I played at University of Connecticut people will say, UCONN!!!!!!!! And I’m like yes, UCONN!!! Then they will say, that’s big time. That always makes me smile. Just knowing how far we have come.

 

Our thanks to Rod for taking the time to answer a few questions.  You can follow him on Twitter @rsell22

Our recent Q&A with former Hoya captain Gene Smith

As a lock-down defender, Gene Smith was a standout player for the Hoyas from 1980-84, was team captain in ’83 & ’84 and http://www.hoyabasketball.com has him ranked 68th all-time best player at Georgetown.

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We recently caught up with Gene to get his take various topics, old & new, regarding Hoya hoops and the Big East conference.

BEH24/7: After all of these years, how does it feel to be an NCAA College Basketball Champion?

Gene: “I often told myself that being a part of an NCAA Championship team would not be the pinnacle or the most important thing that would ever happen to me in life, that it was a precursor for things to come. What it has come to represent is the purest sense of athletic accomplishment as a member of a team that I would ever accomplish. A culmination of sorts.
Something that staying in the moment created. Believing completely in the goals and strategy and team 1st to complete those goals.”

 

BEH24/7: Explain if you could, how the 1982 Final Four motivated you leading up to 1984?

Gene: “In my opinion, the ‘82 team was better than the ‘84 team. The’82 team was anchored with senior leadership in Floyd, E. Smith, Spriggs and Hancock and the addition of a talented freshman class led by Ewing and including Anthony Jones, Bill Martin and Ralph Dalton. Dalton got injured along with me in preseason. Fred Brown had come into his own as a sophomore. The floor leader (Fred Brown) did everything: assists, steals, rebounds. We were a deep combination of old and young; a perfect combination. The ’84 team was awesome in that Fred and I as seniors had respect in the locker room and made Big John’s gig easier. Fred’s NYC style and my DC roots made us challenging leaders of our crew. There was no backing down. What we lacked in execution we made up for with a winning ugly mentality. We had Michael Graham as an X factor in the Final Four with the emergence of Reggie in the championship game, and that was title worthy. I was deeply honored by being a big part of that teams on/off court personality by actions, doing the little things, winning every sprint on campus, daring anyone to out run me, making sure the white team (2nd team) was more than capable of winning in practice every day. So our motivation on all Hoyas teams was to make your impact individually and as a team, plus making the time during your era important and memorable.”

 

BEH24/7: You earned a scholarship to Georgetown where you were a 2-time team captain, played in 2 Final Fours (winning in 1984), drafted by the Pacers, were invited to the 1988 Olympic trials and Dick Vitale named you to his 25th anniversary All-Velcro team.  Are you able to appreciate all of those accomplishments?

Gene: “I totally appreciate all those accomplishments especially because the way my college career began with being recruited to be a practice player, then to becoming a part of the player rotation from freshman year on was a testament to anyone who has been given an opportunity to succeed and move up on the depth chart. The opportunity to become part of something bigger than yourself. To add to the above list would be 1984 Olympic Team tryout and NBA Draft Pick 1st player in the 5th round, 94th overall. The Dickie V shout-out was cool, 2-time captain was simply an honor that at first was cool but since it was only a one-vote system during those days, it was very little fanfare. I chose to lead by example and bring a high level of intensity to almost every practice and every game.”

 

BEH24/7: Who was the most influential person that got you where you are today?

Gene: “My family, starting with my Moms. She was a single parent in Washington D.C., demonstrating a guiding principle that nothing good or great is being given away. If you want something bad enough, ask for it then go and get it. My oldest brother, I was the youngest of four boys, he was a talented small forward. He paved the way for all my basketball exploits. He was a tremendous all-around player. We played together one year, his senior and my freshman at Mckinley Tech H.S. in Washington D.C. The season prior, Tech lost the City Championship. That season playing with Jarvis was impactful on many levels. Most importantly the confidence and quiet direction my brother showed me. I have to mention the steadfast supporters who believed in a defensive 1st minded guard. There was the elementary school coach Mr. Mebane. His zone press defense was essentially a 1-4 w/me chasing the ball until the ball crossed half court. There was a D.C. Coach, Ed Meyers, lobbying for me to be an alternate on a Jr. High School All-star game and get this, the same Coach was on the Hoyas Staff for that ‘81-‘82 season NCAA Runner-up team. Finally, Big John who was recruiting one of the top players on our team who was in H.S. that year (Bill Martin who was a junior and yes he decided to matriculate to Georgetown as part of that monster freshman class if 1981 w/Ewing, Jones and Dalton so I won’t take too much credit for that) and stumbled on a blue-collar guard who wanted to do all the hard stuff on the court, all the little things, talk on defense, dive for loose balls and this kid wanted to win with effort.”

BEH24/7: Who were the top 5 guys you had to guard in your Big East days?

Gene: “In no particular order:Fred Brown-GUEddie Moss-SUPearl-SUMark Jackson-SJUStewart Granger-VUHonorable MentionMichael Adams and John Bagley-BCFreshman year playing against Granger, Bagley and Moss was student/teacher and learning how to be effective against seasoned veteran PG’s that were unflappable. I was able to build confidence in particular with a good game against Nova and Granger that year. Playing against Pearl and Mark early in their career when both were freshmen and I was a senior was incredible. Pearl was, well…Pearl, and my plan was always to challenge – not worry about being crossed over because recovery from behind was always available, so never giving up on the play and I would give him the jumper before letting him get into the lane. In the memorable Big East championship game he was hitting the jumper, so picking my spots and getting possessions was the game plan. Mark was splitting time with senior Bob Kelly. I remember his body just being deceivingly big and wingspan was nuts. He was not as flashy, yet he could back you down 94 feet. Adams was a jitter bug with a shot put of a jumper. One of the most memorable charges I ever took was against M.A @ Cap Centre. I chased him down…got in front of him and guessed the direction he was going and he barreled over me…��. Playing against Fred everyday was so enriching we came in as freshmen together there was NYC/DC tension in the atmosphere. Fred was one of the most competitive and intelligent players I have balled against (he could see the play develop 2 plays ahead). Funny story; the summer before our freshman year we are on our way to a Summer Tourney and I am studying the Hoyas playbook, and Fred quizzically asked “what you doing my man”. Me: “just going over playbook”. Fred: “No need for you to do that, you won’t be playing that much”. He somehow knew like Coach did…stoke the fire and don’t worry, #22 was going to show up. Fred and I started together the last 8 games of the season freshman year when we went to a small ball lineup. I have to mention Sleepy because the attention he showed me in the summer workouts were huge in my maturation. The 2-years we played together, I worked in the gym freshman and sophomore years and Floyd just started showing up to my workouts or just extending his. The 1981 Playboy All-American, Hoyas Legend in the making and we are balling to the death, no mercy, no fouls, full-court one-on-one, blood, sweat and tears. I will never forget his generosity and also the ultimate compliment. He knew I did not care about anything other than playing that hard-nose D on him.”

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BEH24/7: Do you keep in contact with any former teammates or guys you competed against?

Gene: “I enjoy staying connected not only to the players I played with, but those who came before me and those who played after me. Hoping to plan a Hoyas event in 2016 and Social Media helps tremendously. I stay connected to the program by attending games every season (Duke and Syracuse 2015). I’m looking forward to a Big East reunion lunch one day to catch-up. On a side-note it is great to see Chris Mullins back @ St. John’s as Head Coach.”

 

BEH24/7: Do you have a favorite John Thompson story you can share?

Gene: “My favorite Big John story is the day after I was drafted we sat down and talked and the conversation was brief he congratulated me on getting drafted (1st player in the 5th round, 96th overall by Indiana Pacers). He remarked straight faced “now go ahead out there and get cut and enjoy the experience”. I was not the least bit perturbed and he knew that, because no matter what I was going to die trying to make it. I heard from players who were on that team (Hoyas) the next year. He mentioned in pre-season practice you watch, Gene is going to make that team. I was the last player cut, right before opening night. He knew by telling me to go get cut, that was more motivation.”

 

BEH24/7: What are your thoughts on the health battle that Pearl Washington recently fought?

Gene: “My heart goes out to him and his family, I have my #PrayersforPearl T-shirt. One of the more historic battles was in that Big East Final. (It) was an awesome game. I still don’t know why he didn’t get the ball for the last shot in regulation. Oh, I remember now…I was draped all over him.”  (lol)

 

BEH24/7: What type of interaction did you have with Big East Commish Dave Gavitt during your playing days?

Gene: “Not very much. Gavitt and Big John appeared to have a solid relationship. I saw him @ pre-season stuff and during the tourney. He was the architect of the Big East. He was revered by all of us. Big John spoke very highly of him.”

 

BEH24/7: Between basketball and business which do you feel you’ve had to work harder at?

Gene: “Both had its challenges, corporate business is difficult for me because the best man doesn’t always win. There is the subjective that may enter into the equation and often times that can work in your favor. The thing about athletics for me that worked was, I certainly was not the most talented but hard work and dedication allowed me to be able to compete. So my framework was built for the struggle, and that was honed at Georgetown.”

 

BEH24/7: How much longer does Patrick Ewing have to wait before he’ll become a head coach?

Gene: “This is the $100million question. It is offensive to me that he does not have a job. Of course I am biased and I have watched his development as a communicator and administrator and I can only surmise that his time has not come or (it has) passed him by. There is a part of me that would love to see him Coach College if that was something he was interested in. It is nice to see Patrick Jr. on the Hoyas bench.”

Our thanks to Gene for taking the time to provide these insights.  You can follow him @gsmit8 on Twitter

Big East Final-4 Interview Variety Pack: Everson, Jones, Martin

With Villanova heading to Houston to represent the Big East in the 2016 Final Four, we at Big East Hoops 24/7 took a very biased trip down memory lane to 1985 when the Big East had 3 teams in the Final Four.

What follows is our recent Q&A with 1 player from each team:                                                       Villanova- Chuck Everson                                                                                                                               St. John’s- Shelton Jones                                                                                                                               Georgetown- Bill Martin

BEH24/7:  What did it feel like to have 3 Big East teams in the Final Four?

Chuck: It was great for the conference to have 3 teams in the Final 4. It put the conference on the map to stay at that point. Knew a lot of the St John’s guys and got to hang with them in Lexington which was pretty cool.

Shelton: To have 3 Big East teams in the 1985 Final Four was not only an awesome feeling for me personally; it was a testament of how dominant the conference was that year.

Bill: It was shocking to see two other Big East teams in the final four and somewhat disconcerting because we had some tough battles with both teams that year.

 


BEH24/7: What was your role on the 1985 team?

Chuck: My role on the 85 Nova team was to back up EZ-ED Pinckney. I was the first big guy in off the bench.

Shelton: Being a freshman on that 1985 team that boasted 4 eventual first round NBA draft picks, my role was limited to practicing extremely hard to make sure the more experienced players were always prepared for the games. Of course I received playing time in certain games during learning situations, as well as during garbage time. Which was often with that team…

Bill: I was the starting power forward and my role was to rebound and score when open. It made it difficult for teams to double-team Patrick if I was scoring.

 

BEH24/7: What was it like playing for a legendary head coach?

Chuck: Playing for Coach Mass was a great experience that I would never trade for anything, he taught us more about life than basketball. The relationship is still very strong today 31 years later we talk all the time and we get together several times a year. Once a year around the Superbowl we head down and stay with him at his house eat pasta and drink some wine and laugh about old times usually with at least 8 or 9 guys from the 85 team, pretty special.

Shelton: Playing for legendary Coach Lou Carnesecca was very intimidating, at first. Until I really came to know Coach, I used catch myself looking at him with awe. As time went on I was allowed to see his human side. Coach is a disciplinarian first. Secondly, he is very knowledgeable about the game of basketball and life. Thirdly, Coach is one of the funniest people that I have ever met. He gave me the formula for success in life. Be disciplined, be knowledgeable, and keep a good sense of humor about life.

Bill: We all have the highest respect for Coach Thompson. He was demanding on everyone; players, staff, everyone. It didn’t always feel good but it never feels good when someone is pushing you to be better and do more than even you thought you were capable.

 

BEH24/7: Are you able to appreciate all of your accomplishments after all of these years?

Chuck: People stop me and ask “how tall are you?” and I tell them, and “did you play?” and I tell them. Then they ask “where did you play?”.  When I say Villanova immediately they want to know if I was on that team. When I say yes I hear about where they were and who they were with the night we won that game. Happens a lot.

Shelton: I have been blessed with a wonderful family and a strong core of friends. As I look back to the 1985 Final Four and beyond, I really appreciate the opportunities that my hard work and sacrifice provided me. I understand that none of it was owed to me. It was all a privilege. I also appreciate all the different characters and personalities that I had the privilege of meeting and/or playing with.

Bill: Over the years I’ve come to appreciate what we accomplished. In fact it seems my role has become even more important over the years and my contributions even greater with every passing year.😂

 

BEH24/7: Who’s winning the National Championship this year?

Chuck: I hope Nova can get this done, not an easy task OK beat us by 30 back in December. Then you have the Orangemen which is always a great classic Big East game or UNC which has some pretty big athletic guys inside. That’s why they play the games, cause you never know….

Shelton: My prediction for this year’s Champion is the repeat from 1985…Go Big East…Go Villanova!

Bill: I’m rooting for OU…Go Sooners!  I can’t root for Nova ’85 or UNC ’82 and the rivalry with the Orange still remains fresh.

 

Our thanks to Chuck, Shelton & Bill for their participation.  Also have to send a shout out to Gene Smith for putting this in motion #Hoya4Life.

Q&A with Malcolm Huckaby from Big East days

Big East Hoop 24/7 recently caught up with former Boston College stand-out Malcolm Huckaby for some thoughts regarding his Big East playing days.  Great responses!  And a bonus quote from Coach Jim O’Brien and Bill Curley as well.  Have a read….

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BEH 24/7: What is your favorite moment from your playing days in the Big East?

Malcolm: My favorite Big East moment, although it was on a sad note – Mrs. O’Brien passed away right before the Big East tournament – was walking into Madison Square Garden. As a kid you dream of playing there.  There’s so much history. I still say it was the best tournament atmosphere, period. My second favorite would be my game vs. Georgetown sophomore season.  It was a double OT win, I had 34 points and played 50 minutes. I wish I could run like that again…it’s difficult to stand that long now.

 

BEH 24/7: Between basketball & broadcasting which do you feel you’ve had to work harder at?

Malcolm: Both are the same. All your work goes in prior to the game. Like preparing for the season you get in shape, shoot jumpers, etc. then in the game you must study the opponent. Same as broadcasting.  You prep and study, then each game prep is different because each opponent is different. But the general approach is the same.  You prepare as hard and smart as you can pre-game then the game becomes easy because you put in all that work and preparation prior.

 

BEH 24/7: Who were the top 5 guys you had to guard in your Big East days?

Malcolm: Kerry Kittles was a tough/nightmare match up for me. I remember him @ Villanova splitting a screen (we tried to trap with Bill Curley) and taking off for a monster dunk. He was deceptively strong and was lethal in the open court.  Red Autry my freshman and sophomore year gave me the business. Typical big guard that was a handful to keep out of the lane. I just called a Syracuse game, and me and him laughed about great battles. He along with Dickey Simpkins/Scott Burrell/Arturas Karnisovas of Seton Hall are big reasons why I lived in the weight room my freshman and sophomore year.

 

BEH 24/7: Who was the most influential person that got you where you are today?

Malcolm: My Mom and Dad, who will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary in March. They are the most influential people in my life, period. They taught me to have faith and lean on God ever since I was born. I thank God every morning for them.

 

BEH 24/7: Do you keep in contact with any former teammates or guys you competed against?

Malcolm: I see all the guys from BC:  Bill Curley, Gerrod Abram, Howard Eisley, Danya Abrams, etc. through social media or when I travel to cities for ESPN. Also, I see guys like Mike Hopkins, Red Autry, Scott Burrell, Steve Pikiell, etc. when I call games. They’re all coaching but love sharing old Big East stories.

 

BEH 24/7: How did your recruitment break down?

Malcolm: I was recruited by pretty much all Big East schools. I also was drafted by the Houston Astros in the MLB draft out of High School.  So I had thoughts of maybe playing baseball, but for hoops I wanted to play in the Big East. Michael Adams’ brother Joe Adams was one of my High School coaches. So Mike would play with me during All Star break or during the summer. When I came to BC for a visit, Dana Barros went off vs. Syracuse and Sherman Douglas. I was hooked.

I also want to add that Jim O’Brien and in particular Mrs. O’Brien were big reasons that I came to BC. I still speak with Coach weekly and he whoops me on golf course with no mercy. My mom was very concerned, as most Moms are, about life after basketball. OB made us go through a life skills program. John Peck (R.I.P.) who just passed recently talked to us about preparing for life after basketball. I realized how important this experience was when I suffered a career ending ankle injury. I wish every program would do even more to help prepare these young men for life after basketball.  Dr. Ferna Phillips who was head of academic resources for student athletes was also instrumental in myself and many other BC student athletes graduating. BC did and still does do a great job making sure student athletes graduate.

 

BEH 24/7: Are you able to appreciate all of your accomplishments looking back after all of these years?

Malcolm: The reality is that 4 years, or however many years you’re fortunate to play, goes by fast. But life goes on and as my father always told me, use basketball and not the other way around.

 

BEH 24/7: Who are some of the teams and players from smaller conferences that could make some noise in March?

Malcolm: I like San Diego State who I’m calling tonight. They are one of the top defensive teams in the country. Currently, 2nd in the NCAA in field goal percentage, opponents shoot below 40%, they have length at every position, and Steve Fisher is one of the best in the business. He has gone 6 straight years to the NCAA tourney. I also love what Ed Cooley does. Although it’s not a small conference, I’m biased because I know Ed personally but think he’s underrated as an X and O guy. Yes he can recruit but I’ve called PC games and he does a great job teaching, with player development and in-game adjustments. He learned from another great Coach in Al Skinner.

 

BEH 24/7: Looking back after all of these years how much do you admire Jim O’Brien in relation to losing his wife while still being a Dad & trying to coach your team?

Malcolm: I still get emotional.  Being a Dad now of 2 little girls and 2 young boys, I can’t imagine it.  Right before the Big East Tourney. I still remember her face at games rooting for us to win, with her 2 young daughters at games. The girls used to be at practices my sophomore year after Mrs. O’Brien passed.  Simply put she was a great lady.  It’s just emotional still but I know she’s smiling down from heaven watching both now young ladies living life. Also want to add that my wife Pam (have to give her some love) and I get emotional when we go out to dinner, or speak with OB. Now as the parents of 4 young children we can’t imagine how difficult it would be without having both of us to support each other. It was difficult for Coach because he was raising 2 young daughters while trying to coach all of us young men at the same time. It was a crazy balancing act and he managed it well. Again, just so difficult being a college coach in a major conference and being a Dad explaining/raising two kids without Mrs. OB. Amazing how he did and both Erin and Amy now have grown into incredible young ladies and OB now is a Grandparent and has so much patience with them.

 

BEH 24/7: Do you think the quality of coaching has improved since your playing days?

Malcolm: Evolved is the word I’d use. More technology and rule changes. When I played you could hand check, bump and chuck players coming through the lane. I think my sophomore year the Big East went to 6 fouls because it was so physical. Now you can’t touch guys. I think skill and development was the same in terms of Xs and Os but with training and technology. Coaches can send scouting reports and workouts to players iPads, etc. and when I played we had sky pagers and no cell phones.

 

Bonus quote from Coach Jim O’Brien and Bill Curley

BEH 24/7: What were some of the positive traits that Malcolm brought to the program on and off the court?

Coach OB: ” I loved coaching Malcolm. He was a tough kid; very good defender ; all around good player ; great teammate; most importantly, he allowed himself to be coached.  His growth from college freshman to college graduate was remarkable. He has matured into a great husband and proud father and as a friend is tremendously loyal.  I was privileged to coach Malcolm and continue to be exceptionally proud of the man he’s become. ”

 

Bill Curley: “Hucks, is and was a loyal, hardworking, tough, skilled player and person.  I think the biggest and best thing about him was that he is dependable and consistent and would bring it every day.  He defended the best offensive player from the point to the small forward. No matter how tall. He was a knock down three-point shooter and could get to the rim.”

 

Thanks to  Malcolm, Jim O’Brien, and Bill Curley for their time and input.  You can follow Malcolm @Malcolm_Huckaby on Twitter

Big East Hoops 24/7 Q&A with Tarik Turner

Big East Hoops 24/7 (@bigeasttourney) recently caught up with former St. John’s standout & current FS1 analyst Tarik Turner on a variety of topics.  With some bonus comments from Tim Brando.  Check it out:

tarik turner

BEH 24/7:  Other than your Mom & Dad who’s been the most influential person in your career path?

Tarik: “Outside of my parents, STJ faculty/alumni had biggest impact on career, gave me my first shot at broadcasting as bball radio analyst, helped me grow and learn the business of media thru the vast alumni network.”

 

BEH 24/7:  Looking back after all of these years can you appreciate all of the pressure Felipe Lopez had to handle at such a young age?

Tarik: “Felipe was Lebron before Lebron in high school and did it in the mecca of bball NYC. We were all amazed by how he handled the pressure of being the #1 player out of HS, dealing with media at a young age and living up to expectations. Always stayed humble and treated people with respect. First class dude all the way.”

 

BEH 24/7: You committed to St John’s back in October of ’93 after visiting California & Syracuse. What did you like about St John’s so much?

Tarik: “The chance to play in the mecca of bball, MSG and attend a great university with great tradition, along with living in NYC. Looked at it as a great opportunity for me to learn about myself, grow up and further my career goals after graduation.”

 

BEH 24/7: Do you have any good Malik Sealy stories?

Tarik: “Malik was like a big brother to us. He took a lot of pride in giving back to the younger guys in the STJ program, came back every summer and played pick up ball with us. Every summer he threw a legendary party in Manhattan and always made sure to look out for me and my teammates to get in and get VIP treatment. He was the first person to take me under his wing and show me the ropes of living in NYC. We all looked up to him and miss him deeply. RIP.”

malik sealy

 

BEH 24/7: Between basketball & broadcasting which do you feel you’ve had to work harder at?

Tarik: “Theres nothing like competing as a player in terms of the work I put in to be on top of my game. It’s been a fun transition into broadcasting, where I can study and analyze the game. I’m passionate about it so it doesn’t feel like work.”

 

BEH 24/7: Who were the top 5 guys you had to guard in your Big East days?

Tarik: “Top 5 guys I guarded: Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kerry Kittles, Vonteego Cummings, Alvin Williams.”

 

BEH 24/7: What’s the one Big East game you’d pay to go see this year?

Tarik: “Nova vs Providence…big-time guard play, best group of guards (Nova) vs best overall guard/player (Kris Dunn Providence)….exciting match up.”

 

BEH 24/7: What did you think of the Gavitt games?

Tarik: “Gavitt games were a great way to kick off the season while paying tribute to the founding father, Dave Gavitt. A lot of people, including myself, learned more about Dave’s vision and how passionate he was about the Big East Conference.”

 

BEH 24/7: Why should a high school basketball recruit consider playing in the Big East?

Tarik: “The chance to play in an elite conference with great competition, coaches, tradition..a bball only league where you’re the only show in town, on the biggest stage, mecca of hoops, Madison Square Garden for the Big East tourney.”

 

BEH 24/7: Do you ever get tired of Donny Marshall reminding everyone how good those UCONN teams were?

Tarik: “Donny can’t help himself when it comes to reminding us about his UCONN days…its in his DNA. We went from not liking each other as opponents to becoming good friends through our broadcasting careers…great guy, great career. Honor to work with.”

BONUS: Tim Brando comments on Tarik

BEH 24/7: We asked Tim for a comment or two regarding working with Tarik

Tim: “Tarik’s intensity as a player is equaled in his approach breaking down a game. His  understanding of BIG EAST BB history and blending that into his analysis is also a strength of his.”

Thanks to Tarik & Tim for taking the time to answer a few questions.  Class guys all the way!  You can follow them @tarik4turner and @TimBrando

Q&A with former BC standout Danya Abrams

A Big East Hoops 24/7 exclusive!  Danya Abrams on the past, the present and bonus comments from Coach Biancardi (BC Assistant during Danya’s time) and Malcolm Huckaby (former teammate).

BEH 24/7: Any great memories jump into your head from your Big East days playing Providence?

Danya: “Providence always brought up the competitive nature in me. I remember my junior year going down to Providence and making 20 out of 20 free throws going up against Eric Williams Austin Croshere,  God Shammgod and Jamel Thomas.”

 

BEH 24/7: Explain if you could, how much it meant to go into NYC and win the Big East Tournament in ’97

Danya: “Playing at Madison Square Garden was always the best.  How could you not get pumped up for playing in front of your hometown family and friends?  We had a great senior year winning the Big East regular season and the Big East tournament down in Madison Square Garden.  To this day that still one of the best highlights of my life other than my family I have now.”

 

BEH 24/7: How did your recruitment breakdown?

Danya:The recruiting was a fun time.  Boston College was always there from the beginning.  They saw something in me that I didn’t know I had in me. I was recruited by a lot of colleges, many mid majors, Miami University,  UMass Amherst…I can’t remember them all.”

 

BEH 24/7: Who were the top 5 Big East players you competed against in your playing days?

Danya: “Top five Big East players I’ve played against…that’s a tough one because there’s more than 5 but since I only have 5 I’d have to say Ray Allen,  Allen Iverson,  Othella Harrington,  Kerry kittles,  John Wallace,  Jason Lawson and Otis Hill…because he knew all my moves and we’re cousins.”

 danya

BEH 24/7: Do you keep in touch with any of the guys from your era?

Danya: “We all stay in touch.  We see each other at NBA games or at golfing events.  I stay in touch with all of my BC players and I see a lot of the UConn players from becoming good friends with Ray Allen. God Shammgod as well.  Too many to list that I stay in touch with.”

 

BEH 24/7: What do you think of the job Friar Coach Ed Cooley is doing?

Danya: “I think coach Cooley is doing an excellent job in Providence.  He not only is a great coach but a great mentor.  I remember when I finished playing in Europe and came back to Boston College and coach Cooley was on the staff.  He treated me as if I was one of his players that he’d recruited and that’s where the friendship bond began.”

 

BEH 24/7: How can BC keep this game close tonight vs PC?

Danya: “This going to be a tough game for Boston College tonight vs Providence.  BC has to control Kris Dunn, stop the offensive rebounds and limit Providence to one shot.  Boston College has to hope that Turner, Robinson and Carter have great games tonight to give BC a chance to win.”

 

BEH 24/7: Who was the most influential person that got you where you are today?

Danya: “A lot of people along the way.  First and foremost my family and my high school coach David Olson. Also the BC community; the coaches and academic advisors who believed in me and my uncle George Abrams who push me to the point that made me the man I am today.”

 

BEH 24/7: After playing hoops at BC & raising your family in the area, do you still consider yourself a New Yorker?

Danya: “Always a New Yorker that will never change.”

 

BONUS: From former BC Assistant Coach Paul Biancardi and former teammate Malcolm Huckaby

BEH 24/7: What did Danya mean to those BC teams?

Coach Biancardi: “He was the missing piece that we needed to reach an elite 8 in 1994.  Four years later he was one of the major reasons we won the Big East championship.  He was coachable with a developing work ethic over time.  His game was unstoppable in the paint.” biancardi

 

 

 

BEH 24/7: What did Danya mean to that 1994 team?

Malcolm: Danya was the missing piece to our success. Really provided interior presence to take pressure off Billy. Did not play like underclassmen.huckaby

 

You can follow our contributors on Twitter @dabrams24 @PaulBiancardi  @Malcolm_Huckaby

Q&A with Friar Legend Jamel Thomas

Our thanks to Jamel for taking a few minutes to answer some questions.

For those unfamiliar, Jamel played at PC from 1995-99 and went on to play professionally (NBA & overseas) for 10 years.  In his senior year as a Friar, Jamel led the Big East in scoring and was named to the 1st team All Big-East.

We, at Big East Hoops 24/7, caught up with Jamel recently to get his thoughts on a few topics. Here you go:

BEH 24/7: Name your starting 5 of the Big East players you competed against.

Jamel: “My starting five that I’ve played against is John Wallace, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kerry Kittles and Victor Page”

 

BEH 24/7: What is your favorite moment from your playing days at PC?

Jamel: “Favorite was the NCAA Tourney. I loved the fact coach Gillen let his dogs loose[lol]. We played without any worries.”

 

 BEH 24/7: Are you able to appreciate all of your accomplishments looking back after all of these years?

Jamel: “Of course I appreciate my accomplishments. Everything I’ve experienced I’ve passed down to my brothers Sebastian and Ethan. I needed to be that role model for them so they know chasing the dream is possible.”

 

BEH 24/7: Do you keep in contact with any former teammates or guys you competed against?

Jamel: “Yes I keep in contact with mostly all my guys from PC. Duane Woodward and Tyrone Grant are my guys since we were 13-15 years old. One thing about me is that I stay connected with my friends and family.”

 

BEH 24/7: PC, UMass, Seton Hall and Villanova were all recruiting you (to name a few) what did you like about PC?

Jamel: “Mostly all the schools that were recruiting me wanted me to play power forward especially Umass. They wanted me to replace Lou Roe. My high school coach Bobby Harstein told them I’m more of a small forward than a power forward. So coach Gonz was the most influential coach for me to go there. Once he said that he was going to get Derrick Brown to play at PC I was all in and then he added Shammgod. It was like a dream come true. That’s what I liked about PC, I had good friends to play alongside of me.  Once I got there I met some amazing people like professors, students and people in the city of providence. Providence College is a great school to go to academically and of course athletic wise.”Jamel thomas

 

BEH 24/7: Where do you see Kris Dunn going in the NBA draft?

Jamel: “I’m biased, I always thought Shammgod was the best point guard to come out of Providence but what Kris Dunn is doing is unbelievable. Shamm is doing a hell of a job teaching and working with [Kris] every day. And that’s what Shamm and I are about, producing players that can be potentially better than us. He’s doing it with Dunn and I’ve done it with my brothers and kids I train.  So right now I have Kris going #1 in the draft.”

 

Thanks again to Jamel for the input.  You can follow him on Twitter @JAMEL530 and Instagram @JAMEL530 where you can purchase gear related to his book “A Beautiful Struggle”.  Jamel also has a new book coming out soon!

 

Guest Blog: Friars v Crimson. Some Questions Getting Answered ?

Providence Rhode Island 11/14/2015, the Friars kicked off their season at home last night against Harvard. There has been a lot of angst in Friar Town since last year’s NCAA loss to Dayton. With the loss of the graduating seniors and transfers of Tyler Harris and Pascal Chukwu the team entered this season with lots of questions regarding their size and how they will replace the departing offense of Ladontae Henton and the rim protection of Carson Desrosiers. While some of these questions will take time to answer, there were things that started to come into focus.  Kris Dunn will be a dominant player on both ends of the court.  He will control the game’s tempo and create scoring opportunities in the half court and his defense will create many open court scoring chances.  Dunn is the best “on ball” defender the Friars have had since John Linehan and his ability to get into passing lanes is uncanny. Kris Dunn was not one of the questions Friartown had coming into the season.  Who will pick up for the loss of Henton?  The preseason buzz was about the talent and skills of Rodney Bullock.  Bullock was reportedly leading the team in scoring in Italy last summer before getting injured and missing the season. Andy Katz reported that Ed Cooley stated he wouldn’t be surprised if Bullock leads the Big East in scoring.  Friar fans may not expect him to lead the conference in scoring but they can expect him to fill a lot of the scoring void left by the departures of Henton and Harris.  Bullock showed a smooth unforced ability to score the basketball.  When he scored on the first possession of the game you could feel the crowd cheer and exhale simultaneously.

demello w mascot

Another question fans have been asking is who will stretch the defense and open the floor for Dunn. There were times last year that Jalen Lindsey looked like he would be the sharp shooting deep threat the Friars needed to extend defenses and there were times when he looked timid and gun-shy.  Lindsey did not dress for the game last night due to “a violation of team policies”.  Freshman Ryan Fazekas stepped into the starting lineup and proved to be some of the things Lindsay wasn’t. He made a 3 point basket the first time he shot the ball and his 5 attempts from beyond the arc tied with Ben Bentil for the team lead.  Fazekas looked like a shooter not shying away after a couple of misses and his height should allow him to get shots off over what will most likely be smaller men guarding him.  The Friars do not have the same team height around the rim that they played with last year.  After losing two 7-footers this off season the Friars will have to defend and rebound differently than they did last year.  Without a true “rim protector” the defense will have to rely on ball pressure and while last night’s opponent was not a good barometer for how much success they will have on the defensive end we did get a glimpse of their length on the perimeter.  Paint protection and rebounding will be a question to be answered at a later time.  The student section was full and loud.  Was this a product of opening night and the tee shirt giveaway or have the students embraced this team and the hype around its best player?  This question will be answered later this season but for now it was a good to see the turnout as “The Dunk” can be a quiet venue at times and the students’ can really make a difference in the atmosphere.

Steve @fallriverfriar DeMello

EXCLUSIVE: Former Hoya captain Gene Smith gives BigEastHoops24/7 his take on Hoyas v. Orange rivalry in early 80’s

lEotE3YE

Hoyas vs. Orangemen:  The Rivalry That Defined the Big East

Blog submission by Gene Smith:  NCAA National Champion in ’84, and Captain of the ‘83 and ‘84 Georgetown Hoyas.

Rivalries create legends, legends create history” –Ancient Greek Proverb

On December 5, 2015, the Georgetown Hoyas and the Syracuse Orangemen will renew their storied, legendary rivalry. I played my part in this history from 1980-1984.  Eleven times during this stretch, we Hoyas balled hard to a 7-4 record.

Let’s look back for a moment to the inaugural Big East season in 1979-1980 that set-off this rivalry.  Big John’s famous words “Manley Field House is officially closed “, punctuated the end of the Orangemen’s home-court win streak of 57 straight victories.  In that same year the Hoyas again beat the Orange in the Big East tournament finals 87-81, led by tourney MVP Craig Shelton.  Of the 90 times these two teams have played, no set of games looms larger than those two back-to-back defeats.  It was clear during that season that there was no love lost.

The intensity only escalated when in the ‘80-‘81 season the Orangemen, in the new 35,000 seat Carrier Dome, hosted the 2nd Big East tournament championship battle.  Syracuse beat out Villanova 83-80 in OT, with Leo Rautins tourney MVP.

In my four years, we played the Orangemen 3 times in the Big East tournament and the Hoyas came out of it with a 1-2 record.  In ‘81 they bounced us out in the semis 67-53 on the way to the title; in the ’82 finals we beat Villanova 72-54; in ‘83 the Orange bounced us out again 79-72 in the quarters; and in the ‘84 Big East championship OT game at MSG we added some not needed fuel to this rivalry, winning 82-71.

Syracuse appeared to have the game sealed, and all of the momentum and brilliance of Pearl Washington was on full display. There was a mix-up that involved Michael Graham and Andre Hawkins.  The referee initially signaled for Graham’s ejection but after review, a flagrant foul was given and the game continued with both teams even more dug-in and focused.

We, the Hoya guards, took the Pearl challenge very seriously.  We were defense 1st team and that dog in me had rubbed off on our guard Corps.  My 25 minutes played that game were dedicated to making the Pearl work. We had swept them in the regular season that year, so this game was the challenge all ballers wanted.

On the last play of regulation, Syracuse had the ball and either Sean Kerins or Wendell Alexis inbounded the ball.  I blanketed Pearl like a cornerback.  He did not see or touch the ball. Kerins missed from the corner in regulation, and the rest is history.

Syracuse’s Coach Boeheim went ballistic after the game screaming “the best team did not win tonight”. The rivalry just got reheated.

It was only fitting that in 2013 the Big East, as we knew it with the core members still intact, featured the Hoyas vs. the Orangemen in the semi-finals at MSG.  Of course the game went into OT.  In their Big East swan song, the Orangemen exacted some revenge and bounced the Hoyas 58-55. The Orangemen went on to lose in the finals to non-original Big East member Louisville 78-61, prompting most to say the semi-final game between the Hoyas and the Orangemen was the real finale. I was fortunate to be at MSG that night and bumped into multiple Orangemen, most notably Pearl.  We shook hands, took a picture for a fan, and kept it moving (no selfie). Rivalry personified.

You can follow Gene Smith on Twitter @gsmit8

Check out the below podcast link to hear Gene Smith talk about the 1984 Final Four.

http://www.kentuckywildchats.com/podcast-001-kentucky-wild-chats-gene-smith