Q&A with Levell Sanders–Seton Hall 94-98

levell 3Big East Hoops 24/7 recently caught up with Levell Sanders, former Seton Hall stand-out guard from 1994-1998.  He shares his thoughts on recruiting, defending future HOF guards, the book he wrote about playing bball overseas…and much more.

BEH 24/7: How did your recruitment breakdown?

Levell: My recruitment didn’t really take off until I went to Five-Star camp, I think the first session in July and was named the best point guard in the camp and also MVP. Then I went to the August session that had all the best players from NYC, Baltimore and basically the whole East Coast. I was named to the All-Star team so then I started getting recruited from a lot of different schools. My last three schools were Rhode Island, Seton Hall and Syracuse. I chose Seton Hall because it was close to home and my friends and family would see me play often and also because PJ Carlesimo was the coach. Everybody was wondering if I would be able to play for him because he was pretty intense. But I played under Gil Reynolds who was probably the best teacher of basketball I ever encountered but he was also really intense so for me I wasn’t worried. I remember PJ coming to Brooklyn for me to sign and everybody from my block (Prospect Place between Buffalo and Ralph) were outside to see him. He came in a big blue Cadillac ha-ha So SHU won out and I’m happy I made that decision.

 

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

Levell: I would have to say it was my first official college game. We were playing in a tournament in Hawaii! I remember my first game I was nervous but as soon as Coach Blaney put me in the game I was fine. I settled down and had a pretty good game. I think I scored nine points but missed five of ten free throws. Also, I remember beating Syracuse my freshman year when they had Lawrence Moten and the fans at the Meadowlands stormed the court! That was the only experience I had in college with the fans storming the court so that was pretty cool.

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BEH 24/7: What have you been up to since your playing days in the Big East?

Levell: Well I graduated in ‘98. The NBA had a lockout so my agent at the time Andy Miller asked if I wanted to stay and wait or if I wanted to go overseas to make some money. I was supposed to go to camp with the New Jersey Nets, of course now Brooklyn Nets! So, I decided to head overseas to play in the Czech Republic where I am coaching now. But I played there two years, then played five weeks in Belgium, then finished the season in Poland. After Poland 9/11 happened so I took a year off, worked as a dispatcher for Securitas, one of the biggest security companies in the world. Then a coach that I played for in the Czech Republic emailed me if I wanted to play again. Because I missed playing I deciding to play and I’ve been in the Czech Republic ever since. Of course, I come home during the summer but for the last 15 years in a row I’ve been in Czech. I played until 40, then on my 40th birthday on national TV in Czech I tore the rotator cuff in my right shoulder. While I was rehabbing, the coach resigned. The GM calls me at 9pm to come to the office so I knew something was wrong. So, I was offered the job and immediately I accepted and that was January, 2016. I drove home with so much on my mind! I was in shock that this was happening! I immediately called coach Amaker to ask his advice. He told me you are good enough, you know the game, don’t second guess yourself and the last thing was something HOF coach Larry Brown had told him and that’s “teach only what you know” I think we were in 5th or 6th place when I took over. We won the Czech Cup for the first time in 22 years and we finished the season with the bronze medal. This past season was my first full season. We competed in the FIBA Europe Cup which we advanced past the first round and were one game from making it to the playoff round. We finished our domestic league with the bronze after finishing the regular season 2nd and the best record in the last 10 years. So, in my 2nd full season we are looking to improve!  I also wrote a book called “A Guide to Playing Professional Basketball Overseas” I wrote it because playing in Czech so long, all the new players that came to Czech would reach out to me for advice so I thought the book would be helpful for them and anyone else that wanted to know what it’s like playing overseas.

 

 

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

Levell: It’s funny because I always had the assignment of guarding the other team’s best perimeter player ha-ha. So, I’ve seen my share of good ballers in the Big East!  #1 was Allen Iverson. He had the ability and freedom to take any shot he wanted, plus his combination of speed and athleticism was off the charts. I remember he scored 40 against us and my teammate Danny Hurley was walking out of the arena saying God is not fair for giving him so much talent ha-ha. Every time I see Danny the first thing he says is I will never forgive you for picking up two early fouls and me having to guard Iverson ha-ha. #2 Ray Allen.  His size and ability to shoot was hard to guard. I remember playing at the Meadowlands and they were ranked I think fourth in the country. I walk out and he is shooting with a manager, NBA threes off the back-board yelling, “come to my bank” ha-ha. Of course, he finished with I think 34 or 36 ha-ha. #3 Kerry Kittles. He was constant motion. He never stopped moving. He also had good size and could really shoot. He had those bigs setting them staggered screens for him so you had to really work guarding him. #4 Richard Hamilton, again another guard who was always on the move. He could shoot it and had the ability to put it on the floor and had good size. #5 was a guy I had to guard for two years in practice every day and that’s Shaheen Holloway. He was an excellent ball handler. He knew how to change speed and direction so well. It was really hard staying in front of him and going up against him in practice really gave me confidence that I could guard anybody.

 

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

Levell: I don’t really think about the accomplishments because I don’t have time. Being a Head Coach takes up a lot of time because you are in charge of running a program! There are so many things to worry about not just on the court but also off the court. Also, I’m new to coaching so I’m always trying to learn by reading and watching videos from people I respect, not just coaches. I like to read about the journey and what they’ve been through. Eventually when I’m retired I will be able to look back at everything and appreciate it all! But no time right now ha-ha.

 

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

Levell: There are many people that helped me along the way but the most influential I would say was my grandmother Cynthia Caddle who just recently passed. When I was living in Brooklyn along with my other siblings (seven of us four boys including me and three girls). When things were not looking good she took us in and provided us a safe and loving environment!  So, without her I’m definitely not in the position I’m in today. So, she is that person that has to be the most influential person that got me to where I am today!

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

Levell: Yes, I keep in contact with some of my teammates, and because of social media it’s a lot easier in these times. The teammate I’m most in contact with is Shaheen Holloway. When I come home during the summer we usually meet up for dinner or something. I know his wife because she went to SHU also. Shaheen is from NYC like me, so I think the bond was there from the beginning. But being overseas, I speak with Rimas Kaukenas also. I used to be more in contact with Adrian Griffin but I’m sure he is busy. I went to visit Danny Hurley at Rhode Island a couple years ago, Sean Codey was a walk on at SHU and we speak often by phone. He even had some business in Prague and we met for dinner. The good thing is when I do speak with any of these guys even if it’s after a couple months or years of not speaking we pick right up like we speak every day! It’s the SHU bond!

 

BEH 24/7: Explain if you could, how much it meant to be a local kid and play at MSG in the Big East Tournament?

Levell: Playing in the Big Tournament was a dream come true! Watching it for many years on TV and then actually going to the media day for the first time, I was overwhelmed. I still have my media guide from the first Big East Tournament. Playing in the Garden was special. As a kid and even to this day the Knicks is still my team. I had been to the Garden many times to watch the Knicks play but never thought I would have an opportunity to play on the court. I remember walking out for shoot-around looking at the floor and the banners it was an unbelievable feeling! A kid from Brooklyn.  MSG was so close but also so far, so I thought to myself “I’m here now”.

Our thanks to Levell for taking the time to give some great insights!  You can follow him on Twitter @LevellSanders

 

 

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

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 leader of the Peppas, Ryan Kopacsi

For us, nothing beats the Big East tournament at MSG every year. Now however, a big part of the experience includes watching VCU over at the Barclays in Brooklyn and the VCU pep band “The Peppas” is the #1 draw for us and many others.

We recently caught up with band leader Ryan, to get some insight into the best college band in the country. Enjoy!


BEH24/7:
When did you realize the VCU Peppas we’re starting to become popular outside of Richmond?

Ryan: 04’ Was a good year. We went to the NCAA under Jeff Capel for the first time in what seemed like forever. We got beat by Wake in a buzzer beater by Chris Paul. Fans liked us down in NC. But it really exploded in ’07 when Eric Manor stunned Duke in Buffalo. We got a standing O of a capacity 18K after our halftime performance. It took me 45 minutes to get to the bus after the game between posing for pictures and autographs.


BEH24/7: How did you get Matt Norlander and Jerry Palm to play with you guys?

Ryan: Man how lucky have we been?! They are both great dudes. Matt did an article on us our first trip to Portland. He met us in Houston. We stayed in contact and chatted about doing something while we were in Brooklyn and we did. He’s a really good guitar player. A SUPER good writer!!
Jerry Palm is a band guy! He loves bands. So we became friendly over twitter and he stated he wanted to come to the Seigel Center and see what all the hype was about so he did. We had a blast! One of the smartest dudes ever. Like seriously.

BEH24/7: Do you have to recruit future Peppas from the high school ranks?

Ryan: YES!!! Absolutly we are no different then the team. We always think about next year. The present is the past for us. We host a middle school band day and a high school band day for kids to come play a game with us. It’s wildly popular and our greatest recruiting tool

BEH24/7: What are your favorite songs to perform at games?

Ryan: All the songs I like are the ones the players really enjoy. We started playing HELLO this year and our womens team would jam out to it. Its awesome when the team digs your stuff. That isn’t always the case…… Im sure you know.

BEH24/7: Between music & firefighting which do you feel you’ve had to work harder at?

Ryan: Firefighting by far! Music is natural to me. While I’m not super talented I have a mind for it. Firefighting is something relatively new and you can learn and see something new daily. Plus I like my life and I don’t want to die because I was not prepared.

BEH24/7: Any plans to take over NYC during championship week?

Ryan: We don’t really make plans….. We sorta go with the flow. Im sure we will be out and about 😉

You can follow Ryan and the band on Twitter @VCUathleticBand

 

 

Q&A with Robert Churchwell, Georgetown early 90’s

Big East Hoops 24/7 recently caught up with Robert Churchwell, a key piece of those stacked Georgetown teams in the early 90’s.

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

Robert: I played professionally for 8 years after graduation. In the old CBA, NBA in ’96 and overseas in England, Japan, France & Germany. I am currently a High School Health/PE Teacher and Head Basketball Coach in Richmond, VA.

 

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

Robert: Yes I am…always would like to have accomplished more but I put in all I had to give, so I can be satisfied.

 

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

Robert: I’d have to say Dikembe (Mutombo), Zo (Alonzo Mourning), (Terry) Dehere, Eric Murdock & (Lawrence) Moten. All guys I played with or against who just flat out got it done!

 

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

Robert: Yes and no. A few of my teammates. Couple guys from other teams on occasion.

 

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

Robert: My parents.

 

 

BEH 24/7: How did your recruitment breakdown?

Robert: I was blessed. My top 3 schools were Georgetown, Duke & Notre Dame.

 

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

Robert: I’ve had to work equally hard playing and coaching but obviously for different reasons. Not much physical hard work required for coaching. Mentally it’s tough dealing with parents, outside influences, and just the lack of good work ethic and commitment.

 

BEH 24/7: What was it like competing against Alonzo and Dikembe in practice on a daily basis?

Robert: Zo and Kembe were really fun and silly off the court. But when it was time to step on the court they were serious and competitive.  It was all business.

 

BEH 24/7: Do you have a good John Thompson story you can share?

Robert: Ha… a good story about Coach…that I can share…not sure that I do… but what I can say is that Coach is extremely funny. People outside never really saw that side. And he also would stop and talk/teach life lessons at the drop of a dime. He saw life lessons in everything.

You can follow Robert Churchwell on Twitter  @BCPHoops

 

 

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….

huckaby

 

 

 

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!