Archive for the ‘virginia basketball’ Category

Worst Year Ever?

April 14, 2009

It’s been noted by local media that Virginia’s men’s basketball program just suffered its worst season in terms of winning percentage since 1966-67, its fewest wins since 1967-68, and its worst two-year run by one coach since 1972-74.  The result was head coach Dave Leitao’s “resignation” following a 4-year reign – the shortest for the position in nearly 80 years.

 

This comes on the heels of a 5-7 football campaign – the worst in… wait for it… two years.  But two years ago, the men’s basketball team was winning a share of the regular season conference title and advancing to the round of 32 in March.  Ultimately, how bad is this academic year in terms of Virginia athletics?

 

Like the American economic engine, is it the worst in recent memory?  Like calendar year 2008 for Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, the music business, the housing industry, and so many others was it the “worst year ever” ?

 

We all know AD Craig Littlepage’s program continues to churn out ACC winners and national title contenders in other sports, but in terms of the two big dogs generating the most revenue and fan interest (both waning?), 2008-09 ranks as his worst on the job and near the all-time nadir.  2008-09 offered:

 

  • The fewest combined football & men’s basketball wins (15) since 1976-77, when football went 2-9 and basketball followed with a 12-17 campaign
  • The fewest combined regular-season ACC wins (7) since 1984-85 (6)
  • The lowest combined winning percentage (.375) since 1976-77 (.350)
  • The lowest combined regular-season ACC winning percentage (.292) since 1976-77 (.176)
  • The first year with no postseason in either sport since 1997-98 (football did finish 7-4 that year)

 

 

Year Football Men’s Basketball Combined Wins Combined Win Pct
ACC Overall Postseason ACC Overall Postseason ACC Overall ACC Overall
1970-71 0-6 5-6   6-8 15-11   6 20       0.300       0.541
1971-72 2-3 3-8   8-4 21-7 NIT (1st round) 10 24       0.588       0.615
1972-73 1-5 4-7   4-8 13-12   5 17       0.278       0.472
1973-74 3-3 4-7   4-8 11-16   7 15       0.389       0.395
1974-75 1-5 4-7   4-8 12-13   5 16       0.278       0.444
1975-76 0-5 1-10   4-8 18-12 NCAA (1st round) 4 19       0.235       0.463
1976-77 1-4 2-9   2-10 12-17   3 14       0.176       0.350
1977-78 1-5 1-9   6-6 20-8   7 21       0.389       0.553
1978-79 0-6 2-9   7-5 19-10 NIT (2nd round) 7 21       0.389       0.525
1979-80 2-4 6-5   7-7 24-10 NIT (Champ) 9 30       0.450       0.667
1980-81 2-4 4-7   13-1 29-4 NCAA (Final 4) 15 33       0.750       0.750
1981-82 0-6 1-10   12-2 30-4 NCAA (Sweet 16) 12 31       0.600       0.689
1982-83 1-5 2-9   12-2 29-5 NCAA (Elite 8 ) 13 31       0.650       0.689
1983-84 3-3 6-5   6-8 21-12 NCAA (Final 4) 9 27       0.450       0.614
1984-85 3-1-2 8-2-2 Peach (win) 3-11 17-16 NIT (3rd round) 6 25       0.300       0.556
1985-86 4-3 6-5   7-7 19-11 NCAA (1st round) 11 25       0.524       0.610
1986-87 3-8 2-5   8-6 21-10 NCAA (1st round) 11 23       0.440       0.605
1987-88 5-2 8-4 All-American (win) 5-9 13-18   10 21       0.476       0.488
1988-89 5-2 7-4   9-5 22-11 NCAA (Elite 8 ) 14 29       0.667       0.659
1989-90 6-1 10-3 Citrus (loss) 6-8 20-12 NCAA (2nd round) 12 30       0.571       0.667
1990-91 5-2 8-4 Sugar (loss) 6-8 21-12 NCAA (1st round) 11 29       0.524       0.644
1991-92 4-2-1 8-3-1 Gator (loss) 8-8 20-13 NIT (Champ) 12 28       0.522       0.622
1992-93 4-4 7-4   9-7 21-10 NCAA (Sweet 16) 13 28       0.542       0.667
1993-94 5-3 7-5 Carquest (loss) 8-8 18-13 NCAA (2nd round) 13 25       0.542       0.581
1994-95 5-3 9-3 Independence (win) 12-4 25-9 NCAA (Elite 8 ) 17 34       0.708       0.739
1995-96 7-1 9-4 Peach (win) 6-10 12-15   13 21       0.542       0.525
1996-97 5-3 7-5 Carquest (loss) 7-9 18-13 NCAA (1st round) 12 25       0.500       0.581
1997-98 5-3 7-4   3-13 11-19   8 18       0.333       0.439
1998-99 6-2 9-3 Peach (win) 4-12 14-16   10 23       0.417       0.548
1999-00 5-3 7-5 Micronpc.com (loss) 9-7 19-12 NIT (1st round) 14 26       0.583       0.605
2000-01 5-3 6-6   9-7 20-9 NCAA (1st round) 14 26       0.583       0.634
2001-02 3-5 5-7   7-9 17-12 NIT (1st round) 10 22       0.417       0.537
2002-03 6-2 9-5 Continental Tire (win) 6-10 16-16 NIT (2nd round) 12 25       0.500       0.543
2003-04 4-4 8-5 Continental Tire (win) 6-10 18-13 NIT (2nd round) 10 26       0.417       0.591
2004-05 5-3 8-4 MPC Computers (loss) 4-12 14-15   9 22       0.375       0.537
2005-06 3-5 7-5 Music City (win) 7-9 15-15 NIT (1st round) 10 22       0.417       0.524
2006-07 4-4 5-7   11-5 21-11 NCAA (2nd round) 15 26       0.625       0.591
2007-08 6-2 9-4 Gator (loss) 5-11 17-16 CBI (3rd round) 11 26       0.458       0.565
2008-09 3-5 5-7   4-12 10-18   7 15       0.292       0.375
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The Ram Connection

March 27, 2009

It’s probably obvious to most following the men’s basketball coaching search at Virginia that Jeff Capel is only 34.  After all, he was still playing in the ACC as recently as 1997.  Certainly that qualifies him as a young coach.  But is it obvious that Anthony Grant is eight years older at 42?  Obviously Grant is still a young coach by any standard, but unlike Capel he looks like he could easily run to the locker room, throw on a jersey, and become a player/coach if needed.

Capel does play regularly against country star Toby Keith, for whatever that’s worth, and “drives a trendy, black Cadillac Escalade, listens to Jay Z, orders movies from NetFlix and prefers a hoodies and jeans over collared shirts and khakis.”  He also strengthened his already-strong bond with his players last offseason when he turned down the South Carolina job (after getting a raise).

A quick look at their bios provides some interesting facts.  Grant started as a math teacher and assistant high school coach at a powerhouse in his native Miami before getting a head HS job across town.  After only one season in charge, he became an assistant at Stetson University in central Florida.  Following one season there, he moved to Marshall and then Florida under Billy Donovan, under whom he apprenticed for ten years.

 

Grant inherited a VCU program from the younger Capel that had averaged 20 wins/year in the four seasons under the latter with one NCAA appearance.  In Grant’s three seasons, they’ve averaged 25 wins/year and made the NCAAs twice (with some of Capel’s players).  Capel came to the job in Richmond with far less experience, having served as an assistant to his father for a year at ODU and on the VCU staff for just a year.  He famously became the youngest head coach in D-1 at 27 when promoted.

 

At Oklahoma, Capel inherited a team that averaged 28 wins/year under Kelvin Sampson, and made the NCAAs in nine of the latter’s ten seasons in Norman.  The run included three Sweet 16s, two Elite 8s, and a Final 4 trip in 2002.  Capel proceeded to go 16-15 in year one after Kelvin Sampson headed to Indiana.  Sampson left behind a scandal that led to probation as well as an empty cupboard thanks to recruits Scottie Reynolds & Damion James commiting elsewhere.  Capel’s 12 losses in year two (23-12) were also more than Sampson ever lost at OU, but at least they came after a 2nd round loss in the NCAA tournament.  Before long, Capel had signed blue-chip recruits Blake Griffin & Willie Warren, and will coach tonight against Syracuse for an Elite 8 birth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takeaways and Next Steps

March 16, 2009

The final chapter of the page-turner that was the 2008-09 Virginia basketball season has finally been written…  Worst winning percentage since 1966-67, fewest wins since 1969-70, worst ACC finish under Dave Leitao, and the first during his tenure with no postseason whatsoever (not the National Initiation Tournament, not the College Basketball Invitation, not the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Torment).  11th in the ACC in wins and scoring offense & defense, 12th in 3-point percentage and FG percentage made & allowed.

 

Questions remain for the future of the program and the coach’s job security may now be among them.  Leitao has a 63-60 conference record but has not even come close to equaling his “perfect storm” season of 2006-07.  That year, Leitao’s charges won 11 ACC games to finish as regular season co-champs.  He benefited from a new gym, a down conference talent-wise and to experienced Gillen-recruits in his backcourt scoring nearly 40 points per game.  Since, the 2007 ACC COY has won just 9 ACC games – the worst two-year regular season conference stretch since 1997-99 when Jeff Jones’ last team won 3 ACC games and Gillen’s initial unit tallied 4 victories.

 

Jones only posted one season of fewer than 6 conference wins – his last.  Gillen was fired after his second – in year 7 – but was famously on the hot season after going 6-10 in each of the previous two years.  Virginia currently ranks 109th in RPI, which is actually an increase over last year’s final position, but attendance fell at a similar rate to home record (9-8 this year, 13-7 last).  What’s worse, Leitao appears to be a worse-than-advertised recruiter as the talent level has clearly dropped off.  His in-game coaching “is what it is” but that leaves much to be desired, especially on the offensive end and in terms of substitution patterns.  At best he is a fiery coach, but at worst he makes Al Groh look cheerful.  Unlike Groh, his abrasiveness at times finds its mark among his players as often as it does among fans & the media.

 

Like Groh, Leitao’s name is now beginning to pop up on the wrong lists in the national press.  An unexpected source – The Wall Street Journal – recently had DL listed as second-worst among the 25 (of 343) D-1 coaches identified as making more than $1 million with at least four years of tenure at their schools.  The WSJ ranked the 25 according to a three-year average of its Elite Value Score, “the amount of salary each school paid for every RPI point above 50.”  Leitao ($1.2mil) was behind Oliver Purnell ($1.0), Roy Williams ($2.0), Mike Krzyzewski ($2.2), and Gary Williams ($1.8), but ahead of Paul Hewitt ($1.3).

 

Still, the popular opinion for most of the season was that Leitao would be back next year, especially given the team’s youth and the money reaming on his contract in light of the current national & state economy.  However, speculation began to ramp up during last week’s Acc Tournament in Atlanta:

 

  • Over the weekend, Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times suggested that Leitao may no longer be “safe” and is “not convinced the case is closed” on his return.
  • Similarly, Jeff White of The Richmond Times would “no longer be shocked” if a change were made this offseason.  He relayed an email from AD Craig Littlepage stating “Dave’s our coach” but not specifically referring to his future (as he had with Groh a few months prior).  White also reported on Sunday that “many influential donors, as well as some powerful people at U.Va., question whether he’s the man for the job.”
  • Just a day earlier, White stated that a 2009-10 team coached by Leitao would “likely” have a different staff of assistants and it is “uncertain” if all players with eligibility will be back.
  • In Friday morning’s Daily Progress, Jerry Ratcliffe indicated “sources have confirmed that the likes of Minnesota’s Tubby Smith would be attracted to an opening.”

Landesberg beyond 2009

January 23, 2009

I may be the only one who wants to ask this question publicly, but are we certain Virginia’s Sylven Landesberg will be a Cavalier beyond this season?

 

The rise and fall of the prodigious freshman over the past two months has been well-documented, but here is a quick recap…

 

28, 8, and 8 in his debut against VMI causes coach Dave Leitao to gush, “You flirt with a triple-double right out of the box, that tells you something. That answers a question or two.”  Double-digit points in his first eight games – including 20+ in seven of his first 11 – leads to five ACC Rookie of the Week awards.  Lengthy profiles appear in the local press, detailing his strict training regime in high school –including boxing and endless playground contests – which lead to a city championship & McDonald’s All-American honors.  No field goals and a season-low four points against Ivy League-Brown, while suffering from a “head cold,” followed by a bounce-back game in Blacksburg with 20 points on 7-11 shooting in a loss to VPI.  Horrible shooting performances net two and seven points in ACC losses to UNC at home and at Maryland on the road, respectively.

 

Over the first 11 games of the season – ten nonconference and an away tilt against Georgia Tech – Virginia one six and lost five, thanks in large part to Landesberg’s efforts.  Over the past two – both ACC losses – Landesberg has looked rather pedestrian, but his effect on the team result has been equally significant:

 

 

Min/G

Pt/G

Pt/48Min

% of Team Pts

FG%

FT%

FG%

3P%

Rb/G

Ast/G

First 11 games

33.4

19.6

28.3

28%

50%

80%

50%

33%

5.9

2.6

Last 2 games

30.5

4.5

7.1

6%

16%

75%

16%

0%

7.5

2.0

 

The two recent performances have left doubts around Landesberg’s effectiveness in conference, especially given the lack of talent surrounding him on Virginia’s roster.  After dropping 26 on Georgia Tech in Atlanta earlier in the year, UNC and Maryland clearly had a plan to stop the freshman.  After doing just that, Carolina coach Roy Williams commented “He’s going to be a complete player.  There’s no question about that.  Right now his game is more driving the ball to the hole.  And so we were trying to make sure we cut off his driving lanes.”  Following the Maryland loss, Landesberg admitted Maryland ”did a good job of defending me, but I think I was a little out of it today.”  Leitao challenged his young star to “continue to adjust to a higher level of coaching a higher level of preparation and a higher level of execution by our opponents.  When you start out the season scoring the way he was scoring I think it sets up things.”

 

So where does this leave the Landesbeg-Virgnia relationship?  Is there hope to salvage a successful individual season with 12 remaining conference games on the docket and a clear blueprint for stopping both Landesberg and the team now available?  How far will his scoring average (now at 16.6 per game) after road trips to Duke and UNC within the first seven days of February?  Is the ACC ROY award that was once thought to be a lock, now in jeopardy, especially given the play of UNC’s Ed Davis, BC’s Reggie (not that Reggie) Jackson, GT’s Iman (not that Iman) Shumpert, and Wake’s Al-Farouq Aminu?

 

Beyond this year, does it make sense from his perspective for Landesberg to stick around?  Would his development benefit from more talent around him?  There’s not much on Virginia’s roster currently, and not much coming in next year.  Will Landesberg develop into a better pro prospect by being “the man” on a bad team against a high level of competition, having the ball in his hands at all crucial times and being forced to create his own shot more often than not?

 

Or – gasp – would sacrificing a year to transfer to a better program do more for Landesberg in the long run?  Yes, Virginia’s great academics and cozy location were cited by both father & son after singing with Leitao, but does this become a long-term financial and career-focused decision now?  Some recent transfers have had success in the NBA draft & beyond, including:

 

  • Jason Williams (MarshallàFlorida) – 7th pick, 1998
  • Michael Bradley (KentuckyàVillanova) – 17th pick, 2001
  • Dahntay Jones (RutgersàDuke) – 20th pick, 2001
  • Dan Dickau (WashingtonàGonzaga) – 28th pick, 2002
  • Damien Wilkins (NCSUàGeorgia) – undrafted but signed, 2004
  • Orien Greene (FloridaàLouisiana-Lafayette): 53rd pick, 2005
  • James White (FloridaàCincinnati) – 31st pick, 2006
  • Dominic McGuire (CalàFresno State) – 47th pick, 2007

 

Virginia transfers, however, have not been so lucky.  Both Derrick Byars (VirginiaàVanderbilt) and Gary Forbes (VirginiaàUMass) are now playing in the NBDL.  Byars (42nd pick, 2007) scored 33 points last night for the Bakersfield Jam, while Forbes (undrafted, 2008 ) scored 30 himself in an earlier game as a member of the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

 

A one-and-done leap to the NBA by Landesberg now seems out the question after the most recent two-game stretch.  However, as recently as January 14th draftexpress.com called him “one of, if not, the most productive freshman in the country” and “a very intriguing NBA prospect.”  The site praised his “smooth demeanor,” “savvy and aggressiveness,” saying his “ability to get to the basket is undeniable,” and he “puts pressure on the defense for 40 minutes and is always in attack mode.”  The conclusion drawn was that Landesberg “has a game that could translate to the next level if he continues to improve his all-around skill-level and polish and learns how to overcome his athletic limitations.”

 

Not exactly screaming for him to be a lottery-pick, but we’ve seen a familiar face jump early, be drafted

late, get knocked out of the league, only to come back and develop

 the beginnings

a great NBA career while also commenting on politics.

 

Not to mention guys in other sports who leave with what ended up being and what appears to be little hope of being drafted high.  The latter even went to high school with our man Sylven.

 

McDonald’s vs. Burger King

November 20, 2008

More on the budding (?) Renardo Sidney–Dave Leitao relationship, originally documented here and here  Tuesday’s LA Times recap of The Sidney family’s visit to Charlottesville last weekend includes the following:

 

Fairfax senior Renardo Sidney and his family made an unofficial visit to Virginia this past weekend and left impressed by the school’s “great campus and academics,” the player’s father, Renardo Sidney Sr. said in a text message to The Times.

Cavaliers Coach Dave Leitao could use a high-profile recruit after last year’s 5-11 showing in the ACC. Sidney Sr. stopped short of identifying Virginia as the leading candidate to land his son, but did praise how university staff treated the 6-feet-10 standout.

“They understand the difference between a Big Mac and a Whopper with cheese,” he said in a text message. “Big Macs are good for resumes, Whoppers with cheese bring home gold balls.”

 

Gold balls?  Maybe he’s thinking of the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Trophy, because no gold basketballs are handed out to the ACC or NCAA champion.  Even the Siemens Trophy, while a ball, isn’t gold.  I guess he can be forgiven, since the trophy case at JPJ isn’t exactly overflowing with those, and its prize possession may be ‘Wonderful’ Wally Walker’s net-necklace (pictured at left).

 

On to the ‘meat’ of the elder Sidney’s text message…  Many hyper-involved fathers out there refer to their children as their favorite dish or preferred fast-food item on the regular.  Heck, Jelly Bean Bryant even named his son after a great steak he ate in Japan.  But consider the history of Renardo Sr.’s comparison in recent pop culture:

 

  • On Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s 1988 smash hit ‘It Takes Two,’ the former rapped: “I like the Whopper, [expletive] the Big Mac.”
  • Ten years later, former Virginia State Trojans Das EFX rhymed on ‘Rap Scholar’: “Big Mac not the Whopper, peace to Big Poppa.”
  • In 1994’s Pulp Fiction, John Travolta’s Vincent Vega character noted that in Paris a “Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.”  When asked by Sam Jackson’s Jules Winnfield character what a Whopper is called in the City of Lights, he responded: “I dunno, I didn’t go into a Burger King.”
  • 2005’s Super Size Me featured Wisconsin’s Don Gorske, who also clearly prefers the golden arches.  Gorske claimed at the time to have eaten 20,000 Big Macs (two a day for 29 years), compare to just one Whopper (in January 1984 on a bet).
  • Nerdy rock duo The Black Keys commented in 2006 on frequent comparisons to another two-piece outfit: “I guess the White Stripes and us are like the Big Mac and the Whopper. Both of them have a bun, beef, cheese, lettuce, onions. The Big Mac has ‘special sauce,’ but that’s just ketchup and mayonnaise, and the Whopper has that, too. The only difference between them is the Whopper has a tomato. I guess we have the tomato.”

For the record, per Wikipedia:  “The Whopper (670 kcal) has more calories than McDonald’s Big Mac (540 kcal). However, the Big Mac is smaller than the Whopper – 214g vs. 290g. Therefore, the Whopper actually contains fewer calories than the Big Mac by mass. The Whopper contains 231 kcal per 100g and the Big Mac contains 252 kcal per 100g.”

 

Apparently the Sidneys’ treatment by “university staff” did not include a trip to 1407 University Avenue…

 

 

Renardo Sidney Cont’d

November 15, 2008

As discussed previously in this space, recent history suggests heartbreak may lie at the end of Renardo Sidney Rd. for Virginia head men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao.  On Thursday, just days before the Charlottesville trip, the LA Times reported that “Sidney Sr. said the leading pursuers of his son are St. Louis, Kansas State, Kansas, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Washington and Connecticut.”  Furthermore, “playing professionally in Europe might also be an option.”   At a minimum, Sidney is at least a bit more intriguing that your usual elite high school basketball player…

 

At present, “NYC-based recruiting guru” Franklin Harris tells the Daily Progress that Sydney is “the best player in the country. The only reason he’s not [rated] No. 1 is because he can be lazy at times and can sometimes be disinterested. High school basketball is just not competitive for him. I’ve seen him play maybe 10 times. He can score inside, put it on the floor. He’s a prototypical NBA 4-man.”  Scout.com’s Dave Telep tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “When Renardo Sidney is in shape and focused on his game, he may not have a rival in this class. The sky is truly the limit for him, and it’s completely up to him.”  A look back in time reveals even more about the well-documented career path Sidney embarked down at an early age.

 

An in-depth July 2006 Washington Post article:

 

§         Quoted Sidney as saying high school basketball is “not that important. I just like to win tournaments and rings and stuff like that… I just wait until AAU to show everything I got.”

§         Noted that Sidney became the top-rated prospect in his class, by not playing high school basketball at all in 9th grade, but rather on the AAU & camp circuits, where he claimed MVP awards in 2005’s “ABCD underclassmen all-star game” and in a 2006 “elite summer-league tournament in Portland, Ore., where he outshined several senior all-Americans, namely Ohio’s O.J. Mayo.”

§         Revealed that his father – Renardo, Sr. – left his school security guard job (“family could only afford most nights to eat eggs and toast”) for a Reebok consultant gig (“Nike and Adidas made similar offers“).  The elder Sidney told the Post the job responsibilities “entail making sure his son plays at their tournaments.”

§         Indicated a former coach and/or Sidney family members had been approached by “at least four individuals who claimed they were connected with sports agencies…. [hoping to] represent Sidney if he signs a lucrative NBA contract in four years.”

§         Dropped this line: “Once the family settles in Los Angeles, the elder Sidney said his son will become an ‘overnight celebrity.’”

 

An August 2007 New York Times profile by a former Pennsylvania Quaker:

 

  • Waxed poetic: “seeing a 6-foot-10, 250-pound high school player like Sidney shoot feathery-soft 3-pointers is akin to seeing your sister dressed up to go to the prom with your best friend. You may have braced yourself ahead of time, but you are still not ready when it happens.”
  • Declared Sidney’s game as the product of its environment: “He is a product of camp basketball. He does not require a guard to get him the ball. Instead he has developed the shooting and ball-handling abilities to score on his own. He is the epitome of camp evolution. Now the only question is whether the hype will destroy what it has wrought.”
  • Criticized potential flaws in his game: “Sidney had an aversion to defensive rebounding, instead choosing to sneak out to halfcourt in hopes of finding himself alone for a dunk. He was engaging in the time-honored pickup-game tradition of cherry picking.” and “I noticed he was not particularly ardent about his offensive rebounding, either.” and “he was largely a spectator. He did not follow his shots. He took fadeaway shots in the post and backpedaled out of the action. In a close game, he watched as his teammates battled underneath for the ball.”
  • Analyzed the selfishness in his postgame comments: “He talked about how he got ‘no boards’ and did not block any shots.”

 

August An August 2007 si.com feature:

 

  • Compared Sidney to Greg Oden – “a big man with stunning, guard-like skills,” perhaps on pace to “follow in Oden’s footsteps and be No. 1 on the 2010 draft board.” 
  • Called Sidney “more versatile than” Chris Webber, but also “susceptible to lapses in effort.”
  • Shared this compliment from Kevin Love: “He could be a special player. He’s ahead of his time.”
  • Documented two highlights from Sidney’s middle-school days: attending the ABCD Camp as a 15-year-old 8th-grader & receiving his fist recruiting letter in 7th grade from Alabama’s Mark Gottfried.
  • Quoted the elder Sidney on the key reason behind the move from Mississippi to LA: “the same thing O.J. [Mayo] said [about USC] — more marketing.  Mississippi is a small pond.  I love it as my home, but you have to go to a bigger market to get [Renardo’s] name out.”
  • Details the LA-lifestyle the two Sidney’s put on display for the interview: “”Dad wore sunglasses in a dark restaurant, as well as two jewel-encrusted prep state title rings that had recently been won by Renardo and his older brother, who’s now at Santa Monica College. Son wore a Bluetooth clip on his right ear, occasionally tapped away at his Sidekick, and spoke happily about ‘all the pretty girls’ he sees in L.A.”
  • Listed the next step in the AAU game  – “the LA Dream Team, which happens to be coached by Renardo Sr., and spent much of an 0-4 run in the Reebok Summer Championships trying to expand his repertoire by shooting threes — with limited success — rather than playing in the paint.”  Dad/coach on the team switch: “I wanted him to have his own team. I wanted him to call his own shots, and learn how to make everyone around him better. I’m trying to get him ready for D-I.”
  • Dropped this line from the 6-10 Sidney: “I don’t really want to just be a center. That would get boring.”

 

An excellent but lengthy piece in the Halloween edition of the New York Times:

 

  • Remarked that Sidney’s 270 pounds make him look “less like a heavyset teenager rounding slowly into shape than a longtime athlete who has spent his off-season at the buffet.”
  • Recounted that this summer, Sidney “had put on weight” and “talked wistfully about going fishing and ‘getting away from basketball,’ which made him sound more like a 38-year-old power forward on a second tour with the Clippers” and caused “a handful of scouts” to chalk him up as “a bust.”
  • Noted that “his father hopes to hire a personal chef soon, someone who will keep the fridge stocked with three healthy precooked meals a day.”
  • Quoted Clark Francis of Hoop Scoop Online: He is a “prima donna and has one of the worst attitudes that we’ve ever seen…  Sidney could be the poster boy for many of [the] things that are wrong with grass-roots basketball and is the perfect example of just how bad the sense of entitlement among many of the top players has become…  He’s gonna be up there as one of the all-time players [who make you] just shake your head and wish he’d wake up and figure it out. Four years ago he could play any position, do things on the perimeter. He wasn’t heavy. And now he’s basically an underachiever. It’s a tragedy.”
  • Quantified his career arc: ”Sidney estimates he plays close to 100 games a year.”  “Next spring, he will finish his senior year having attended three high schools in two states and having played for three summer travel teams since 2005.”  A long way since his Jackson, MS “middle school charged $3 admission to his games.”
  • Listed his strengths: “a clean flick-knife of a jumper, smooth from anywhere on the court,” “the ballhandling ability of someone a foot shorter and five years older,” and “touch passes and no-looks and footwork out of an Arthur Murray studio” adding up to “a veteran’s game” possibly “too fundamentally sound… At his size, at this level, elegance can look more like nonchalance.”
  • And weaknesses: “he also has a maddening tendency to drift,” “mostly inert and grabby on defense” during one game where “he manages only a handful of points before fouling out with several minutes remaining”
  • Potentially including a former haircut – “the mohawk, a hair style that Sidney wore, briefly and regrettably, earlier this year. He thinks it had a good deal to do with his problems at a tournament in Arizona in May, when he recalls earning at least one technical foul every game and getting tossed twice… Per Sydney, “’The mohawk made me kinda crazy.’ People noticed, too. The University of Arizona student paper described him as ‘not the character Arizona wants.’ So Sidney shaved the thing off and swore never to have one again. ‘And when I cut the mohawk off,’ he says, ‘I was just a normal person.’”
  • Pointed out that his “freelance trainer” is former NBA big man John “Hot Plate” Williams.
  • Commented that Sidney’s nickname – ‘the Difference’ – doesn’t seem to be used by anyone outside his father.
  • Relayed these nuggets from Renardo Sr.: “We’re gonna be with anybody that got the most money. So if you see us with Ponys on, you know Pony came over.” and “The only ranking we care about is David Stern’s.” and “We’re good friends with Master P.”
  • And this one from Reebok’s Christopher Reeves: “My thing is, what makes high-school basketball the alpha and omega? White people, traditionally. Indiana. Playing for your school’s great, but he’s not playing as a hobby, so he can go out on a Friday night, score 17 points and go to the pizza parlor. He’s playing because it’s his career.” 

A piece last month on slamonline.com included a video and still more nuggets from Sidney:

 

  • “About all we eat is Chinese food.”
  • “My favorite thing is to go to Universal Studios. They got rides for big people—Disneyland got too many little rides.”
  • “I think I play like Kevin Garnett-slash…what’s his name, played for the Lakers a long time ago? Magic. I love to run, and I think I play like him a little, too.”
  • “I play all five positions. Next level, I’ll probably be a 4, 3 or 2, but my Pops plays me at the 1 or the 2.”

 

A Get-able Get?

November 13, 2008

On Veteran’s Day, several news outlets across the Commonwealth jumped on the news that heralded high school hoopster Renardo Sidney would be visiting Charlottesville this weekend to chat with the staff & players and take in Virginia’s season opener against the mighty VMI Keydets.  One can only hope that JPJ is filled with more than the 2,019 who came out to witness last Sunday’s exhibition victory over Shepherd University.

 

The 6-10 250+ lb. Sidney grew up in Mississippi and now plays for Fairfax High in Los Angeles, CA.  He appears in the top 10 of virtually all 2009 recruiting lists, making him one of the highest-rated unsigned seniors available.  He is also considering UCLA, USC, Mississippi State, and LSU.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch declares that Sidney is a “solid student” and the fact that his “family will pay its way to Charlottesville reflects its level of interest in U.Va.”

 

The Daily Progress says Sidney is “considered by many to be a ‘one-and-done’ type player” and quotes “recruiting guru” Franklin Harris, who calls him “the best player in the country,” and a “prototypical NBA 4-man” who can “score inside” and “put it on the floor.”  RTD Beat writer Jeff White gushes that youngster “is intrigued by the possibility of doing for a lesser-known team what Michael Beasley did last season for Kansas State.”  Does that mean forcing the hiring of an overpaid assistant, leading the team to the round-of-32 in the NCAAs and two fewer wins (21) than the prior season, only to bolt for the NBA after the season?

 

White adds that Virginia coach Dave Leitao “traveled to California recently on a recruiting trip” and “has established a strong bond with Sidney and his parents.”  Great news… but haven’t we heard this early-stages-of-flirting, coach-meets-boy/boy-reciprocates-interest love story before?

 

  • Didn’t Eric Wallace once say he was “looking for a comfort level and I found it” with Leitao?  Didn’t he also say that Leitao “did all the right things,” and “established a good relationship with me” ?  After committing and then de-committing in a “family-oriented decision,” didn’t he also say that he “always liked Virginia” and even “used to play them on video games” and “still respect[s] their coaches and [has] a good relationship with them” ?
  • Didn’t Leitao himself say after losing Patrick Patterson to Kentucky that “the mom and the dad and the son were incredibly tight, and that’s what enabled us to stay in it as long as we could” ?
  • Didn’t scout.com’s Dave Telep say Leitao had “a better chance with Elliot Williams than Patrick Patterson,” only to lose him to Duke?  Didn’t Williams himself say before decision-day that Leitao was” the first one who offered me [a scholarship], so you’ve got to have that kind of relationship with him” ?  I remember him also adding that his parents “like that [Leitao] has a great personality, is easy to talk to, and is a great coach and great person,” and that the idea of being Leitao’s first ‘big fish’ recruit “definitely appeals to me.  That’s a reason why I’m looking at Virginia.”
  • Didn’t Ed Davis say that he had a “”nice relationship with the coaching staff” at Virginia before committing to UNC?  I believe I remember virginiapreps.com’s Zirkle Blakey comment that “Virginia recruited the heck out of” Davis and “did everything they possibly could to put themselves in a good position with him.”

 

Week in Review: July 21-26

August 9, 2008

On the football recruiting front, we learned on July 26 that oral commitment #19 for the incoming football class of 2009 has made his pledge.  Or, as the Daily Progress put it, HC Al Groh added to his “in-state haul.”  #19 is Laroy Reynolds, a S/WR from Norfolk’s Maury High School, who also reportedly received offers from powerhouses UConn and Syracuse (and N.C. State).  His size (6-1.5 / 207) indicates he may have a future on offense, and he also had “interest” from VPI, UT, and ECU.  According to the DP, “he developed a comfortable relationship with lead recruiter Bob Pruett, Virginia’s first-year defensive coordinator,” and has a “3.6 grade point average, [and] hopes to pursue an engineering degree at UVa.”  Note Laroy’s high school is named after the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” who was born in Spotsylvania County, VA.

 

Homebodies listening to their police scanners in the 434 may have heard local law enforcement officials running criminal record checks on some familiar names of late.  On July 24, the news broke of QB Peter Lalich’s two-week-old charge of misdemeanor “alcohol purchase and possession,” which was continued for a year given he stays out of trouble.  As the Roanoke Times reported, Lalich was also found “guilty in absentia” on failure to obey a traffic signal and driving without a license or registration in June.  Earlier in 2008 the QB – who had his redshirt burned in last year’s Wyoming disaster – was found guilty in Albemarle County General District Court of “failure to obey a highway sign.”  Clint Sintim, at the ACC football meetings, commented that Lalich was “eclectic.”  Groh followed chimed in that he thought Sintim and others were “talking about what’s on his Ipod more than his throwing ability.”

 

Meanwhile, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that form PG Sean Singletary averaged 5.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists, while shooting 26.7% from the floor in 5 Las Vegas Summer League games.  Former Cav Elton Brown, who spent the past few years in the NBDL and in Israel, averaged 13.4 points and 10 rebounds per game while the Nuggets went 4-1.   

Once arrested on gun charges in FSM parking lot

Once arrested on gun charges in FSM parking lot

 

The RTD also got this quote from Groh on playing multiple QB’s:

 

“If your one quarterback is Tom Brady [or] Peyton Manning, then there’s a great need to have him in the game all the time and a significant comfort level with that. If that’s not the case, the real need is that the quarterback position plays in each game to a standard that’s high enough for us to win, however many quarterbacks it takes to do that. If it takes one, then that’d be great. If it takes two, then that’s what will do.”

 

The Daily Press has a feature on former PK Connor Hughes and an article on the preseason all-ACC picks, of which only OT Eugene Monroe and LB Clint Sintim make first-team.  The RTD’s Bob Lipper makes some good points about the lack of offensive star power – both team and individual (especially on offense) – within ACC football.  The Roanoke Times reports that Groh is “glad to have Trojans as the opener” but he believes that they are ”the most talented college football team I’ve seen since I had to do pre-draft work on the Florida State teams of the mid- to late-1990s… They had the most guys in the country drafted last year and a couple of NFL general managers have told me: ‘They might have more drafted next year.’ They definitely have been in a league of their own in the decade from 2000 on.”  Groh went on to say that “it’s as good a time as any in that we only wanted to play it in the first game, and they only wanted to play it in the first game…  Given who the opponent is and the importance we place on conference play, what would it be like if we had seven conference opponents and then Southern California? It would be distracting, certainly, and perhaps harmful to our intentions within the conference.”  The RT also point out that CB Mike Brown is “not listed on the Cavaliers’ roster but Groh said he is still waiting for information before making a determination on Brown’s status.”

 

On Tuesday, Daily Progress columnist Jerry Ratcliffe pointed out the usual critisicms of ACC football (expansion has netted more money but no poor BCS performance, basketball has suffered, etc.).  Comish John Swofford was quoted as saying “How we as a conference evaluate expansion is not based on the short term competitive aspect of it, but on the longer term positioning and stability aspects of it.”  In other words, don’t judge me until I’ve retired and moved on.  Ratcliffe notes that “the conference has come under fire from some national and regional critics of late because of the league’s failure to put a team in football’s national championship picture and for a perceived drop-off in basketball. When the ACC expanded, it was presumed that Florida State and Miami would continue their national gridiron success, but both teams have slumped. In fact, the last time the ACC produced a national champion came in 1999 when the Seminoles defeated Virginia Tech (then a member of the Big East) in the Sugar Bowl.“  New ACC rules for this year:

 

“The play clock will be set at 40 seconds when the ball becomes dead, however, the 40-second play clock will not be used after any of the following events occur: a penalty is administered; a charged team or media time out; measurement; change of possession; try for point after touchdown; start of each period; start of a possession in overtime; or an instant replay. In those cases, a 25-second play clock will be used. When a ballcarrier goes out of bounds, the clock will now start on the referee’s “ready” signal, except during the last two minutes, when it will start on the snap. Also, there are no more 5-yard facemask penalties — they’re all 15 yards now. And ‘horse-collar’ tackles are now illegal, prohibiting players from grabbing the inside back collar of the shoulder pads or jersey and immediately pulling the runner down. Those sorts of tackles have caused serious injuries. There is also no more sideline warnings to keep coaches, players, and team personnel in order. The first two violations are 5-yard penalties and 15 yards thereafter.”

CBI $$$

April 2, 2008

Upon accepting an invitation a few weeks back, the Virginia athletics department touted all the virtues that Alabama’s, Georgia Tech’s, Wake Forest’s, Penn State’s, and Missouri’s did not – student athletes are more important than money, continuing the season is worthwhile, even at a financial loss, etc.

Over the weekend, several local news outlets reported just how much of a loss the CBI proved to be.  There was s $60,000 price tag due to The Gazelle Group (the tournament’s organizers) for each home game.  Virginia sold more than 16,000 tickets collectively for the three home games, and of course generated parking concession revenue on top of ticket sales, but will likely be around $150,000 in the red.  The RTD cited executive associate AD Jon Oliver’s assertion that a win over ODU and a full three games in the best-of-three championship round could have upped the loss to as much as $300,000.

Extending the careers of the team’s seniors – most notably all-ACC guard Sean Singletary – was cited as a reason for participating both after the fact and upon accepting the invitation.  One has to wonder if the financial loss is in line with expectations going in, or if the athletics department saw the draw of additional Singletary home games and projected higher attendance figures…

Meanwhile, The Virginian-Pilot reports that ODU was able to negotiate a home game without the $60,000 price tag, under the conditions that all profits went to the Gazelle Group.

Singletary’s jersey

March 26, 2008

Just when you thought the discussion about the place of Sean Singletary in Virginia basketball history was over, some interesting quotes from associate AD Jon Oliver pop up in the Cavalier Daily:

“We do not publish our specific criteria for retiring numbers and jerseys. But it is correct that retiring a number is a higher honor.”

“Sean has reached the criteria for having his number retired with the exception of one category. His number will be retired in the future if the category requirement is satisfied.”

I must admit that my initial reaction upon seeing the black curtain over the “retired jerseys” banner (and not the “retired numbers” banner) in JPJ prior to the tip on the Maryland game was that of disappointment.  I realize this program is not UCLA, Kentucky or Carolina, and that the lesser of the two is still an honor, but prior to SS the only name on that list was Curtis Staples.  As a three-time first-team all-ACC selection, SS deserves to be on the same list as the only other two Virginia players to achieve that honor – Bryant Stith and Ralph Sampson.  End of story.  Staples had a nice career and of course held the NCAA career 3-point field goal record until it was broken by fellow Roanoke-native J.J. Redick.  He made all-ACC honorable mention as a sophomore and junior and all-ACC third team as a senior.  Staples didn’t even get the distinction of having his jersey retired until the JPJ opener in 2006, nearly a decade after completing his eligibility.  At the time, it seemed clear that the jersey retirement was an honor for the second-tier of program greats, a category SS certainly does not fall in.

While Oliver refused to specify the aforementioned criteria, he did indicate that SS was likely to meet them all.  Certainly no program wants players striving solely for individual goals, and this is what Oliver cited as the basis for the secrecy.  Still, does it make sense to give SS a second-tier honor at one point and then up it to top-tier when he achieves the last of the criteria, likely graduation?  And, if graduation is the only difference between number retirement and jersey retirement, why not state at least that?  Doesn’t Oliver want all his student-athletes striving for a diploma?