Separating from Duke for nearly two months to coach USA Basketball wasn’t easy for Mike Krzyzewski this time simply because he is used to doing it. Several factors kept his absence from campus from having a negative impact on the Blue Devils.

It started with Krzyzewski's belief that the incoming freshman class of Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen were mature beyond their years.

"The freshmen are not freshmen, they’re Duke basketball players," Krzyzewski said. "There’s not that differentiation. That doesn’t happen all the time. That doesn’t happen most of the time. But with this group it has."

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose and Mike Krzyzewski
David Dow/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith a mature group of incoming freshmen, assistants Nate James and Jon Scheyer running things at Duke and top assistant Jeff Capel with him overseas, Mike Krzyzewski was able to focus on Team USA without worrying about his program.
The maturation of his assistants Nate James and Jon Scheyer to run the program also freed up associate head coach Jeff Capel to join him in Spain. Initially, Krzyzewski planned to leave Capel in charge domestically. Capel was so sure he wasn’t going abroad that he didn’t get the vaccine shot given to those who were traveling for an exhibition in Africa.

But Krzyzewski wanted Capel in Spain in part to help bridge any communication gaps with the national team staff and players and "to make sure I kept a connection with what was going on at Duke."

"You kind of get into a tunnel, a cave where really you don’t know what the heck is going on," Krzyzewski said.

Capel made sure he stayed informed. He immediately made sure they changed their phone plans so that international texts and calls wouldn’t leave the school with astronomical charges.

Krzyzewski and Capel addressed the team in Durham via Skype on their last day in New York City before leaving for Spain. They spelled out expectations including the plans for "Duke Basketball Orientation," a series of exercises to promote team-building and bonding. Krzyzewski didn’t leave the players with a bunch of rules, but made sure they understood the program’s standards.

"Standards are better than rules because standards you own, rules you follow, they may not be yours," he said. "With a standard you hope that it becomes yours. If a group has ownership of a certain way of doing things, they’re much better able to be successful I think."

Krzyzewski said he had confidence that James and Scheyer could run things in his absence, but that he "just didn’t know how far along the team would be."

Capel communicated with James and Scheyer daily to gauge the pulse of the team or recruiting needs. Capel said he also browsed social media outlets including Twitter and Instagram to stay up on the latest recruiting rumors and happenings.

Krzyzewski often got his Duke news around Team USA’s practice schedule. Capel would grab his attention on the way to practice or when it was just finished. Sometimes it would be after watching game tape and sometimes even after dinner when there was downtime.

"What we do as assistants -- and what I think any good assistant does -- is you figure out when to tell your boss certain things," Capel said.

The updates didn’t come every day, but Capel was consistent with the smallest of details. He informed Krzyzewski of birthdays or would mention when a text to a recruit or current player would be timely.

"A lot of times he’d already know without me saying something to him," Capel said.

Because of the six-hour time difference, Krzyzewski conducted most of his Duke business at night in Spain. He would review film after their games so he was used to sending texts after midnight, although for the recipients it would be after 6 p.m. Eastern time.

It helped that Duke already had two recruits -- center Chase Jeter and guard Luke Kennard -- make their verbal commitments before Krzyzewski left the states. That meant he didn’t have as many recruits to pursue. It also helped compensate for him missing a week’s worth of time he could be back on the road recruiting in September.

Krzyzewski, who has coached the national team since 2005, pointed out the Blue Devils veterans -- guard Quinn Cook and forward Amile Jefferson -- helped ease the transition for the freshmen.

That made seeing the first practice after his return home a pleasant surprise for Krzyzewski.

"I was just like, 'whoa, wow' this is really good," he said. "This is really good."
video
Andy Katz looks at the surge in season ticket sales at Auburn and SMU and previews rising leaders in the preseason at Dayton and Baylor.

URI assistant keeps son's memory alive

September, 18, 2014
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Jim Carr was driving south on the New Jersey Turnpike to a recruiting stop on Thursday afternoon.

In an ideal world, the Rhode Island assistant would be back home with his wife, Natalie, and daughter, Lucia, the same evening, unwinding after another day on the college basketball hamster wheel.

Except Carr’s world hasn’t been ideal in three years, not since his son, Brayden, died at the age of 2.

So instead of heading back to Rhode Island on Thursday evening, Carr planned to double back up the Turnpike, fetch a head coach at Newark airport, and spend the night in New Jersey.

By 9 a.m. on Friday, he would be at Fairleigh Dickinson University, leading the fourth annual Brayden Carr Foundation Coaches Clinic.

"I would rather be doing anything else in the world tomorrow," Carr said. "When you lose a child, you never have a perfect day again. Something always brings you back. But for one day, we’re trying to make this thing the most special day."

Even through the haze of their own devastation, the Carrs realized how fortunate they had been. They didn’t have to worry about what to them were little expenses -- things like hotel rooms near the hospitals while Brayden, who suffered from epileptic seizures, was sick -- but understood that others did.

And so just five months after Brayden died, the Carrs started the foundation, turning to the same coaching community that had buoyed the family throughout their ordeal, for help.

Carr didn’t have big plans that first year. He frankly had no clue how much money he might raise. But with an A-list of speakers (including Bill Self, Bob Hurley and John Calipari) -- all of whom insisted on paying their own expenses so the proceeds all went to the foundation -- he raised $100,000.

"Then we got more and more requests for help through the foundation," Carr said. "So we kept going."

This year, Rick Pitino, Jay Wright, Fred Hoiberg, Mike Brey, Frank Martin and George Karl will be the speakers. Countless other coaches send members of their staff to work the clinic.

"I was out recruiting this year and someone said to me, 'Jim Carr? Are you Brayden Carr's father? I just watched the clinic tapes," Carr said. "Something simple like that, to keep his name alive and to associate him with something so important, that makes it all worth it."

3-point shot: Three leaders at UCLA

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
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Andy Katz looks at who has emerged as leaders at UCLA, Colorado and Clemson.
Early Wednesday, Kentucky fans proved their devotion to their favorite squad when they grabbed their tents and camped out for Big Blue Madness tickets that won’t be distributed until Saturday morning.

Well, it's definitely not the only feverish fan base in America.

Wisconsin, Kentucky’s foe in last year’s Final Four, began selling tickets for its “Grateful Red” student section at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

At 7:05 a.m., the school had sold all 2,100 available student-section tickets, according to a release from the school.

Five. Minutes. Sold. Out.

That’s how they roll in Madison.

Students can still grab tickets for a slate of winter-break games against Buffalo, Purdue, Nebraska and Penn State, though. But the best stuff is gone.

It’s the 10th sellout in the last 13 seasons for a program that’s listed among the likely national title contenders entering the 2014-15 campaign. Ben Brust is the only major loss from last year’s Final Four team. Wooden Award candidate Frank Kaminsky and potential first-rounder Sam Dekker are both back to lead a Badgers squad that should be the favorite to win the Big Ten by a wide margin.
The 2014-15 college basketball season begins next month. And the preseason buzz continues to grow as it approaches.

In Kentucky, it’s exploding.

Makes sense. The Wildcats are coming off a Final Four run and Karl Towns leads another elite crop of incoming recruits. Kentucky should be the No. 1 team in the preseason polls.

Each year, the typically enraptured Wildcats fan base embraces the Big Blue Madness Campout tradition as it seeks free tickets for the squad’s Midnight Madness festivities, which will commence Oct. 17.

The Campout began Wednesday morning.

As John Calipari’s tweet suggests, it was as wild as you might expect. Thousands arrived early to claim a spot in line.



It’s important to note that fans won’t receive their tickets (minimum of four per person) until 7 a.m. Saturday.

Per the Lexington Herald-Leader, four people suffered minor injuries.

Again, they’re not camping out for season tickets.

We’re talking about free tickets for Midnight Madness.

It’s just different in Lexington.

When recruit changes mind, chaos ensues 

September, 17, 2014
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On Sept. 4, Antonio Blakeney told ESPN.com’s Reggie Rankin, "I was very comfortable with the coaching staff," after pledging to attend the University of Louisville.

Two weeks later, he told Rankin, “I made a quick and emotional decision based on the wrong reasons," after decommitting from the Cardinal, before following up with a tweet that read, "I am still really considering Louisville. I like everything about there (sic) program, coaches and fans!!"

[+] EnlargeAntonio Blakeney
AP Photo/Gregory PayanAntonio Blakeney, ranked No. 14 in the ESPN 100, verbally committed to Louisville earlier this month only to decommit two weeks later.
Which, to those who parent the odd beast known as teenagers, sounds about right. Teens are as certain about their futures as they are the inner workings of nuclear physics.

The difference is, Blakeney is not your typical teen. He is the No. 14-rated player in the 2015 ESPN 100, and what should be his private, independent decision has ramifications from his home base in Florida throughout basketball offices across the country.

Decommitment is not even a word -- shows up underlined in red every time you type it. Yet it is very much a thing in college sports circles, where kids can and do renege on their verbal pledges.

The problem isn’t nearly as bad in hoops as it is in football. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn did a numbers crunch study this summer and found that, in 2013, only 11.8 percent of the basketball players he studied made multiple commitments, down from 12.4 in 2012.

Still, it happens. And when it does, it sends coaches into a tizzy.

3-point shot: Looking for leaders

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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Andy Katz looks at players who have become leaders in preseason workouts at Cincinnati, Indiana and Illinois.

3-point shot: A look at the Pac-12 schedule

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
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Andy Katz looks at the Pac-12 schedule for Arizona, the return of Charlotte coach Alan Major and the new leaders at Creighton.
Nebraska forward Shavon Shields isn’t just another ballplayer who decided to shave his head bald. He did so as a show of support for Avery Harriman, the 7-year-old son of Huskers assistant coach Chris Harriman who is battling cancer.

Avery is facing his third bout with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, according to the Facebook page chronicling his journey. Harriman affectionately calls the group of well-wishers and supporters "Avery's Army." Shields' gesture should make him a ranking officer. Avery's chemotherapy treatments led to his hair falling out, so Shields, a junior and a tri-captain for Nebraska last season, isn't letting him go through it alone.

Harriman posted a picture of Shields and his son on his Twitter account last night:

3-point shot: Martez Walker's suspension

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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Andy Katz looks at the recurring success of UConn and Villanova and the suspension of Texas guard Martez Walker.

A father's parting gift pushes LeVelle Moton

September, 12, 2014
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For 33 years, LeVelle Moton wouldn’t touch the light blue bike that eventually turned rusty brown, a symbol of his pride and heartache.

To ride that bike would suggest that he’d accepted his father’s absence in his life. It was the last gift he’d given “Puffy” months after he’d abandoned the family.

Moton, the coach who led his alma mater North Carolina Central to its first NCAA tourney berth last season, was 5 when the bike reached his doorstep.

He kept it in a garage for decades until his wife finally convinced him to part with the tangible link between a fractured childhood and an improbable dream.

Moton discussed the significance of that bike and other events in his life in a book titled “The Worst Times Are The Best Times,” co-written with journalist Edward G. Robinson III and available at theworsttimesarethebesttimes.com.

An excerpt from the book:

On my fifth birthday, my father left a bike at my door. For weeks I had talked about getting a bike for my birthday. I believe my mother communicated this to my father. ...

Without knocking or checking in, my father left this beautiful bike with a bow attached and a note with my nickname, Puffy.

I wanted to hop on that bike and ride around the neighborhood. But I resented my father for once again playing me for a fool -- coming to our door but leaving again. I couldn’t remember what he looked like. I thought if I rode that bike I would be accepting him leaving the way he had. So I never rode it. Believe me, it took a lot of willpower to stay off it, because I didn’t have another bike.

Resilience helped Moton, 40, navigate Raleigh, North Carolina's toughest streets and evolve into one of the college game’s top young coaches.

He recently signed an eight-year extension that elevated his original base salary from $100,000 to $250,000.

“Yeah, it’s official,” he told ESPN.com.

He said he wrote the book with some reluctance but eventually decided to share his tales of hardship so that others might be able to see what they can overcome.

Before he became the 1996 CIAA player of the year and the school’s head coach 13 years later, he was a kid trapped in the drug game. He and his friends robbed convenience stores and engaged in petty crime. They also helped local dealers -- although they were too nave to know exactly what they were involved with -- move their product through the neighborhood:

“I’d walk a package across the street to a parking lot for 10 dollars. I’d take a stroll down the block for 10 dollars. Eventually, after a few times walking across the street, I realized that I wasn’t delivering cookies.”

But everything changed the night police came to his home to question him about a murder that his buddies had committed during a burglary. Moton said he could have easily gone with that group that day but decided to stay home and watch “Good Times.”

That choice probably saved his life.

Today, he said he uses the lessons that he details in his book to teach his players about the value of good decisions. He said his background helps him reach young men (and their families) who’ve endured fatherless upbringings.

“People just want you to be real, especially when they’re giving you their most prized and precious possessions,” he said.

The light blue bike he held onto all those years was more of a message than a possession.

It drove him.

One day, Moton’s daughter, Brooke, was upset that she couldn’t ride the bike that his father had purchased for him when he was child.

So he told her the story in a way that only a 3-year-old would understand it.

“I had to bend down and tell my daughter that no Moton will ever be able to ride that bike,” he said. “Your father’s Daddy wasn’t there for me the way your father is for you. ... I just really told her my father left me and that’s why I’ll never leave you.”
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3-point shot: Moreira strong at World Cup

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
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Andy Katz gives updates on Yanick Moreira and SMU, Kyle Collinsworth's rehab with BYU and an opinion on the Big East schedule.

Biggest moves in new rankings

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
10:48
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Today is the day.

After a full summer of evaluations and deliberations, national rankings have now been updated across the board with a new ESPN 100 in the Class of 2015, ESPN 60 in 2016 and ESPN 25 in 2017.

A lot has changed since the spring, but the most glaring difference is the omission of the previous top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2016, Thon Maker, who announced last week that he would be transferring to Athlete Institute in Canada.

Maker's departure opened the door for a new No. 1 prospect in the ESPN 60, and that title now belongs to Jayson Tatum. The ultra-efficient 6-foot-7 swingman starred at virtually every stop this summer, including with Team USA's under-17 team, helping him leap Josh Jackson from the No. 3 spot.

Still, all eyes will be on the Class of 2015, as plenty of prospects saw their stock jump, and a number of others fell down the list.

Read the rest of the story here. Insider

3-point shot: Talking KU and pro days

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
8:00
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Andy Katz gives an update on Kansas' Cliff Alexander, Bill Self's opinion on NBA pro days at KU and when pro days should occur.

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