Inside the SEC: Oct. 4

4 Oct

By Matt Fultz
National Hoops Report

Two Former Tennessee Assistants Unhappy with Pearl

When Tennessee decided to fire Bruce Pearl and the rest of the men’s basketball staff, Pearl was awarded a $1 million buyout, his assistants on the other hand were not so lucky.

The embattled coach spent the summer vacationing, before landing a high-paying job with a wholesaler in Knoxville.

It’s not the money that has former assistants Steve Forbes and Jason Shay upset, it the way they have been treated by Pearl.

The Volunteer’s former assistants Tony Jones, Forbes, and Shay were all able to find jobs, but none to the caliber of their posts at Tennessee. Jones is the boy’s high school basketball coach and physical education teacher at Alcoa High School. Forbes is the head coach at Northwest Florida State, where Shay is his assistant.

When they were relieved of their duties, they were awarded four months pay.

“Bruce Pearl is a friend of mine,” Jones told GoVolsXtra.com “I felt he took care of the staff when we worked together, and he did the best he could in giving us a fair severance.”

Jana Shay, the wife of Jason, had a differing view of the situation.

“From his end, it’s business. That was a lesson I had to learn, I guess,” she told Gary Parrish of CBSSpoints.com, who some time with Shay and Forbes in Florida. “I think Bruce tells people he did the best he could for us, and those who don’t know him probably believe that. I just don’t know that I believe that totally.”

“At one point in the discussion, they weren’t going to get any severance; I had to fight for it. I wasn’t happy with the settlements, either, but it was the best I could do,” Pearl told GoVolsXtra. “When families break up, it’s sad that sometimes these things can happen,’’ Pearl said Wednesday. “Jason and Jana expected more from the university and they expected more from me, and obviously they are disappointed.’’

Steve Forbes, who earns a salary of $60,000 at his new position, is facing financial issues as well as having to deal with his family being split.

Forbes, who has been unable to sell or rent his home in Knoxville, is facing foreclosure.

“My family is split up for the first time ever,” he told CBSSports.com. “My daughter is a senior at Tennessee. She lived at home with us. But now we don’t have her because we don’t live there anymore.”

Both Forbes and Shay have expressed the idea that they had no choice by to tell the whole truth to the NCAA about the now infamous Aaron Craft barbeque photo, for fear of losing their job and more importantly their career.

“You do that in this business and you are done,” Forbes to CBSSports.com. “Blackballed. You’re not loyal.”

Jones, Forbes, and Shay will all be able to try to get back into the division one ranks in the 2012-2013 season, when their one-year show cause penalty expires.

Vanderbilt’s Tinsley, Ezeli, and Tchiengang Talk Progress On and Off the Court

Three of Vanderbilt’s key returning players from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, Brad Tinsley, Festus Ezeli, and Steve Tchiengang have all had offseason injury issues. The three seniors all gave Jeff Lockridge of Vanderbilt Insider an update on their status.

Tinsley, who averaged just over ten points a contest a year ago, suffered a broken bone in his right hand in August during a pickup game.

“It was the first Friday we were here (back at school in August). I had just flown in from home. We were playing our first pickup games, and it was on a play where me and Jeff jumped and I tried to make a drop pass and my hand hit his thigh.”

Tinsley is positive that the setback has actually helped his development.

“It’s actually been a blessing in disguise because my left hand is now a hundred times better. I’ve been doing a lot of dribbling, a lot of passing left-handed … I’ve been screwing around shooting lefty, too … but a lot of core stuff and running. My left-handed dribbling has come a long way. I wouldn’t say it was a weakness, but it was definitely something I needed to get better at. Anytime you can strengthen your off hand, it’s a lot better than not. If you can go both ways just as strong, it makes you a better player.”

Ezeli, who is coming off and All-SEC season, had surgery on his right knee over the summer to repair a ruptured patella tendon.

“The surgery went well. The (rehab) now, it’s just normal stuff that you go through after you have surgery to try to get your explosion back,” he said. Adding his knee is “almost back” to 100 percent.

Ezeli, who averaged 13 points and 6.3 rebounds as a junior, said he is working hard on in the post area as well as trying to expand his game.

“People know I’m going to be in the post, so I’ve been working on that, trying to refine that a little more. I’ve been working on a little bit of a jump shot to give more opportunities for other players to drive in there and have more diversity on the team – more of a variety of offense for the team.”

Tchiengang, a reserve forward, is still recovering ankle surgery he underwent in July. He hopes to return by the beginning of the season, but he unsure if that will be the case.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to put a number on it, but I have awhile to go. My goal is to be ready (when the season starts). That’s the goal of the whole training staff to try to get me there right on time so I can get some practices in before the season. I haven’t done much with the team aside from lifting (weights) and meetings, so I need to be on the court and work with the guys.”

Andy Kennedy Talks Team with Jon Rothstein

College basketball insider Jon Rothstein recently caught up with Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy to talk about the 2011-2012 version of the Rebels. Rothstein posted a portion of the interview on his Twitter account.

The first major challenge that the Bulldogs will have to overcome is dealing with the loss of Chris Warren. Warren was the team’s leading scorer a season ago at 19 points per game.

So far Kennedy thinks the process is going smoothly.

“I’ve seen a noticeable change in our demeanor because we don’t have one guy who is so dominant with the ball,” he said. “People are recognizing that they all have to be involved on every possession. It’s encouraging to see.”

With Warren and second leading scorer Zach Graham gone the Rebels will have to rely heavily on the frontcourt for production. Reginald Buckner and Terrance Henry will be the “backbone” of the team according to Kennedy.

Buckner, a junior, racked up a team-best 50 blocks as a sophomore. He also averaged better than six points and six rebounds per contest.

“He is the leading shot blocker in the history of our program,” Kennedy said. “He stops things for us at the rim.”

Kennedy can already see a difference in the attitude of senior Henry, saying he has “a sense of urgency.”

Mississippi’s front court could be getting even stronger if the NCAA clears Murphy Holloway. Kennedy said that the NCAA is yet to rule on his eligibility, but should do so by October 14th.  Holloway, who played for the Rebels as a freshman and sophomore, decided to leave the program and transfer to South Carolina. However, after just one season in Columbia Holloway decided he wanted to once again be a Rebel. He last played in the 2009-2010 season, when he tallied more than 10 points a contest, while grabbing 7.6 rebounds.

Talented freshman Jalen Kendrick, who left Memphis before ever playing a game, will be able to suit up at the end of the first semester.

Dundrecous Nelson, who help take over for Warren at the guard spot, role will be greatly expanded form his freshman season.

“His talent has never been in question,” Kennedy said. “Now that he has the opportunity, he just has to maximize it.”

Kentucky “would be UCLA” if No One-and-Done rule, According to Calipari

While speaking at a coach’s clinic at Rutgers University Friday, Kentucky coach John Calipari expressed in words what all Wildcat fans have been daydreaming about since his arrival in Lexington.

“Could you imagine if I had these guys three and four years? It would be UCLA,” Calipari said, at the clinic was to help raise money for In Brayden’s Eyes, The Brayden Carr Foudation, which is in honor of Rutgers’ assistant coach Jim Carr’s son, who lost his battle against cancer.

The Big Blue Nation could only dream about the possibility of John Wall and Brandon Knight in the backcourt, or how last year’s Final Four matchup with Connecticut would have ended if DeMarcus Cousin was still patrolling the paint.

In his first two seasons Calipari has had five so called “one-and-dones”, including Wall, Knight, Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and Daniel Orton. The number would be six if you include Turkish center Enes Kanter, who enrolled at Kentucky but was never ruled eligible.

While bringing in another stellar recruiting class that could feature several more players that could leave after one season in a Wildcat uniform, Calipari once again stated he is not a fan of the rule.

“People that say, ‘Well, he likes one-and-done.’ I hate one-and-done. Why would I want one-and-done?” he said. “I’m getting guys, I’d like to have them four years. We’d win a whole lot of games. But that’s not the rule so now we end up losing three and four and five and maybe six this year to the NBA.  If you’re happy for the kids, you just try to figure it out later.”

SEC Well Represented On Pre-Season Wooden Award List

The John Wooden Award watch list was announced on Monday and seven players from the conference have made the list of 50.

Vanderbilt lead the way with three players in John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, and Jeffrey Taylor. Mississippi State’s Dee Bost, Florida’s Patric Young, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, and Alabama’s JaMychal Green also made the list, that does not include freshman or transfers.

ESPN’s Andy Katz had opposing coaches break down every player on the list, here is what was said about the players from the SEC.

John Jenkins-“He is the best shooter in the SEC and maybe the nation. He puts it down some, too, but is just deadly when he has a good look.”

Festus Ezeli-“He might have the best chance at a long career of anyone in the league. He is older and a legit NBA center.”

Jeffrey Taylor-“He benefits from being surrounded by great players. But he also suffers because he is talented enough to be a lead role player.”

Dee Bost-“He has terrific physical skills. He probably should have stayed in the draft two years ago, because he would have made a team.”

Patric Young-“He was as physical of a freshman as this league has seen. He is going to be in a bigger role this season.”

Terrence Jones-“Jones is a dynamic player who does his damage in a lot of ways. The added year of experience will make him a player of the year candidate.”

JaMychal Green-“Green is an athletic, front-line player who likely will get more touches this year. He has always been very versatile.”

Auburn’s Barbee Hires Former Teammate

Auburn head coach Tony Barbee announced that Harper Williams has been added to the program as an administrative assistant.

“I am very excited about Harper joining our Auburn basketball program,” Barbee said in a statement. “My relationship with Harper goes back to when he was a college teammate of mine at UMass. Harper comes to Auburn with a wealth of basketball knowledge having played and coached professionally for 17 seasons.”

The two played together at UMass for four years, in one of those years, 1992, Williams was names Atlantic 10 player of the year. He was inducted to UMass Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.

His professional career came to an end in 2010 after one year in France.

USC’s Harris Injures Foot

South Carolina’s Demontre Harris became the just the latest player from the SEC to suffer an offseason injury.

Harris, who sustained an undisclosed foot injury according to reports, joins Kentucky’s Jon Hood and Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley as players to get injured during workouts. Hood tore his ACL, while Tinsely broke a bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-9 Harris, who averaged 3.7 points and 36 rebounds as a freshman, is expected to be reevaluated my doctors next week to determine the extent of the damage.

McGary Cancels UK, Updates Recruitment

Mitch McGary, the number one ranked power forward in the 2012 class, was scheduled to attend Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness later this month, but that is not the case any longer, according to his blog post on ESPN.com.

“As far as more visits, I don’t think I’ll be making any. I’m not gonna go to Kentucky’s Midnight Madness, I feel like I have all the information that I need to start to think about a decision,” he wrote. “Within the next month I hope to have a decision made.”

Most recruiting analysts believe Michigan is in the lead for the big man, but he said he has no leaders at this point.

“I know there are a lot of rumors out there that I’ve already committed to certain schools, but I can honestly tell you guys that I don’t know where I want to go. I have not committed anywhere so that’s just not true.”

While he mostly discussed what he like about Duke, Michigan, and North Carolina extensively, McGary did say he like what Florida coach Billy Donovan was saying.

“Also, Coach (Billy) Donovan was up here a couple weeks ago and he’s done a really good job showing me what he’s done in the last few years developing talent. I really like what he’s been saying.”

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