Soft Rosters & Pickup Games
Classes are back in session, the fall semester has started (or the fall quarter for some schools), and the schedules, much like the rosters, are the subject of press releases. During the summer a summer league (or pick up game) injury might not be reported for days, even weeks. The same holds for unreported Spring and Summer Semester grades and their resulting cumulative GPAs. With classes back in session the programs have to reveal who will actually be available come Fall Practice. There are still a few freshmen who have not been cleared by the NCAA, but now we are learning exactly who they are.
Cincinnati -- Shaq Thomas has been officially cleared to enroll by the NCAA. Cincinnati is on a quarterly system, fall classes to begin shortly, and Thomas is expected to enroll and attend. Though his relatives were vague as to whether the clearance included playing basketball, the Bearcats have listed him on their 2011-12 roster.
Connecticut -- Slapped with sanctions, the Huskies responded by winning the National Championship. Star guard Kemba Walker tossed his name into the NBA draft and Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun, given his age and health, took a long summer to think about his future as mentor of the Huskies' program. Bouyed by the news that Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway (slated to chair the NCAA Selection Committee for the 2012 tournament) had been persuaded to retire, the veteran coach (25 years in Storrs) decided to return for 2012. Within days of Hathaway's announcement Calhoun secured the commitment of Top 10 center Andre Drummond, and to make a spot on the UConn roster (remember those NCAA sanctions?), persuaded Michael Bradley to relinquish his scholarship, in favor of Drummond. Bradley will secure financial aid to cover his tuition costs.
Georgetown -- The Hoyas' front court took a hit when sophomore Moses Ayegba tore his ACL in a Kenner League game last summer (credit under supervised play for another injury). Freshman Tyler Adams sprained his ankle late in the summer, and his availability is uncertain.
Louisville -- The latest word is that recruit Kevin Ware was declared ineligible earlier this month. Ware, a well regarded and well traveled combo guard had signed an NLI with Tennessee, but asked for his release when Coach Bruce Pearl was fired in March. Ware then "signed" with Central Florida, but the NCAA disallowed that NLI, as they ruled that a recruit could not sign two NLIs in a single year. Ware then chose an already packed Louisville program, forcing the staff revisit their planned scholarship allocation for 2011-12. In the end high returning scorer Kyle Kuric, a senior off guard, was one of three players former scholarship players who were reclassified as "walk ons". Officials have announced that Ware will begin classes in December and should be eligible to play in the Spring Semester. While the scholarship shuffle appears unseemly (see Connecticut above), the Cardinals have a history of having preseason and early season injuries put a serious strain on their player rotation. For Coach Pitino caution rather than avarice may have been the principle motivator.
Marquette -- The Warriors only unanticipated losses over the summer were transfers. Erik Williams left for Sam Houston State, while Reggie Smith will lace them up for UNLV...after sitting a year. Coach Buzz Williams has the squad restocked, and fans are looking forward to seeing what Jamil Wilson can do.
Notre Dame -- incoming freshman forward Eric Katenda was blinded in a pickup game in early July. An examination by doctors determined the optic nerve located behind Katenda's left was severed as a result of contact with another player while Katenda was rebounding a missed field goal attempt. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey indicated that while the team doctors will explore the possibility of Katenda's playing with protective goggles, the Irish will honor his scholarship irrespective of the outcome -- Katenda by the way, insists he will bounce back from this injury. The Irish join a growing number of squads who have 10 (or fewer) scholarship players available in 2012. The front court rotation right now looks like Tim Abromaitis and Jack Cooley to start (with Scott Martin in a swing spot), leaving Joey Brooks, Jack Broghammer and Tom Knight as the bench. While lack of depth is the more obvious problem, the drop off in talent/production from the starters to the bench, has to be cause for concern as well.
South Florida -- As mentioned in a post last week, JUCO center Andre Jackson from Lee College (TX), signed to some fanfare last fall, is not on Coach Stan Heath's roster. A 7-3 freshman, Jordan Omogbehin, does appear on the latest Bulls roster, signed about the same time as Jackson last fall. Coach Heath also added Martino Brock, a 6-5 junior wing, who transferred in from South Alabama. Brock will sit in 2012 per NCAA transfer rules. Jackson was not a game-changer, but second year JUCO, 6-6 guard Hugh Robertson may find himself playing a bit more on the wing and lane than expected.
St. John's -- After a relatively quiet summer, the Red Storm fall semester was rocked with the news that the NCAA had ruled three members of the (highly ranked) incoming class, Jakarr Sampson, Norvell Pelle and Amir Garrett would be ineligible to play in the fall of 2012. Early press releases from St. John's announced the three would remain on campus and work through the eligibility issues, but reports in the following weeks indicate that Sampson, who returned to Brewster Academy (NH) has reopened his recruitment, while Pelle has enrolled in the Phelps School in Malvern, PA (outside of Philadelphia). Pelle, a very highly regarded #5 has ties (former teammates) to the San Diego State program, and may wind up there next season.
Bobby Bancroft over at National Hoops Report summarized it succintly in his "Best Case/Worst Case post on September 23 -- the three miss the first nine games and have six days to practice/play before Big East Conference play starts (an increasingly unlikely "best case") or Coach Lavin goes into an 18 game conference schedule with a squad of eight scholarship players who return less than 5% of the Red Storm's playing time and scoring from 2011. The Red Storm's two JUCOs, God's Gift Achiuwa and Nurideen Lindsey, along with junior Malik Stith, are the only veteran players with significant post high school experience on the hardwood.
Villanova -- Incoming freshman guard Tyrone Johnson missed the Wildcats' European Tour due to fractured ankle sustained in a pickup game in June of 2011. Johnson had surgery prior to Villanova's departure and is reported to have traveled with the team in Europe. Freshman off guard Darrun Hilliard stepped into the back up role for point guard Maalik Wayns on the tour, and Johnson is on schedule for the start of Fall Practice. His boot is off and Johnson is mobile. Two days after the team returned from a six game tour in France and the Netherlands junior forward and team captain Isaiah Armwood announced he would transfer to another university. The 6-9 wing subsequently enrolled at George Washington of the A-10, and will play for the Colonials after sitting out the mandantory one season.
Expect Johnson to be cleared to practice by October 15. Armwood's departure is more problematic. The Nova Nation will no doubt debate "what was" and "what could have been...", but lack of front court depth is the challenge facing Coach Wright this season. A 9/30 tweet from Coach Wright reports that junior walk-on Dallas Ouano will have surgery for a reported knee injury. No more details at this point.
The Wildcat squad is thin, the loss of Armwood was unexpected, reducing the squad to 10 scholarship players and one healthy walk-on.