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Coaches seek less glorifying

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


Connecticut's Jim Calhoun has heard enough.

Too often, he said, coaches label youngsters such as his freshman forward, Caron Butler, or Seton Hall freshman forward Eddie Griffin or Michigan State freshman forward Zach Randolph as sure-fire NBA lottery picks. While those may be honest, well-intentioned evaluations, Calhoun argues such comments are deleterious.

"I'd truly appreciate if we all love this game that it'd be a nice idea to maybe say the things these kids can do like grow as people, grow as players and help their team win a championship," he said recently.

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski agrees. In recent years he has seen Elton Brand, William Avery and Corey Maggette bolt early. Brand was the No. 1 pick two years ago and has emerged as one of the NBA's bright young stars. Avery and Maggette are struggling, like babes in the woods, to find their way.

Krzyzewski, in fact, said the National Association of Basketball Coaches specifically asked a number of television commentators if they might curb some of their hyperbole this season.

"They talked too much about professional basketball instead of the game they were doing and that's the college game," he said, adding the television pundits are, for the most part, honoring that request.

Calhoun, however, is dismayed coaches inadvertently have assumed the role.

"It's a nice compliment, I understand that," he said of the lottery projections, "but I don't take it that way if we want to make this game the great game that it is and restore it back to some sanity."

SAVING HIS BEST FOR LAST: For much of his first three years at Georgia Tech, center Alvin Jones, the former Lakeland Kathleen High star, was labeled as a bit lazy.

That perception is changing. Fast. Under first-year Tech coach Paul Hewitt, the 6-foot-11 Jones has shown a burning fire to match his brilliant potential.

"A lot of what I heard about Alvin when I took the job was that they questioned his commitment to winning and desire to improve," Hewitt said. "But from the first day we got into the gym for individual instruction, he's been a sponge, just soaking things up and working and doing a good job in the weight room."

Entering today's game against visiting Florida State, Jones is averaging 14.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.6 blocks and has anchored a defense that allowed the Yellow Jackets, picked to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference, to stun UCLA, Kentucky, Virginia and Wake Forest.

"People had their doubts about him," Hewitt said, "and I'll tell you what; in my mind, he's gone a long way to erasing any doubts."

TIP-INS: By beating Dayton on Jan. 19, UMass recorded its 1,000th win in its 92nd season. ... Texas looks to continue its giant-killer role today at a resurgent Arizona, the preseason No. 1. The Longhorns have beaten non-Big 12 powers Indiana, Illinois, Utah and UConn. ... Message to Conference USA: In case you missed, Memphis recruit Dajuan Wagner from Camden (N.J.) scored 100 points in a 157-67 win against Gloucester Township Tech. Oh, my.

- Brian Landman covers men's college basketball. He can be reached at (813) 226-3347 or by e-mail at landman@sptimes.com.

By the numbers

1 -- Time DePaul coach Pat Kennedy has been ejected since taking over at the school four years ago. His first came Thursday night against South Florida.

5 -- SEC games that have been decided by a total of nine points for the Florida men's basketball team.

17 -- Place on the career list where Hall of Fame coach Al McGuire sits in overall winning percentage (.739). McGuire, who died Friday, was 404-144 in his career, including a 295-80 mark at Marquette.

18 -- Stanford's school-record wins matched against Washington on Thursday. Also started 18-0 in 1997-98.

750 -- Wins Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian has earned, after Thursday over UTEP.

To speak ... or not:

It seems many coaches and players in the SEC have had it with Tennessee sophomore forward Ron Slay and his antics. In two seasons, Slay has become synonymous with taunting -- waving at fans, yelling and sticking his tongue out at them. It has become such an issue that the conference office, faced with rising complaints from other conference schools, contacted Vols coach Jerry Green to ask that he get a little more control over Slay.

"The conference office likes everything to be the kid next door, the really All-America type guy that's going to do everything perfect every day," Green said. "I think if I was a conference commissioner, that would be my attitude. But they've called me and I just said, "Is he breaking the rules?' I like enthusiasm. I think sometimes Ron is ostentatious or whatever the term might be -- flowery, showoffy or whatever -- but is there a rule against it?' "

Slay and the Vols will be in Gainesville at 9 p.m. Tuesday for an ESPN game -- and plenty of hostile fans to taunt.

Calling it a career

After his fifth concussion Jan. 13, Texas A&M All-Big 12 forward Aaron Jack has decided to call it quits. Jack played in four games as a freshman at Penn State in 1995-96 before a pair of concussions. His third came on the first day of fall practice in 1996 and he transferred to Texas A&M at midterm. On the third day of fall practice this season, Jack was hospitalized with his fourth concussion, but returned in time for the Nov. 18 season opener. But on Jan. 13, early in a game against Colorado, Jack had his fifth concussion. "It has been tough to deal with," Jack said. "Obviously I'll miss the competition, the games, battling with the other guys, chattering at the refs, all the little stuff. But I have to focus on my health and make sure I'm okay."

Hey, it's not that easy

South Florida continues to struggle from the free-throw line, shooting 9-for-21 in a win over DePaul on Thursday night. On the season, the Bulls are shooting 60 percent. When junior forward Altron Jackson, a 77 percent free-throw shooter, hit one of his four technical free throws in the DePaul game, USF coach Seth Greenberg cautioned observers not to judge too harshly.

"When you miss a couple that basket gets mighty small," Greenberg said. "I sure didn't expect Altron to go 0-for-4. Altron's a good free-throw shooter. I'll tell you, the hardest shot in basketball is shooting technicals. Standing out there all by yourself -- that's a hard shot."

Weekend highlights

No. 20 Texas at No. 12 Arizona, 1 p.m. today. The Wildcats have won five straight.

No. 9 Wake Forest at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. today, Ch. 28: The Bearcats lead the series 3-0.

No. 2 Duke at No. 8 Maryland, 8 tonight, ESPN: The teams split the regular-season series a year ago with each winning on the other's home court.

No. 5 North Carolina at N.C. State, 1 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2. -- Compiled by ANTONYA ENGLISH.

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