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Oubre, Hoiberg remember the Madness of March


Oubre, Hoiberg remember the Madness of March

Kelly Oubre, Stanley Johnson and Fred Hoiberg weren't just in different places one year ago, but on different levels.

All three are currently part of teams battling for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. In 2015, the trio was involved with the madness of March as NCAA Tournament participants.

Though they graduated to the NBA, thoughts this week drifted back to dreams of cutting down the nets.

"It was beautiful," said Oubre, who ultimately experienced the one-and-done event as a one-and-done freshman with Kansas. "It was a great atmosphere. It's totally different. Just like the NBA playoffs I'm sure, everything is ramped up, more focused."

Unfortunately for the Wizards rookie, the beauty didn't last long. Kansas, second-seeded in the Midwest region, lost 78-65 in the round of 32 to Wichita State in Omaha. That prevented the Jayhawks from reaching the so-called Sweet 16.

"It wasn't that sweet, though," Oubre noted of the shorter-than-hoped experience.

Johnson, a fellow rookie with the Detroit Pistons, had a longer run, though perhaps with a more painful finish.

"It was a lot of fun last year, trying to dance," said the athletic forward and one of the leaders for Arizona last season. Also a No. 2 seed, the Wildcats advanced to the West Region final before losing to eventual national runner-up Wisconsin.

"We got to the Elite Eight. I could see the Final Four from there and you have to win one more game," Johnson said. "To have that taken from us in a couple of seconds was hard for us."

Johnson, the eighth pick in the 2015 Draft, believes he learned a lesson from the pain.

"If I could do it over again I would do it the same way," he said of his entire freshman season. "I think I learned a lot from the losses and the wins. You learn to respect the game a little more after losing a game like that."

There's still time to fill out your own NCAA bracket by entering our CSN Bracket Challenge here!

At least the two players won a game in last year's tournament. Hoiberg's Iowa State team entered as the third seed in the South Region. Two hours after tipping off against No. 14 UAB, the Cyclones were blown out of the tournament. Fast forward a few months later and Hoiberg bolted Ames for Chicago. The attachment for the Bulls coach and his family clearly remain.

"I'm excited for the opportunity for those guys," Hoiberg said of the current Cyclones. The No. 4 seed in the Midwest is packed with players Hoiberg recruited and coached. 

"Obviously, I have very close relationships with those players and hope they can go on a great run.

His family went to Denver where Iowa State opens the tournament against Iona with Purdue possibly lurking in the second round. 

"If they do, if they get by these first two games, they'll be in Chicago for the Sweet 16 game, so really hoping that happens." 

The idea of getting past a game or two doesn't apply on the NBA level where it's all about playing a best of seven series. The idea of lose and go home adds excitement, but let's just say Johnson is ready to try out the other format.

"I think the one-and-done thing is fugazi," said Johnson, using a slang word for fake. "I really do. I think if you give us seven shots at Wisconsin, I think we beat them probably in six games.

"But that's what makes college so fun, especially with not as many good players. Once you start playing a series, the better players start standing out."

Not surprisingly, all three picked their former schools to win it all this season. When never knows for sure with the often unpredictable tournament, though Oubre's Jayhawks enter as the overall No. 1 seed.

"Our team is flowing," the 20-year-old said of the experienced Jayhawks.

What Oubre experienced during his lone shot in the NCAA Tournament stuck with him.

"You can just feel the basketball vibe going around with everybody," he said. "It's a competitive spirit that's going around the college basketball world right now.

"I'm excited to see these games. Let the madness begin."

MORE WIZARDS: Latest Wizards' win shows why chemistry matters

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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