NCAA

Cameron Ayers on father, Randy: 'He was kind of like my own personal coach'

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The Associated Press

Cameron Ayers on father, Randy: 'He was kind of like my own personal coach'

Cameron Ayers was born into a basketball family.

He got to watch the likes of Allen Iverson and Dwight Howard up close, getting exposed to a high level of basketball right from the beginning.

And he wasn’t just watching them on TV.

His father, Randy Ayers, spent 1997-2003 and 2009-10 as an assistant coach for the Sixers (and head coach briefly in 2003-04), so Cameron got to see the Sixers turn themselves from a bottom feeder in the Eastern Conference to an NBA Finals team in 2000-01.

“I maybe started playing when I was about 5,” Cameron Ayers said. “My older brother also played, so it was just a basketball family. A lot of dinner and lunch conversations around basketball and different things like that, talking about basketball every day.”

This connection to his dad allowed him to interact with NBA superstars early on, a valuable experience many basketball players never get.

“[The coolest experience] was probably either talking to Allen Iverson or Chris Paul, just to try to pick their brains,” Ayers said. “They’re superstars, and just how they go about it different ways [was interesting].”

Meanwhile, Ayers was in the process of building his own basketball career. A Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, native and Germantown Academy graduate, he eventually went to play college at Bucknell University. Ayers said he’s lived just outside of Philadelphia since he was 6½ and lived there up through high school.

From there, he made an immediate impact for the Bison, culminating in a Patriot League Player of the Year award his senior year. He was in good company winning the award, as the last Bucknell player to win the award was Mike Muscala, who has played for the Atlanta Hawks since 2014.

While having an NBA coach as a father could be intimidating to some, Ayers saw it as an opportunity and a privilege.

“He knows how to separate coach and dad, which is really cool,” he said. “He’d always give me a lot of pointers when I was growing up. He let me work out with the [Sixers] a couple times, so it was really cool. He was kind of like my own personal coach.”

Randy, who has over 30 years of college and NBA coaching experience, saw his son play Sunday at The Basketball Tournament (TBT) at Philadelphia University. Cameron was grateful for that, saying his father always tries to watch him play.

“Wherever he is, I know he’s watching from somewhere," he said. "I saw him up in the stands earlier. I give him a little look sometimes, but it was a great experience him being a coach for sure.”

Cameron played for the PA RoadWarriors in TBT this year, a team made up of mostly Bucknell alumni. The team made it to the second round of the tournament, falling just short to The Untouchables, a Pittsburgh alumni team.

Randy picked a good game to see his son play. Trailing by as much as 17, Bucknell climbed back into the game and eventually tied it at 72 with 1:24 left in regulation with a three-pointer from Ayers. With Bucknell down one later on, Ayers hit another three with 2.9 seconds left, which seemed like it would be the game-winner.

However, The Untouchables hit a buzzer beater to tie the game and eventually came away with a 90-88 win in overtime. The loss in no way diminished Ayers’ effort; he finished with 28 points and five rebounds.

John Griffin, who coached the RoadWarriors and is entering his second year as an assistant at Bucknell, didn’t get to coach Ayers while he was with the Bison, but said he’s known Ayers for a long time because he played with his brother, Ryan, in Philadelphia.

“That’s [the performance] we expected, we’re going to live and die with Cameron and Charles [Lee] shooting, we were going to live and die whether he made shots or not,” Griffin said. “They have the ability to take it from A to Z pretty quickly.”

Now Ayers is playing professionally, coming off a season in Lithuania with Šiauliai. He said his main goal is to continue to play overseas in Europe, but he hasn’t ruled out an eventual return to the D-League, where he played for a bit with the Reno Big Horns in 2015.

"Hopefully in a week or two I'll find out where I'm going, just back to Europe, hopefully on the western side of things," Ayers said. "Maybe Germany, Italy, Spain, France, something like that."

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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AP Images

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.