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."

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

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NBC Sports

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

Forget about Chip Kelly for a second: When you think of the University of Oregon, you probably think of their uniforms.

Each season, the Ducks push jersey and helmet designs to new heights, and their trailblazing influence has trickled down throughout college athletics. It all started in the 1990s, when Oregon decided to get crazy - and it worked.

In the second episode of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast series, NBC Sports Northwest takes a deep dive into how Oregon sparked a fashion transformation across college football with a mascot change, and with unique Nike uniforms that helped push the program into the national college football coversation.

The episode features in-depth interviews with former Oregon football head coach Mike Bellotti, former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, and more.

The episode releases Thursday, June 11. You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To catch every episode, be sure to subscribe to "Sports Uncovered" and have every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn

Listen and subscribe to the "Sports Uncovered" podcast:

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

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USA Today Images

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

It's been 12 days since Villanova's season ended abruptly due to the coronavirus crisis. Jay Wright held a video conference on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics. 

Here are the major takeaways from Wright's session with the media.  

This March is different

Villanova missed out on opportunities to win a fourth straight Big East Tournament and participate in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in the last 16 years. The Wildcats won eight of their final nine games to clinch a share of the Big East regular season title. Not having a chance to shine in the postseason stings. 

"Missing the NCAA Tournament is obviously tough for our guys," Wright said. "We felt like we were playing great basketball, coming on strong. I always say we want to play our best basketball at the end of the year, and I think we were doing that. It is what it is, our guys get it. 

"It's a great example of our mantra 'attitude'. We try to teach our guys that you don't have control over what happens in life. What you do have control of is your response to what happens to you. 

"I don't know if there's even been a March where I wasn't either in (the NCAA Tournament), watching it or recruiting during it. I'm testing myself on what else is there in me? Being a better father, being a better husband. Spending more time with the kids, watching more movies, reading more, trying to be more worldly. I'm not very good at it but I'm trying."

Will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA? 

Arguably the biggest question concerning Wright's team heading into the offseason is will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA or will he return for his junior season at Villanova? Wright mentioned that Bey was especially disappointed when this season was cut short. He realizes that he has a big decision to make on his future. Wright discussed Bey's future plans as well as freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is also considered an NBA prospect. 

"The NBA is still on hold," Wright said. "They don't have a plan yet for what they're going to do with the pre-draft process or the draft yet. Saddiq and Jeremiah probably both will go through that process when we find out what it is. They're waiting on us for information, should they start working out? We're trying to get them as much information as possible. 

"If we were in a normal timeline, they would both go through the process. As we learn what the NBA is going to do there are so many possibilities. Just to take it to an extreme, there's a possibility they might not have a pre-draft process and just have the draft with no workouts, using the evaluations they had during the season. 

"We're communicating with both of them daily. Saddiq is having a tough time trying to find a place to work out in [his hometown] Washington D.C. He just got a gym to get into so he can shoot, he can't find a gym to get into to lift. Jeremiah is trying to find a place around here to get into to shoot."

2020 Summer Olympics postponed

Wright was supposed to spend a portion of his summer as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team in Tokyo. But with this week's announcement that the Olympics are postponed, his plans have changed. 

"It's the right decision," Wright said. "I feel bad for all of those athletes that it's once in a lifetime experience. I really feel bad for them. For basketball guys it's not as difficult. I talked with [U.S. head coach Greg Popovich] yesterday. It's postponed, obviously not cancelled, postponed until some time next spring or summer. There's a lot of questions there. They could do it late spring, when you might not have NBA players. If they did it in the summer maybe you do have NBA players. We have to wait for the IOC to make those decisions. 

"For us personally (at Villanova), it's kind of crazy because we thought we came up with this great plan. I was going to have to leave our offseason program for the Olympics. We had a plan to work around that, and now it doesn't matter. We'll be here in June and July. Now we don't even know if the players will be here. We worked so hard to put this plan in place for me being away and now it doesn't even matter."

Phillies season on hold

A Bucks County native, Wright is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. He had Phillies season tickets as a kid and is a regular at Citizens Bank Park during the summer months. Like all Phillies fans, he's disappointed the baseball season isn't starting this week.

"The end of the basketball season was always sobering," Wright said. "But what always saved us was the start of the Phillies. Opening Day and the start of baseball season in our family is a big deal. 

"We watch the spring training games, we'll even joke, 'Who do the Phillies play tonight?' It's really surreal. Spring time without baseball, especially the Phillies, is bizarre. It's really the way myself and my family get ourselves out of basketball mode. We go to Opening Day, we go to the Phillies games, we love 'Bark in the Park', we always bring the dogs. We're really going to miss it."

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