NCAA

Philly-Syracuse connection on display at The Basketball Tournament

Philly-Syracuse connection on display at The Basketball Tournament

In no world would anyone confuse the Gallagher Center with Syracuse’s 35,000-seat Carrier Dome.

But with several of the Orange’s best players in the last decade coming from the City of Brotherly Love — including Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Rakeem Christmas, just to name a few  — Philadelphia has become a hub for fans of the 'Cuse.

So, it was only fitting that when Boeheim’s Army took the floor for its second-round matchup in The Basketball Tournament, 100-plus Orange fans in attendance at Philadelphia University stood and applauded until Donte Green’s opening basket went down.

Despite a 39-21 run late in regulation from its opposition, No. 3 Boeheim’s Army eked past No. 11 Gaelnation 106-100 in double overtime, moving on to the Super 16 for a third straight year. Donte Green and Eric Devendorf shouldered the offensive load for the Syracuse alumni, combining for 55 points.

And although Neumann-Goretti alum Jardine was absent Sunday, his high school teammate Jackson and Wilmington, Delaware, native Trevor Cooney gave the winners plenty of local flavors.

“(Philly basketball) means toughness,” Jackson said. “I grew up playing in those outside leagues where if you fall, you’re going to be on concrete. That alone will make you a man.

“Being out there falling, you know the refs aren’t calling much because they want to go home so they’re letting guys play, and I think that’s where I get it from.”

Jackson’s double-double was one of two posted by Boeheim’s Army on Sunday, and the former Big East Defensive Player of the Year led his team on the boards. After graduating back in 2011, he’s bounced between seven different pro teams, never sticking in one place for more than two seasons.

For Cooney, it’s been a similar, albeit much shorter, road. The Sanford School (Del.) alum left upstate New York just a year ago, but he’s already played for a trio of different teams after going undrafted.

And like Jackson, Sunday was just as much of a homecoming for the 6-foot-4 sharpshooter.

“I started in Philly playing AAU when I was in fifth grade, coming up here all the time,” Cooney said. “There’s some good basketball in Delaware, but there’s some really, really good basketball in Philly. If you want to take your game to the next level, this is where you come to play.

“I’ve played most of the time overseas, so it means a lot for my family and friends to come out here and watch me play again.”

The toughness built by their Philly backgrounds certainly showed with the Orange alums nearly choking away a 16-point halftime advantage. Boeheim’s Army had chances to finish things off at the end of both regulation and the first overtime, but they couldn’t close it out.

And for Jackson, who started in Syracuse’s six-overtime epic back in the 2010 Big East tournament, it was yet another reminder of his collegiate days.

“Ever since that game, every time I go into overtime I get that flashbacks of that six-overtime game,” he said.

Unlike years past, the entire group of former Orangemen spent the week leading up to the start of TBT practicing on the Syracuse campus. Cooney said the team was able to spend some time with its namesake, Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim.

Now, they’ll have the chance to head back to the Empire State and play in front more raucous, orange-clad fan, as they are just four wins away from the $2 million prize.

“Every team, as you move forward, has the same guys. We’re all professional players,” Cooney said. “It’s going to come down to getting stops and playing well together.

“If we’re able to do that, I think we’ll win some games.”

No. 7 Team Fancy 82, No. 2 Supernova 74
No team playing Sunday featured as many recognizable names as Supernova. The group of former Wildcats, led by Reggie Redding and Corey Fisher, had no problem making it to the second day but looked as if they’d spent Saturday night in a freezer.

Supernova was ice cold from the get-go, hitting on only 11 of 34 shots before the break as they trailed 44-28. And the frustration flowed into the second half with Maurice Sutton and Jayvaughn Pinkston each picking up a technical foul.

Eventually, Supernova closed to within five of Team Fancy just under the five-minute mark. Redding then kissed a floater off the glass in the final minute, making it a four-point game at 76-72. But Sutton couldn’t finish a put-back jam off a missed triple that would’ve made it a one-score game and Team Fancy pulled off the shocker in the final game of the weekend.

No. 1 FCM Untouchables 91, No. 9 Paul Champions 57
The top seed in the Philly region had no issues for a second straight day. After winning by 25 Saturday morning, the Untouchables had their opponent in the rearview mirror by halftime. Baltimore native Marcus Hatten, who has played for 14 different overseas teams since graduating from St. John’s in 2003, led the victors with 25 points — including a stunning 7 of 12 effort from three-point land.

No one on Paul Champions — a team that featured quite the stark height difference between 5-5 Earl Boykins and 7-6 Mamadou N’Diaye — could muster double-figure points. The Untouchable defense held the Champions to just 37.3 percent shooting. Expect the Untouchables to be heavy favorites to win the region when The Tournament continues July 20 in Brooklyn.

No. 4 Team FOE 82, No. 12 Sideline Cancer 75
It was the second time in as many days that Team FOE found itself trailing at halftime. Sideline Cancer, led by former St. Joe’s shooting guard Aaron Brown’s 21 points, was looking to continue its Cinderella run and make another Super 16 appearance like it did back in 2015.

But FOE, coached by Philly natives and former Kansas standouts Markieff and Marcus Morris, would not be put away.

“Sometimes we don’t execute throughout the whole game, but that’s why the second half is always better than our first half,” Team FOE forward Sean Evans said. “We kind of clicked in that second half but we’ve got to play that same way — hard, effective — throughout the whole game.”

Trailing by as many as eight with just under 11 minutes to play, FOE (Family Over Everything) closed on a 30-15 surge. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Mario Little were among the notable names that sparked FOE’s late offense, but they also got 21 combined points from Evans, a Northeast High graduate, and Drexel Alum Scott Rodgers. They’ll meet the Untouchables in 11 days.

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

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Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright. 

Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

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Jalen Brunson hires agent, declares for NBA draft

Villanova is losing its second star player in two days. 

Guard Jalen Brunson has decided to hire an agent and enter the 2018 NBA Draft, he wrote in a letter to Nova Nation on ESPN. He will forego his senior season at Villanova after an incredible college career. 

This news comes a day after his teammate Mikal Bridges announced he will also head to the NBA draft.

“It is with great honor and privilege that I have called Villanova University my home for the past three years,” Brunson wrote in ESPN. “When I decided to commit to Coach Jay Wright and the basketball program, I was driven by three goals: getting my education, competing at the highest level and winning a national championship. While I pride myself on remaining disciplined and focused to achieve these goals, I have grown as a man and have established lifelong relationships with my teammates, classmates, members of the basketball staff, fellow student-athletes and the wonderful educators and administrators of this prestigious university.”

Brunson leaves Villanova as one of the greatest players in Wildcats history, helping lead Villanova to its second national championship in three years. 

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. Brunson was named the Big East Player of the Year and was the Wooden Award and Naismith Award winner this season.