HOOP SCOOP flashback: Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui

This column on then-Columbia University shooting guard Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui appeared in The Japan Times in March 2008:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2008/03/23/basketball/bj-league/columbias-matsui-aims-to-be-a-leader/#.WhgDQTRx2mU

November 2017 update: Matsui now plays for the SeaHorses Mikawa in Japan’s B. League, who at press time are 16-1 with a 16-game win streak through Nov. 20.

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Stephen Curry’s rise to superstardom has been a joy to watch

Few players bring the same level of excitement to the court game after game as Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. This was also true while he played in college.
Today’s entry takes a look back at Curry’s college career when he was still a junior.
This Hoop Scoop column appeared in The Japan Times in January 2009.

Neumann analyzes Curry, recalls Pistol Pete

By Ed Odeven

Every dozen years or so, a young athlete arrives on the scene — Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt or LeBron James, for instance — with the demeanor, athleticism and poise beyond their years to be the next standard-bearer of excellence in that sport.

You may not know it yet, but Stephen Curry is on the verge of becoming one of those special players, and Rizing Fukuoka coach John Neumann is one of his biggest fans.

“I wish Curry the best,” Neumann said recently, “because he is a credit to basketball and a leader. These are the things I admire about him.”

Curry, a junior guard from tiny Davidson College (enrollment: 1,700) near Charlotte, N.C., became an instant success story as a college freshman when he averaged 21.5 points per game in 2006-07.

The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry increased that output to 25.9 last season, a season in which his scoring prowess earned him legions of fans thanks to his magical performance in the NCAA Tournament — four straight games of 30 or more points.

In doing so, he became only the fourth man in NCAA Tournament history to do this in his first four tourney games. He was held to 25 in an Elite Eight loss to Kansas.

This season, he is the leading scorer in the NCAA’s Division I (347 schools), averaging 29.1 ppg entering this week’s play. He also leads the Southern Conference in both assists (6.5) and steals (3.0), and is among the nation’s top 10 in both categories. No other player is in the national top 10 in all three categories.

Dick Jerardi, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, wrote a recent piece that offered historical perspective between Curry’s career and that of the late “Pistol Pete” Maravich, whose rise to stardom began at Louisiana State University (1967-70) before a 10-year NBA career.

Jerardi pointed out that Curry has an outside shot at breaking Maravich’s all-time D-I points record (3,667) if he continues to average in the neighborhood of 30 points per game for the remainder of this season and returns to college next fall, instead of skipping his senior season to enter the NBA, and does the same.

Maravich played three seasons — freshmen were not permitted to play on the varsity squad at the time — at LSU and averaged a staggering 44.2 ppg, a career record that will probably never be broken.

Neumann, of course, remembers those days vividly. The second-year coach of the bj-league’s Fukuoka squad starred at the University of Mississippi from 1969-71, and played against Pistol Pete in college and in the NBA.

He, too, was a gifted scorer, averaging an NCAA-best 40.1 ppg in the 1970-71 season.

Now, after nearly four decades since Pistol Pete and Johnny Neumann were the brightest offensive stars of the Southeastern Conference, Neumann was asked if he would like to see Curry break his former foe’s NCAA record.

“To be honest, Pete was a good friend of mine and no I wouldn’t like anyone to break his record, because he was special and he found God late in life and he died on a basketball court,” Neumann said.

Indeed, Maravich died on Jan. 5, 1988, suffering a heart attack in a 3-on-3 game in Pasadena, Calif. He was 40 years old.

Maravich was a pure scorer, capable of knocking down shots with regularity from anywhere on the court. His astounding scoring totals would have increased dramatically if he had played his entire career in the 3-point era (the NBA adopted the 3-point shot for the 1979-80 season; the NCAA followed suit a few years later).

For astute students of the game, Curry’s shooting ability reminds them of Pistol Pete’s. His all-around skills are quite impressive as well, according to Neumann.

“I think Curry is a great passer and plays to help his team win,” Neumann stated.

The numbers support that claim. Davidson posted a 29-5 record in 2006-07, went 29-7 last season and took a 14-3 record into Wednesday’s contest against Furman College.

Curry isn’t just a talented scorer who tries to beat opponents all by himself.

“I know that he can shoot and does it as good as anyone, but what no one ever talks about is how he sees the floor and can pass and generate offense for his teammates also,” said Neumann.

Curry’s rise to stardom has been a joy to watch. And here’s even better news: The journey isn’t over.

In terms of potential, Curry has just scratched the surface, showcasing skills that ooze out of every pore in his body, skills that only a handful of players possess every generation.

Just ask Neumann.

Sports — what it’s all about: people

By Ed Odeven

Today, I read two articles that in different ways provided a poignant reminder that sports are, above all, about people — not about Xs and Os, advanced metrics or the latest gimmick play. The relationships that develop between teammates, coaches, fans, front-office staff, media, et al with sports as the backdrop for these interactions is often the most compelling part of it all.

Exhibit A: Brendan F. Quinn’s compelling profile of John Beilein’s coaching journey from upstate New York to the University of Michigan, and all the stops in between.

http://www.mlive.com/john-beilein/

And the other: Glenn Dickey reminisces about his strong ties to sports in recent story posted on his website.

http://glenndickey.com/_gd.php?view_one=yes&which=1660

NCAA Tournament selection committtee’s challenges

By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (March 19, 2014) — The 10-member selection committee was responsible for choosing this year’s field of 68 teams for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, including 36 at-large bids. It’s an annual March Madness project that draws plenty of criticism for “snubs” and for teams that critics feel are seeded too high or too low.

There are 31 automatic bids for conference tournament winners, and the Ivy League awards an automatic bid to its regular-season conference champion. Including assigning individual seeds to all 68 teams, that Herculean task culminated last week — Wednesday through Sunday in Indianapolis, to be specific — where the final work was done in choosing this year’s tournament field.

Doug Fullerton, the long-time Big Sky Conference commissioner, served on the committee this year.

Seeking explanation on how he approached this work, this reporter asked the Big Sky Conference for comment from Fullerton.

This morning, an email arrived in my inbox with Fullerton’s statements detailing the project.

Here are Fullerton’s insights on the big project cited above.

I think everyone on the committee understands the importance of what we do, both to the participants but also to the NCAA enterprise. Almost all of the NCAA’s revenue comes from this one source — the Division I men’s basketball tournament.  Our job is to “get it right” and I have not worked on any other committee within the NCAA structure where members leave their affiliations — school, conference, divisional – at the door and just try to do the best job they can placing the most deserving teams into the tournament.   

Most of the time it is fairly easy to get a group of teams from the same conference in the correct order of strength but when you begin to try and compare teams from the Pac-12 with teams from the Atlantic 10 (for example) – that is where it gets difficult.  So we have metrics such as the RPI to help us. And we have every metric known to man when we are looking at the teams – and they are updated each morning throughout the entire season.   

Balancing the metrics with the “eye test” – watching the teams play is what makes up the information that each of us bring to the committee. We watch 3-4 games – or parts of games — almost each day from November to March. And we call and meet at monthly intervals starting in January to start to get the field down to a workable size.   

Most of us feel confident in our selections when we arrive in Indianapolis to make the selections – however there are some built in dilemmas that we always face.

*For instance, how do we evaluate and place teams that may have a better resume (have earned their position) vs. someone who we feel is stronger at this time of the year?

*How do we reconcile injuries and suspensions?

How do we look at late “hot teams” vs. teams who have played at a solid pace?    (answers for me are: I am a resume guy, if you look at late hot teams or who teams played late in the season you may very well be subtly ranking the conferences rather than the individual teams – as most late games are conference matchups – something we want to avoid at all costs.)

As for injuries: I never assume outcomes would change because of injuries – that is a slippery slope – and I never downgrade a team’s strength in the selection process – for I think they earn that chance – I would accept a lesser seed when we think a teams makeup will be different – but I believe teams can play their way out of a bad seed, but if they are left out of the tournament they can’t play their way in.     

This year continues the trend in recent years of the tournament field being very “flat.” All teams look alike which makes for a tough selection and seeding process but a great tournament.