Published March 24, 2011
On every scouting report Virginia Commonwealth puts together, opposing players who are great outside shooters get a special designation — a picture of Steve Kerr.
So when Kerr himself was courtside at a shootaround Thursday, Rams coach Shaka Smart knew he had to take advantage of this great opportunity.
Smart didn't just introduce Kerr to his players, he also offered the former NBA marksman a challenge: a 3-point shooting contest against the team's best deep threat, Joey Rodriguez.
Wearing jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt the broadcaster loosened up with three free throws that hit nothing but net. Then Kerr went to the top of the key for a best-of-10 challenge. His first shot rimmed out, while Rodriguez made his. The kid never trailed on his way to a 9-6 victory in a contest that actually went 11 rounds; everyone was having so much fun, they lost count.
"I'm sure if he had a couple more warm up shots he would have killed me," Rodriguez said. "It was cool shooting against someone like that. And you could kind of see at the end he wanted to win. He's a great shooter, probably the best clutch shooter of all times, one of them at least. ... That was a fun experience. That was great."
Rodriguez was born in 1988, a few months after Kerr helped lead Arizona to the Final Four. Rodriguez was 13 when Kerr hit his last NBA 3-pointer in 2002. But Rodriguez has learned about Kerr's career from watching TV.
And the scouting reports.
Each opposing player is pictured along with a photo of an NBA player whose style he most closely resembles — either Rajon Rondo (quick to the hoop), Dwyane Wade (a slasher who also has a great outside shot) or Kerr (unlimited range).
"When the ball is passed to a shooter and we don't do a good job of closing out, the first thing we yell is, 'Guys, he's a Kerr,'" Smart said. "It's nice to have Kerr with us today."
BOOK OF ROY: Buzz Williams should know the book on Roy Williams by now.
After all, it was a pain to find it.
The Marquette coach picks a different person to study each month, usually somebody who will inspire him or teach him about things like leadership and character. He picked the North Carolina coach while he was in Puerto Rico, then set out to find his book for the trip home.
"I spent nine times as much on the cab as I did on the book," Buzz Williams said. "It got so bad that I just employed the cab driver to stay until I could find it. I would go into a book store, ask for it, go to another one, another one."
Williams finally found "Hard Work: A Life On and Off the Court."
"It was the only book written in English that I could find," Buzz Williams said with a smile. "There was literally one in Puerto Rico, and I found it and read it."
STILL REMEMBER: The only history between 12th-seeded Richmond and top-seeded Kansas is 2004, when the Spiders stunned the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.
It wasn't just any upset: Kansas hadn't lost at home to an unranked team in 52 games. For Kansas coach Bill Self, the loss wasn't a bright moment in his first season.
Self said he doesn't think about it much — except when he's reminded.
"We made a couple boneheaded plays late," Self recalled of the 2004 game, "which I've seen on television this week to remind me of that."
GROUNDED HEELS: North Carolina was ready to head north to get to Newark for the East Regional but the Tar Heels were grounded for a while. Three hours to be exact.
"It wasn't too bad. We usually had a meal or a meeting at 11:00 and we ended up, I think, meeting at about 11:45," said junior forward Tyler Zeller. "we got in late but we didn't have the free time last night. But the plane was very nice. We had screens that you can watch movies, TV, played games. So we had fun with it. Obviously we would have rather not be there, but it was at least a nice plane that was enjoyable to be on."
SLOW SALES: The Southwest regional in San Antonio features three schools with double-digit seeds, making for an interesting first in NCAA tournament history.
But it might not help when it comes to selling tickets.
Tickets brokers in San Antonio are predicting empty seats Friday night when top-seeded Kansas plays 12th-seeded Richmond. That's followed by 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth against 10th-seeded Florida State.
Best Tickets owner Jerome Cohen said Thursday that tickets are selling below face value, and even then, "there's no activity." He chalks it up mostly to the geography of the schools.
Lynn Hickey, tournament director and athletic director of Texas-San Antonio, said officials are hoping for a lot of walk-ups for Sunday's regional final. She believes the economy is a factor and said ticket sales in San Antonio are as good as the other regionals, but the Alamodome boasts a bigger venue.
The Alamodome has been configured to seat around 30,000.
"What we're telling everyone is we're making history," Hickey said. "Talk about pulling for an underdog."
COLLEGE DEGREES: One of the best pictures to come out of last weekend's games was three guys on the court.
They weren't waiting for a fourth for some 2-on-2, and they weren't waiting to warm up for a practice or game.
David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale received their degrees from Ohio State in an impromptu ceremony in Chicago at the same time their classmates went through graduation exercises back in Columbus.
"I think the great thing is we're going to leave college without any debt, so that's nice," Diebler said. "Getting your degree is just an awesome feeling. It is a great honor to go through that, especially as an athlete, just with the amount of time that we spend in our sport."
Senior associate athletic director Miechelle Willis arranged the ceremony which was complete with mortarboards.
"She called out our names. We kind of walked up, shook her hand and got it," senior forward David Lighty said of receiving his diploma. "It was something special for us since we couldn't make it down to Columbus and be with the rest of our classmates. For them to do that was real special."
ONE AND DONE: Over the last few seasons Kentucky basketball has come to mean saying goodbye to players after their freshman year.
This year, there's a good chance freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight will hear their names called early in the NBA draft.
Kentucky coach John Calipari, who lost star players early at both Massachusetts and Memphis, isn't fazed by the thought of rebuilding every season.
"During the season it is about our team and when the season ends it is about individual players and what's right for them and their families," he said. "All I can tell you is we've encouraged young people to chase their dreams, especially if they're in the lottery area. And it's never really hurt our programs. Our programs have just kept going."