Scottie Lewis is looking to make history tonight with a Shore Conference Championship – Q&A with HG Insider

Scottie Lewis and the Ranney Panthers are looking to make history tonight at 8:00 p.m. in the Shore Conference Championship against Mater Dei Prep. He spoke to Hoop Group Insider about this and much more.

Q: How would you say your team has done so far this year what is the mindset heading going forward?

A: “We had a goal to go undefeated in the regular season and that is something that we did not do,” said Lewis. “We lost some games that we should have won. My teammates and I are competitors so our season did no go the way we wanted it to go because our goal was to go undefeated. Going 20-4 in the regular season is still not something to hang our heads about. Going into states we have new goals, new milestones to hit and we are focused on that.”

Q: New Jersey is one of the more talented states in terms of basketball talent, from 2018 down to 2021. Seeing all that talent, what is your feeling towards going against all of the top guys in the state?

A: “Most of those guys in the class of 2018, we have been watching since we were in seventh grade,” he said. “Growing up they were our idols and now they’re the enemy. We have to play against them, but of course we are still friends with them. We’re rooting for them and they’re rooting for us. It is all a brotherhood in New Jersey at the end of the day, but when we step on the floor, we are all competitive. We all have that New Jersey grit so being from New Jersey and playing for New Jersey is a huge thing. It is a lot to hold up to.”

Q: And obviously, you take it one step at a time, but what would it mean for a school like Ranney that is just getting exposed to all of this talent and the state tournament?

A: “Ever since eighth grade when Alex Klatsky and I first got here we knew we were going to create something special and wanted to make history,” Lewis said. “Our freshman year we added Bryan Antoine and Chris Autino and went on a run. We saw the love and the vibe that the Ranney School showed towards the basketball team and the rise of our program. To win a state tournament, then potentially go far, and win a T.O.C. Championship this year would only further our story.”

Q: What is it like creating your own path here at Ranney? Rather than going to a storied program in the past that has won state championships you guys took a different route.

A: “We feel accomplished,” he said. “We talk about it every day. Year to year after the season ends we get right to focusing on the next season here at Ranney. We’ve built a culture, a base for what we want to do. We are trying to build a culture of winning. We want to be that school not only in the Shore conference but also in the state. That is something that we have been trying to build for the last three years. Ranney entered the Shore conference prior to me enrolling and their first order of business was to win a Shore conference championship and from there would be to win the Tournament of Champions.”

Q: You individually, what do you think your role is? What does Coach Tahj Holden say your role is?

A: “Coach Tahj Holden has given me the role to be the coach Tahj of the floor while we are out there,” said Lewis. “He wants to me to be a leader and a captain. There is not much that he does not ask me to do, from getting assists to scoring and creating for my teammates and just having everyone involved and us staying together as a family. We all know we play our best when we play together. I’m kind of the floor general and the captain no matter what position I play and when I’m at on the floor. If I’m not on the floor, I’m on the bench doing the same thing, just being a captain.”

Sean Miller Caught Negotiating Pay for Play

This is huge. It was reported late Friday night that Arizona head coach was caught on wiretaps negotiating in a pay for play deal for freshman DeAndre Ayton. The conversations were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a runner for former sports agent Andy Miller of ASM Sports. The taps revealed discussions between the Wildcat head coach and Dawkins in which $100,000 would be sent to Ayton to ensure his commitment to school.

It’s been a rough year for Arizona to say the least. In September, assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was arrested in what was the beginning of this FBI investigation. They lost the commitment of Jahvon Quinerly when his name surfaced in reports in the Fall. This past week, star guard Allonzo Trier tested positive for a banned substance for the second time, though the school is appealing. And now this news with Miller. The hits just keep on coming.

This FBI investigation has been a black cloud around all of college basketball. It’s been an even bigger cloud over Arizona, who along with USC, Oklahoma State, Auburn had assistant coaches arrested back in the Fall. Richardson was arrested in September and was accused for accepting $20,000 in bribes and paying recruits to sign with Arizona. Becasue of this, Miller’s name has come up a lot when talking about the FBI scandal. And now we have our news.

Ayton is one of the best players in college basketball this year. He leads the Pac 12 in points and rebounds and is a sure fire top five pick in this Spring’s NBA Draft. He is a rare talent that Miller called a “once in a generation type player.” In conversations with Dawkins, Miller instructed him to deal directly with him when dealing with Ayton.

Earlier today we were given a list of names of players who received impermissible benefits from ASM Sports.While it was certainly buzz worthy news, it did not affect many head coaches because these deals were directly between players and their families, and Dawkins. This is different. This is Sean Miller, a head coach, working directly with a sports agent to pay for a player to come to campus. This is the big news many were waiting for. No one has any idea what happens from here, but it will be crazy.

Michael Porter Jr. Cleared for Madness

Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. returned to practice Friday, being cleared to play just four months removed from major back surgery.

Though positive news for the top-ranked 6-foot-10 freshman forward, it’s still uncertain he’ll dress for Saturday’s conference contest against Kentucky … or if he’ll be in playing plans for the remainder of the regular season.

But it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t.

News in November of his once thought of as season-ending surgery put a damper on his collegiate career outlook as the No. 2 overall prospect of the 2017 class (No. 1 before Marvin Bagley reclassified). But his absence wasn’t the know-all, say-all for his team. Mizzou has since survived the wild SEC this season, exceeding expectations of the team without the star. The Tigers are 8-7 in a competitive conference and 18-10 overall. So why scramble to fit Michael Porter Jr. into a game plan that has been working just fine without?

The Tigers travel to play a struggling Kentucky squad Saturday. Even if Michael Porter Jr. were to contribute minutes to the team, Mizzou wouldn’t need to work miracles to earn a ‘W’ in Cat country. Missouri travels to play a docile Vanderbilt group Tuesday before the Tigers wrap up the season at home against Arkansas March 3. Missouri is a dominate 12-3 at home, and can easily go 3-0 to finish the regular season of conference action. The Tigers are in a six-way tie for third now in the SEC.

The other factor in this is the possibility of Porter playing alongside his brother, and for his dad, at least once this year. Family is a big piece for Porter, whose brother Johntay reclassified to 2017 just for the chance to play with Michael. One collegiate game on the court with his brother and dad would mean the world to Porter Jr.

Missouri set itself up nicely postseason play creeps up. The addition of a healthy, talented Porter Jr. gives the Tigers a scary edge as March Madness approaches. But there Is no need to rush the freshman in.

NBA Needs to Overhaul Its Playoff Format

With the NBA season past it’s midway point and All-Star Weekend finished, the focus of the rest of the season turns towards the playoffs and the race for the final playoff positions in both conferences. While there have been subtle mentions in the past about a playoff overhaul, those discussions have become far more frequent over the last few days. Most NBA fans, or rational ones at least, will recall how the Western Conference is regarded as the deeper conference over the last decade plus. That has triggered some minor debates about the merits of the current playoff format. In fact, most discussions have centered around taking the 16 teams with the best records into the playoffs, instead of the 8 best from each conference. In recent days, new ideas have been brought to the forefront of the discussion and the NBA is taking it’s first look at serious talks of a playoff overhaul. Let’s take a look at some of the ideas proposed and what the best options moving forward for an NBA playoff overhaul are.

Taking the 16 best teams

The most common and long held take regarding an NBA playoff overhaul involves taking the top 16 teams and seeding them accordingly in a bracket style playoff. This would put the legitimate 16 best teams in the playoffs instead of taking the 8 best from each conference. Under this format, the 16 teams who made the playoffs would not have changed, but their seeding and their paths to the finals change a little bit. In 2015-2016 the Bulls missed the playoffs in the East, but would have nabbed the final playoff spot in this system over the 41-41 Houston Rockets. The year before, the Thunder missed the playoffs at 45-37. However, they would have been the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference that year. In reality the top 16 teams make the playoffs more often than not, but seeding and creating match-ups with a disregard for conference affiliation would make the playoffs a lot more interesting.

7-10 Seed Play-In Tournament

ESPN’s Zach Lowe first reported on the new discussions centering on a 4-team playoff format in each conference (between the 7-10 seeds) to determine playoff seeding for the 7th and 8th seeds. Under the format the 7th and 8th seeds in each conference would play and the winner would get the 7th seed. The 9th and 10th seeds would play with the winner moving on to play the loser of the 7 and 8 game to battle it out for the 8th seed in the playoffs. While this is a newer discussion brought to the table, it is still a long ways away from potentially being implemented in the NBA playoff discussion. With this plan, the NBA hopes to reduce tanking and make it more viable for teams to stay competitive for the entire 82 game slate.

There have been also some talks of expanding the lottery and including the 7th and 8th seeds in the lottery to also add additional support against tanking. Will either of those moves completely eliminate tanking for the worst teams in the league? Not entirely, but any move to make the playoff race even more competitive could go along way towards making the NBA more competitive from top to bottom. And generating more interest in the playoffs as a whole.

The NBA needs an overhaul to their playoff system. A multiple step overhaul that also gives incentives to make 9, 10 and potentially even 11 seeds reasons to stay competitive and avoid tanking are all things that can increase the overall play of the league. I am a major fan of the top 16 teams making the playoffs regardless of conference. I support a potential play-in tournament to supplement the top 16 seeding format. The top 16 teams making the playoffs and seeding them accordingly will create some interesting match-ups as the playoffs progress. Having the top 12 teams securely in the playoffs, while the next eight teams battle it out for the final four spots would generate a bigger interest in the beginning of the NBA playoffs. It would help to put an end to “tanking.” The NBA needs to address the One and Done issue, but a playoff overhaul should be the second task on the list.

It’s still a few years out, and requires a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I believe it would help make the NBA more competitive than it already is.

NCAA Players Revealed in FBI Report to Receive Benefits

It looks like we have our first name drop in the FBI investigation over corruption within college basketball. Yahoo Sports reported this morning that numerous players, from major programs, received impermissible benefits while at, or currently at, school from the ASM Sports agency. The reports come directly from the financial records and spreadsheets of Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins, two men formerly associated with the agency. Dawkins was one of the ten people arrested in September when this news first broke.

The report lists in detail the payments and loans given to players in an attempt to get them to sign with ASM upon declaring for the NBA Draft. The report includes current NBA players such as Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Kuzma and more. It also lists current NCAA athletes such as Wendell Carter (Duke), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Miles Bridges (Michigan State).

It’s important to note that these transactions were mainly between the player’s families and ASM directly, which is different from the school’s directly funneling money to the player and his family in return for a commitment. It’s possible coaches were unaware of these deals occurring, so I don’t expect much to happen to them based on this report. No school other than Xavier would comment on the report. Below is head coach Chris Mack’s comment:

“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates. He plays no role in the recruitment of potential student athletes on Xavier’s behalf. Beyond that, our staff has never created a path for him to foster a relationship with any of our student-athletes while enrolled at Xavier. Any suggestion that I or anyone on my staff utilized Andy Miller to provide even the slightest of financial benefits to a Xavier student-athlete is grossly misinformed. We are prepared to cooperate with any and all investigations at any level.”

Former Xavier player Edmund Sumner was a name listed in the documents. I don’t disbelieve Mack. I’m sure he did not utilize ASM to land recruits and I’m sure he was never introducing Sumner to Andy Miller. As I said before, these transactions are primarily between families of players and the agency. It could have gone on behind a coach’s backs. However, as a head coach, you have a pretty good idea of what goes on within your program, on and off the court. For all these coaches to be 100% blind to these deals happening seems a little farfetched, but I’m not here to point fingers and make up rumors.

The news basically just cures a craving that most of the college basketball world has had since last week, when the report of hundreds of documents being in the FBI’s possession broke. It’s illegal, but nothing earth shattering. Most players have dollar amounts next to their name in the thousands, but others are much less. Some players are listed on the report solely because the agency picked up the bill for dinner meeting. Others received a couple hundred dollars to make some bill payments, allegedly.

As for the NCAA, they released a statement this morning, but it was pretty vague and unconvincing. “The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity.” That’s just a piece of the full statement put out by Mark Emmert. Unless those changes are compensating players and their families, in some fashion, for the monetary value that they provide to the NCAA and universities, these cases will never go away. I’m not saying players need hundreds of thousands of dollars, but some of these records are for hundreds of dollars. There is some middle ground that would eliminate this corruption and help players’ families. That’s a conversation for another day.

As I said before, not much should happen to head coaches with this report. I would expect a lot of teams to have to eventually forfeit some wins (joy) for having ineligible players play. We may just get to a point where the NCAA just vacates every National Championship for the past 20 years. Just pretend no one won anything and try to start fresh. It will be interesting to see how the programs with active NCAA players fair for the rest of the year. With conference tournaments and Selection Sunday coming up it’s worth monitoring. This report gave everyone a taste at what could be out there, but it remains a waiting game.