Red (and blue) eyes
With hundreds of four-star and five-star talents playing all over Las Vegas this week, it isn’t often that the entire Arizona staff — or that of any other school — sits together to watch any one game.
But it happened late Thursday night.
Sean Miller, Lorenzo Romar, Mark Phelps and Book Richardson all crammed into a corner of the Liberty High School gym to watch 2019 shooting guard Josh Green and 2020 point guard Nico Mannion play for the Earl Watson Elite U16 team.
In the second half, the UA coaches pulled up chairs to watch the game courtside, where an adjacent game had just finished.
Both players saw them clearly.
“It’s a good feeling knowing that you’re wanted,” Mannion said.
Both Mannion, a rising sophomore at Phoenix Pinnacle, and Green, an incoming junior at Phoenix Hillcrest, remain wide-open in their recruitment. But UA’s efforts may have made a difference.
“I really appreciate the coaching staff coming out,” Green said. “I’m really grateful for that.”
Even though Mannion is only a sophomore, he’s already plenty used to attention.
That’s in part because Sports Illustrated writer Chris Ballard spent a week with him and wrote a lengthy piece last season on how Mannion crosses being a basketball prodigy with teenage life.
Ballard’s engrossing story began in part with this passage: “When Nico was in middle school, his youth coach watched him skittering around the court and zipping passes, and declared that if you want to see what an NBA lottery pick looks like, well, there you go, and he’d point at the tiny, goofy-looking pale kid, all elbows and ears, who couldn’t weigh more than a wet golden retriever. And of course this was a ridiculous and unfair amount of pressure to put on a 13-year-old, because as any parent knows, extrapolation is an inexact science when it comes to human beings.”
Mannion said his friends teased him about the article after it was published, but that he has not let it affect him.
“Not at all,” Mannion said. “It got my name out a little more, but I’m not going to change kind of the person I am just because of the article. The article was really just me. It was who I am. It wasn’t anything phony.”
NCAA recruiting rules allow college coaches to contact players without limit starting in June before their junior seasons, meaning five-star guard Cassius Stanley was in for a slew of messages.
But he didn’t notice a thing. Because his dad, Jerome, a longtime pro sports agent, takes all the calls while managing his recruitment.
“It’s helped me a lot,” Stanley said Friday, after playing for the Earl Watson Elite 17U team. “I only get the tip of the iceberg.”
Yet there’s one form of “recruiting” that dad can’t filter: Stanley said he has friendships with DeAndre Ayton, Ira Lee, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and UA commit Shareef O’Neal.
“They’re pushing Arizona hard,” Stanley said.
Big Bawler Brand
Outspoken Big Baller Brand coach LaVar Ball made headlines again Friday, when he complained about being thrown out of an Adidas Summer Championship game by a female official — and the official was then replaced.
Ball told ESPN after the game that the official was “trying to make a name for herself” and said she shouldn’t try to “step in the lane.”
“She came into this game knowing what she was going to do,” Ball said Friday, according to ESPN. “I knew it, too. I could’ve told you all if you was to interview me before the game, and I’d say, ‘I guarantee you she give me a tech on some BS.’ And look what happened. You’re just going be known for that, that’s all. See where she refs at next week.”
An Adidas official said it was their decision to replace the referee, noting that “a history or miscommunication” can warrant doing so. But former Pac-12 officiating director Ed Rush, who heads the organization supplying refs to the tournament, wondered if there was a vendetta.
“How can you have a history and she (works women’s basketball)?” Rush told ESPN. “She just arrived here two days ago.”
The big number
The scoring average of Ball’s 15-year-old son, LaMelo, through his first three games in the Adidas tournament.
“Maybe we won too much in Year 1, but I’m joking” — Former UA player and assistant coach Josh Pastner, who won 21 games and reached the final of the NIT in his first year as Georgia Tech’s head coach last season.