It's the time of year when reports and rumors about the coaching merry-go-round are dominating the rumor mills. Things are abuzz at the Final Four with talk about what coach is going where.
The most reliable information on the vacant Fresno State job is that Oklahoma assistant Ray Lopes is the odds-on favorite. Some sources indicate that the deal's all done. UCLA assistant Jim Saia is also a finalist.
In fact, there were strong rumors out of UCLA that if Saia got the Fresno State job, freshly fired Washington head coach Bob Bender could replace him on Steve Lavin's staff at UCLA. But, of course, that's contingent on Saia getting the Fresno State job, which we've heard is almost assuredly Ray Lopes's.
One of the biggest recent indications that Ray Lopes was the favorite for the Fresno State job was the fact that Lopes turned down an interview at Boise State, seemingly pretty confident that he had the Fresno State job in hand.
When Fran Fraschilla resigned at New Mexico it had Lobo fans wondering what, if any, impact that decision would have on the Lobo recruits who signed in the fall. Now, they've hired Oregon State head coach Ritchie McKay as their head coach, and we hear that David Chiotti, 6-8 PF Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis, plans on sticking with his commitment. But that might not be the case with Ashanti Cook, 6-1 PG Los Angeles Westchester. We haven't heard anything definitive yet, but there is a possibility that Cook may ask to be released from his NLI. If that comes to pass, then don't be surprised if Oregon takes another run at Cook. Remember, the Ducks were on Cook's short list in the fall and he took a visit to the Oregon campus before committing to New Mexico. But McKay might have a good shot at convincing Cook to honor his commitment.
Many have speculated why McKay would want to move from Oregon State to New Mexico - moving from the Pac-10 to the Mountain West. While not discounting the Oregon State job, New Mexico is primarily a basketball school, with great support, filling the Pit with 20,000 screaming Wolfpack fans for every game. There's a pretty decent argument to be made for the move.
Cal State Northridge coach Bobby Braswell is being mentioned as a strong candidate to replace McKay at Oregon State. Also in the mix are Arizona assistant Jay Johns and Pacific head coach Bob Thomason. A long-time, hard-working assistant at Oregon and elsewhere, Greg Graham was named the head coach at Boise State.
The Washington head coaching job is one of the most interesting situations. Hometown boy Quin Snyder, having just led Missouri to the Elite Eight, is the #1 target of Washington's AD, Barbara HedgesRick Neuheisel money. But we're hearing that the Snyder saga isn't over yet and Hedges will continue to try to get her man. Could Washington deal with two, young, blonde pretty boys as their football and basketball head coaches? Rumors are that Mark Few, the hot Gonzaga head coach, would turn down the job if it were offered to him. He is considered a candidate by Washington, but he hasn't formally been offered the job. Lorenzo Romar, the current St. Louis head coach, former UCLA assistant and former Washington player, could be a strong contender for the position if it doesn't happen with Snyder.
Word on Players
Speaking of Washington, former Washington kid Brian Morrison, who spent the last two seasons at North Carolina and has gotten his release, is said to be strongly considering Washington and Oregon. While most assume that Washington is the favorite, the Ducks up-tempo, run-and-gun system would seem to be well-suited for the athletic Morrison as he's at his best in an open-court game.
Point guard Joe See will transfer from Oregon State, more than likely ending up at Santa Clara or Pacific.
Another Oregon Oregon St. transferee, guard Jimmy Haywood, has transferred to Portland. Haywood will have to sit out for a year and then he'll have one more year to play.
The well-accepted rumor is that Arizona freshman point guard Will Bynum would be transferring, but the latest is that Bynum could now be leaning toward staying. But there is more support to the idea that Jason Gardner, Arizona's junior point guard, could be putting his name in the NBA draft. If Gardner returned for his senior year, Arizona would be among the top 5 teams in the pre-season next year, if not #1. Also, in Arizona news: The Wildcats could be the leader for Andre Iguodala, 6-6 SR SF, Springfield (Ill.) Lanphier. Iguodala chose Arkansas over Arizona last fall, but with Nolan Richardson leaving Arkansas, Iguodala was allowed out of his NLI. Iguodala, a top 50 national prospects, is an athletic, good-scoring small forward, perfect to fill the hole in Arizona's roster over the next few years. Rumor is that Louisville transfer Carlos Hurt wants to come to Arizona, but it's a longshot it will happen.
Armando Surratt has been let out of his NLI by Fresno State, and his future is uncertain. Much could depend on his academics, but many close to the situation believe he won't qualify, which was one of the reasons he was going to Fresno State since they accept non-qualifiers. The new coach at FSU, more than likely Ray Lopes, we've heard will try to re-recruit Surratt. We've also heard that other schools might get involved, including Louisville. Follow the logic here for Louisville: Rick Pitino's #1 target in the junior class is probably Leon Powe, the 6-7 JR PF who also happens to go to the same high school as Surratt and the two are close. Louisville loses Hurt and has a point guard scholarship open, and Surratt could help their chances with Powe.
How about high school transfers? It's pretty well accepted that Crenshaw junior guard Marcus Williams will transfer to east coast prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. UCLA is thought to be his strong leader, but going to the east coast for his senior season might put a crimp in that. If he verbally commits early, this summer, will the verbal hold up by the signing period in November?
Still the hottest senior on the west coast is 6-9 center Rodrique Benson, Torrey Pines High. The latest is that he probably has Oregon as his current leader. He'll visit Eugene soon. Oregon State and Pepperdine are pursuing also, and UCLA has scouted Benson but hasn't decided yet if they'll pursue him.
Another senior from San Diego, 6-6 SF Nate Carter, San Diego Horizon, will walk on at San Diego State. That's a great walk on get for the Aztecs, with Carter having good size and good outside shooting ability. It's a sign of how much San Diego State has moved up in the world when they can get a player of Carter's caliber to walk on.
Mohamed Abukar, the 6-9 JR PF/C from Rancho Bernardo, reportedly, is vastly improving. For many big men, it's just a matter of when his light will turn out (if it ever will). Abukar has always had a good touch, but just lacked the aggressiveness and physical strength to be thought of as an elite recruit. Lately, though, the light might have turned on for Abukar. He's been playing with more aggressiveness and athleticism and he's definitely someone to keep an eye on for potentially blowing up this spring and summer.
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