18 Mar 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
The 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, from A to Z:
A is for Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore, a shot-blocker who wrote a kinesiology paper on Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle injury. In his next game McLemore dislocated an ankle and broke his tibia. He recovered and now leads Auburn’s backline of shot blockers.
B is for Buddy Boeheim, one of three children of Syracuse coach Jim who plays Division I basketball. At an AAU tournament, Buddy drilled 7 3-pointers in a row. North Carolina coach Roy Williams told Jim that he “better recruit that kid.”
C is for Cam Johnson, who has shot 46.5 percent for North Carolina. The transfer from Pittsburgh found his career when a “cam lesion,” ironically, was removed from his hip, thus allowing him the flexibility he was missing.
D is for Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky’s 19.1-point average who won over 50 individual youth golf titles. His mother Christie scored 1,339 points at NKU and, according to Drew, became “The LaVar Ball of Newport Central Catholic” when he played there.
E is for Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, who averaged 23.1 points and has a well-developed playlist. He listens to the Rolling Stones as well as Drake, and tweeted that he was accepted at all eight Ivy League schools and is the first African-American to separate Siamese twins.
F is Jordan Ford, the WCC’s top scorer at St. Mary’s. Ford was known as “Baby Steph,” growing up in Folsom, for his resemblance to the 2-time MVP from Golden State. He also was a state champ in chess as a second-grader.
G is for Gardner-Webb, Virginia’s first-round opponent. Artis Gilmore made G-W semi-famous when it was a junior college. It’s in Boiling Springs, N.C., and has a tradition of pancake bingo during exam week.
H is for Greg Herenda, the Fairleigh Dickinson coach who was hospitalized with blood clots at last year’s Final Four. He was down for three months. “I went from wheelchair to walker to cane,” Herenda said, “but now I’m dancing.”
I is for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who is mellow enough until tipoff. McCaffery’s latest ‘Frantrum,’ directed at an official, earned him a 2-game suspension. When Fran was at Siena, he and wife Margaret both got ejected at Hofstra.
J is for Jordan Nwora, a towering Louisville talent who, at 19, scored 36 to lead Nigeria over Mali and qualify for the World Cup. His father Alexander is Nigeria’s coach.
K is for Mifondu Kabengele, a nephew of Dikembe Mutombo who wore a 3-piece suit, with tie, on his visit to Florida State. “I had to stop that from happening,” assistant coach Dennis Gates said.
L is for Liberty, which ended Steve Alford’s UCLA career and kept winning (28-6). The Big South MVP was Scottie James, whose mother Christie is a professor of grad education at Liberty.
M is for the electrifying Temetrius Jamel (Ja) Morant of Murray State, who was an AAU teammate of Zion Williamson’s and averaged 24.1 points this season with 258 free throw tries in 31 games. Williamson and Durant are projected 1-2 in this NBA draft.
N is for Nickeil Alexander-Walker of Virginia, a Canadian who could be the Hokies’ first player to leave early for the NBA. His first cousin is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Clippers.
O is for Montana’s Michael Oguine, who is the Big Sky defensive player of the year. At Chaminade, he banked in a buzzer shot to beat Santa Margarita in the Division III state semifinals.
P is for Prairie View, coached by Byron Smith, who took over when the team was 1-18 in 2016. Formerly the Harlem Globetrotters coach, he led Zelmo Beaty’s alma mater to a SWAC championship.
Q is for a Questionable call that helped Georgia State’s D’Marcus Simonds make a layup to beat Louisiana-Monroe. Simonds acknowledged, via Twitter, that he did travel. He still proclaimed himself the GOAT.
R is for Recruiting, a process that bypassed C.J. Massinburg. He was ignored at South Oak Cliff High in Dallas. San Francisco notified him via text that it wasn’t interested in him, and he read it during a music class and broke down. At Buffalo, Massinburg is the MAC Player of the Year.
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S is for Suzanne Brown, wife of North Dakota State assistant Kyan. She discovered in February that their house was ablaze. They lost most possessions and were in a hotel for three weeks. Asked if he needed help moving, Brown replied, “There’s nothing to move.” But he went back to work, and the Bison won the Summit Conference tournament.
T is for Tennessee’s Grant Williams, the SEC’s best player who who plays four instruments well and six other passably. His mother is a NASA engineer. He shot 247 free throws this season. The Vols only had to outrecruit the Ivy League to get him.
U is for UCF’s Tacko Fall, who is 7-foot-6 with size 22 feet and the ability to dunk without jumping. Fall also shot 75 percent, breaking the previous 38-year-old NCAA record by eight percentage points.
V is for Virginia’s Kyle Guy, who went public with anxiety issues that were widened when the top-seeded Cavaliers lost to 16th-seeded UMBC. “It’s the feeling of drowning while watching everyone else breathe,” he said. “I vowed never to feel that way again.” Now he and Virginia are back.
W is for Wofford’s Fletcher McGee, perhaps the country’s best 3-point shooter and not by accident. As the team gathered to watch Clemson beat Alabama in the college football title game, McGee went to the gym for some shooting. Sometimes he brings his own basketball to road games.
X is for Xavier Green and Old Dominion, winners of the C-USA title and the seventh team Jeff Jones has coached into the NCAAs. Jones found out his prostate cancer had reoccurred in the preseason. “This doesn’t mean I’ll be any nicer to you,” he told his team.
Y is for Yale’s Miya Oni, who only played one year at Viewpoint thanks to injuries, and committed to Yale after admissions were closed. He had such an explosive AAU summer that the power teams came calling, but he stuck with Yale and may become the Ivy League’s first drafted player since Penn’s Jerome Allen in 1995.
Z is for Duke’s Zion Williamson, perhaps the most dominant player since Anthony Davis. Believe it or not, he couldn’t always dunk. It didn’t happen until he was 14, and 6-foot-3, and he had to throw it off the board first. He’s catching up.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correctly identify Anfernee McLemore.