Crying foul on new rules
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Rule changes come and go without much concern from coaches.
This time it’s different in college basketball.
New rules that will reduce contact allowed by defenders at the perimeter and favor the offensive player in many block-charge situations have coaches somewhat on edge.
“The games will be ugly, everyone will be unhappy about it,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said Tuesday during Big 12 men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center.
On the perimeter, continual jabs by a defender or leaving a hand or forearm on an offensive player will not be allowed.
On the block-charge call, a defender must be set before an offensive player starts an upward motion.
Make no mistake, Big 12 officials supervisor Curtis Shaw said, these aren’t points of emphasis that will be called early in the season and forgotten when league play begins.
“It’s not a guideline,” Shaw said. “They’ve moved it from the back of the rule book to the front. There is no judgment. If you do these things, it’s a penalty.”
The idea of the rule changes is to remove some rough-and-tumble play from college basketball, which had fallen to decade-low scoring totals last year.
Some coaches believe scoring will increase, but not the way intended.
“Because we’re shooting more free throws,” Kansas’ Bill Self said. “We may have some games where you can’t go up and down twice without having stoppage because it’s going to be a fragmented game in large part.”
Smart moves raise Big 12 prospects
When last season ended, the Big 12’s prospects for 2013-14 seemed diminished. The league was thought to be losing Kansas freshman Ben McLemore, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart and Baylor big men Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson to the NBA Draft.
Turned out, only McLemore departed.
And when the Jayhawks signed what is widely regarded one of the nation’s top two recruiting classes, suddenly prospects changed.
But the returning proven talent leads the way for a healthier prognosis for the Big 12 as a national conference power.
“Some days, I was leaving, some days I was staying,” said Smart, who likely passed up a multi-million contract. “I was close to going.”
Injuries played a role the decisions of Austin and Smart. Austin was slowed because of a shoulder injury last year, and that impacted his stock. Smart injured his right wrist in the NCAA Tournament game loss to Oregon and couldn’t play for two months.
If Smart hadn’t hurt the wrist, would he have departed for the NBA?
“It’s a hard question, I can’t really say because I did hurt my wrist,” he said.
He also as a response to those who said he was crazy for turning down the big bucks.
“I let it go in one ear and out the other,” Smart said. “They’re entitled to their own opinion, but at the end of the day you’re not the one who has to live with the decision. It’s me. You can what you want but it’s not going to affect me.”
Ish lighting it up
Although he didn’t attend media day, Baylor newcomer Ish Wainright, a Kansas Citian who spent his sophomore season at Raytown South before moving to Montrose Christian in Maryland, drew much praise.
“He’s very versatile, someone who can play the 1 through 4,” Bears coach Scott Drew said of Wainright, a 6-foot-5 freshman. “Normally the biggest adjustment for everybody coming into college is on the defensive end, but he’s somebody who prides himself on that and really wants to get after it.”
Four in four
Texas Tech senior Jaye Crockett is playing for his fourth head coach in four years, and he’s not bitter about it.
“A lot of people look at it as negative, but I see it has a way that has helped me adjust to any situation in life,” said Crockett, last year’s top scorer for the Red Raiders at 11.9 points. “Not just in basketball but in real life. A lot of things get thrown at you, and you have to ready for them.”
Crockett was recruited by and played as a freshman for Pat Knight, who was fired and replaced by Billy Gillispie.
Gillispie was about to start his second season when he was fired and replaced by assistant Chris Walker, who wasn’t retained after an 11-20 season.
Tubby Smith, hired after losing his job at Minnesota last season, will be Crockett’s final coach.
“I think he’s great, and I haven’t been more excited playing for a coach since high school,” Crockett said.
• TCU coach Trent Johnson said he knew his team would have trouble competing in the Big 12 last year, and despite defeating league-champion Kansas, the Horned Frogs finished last with a 2-16 record.
He’s more bullish on this season.
“If we can remain healthy, we have a chance to be a pretty good basketball team this year,” Johnson said.
• West Virginia coach Bob Huggins arrived in a West Virginia letter sweater.
“Looking really good, isn’t it,” Huggins said. “It’s something for you to write about.”
• Iowa State is picked to finish fourth, and coach Fred Hoiberg would prefer less optimism. After all, the Cyclones were picked eighth in the previous two years and made the NCAA Tournament each time.
Ah, but a story in USA Today had Iowa State 10th.
“That’s the one I’m showing the team,” Hoiberg said. “I like being picked low, then you go out and try to prove people wrong.”
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.