DALLAS — The Virginia men’s basketball program is back in the Final Four for the first time in 35 years.
Amongst the UVA alums who seems the proudest is Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Prior to Friday night’s game versus the Memphis Grizzlies in the American Airlines Center, Carlisle spoke of how delighted he is to witness Virginia atone for last year’s NCAA Tournament’s first-round exit by reaching the national semifinals.
The champions out of the South Region, the top-seeded Cavaliers (33-3) will face Midwest Region champion, fifth-seeded Auburn (30-9), Saturday at 5:09 p.m. CST from U. S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The second national semifinal matchup will pit No. 3 seed Texas Tech (30-6), the West Region champion, squaring off against East Region champion, No. 2 seed Michigan State (32-6).
For UVA, which became the first ever No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed when it was dealt a 74–54 drubbing by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in last year’s opening round of the Big Dance, Carlisle applauded Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett for a job well done with a program that is making its third Final Four appearance in school history (1981, 1984, 2019).
“They’ve been consistently great all year,” Carlisle said of the Cavaliers, winners of four straight and 13 of their last 14. “I think they’ve only lost two or three games by two or three points. They have a real resolve as a team.”
In reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1984, Virginia demonstrated some much-needed resolve in the waning moments of the South Region final against third-seeded Purdue.
The Cavaliers, in fact, needed a rather awkward buzzer-beater by junior swingman Mamadi Diakite just as time expired to tie the game at 70 and force overtime, then outscored the Boilermakers, 10-5, in the extra session to preserve the win, thus erasing the memory of last year’s opening-round heartbreaker to UMBC.
According to ESPN’s Matchup Predictor, Virginia has a 79.9 percent chance of defeating Auburn, which is making its first Final Four appearance in school history.
Michigan State, meanwhile, has a 61.1 percent chance to upend Texas Tech, according to ESPN’s Matchup Predictor.
As for who Carlisle’s predicting to win the first of two national semifinal games, well, that essentially goes without saying.
“They have a style that you need into today’s game,” said Carlisle, who was a member of Virginia’s 1984 Final Four squad that lost in the national semifinals to No. 2 seed Houston, 49-47, in overtime. “They preach defense first thing and they really understand how to play with each other. You know, the way they won the Purdue game last week was really special.”
Now that they’ve atoned for last year’s postseason disappointment, can the grit and grind Cavaliers manage two more wins to capture the school’s first ever national title?
“They’ve got a real chance now,” Carlisle said.
With a slight grin.
That, much to his delight and to the satisfaction of the rest of the UVA faithful, is a far cry from last year’s disastrous turn of events in the Big Dance.
Andre Johnson is the award-winning Founder/Publisher & Editor In Chief of Making Headline News. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism and a former reporter of sports for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, call him at 901-690-6587 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.
DUNCANVILLE, Texas — Without question, Kenneth Talton loves his son.
Surely, he wants the best for him.
So much, in fact, that every now and then, Talton deems it necessary to demonstrate some tough love as a way to steer him in the right direction.
Take, for instance, how some time ago when Talton’s son, Erik Talton, assembled a Facebook page. You know, as expected, he was only doing that about which his peers were engaging in.
Still, his father had other reasonable ideas. By all accounts, he sensed that Facebook could potentially be a recipe for disaster for a kid with dazzling basketball skills.
“When I discovered that Erik had created a Facebook page and that he was using it to communicate with his friends, I immediately made him take it down and began to educate him on social media,” Kenneth Talton told Making Headline News on Monday. “I told him the first thing he did wrong was not getting my permission and that there was a reaction for every action he makes wrong, right or indifferent. I felt that he was too young to engage in social media.”
Consequently, Kenneth Talton’s firm gesture and forthright response to his son having erected a Facebook, as it turned out, has proven beneficial in a variety of ways, most notably on the basketball court.
An honor student who’s ambition in the coming months is to suit up in a college basketball uniform, Erik Talton is an electrifying, high-leaping shooting guard for perennial power Duncanville (Texas) High, which checked in at No. 25 in the state in the latest Maxpreps.com poll that was released last week.
Although his father demanded that he unceremoniously suspend his Facebook account, Erik Talton, to his credit, essentially has been nothing short of impressive.
In fact, while playing alongside fellow Duncanville seniors Dexter Johnson, Jr. and Tyler Watkins — the three have been teammates on the same AAU team since fifth grade — Erik Talton, for a lack of better words, have posted favorable statuses not on social media, but on the court, as evidenced by the slew of recruiting analysts who have followed him in recent years.
For starters, the 6-foot-2, 155-pound senior was spotted dunking for the first time when he was a sophomore. It wasn’t long thereafter that he began to add to his basketball repertoire, having established himself as a player whose strengths consists of shooting efficiently from mid-to-long range, creating his own shot off the dribble and, most importantly, demonstrating the ability to get his teammates in the flow of the game.
For his valiant efforts, his solid body of work has drawn the attention of several schools, including Frank Phillips College, Hartnell Junior College in California, Northeastern Junior College in Colorado), The King’s College in New York, Norwich University, Luther College, and Kansas Wesleyan University, he said on Monday.
“I have the qualities that college coaches are looking for in a player,” Erik Talton said. “I come from a family of athletes and educators. I’m not afraid of a challenge or hard work, and I have great passion for the game. I am a high energy player, very athletic, I pride myself on defense as well as offense and I work extremely hard in the classroom and on the basketball court. I challenge myself daily to improve on my skills.”
Still, he realizes now is not the time to go on cruise control, in large part because he has yet to field any official offers. How else to explain his remarkable display this past summer when following what was a banner junior campaign, he enjoyed what he described as a “very big summer” on the AAU circuit when he averaged 20 points per game and led his team to consecutive championships in two major tournaments (The Great American Shootout in Duncanville and the Fab48 in Las Vegas)?
In essence, Erik’s Talton’s progress on and off the court emerged amid the wake of adversity, according to his father.
“The adversities Erik had to overcome from losing his cousin which was his best friend at the age of six and, at the age of eight, having multiple surgeries on his forearm and maintaining his drive and his desire to once again play sports at the same level prior to his injury, to the custody issues between his mom and me, which ultimately led to him moving completely with me,” Kenneth Talton said.
“That caused him to transfer his junior year from one school district (Mansfield High), where he was well established as a student athlete and played varsity since his sophomore year to another school district. He understood the impact that such a move could have on his basketball career at the college level.”
All things considered, such an untimely move from nearby Mansfield to Duncanville has in no way, shape or form hamper Erik Talton, who admittedly feels confident about his chances of playing at the collegiate level.
And to think, he didn’t need a Facebook page to express to the masses who he is.
The basketball court was a big enough platform.
“Whatever college offers me scholarship, they will get a player with tenacity, who’s a competitor, an athlete, a hard worker, a defender, a shooter and a winner,” Erik Talton said.
What a favorable difference that tough love has made.
EDITOR’S NOTE:If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”
Andre Johnson is the founder and publisher of Making Headline News. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism and a former sportswriter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.
MEDINA, Tenn. — One thing about Ladarian McCurrie is that no one has to remind him of his role as a member of the South Gibson County High basketball team.
For McCurrie, his role for the Hornets of Medina, Tennessee is one about which he takes seriously and with great pride and dignity, considering coach Eric Hampton and his staff mostly look to him as being the floor general, or sorts.
“My role as the point guard is to drive the ball to the goal where I can either take the shot or pass it to either of the other shooting guards,” McCurrie told Making Headline News earlier this week. I am a team player, so I mostly pass the ball to the open guard to generate the three.”
To his credit, McCurrie, a 17-year-old senior for a South Gibson team that played at arch rival Bolivar Central Friday night, his primary responsibilities have been that primarily of a combo guard, meaning this slim, speedy 5-foot-9, 150-pounder is expected, by all accounts, to display significant roles both as a scorer and floor facilitator.
Most importantly, in what undoubtedly is a pivotal stretch in his final prep season, amongst the things about which McCurrie is aiming is doing the necessary things that will ultimately give way to his being afforded the golden opportunity of playing basketball at the collegiate level.
While he has yet to field any official scholarships offers, it is a foregone conclusion the future for McCurrie looks extremely favorable, in large part because with a cumulative grade point average of 3.8, he is on pace to graduate in the top five percent of his class.
In essence, what that means essentially is that even if he finishes the academic year without signing a National Letter of Intent, the possibility exists that not only will McCurrie almost certainly be offered an academic scholarship, but he will likely be afforded the chance to join a college hoops program as walk-on.
Either way, a free education appears inevitable at this point for a kid who boasts lofty aspirations of putting his athletic skills on display.
“They will be inheriting a competitor, an encourager, and a player that is driven by ambition,” said McCurrie, when asked what type of player would college coaches inherit if he’s granted his long-awaited opportunity.
As McCurrie tells it, while playing major prep basketball in a relatively small town reduced his ability to acquire the proper exposure, he strongly believes he boasts the skills, mechanics, and assertiveness to handle the hustle and bustle that college athletics create.
“Sometimes, newspaper articles do not capture the whole story,” McCurrie said. “Oftentimes, the newspaper does not detail that I contribute nearly seven rebounds, five steals, and nearly 10-to-15 assists a game, or how I give my teammates confidence while I’m on the court or on the bench.”
All of which explains why McCurrie is destined to possess what he describes as a fair chance, one that would enable him to appropriately audition for a college hoops scholarship.
“Playing college ball is a dream for me because I am coachable,” McCurrie said. “I am willing to take risks. I am willing to put in the time, effort, and work to prove that I am ready to compete on the collegiate level. I am realistic about my ability and skills, and I know that there is plenty of work for me do, because growth on or off the court is a continuous process. But I am hopeful, prayerful, and faithful. I’m just looking for the opportunity to help a team.”
Something about which he’s done time and again throughout his notable high school career.
EDITOR’S NOTE:If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like to share your story with an in-depth news feature, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.
Andre Johnson is founder and publisher for Making Headline News. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.