So three players are leaving the WKU basketball program. From an on-the-court standpoint, there’s not much lost here. Magley did provide some much-needed size and had a great postseason compared to the regular season, and Cvoro made 10 starts to help aid the bench, with Sergio Kerusch coming off of it. Komadinic was bothered by foot injuries for most of the season and, outside of a 15-point outing in the season opener, hadn’t contributed much. Overall, though, these spots opening up will be filled well by the incoming signees, so in the end, this episode might do more good than harm. A few more thoughts on the transfers and what they mean:
- The loss opens up two scholarships to give for next season. The NCAA allows 13 scholarship athletes to a roster. Redshirt senior transfer Nemanja Milosevic will be a walk-on, so with five players coming back on scholarship and five apparent incoming freshman — with academic redshirt Jameson Tipping probably gaining a scholarship next season — that will leave two openings for players. Look for McDonald’s final two recruits to be big — that is, unless he decides to give Milosevic the scholarship.
- One part of this whole deal that makes me wonder is the Komadinic part. McDonald said that regardless of next season, he would not have been on scholarship anyway. Was he a quick fix? Who knows? But I must say that if McDonald does this well with the players he got this season, no telling how well McDonald can do with the players he has coming in next season.
A few more quotes from the cutting room floor:
- McDonald on Cvoro: “As the season went on, I think all freshman hit a wall, and he never got through the wall. And a lot of freshman take the time to get over the hump and continue to get better, and he struggled with that. He’s going to have to eventually deal with that and understand that if he does want to get better, where his ceiling is, he’s going to have to go up and step up physically and mentally. The long practices, the physical part of the game gave him trouble, and competing, to be honest. You want your kids to have a lot of pride, and he has to get better in those areas to reach his potential. But he does have a high ceiling. He’s talented.”
- McDonald on Magley: “Focus is a big thing for him. He has the ability. He dropped weight at the beginning of the year. He lost 30 pounds, so I give him a lot of credit for working hard. Now, that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to have a lot of success. You gotta do it on the court and continue to improve. So no matter what system he goes in to, he might go in to a situation where he is the big fish in the small pond, and obviously a lot of time and effort can be put in to making sure he touches the ball all the time. And there’s no question that players develop that way…But as we talked about his role coming back, nothing changed. We gave every opportunity to every player at the beginning of the year to give us some confidence to run plays for him, to be an inside-outside team…I hope the right situation gets to be honest, so that he can have a great two years.”
- McDonald on their need for size next season after the loss of Magley: “We’ve got some coming in. The void that will filled the most is at the center position with (redshirt senior Nemanja Milosevic) sitting out and being ready. Obviously, a guy that’s played Division-I and has a chance to really help us. He’s really been through now a year of practice, and we fully expect him to be a big part of what we’re doing. I’m really excited we have him right now. And anything that comes in, the guy that comes in after this, is a guy that we can bring along and develop.”
As far as where these guys end up: After talking with Magley, he says he has prospective teams but didn’t care to comment on who. McDonald said he thought Komadinic could end up in Division-II due to his need for a scholarship and because he is not that well-known. As for Cvoro, McDonald believes he can play at a high level when he learns to compete, but he would not be surprised to see him and Komadinic on the same team in Division-II because of their close friendship.
The Western men’s basketball program announced today that three players were released from their scholarships.
Sophomore forward D.J. Magley, freshman guard Dejan Cvoro and junior guard Uros Komandinic were all granted releases from their scholarships today to pursue other opportunities.
We’re early in the second half of the Purdue v. Washington second round matchup, and while sitting here taking in the game and the ear-splitting roars from the crowd (we are just three hours from Seattle, you know) I have a few thoughts and facts to shoot your way:
- Though Gonzaga is a team with freakish athletes with size to spare and that love to run, the trick may be to slow the pace. It took them 30 minutes in their first-round game against Akron to start pulling away from the Zips, and it was in large part due to Akron moving the ball around in the halfcourt. I had a first-hand look at that game, and even though Akron matched the Bulldogs’ size, they worked an inside-outside game to spread the Gonzaga defense thin in the post. Akron shot 46.7 percent in the first half, including 55.6 from three. The Bulldogs pushed them last, and Akron was held to 25.9 percent in the second half.
- Western has shown the ability to slow a game down and bang it out, something they can take from playing against Illinois. They mustered only 12 total fastbreak points in the Sun Belt tournament, but won it all.
- The Bulldogs, like the the Toppers, aren’t very deep and rely heavily on their starters in big games. Only one reserve played double-digit minutes against Akron, and that was guard Steven Gray, who played 24. He is the team’s sixth-leading scorer at 9.2 ppg. Though it evens out the battle a little bit, this means WKU’s bench is going to have to contribute more to wear down Gonzaga, and with D.J. Magley peaking at the right time and Anthony Sally taking good care of the ball, this could be a recipe for success tonight. WKU has the chance to shock a lot of people and put a big bright smile on Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters’ face.
That’s all for now, but I’ll have more before tip-off at 7:10 CST.
DeAndrae Ross hits a deep two to bring USA closer, and they start trapping in the backcourt again, something WKU has had trouble with this half. WKU was able to get it up the court, and it led to a big dunk by Kerusch, which was followed by a Coleman layup for USA. Magley makes a great fake under the basket and gets the foul.
D.J. Magley is playing his best ball of the tournament. He’s got six points and six rebounds, four of those offensive. He’s been making the little plays and the unexpected (i.e. the foul line jumper) that this team needs him to make to succeed.
-22,593 was the total announced attendance for the tournament, which is the biggest turnout since ’03. It’s good, but to become a bigger and better conference, fans have to travel more. It’s March Madness, people. You have to love it.
USA took its first lead of the game on a tip-in that made it 38-37 at the 15:28 mark. Magley (yes, Magley) hits a free throw-line jumper to give WKU the lead back. Tilford hit another three, his fourth of the game, to give USA a 43-41 lead, but a Magley put-back brought WKU’s deficit back to two. A travel on USA’s Bryan Sherrer gives WKU the ball.
WKU has gone cold this half, and it’s going to be a fight for them to stay in it. Tilford has found the confidence he didn’t have early in the game and now is powering the USA team with 12 points. Coleman has given them 16 off the bench. If WKU wants to win this, they need to improve defensively, and fast.
USA stopped the bleeding with a bucket at the 15:30 mark from DeAndre Coleman. Another good sign for WKU: D.J. Magley came into the game and right off the bat put back a Pettigrew miss. But Pettigrew isn’t done — he hit a three to give him 12 of WKU’s first 16 points. He’s on fire, going 5-for-6 from the field so far. Mendez-Valdez followed up with a three from the left wing over Tilford off an Evans steal, and Arrow must call a 30-second timeout.
WKU lives to play another day with the 66-48 victory over FIU (a score that was much more convincing than what most media members, including yours truly, thought it would be). After the game, the press conference gave me a few more good quotes and facts that are worth mentioning. I just sent my story through, so check WKUHerald.com here in a few for the game story.
- After the game, senior guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez gave his Player of the Game award to sophomore forward D.J. Magley, citing his contributions: three points, seven rebounds and only one turnover in 15 minutes. “I really think his minutes he played were really key,” Mendez-Valdez said. “He came and defended and held Freddy (Asprilla) to eight points. I mean, that counts for all the bigs. But I thought he had key rebounds and good decisions, passing back out or taking it when he had it. He was just playing really well. I strongly believe that he deserved it.”
- With his 18 points, Mendez-Valdez became the 42nd player in WKU history to surpass the 1,000 point plateau.
- You have to wonder what the bench is going to do. I know it’s like beating a dead horse, but when the horse is Secretariat, it matters. Magley and Anthony Sally (22 minutes, two points, four rebounds, one assist and three turnovers) played solid minutes, but the bench only contributed nine points, and after those two, the next biggest contributor was Matt Maresca, with six minutes and three fouls. A team can go seven-deep and last, but only for so long. And it isn’t been more than six-deep the entire season, sometimes only five-deep. This was a good start, but to win the tournament, they will have to have this on a consistent basis.
- An otherwise big bright spot was the Toppers’ ability to score in the half-court and rely on their set plays and grind-it-out possessions. WKU only had two fast break points (holding FIU to none) and won the points in the paint battle 26-20 against a sizeable FIU front line that was noticably bigger. Being able to rely on their trademark transition game, like they have all season, makes it a lot easier to play at any pace. When faced with a slow down team like Middle Tennessee State (which could be their next opponent), that can pay dividends.
- WKU is now 18-9 all-time in quarterfinal match-ups in the Sun Belt tournament.