College basketball fans never got to see LeBron James play in their game (thank you, David Stern, for giving us one year to watch Kevin Durant), but he is making a minor impact on the game.
Akron is coached by Keith Dambrot, James’ high school coach, and has a pair of starters who played with James at Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary. By the end of this season, Dru Joyce will break the school record for most career assists and Romeo Travis will rank among the 20 highest-scoring Zips ever.
At 4-1 in conference play and 13-4 overall, Akron leads the MAC’s East Division.
Though not quite a regular, James does drop by Akron games when he can.
“He is an Akron native, Akron guy, and whether he came here or not, it’s his hometown team and he’s going to support it,” Joyce told USA Today.
In addition to Travis and Joyce, James’ high school team also included Brandon Weems and Corey Jones who won the NAIA Division II championship in 2005 at Walsh College.
In the minds of James’ barnstorming high school teammates, college success has helped validate their high school accomplishments.
“People thought our team was LeBron and a bunch of other guys,” Travis told USA Today. “Now they are saying, 'Wait a minute, maybe they weren’t just a bunch of other guys.’”
BYU’S LOCAL TIES
After a rough start that included an awful loss at Lamar of the Southland Conference, Brigham Young has won eight of its last 10.
The surge has been fueled in part by a pair of starters from the East Valley.
Sophomore forward Lee Cummard, who led Mesa High to the state 5A championship in 2004, is averaging 10 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.
Senior point guard Austin Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, is scoring six points and dishing out four assists per game. He led Gilbert Highland to the state 5A title game in 2000.
In Dave Rose’s first season as coach last year, BYU went 20-9 and advanced to the NIT. The Cougars aren’t much of a threat to win the Mountain West Conference or advance to the NCAA tournament this season, but at 13-6 a return to the NIT is a real possibility.
KINGS OF NEW YORK
Even before winning the national championship in 2003, Syracuse had established its dominance in the state of New York.
That dominance came to a sudden, unexpected end Sunday when the Orange, which had won four straight to pull into a first-place tie in the Big East, fell to St. John’s, 64-60, for the first time in six meetings.
The loss halted Syracuse’s streak of 47 consecutive wins over teams from the state of New York, which included victories this season against St. Francis, Canisius, Colgate, Hofstra and St. Bonaventure.
The last New York team to beat Syracuse was St. John’s back on Feb. 19, 2000.
For those not keeping track of this sort of thing at home, Arizona carries an in-state winning streak of 14 games into tonight’s match with Arizona State. The Wildcats have beaten ASU 10 times and Northern Arizona four times since an 88-72 loss in Tempe on Jan. 23, 2002.
LEGEND OF SUMMER
College coaches typically spend their summers hopping from the ABCD All-Star Camp in New Jersey to the Nike camp in Indianapolis to the Adidas camp in Atlanta.
The circuit will end or at least be significantly altered after this summer when Sonny Vaccaro, who practically invented elite summer amateur basketball, pulls the plug on the ABCD tournament and retires.
Adidas and Nike had already bailed on their camps, but the ABCD camp was the big one. In recent years it had hosted preps-to-pros stars LeBron James, Sebastian Telfair, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.