With apologies for utilizing an overused phrase, basketball really is just a game. Thankfully New Mexico's Emmanuel Negedu understands that, even if it does take a bittersweet turn of events
The sophomore's story is well documented at this point: while a member of the Tennessee program in September of 2009 his heart stopped, he was revived with a defibrillator, ultimately leading to an internal defibrillator being surgically implanted near his heart. Following that near death experience Negedu transfered to New Mexico where he was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately without having to sit out a year as is the case with most transfer players.
From that point on everything was going smoothly. Negedu wasn't playing major minutes for the Lobos (14 per game), but was an integral rotation player in his first season under head coach Steve Alford. Then suddenly in December of last year his internal defibrillator gave a reading that prompted the training staff to pull him from action. It was the last time he would step foot on the court in live action.
Yesterday the school announced that Negedu would be kept on scholarship and allowed to finish out his education, but his basketball career was at an end. It's always tragic when a young man who has dedicated himself to a craft must suddenly void that part of his life, but the unmistakable silver lining is that this problem was diagnosed before something far worse happened. There may be nothing that can replace what would have been the remaining years in Negedu's basketball career, but living long enough to look back on his accomplishments with pride seems like a pretty good trade.
Mark Smith of the Albuquerque Journal: "Emmanuel Negedu's basketball career with the New Mexico Lobos is officially over, but the 6-foot-7 sophomore forward says he's far from finished at UNM. On Thursday, the university released the news that Lobo fans have expected for months - Negedu's heart condition will not allow him to continue his playing career with the school. "The unfortunate thing is, that Emmanuel can't play," said Lobo coach Steve Alford. "His passion is to play. That's where his heart is, to play. So that's the unfortunate thing. The positive thing is, he's at a very good place that really cares about him." Alford said that the NCAA granted Negedu a waiver to remain on scholarship and continue his education at the school, but the scholarship will not count toward the team's allotted 13. Thus, UNM can sign another player during the spring signing period, which began Wednesday and lasts until May 18. "Anybody would be frustrated in a situation like this, but it's something you can't do," said Negedu, a native of Kaduna, Nigeria. "... I can't force the school to let me to play. They don't want the liability and all this stuff. I know they care about my health, and they care about my life and all that. I've got to stick to it, and I'm fine with whatever decision they make."
Keith Jarrett of the Asheville Citizen-Times: "UNC Asheville guard J.P. Primm announced Friday that he would declare for the 2011 NBA Draft as an early entry. By not hiring an agent, the 6-2 junior guard leaves open the possibility of removing his name from the draft list by May 8 and returning to Asheville for his senior season. A second-team all Big south Conference selection, Primm averaged 14.6 points per game last season and had a team-high 154 assists while helping the Bulldogs to a league tournament championship and into the second round of the NCAA tournament."
Andy Katz of ESPN.com breaks down the early-entry winners and losers with nine days remaining before the deadline to declare for the NBA Draft. Among the listed winners are Memphis with Will Barton and Wesley Witherspoon returning, as well as Gonzaga who seemingly will be getting a third year out of Elias Harris. A couple of teams out west are grouped in with the losers as San Diego State must deal with the loss of Kawhi Leonard and Fresno State watched center Greg Smith unexpectedly depart.
Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com (first with this report): "After swinging and missing on Harvard's Tommy Amaker, Miami appears to have targeted Milwaukee's Rob Jeter. Sources told FOXSports.com that Jeter met with new Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday night in Wisconsin. Jeter, 41, has a 101-89 mark in six years at Milwaukee. He went to the second round of the NCAA tournament in his first season and won a share of the Horizon League title - along with Butler and Cleveland State - this past year. Milwaukee finished 19-14 this past season and 13-5 in league play, but it's Jeter's connection to Wisconsin that has him as the school's primary target. Jeter was an assistant at Wisconsin under Bo Ryan. Miami recently hired Eichorst, who was a senior associate athletic director at Wisconsin. Miami president Donna Shalala was, at one time, the chancellor at Wisconsin."
David Heldreth of the Desert Dispatch: "Lavanne Pennington has taken the long road to the upper echelon of college basketball. The Barstow Community College guard signed a letter of intent with Division I San Jose State University this week. Pennington said he had considered New Mexico State and the University of Hawaii before settling with San Jose after a visit to the campus and due to the proximity to his family. His mother lives in San Bernardino and he has family throughout the Inland Empire and Los Angeles area. "The area, the city, the campus, the coaches, the people, the other players it was all just nice up there," Pennington said. "It was very welcoming. I also wanted to stay in California so my mom would have more chances to see me play." Pennington will be receiving a full ride to the university, according to San Jose coach George Nessman. Pennington averaged 17 points, five rebounds and three assists a game for the Vikings during the 2010-11 season which saw BCC lose to defending champion Saddleback in the first round of the state playoffs."
Lindsey Willhite of the Chicago Daily Herald: "Porter Moser made no bones about it: Cully Payne was the ideal guy to show Loyola can be a destination for the Chicago area's best players. Before Moser was introduced officially as Loyola's coach, Payne said he already had spoken with Moser and both sides seemed excited about joining forces. Payne committed to Loyola on Friday and accepted the Ramblers' final available scholarship for the 2011-12 season. While Payne must sit out a transfer year as he moves from Iowa to Rogers Park, the Ramblers believe he'll have three years to play in a Loyola uniform. In my opinion, that sixth year isn't quite so cut-and-dried because the NCAA must approve it. Regardless, Cully averaged 8.7 points while starting at the point for Iowa every game in 2009-10. He started the Hawkeyes' first 5 games in 2010-11, then sat the rest of the season after needing surgery to fix a sports hernia. And, yes, it's apt that Cully has joined a team called the Ramblers. For those late to the party, here's a quick summation of his long and winding path to Loyola: It all started in the summer of 2005. Shortly after being graduated from Thompson Middle School in St. Charles, Payne committed to DePaul. Payne spent two years at Burlington Central High School before transferring to Schaumburg High School. Before his senior year at Schaumburg, he de-committed from DePaul and chose Alabama. But when Alabama fired coach Mark Gottfried in March 2009, Payne received his release from the Crimson Tide and switched to Iowa two months before his HS graduation."
Beau Bagley of KTSM-TV: "Hooper Vint is one of the biggest - in stature - recruits in the State of Arkansas, and this week he has verbally committed to play basketball at UTEP. Vint is expected to sign his letter of intent Friday, April 15. Vint is a 6-11 Forward from Van Buren High School in Arkansas. His final decision came down to UTEP and Arkansas-Little Rock. Vint also had a little interest from Alabama, Arkansas, Houston, UAB, Mississippi and Marquette. This past season, Vint helped lead the Pointers to the Quarterfinals of the 6A State Tournament. He says he will spend the offseason gaining weight to his 6-11, 190 lb. frame. "I really like UTEP," Vint said. "It was a great school when I went and visited. I really liked the coaches there. Coach [Tim] Floyd's a great guy." "I'm lifting weights right now, trying to gain weight," he said. "I'm trying to gain about 15 pounds before I get there. I'd like to be at least 235 before I get there."
Dana Caldwell of the Naples News: "Since taking over the Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball program on April 1, first-time head coach Andy Enfield has been recruiting. First coaches, then players. While doing so, Enfield, whose wife, Amanda, gave birth to the couple's third child and first son, Marcum, in Tallahassee on April 8, has bounced between Southwest Florida and the state's capital city and led individual workouts. Since Enfield has no help, athletic director Ken Kavanagh has helped with things like scheduling. But Enfield will soon have some helping hands. FGCU is bringing on board three assistant coaches - Marty Richter, former Miami guard Kevin Norris and Michael Fly. Norris played for the Hurricanes from 1994-98 under Leonard Hamilton, who is currently head coach at Florida State. Norris played professionally overseas and began his coaching career at Tallahassee Community College. In 2008, Norris was hired as an assistant coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and last season apprenticed under Buzz Peterson at UNC-Wilmington. Richter comes to FGCU from ESPN, where he worked as a recruiting analyst. Richter was an assistant coach at Bowling Green from 2003-07. Fly was most recently video coordinator at Florida State, managing video operations at the school's multimillion dollar basketball training center. Fly previously was in intern with the NCAA, the Charlotte Bobcats and, while a student at Kentucky, served as a student assistant coach at NAIA Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky."
Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News: "It seems the media blame the one-and-done phenomenon for everything that goes wrong in college basketball, whether it's stale popcorn at the concession stands or television timeouts that last too long. Now, the notion has been advanced that the reason four mid-major programs reached the Final Four in the past six years is the NBA draft age limit, which we all know now as "one-and-done," supposedly affecting high-major teams' ability to dominate as they once did. That notion is way more far-fetched than VCU's appearance in the Final Four. There is no empirical evidence indicating that the arrival of players from Greg Oden to John Wall has damaged the ability of high-major programs to pursue Final Four appearances and national championships. The facts suggest one-and-done players generally have improved their teams."