Jeff Eisenberg

  • Taylor Harry Fritz may be the rising star American men's tennis has lacked

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Turnstile 14 hrs ago

    Not long after he arrived in Florida to train with the best American tennis players in his age group two years ago, Taylor Harry Fritz came to a jarring realization.

    He wasn't quite as good as he thought he was.

    Fritz struggled to find a single player at the camp he could beat, an unsettling experience for a talented teenager accustomed to success coming easily on the tennis court. Winning youth tournaments had never required Fritz to devote as much time to the sport as many of his peers did, but at last the son of two former professional tennis players had firsthand evidence his long-term goals weren't attainable relying on natural ability alone.

    "There were 16 of us at that camp, and I was without a doubt the worst one there," Fritz said. "I realized that if I wanted to be a pro tennis player, I had a long way to go. I had to start working harder."

    Fritz's emergence as an elite prospect comes at a time when American tennis is desperate for a new leading man.

    Of that group of young guns, Fritz in particular has caught Gilbert's eye.

    It's no surprise Gilbert sees that kind of potential in Fritz considering his parents' tennis background.

  • Eight noteworthy stats from the NCAA's annual attendance report

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Syracuse is college basketball's attendance kings for the second straight year.

    The Orange edged Kentucky and Louisville for the crown, drawing an average of 23,854 fans a game despite an uncharacteristically mediocre season and a self-imposed postseason ban. The Wildcats were second at 23,572 fans per game and the Cardinals were third at 21,386.

    The NCAA released its entire attendance report from the 2014-15 college basketball season Monday. Here's a look at some of the stats that stand out:

    • Highest attendance per game: 1. Syracuse (23,854), 2. Kentucky (23,572), 3. Louisville (21,386)

    Comment: Syracuse's two-year run as average attendance leaders is notable because Kentucky had long been the kings in that category. Before the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats finished No. 1 in 17 of the previous 18 years.

    • Lowest attendance per game: 1. Grambling (305), 2. St. Peter's (442), 3. Chicago State (477)

    • Highest per-game attendance among non-power five conference schools: 1. Creighton (17,048), 2. BYU (16,125), 3. New Mexico (14,571)

    • Lowest per-game attendance among power five conference schools: 1. Washington State (3,190), 2. USC (3,552), 3. TCU (4,123)

  • Four things we learned from the U-19 World Championships

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    The FIBA U-19 World Championships concluded Sunday with a dramatic title game rife with clutch shots, jaw-dropping highlights and end-to-end action.   

    Croatia's Luka Bozic could have given his team the lead when he went to the free throw line trailing by one with four seconds left in regulation, but instead he offered the U.S. new life by sinking only one of two foul shots. The heavily favored Americans responded by seizing control in overtime and escaping with a well-earned 79-71 victory.

    Give USA Basketball credit for winning gold at the past two U-19 World Championships because that age level has traditionally been the most difficult for the Americans to dominate. Before its victory in 2013, the U.S. had only held the U-19 world title once since 1995, a product of other nations sending more cohesive teams and top American prospects passing on the chance to play to focus on preparing for college or the NBA draft instead.

    1. The top of the Class of 2016 is incredible

    2. Villanova's Jalen Brunson will be an impact freshman

    3. Oregon has reason to be excited entering next season

    4. Other international college prospects also showed promise

  • Dating site exclusively for Kentucky fans launches

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 5 days ago

    Whether it's leading the nation in home attendance 10 straight years, camping out by the thousands for the right to attend a practice or helping John Calipari surpass 1.3 million Twitter followers, Kentucky supporters are a bit more obsessive than other fan bases.

    Now comes further proof the citizens of Big Blue Nation are different: They have their own matchmaking service.

    BBNMeetup.com launched on Thursday, billing itself as the dating site "with the goal of helping Kentucky fans find love with other Kentucky fans." Users will discover many familiar features other mainstream dating sites possess and one element unique to BBNMeetup: a metric that allows users to rate how passionate a Kentucky fan they are and seek out others who are equally fair weather or fanatical.

    BBNMeetup has generated nationwide publicity in the lead-up to its launch, so much so that a torrent of visitors apparently even crashed the site this morning.

    So break out your selfie sticks and your finest throwback Jeff Sheppard jerseys, all you single Kentucky fans, because it's time to snap a flattering profile picture.

  • DeAndre Ayton's long road from Bahamas project to No. 1 prospect

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Turnstile 5 days ago

    Tip-off was only minutes away, and DeAndre Ayton wasn't sure he'd make it in time.

    The tall, lanky 16-year-old burst through the gym doors, apologized to his coach for being late and threw on a jersey just in time to deliver one of last summer's most remarkable performances.

    In an exhibition game pitting a hastily assembled collection of Bahamas natives against a highly regarded University of North Carolina squad, it was Ayton who was most responsible for swinging the outcome in favor of the underdogs. The 7 footer embarrassed the older, stronger Tar Heels by outworking them on the glass and outmaneuvering them around the basket even though he was still three years away from even graduating high school.

    "That was one of the most fun games I've ever played in," Ayton said. "I was beating guys off the dribble, I was shooting jumpers and I was grabbing rebounds over everyone. Every time I scored a basket or got a rebound, I'd look at their head coach. He was red and he was mad."

    The story of how Ayton got to San Diego is very similar.

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  • Cincinnati lands three commitments in less than 24 hours

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 6 days ago

    Already well positioned next season with its top six scorers returning from a 23-win NCAA tournament team, Cincinnati took a big step Wednesday toward securing its long-term future too.

    The Bearcats landed three commitments in less than 24 hours, a pair from promising recruits Nysier Brooks and Jarron Cumberland and the other from coveted transfer Kyle Washington.

    The most impactful addition might be Cumberland, a muscular 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Wilmington, Ohio, who is Rivals.com's No. 65 prospect in the Class of 2016. Cumberland had interest from the likes of Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Xavier and Butler, but a blue-collar, hard-nosed program like Cincinnati ought to be a good fit.

    A 6-foot-8 big man from New Jersey who thrives on doing the little things, Brooks is another good fit for the Bearcats even if he is less heralded than Cumberland. He seldom scores any other ways besides tip-ins and dump-off passes, but he is an effective interior defender and rebounder.

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  • Linebacker has 11 scholarship offers before starting high school

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Turnstile 7 days ago

    As he watched varsity football practice at one of the state of Georgia's most talent-rich high school programs a few months ago, Boston College running backs coach Al Washington kept receiving the same advice.

    To catch a glimpse of Grayson High's premier prospect, Washington would have to return later that evening when the school's eighth-grade team practiced.

    Owen Pappoe, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound menace of an outside linebacker, earned the nickname "The Freak" by terrorizing middle school quarterbacks and running backs the previous two years. The 14-year-old's strength and speed were so jaw-dropping for his age that he converted Washington into a believer in just one practice. 

    "When [Washington] saw how big and strong Owen was, he was like, 'Oh my God,'" said Kenyatta Watson, Grayson's recruiting coordinator. "Then when Owen started running around and making plays, he was like, 'Let Owen know he has his first offer.' "

    Indeed football came so easily to Pappoe that his coaches could hardly believe it sometimes.

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  • Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku experiments with underhand free throws

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 8 days ago

    Most cold-shooting big men won't deign to dabble with attempting free throws underhand because they're fearful of being ridiculed for it.

    Credit Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku for daring to be different.

    Onuaku, a 46.7 percent free throw shooter this past season, is experimenting with the Rick Barry-esque granny stroke this summer at the suggestion of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The 6-foot-10 sophomore showed off his new approach in the U-19 World Championships over the weekend, sinking 2 of 4 foul shots in the U.S. team's opening victory over Iran.

    Onuaku logged 17.8 minutes per game for Louisville as a freshman, averaging 3.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and making an impact defensively with his ability to block shots. He is expected to play a greater role for the Cardinals next season with Montrezl Harrell off to the NBA.

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  • Cliff Alexander goes from top-five recruit to undrafted in one year

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 11 days ago

    In the first 11 NBA drafts since Rivals.com began ranking high school basketball prospects, ex-Tennessee wing Scotty Hopson had been the only top-five recruit to go unselected.

    Hopson finally has company on that not-so-illustrious list.

    Sixty prospects heard their names called during Thursday night's NBA draft, however, former Kansas big man Cliff Alexander wasn't one of them. The consensus top-five recruit ranked ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell only a year ago will now have to try to latch on with an NBA franchise as an undrafted free agent and win a roster spot in training camp.

    Alexander's draft night tumble comes on the heels of an underwhelming freshman season at Kansas.

    Hailed as an elite power forward capable of overpowering defenders in the paint and dominating the glass, Alexander flashed only occasional glimpses of that potential. A foot injury last summer and a chest ailment during the season hampered Alexander, as did the playing time he lost with his inconsistent production and effort. 

    1. Cliff Alexander, F, Kansas

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  • Syracuse names Mike Hopkins as Jim Boeheim's eventual successor

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 12 days ago

    Three months after Jim Boeheim revealed his intent to retire in three years, Syracuse also clarified its succession plan.

    Chancellor Kent Syverud announced Thursday that assistant coach Mike Hopkins has been formally named Syracuse's head coach-designate and will replace Boeheim following the 2017-18 men's basketball season.

    "For more than 25 years, Mike Hopkins has demonstrated the true meaning of Orange pride and loyalty," Syverud said in a statement. "He has contributed so much to the success of the Syracuse basketball program. I know Mike is ready to lead the program into the future and carry forward the success that has occurred under Coach Boeheim."

    The timing of the decision is significant because Syracuse just introduced a new athletic director on Monday. Even though the announcement technically came from Svyerud, it's safe to assume Hopkins also has Mark Croyle's support as the right choice to oversee the transition into the post-Boeheim era. 

    A prominent candidate from outside the program might not want to step into that mess. Hopkins, however, apparently has no such fear.