Jeff Eisenberg

  • Robert Upshaw's long journey from bust to budding stardom

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 17 hrs ago

    Basketball coach Pat Geil has removed many players from practice for lackluster effort or shoddy performance.

    Only once has he yanked a kid off the court for doing too well .

    When Robert Upshaw enrolled at San Joaquin Memorial High School four years ago, the highly touted 6-foot-11 junior initially could only practice with his new team because of California transfer rules. Geil put Upshaw on the scout team in practice until the center's knack for swatting away shots in the paint created an unusual problem.

    "He was blocking so many shots and making it so difficult to score that our starting big guys began losing confidence," Geil said. "When they got in games, they were hesitant to shoot. Eventually, we had to tell Rob, 'Why don't you sit out for a while.' Our big guys couldn't get up any shots against him in practice and it was killing us."

    Upshaw's evolution into an impact college player and an NBA prospect is a testament to his perseverance because there were times when it seemed his basketball career had stalled.

    • • • • •

    Before Upshaw could evolve into an elite basketball prospect, he first had to give the sport a chance.

    • • • • •

  • UConn needs more from heralded transfer Rodney Purvis

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Each time Kevin Ollie answered a question about NC State transfer Rodney Purvis during last season's national title run, the UConn coach referred to the former McDonald's All-American as "a Ferrari sitting in the garage that I can't drive."

    The Ferrari finally emerged from the garage this November, but so far Ollie hasn't gotten enough mileage out of it.

    In the six games Purvis has played so far this season, he is scoring a modest 7.2 points per game, shooting only 35.1 percent from the field and averaging more turnovers than assists. He also was suspended for UConn's season opener against Bryant and sat out against Texas as a result of a lingering sprained ankle that was hampering his ability to attack the rim. 

    Purvis was healthy for UConn's 66-56 loss to Duke on Thursday night, but the sophomore wing still wasn't very effective. On a night when the Huskies desperately needed other scorers to emerge in support of star guard Ryan Boatright, Purvis played 30 minutes but sank only 4 of 11 shots and finished with eight points and three turnovers.

    There are a handful of players capable of filling that scoring void for UConn going forward.

  • Branden Dawson will miss at least two games with fractured wrist

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Considering the pain Branden Dawson appeared to be in after his hard fall Wednesday night against Eastern Michigan, the diagnosis doesn't seem as dire as it could have been.

    Tests revealed the Michigan State senior suffered a stable, non-displaced fracture to his left wrist, the school announced Thursday night. He will miss at least the Spartans' next two games against Texas Southern and the Citadel but could return in time for Michigan State's Big Ten opener against Maryland on Dec. 30.

    "I feel bad for Branden, as he's been practicing so well over the last few weeks," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a school-released statement. "But we also feel a bit fortunate when you look at the video from the game; it certainly could have been worse."

    Dawson suffered the injury when he fell hard to the floor attempting a tip dunk and braced the impact to his tailbone with his left wrist. He stood up wincing and shaking his wrist before retreating to the locker room where trainers wrapped the injury in ice.

    - - - - - - -

  • Lauren Hill will fight cancer from the bench as an honorary coach

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Lauren Hill's playing career is complete as a result of her deteriorating health, but the cancer-stricken Mount St. Joseph University freshman still isn't ready to leave basketball behind.

    She will remain part of the Mount St. Joseph team as an honorary coach, head coach Dan Benjamin wrote in an email to various media outlets.

    Hill has been as an inspiration to many nationwide because of her courage after receiving a dire diagnosis. Doctors discovered an inoperable tumor growing at the base of Hill's brain stem last year and told her she wouldn't live through December, yet she has refused to give up on her dream of playing college basketball.

    Hill's final college game came Tuesday against College of Wooster. She started and scored the opening basket of her team's 66-65 victory before exiting the game for the final time.

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • The Report Card: Cincinnati secures much-needed marquee win

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    DATE: Wednesday, Dec. 17

    A- — Cincinnati

    Cincinnati's 71-62 overtime victory over 19th-ranked San Diego State was as big for the American Athletic Conference as it was for the Bearcats. The American collectively was 0-9 against Top 25 teams and did not have a single team receiving votes in the latest polls.

    Of course, the Bearcats (7-2) also needed a notable win after losses to Nebraska and Ole Miss in two of their past three games. Cincinnati won on Wednesday by forcing 18 turnovers with its aggressive 2-1-2 full-court press, by limiting cold-shooting San Diego State to 39.3 percent shooting and by getting timely offense down the stretch from guards Farad Cobb and Troy Caupain.

    San Diego State pulled off a last-minute rally in regulation to force overtime behind key threes from Trey Kell and Aqeel Quinn. The Aztecs didn't have a second comeback in them for overtime.  

    A- — Old Dominion

    In its star-studded backcourt, Sun Belt favorite Georgia State features NBA prospect R.J. Hunter, Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow and Louisville transfer Kevin Ware. Somehow, however, the Panthers didn't have the best guard on the floor when they faced Old Dominion on Wednesday night.

  • Branden Dawson injures his left wrist in Michigan State's win

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    An otherwise satisfying victory turned scary for Michigan State midway through the second half when the Spartans' most important player fell hard to the floor attempting a tip dunk and braced the impact to his tailbone with his left wrist.

    Branden Dawson stood up wincing and shaking his wrist before retreating to the locker room where trainers wrapped the injury in ice. He watched the final nine minutes of Michigan State's 66-46 rout of Eastern Michigan from the Spartans bench.

    The initial diagnosis for Dawson's wrist is a bad sprain, but the senior forward will undergo further tests on Thursday to assess whether there is any more damage. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters in East Lansing that an initial X-Ray came back negative but Dawson "is going to miss some time here, there's no doubt about that."

    "I saw the tape and it wasn't pretty," Izzo added. "But he's tough as nails, maybe he'll bounce back."

    - - - - - - -

  • Dayton dismisses its only two scholarship big men

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    Dayton's basketball team became a lot smaller Wednesday. So did the Flyers' NCAA tournament chances as a result.

    Starting center Devon Scott and top backup Jalen Robinson have been dismissed from school, Dayton announced Wednesday afternoon. The school did not specify what led to the punishment, but reported that Scott and Robinson were caught stealing various items from on-campus dorms.

    Scott, a 6-foot-9 junior, started every game so far this season for Dayton and averaged 9.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. Robinson, also a 6-9 junior, averaged 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds off the bench. Without them, Dayton has no scholarship players taller than 6-foot-6 in their rotation, leaving the Flyers at a massive size disadvantage against almost every upcoming opponent on the schedule.

    Living up to those expectations will be tough now.

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • The Report Card: Luke Fischer shines in Marquette debut

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    DATE: Tuesday, Dec. 16

    A — Luke Fischer

    Indiana fans were surely cringing watching Luke Fischer's debut for Marquette. The skilled big man the Hoosiers lack is the one who transferred last December because he couldn't get much playing time behind Noah Vonleh.

    Fischer made a terrific first impression at Marquette, posting 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks to spark the Golden Eagles to a 78-71 victory over Arizona State on Tuesday night. The 6-foot-11 big man was most effective on the block, welcome news for a team that has relied almost exclusively on its perimeter weapons this season after losing Davante Gardner and Chris Otule to graduation last spring.   

    Marquette's victory improved it to 5-4 this season with only one loss against an unranked opponent. The Golden Eagles still have a long, long way to go to work themselves back into NCAA tournament contention, but they're certainly a much more dangerous team if Fischer can perform like he did Tuesday night with any consistency.

    B — Wichita State

    C+ — Champion Baptist

    D- — Saint Mary's


    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Wichita State unleashes late surge to thwart Alabama's upset bid

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    If Alabama falls a quality win shy of making the NCAA tournament this March, the Tide will surely think back to the game they let slip away at Wichita State on Tuesday night.

    They had the 11th-ranked Shockers all but beaten only to cough up an 11-point lead in the final five minutes and lose 53-52.

    Wichita State's 13-1 surge started when it went to a full-court press to speed up the tempo and disrupt Alabama's offensive rhythm. The Tide missed four shots and committed four turnovers during the final 5:20, scoring their only point on a Levi Randolph free throw with 33 seconds to play.

    Alabama's defense had been smothering enough that it seemed possible 51 points might be enough, but Wichita State finally generated some offense against the long, athletic Tide. Driving layups by Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker and a pair of floaters from Rashard Kelly fueled the Shockers' rally, paving the way for a dramatic finish.

    The outcome of Tuesday's game could have significance in March.

    Nonetheless, the roster the Shockers do have was good enough to win Tuesday in Dick Vitale's first trip to Wichita.

    - - - - - - -

  • Jordan Price's game-tying half-court heave goes to waste

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    The most dramatic shot of Jordan Price's career also is probably one of the most bittersweet.

    His running half-court heave at the buzzer sent La Salle's game against American to overtime Tuesday night, but the Explorers failed to take advantage and fell at home to the Eagles 68-66. 

    La Salle trailed by three points with 4.4 seconds to go when 90 percent free throw shooter Pee Wee Gardner missed his second foul shot to preserve hope of an Explorers comeback. Price then corralled the rebound, took four dribbles to shake free of Gardner and launched a shot from the mid-court circle that improbably found the bottom of the net.

    While Price raised his arms and pointed to the crowd in celebration of completing La Salle's comeback from a 13-point halftime deficit, the Explorers did not finish the job. Price got trapped coming around a screen and committed a key turnover with La Salle down three late in overtime, enabling American to secure a win in a game in which four of its five starters logged all 45 minutes.

    It was a remarkable day for Price in every respect except one: His performance didn't produce a La Salle victory.

    - - - - - - -