UK basketball notebook: UCLA coach says everybody likes Rohrssen

Herald-Leader staff writerMay 17, 2014 

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Rohrssen

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When he broke into the major leagues of college coaching at Pittsburgh in 1999, Ben Howland hired Barry "Slice" Rohrssen to his staff. When he got the UCLA job in 2003, Howland wanted Rohrssen to join him.

That says more than words about how highly Howland regards Rohrssen. But Howland offered words, too.

"Very few people I know I can say everybody likes," Howland said last week. "Everybody likes Barry. He makes everybody feel good. Such a nice, unassuming guy."

Of course, Rohrssen joined John Calipari's staff at Kentucky earlier this month. Howland vouched for Rohrssen being likable and effective as a coach and recruiter.

"Really good eye for talent," Howland said before adding, "Any time he meets you, he stays in touch the rest of your life. There's not a more loyal person I know."

Rohrssen's sense of humor was on display during an introductory news conference last week. This did not surprise his former boss.

"Great sense of humor," Howland said. "I think it disarms people. With players, in particular. He knows when to get down to business. But he's great at keeping guys loose and having fun."

Calipari claimed last season that Kentucky basketball is the most scrutinized program in all of sports. However true that might be, the statement speaks to how fun can be a scarce commodity for UK players.

Rohrssen is something of a Renaissance Man. He's acted in movies, most notably Glengarry Glen Ross, which had a cast deep with five-star actors: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin. He's managed nightclubs in New York City and he's the guy to see for a restaurant recommendation.

Rohrssen was not much of a player at St. Francis. He played a total of 16 minutes and averaged 1.5 points in the 1981-82 season.

But playing ability, acting chops and a keen wit were not the qualities Howland prized in Rohrssen.

"The No. 1 role he had on that staff was recruiting," Howland said. "He'll do as good a job as anybody John Calipari could hire."

And why didn't Rohrssen accept Howland's offer to join the UCLA staff? He did not want to be that far away from his mother, who was in New York.

"He'd already been out to Las Vegas (as an administrative assistant)," Howland said. "He knew the distance."

During the introductory news conference, Rohrssen seemed to get choked up as he talked about his mother.

"He's an emotional guy," Howland said. "He's really a good person. ... Every player we had loved 'Slice.'"

Randle: No stress

Campus Insiders provided video of former UK star Julius Randle being interviewed at the NBA Combine in Chicago last week. He said he'd spoken to officials with Minnesota, Cleveland, Utah, Orlando and Milwaukee. Highlights of his session with reporters included:

Q: Projected lottery picks like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid chose not to participate in the Combine. Do you feel being at the Combine gives you an advantage?

A: "Maybe. Who knows? I just think it's good to be here. I only get this opportunity once. This is what I wanted. This was my dream. So I'm taking everything in stride."

Q: What do you think of being compared to Zach Randolph?

A: "That's an honor. Zach is a great, great player. To be compared to somebody like that who has so much skill and a great career in the NBA is definitely an honor."

Q: What advice from NBA players have you received?

A: "Some guys have given me advice. For example, I just talked to Nazr (Mohammed). He was telling me if I needed anything, let him know."

Q: How stressful has the NBA Draft process been so far?

A: "It hasn't been stressful for me at all, honestly. I'm more excited about what's to come. ... Just trying to get better at my craft. I don't really think much about the draft, to be honest with you."

Q: How do you hope to improve?

A: "I'm still learning on the defensive end. Not that I think it's a weakness for me. ... I think college was the first time I was really held accountable on the defensive end. Maybe early in the year I struggled. But toward the end of the year, I got a lot better at it."

Q: How do you account for UK's run in the NCAA Tournament?

A: "Our roles were just simplified. Everybody. One through five. We relied on our defense, and things just clicked. They clicked at the right moment."

Q: Was all the hype surrounding Kentucky's freshmen last season a burden or good preparation for playing in the NBA?

A: "With a lot of hype there will be a lot of criticism. That's something I never fed into. You can call it a burden, but that's something I never believed or fed into."

Young: 'It's everything'

Campus Insiders also provided video of former UK star James Young (wearing a shirt saluting the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys) being interviewed by Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS. Highlights included:

Q: Why did you decide not to participate in drills at the Combine?

A: "It's just something my agent and I discussed. ... I was going to be working out (for teams) after this. ... They'll get a chance to see me there."

Q: What do you think about the NBA lifestyle?

A: "Definitely living independent. That's kind of why I left home in the first place."

Q: How have you been spending your time since the end of the season?

A: "I finished up school, definitely, with a 3.0 (grade-point average). Really just been working on getting better. You can never be the best. Being in the gym. Getting stronger. Working on my ball-handling ..."

Q: At this stage of the NBA Draft process, is it surreal? Is it scary? Is it liberating? Is it exciting?

A: "It's everything. But mostly exciting. It's something I've been looking up to for a long, long time. ... I didn't think I'd make it this far. A lot of people didn't think (so) either."

Measurements

At the NBA Combine, prospects were sized up physically, mentally and emotionally. The findings included:

Julius Randle is 6-9 (wearing shoes) and weighed 249.7 pounds, which matches UK's listing at 6-9, 250.

James Young, who is 6-63/4 (wearing shoes), caught the attention of NBA types with a 7-foot wingspan.

Russ Smith of U of L had the smallest percentage of body fat among the players at the Combine: 3.5 percent.

■ The highest percentage of body fat? LaQuinton Ross of Ohio State at 16.30 percent.

Patric Young of Florida is 6-10 (wearing shoes). His wingspan is 7-1.

Top programs

In case you missed it, Michael Laurila of the Wall Street Cheat Sheet compiled a list of the top 10 programs after this past season. In countdown fashion, his list had:

10. UCLA. Of course, the dynasty years in the 1960s and 1970s weigh heavily.

9. Indiana. "Epitomizes what it means to have a crazed, loyal fan base," Laurila wrote.

8. Syracuse. Sustained success for decades under the guidance of Jim Boeheim.

7. Michigan State. "In NCAA (Tournament) 16 straight years."

6. UConn. "A strong, one of a kind fan base."

5. Louisville. Two titles with Denny Crum, one (and counting) with Rick Pitino.

4. North Carolina. Five championships. Dean Smith. Michael Jordan. "The Tar Heels' fan base is second to none."

3. Kansas. Ten straight Big 12 titles. NCAA bids in each of Bill Self's 12 seasons as coach.

2. Kentucky. "One of the most storied programs." Rupp Arena is "biggest college basketball venue."

1. Duke. "Mike Krzyzewski is the reason Duke is atop this list ... (He is) to college basketball what Bear Bryant was to college football."

Tigers eye Reed?

UK baseball star A.J. Reed was mentioned prominently in a speculative story in the Detroit News last week. The newspaper published a story about possible first-round draft picks for the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers have taken a pitcher in the first round of every draft but one led by General Manager Dave Dombrowski.

But ESPN's Keith Law suggested Thursday in a mock draft that the Tigers could be ready to pick another position player with the 23rd pick this year, The News said. That player could be Reed, a 6-4, 245-pound first baseman.

Of course, the Tigers would want Reed to learn a new position. Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera has a contract that runs through 2025.

Reed, a lefty, is a prime pitcher this year, but projects more as an offensive player in the major leagues, the News said. Law wrote on Twitter that Reed can play outfield.

Before the weekend, Reed led the NCAA in homers (21), slugging (.763) and OPS (1.255). He also led the SEC in RBI (65), total bases (145), walks (41), wins (10) and innings pitched (98).

Reed, who ranked fourth in the SEC in batting average (.353), can become the league's first triple-crown winner since Rafael Palmeiro in 1984.

Rigot resurfaces

The Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail reported that Marshall's new basketball coach, Dan D'Antoni, hired ex-UK assistant Scott Rigot to his staff.

"(Former South Carolina head coach) George Felton and (Texas Tech coach) Tubby Smith, who I respect as coaches, went to bat for him heavily," D'Antoni told the newspaper. "He was in Europe last year and Asia the year before that. He has ties where I want to establish a recruiting base. And he had the perfect portfolio."

Former Duke star Chris Duhon will also be a member of the Marshall staff.

Fantasy

Spots are available for the third annual John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience, which will be Aug. 22-24. Entry fee is $6,995.

More information is available at www.johncalipariexperience.com or by calling (513) 745-5850 or e-mail mchacksfield@procamps.com.

Happy birthday

To Ron Mercer. He turns 38 Sunday. ... To Jamaal Magloire. He turns 36 on Wednesday. ... To Enes Kanter. He turns 22 on Tuesday. ... To former Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. He turned 51 on Saturday.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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