It was 2 a.m. in China. Robby Speer was in his hotel room thinking about another satisfying day on the Reach USA basketball tour. After winning the game, the players and team officials indulged themselves by getting foot massages.
On another day, they might have gotten a shampoo in which attendants washed their hair and massaged the head and shoulder area.
"We get massages all the time," Speer said in a telephone conversation last week. "A little pampering is fun."
Pampering, Chinese style, is inexpensive, too. Speer said the rate for a 45-minute shampoo and massage was $2.
But, of course, Reach USA did not go to China for massages.
The team, which included Kentucky players Josh Harrellson and Jon Hood, went to China to play basketball and exchange cultural goodwill. The team won six of nine games despite Cantonese-style home cooking.
Speer, who was making his 36th trip to China as tour director for Campbellsville-based Sports Reach, offered his thoughts on several players:
■ Harrellson led the team with averages of 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds; on the minus side, he made only five of 15 free throws:
"Josh Harrellson has played like a beast, he really has," said Speer, who noted that the UK big man had played only about 22 minutes a game.
Harrellson played sparingly for UK last season. So the question is whether his production in China is a product of self-improvement or level of competition.
Opponents had several players 6-foot-11 or taller, Speer said. Those players were in their 20s with a few years of experience in professional leagues overseas.
"There's not any reason to think Josh can't do that in the regular season as well," Speer said of Harrellson's productive play. "Now, the 'bigs' aren't phenomenal athletes. But I don't think you'll ask Josh to go against a phenomenal athlete."
■ Hood averaged 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists:
"He did not shoot it that well (team-low 32.3 percent overall, 3-for-21 from three-point range)," Speer said. "But he really played well on the floor."
The tour format, which included travel and games nearly every day, did not foster good shooting, Speer said.
■ Peyton Siva averaged 7.6 points and a team-high 5.4 assists:
"Hey, Siva can play," Speer said of the Louisville point guard. "The last two nights, he got us out of the gates like you couldn't believe. In the half-court set, he drove the lane and went up and dunked three times. I didn't realize he has the hops he does."
■ Skylar McBee: The Tennessee guard was easily the team's best perimeter shooter. He made a team-high 19 threes while shooting with 48.7 percent accuracy from beyond the arc. "We started calling him Skylar Mc-Three," Speer said.
The tour ended in Beijing with two days of sightseeing and shopping. The team is due back in the United States on Monday.
UK's legal thinking last week puzzled Frank LoMonte, the executive director of The Student Press Law Center, a non-profit group specializing in open-records law. He couldn't understand how UK made public the men's basketball team's individual GPAs for the fall semester but not for the spring semester. The Herald-Leader requested those GPAs — but not the names of the players who attained the individual GPAs — as part of an open-records request.
Citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, UK said it provided such numbers only once every three or four years and never for a group of eight or fewer people because of concerns that media or the public could detect a pattern and determine which GPAs belonged to which players.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense in that records that were public half a year ago suddenly cease to be public," LoMonte said. "That explanation doesn't entirely add up.
"As long as the individual identification information is removed from the documents, then the presumption is, they're public record."
As for Kentucky not releasing information about any group of eight or fewer, LoMonte cited a Montana Supreme Court decision in 2007. The court ruled that the Cut Bank public schools were wrong to withhold information about disciplinary action taken against two students. The school system had cited FERPA as a reason to withhold the information when the newspaper made an open-records request.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled in May 2007 that FERPA did not justify withholding the records in redacted form — no matter that the newspaper obviously knew the two students to whom the records pertained.
No rollover for Pelphrey
Arkansas decided not to roll over the coaching contract of former Kentucky player John Pelphrey. It's a decision Pelphrey said last week he understands and supports.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pelphrey's contract runs for four more seasons, or through April 8, 2014. He had received one-year extensions after each of his first two seasons at Arkansas.
Pelphrey met with the media Tuesday to introduce new assistant coach Brett Nelson, the former Florida player. Before a reporter could raise a question, Pelphrey spoke of the decision not to extend the deal by a year.
That decision came after Pelphrey met with Athletics Director Jeff Long in March. In that meeting, Pelphrey said he did not believe the customary rollover "was necessary at this point in time."
Arkansas had a 14-18 record last season, 7-9 in the Southeastern Conference. That was an improvement from the 2-14 league record in 2009. But the Razorbacks lost seven of their last eight games last season to cast renewed doubt on Pelphrey's status.
While acknowledging that last season was a disappointment (injuries and suspensions played a part), Pelphrey said he felt secure in his job because of the support of Long and Chancellor David Gearhart.
In three seasons as Arkansas coach, Pelphrey has a 51-46 record (18-30 in the SEC).
"When John and I met after the season, we talked about every aspect of the program," Long said Tuesday night in a statement. "We discussed the high expectations we both have for student-athlete success on and off the court. During the course of our review and discussion, John indicated that he didn't expect an extension of his contract beyond the current agreement and reiterated his commitment to build the program to those high expectations."
UK like Fab Five?
In an interview with 710 ESPN radio in Seattle, Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar likened Kentucky's recent recruiting success to Michigan's Fab Five:
"I remember being an assistant going out on the road recruiting, and the top guys all were excited about Michigan because they saw how much notoriety they were getting," Romar said on the show. "They were always on television. They were a little different. They had the baggy shorts. They were in vogue. They were the happening program at the time. It was fun. ...
"I remember one of the guys that we were recruiting went on a visit to Michigan and got to hang out with those guys and just came back saying, 'Wow this is the greatest. These guys were down to earth,' and they saw those guys were in college a couple of years — a guy like Chris Webber — and they were out. And they were being recruited that way. You can come here, play a couple of years, and you can go on to the NBA, and they were the flavor of the month at that time."
Under Coach John Calipari, UK has become a hot commodity. He sells his program as the fast track to the NBA.
"You have to admit, they've been on television quite a bit," Romar said of UK. "You always see them. Their coach, Calipari, is always in the news. He has an NBA background. They just had five guys go to the NBA, several after one year. So that's the appeal. Not to mention that all their games sell out, and there's 24,000 people there. It sounds like I'm a recruiter for them, maybe. But I'm not."
With Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones once committed to Washington and now Kentucky-bound, UK and Washington would make for an interesting game in this year's Maui Invitational. It could happen with those two schools in the field along with Connecticut, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wichita State and host Chaminade.
Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar was asked whether such a matchup would be more than just another game.
"Well, I'll tell you what, we will be looking forward to it, and it will be a great game," he said. "But, for me as the head coach of this team, if we get to play Michigan State, that's going to be a great game because Michigan State is going to be a favorite to maybe win it all or be in the Final Four. Kentucky is going to have a good team. Just this past year, they were 35-3, or whatever they were. You're talking about a good quality basketball team, and any time we get to play against a team that's really good with tradition, that's a chance to go out and be competitive and play against the best and have a chance to beat the best. I look forward to those games."
Obama on Wall
During an interview with TNT's Marv Albert, President Obama commented on former UK guard John Wall being the likely first player chosen in this year's NBA Draft. Of course, the Washington Wizards have that pick.
"Wall is a terrific player," Obama said. "He's got NBA speed, NBA body, great jump shot, unselfish, really impressive. There's only upside for that kid. And I think it'd be great for him to come to Washington.
"I became very close to Abe Pollin, who was a great supporter, he and his wife. He just passed away recently, but there's an example of a guy who constantly gave back to his community. I mean, almost single-handedly, he invested in downtown Washington at a time when it was in really bad shape and, you know, generated huge affection in this city, and it was wonderful to see his widow there getting that No. 1 pick. I only wish the best for that franchise."
Gordon Hayward, the player who led Butler to the national championship game in April, told reporters at the pre-NBA Draft workouts in Chicago this month about how he almost gave up basketball.
He said it was the summer before his sophomore year in high school. He remembered how he took a shower and prepared himself to go tell his basketball coach that he was giving up the sport. He would put all his athletic effort into tennis.
"I had the speech ready to go," he said.
Basketball was a far-fetched dream for a player whose first driver's license listed his height as 6-2 and his weight as 140. "I might have given myself an extra 10 pounds," he said. "I looked like a white cane."
Of course, Hayward never delivered that speech.
"Basketball was my first love," he said. He decided, "Because I love basketball so much, I need to stick this out."
Upon signing with Butler, Hayward set a goal of finding a way to simply get on the court.
After two seasons, he's in the NBA Draft and projected as a first-round pick. To get perspective on his rapid rise, Hayward spoke to Stephen Curry, who led Davidson to a similar out-of-nowhere run in an NCAA Tournament.
"Be confident," Hayward said of Curry's advice. "Know you can play with those guys. Go in with a swagger and act like you belong there."
To Florida Coach Billy Donovan. He turns 45 today.
It can be easy to forget how young Donovan is in the context of college basketball coaching. Entering his 15th season at Florida, he ranks fifth in SEC history in wins with 331. He needs 10 more wins to pass Harry Rabenhorst and C.M. Newton for third place. That would leave only Adolph Rupp (875) and Dale Brown (448) ahead of Donovan.
Donovan is the dean of SEC coaches and has the sixth-longest tenure of any coach in the country.
Donovan, Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski are the only coaches who won two national championships by the age of 45. By the way, Krzyzewski won his first two titles at ages 44 and 45. His third came at age 54.
Only two other coaches have won national championships by age 45: Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo with one each.
Coaches who have not — or did not — win a national championship by age 45 include John Wooden, Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams, Tubby Smith, Lute Olson and Gary Williams.