Looking for a future NBA standout in Lexington's NCAA regional basketball play Thursday?
Butler Coach Brad Stevens, praising his opponent Wednesday, said to look no further than Bucknell's 6-foot-11 Mike Muscala.
This season, Butler has gone against noted big men Davante Gardner of Marquette, James Michael McAdoo of North Carolina, Cody Zeller of Indiana and "all the kids that we played in our league," Stevens said. "They all have terrific strengths and they all have the ability to play well beyond their college teams. That being said, I haven't seen anyone that we've played against score with his back to the basket in so many creative ways as Muscala.
"I was talking to a BCS coach who's played them in the last few years and he said, in the last five years, Muscala's the best big guy they've played against. I think that sums it up; he's got it all. He can go right shoulder, he can go left shoulder, he can spin off of contact. He doesn't need contact to score. He doesn't need angles to score. A lot of so-called big guys in college basketball score most of their points with angles. That means they get offensive rebounds, they get transition buckets, the spin around and dunk it. They get an angle. He doesn't need an angle. He can score with you between him and the basket, which is why he's going to make a lot of money for a long time. I think he'll be a 10-, 12-year NBA veteran."
Muscala, a senior from Roseville, Minn., averages 19 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. He leads the NCAA with 22 double-doubles.
He is two-time Player of the Year in the Patriot League, and an academic All-American.
Lyle Wolf, who coached junior varsity basketball for Ted Hall at Sayre last year, is serving as a graduate assistant at Marquette this season.
Wolf, a Henry Clay and Transylvania graduate, was in Rupp Arena on Wednesday, helping the Golden Eagles go through a practice session in preparation for Thursday's game against Davidson.
Wolf, 25, said he got the opportunity at Marquette by sending out "blind emails" to college coaches and getting a response from Golden Eagles assistant Brad Autry.
Wolf worked camps for Autry the last two summers, and that led to his GA job at Marquette. "I've enjoyed every bit of it," Wolf said. "I'm blessed to be around a lot of smart basketball people, and they let me do a lot of things on and off the court."
Wolf had his own contingent of fans in Rupp on Wednesday. He said about 10 family members were on hand to watch him help with Marquette's practice.
Lexington connection, II
Former Lexington Catholic basketball player and coach Chelsea Chowning is engaged to Bucknell associate head coach Dane Fischer.
No bad blood, continued
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino reiterated that he holds no ill will toward his former school and the regional host, Kentucky. Some U of L fans, it was suggested, are gleeful to be playing on UK's home court while the Wildcats already are out of the NIT.
"I just don't have the personality to revel in anybody else's failure," Pitino said. "They won a championship last year. They had one of the best teams we've gone against. So they're rebuilding and, to me, it's not about them failing and us moving on. I really don't pay attention to it too much. And probably only 10 percent of our fan base think that way, and probably 10 percent of the Kentucky fan base think that way. There's always empty barrels at each place, because I've coached both places. The other 90 percent just are good people that want to see good basketball, and they don't get into that stuff."
■ U of L's Luke Hancock on the U of L-UK angle: "Sometimes fans really think that it's like a huge, hated rivalry. It's not quite like that with the players, I don't think. We really want to win when we play Kentucky, especially at Kentucky, but we don't wish them to have a bad season or anything like that, or not be here."
Wildcat for life
Davidson Coach Bob McKillop has staying power. He's in his 24th season at the small school (1,900 students) outside Charlotte, N.C.
When his players were asked at Wednesday's news conference to describe their coach in one word, they offered "passion," "intense," "trust" and "caring."
McKillop said that's the approach he takes toward his players, the program and the school. "It's a pretty good marriage. ... Trust, commitment and care are the framework upon which we've structured our program for the past 25 years. I think those things show their beautiful head quite frequently during the course of a season."
■ How big was North Carolina A&T's win over Liberty Tuesday, the school's first ever in NCAA tourney play? "The chancellor came up to me last night and said, 'you made history.' And we're so very, very proud," Coach Cy Alexander said. "In fact, I just got a call from Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. (an A&T grad) about five minutes ago, as I was coming into the arena. So obviously it's a pretty big deal for making history."
■ Once Butler checked in to its Lexington hotel Tuesday, three-point wizard Rotnei Clarke had a personal matter to attend to — find a gym, in this case the Dunbar Community Center. "I didn't shoot for very long. It was about 30, 45 minutes," Clarke said. "I have a nightly routine that I do."
■ Matthew Graves, Butler's associate head coach, played in Rupp in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Then a senior for the Bulldogs, he scored a team-high 17 points against New Mexico.
■ Bryson Johnson hails from Nova Scotia. But he was "discovered" by Bucknell not far from Lexington.
"They saw me at an AAU tournament in Kentucky, in Louisville actually," said Johnson, a 6-foot-2 senior guard. "So I guess that's kind of cool."
Johnson's high school coach was his mother. "It was a little bit different, but she was a great coach," Johnson said. "She was hard on my brothers and I, but she didn't give us any preferential treatment."
■ Bucknell Coach Dave Paulsen, admittedly superstitious, doesn't need a new suit for prime-time play.
"I have two suits, and I alternate them," he said with a smile. "And then, if we lose, the tie goes out the window."
NCAA Visitors Guide: Welcome to Lexington tournament-goers