Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Dave Stapleton.
— It’s very hard to root against someone in search of their dream, but count me among those believing Ben Bentil’s decision to enter the NBA draft as premature. Could he use more time at the college level? Of course. This is the problem inherent in the pro game these days — a lot of players just aren’t “ready” for the skills needed to be a long-term, consistently productive pro.
— This being said, Bentil has worked out well for several teams and had a great combine, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s now mentioned as a first-round possibility. Hopefully, someone sees his potential and signs him to a multiyear contract. We’ve seen this before around here, or have you forgotten Ricky Ledo and God Shammgod?
— I will say this: Providence has never had two first-rounders selected in the same year, so I’ll be rooting for that come draft day. A program first like that one certainly would stand out on the recruiting trail for Ed Cooley and his staff.
— And in case you needed a reminder, this is what it’s like for a college basketball blue blood. Wanna be like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas? Get used to losing players before their eligibility expires. The tough part is reloading. For true blue bloods, it’s simply, “Next man up.”
— It seems as if each of the past few offseasons, the Friars have had a need for new players to emerge, and so far they’ve managed to do just that. Consider the losses — Marshon Brooks, Bryce Cotton, LaDontae Henton, Carson Desrosiers, Tyler Harris, Kris Dunn and now Bentil — and each time a player emerges to be just what the program needs.
— My money is on Rodney Bullock to be the all-conference player PC needs him to be in order to have a shot at the postseason again. Jalen Lindsay, Kyron Cartwright and Emmitt Holt also will need to contribute in a major way. Hard to expect too much out of newcomers (Holt being a transfer), but Isaiah Jackson also will need to figure prominently for Providence to pick up next season where it left off this past March.
— Not for nuthin’, but Dunn’s apparent preference to not go to Boston or Phoenix? It’s just talk. It’s just posturing. His agents want what’s best for their client. Kris will play anywhere and everywhere. And kick butt along the way.
— Villanova’s Josh Hart now should be the odds-on favorite for Big East Player of the Year next season with his decision to return to school along with Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead deciding to remain in the draft. Overall, the Big East takes a talent hit — the top six scorers, four of the top five rebounders and five of the top seven in assists from last season are gone.
— Even with these changes in team personnel, I’m still thinking the defending national champ Wildcats deserve the top nod next season in the Big East, with Xavier as runner-up. Seton Hall should still be NCAA-good, even without Whitehead, but not as good as it could have been. Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette (minus probable lottery pick Henry Ellenson) and Butler right now all rank ahead of the Friars. We’ll see if that lasts.
— Flying under the radar in the past couple of weeks, Rhode Island’s Barrington High School hired former Indiana Hoosier and NBA guard Greg Graham as its new head basketball coach. The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch reports Graham, who was a first-round pick of the Charlotte Hornets in 1993, has decided to put down roots in Rhody for his family. Graham most recently served as an assistant at Salve Regina, after his wife accepted a promotion within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
— Did you see where Brown’s all-Ivy Cedric Kuakumensah worked out recently for the Celtics? Rim protectors are always in vogue.
— We’re taking the good with the bad when considering the fortunes of the Brown men’s lacrosse team right now. With the Bears in the NCAA Final Four for the first time in 22 years (and the second time ever), it’s the pinnacle for a program that has been ultra-competitive through the years and finally has a breakthrough moment.
— Unfortunately, the Bears laxmen are taking the “break” part literally. No Dylan Malloy, the nation’s leading scorer, for the national semifinal against No. 1 Maryland this weekend. Molloy is out with a broken foot suffered in the opening-round win over Johns Hopkins. Bad break, indeed.
— In case you didn’t know, the other national semifinal in Philadelphia has Loyola (Maryland) meeting North Carolina. Yes, the Tar Heels play lacrosse, too. But Loyola athletic director Jim Paquette is a Providence College grad, got his master’s degree at UMass, and is a former administrator at Boston College, too. The road to success, just about everywhere it seems, runs through New England.
— The winning has been contagious around Rhode Island throughout the spring, spreading to Kingston and Smithfield in addition to Providence. URI won the Atlantic-10 baseball regular-season championship, closing with eight wins in its final nine conference games. Sophomore pitcher Tyler Wilson is the first player in the history of the A-10 to win back-to-back Pitcher of the Year awards, and is the first Rams player ever to claim the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association Pitcher of the Year award as well.
— As the top seed for the A-10 tournament, URI received a bye in the first round at Fordham, then beat the Rams 10-1 in the Bronx on Thursday to move into the winners’ bracket finals Friday against Davidson. At stake, Rhody’s second-ever bid into the NCAA baseball regionals.
— The nationally ranked Bryant Bulldogs baseball team is after its third Northeast Conference title in four years this weekend in Norwich, Connecticut. The Bulldogs finished as regular-season champs, 44-10 overall, and pitcher Robby Rinn (from Warwick, R.I.) was named the New England Player of the Year. Coach Steve Owens was named Coach of the Year. Rinn led the Bulldogs offense (sixth-best nationally in average) and led the NEC in hitting.
— That rumble of thunder you hear in the distance? The Big 12 league meetings are next week in Irving, Texas. Expansion will be part of the discussion. The question is, however, will any further shifting of the college landscape make sense, or cents?
— Speaking of cents, anyone else getting mixed signals here? UCLA’s deal with Under Armour announced last week was for an unprecedented $280 million over 15 years — the richest deal in NCAA history. Former Big East associate commissioner (for football) Nick Carparelli is a major player these days for Under Armour. If the money available in the college rights game is drying up, this surely isn’t an example of that, is it?
— Art Briles’ firing as football coach at Baylor should create a ripple across the college football landscape. Briles, who recruited former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker to Texas Tech while an assistant coach there, rose from the ranks of legendary Texas high school coach to turning a once-moribund Baylor program into a national contender. But he also allegedly looked the other way or ignored a multitude of violent allegations against players in his program, including sexual assault of females on campus.
— Add to this police in Waco, Texas, trying to cover up some of these “problems” from going public, and, well, someone had to go. Former UMass athletic director Ian McCaw, the current AD at Baylor, has been sanctioned and placed on probation for a lack of oversight. Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) is stepping down from the school presidency.
— Remember in 2003, when one of former basketball coach Dave Bliss’ players actually murdered a teammate at Baylor? The Baptist buckle of the Bible Belt seems to have completely cut off the air supply to reasonable, sane and moral thinking — all in the name of athletic relevancy.
— Ask yourself, in all seriousness, at what cost does winning come?
— But we love winning, and who doesn’t? The Red Sox appear to be capable of making this a fun summer for baseball, at the very least. But something tells me that ain’t good enough around here.
— Carson Smith, we hardly knew ye. Down for the count with elbow trouble and Tommy John surgery, it will be another year-plus before he can compete on a mound again. His sidearm delivery always looked stressful, and I guess it actually was stressful. Doesn’t make that deal sending Wade Miley away look too good now, does it?
— You can never have enough pitching, especially if you’re the Red Sox. Clay Buchholz is a disaster, allowing five earned runs or more in six of his 10 starts. Keep this in mind for two more months, no matter how much the team might win. Just sayin’.
— While we continue to watch David Ortiz in relative amazement — and really, who isn’t amazed by what this 40-year-old can still do with a bat — Jackie Bradley’s hit streak had more meaning to these eyes. He hit better than .400 during the 29-game stretch, and is at (or near) the top of the AL in hitting. Bradley, you might recall, was a .213 hitter over his first 700 major league at-bats coming into the year.
— Tweet of the Week comes from the Boston Globe’s @PeteAbe: David Ortiz now has as many extra-base hits as Ty Cobb. Reached in hell, Cobb refused comment.
— Hey, Wade. Nice job flashing that Yankees World Series ring Wednesday night at the Fenway Park event honoring the ’86 Red Sox. At least he had the decency, it appeared, to take it off Thursday night when the Sox retired his No. 26.
— I realize it’s the only ring you managed to win, Wade, but considering 11 of your 18 years as a major league player were spent in Boston, and your number now is placed among the greats in Red Sox history, how about not sticking it to an organization that looked the other way as you fiddled and diddled (sorry, Johnny Most) your way across the country while a player — if you know what I mean?
— My buddy “Big E” has a lawyer friend who told him about a phone call he had to make to a client last week. He said he told the client he has bad news and terrible news, so which did he want to hear first? The client responded by saying he’d take the bad news first. The bad news was his wife found a picture worth a half-million dollars. “Ha! That’s the bad news? What’s the terrible news?” Big E’s lawyer friend said, “The picture is of you and your secretary.”
— Tom Brady continues to fight his fight, even if that fight is misguided to some. The Patriots, officially for the first time, joined the legal fray with the “friend of the court” brief filed on Brady’s behalf Wednesday. The one-time loyal NFL soldier, Robert Kraft, now has officially joined the mutiny against the captain of pro football’s ship — Roger Goodell.
— And did you see where two dozen engineering and physics professors also filed a brief in support of Brady’s effort to gain a rehearing? In the “name of science,” the professors said, “Courts should not be powerless to consider the absence of scientific proof when a proceeding is so interlaced with laws of science.”
— Is that anything like the irresistible force meeting the immovable object?
— Got a chuckle this week from WEEI’s Jerry Thornton, who always does his best to defend Fort Patriot. NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks — who was drafted by Buffalo and played for five teams in the NFL — listed his top 10 talented teams this week, without New England on that list.
— Thornton pointed out this obviously was a subjective list, but you have to wonder how a team that has reached the final four of the NFL playoffs five straight years, with two Super Bowl appearances and a Lombardi Trophy, doesn’t rate talent-wise with him? The 6-10 New York Giants did, and so did the 4-12 Dallas Cowboys. Was he just pandering to his bosses? Jerry, I’ll pitch in here: Stupid is as stupid does.
— You think the Patriots have restrictive media policies? The Buffalo Bills this week imposed restrictions on media covering their OTA practices that included prohibiting reporters from reporting on players who drop passes. In practice. With more than three months to go before the season starts.
— Betcha the first violator of the new policy is none other than motor mouth Rex Ryan himself.
— It’s a little like deciding which bad guy to root for, but the NFL’s feigned indignity over Congress accusing the league of pulling funding for brain injury research is hardly credible. If you really believe the NFL has never tried to previously influence politicians, you haven’t been paying attention. Let’s start with federal antitrust laws, from which the NFL is exempt, and allows it to make mega-TV deals and print money.
— Congress, I don’t believe, has any interest in actually holding pro football’s collective feet to the fire here. This issue should be confronted, and the NFL execs called out on the carpet for the creeps they can be — but instead this issue will eventually go away. Too many powerful football fans in Washington.
— If you’re going to coach up the kids, you might as well have someone on your staff who knows something about them. Thus, the Bruins’ Claude Julien hired P-Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy as an assistant, as Cassidy returns to the NHL after eight years on the Providence bench. Cassidy played for the Chicago Blackhawks in the mid-’80s and was head coach of the Washington Capitals in the early 2000s.
— Kudos to WJAR Channel 10’s Jeff Kolb, who is off to Tulsa, Oklahoma, next month for a position at the Fox affiliate station. Kolb is not only a native Rhode Islander (from Cumberland) and a part-time host of our weekend show on 103.7 FM, but also a former student of mine at Emerson a few years back. Tulsa is a very good sports and TV market — it will be fun for him.
— I’ll say this about the New England Revolution: They keep you on the edge of your seat. Lacking a dynamic, goal-scoring forward, the Revs went out and picked up Kai Kamara, who still is one of the best strikers in MLS at age 31. But with teams doubling up on his offensive capabilities, now the Revs are leaking like a sieve on the back end defensively.
— Dave Stapleton was a utility player on the ’86 Red Sox American League championship team honored this week for its historic season 30 years ago. It’s stunning to think that magical, maniacal season was actually 30 years ago, but it was the year I became a rock-solid Sox fan. For all of the anguish left in their wake, the ’86 Sox really helped build — and define — what is now Red Sox Nation. Stapleton epitomized that team to me — having once been a starter at first base, he provided utility assistance as needed that year, and many believe he should have been manning first base late in Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets instead of Bill Buckner. He never complained, at least not publicly. Stapleton — who also played in Pawtucket in the late ’70s — signed with Seattle as a free agent after the ’86 season but was released before the year began. He never played baseball again, and returned home to Alabama where he raised his family and built homes for a living.
— Gary from Providence posted on Facebook this week: Marcus Lee removed his name from the NBA Draft and will transfer from Kentucky! PC has an open scholarship and could use a talented big man! Gary: Sure, Providence could use a guy like Lee. So could hundreds of other schools. But to my knowledge, Lee has said he’d like to go to school out West, to be closer to his home in California. Last I checked, Providence is east of Lexington, Kentucky — not west. But, never say never.
— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ’em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to email@example.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
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