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March 9, 2011
By Bill Hass
(Check back for updates later tonight ... )
HURRICANES’ REGGIE JOHNSON STAYS TRUE TO CHANGED DIET
Lost weight helps sophomore center improve statistics across the board
As Reggie Johnson shrinks, his statistics expand.
Miami’s sophomore center has lost nearly 40 pounds since his freshman season and become a force in the post for the Hurricanes.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better from last year,” Johnson said after Miami’s shoot-around in the Greensboro Coliseum Wednesday. “Just staying in the gym, working out, losing weight, it’s paid off for me and been a big numbers boost for me.”
To compare, Johnson averaged 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds last season, respectable numbers for a freshman. But he carried abut 330 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame and averaged only 13.6 minutes per game.
This season he’s scoring 12 points a game, rebounding 9.7 per game and playing 25.8 minutes (29 minutes in ACC games).
“Right now I’m 296,” he said. “down from around 308 in summer. You’ve got to change your diet, got to run, wake up early, no fried food. It was tough but I did it. I feel a lot better, lighter on my feet. It’s like I took a weight vest off me.”
One of his best friends on the team, guard Malcolm Grant, said Johnson has been serious in his desire to lose weight.
“I know a lot of times guys will be hungry and he’ll be like, ‘I can’t have that, man,’” Grant said. “So it’s a big change because I remember last year he’d say ‘man, let’s go get it.’ To hear him say ‘I can’t have that’ shows you how much he’s matured in a year.”
Grant added that he was proud of Johnson for other things, like becoming more of a student of the game of basketball.
“You have a guy you can throw it to down low and you know he’s going to get fouled or he’s going to put two points on the board,” Grant said. “And he can pass. It’s really good to have him in the post.”
There’s still more work to do. Johnson said he wants to get down to 280 for next season, keep improving his game and become one of the best players in the ACC and in the country.
“In order for him to take this next step, that’s when it’s really going to be tough on him,” said Miami coach Frank Haith. “If he can get to 275, 280, even 285, he’ll feel much better, he’ll have more stamina and he’ll be a better player.”
HOKIES’ ALLEN SAYS HE’LL PLAY
Virginia Tech center Jeff Allen limped into the locker room with an ice bag on his right ankle, which was somewhat swollen. The injury occurred in the first half of Sunday’s game at Clemson.
“I ran on it a little bit (Wednesday),” Allen said. I feel like it should be OK tomorrow. I’m going to be out there for sure.”
Informed that Allen had described it as “an inconvenience, not an injury,” Hokies’ coach Seth Greenberg said “it’s an injury that’s an inconvenience. He’ll play.”
The Hokies, once considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament, have lost their last two games.
“We’ve got to go out and play hard, go out and play to win,” Allen said. “We can’t hold nothing back. We’ve got to play every game like it’s our last because, when you look at it, it kind of is.”
Guard Malcolm Delaney said the team needs to get back to its transition game.
“When we don’t play in transition, we’re not a good team,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to that.”
AND SO WILL JACKETS’ BRIAN OLIVER
Virginia Tech’s first-round opponent Thursday will be Georgia Tech, and the Jackets will be bolstered by the return of sophomore Brian Oliver. The 6-6 sophomore missed eight games after surgery on a broken thumb.
“He’s going to play,” said coach Paul Hewitt. “He’s worked out the last couple of days and he looks good. He kept himself in shape on the treadmill.”
Oliver gives the Jackets another player capable of hitting an open 3-pointer and grabbing some rebounds.
“I actually feel really well,” Oliver said. “Yesterday in practice I was kind of concerned conditioning-wise, but when I got out there just running the floor I felt really well; conditioning is really good for me right now.”
Oliver broke his left thumb and that’s his non-shooting hand. He said he kept on shooting even with a cast on “just to keep my form right” and to keep the feel of the ball in his hand. He also got antsy waiting to get back in uniform.
“There were times I wanted to dress out, even though I had my cast. I just didn’t like getting dressed up and sitting there having to watch.”
As for how much he might play and contribute, Oliver said that’s up to Hewitt, but he’s ready to go.
“When I go out there I’m going to do everything in my power to help the team win,” he said. “Twenty minutes is no problem, I honestly think I can go for 30. When you’re in the game, your adrenaline is pumping and I actually don’t pay any attention to getting tired.”
BUT NO DECISION ON SINGLETON
The Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech winner will play in Friday’s last game against No. 3 seed Florida State. So, will Chris Singleton be available? One of the ACC’s most versatile players has been out since he broke his right foot Feb. 12 against Virginia.
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton would not commit one way or the other Wednesday evening.
“Chris is moving in the right direction” Hamilton said. “It’s not a Chris story right now. Chris is in rehab and it’s unfair for us as a team to spend all our time talking about Chris.
“He’s had limited work and any decision we make will be based on the information we have at the time. All I know is he’s close, his rehab has gone great, maybe a little ahead of schedule. What does that mean? I really don’t know.
“It’s not a Chris Singleton watch. At this point we’re moving ahead with who we absolutely know we’re going to have and that’s it.”
Hamilton said he’s a “mother-hen type of guy” who will err on the side of caution and not put any player at risk. His team, he added, is preparing to play with who it knows is available.
“That’s where we are right now,” he said. “If anything happens, believe me we won’t be keeping any secrets. There’s absolutely nothing to announce right now as it relates to him.”
NO EVIDENCE OF MELLOWING
Someone asked Maryland coach Gary Williams Wednesday if he was any less intense on the sidelines and in practices.
“Ask the players if I’m any less intense,” he replied with a hint of a smile.
Here’s what Jordan Williams said:
“He’s got that fiery attitude and that’s what pushes us. That’s what separates him from the rest of the coaches, I think. He still has that same fire, which is unbelievable. He brings it to the table every day.”
Senior Adrian Bowie said that, if anything, Williams is more intense.
“You can tell from the passion,” Bowie said. “He’s always going to be hands-on and involved at all times.”
It can be a difficult adjustment for young players to get used to Williams’ style.
“You’re not used to that coming out of high school,” Bowie said. “It gets hard sometimes; you’re getting yelled at a lot.
“He really tests you and challenges you and disciplines you and you grow from that as time goes on. He always looks out for us; he’s looking out for our best interests first.”
“THAT LITTLE WALL IN YOUR HEAD”
With rampant speculation about the future of coach Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack is trying to approach Thursday’s game against Maryland as business as usual.
“You know what, that’s not in my hands,” Lowe said about keeping his job. “It’s not hard at all. This is my job, it’s what I do.”
Sophomore Scott Wood said Lowe hasn’t changed anything about how he coaches.
“He’s just coming in and handling his business every day,” Wood said. “It’s no different from the first day we got here. He’s just trying to get us prepared for this game and make a run in this tournament.”
How do the players handle it?
“Once you put the uniform on and you step out there for practice or you step on the court for a game,” Wood said, “your mind is cleared, no matter what’s happened to you in the past, and you’re not really thinking about it. Off the court you’re going to hear stuff but you’ve still got that little wall in your head trying to block it out. On the court, you don’t even think about it.”
Wood left no doubt about his feelings for his coach.
“I would love to play another two (years for him,” Wood said. “There’s no other coach I’d rather have in the country than coach Lowe.”
A GOOD FRIEND OF THE “BRACKETOLOGIST”
Those who follow college basketball closely also follow the ESPN “Bracketology” of Joe Lunardi. In his real job, Lunardi is Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications at St. Joseph’s University. But Bracketology – the art of picking the NCAA Tournament field – consumes him during college hoops season.
Someone who knows him, but doesn’t read what Lunardi writes, is Boston College coach Steve Donahue. They’ve known each other since grade school in Philadelphia, although Lunardi is a little older.
“My sisters worked at St. Joseph’s since 1976 and Joe has probably worked there since 1980 or something,” Donahue said. “So we’ve known each other for years. I was very close to the St. Joe’s program and all those guys.”
St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli used to tell Donahue how Lunardi knew who was going to get in and who wasn’t.
“We used to joke about it and now obviously he’s the expert,” Donahe said. “I don’t call him, just so people know. He didn’t give me any breaks last year (at Cornell).”
Donahue was hoping Lunardi would give Cornell a seed in the single digits. Instead, he predicted the Big Red would be a 12 seed, which was right on the nose. Although they are friends, Donahue said he doesn’t read Lunardi’s predictions. He doesn’t even like to read the crawls across the bottom of the ESPN screen about them.
“I would love to be a fan or a media (member) and enjoy all this stuff,” Donahue said, “but I don’t think it helps me as a coach.”
For the record, in Lunardi’s updated brackets Wednesday, he put Boston College as a No. 12 seed, facing No. 5 West Virginia in New Orleans.
Just don’t tell Donahue.
AND MORE BUBBLE TALK
Lunardi also has Clemson – which will play Friday against the Boston College-Wake Forest winner – in the NCAA field as a No. 12 seed, playing No. 5 Arizona in San Antonio. First-year coach Brad Brownell said the Tigers don’t spend much time talking about the bubble.
“We just talk about what we need to do,” he said. “If we play well we’ll have opportunities to play ourselves into the field, off the bubble or whatnot. At one point in the year we were just trying to get onto the bubble and now we’re trying to get inside the bubble, in some situations we are. We don’t (treat it) like this is a make or break game.”
In previous coaching stops at UNC Wilmington and Wright State, Brownell rarely had to be concerned about bubble talk. It’s a fact of life in the ACC, and he doesn’t object.
“Usually about half the teams in our league get into the tournament,” he said. “If you can finish in the top half of the ACC you’re doing pretty good. So I hope we’re doing some bubble talk most years.”
DEACONS’ REFERENCE POINT
The experience gained in a difficult season will eventually help a young Wake Forest team. And coach Jeff Bzdelik mentioned another factor.
“Now they have a reference point,” he said. “I could talk to them in July and August and September and October about what they’re going to encounter and they’re looking at me like deer in the headlights. Now when I talk to them they go, ‘oh yeah, I know. Now I understand.’ So that’s why I believe the future’s very bright.”
Gary Clark, the Deacons’ lone scholarship senior, sees better days ahead, too.
“They have some great young pieces,” Clark said. “The future is bright, the future is soon. They’re close to being really good.”
Any wisdom about the ACC Tournament that he passed on to the freshmen?
“Not yet, but I’m sure I’ll end up telling them something about it tonight or tomorrow before the game,” he said. “The ACC Tournament is one of the best tournaments in the country every year and they should cherish it.”
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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