Reiss' Pieces: Stanford's Nastic goes down


Reiss' Pieces: Stanford's Nastic goes down

Let's start with the headliner: Stanford Center Stefan Nastic sustained a concussion Saturday in practice when he took an inadvertent blow to the head. He missed Sunday's exhibition game and has not practiced since. More tests were done Tuesday - no word yet on those results. Nastic is questionable for Friday's season opener against USF...I think Stef is one of the real X-factors on this team. He will be the only "true center" among the upperclassmen, and while we will undoubtedly see a lot of Dwight Powell and John Gage at the "5," Nastic gives Stanford a different element at that position if he can stay healthy and productive...RELATED: Stanford roster Season schedule
Powell's shoulder tweak appears to be of the minor variety. He was banging with the big boys at practice Tuesday...Speaking of banging, you only need to watch about 5 minutes of practice to notice the Mark Madsen influence on this team. His energy is infectious, and the players are really responding. A palpable difference from seasons past...Aaron Bright is embracing his role as co-captain. He is far and away the most vocal player on the court...This team takes its commitment to defense seriously. The players are buying into that philosophy - a philosophy that won them an NIT championship last season. Every time somebody takes a charge in practice, the entire squad applauds and gathers around the guy with his butt on the floor...A season in the weight room has done wonders for several Cardinal, most notably Gage, Josh Huestis, and... Gabe Harris. Yes, the smallish guard looks substantially thicker, and appears poised to take over the Jarrett Mann role of defensive stopperbackup ballhandler - but with at least the threat of knocking down an outside shot. Harris is showing no ill effects from the knee injury that sidelined him most of last season...Ditto for Andy Brown, who says he feels great. Not sure how much PT Brown will receive, but he will be a fan favorite when he gets onto the floor...Elliot Bullock is back from his Mormon mission - bigger and balder. The 6-11 FC and walkon F Jack Ryan will redshirt this season...That's not the case for any of Stanford's three true freshmen, at least for now. Coach Dawkins told me has has no immediate plans to redshirt Roscoe Allen, Grant Verhoeven, or Christian Sanders...Verhoeven will likely get the most run of the three freshmen out of the gate. He has some bulk on him and at 6-9, and can provide quality low-post depth. Verhoeven is also a gym rat who has NBA pedigree - his father Pete played six years in the league. Grant has a nose for the ball around the basket, and don't sleep on him as an outside threat - he spent quite some time after practice stroking straightaway threes. My guess is he'll hit more than one of those as a "trailer" this season...I'm not sure how much Allen and Sanders will play early on, with all the talent ahead of them. Allen clearly has a feel for the game, and is not as rail thin as I would've thought from his high school footage. Sanders showed great form in hitting a long jump shot during Sunday's exhibition...Anthony Brown changed his jersey number from 3 to 21. He bolted for class before I had a chance to ask him about it, but word on the street is he just wanted a "fresh start." Only connection I can see is 21=3. And no, I didn't burn too many brain cells coming up with that..Nothing to report on Chasson Randle, other than he is still Chasson Randle. Best player on the floor...Special guest observer at practice Tuesday: Joe Morgan. His daughter, you might know, is a gymnast at Stanford. Joe likes to check in on the hoopsters when he is on campus.AP Images

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft


Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.

Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title


Redemption: Year after heartbreak, UNC outlasts Gonzaga to win title


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's OK, Carolina, you can open your eyes.

An unwatchable game turned into a beautiful night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate.

Justin Jackson delivered the go-ahead 3-point play with 1:40 left Monday and North Carolina pulled away for a 71-65 win over Gonzaga that washed away a year's worth of heartache.

It was, in North Carolina's words, a redemption tour - filled with extra time on the practice court and the weight room, all fueled by a devastating loss in last year's title game on Kris Jenkins' 3-point dagger at the buzzer for Villanova.

"Just unreal that we get a second chance at this," junior Theo Pinson said, recounting a pre-game conversation with teammate Joel Berry II. "Not a lot of people can say they can do that. I told him, `We're about to take this thing. I'm about to give everything I got.' I knew he would, too, We just didn't want to come up short again."

But to say everything went right for Roy Williams' team at this Final Four would be less than the truth.

The Tar Heels (33-7) followed a terrible-shooting night in the semifinal with an equally ice-cold performance in the final - going 4 for 27 from 3-point land and 26 for 73 overall.

Gonzaga, helped by 8 straight points from Nigel Williams-Goss, took a 2-point lead with 1:52 left, but the next possession was the game-changer.

Jackson took a zinger of a pass under the basket from Pinson and converted the shot, then the ensuing free throw to take the lead for good. Moments later, Williams-Goss twisted an ankle and could not elevate for a jumper that would've given the Bulldogs the lead.

Isaiah Hicks made a basket to push the lead to 3, then Kennedy Meeks, in foul trouble all night (who wasn't?), blocked Williams-Goss' shot and Jackson got a slam on the other end to put some icing on title No. 6 for the Tar Heels.

Williams got his third championship, putting him one ahead of his mentor, Dean Smith, and now behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp.

"I think of Coach Smith, there's no question," Williams said. "I don't think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him. But we got three because I've got these guys with me and that's all I care about right now - my guys."

Berry recovered from ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels, but needed 19 shots for his 22 points. Jackson had 16 but went 0 for 9 from 3. Overall, the Tar Heels actually shot a percentage point worse than they did in Saturday night's win over Oregon.

Thank goodness for free throws.

They went 15 for 26 from the line and, in many corners, this game will be remembered for these three men: Michael Stephens, Verne Harris and Mike Eades, the referees who called 27 fouls in the second half, completely busted up the flow of the game and sent Meeks, Gonzaga's 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, and a host of others to the bench in foul trouble.

The game "featured" 52 free throws. Both teams were in the bonus with 13 minutes left. Somehow, Collins was the only player to foul out.

Most bizarre sequence: With 8:02 left, Berry got called for a foul for (maybe) making contact with Karnowski and stripping the ball from the big man's hands. But as Karnowski was flailing after the ball, he inadvertently grabbed Berry around the neck. After a long delay, the refs called Karnowski for a flagrant foul of his own.

"I'm not going to talk about refs," Karnowski said. "It was just a physical game."

Zags coach Mark Few handled it with class, calling the refs "three of the best officials in the entire country," and insisting they did a fine job.

He might have wanted further review on the scrum with 50 seconds left. The refs were taking heat on social media for calling a held ball, which gave possession to the Tar Heels, on a pile-up underneath the Carolina basket. It set up the Hicks layup to put Carolina ahead by 3. One problem: Meeks' right hand looks to be very much touching out of bounds while he's trying to rip away the ball.

"That was probably on me," Few said. "From my angle, it didn't look like an out of bounds situation or I would have called a review. That's tough to hear."

The Bulldogs (37-2), the Cinderella-turned-Godzilla team from the small school in the West Coast Conference, tried to keep the big picture in mind. Twenty years ago, this sort of run at that sort of place looked virtually impossible. With less than 2 minutes left, they had the lead in the national title game.

"We broke the glass ceiling everyone said we couldn't break," junior forward Johnathan Williams said.

And North Carolina got over a hump that, at times this season, felt like a mountain.

"They wanted redemption," Williams said. "I put it on the locker room up on the board - one of the things we had to be tonight was tough enough. I think this group was tough enough tonight."