NCAA Latest: Sister Jean’s pearls of wisdom at Final Four
SAN ANTONIO (AP) The Latest on the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament (all times local):
Larry Brown has seen just about everything in basketball, and the veteran coach loves the lineup in this Final Four.
Brown is traveling with Kansas during the NCAA Tournament, spending time around a program that he loves and providing support to Bill Self, his assistant for one season in 1985-86 while Brown was the Jayhawks’ head coach. Yet the 77-year-old coach also sees plenty to love about underdog Loyola-Chicago, mighty Michigan and Villanova, which is coached by another good friend, Jay Wright.
”I think it always ends up the best of the best when they get here,” Brown said. ”For Loyola to be here, what happened in 1963 brings attention to some things that are really important going on right now. I think that’s really significant.”
Loyola won the 1963 NCAA title with a roster that flouted the unwritten rule limiting teams to no more than two black players on the floor at one time.
Good things happen to the Jayhawks when Brown is around. He coached Danny Manning’s Jayhawks team to the 1988 national title, and he was traveling with Self’s team in 2008 when Kansas won the 2008 national title.
”There’s some unbelievable stories going on here,” Brown said. ”So I’m pretty excited just to get an opportunity to watch.”
When Villanova and Kansas meet Saturday, it will offer a potential matchup between two Associated Press All-American point guards in Devonte’ Graham of the Jayhawks and AP men’s college basketball player of the year Jalen Brunson with the Wildcats.
And the coaches are looking at it a bit differently.
Kansas coach Bill Self said he thinks it’ll be ”fun for people to see that and certainly fun to coach it.” Villanova’s Jay Wright offered a light chuckle and a sigh when asked about Self’s thought.
Wright says he tries ”not to think about those types of things and I don’t really think I would enjoy any matchup” with Graham – though he said it would be more about enjoying the challenge he presents.
Michigan forward Moe Wagner isn’t really trying to be the kind of player the opposition hates.
It’s just kind of happened that way because of the emotion and exuberance the 6-foot-11 German brings to the court.
”I remember there was a game and I walked off after halftime, and I asked coach why do they hate me so much, because sometimes I don’t understand it either,” Wagner said. ”I’m just out there having fun, expressing myself. That’s just me. I do that at practice too, so people that know me know that. … It’s not that big of a deal.”
Wolverines senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who has a more even-keeled approach on the court, shared how Wagner calms down during timeouts.
”He talks in German. We let him calm down, and he gets right back out there,” Abdur-Rahkman said.
Coach John Beilein said Wagner ”enters into third person. He starts talking to Moe. When he starts talking to Moe, we are quiet and let him talk to himself.”
Sister Jean is the celebrity to be seen with at the Final Four.
As Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt watched her Ramblers practice in the Alamodome on Friday, plenty of people stopped by to interact and snap a picture with Loyola-Chicago’s biggest fan.
When the Loyola-Chicago open session was wrapping up and the 98-year-old nun was being pushed in her wheelchair to leave the arena floor, the Michigan cheerleaders and dance team asked if they could pose for a picture with her.
Sister Jean obliged and was surrounded by the kids in maize and blue.
When Loyola-Chicago guard Clayton Custer was in high school and going against some players being recruited by Kansas, coach Bill Self approached him after a camp game.
Self told Custer that the Jayhawks weren’t going to recruit him. But it wasn’t because the kid from Kansas wasn’t good enough.
”He told me, `You’re good enough to play at KU, but we’re too loaded at guard right now, and it wouldn’t make sense for you to come here,”’ Custer said Friday. ”I respect him 100 percent.”
Self and Custer are both in the Final Four. The 11th-seeded Ramblers play Michigan in a semifinal game, before Big 12 champion Kansas takes on Villanova.
Custer, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, is averaging 13.2 points and 4.2 assists per game.
The Jayhawks are led by AP All-America guard Devonte Graham, the Big 12 player of the year. He was the second consecutive Kansas guard to be the AP Big 12 player of the year, following Frank Mason from last season.
With the words ”Sister Jean is in the building,”’ the Day Before the Games at the Final Four is officially underway.
Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt of Loyola-Chicago kicked off a day full of interviews Friday, holding court for 15 minutes in front of a room jam packed with reporters.
The 98-year-old nun has become the sensation of March Madness, blending her words of wisdom with a superfan’s love of the Ramblers – the 11th-seeded team from Loyola-Chicago that plays Michigan on Saturday in the next step on an improbable run to the cusp of the national title.
Among Sister Jean’s pearls of wisdom: Yes, God cares about basketball, and really about the college version more than the NBA. Why? ”These young players are playing for their hearts, and not for any financial assistance,” she says.
Sure, the Final Four teams are practicing in San Antonio the day before their semifinals in the NCAA Tournament.
But the biggest event on Good Friday might be a news conference with Loyola-Chicago’s own Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt.
The nun who serves as chaplain and writes scouting reports for her teams is meeting with a huge contingent of reporters as she’s become the personality of this tournament.
Players for the Ramblers, plus Michigan, Villanova and Kansas are practicing on Friday and getting used to the court where they’ll play on Saturday night for a shot at the NCAA title.
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