NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The four Blueblood programs that entered the Superdome for the Final Four all have the opportunity to recruit nationally, their coaches can hop on a jet at any time to sit in a living room or watch a game.
Turns out some of their best players were in their own backyard.
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All-American guard Ochai Agbaji grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, before traveling about 20 minutes west on Interstate 70 to become a star for Kansas, who meet Villanova in Saturday night’s first national semifinals. His running mate Christian Braun grew up in southeastern Kansas but also played his high school prom in suburban Kansas City.
Two-time Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie, who is eyeing a third national title with Wildcats coach Jay Wright, also played his high school prom about 20 minutes from campus at Archbishop Wood in suburban Philadelphia. Eric Dixon grew up in nearby Willow Grove and Chris Arcidiacono in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
“We have never set any store by recruiting local children. We made the emphasis on just going out there and having the best kids,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, “and we’ve been able to recruit national teams for the most part.
“But there’s something very special about having two of arguably the best wings in college basketball within 45 minutes of your home.”
There are also hometown ties in the second semifinal between Duke and North Carolina, and those might add a little extra motivation considering their rival campuses are known to be just 10 miles apart.
Justin McKoy, who played all overtime in the excitement of the Tar Heels against No. 1 Baylor, was growing up 30 minutes away in Raleigh. Duke Captain Joey Baker moved just about 90 minutes north of his home in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
ONE TO ONE
Three years ago, Caleb Samuels had made the decision to move from Tulane and was visiting Villanova, where Gillespie and another hometown player, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, were given the job of showing him around.
Some of the trainers asked if they would like to have a little shooting competition and one thing led to another.
“We are two competitive guys. It became a one-on-one,” Gillespie recalled Thursday, “and he went at me 13-0 and I was scared. I was nervous. I thought who is this kid? Because I had never heard of him before. And of course I looked for him and watched his highlights – ‘All right, he can help us.’”
That was perhaps an understatement. Gillespie and Samuels are now two of the Wildcats’ top three scorers.
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“I was up 13-0 in the first game and I remember him coming back and taking every shot after that after I obviously missed a layup or something,” Samuels said. “In the end he won this game. The series ended 3-1 Collin.”
The Final Four has become a Teahan family tradition.
First it was Connor. He played in Kansas from 2007 to 2011 and reached the Final Four twice, where he won a national championship with the Jayhawks in 2008.
Now it’s Chris’ turn. He was a freshman on the 2018 Final Four team and is back this year as a super senior.
“The Teahans have kind of become the first family of our program,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “Both leave their mark on everything we do.”
CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
It is not uncommon for politicians to place public bets on major sporting events with products that highlight their state’s industries. That’s not an option for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper considering home-state teams UNC and Duke have brought their rivalry to New Orleans.
So, on Thursday, Cooper instead issued a proclamation that the state was “The Center of the College Basketball Universe.”
“The stakes are high on Saturday and fans across the country will get a first-hand look at two programs that have been fiercely competitive for decades, dividing the loyalties of family and friends but making our state proud,” Cooper said .
By DAVE SKRETTA AP Basketball Author
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https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2022/03/31/final-four-teams-heavily-recruit-talent-backyards/ The Final Four teams are recruiting heavily in their backyards – CBS Pittsburgh