Breaking down the Gulf Coast Showcase

The Gulf Coast Showcase released the pairings Tuesday for its men’s basketball tournament, which will run Nov. 24-26 at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida. Evansville will lock up with Fresno State in the opening round, with the victor to face the East Carolina-Green Bay winner.

Here is a closer look at each of the matchups, top players for each team, etc.

Game 1: Green Bay vs. East Carolina

— Green Bay finished 24-7 last season and posted a 14-2 record in the Horizon League in winning the conference’s regular-season title. The Phoenix lost to Belmont in the first round of the NIT.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 69

Top player: There may not be a better player in the Gulf Coast Showcase than Green Bay senior Keifer Sykes. The 6-foot guard averaged 20.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season. Sykes was named the Horizon League Player of the Year and an honorable mention Associated Press All-American. And he brings his best against top competition; he lit up Wisconsin for a career-high 32 points in a 69-66 loss last season, and posted 21 points and 10 assists as the Phoenix knocked off Virginia, which earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Oh, and he can do this:

If you’d like to read up more on Sykes, who the Aces could see in their second game of the tournament, ESPN’s C.L. Brown recently wrote a blog post about him.

— East Carolina finished 17-17 overall, 5-11 in Conference USA and lost to Wright State in the first round of the CIT.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 223

Top players: Caleb White, a 6-7 sophomore guard, averaged 12.4 points as a freshman. Senior sharpshooter Paris Roberts-Campbell has started 52 consecutive games, posted 11.9 points per game last season and racked up 53 steals (the sixth-highest single-season total in ECU history). More than 56 percent of Roberts-Campbell’s made field goals in his career have come from 3-point range.

Game 2: Fresno State vs. Evansville

— Fresno State finished 21-18 and 9-9 in the Mountain West last season. The Bulldogs lost to Siena in the CBI’s best-of-three championship series.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 106

Top players: The Bulldogs return four starters and five of their top seven scorers, led by junior guards Marvelle Harris (14.3 points per game) and Cezar Guerrero (13.1 ppg) and 6-foot-6 sophomore guard/forward Paul Watson (10.0 ppg). Last season’s leading scorer, Tyler Johnson (15.9 ppg), is on the roster of the Miami Heat.

— Evansville finished 14-19 and 6-12 in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Aces lost to conference champion Wichita State in the second round of the MVC tournament.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 210

Top players: The Aces return 96 percent of their scoring output from last season, but their two clear stars are junior guard D.J. Balentine and junior post Egidijus Mockevicius. Balentine led the MVC in scoring at 22.8 points per game, connecting on 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. Mockevicius was the team’s second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) and led the league in rebounding (8.3 rpg).

Game 3: Florida Gulf Coast at Marist

— Florida Gulf Coast finished 22-13 last year and 14-4 in the Atlantic Sun, losing to Florida State in the first round of the NIT.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 148

Top players: Bernard Thompson, a 6-foot-3 guard, led FGCU in scoring last season at 15.1 points per game, but the team’s most flashy player — and most recognizable remnant of the 2013 run to the Sweet 16 that inspired the nickname ‘Dunk City’ — is his backcourt mate Brett Comer. Comer scored 13.7 points per game last season and averaged 5.3 assists.

Comer’s court vision was apparent on this play, which may be the signature play of Dunk City’s run two seasons ago. The good part starts at about the 20-second mark.

— Marist finished 12-19 and 9-11 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, bowing out in the first round of the MAAC tourney.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 245

Top players: The Red Foxes return their top two scorers from last season in 6-5 wing Chavaughn Lewis (17.5 ppg) and 6-2 guard Khallid Hart (14.7 ppg).

Game 4: San Francisco at Hawaii

— San Francisco went 21-12 and 13-5 in the West Coast Conference. The Dons lost to LSU in their opening game of the NIT.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 80

Top players: Of the Dons’ five double-figure scorers last season, only 6-7 forward Kruize Pinkins (12.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and 6-9 forward Mark Tollefsen (10.5 ppg) return.

— Hawaii finished 20-11 and 9-7 in the Big West. The Warriors lost in to Cal State-Northridge in the conference tournament.

Final 2013-14 RPI: 161

Top players: Isaac Fotu, a 6-8 junior forward, was named to the all-Big West first team last season. He was second on the team in scoring (14.9) and rebounding (6.1), and led the team with 58 percent shooting from the field. The Warriors also return a little scoring punch in the backcourt with 6-2 senior Garrett Nevels (13.1 ppg).

UE women offer 2016 point guard

The University of Evansville women’s basketball program has reportedly offered a scholarship to Macie Lively, a Class of 2016 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School.

Here is a tweet from Lively posted on Aug. 22:

Teppen ties UE’s all-time saves record

After stopping five shots during the University of Evansville men’s soccer team’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis on Saturday, Eric Teppen finds himself in some pretty good company.

The senior goalkeeper from Harrison High School has 248 career saves, tied with Aces Hall of Fame member Trey Harrington for the school record. Harrington set basically all of UE’s goalie records in his second-team All-America campaign in 1990, including goals allowed (seven), goals against average (0.26) and solo shutouts (14).

The 6-foot-4 Teppen, a starter since his freshman season, will have an opportunity to surpass Harrington at home against Mercer on Friday. The match starts at 7:30 p.m. CDT at Arad McCutchan Stadium.

Another UE note: Kyle Freeland earned his second championship of 2014 on Saturday as a member of the Asheville Tourists, a Single-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. The Tourists won the South Atlantic League title.

Freeland, a left-handed pitcher and 2014 first-round draft pick to the Rockies, was 2-0 for the Tourists with a 0.83 ERA. His combined stats with Asheville and the Rookie League Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies: 3-0 record, 1.15 ERA, 39 innings pitched, 33 strikeouts and six walks.

Freeland was named the Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year this spring.


Freeland helping Asheville Tourists in playoffs

Kyle Freeland

Kyle Freeland

Former University of Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland is getting his first taste of professional playoff baseball.

Freeland, who started the summer in Rookie ball with the Grand Junction Rockies, has appeared in five games with the Low-A Asheville Tourists. He earned the win in his latest start on Thursday, allowing two runs in five innings as the Tourists defeated Savannah 8-3 in Game 1 of its best-of-five South Atlantic League playoff series.

Combining Freeland’s stats from Grand Junction and Asheville, the 2014 first-round draft pick is 3-0 with a 1.15 ERA. He has allowed 30 hits and six walks while striking out 33 in 39 innings.

Here are some statistical updates on other former UE players in the minors:

Kyle Pollock (catcher, Idaho Falls Chukars, Rookie League): .299 avg., 2 HRs, 26 RBIs, 11 doubles, 42 G, 144 AB.

Sam Johns (RHP, 3 teams ranging from Rookie to Single-A): 17 appearances, 3-2 record, 4 saves in 7 opportunities, 3.86 ERA, 25.2 IP, 22 H, 4 BB, 1.01 WHIP.

Eric Staments (shortstop, Arkansas Travelers, Double-A): .235 avg., 4 HR, 23 RBIs, 13 doubles, 106 G, 344 AB.

Kyle Lloyd (RHP, Fort Wayne Tincaps, Single-A): 27 appearances, 21 starts, 6-5 record, 3.61 ERA, 119.2 IP, 114 H, 34 BB, 1.24 WHIP.


Macias one of two nominated for college goal of week

University of Evansville senior Charlie Macias is one of two candidates for Top Drawer Soccer’s men’s college goal of the week.

In the Aces’ 1-1 draw with Portland on Sunday, Macias made a long run upfield, cut back between two defenders and hooked a left-footed shot around another defender and the goalkeeper and into the top left corner of the net.

The other nominee for goal of the week is West Virginia’s Jamie Merriam. To view both of the goals, and to vote for your favorite, visit this link.

Macias had 89 percent of the vote as of the publishing of this post. Voting closes Wednesday at 2 p.m. CDT.

UE hires Mark Spencer as athletic director

The University of Evansville has hired Mark Spencer as its next athletic director, according to a letter UE President Thomas Kazee sent to the school’s boosters.

The letter addressed to members of the Purple Aces Club was obtained by the Courier & Press on Monday night.

Spencer most recently was the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations at Oregon State University. He joined OSU’s staff in 2006 after stints in the athletic departments at St. Louis University, East Tennessee State University and the University of New Mexico.

According to OSU’s athletics website, Spencer’s responsibilities included “overseeing the department’s $43 million budget, coordinating the bid process for NCAA and NIT postseason events and (serving) as sport supervisor for several programs.”

Spencer graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State University in 1995.

Spencer takes over for John Stanley, who retired at the beginning of July after a seven-year tenure. Dwight Merilatt, who served as Senior Associate Athletics Director under Stanley, was the interim AD during the search process.

NOTE: Look for an updated story on Spencer on later Monday night and a follow-up story on the hiring online Tuesday and in Wednesday’s print edition of the Courier & Press.

Former Ace Marc Burch nominated for MLS Goal of the Week

As a defender in the MLS, former University of Evansville standout Marc Burch doesn’t get many opportunities to score goals.

But last Wednesday, the 30-year-old Burch found the net in spectacular fashion — stinging a free kick off the bottom of the crossbar and in. The goal was one of five nominated for the MLS AT&T Goal of the Week.

Here is a video of all the nominees (Burch’s segment begins at 1:08). Burch played at UE from 2002-04 before transferring to Maryland for one season.

Left-handed pitcher commits to Evansville

Alex Weigand, a left-handed pitcher from Bradley-Bourbonnais (Illinois) Community High School, announced his commitment to the University of Evansville Saturday on Twitter.

The class of 2015 prospect went 6-2 with a 1.22 earned-run average as a junior this spring. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and — according to this scouting report from Prep Baseball Report — possesses a fastball in the 83-87 mph range and a “highly advanced” curveball with a “12/6 shape” and “late, sharp, biting action.”

Former UE guard Ned Cox awaiting overseas offers

Ned Cox

Ned Cox

After a successful professional basketball debut, Ned Cox is playing the waiting game.

The former University of Evansville guard averaged 17.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 2013-14 for a team in the Brazilian Premiere League.

This summer, Cox is staying in shape as his agent shops his talents around the globe. Cox said he’d like to pursue opportunities in Germany, Greece, Turkey or Hungary, but is waiting on the offers to come in.

The 6-foot-1 Cox — who scored 10.8 points per game for the Aces during the 2012-13 season — believes his performance in Brazil proved his worth to other pro teams.

“As far as basketball-wise, I had to be a playmaker for my team and step up a little bit more than I had to at UE,” the San Antonio native said. “It helped me grow up as a person and a basketball player.”

Cox said he enjoyed getting outside of the U.S. and traveling to different beaches and cities in Brazil. But he also hopes his hard work eventually lands him back in the States.

“Hopefully I keep continuing to improve myself and continuing to have good seasons,” Cox said. “Hopefully I get a shot to get in an NBA Summer League and give myself a shot at going that route.”



Former UE batterymates meet in minors

Kyle Pollock and Kyle Freeland — catcher and ace pitcher, respectively, on the University of Evansville’s 2014 baseball team — squared off for the first time as pros Thursday night.

Freeland started on the mound for the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies while Pollock was behind the plate and batting fifth for the Idaho Falls Chukars, a Rookie League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Both players took something positive from the experience. Freeland tossed five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out five. The left-hander left the game with a 4-0 lead and improved his ERA to 1.56.

Pollock recorded one of the Chukars’ three hits against his former teammate. He finished 1-for-2 against Freeland with a groundout in the second inning and a single to right field in the fourth. Pollock’s season batting average is at .299 through those at-bats.

Shy Ely signs with top-tier French club

Former University of Evansville guard Shy Ely has signed a contract with Le Mans Sarthe, a first-tier professional club in France.

In case you want to brush up on your French, or see a photo of Ely in his Evansville heyday, here is a tweet with a French press release announcing the deal:

Ely averaged more than 20 points last season for a team in Heidelberg, Germany, that competed in Germany’s second division. The 6-foot-4 Ely has also played in the NBA Development League and for a team in the top Swiss League.

Ely averaged 18.9 points and 5.8 rebounds as a senior for the Aces in the 2008-09 season.

UE showing interest in Lithuanian power forward, but no scholarship offer

Dainius Chatkevicius — who was referred to as “an Evansville commit” earlier this month by ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin — has not committed to the University of Evansville men’s basketball program. In fact, the Aces haven’t even offered the class of 2015 prospect a scholarship, a representative of the athletic department said Tuesday.

The Aces are continuing to track the 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward, but the lone scholarship expected to become available after this season is unfilled.

(Full disclosure: I used Rankin’s tweet for this blog post, in which I introduced the big man to readers, pointed out there was no other link between Chatkevicius and Evansville and tried to dig up some tidbits about him.)

Chatkevicius averaged eight points and nine rebounds last season for West Oaks Academy, a private school in Orlando, Florida, that attracts loads of Division I prospects.

West Oaks’ 2014 graduating class contained men’s basketball players headed to Louisville, New Mexico State, Texas A & M, UC Irvine and South Alabama, coach Shaun Wiseman said.

Chatkevicius’ role on that stacked squad was to rebound and hold down the middle of the lane on defense.

“He’s tough, he’s rugged, he’s physical,” Wiseman said. “He’s not afraid to put his body on people.”

Chatkevicius became interested in UE when a Lithuanian coach recommended the school to him. He said he hasn’t visited campus, but hopes to sometime this season.

“I watched a few (Evansville) games online last year and that’s it,” said Chatkevicius, who came to the U.S. last September and has been in communication with Evansville assistant Geoff Alexander.

Chatkevicius said he hopes to improve his shooting, footwork and agility in his final prep season. Wiseman expects the big man to accept a larger offensive role.

“He’s gonna do most of his work 10 feet and in but if he needs to step out, he can take a jump shot every now and then,” Wiseman said. “He can pick and pop and do some stuff as he keeps developing.”