THE VIEWS from here while wondering the precedent used by the NBA to base its $25,000 fine of Delonte West for giving a wet willie: The NBA has become more appealing these days. Perhaps it's because of the West Virginia connections, including Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, a Buckhannon native.
Then there's the connection with ex-WVU Mountaineer Devin Ebanks, who has been getting more and more television air time as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers - a starting member."It's a great experience," Ebanks said when reached in San Antonio on Thursday. "It's definitely something I've been hoping for."Ebanks seemed buried on the Lakers depth chart, even playing a few games for the Developmental League's D-Fenders before emerging as a starter while Kobe Bryant recovers from a shin injury.Bryant appears ready to return today, but Ebanks started seven games in the star's absence. The lineup has been Ebanks, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions, with Ebanks at the shooting guard spot. (Didn't another ex-Mountaineer once play that position for the Lakers?)Ebanks shrugs off playing guard rather than forward."The thing is," he said, "there's no big difference between forward and shooting guard in our offense."All indications are when Bryant returns, Ebanks' playing time will evaporate. ("I have no idea," Ebanks said. "Whenever he comes back, the coach [Mike Brown] will decide. But, both on offense and defense, I'm feeling more comfortable.")It seems Brown likes Ebanks' length and athleticism, much like WVU's Bob Huggins did. Overall, the ex-Mountaineer is averaging 15.8 minutes in 21 games with 11 starts. He's averaging 3.6 points on 40.8 percent shooting.Ebanks had 12 points in the first game of his starting stretch, a loss to Phoenix, and nine in a loss to San Antonio. Mostly, though, he's scored five or six points a game. The good news? L.A. won in five of his seven starts.It gives the former Mountaineer some juice in his young pro career. But even if that career doesn't go anywhere from here, hey, it's still something to tell the grandkids, right? Spoke to West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck on Thursday.
You might have heard or read rumors about possible Big 12 expansion. One bizarre report had Clemson and Florida State joining. ("There is no substance to that," Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips told TigerNet.com. "None. In regard to Clemson or Florida State - of course I can't speak for Florida State, but I do have a pretty good feel for that part of the country - I don't feel like they've talked with anyone or visited with anyone. And I can say for sure with Clemson there is no substance to that.")Luck, however, said expansion talks continue within his new league."It's in committee," said the Mountaineer AD. "We have a formal group. There's a big spring meeting in May. I'm sure the status of that will be presented."Luck is an obvious proponent of expanding the Big 12 from its current 10-school format, but, as a new conference member, won't ruffle too many feathers."I'm on record as saying I think this deserves a very serious look," Luck said. "I've shared that with the Big 12 folks. We have 10 teams, while the SEC has 14, the ACC will have 14 when Pitt and Syracuse join, the Big Ten has 12 and the Pac-12 has 12."You have to ask yourself, 'Is 10 the right number?' In some ways, it is with round-robin play. But you have to look at what others are doing. It's certainly something that needs to be examined."
We've reported here before that Luck is seeking to bolster his school's baseball program. At a recent Charleston Rotary meeting, he pointed to the partnership between Penn State and the State College Spikes, an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates playing in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League. He said a Senate bill was filed to authorize a tax increment financing district in Monongalia County, where Morgantown is located. That stalled in committee, but could be revived in a special session.
Now, Luck is in discussions with those building a minor league park in Bridgeport. A stadium at Charles Pointe there will have a team owned by those running the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things. The WVU AD said playing Big 12 games there is a possibility."It's clear to me we need an upgrade," Luck said. "Baseball is still America's game and the Big 12 really has good baseball."One component of upgrading the program is your facility. Hawley Field is wedged in here. Is that a spot in which you want to invest substantial dollars? I'm not convinced it is."So we have two potential options. One is the proposal of Bridgeport, Charles Pointe, off I-79. The other is to do something like that in Morgantown. We've been doing political work on that. Both are down the road a bit, but we will pursue both." In my last column, I outlined the mediocre results produced by longtime WVU baseball coach Greg Van Zant. So I asked Luck about his status.
"I'm not going to comment on personnel," Luck said. "There are many components involved. Coaching, though, is a very important component."Read into that what you will. And finally . . .
Reports came out on Thursday confirming the obvious: The Indianapolis Colts are taking Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft.Since I had the quarterback's father on the line, it seemed a little silly not to ask him about it."I can't confirm that," Oliver Luck said. "We'll see and celebrate after the announcement."Dad, though, is proud."It's a tribute to his work ethic," said Oliver of his son. "It's also a tribute to his coaches at Stanford and high school and his teammates."The hope from here?The son wears No. 10, Oliver's number while playing with the Houston Oilers.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.