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November 10, 2007Since classes began in August, Vanderbilt freshman center Andrew Ogilvy has responded to a handful of questions with the same response: "Heaps."
Instead of the approving nods the Australian native is used to, he is met with a series of puzzling looks from students and teammates.
"The sayings we have are probably the biggest difference," Ogilvy said of moving to the United States from Down Under. " 'Heaps' means a lot in Australia. I have to keep telling people that. There are also some sayings here that I'm having to get used to, like, 'I know, right?' Everything here seems to end in a question."
The addition of the 6-foot-10 Ogilvy has many labeling Vanderbilt, which returns three starters, a sleeper in the SEC despite losing star Derrick Byars. The departed guard was the SEC Player of the Year in 2006-07 as selected by league coaches. Ogilvy emerged as one of the top players at July's U-19 World Championships in Serbia, averaging 22.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game while shooting 68.6 percent from the field. That performance vaulted Ogilvy to No. 41 in Rivals.com's final rankings for the 2007 class.
Ogilvy scored 17 points and pulled down seven boards as Vanderbilt escaped with an 80-79 win over Tusculum College in an exhibition game on Monday. The Commodores face Austin Peay in their season opener Saturday night in Nashville.
"I'm definitely getting a feel for my role," Ogilvy said prior to the game. "The coaches want me to be a good inside presence, a good passer and to focus on rebounding."
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings believes Ogilvy can help in all of those areas immediately. Stalling expects the newcomer to be a major contributor from the start of the season.
"I'm thoroughly impressed thus far," Stallings said. "He's a great worker, a nice kid and is very skilled. You combine those things and he's going to be a good player and going to be a good player quickly."
The Commodores need Ogilvy to make a quick transition to the college game. The first month of the schedule doesn't appear to have many easy wins. There are home games with ACC schools Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, along with South Alabama (coming off 20-win season), Lipscomb (won 39 games the last two seasons) and Valparaiso. They will face Utah State (made eight consecutive postseason trips) and either Iowa or Bradley in the South Padre (Texas) Invitational Shootout. There are also road games against DePaul and Toledo (defending MAC West champion).
"We seem to have no less than a high-major team or a mid-major that is picked to win their league or brings all five starters back," Stalling said. "It's challenging. Austin Peay is probably just as good as Wake, DePaul and those other teams. We will know what kind of team we have in two or three weeks."
The rest of the nation might know what kind of big man the Commodores have by then, too.
You can call me Al
Florida State guard Toney Douglas chose to stay in Tallahassee this summer and take classes, a move that meant facing a daily string of questions about how the Seminoles were going to replace star Al Thornton. The first-team All-ACC forward was selected with the No. 14 pick in the NBA Draft.
"I think I got asked about Al a million times," Douglas said.
It would be easy for Douglas to feel slighted. The 6-1 junior was a go-to scorer at Auburn before transferring to FSU. As a freshman in 2004-05, he averaged 16.9 points per game for the Tigers. It was the second-highest scoring average among all freshmen that season. He was also a key part of last season's 22-win team, pouring in 12.7 ppg.
However, Douglas says he's not offended - nor does he believe he most shoulder most of the scoring load in order to make up for Thornton's 19.7 ppg. Douglas believes replacing Thornton will be a collective effort, led by himself and senior guards Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich.
Swann (10.3 ppg) and Rich (10.3 ppg) each averaged double figures in scoring last season. Rich racked up a career-high 31 points in an NIT quarterfinal loss to Mississippi State.
"We'll be just fine," Douglas said. "I have an experienced group of teammates, especially guards. I'm expecting a big year from (Swann and Rich). I know they can score. They've been through the trenches. We all have confidence and believe in each other."
Rams boast Daniels and depth
Rhode Island forward Will Daniels emerged as one of the Atlantic 10's top players last season and his breakthrough campaign earned him invites to LeBron James' and Vince Carter's camps this past summer.
"I got a chance to pick up some pointers and moves," said Daniels, who raised his scoring average from 11.0 ppg to 17.4 ppg last season. "I scored a basket on LeBron and he scored on me. I learned a lot about what it takes to play at the next level. It was a wonderful opportunity."
The return of their top five scorers and the addition of five newcomers could open up some postseason opportunities for Daniels and the Rams, who are being projected as an A-10 sleeper after posting 19 wins and reaching the final of the league tournament. Freshman big men Delroy James (6-7) and JC transfer Jason Francis (6-9) add size and may allow Daniels - who shot 41.8 percent from 3-point range last season - to operate on the perimeter more.
"We have a lot more depth now," Daniels said. "We have guys who can come off the bench now and guys who can play roles, from scorers to rebounders to passers. I think we can make it back to the A-10 championship game and go further."
Singletary no longer slowed by shoulder
Virginia star guard Sean Singletary has some unpleasant news for the rest of the ACC. Singletary, who has dealt with a nagging shoulder injury for much of his career, says he has never started a season so healthy.
"This is the first time I can say I came out of the summer 100 percent and in great basketball shape," the senior said. "I first injured my shoulder playing high school football and had surgery the summer before my freshman season. I was never really able to get into shape that year. Then, last year and the year before that it bothered me some. This is the first time I've felt this good. That's why I'm so excited about this season." Despite losing guard J.R. Reynolds - who ranked fifth in the ACC with 18.4 ppg - and leading rebounder Joseph Cain (6.3 rpg), Singletary believes the Cavaliers will remain a contender in the ACC again. The Cavs won a share of the ACC's regular-season crown last season with an 11-5 record in league play.
"We have some young guys with aggressive mind-sets," Singletary said. "The leadership may not be there yet, but the talent definitely is. I'm not really concerned about replacing J.R. or Joseph. We have talent nobody has seen yet. I'm 100-percent confident we can get the job done."
Freshman point guard Sam Zeglinski, who went to the same Philadelphia prep school as Singletary, may also be a significant factor. Zeglinski could give Singletary some valuable breathers and the two could possibly play on the court together, an idea Singletary said he would be fine with.
"I'm real excited about Sam," Singletary said. "He's definitely going to be able to contribute.
Hold your tongue
A lot of college basketball coaches swear.
They let officials have it in a four-letter fury. They get on players with choice words that might make fans red-faced.
But Arizona's Kevin O'Neill is the bard of the blue streak.
Nearly every basketball coach in America has a favorite O'Neill story. Most of them cannot be repeated in print. He could be so profane that during his tenure as the coach at Tennessee (1994-97) his then-wife, whose seats were close to the bench, asked to be moved and was accommodated.
We bring this up because the NCAA has asked officials, as a "point of emphasis," to curtail coaches' use of profanity ? and because O'Neill is the acting head coach at Arizona with Lute Olson having taken a leave of absence for personal reasons.
Officials have been instructed to call technical fouls for audible obscenities. O'Neill will need frequent reminders to hold his tongue.
Five-star freshman point guard Corey Fisher did not play in Villanova's exhibition blowout victory over Bloomsburg on Tuesday because of severe tendinitis in his knee. Fisher also missed the Wildcats' victory over Stony Brook on Friday.
Fellow five-star freshman Corey Stokes came up big against Bloomsburg, with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 29 minutes. Stokes scored 2 points in 15 minutes of action in Friday night's game.
Stokes, Fisher and Malcolm Grant, a three-star point guard, compose the nation's 12th-ranked recruiting class according to Rivals.com. Grant had 16 points, a rebound and an assist in 27 minutes against Stony Brook.
Andrew Skwara is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.