Here’s hoping none of you utilized my NCAA tournament picks in our Thursday editions. My bracket already is in flames . . .
Bears face Cory Higgins
— Here’s my story from this morning’s paper on former Monte Vista HS star Cory Higgins, who leads Colorado against Cal in tonight’s NIT second-round game at Boulder, Colo. (By the way, I’m not with the Bears, so we won’t have an in-game thread on tonight’s action, Apologies).
Higgins told me former Cal coach Ben Braun did not recruit him but insisted thay won’t be a motivating factor tonight. Maybe. “I’ll never forget they didn’t give me any looks,” Higgins said. “I just hope over the course of my career the things I’ve done have shown people the player I am.”
Higgins’ father is Rod Higgins, the former Warriors forward who currently serves as Michael Jordan’s general manager for the Charlotte Bobcats. The older Higgins struggled to give purely a GM’s evaluation of his son’s professional prospects. “It’s probably going to be hard for me to give an unbiased opinion. He’ll play somewhere. I’ll leave it at that. He has a love for the game.”
Cory Higgins has scored 1,953 points at Colorado to rank third on the school’s career list. Rod Higgins had 1,402 points during his days at Fresno State. Pointing to his dad’s 13 years in the NBA, Cory said, “He’s had a better career . . . I’m just getting started.”
WSU’s Bone drops bombshell
— Washington State coach Ken Bone, whose team plays at home Monday against Oklahoma State in the NIT, must have surprised Cougars fans Thursday when he suggested during a radio interview than junior power forward DeAngelo Casto is only 50-50 to return for his senior season.
Casto, averaging 15.8 points over his past nine games, is considering a jump to play professionally in Europe, Bone said.
“He’s had those thoughts. He’s got a child now and he has no money whatsoever and no real family support,” Bone explained. “I’m just saying there’s a chance he won’t be around. We hope he is. We think he will be (back), but it’s not a sure thing. I think it’s fair to say it’s probably about 50-50.”
USC’s O’Neill won’t pressure Vucevic
— USC coach Kevin O’Neill said he won’t try to lobby junior power forward Nikola Vucevic for a return to school next season. In fact, he said he will encourage the 6-foot-10 native of Montenegro to submit his name into the NBA draft and would help him collect information on his status.
“Everybody says, `Recruit Nik back,’ ” O’Neill told the Los Angeles Times. “That would be insulting to Nik. I’m going to tell him facts. Nik’s a smart guy. If I was to try to give him some schmoozy recruiting pitch, it ain’t going to work.”
Vucevic, who averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds and had 22 double-doubles this season, has until April 24 to file for early entry into the draft, then until June 13 to possibly change his mind and withdraw.