The Sunday leftovers (C-USA track, regional golf, et cetera)

It’s Sunday night and time for The Leftovers, when we pick through the events of the last few days, reheat the good stuff — and some of the bad — and hopefully put it all in perspective.

This is the weekend we cross the finish line when it comes to UNT for the Conference USA sports year. The conference track meet took place this weekend in El Paso. The Mean Green men finished sixth out of 13 teams, while the women finished 10th.

UTSA won the men’s team title with UTEP second and Western Kentucky third. Western Kentucky won the women’s team title with UTEP coming in second.

UNT ended up winning three titles this year — the women’s soccer regular season title, the men’s cross country title and the men’s golf title. The baseball title is still out there, so we won’t go over how all the schools in the league fared until later.

The UNT golf team also finished up its season at the NCAA New Haven Regional this weekend. The Mean Green got off to a great start, but struggled a little at the end of the first round. The Mean Green never quite recovered and finished ninth.

UNT needed to finish in the top five to advance. While falling short was tough for UNT, that does not overshadow what the Mean Green accomplished this season. The Mean Green won the Conference USA title and qualified for regionals for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

There was also some news over the weekend on the basketball front. UNT men’s director of basketball operations Jeff Luster is leaving the staff, while Wesley Brooks, a former assistant with the UNT women’s team, has joined the staff at Utah.

The other tidbit of note is the return of director of managerial operations Kelby Jones as part of Jalie Mitchell’s new staff. Normally, the plight of managers is not something we mention, but I have always respected guys like Kelby who work remarkably hard in behind-the-scenes jobs just to get their foot in the door in college athletics. Kelby’s entering his fourth season at UNT.

I have sat for years and watched Jones rebound as players like Laura McCoy hoisted 3 after 3. I try to take advantage of every bit of time I have to work on stories for the paper after games since going in depth and providing some perspective is the one thing that differentiates what we put in the paper from what people can get elsewhere.

The only guy around when I leave after games most times is Kelby and his fellow managers, who are working on laundry and other mundane tasks. It’s not an easy or high-praise gig. It was nice to see one of the guys who greases the wheels behind the scenes get a little hat-tip this week. Here’s ours as well.

A couple of basketball coaching staff notes

North Texas director of basketball operations Jeff Luster, with clipboard, has left the Mean Green's staff. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas director of basketball operations Jeff Luster, with clipboard, has left the Mean Green’s staff. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

There has been a little bit of movement when it comes to the coaching staffs with both the UNT men’s and women’s basketball teams.

First off, Jeff Luster, the director of basketball operations for the UNT men, has left the staff. Luster confirmed via text message on Saturday night that he is moving on.

Luster came on during Johnny Jones’ tenure back in 2010 and stayed on when Tony Benford took over. Luster didn’t say where he is headed. He has worked at TCU, Colorado and Air Force in addition to UNT.

And in other news, former UNT women’s assistant coach Wesley Brooks has joined the staff at Utah.

Brooks joined UNT’s staff under Karen Aston and stayed on under Mike Petersen.

Jalie Mitchell started over in terms of assistant coaches when she took over in the offseason.

Rickey Brice in action in all-star game this weekend



UNT signee Rickey Brice will be in action this weekend in the Metroplex 24 High School All-Star Game down at the Greenhill School.

The game is just what it sounds like. The top 24 players in the Dallas area will split into two teams and face off.

There are a ton of guys who signed with big-time national programs playing, including Austin Grandstaff (Ohio State), King McClure (Baylor) and Matthew McQuaid (Michigan State).

Brice was a terrific get for UNT in recruiting. ranks Brice at No. 25 on its list of the top players in the Class of 2015. He will be a good player for UNT.

The question is how quickly he will be able to make a significant impact. UNT is really hoping this will be the Mean Green’s breakout season under Tony Benford after going went 12-20, 16-16 and 14-17 finishes in the first three seasons of his tenure.

Brice is going to be a key part of the plan, especially after the Mean Green lost starting forward Colin Voss and key backup Armani Flannigan to graduation. The question is how ready for the major college level of competition Brice will be after playing at Arlington Pantego Christian.

We could know a little more after tonight’s game when Brice will face some big-time big men. Texas A&M signees Tyler Davis and Elijah Thomas are arguably the top two big men in the state and will play for the Red team. Brice will play for the Gray team.

UNT isn’t going to see guys like Davis and Thomas in Conference USA, but how Brice fares against them could give us a better idea of how he will match up the big men in C-USA.

Friday night tidbits (UNT players graduate, proposed changes in college basketball rules)

It’s Friday night and time for a quick lap around the bases when it comes to the world of UNT athletics — with some side tidbits on the Conference USA front.

First off, there are a host of UNT athletes graduating this weekend. Armani Flannigan posted the shot above on Twitter of him and a few of his teammates who graduated, including Maurice Aniefiok, Colin Voss and T.J. Taylor, who is rocking the bow tie.

It’s always news when teams struggle to graduate players. UNT does a great job with its players in general academically. It only seems right to point that out.

The Morning News also continued its series ranking the best position groups in Texas college football today. It’s an inexact science, but for what it’s worth UNT came in seventh in terms of wide receivers/tight ends.

UNT has a player who could rank among Conference USA’s elite wide receivers in Carlos Harris to go along with a good tight end in Marcus Smith. The Mean Green also have two highly regarded redshirt freshmen in Tee Goree and O’Keeron Rutherford. D’Aundrey Bradley could also help immediately when he arrives from Cedar Hill.

A couple of people asked about JUCO transfer Thaddeus Thompson. It’s a good point. Thompson could make an impact and should be here in the fall. I have no reason to think he won’t arrive on time. I’m just a little hesitant to assume late-arriving JUCO players will actually, well, arrive.

There was also an interesting tidbit in the world of C-USA football in the last couple of days. Western Kentucky running back Leon Allen, one of the top backs in C-USA, has been arrested twice in the offseason. Zach Greenwell of the Bowling Green Daily News has all the sordid details, including a tazing.

And in the world of basketball, there the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee proposed a series of rules changes designed to increase the pace of play. The idea is to cut down on physical play.

It would be interesting to see how those changes would affect UNT. The Mean Green are more of a defensive-oriented team that plays at a slower pace and doesn’t put up the number of points under Tony Benford that it did under Johnny Jones. UNT ranked eighth in C-USA at 65.3 points a game last season, down from 70.3 in Jones final season before leaving for LSU.

There are also a series of proposals out when it comes to the rules for the women’s game, including what would be a big change — going to four 10-minute quarters. That would mirror the high school format. The idea is the quarter format will enhance the flow of the game. I don’t see why that would be the case, but that is the justification.

UNT golf team hanging in at regionals



The UNT men’s golf team and coach Brad Stracke are in a tie for seventh place in the NCAA regional tournament being played at Yale entering the final round tomorrow.

The Mean Green shot a two-over-par 270 today sit at 573 for the tournament. The top five teams advance to the national finals.

There are a host of teams in contention to advance, which makes what could be a tight run for the fifth spot intriguing.

Oklahoma State is in fifth place at 570, Iowa in sixth at 571 and UNT and Ohio State tied for seventh at 573.

If South Florida, North Carolina State, San Diego State and Vanderbilt all stay in the top four (and all four are at least three shots ahead of OSU), that leaves one spot for four teams to battle over.

The good news for UNT is that it shot a whole lot better on the second day than it did on the first. The Mean Green were seven over par on the final hole of the first round, the par-three ninth.

Jason Roets, Juan Munoz and Alejandro Villasana all shot an even-par 70 today.

Here is the link to the live scoring, if you are following along.

Kicking off the UNT recruiting target series — Snow College CB Ivan King interested in Mean Green

Editor’s note — About this time last year, we began a new feature on the blog called the UNT recruiting target series. It’s a pretty simple concept, one often employed by recruiting websites. Over the next few glorious weeks, when there isn’t a whole lot going on in the world of UNT sports, we will fill the void by catching up with some of the players UNT is targeting in football recruiting. The exercise allows us to introduce some of the players UNT is interested in. Last year, several we talked to ended up signing with UNT, including Rodney Bendy, Nate Brooks, Ashton Preston, Creighton Barr and RD Wegmann.

Ivan King‘s football career has followed what might best be described as an unconventional path.

The 5-10, 180-pound corner played at Grand Prairie, signed with Tarleton State, spent a season at the Division II school as a redshirt, returned home to sit out a semester and is now about to play his first season at Snow College, a junior college in Utah.

King is beginning to think about what could come after the upcoming season and is considering UNT.

UNT has yet to offer King, but has asked him to pay his way to Denton for an unofficial visit this summer. A trip to UNT could be the next step in what King hopes is a journey that will lead him to the major college scholarship he is seeking.

UNT offensive coordinator Mike Canales is recruiting King.

“I have quite a few DII offers and I took an unofficial visit to Utah State last Wednesday,” King said. “I am hoping for a Division I offer. I think I will get one eventually. I am praying about it.”

King’s problem is that he really hasn’t had a chance to show what he is capable of since he left Grand Prairie. He started out at Tarleton, but quickly changed course after sitting out his first season.

“I didn’t feel like that was somewhere I could spend four years,” King said. “I sat out a semester and was training in Dallas and had a friend that played at BYU who knew a coach at Snow.”

That connection has provided King an opportunity to play with one of the nation’s elite junior college programs. Canales coached at Snow earlier in his career and has recruited the school in the past.

King worked with the first- and second-team defenses at Snow during spring practice, when he caught the attention of a few schools. He visited Utah State recently and has a host of offers from schools playing on the Division II and FCS levels. Here are a few of his highlights.

If King can excel for Snow this season, his options could multiply. He has three years of eligibility heading into his first season with the Badgers.

“I am going to have to show what I can do,” King said. “Schools are waiting on some game film to pull the trigger.”

UNT is among those schools and could have a bit of an advantage considering playing for the Mean Green would allow King to return to the Dallas area.

It’s a big difference from Texas,” King said of living in Utah. “Coming back would be nice for my family, but I am open to any school.”

Golf regionals update



UNT is competing in the NCAA golf regionals this week. In case you missed it in this morning’s paper, we ran a little preview of the event that included some comments from Brad Stracke.

It’s a three-day event. If you want to follow along, the NCAA has a website with live scoring. 

The top five teams in the region advance to the NCAA finals.

The Mean Green got off to a terrific start and were leading pretty far into the round before stumbling a bit on the final couple of holes. UNT finished up on the ninth hole, a par three and went seven over par as a team.

The Mean Green also went three over on the eighth hole.

When it was all said and done, UNT fell into a tie for eighth at 291 with Iowa, five shots behind Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are in fifth place at 286.

South Florida leads at 281.

Wednesday notes (where UNT’s running backs rank in Texas, recruiting tidbits)

North Texas running backs group that includes Antoinne Jimmerson was rated No. 10 out of the 12 FBS teams in Texas by The Dallas Morning News. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

North Texas running backs group that includes Antoinne Jimmerson was rated No. 10 out of the 12 FBS teams in Texas by The Dallas Morning News. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

There were a few items of interest in the world of UNT athletics today. Here’s a quick lap around the bases in the world of the Mean Green …

– The Morning News is filling the dead time between the end of spring practice and the beginning of two-a-days by ranking the position units of each of the major college football programs in the state. It’s about as inexact of a science as one can possibly imagine, but it does foster some debate, which is the whole point of the exercise. The last unit up was running backs.

UNT checked in at 10th out of 12. UNT has some good players and a good unit, not like the days of Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas, but solid. Be sure to check it out.

– We are also getting into the heart of the spring recruiting season. UNT’s coaches are sending out offers across the state. There are also a host of transfers on the market, including Arizona wide receiver Kaelin DeBoskie. UNT offered him a few years ago, which seemed kind of random considering the Mean Green do most of their recruiting from inside state lines. It could be something to watch.

– On the basketball recruiting front …

Williams is a forward from Missouri, who spent last year at Coffeyville. He averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

UNT will also have DeShawn Wilson Jr., a 5-8 point guard in for an unofficial visit. I couldn’t find much on him other than his highlights. UNT has players in on unofficials all the time. It’s one of the benefits of being in a major metro area.

– On the Olympic sports front, the NCAA regional golf tournaments begin tomorrow. UNT is in action. I will have a story in tomorrow’s paper.

– The C-USA track meet also begins tomorrow in El Paso. UNT is looking to move up in the team standings after a tough first go-around when it comes to the outdoor championships. I will have a story previewing the meet.

UNT soccer team gets its rings, 2015 schedule out

The UNT soccer team received its championship rings recently. Rachel Holden, one of the Mean Green’s top players, put a shot of them on her Twitter account.

Playing for UNT is pretty close to a guarantee that a player is going to pick up some hardware. The Mean Green have won nine titles under John Hedlund, one of the most successful coaches in the history of UNT athletics.

And in a side note, UNT has announced its schedule for the upcoming season today.

21 vs. Utah# 2 p.m.
23 at UNLV 11 a.m.
28 at Incarnate Word 7 p.m.
30 Kansas 1 p.m.
4 at Abilene Christian 7 p.m.
6 Houston 1 p.m.
11 Lamar 7 p.m.
13 at TCU 7 p.m.
18 Oral Roberts 7 p.m.
20 at Texas A&M 7 p.m.
25 at Marshall * 7 p.m.
2 Florida Atlantic * 7 p.m.
4 Florida International * 1 p.m.
9 at Charlotte * 7 p.m.
11 at Old Dominion * 1 p.m.
16 Middle Tennessee* 7 p.m.
18 UAB * 7 p.m.
23 at Southern Miss * 3 p.m.
25 Rice * 7 p.m.
30 at Louisiana Tech * 7 p.m.
11 at Conference USA tournament^
# In Las Vegas
^ In Miami
* Conference USA

Could SMU with Morris become a problem for UNT?

North Texas running back Reggie Pegram is pushed out if bounds by SMU sophomore defensive back A.J. Justice last season during UNT's 43-6 win over the Mustangs at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David MInton)

North Texas running back Reggie Pegram is pushed out if bounds by SMU sophomore defensive back A.J. Justice last season during UNT’s 43-6 win over the Mustangs at Apogee Stadium. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David MInton)

A couple of days ago, UNT and SMU went head-to-head in a recruiting battle for East Texas running back/safety Kevin Johnson.

Johnson committed to SMU, which in the large scheme of things wasn’t a huge issue for the Mean Green. UNT has plenty of good running backs coming back next season from veteran Antoinne Jimmerson to sophomores Jeffrey Wilson and Willy Ivery.

What could get interesting is the bigger picture.

Just to be clear, UNT is doing a good job recruiting and building relationships with Texas high school coaches. There were a ton of high school staffs that came through during UNT during spring practice. Texas high school coaches like Dan McCarney and his coaches.

Let’s face it, everyone likes McCarney. He’s kind of like Johnny Jones in that way. Jones was the unofficial mayor of Denton for half a decade or so before he left for LSU.

What has changed is what is going on down the road.

June Jones led SMU on a remarkable run from 2009-12, going to four bowl games and winning three before the Mustangs’ momentum fizzled out.

Chad Morris has taken over and has put more of an emphasis on recruiting Texas high school players. Morris is a former Texas high school coach and is using those connections to his advantage.

UNT tried to go the same route when it hired Todd Dodge several years ago now. Early indications are SMU’s experiment in hiring a coach who came out of the Texas high school ranks will turn out a whole lot better. Morris has more college experience than Dodge did and has surrounded himself with some good assistants, including Van Malone, a former UNT assistant coach.

I was here during Malone’s tenure and he was one of UNT’s best recruiters. He helped land a series of top players, including offensive lineman Kelvin Drake.

Former DeSoto coach Claude Mathis has also joined SMU’s staff. Mathis was a big advocate for UNT during his time at DeSoto and sent a host of players to Denton, including linebacker Zach Orr. Mark Smith, the former head coach at L.D. Bell, is now the recruiting coordinator at SMU.

Those additions have area high school coaches pulling for SMU and Morris, who has instituted an open-door policy for them.

The Mustangs have stepped up their social media game as well. Here’s an on-the-road video with Malone SMU put out recently.

SMU also has also come out with a pretty nifty Pony Up Tempo website.

Again, this isn’t about what UNT isn’t doing. It’s about SMU really stepping up its game under Morris.

It’s far too early to tell if the changes UNT is making under Morris will have an impact, but it is something to keep an eye on.

UNT flat blasted SMU 43-6 last season. Jones resigned two days later.

That’s not a coincidence.

The Mustangs hired Morris to help them rebound after a 1-11 season. SMU’s plan under Morris has become apparent over the last few weeks. The Mustangs are trying to reconnect with Texas high school coaches and programs and are improving their social media game.

We will find out over the next few months — and years — if SMU’s plans will pay dividends. A long-term series will offer a yearly status report.

The first checkup comes Sept. 12 in Dallas.