Former UNLV Star Bryce Dejean-Jones Fatally Shot
In some incredibly tragic news to add to the usually upbeat basketball news posts, the Associated Press has reported that former UNLV star and current NBA player Bryce Dejean-Jones was shot to death in an apartment in Dallas, Texas on Saturday. The New Orleans Pelicans guard was just 23 years old.
According to his agent Scott Nichols, Dejean-Jones was in Dallas to visit his girlfriend and to celebrate his daughter's first birthday. After returning home on Saturday, Dejean-Jones went out for a walk, while his girlfriend went up to her fourth floor apartment. When Dejean-Jones arrived back at the apartment complex some time later, he approached the door of a unit on the third floor and began to knock on the door, unaware that he was at the wrong location. Frustrated by the lack of a response, Dejean-Jones burst through the locked front door and approached the bedroom door, where the startled occupant of the apartment shot him as he attempted to enter the room. Dejean-Jones collapsed outside the apartment from the gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The news of Dejean-Jones passing was met by initial shock and overwhelming sadness from the NBA and Mountain West community. Current Nevada assistant Dave Rice, who coached Dejean-Jones while at UNLV, said that he had spoken to the Pelicans guard within the last month about his recent three-year contract extension and overall success at the NBA level and that they both were excited for Dejean-Jones' future. NBA commissioner Adam Silver added in a statement that "Bryce inspired countless people with his hard work and perseverance on his journey to the NBA, and he had a bright future in our league".
BREAKING: New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones fatally shot after breaking down door at apartment. https://t.co/VNXPHSJImc— The Associated Press (@AP) May 28, 2016
Boise State Adds Mike Burns To Staff
Rounding out his staff after the off-season departures of assistant coaches Danny Henderson (Oklahoma State) and Jeff Linder (Northern Colorado), Boise State head coach Leon Rice has announced the addition of assistant coach Mike Burns to the Broncos program. Burns joins Boise State after spending just one month on new head coach Terry Porter's staff at Portland.
Prior to his quick Portland stay, Burns ended the 2015-2016 season as the interim head coach at Pacific, taking the reigns from former head coach Ron Verlin, who left the school amid allegations of academic misconduct. Before Pacific, Burns served as an assistant coach at San Diego, Washington State, Eastern Washington and Stephen F. Austin. Additionally, from 2004-2007, he was the head coach at Eastern Washington, where he guided the Eagles to a 38-49 record.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, Burns is a long-time coach in the Pacific Northwest, where his deep ties should help Boise State on the recruiting and player development fronts. The Broncos are looking to establish steady recruiting pipelines in key states such as California, Nevada and Washington. ESPN's Jeff Goodman was amongst the first to report the news, via a post on his Twitter account.
Boise State coach Leon Rice has hired Mike Burns on his staff, source told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 26, 2016
MW Noticeably Absent From Multiple "Way-Too-Early Top 25" Lists
While not much stock is usually put into "Way-Too-Early Top 25" lists, as they are usually done more for conversation value than anything else, the fact of the matter is that these off-season predictions do give a solid indication of just how any given team is viewed in the national consensus. In the case of the Mountain West teams, it looks like they're not being viewed in any kind of positive light at the moment.
Multiple media outlets, including ESPN (Eamonn Brennan), CBS Sports (Jon Rothstein) and NBC Sports (Rob Dauster) all compiled their own "Top 25" lists recently and not one of these potential pecking orders happened to contain a team from the Mountain West. While ESPN compiled their list shortly after the completion of the NCAA Tournament, both CBS Sports and NBC Sports finished their lists after the NBA Draft deadline, meaning that even with the return of key players like Cameron Oliver (Nevada) and Malik Pope (San Diego State) wasn't enough to push one of the conference's best teams into the predicted Top 25.
The easy pick from the Mountain West to be included in one of these lists would be San Diego State, a program that's averaged 28.6 wins over the past three seasons, including two trips to the NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs have all the looks of a Top 25 team on paper, coming off a 28-10 season and returning their top two scorers in guards Trey Kell and Jeremy Hemsley. While Steve Fisher may need to plug some holes from the graduations of cornerstone players in Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer, the return of Malik Pope (NBA Draft) and the addition of two transfers in Max Hoetzel (Indiana) and Valentine Izundu (Washington State) could be enough to get the Aztecs back to the NCAA Tournament in 2016-2017. However, the inclusion of a team like Nevada wouldn't be to farfetched either, as the Wolfpack return a wealth of talent and are expected to challenge the Aztecs for a Mountain West title this season.
Next season is very important for the MWC. League needs to get back to proving it's a multi-bid league. It starts in the non-conference.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 29, 2016