- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2011

TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP) - Riding back from the Mountain West Conference tournament last week, San Diego State’s players learned coach Steve Fisher had a copy of the new documentary about Michigan’s famous Fab Five recruiting class.

Most of them didn’t know much about the team Fisher coached to consecutive national title games, so they asked him to pop it in on the bus trip home.

“They enjoyed it,” Fisher said Wednesday. “I do think that they heard a lot about it, but most of them weren’t born when the Fab Five were playing. But they still had fun with it. They ribbed both myself and (assistant coach) Brian Dutcher about how we looked then and how we look now, and all that stuff. So it was fun.”

The 1991 freshman class of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King was one of the most heralded in college basketball history and had a good run in Ann Arbor.

The fivesome’s legacy, though, was overshadowed by scandal after prosecutors said now-deceased booster Ed Martin gave Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes.

The film, produced by Rose and aired on ESPN, looked at what happened to the Fab Five both on and off the court.

Fisher said he got a copy of the movie last week before playing in the MWC tournament and had no problem with it.

“I smiled. It brought back a lot of memories,” Fisher said Thursday. “I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good portrayal of who they were, what happened.”

As for his players, it was a nice insight into the life Fisher had before arriving in San Diego.

“Before the movie, I didn’t know too much about the Fab Five,” San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard said. “I just knew they were all freshmen and they went far in a tournament. But after seeing the movie, I learned a lot about them and Coach Fisher, and it’s inspirational for us on the team.”


BIG EAST BLUSTER: Yes, you go through a lot when you play in the Big East.

Does it translate to success in the NCAA tournament?

Louisville coach Rick Pitino isn’t so sure.

“It’s not as significant as you may think,” he said.

Over the last four seasons, the Big East has gone 43-29 during March Madness and placed four teams in the Final Four.

This year, the conference placed a record 11 teams in the tournament, a sign as much about the conference’s strength as its size. It means there’s a pretty good chance that any Big East team will have seen at least some version of its NCAA opponent at some point during conference play.

“The team we’re playing reminds me of a hybrid of Villanova and Marquette,” Pitino said of the second-round matchup against Morehead State.

The Cardinals lost to Connecticut in the final of the Big East tournament Saturday. UConn played five games in five days. Louisville, because it was seeded higher, only had to play three times, but all games were late starts. That kind of grueling schedule is proof, Pitino said, that playing deep into the conference tournament isn’t necessarily a benefit.

“Wouldn’t surprise me to see everybody advance, wouldn’t surprise me to see three or four teams lose,” Pitino said. “I hope we’re not one of them.”


GENIUS AT WORK: Bucknell senior guard G.W. Boon is a long shot to make it in the NBA, but work as a biomedical engineer should provide him with a comfortable living after his college days are over.

Boon spent last summer doing research with Geisinger Medical Center to design a special pacifier that can be used to extract DNA from babies.

His focus this week, however, is to milk a couple more games out of a career in which he has averaged 20 minutes and 7.5 points.

Boon and Bucknell open against Big East champion Connecticut, no small task for the Patriot League winners.

“It’s a very big challenge for us, definitely,” Boon said. “They had a great run in their conference tournament, and congratulations to them for that. But it’s just another tournament. We had a great run as well.”


YOUNG PITINO: Florida coach Billy Donovan said Gators assistant Richard Pitino is among the candidates to become the head coach at Florida Gulf Coast.

“They’ve contacted him,” Donovan said, on the eve of Florida’s opening game in the NCAA Tournament in Tampa. “I think they have definite interest in him. In my conversation with their AD it’s probably at a point right now where they are probably going to go through a process of looking at three or four different people, and I think Richard is in that mix.

The 28-year-old Pitino, son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, is the same age Donovan was when he got his first head coaching job at Marshall.

“I think he’s definitely interested in the job,” Donovan said. “I think he’s excited about the potential in the program, being relatively new, the school relatively new. … I think he just wants to find out more.”


JIMMER JUNIOR: Northern Colorado’s Devon Beitzel says he’s flattered but doesn’t take comparisons he’s gotten to BYU’s scoring phenomenon Jimmer Fredette seriously.

“Whenever you get compared to a player like Jimmer, it’s a compliment,” Beitzel said in Tucson, where Northern Colorado plays San Diego State in the NCAA tournament Thursday. “But there’s no one in the country that can do what he does. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone score 52 points in a game and only have one point come from a free throw. That’s unbelievable.”

The Big Sky MVP said he’ll take the compliments, “but, I mean, I’m definitely not at that level.”

Then a reporter asked if he’d watched what Jimmer did against San Diego State and learned anything.

“Well, I’ve been working on my one-dribble across half (court) 3-pointer,” he joked.


KAWHI’S HANDS: San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard is one of the nation’s best rebounders and a multitalented forward who can take opponents off the dribble.

One reason is his hands.

Leonard was asked to show his hands during the Aztecs’ media session on Thursday and flashed his giant mitts, which he says are 10 inches long and seem to snare anything near him.

“It helps him. He can get a hand on the ball and get rebounds that your average human being can’t get without getting too up there,” said Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill, preparing to play San Diego State on Thursday. “He can use his athleticism and get one hand on a ball and retain it when most guys have to get two.”

Leonard also was asked whether he has trouble buying gloves.

“I’m not sure because I don’t buy gloves,” he said. “I stopped playing football a while ago, but I think it probably be trouble finding gloves.”


NOTES: In honor of Butler getting to the national title game as a No. 5 seed last season, Utah Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward says he will buy 5,555 fans $5 footlongs from Subway if any of the fifth seeds _ Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Arizona or West Virginia _ wins the national championship. … Northern Colorado has won seven straight games heading into Thursday’s game against San Diego State. … Wisconsin and Penn State, which played the lowest scoring game in Big Ten tournament history, are both in Tucson. Penn State, which won 36-33, faces Temple in the West Regional, while Wisconsin plays Belmont in the Southeast Regional.

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