(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

In the kind of story that may motivate us to create a new "in a
completely unsurprising turn of events" tag, former La Salle University
center Aaric Murray has announced his intent to leave Coach John
Giannini's Explorers following the completion of his sophomore year.
Widely recruited as a high school senior out of Glen Mills by a number
of top programs, Murray ultimately chose La Salle after developing what
he deemed a special bond with Dr. G during the process. As a matter of
related fact, Murray and Giannini even filmed a piece for this
season's Comcast Sportsnet City 6 College Basketball Preview special, a
segment meant to highlight the strength of their relationship. Methinks
the duo doth pretend too much.

Strains in the continued viability of such a pairing were easily
visible all year. Each wild shouting fit from the coach was met with, at
least what appeared to be, a continually greater level of disinterest
from the player. Following the Explorer's ouster in the second round of
this year's Atlantic 10 conference tournament, a fellow attendee of G's
post-game presser leaned over to me and whispered, "Do you find it at
all strange that he refuses to mention Murray's name in discussing his
plans for next year?" Now, just two weeks later, it does indeed appear
as though the writing was on the wall.  Comments from John Giannini and more on the future of Aaric Murray after the jump...

In a piece from the Inquirer's Ray Parrillo:

"This
was a very difficult decision for me, and I wish Aaric the very best
for his future," head coach Dr. John Giannini said. "I know Aaric always
tried to do his best for La Salle, and we did all that we could to help
him as a person and as a basketball player. We will continue to support
Aaric in this process of finding another university."

Giannini
said Thursday night Murray was given his release at this time so he
could maximize his options as he begins the search for another school.
He said Murray plans to complete the spring semester at La Salle.

Parrillo goes onto to aptly remind us that regardless of Murray's
next point of harbor, he will be by rule required to sit out a full
season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Such a scenario can only be
circumvented due to a change in a program's coaching staff or as
a result of health issues incurred by a student-athlete. Murray
qualifies for neither exception. 

So, where's next for the 6'10 center with averages of 15.2 points and
7.7 rebounds per game in the 2010-11 season? West Virginia, Florida,
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Auburn are all rumored to be interested, and
are all a massive upgrades from his former digs on Olney Ave (no
offense, guys). Rumblings are also beginning to grow louder that Murray
is expected to send an application to another area school, one located
on North Broad St. If you need a hint, head south on Broad from Olney,
and you'll start to see a whole bunch of "][" logos as you're getting
close.

Now, do I believe Aaric Murray might actually wind up in a Temple
uniform come opening night 2012? No. With the NBA more than likely
headed for lockout, the opportunity to head for the draft is as an
unsure as it it unlikely. As such, I do anticipate Murray returning to
school. But, because he'll have lost a year of attention as a result of
his mandatory sit out, he'll want to maximize his own on visibility upon
return. Though Temple has consistently cracked the Top 25 the last
three seasons, the Atlantic 10 lacks the media coverage of a "power six"
conference, a fact Murray, by now, knows well. If he hopes to quickly
become re-relevant in draft circles when he does return to play, the
6'10 center's best bet is at a big name program. Moreover, there is no
guarantee that Temple head coach Fran Dunphy would even want Murray as
an addition. Either way, though it's possible Murray could submit an
application, I wouldn't get too worked up about it.

Update: We were able to get some clarification on Murray's
eligibility and transfer options. Though unlikely to begin with, due to
Atlantic 10 transfer rules, Murray would have sit out two seasons if
he intended to transfer within the conference. Word regarding spikes in
eligibility still seems to vary between losing one year and losing
none, while a move outside the conference would allow him two retain his
full two years. This link,
from the Pac-10 complicance web page, states that Murray would not lose
any eligibility in the event of an intraconference transfer.

As for the direction of La Salle Explorers moving forward, John
Giannini's hot seat has to be getting hotter. With a record of 98-115
over seven seasons, the doctor has posted only two winning seasons. And,
despite his (details undisclosed) contract extension last Spring, it's
not totally out of the realm of possibility for the University to begin
to consider other options. That said, the cost of a potential buy-out
might also be more than than administration is willing to swallow.

Any La Salle grads/students/fans out there to chime in on their program's future?

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 victory Friday night.

"I'd take this any night," Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. "Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it's 1-1 and all I'm really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night."

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Big 2nd period helps Penguins roll Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been beatable away from home this season. Good thing for them this felt nothing like a road game.

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist during Pittsburgh's four-goal second period, and the Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1 on Friday night.

Conor Sheary scored twice, and Evgeni Malkin had a late goal and an assist. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz joined Sheary in scoring during the second for Pittsburgh.

"In a win like that, I think it was a really complete effort from all the guys," said Sheary, who has four goals in three games. "It's fun to win on the road,” (see full recap).

Blackhawks beat Bruins on Hossa's late goal
BOSTON -- Blackhawks backup Scott Darling insists he isn't trying to take playing time away from No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford.

"I don't know if you guys know who my goalie partner is," Darling said with a smile after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Friday night. "He's one of the best goalies in the world, hands down, no arguments. So I'm just pretty happy to get any games I can."

Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to break a scoreless tie, and Darling stopped 30 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Darling is 12-4 and he brought a 2.34 goals-against average into the game, even better than Crawford's 2.54 (see full recap).

Okposo gives Sabres OT win over Red Wings
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal 4:34 into overtime and the Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist, and Sam Reinhart also scored to help the Sabres overcome a pair of one-goal deficits. Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for Buffalo, which has won two straight against Detroit in one season for the first time since 1989-90.

Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, and Petr Mrazek was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

The Red Wings had their three-game winning streak snapped and took a rare loss to Buffalo. They fell to 8-0-2 in their past 10 meetings with the Sabres and 31-4-3 with a tie in their past 39 (see full recap).