At the Duke versus North Carolina match-up at Barclays Center Saturday, the ACC Tournament semifinals, Duke-alum and Net center Jahlil Okafor was front and center. That same night, just hours before, Joe Harris’ old-squad the number-one ranked Virginia Cavaliers, topped the Clemson Tigers (Trevor Booker’s old team, by the way) to move onto the ACC title game.
Afterward in a post-game press-conference, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, who coached Harris from 2010-2014, paid his respects to the Net sniper. Seeing Harris in a Nets photo hanging high above a rim inside the Nets practice court Barclays Center, Bennett stops and remarks he’s “so proud” to have coached him. Harris was also on hand when UVA took down North Carolina in Saturday’s ACC Championship.
“Oh there’s been some college ribbing going on,” Kenny Atkinson said with a smirk after Saturday’s practice. “This time of year is fun for the guys. These guys all love their schools. It’s a big topic of conversation.
“No one knows that Richmond lost to St. Bonaventure, so it’s fun,” Atkinson, a University of Richmond alum, added playfully.
Among the other big-time programs that are represented on Nets are the Arizona Wildcats (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson), Villanova Wildcats (Dante Cunningham), and Seton Hall Pirates (Isaiah Whitehead).
So, of course, there has been a lot of trash talk against the teams in the name of college basketball and school pride.
Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas both went to the University of Michigan, making it to the NCAA Finals, so they’ve been feeling themselves, particularly after the Wolverines won the Big Ten Championship at Madison Square Garden last week.
LeVert says that his Wolverines, whom he played for from 2012-16 (and Stauskas from 2014-16) are peaking at the right time, and is hoping that his former team get a 2 or 3 seed on Selection Sunday.
The mild-mannered blue-chipper also admitted to being one of the team’s biggest trash talkers when it comes to collegiate pride.
“Me,” he replied when asked. “D’Angelo (Russell) a little bit but Ohio State’s not really that good (smiles). Rondae … probably the younger guys, the older guys get into it but not that much.”
Quincy Acy’s Baylor Bears went (18-14, 8-10 Big 12) on the court, and on the football field they finished an abysmal (1-11). LeVert says that Acy’s been reminded time and again by fellow Nets throughout the course of the season just how bad Baylor has been.
“Q (laughs),” he responded when asked who is the most sensitive on the team regarding their schools performance. “Especially with the Baylor football team this year. He can’t say much to anybody.”
With the NCAA Tournament going underway next month, the trash talk has certainly only begun.