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Fournier & France Win FIBA World Cup Bronze Medal

2014 September 13
by Adam Papageorgiou

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In his first showing with the French men’s senior national basketball team, the Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier has won a bronze medal at the FIBA World Cup having defeated Lithaunia 95-93 on Saturday in the 3rd Place Game. It was a thrilling rematch of the 2013 EuroBasket Final that transformed into a free throw duel at the finish. France follows up gold at last year’s EuroBasket with their first ever medal at the FIBA World Cup. Nicolas Batum led France with 27 points while Jonas Valanciunas led his Lithuanian side with 25 points. Fournier would only play 16 minutes – sitting out the entire fourth period – as he finished with 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist on 0-for-4 shooting (0-of-1 on 3s). As with many of Evan’s games in Spain, Fournier’s impact is larger than the statistics indicate.

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Below is details of the contest.

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Evan Fournier Scores 10 Points in Semifinal Loss

2014 September 12
by Adam Papageorgiou

 

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The French dream of a gold medal is over. The Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier could only watch on the bench as Serbia defeated France 90-85 on Friday in their Semifinals duel that was beyond entertaining. France still has the 3rd place contest to look forward to on Saturday. In 14 minutes of action, Fournier notched 10 points and 2 rebounds on 3-for-6 shooting (2-of-4 on 3s) against Serbia. Unfortunately, Evan wasn’t on the court in crunch time after leading a phenomenal comeback. France scored 39 points in the final 10-minute period but just fell short at the end. Nicolas Batum poured in 35 points in 37 minutes in defeat while Serbia was led by Milos Teodosic’s 24 points. Below is Evan’s shot chart.

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Serbia had the early advantage thanks to impeccable play by point guard Milos Teodosic. It was clear that France didn’t possess the ball movement or backdoor cuts that they torched Spain with. Fournier checked in at the 3:30 mark with France down 14-10. Evan was tasked to defend the bigger Nemanja Bjelica. Serbias was on an 11-0 run and led 20-10 when Fournier finally touched the ball as the 21-year-old nailed a tough fall-away jumper. Serbia only led 21-15 after the initial 10-minute session thanks to a timely Nicolas Batum triple and a Rudy Gobert rim swat.

Evan started the second period and it didn’t go well. Had a 3-pointer get tip-blocked and then tried a self-inbound pass off of Bjelica’s back under the basket that he wasn’t able to fully execute. France was down 11 when Batum banged heads with Stefan Jovic that forced Nicolas to crumple to the ground holding his head and get sent to the bench. Serbia would lead 30-15 at the 7:41 mark thanks to a 9-0 run. Evan would sit having only 2 shot attempts and defended well once again.

The French were settling for too many isolation situations while Serbia was putting on a pick-and-roll clinic. Luckily for France, Batum checked back in at the 5-minute mark need to chip away at a 13-point deficit. Milos Teodosic had the basketball world pining for him to come to the NBA as Thomas Heurtel was a massive liability for France on both ends of the court. France didn’t attempt a free throw until the 1:40 mark which should indicate how jump shot happy they were. Serbia led 46-32 at halftime as they shot 60 FG% while France only managed 40%. Teodosic was dominating with 18 points at the break. Evan was 1-for-2 from the field and only played six minutes.

Coach Vincent Collet had Antoine Diot and Edwin Jackson start in place of Joffrey Lauvergne and Thomas Heurtel. That had Diaw at center as the French went small. Jackson played even less than Fournier did in the first half yet Coach Collet preferred Jackson over him. It proved to be a bad preference as Jackson missed several decent looks. Evan checked in with less than 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter and the French trailing 57-41 as they couldn’t find any offensive rhythm. Fournier didn’t even get a sniff at the ball and the French trailed by fifteen entering the final quarter.

Evan started the fourth and immediately drained a 3-pointer. A quick Batum steal and dunk later and France was only down 10 at the 9:20 mark with Serbian Coach Sasha Djordjevic taking a quick timeout. Thomas Heurtel solely ruined French momentum by making awful offensive decisions. Even with that, France trailed by 6 points after Boris Diaw and Batum drilled 3-pointers with six minutes remaining and Serbia tightening up on offense. Fournier would drill his second 3-pointer to cut the French deficit to only 65-61 with 5:16 left to make it a 15-4 fourth period run.

Bogdan Bogdanovic would drill an immense 3-pointer to extend Serbia’s lead again to 7 points before Fournier drained 2 free throws. French were down 4 after a Batum triple when Fournier in a rare moment for him in this tourney got beat on a left side drive by Bogdanovic. Evan would then see a right corner triple barely miss its target as you could sense France running out of gas. Fournier would sit in favor of Mickael Gelabale with Serbia up six and 3:13 remaining. This Collet decision should be scrutinized considering how valuable Evan was during the comeback. The contest would then transform into a Diaw & Batum v. Teodosic & Bogdanovic hero ball duel with a crazy exchange of made shots and shocking Nenad Krstic baskets. After a pair of Heurtel free throws, France trailed by only 3 points with 44 seconds left in what was an exciting finale.

Curiously, Serbia fouled Heurtel a few times in the final minute when it wasn’t necessary. However, it ended up working as Heurtel would split a pair of free throws with 16.7 seconds left. Serbia were sent to the line up two, which would extend to a 4-point lead after Nikola Kalinic made his pair of free throws. Evan remained on the bench as Heurtel would miss an awful 2-point shot as Serbia would clinch victory from there. France finished 15-of-33 on 3-pointers, and it still wasn’t enough to dig themselves out of the deep hole.

France will have a chance at the bronze medal, but they’ll be playing on short rest. They take on Lithuania at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday. No American television for this one, just ESPN3.com and the Watch ESPN app coverage. I won’t do a preview of this matchup, but just know that Jonas Valanciunas is the leader of a balanced roster that lacks guard depth but should have a big man advantage against France. It’s a rematch of the EuroBasket 2013 Final. Lithuania on Thursday lost 96-68 to Team USA. Hopefully Coach Collet gives Fournier plenty of court time since this is an abrupt back-to-back for France.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Tobias Harris Donates $50,000 to Orange County Public Schools

2014 September 12
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris on Friday presented Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) with a check for $50,000 at their 2014 Fore Our Schools Golf Tournament at the Orange County National Golf Club (16301 Phil Ritson Way, Winter Garden, 34787). Harris has requested that the donation be distributed between Howard Middle School, the Nap Ford Community School, and the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools to assist them with improving education for Central Florida youth.

Joining Tobias at the presentation were Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry as well as Magic Dancers and Howard Middle School and Nap Ford representatives.

 

“I truly believe education is the foundation of success,” said Tobias Harris. “As a professional athlete I have been extremely fortunate to have a platform with which to make a difference and what better place to start than through kids and their education.”

Harris’ donation to OCPS was made possible through the 2013-14 Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award. Each year, the franchise honors a player who has dedicated his efforts off the court for the purpose of enhancing others’ lives at the annual Orlando Magic Youth Foundation Black Tie and Tennies Gala. In addition to receiving the award, the player is granted $50,000 from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation to donate to the charity of his choice.

Established in 1987, the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools is committed to public education. OCPS serves the 10th largest public school system in the nation, providing instruction for more than 187,000 students with almost 13,000 teachers in 184 schools.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Evan Fournier FIBA World Cup Semifinals Preview

2014 September 11
by Adam Papageorgiou

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International basketball fans are still picking their jaws up off the floor. The Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier and his French national teammates have already tied the farthest they have ever progressed in a FIBA World Cup tournament. France finished 4th back in 1954. This competition is much more balanced and prestigious 60 years later. Now a spot on the podium and an automatic bid to the 2016 Summer Olympics are within reach for Les Bleus. Coach Vincent Collet’s squad just needs to defeat Serbia in their Semifinals battle Friday at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN 2 in Madrid to accomplish those two goals.

If you don’t understand how much the upset win over Spain meant to France, Fournier’s reaction tells the tale:


LA MINUTE INSIDE – 10/09/2014 – “Faire du… by FFBB

If France’s 24-point defeat at the hands of Spain last week in Group A play didn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things, you can bet France’s 74-73 August 31st victory over Serbia doesn’t mean much either. Fournier now has a much larger role than that 0-for-4 showing against Serbia. The Serbs are also playing MUCH better since finishing fourth in group play. They upset Greece and took down Brazil in convincing fashion to get to this meeting. The main reason is that their 4 important players – Milos Teodosic, Miroslav Raduljica, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Nemanja Bjelica – have all been fantastic in the knockout stage. Nenad Krstic and the very spry Nikola Kalinic have had their moments off the bench.

Both teams have solid depth. Both rosters have a similar preferred mixture of transition offense with halfcourt play calling. Both can be comfortable in a finesse duel or a grind-it-out slugfest. Both squads have continued to improve as they have progressed through the tournament. It’s an exciting collision of international talents from an outsider’s prospective.

France two weeks ago had difficulty containing Raduljica (dropped 21 points) but were able to keep the other three Serbians – and just about everyone else – in check. The French can win again with a similar result as long as Collet’s men can play in a similar offensive manner that allowed them to beat Spain. France can’t fall in love with 3-pointers. It needs to be post-ups for Boris Diaw and high-ball feeds to Rudy Gobert near the rim. That will open up the paint for backdoor cuts and slashes for Nicolas Batum, Fournier, and others. That will then open up the 3-pointer line for plenty of open looks. Batum and Diaw just need to stay involved and active on both ends of the court as they did against Spain and they should at minimum be in the game with Serbia to the finish.

Serbia hasn’t faced a team with the defensive potential of France in the past few games. The Serbs were 9-for-25 on 3-pointers against Brazil and 9-for-17 versus Greece. Coach Sasha Djordjevic’s roster were a below par 4-of-18 from deep against France in their Group A encounter. If a repeat of that long range performance occurs on Friday, France will more than likely win and progress to the title game against Team USA.

As far as Evan goes, the 21-year-old is coming off a very underrated 4-point performance that had him locking down Spaniard guards. His 3-point shooting percentage is down to 20.8% (5-of-24). Fournier is 12-of-18 on two-pointers though and that’s because he has attacked the rim at will when given room in transition or in halfcourt sets. Combine that with his defense, floor spacing, outstanding vision, and passing, and it’s obvious why he’s seeing the court almost twenty minutes per contest over the last three games. He’ll have opportunities to defend Teodosic and Bogdanovic – two of the best guards not in the NBA currently – as well as the very capable Stefan Markovic and Stefan Jovic.

Despite the large rewards at stake, Serbia and France are overachieving in this tournament and neither should feel pressure anywhere close to what hosts Spain dealt with. That could lead to a very entertaining contest. The French are EuroBasket champs from last year – and still have a few of those players on their roster like Diaw and Batum – and yet Serbia are slight favorites to win this matchup. The underdog role has suited France just fine up to this point. Win, and a gold or silver medal awaits. Loser doesn’t go home as they must meet Lithuania for the bronze medal game.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

VIDEO: Tobias Harris Returns to Tennessee

2014 September 11
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris is a college product of the University of Tennessee. Even though he only spent one season there as a Volunteer, ‘T12′ is probably one of the school’s biggest pro athlete supporters whenever he gets a reprieve from his busy NBA schedule. The 22-year-old returned to campus recently and sat down with UTSports.com to discuss his offseason, the USA Select squad, UT basketball Head Coach Donnie Tyndall, and the Magic. There’s also workout footage.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Fournier and France Upset Spain to Reach Semifinals

2014 September 10
by Adam Papageorgiou

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The run is ov…NO IT’S NOT!  The Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier and his French squad were NOT eliminated in the Quarterfinals meeting with FIBA World Cup hosts Spain on Wednesday. After losing to the Spaniards by 24 points one week ago, France came up with a massive upset effort to knock off Spain 65-62. It’s a devastating defeat for the hosts who were destined to take on Team USA in the Finals. The French move on to take on a very solid Serbia squad in the Semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN 2. Evan tallied 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists on 1-for-6 shooting (0-for-4 on 3s) in 17 minutes. Despite his continued rough 3-point shooting, Fournier contributed a very valuable 8:10 of action in the 4th period during a very exciting and tough final ten-minute session. Evan didn’t allow a single Spanish field goal against him.

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Other than Pau Gasol (17 points) and Juan Carlos Navarro (10 points), Spain couldn’t find any scoring pop from their starters or bench. Fournier defensively deserves a lot of credit for denying whoever he was guarding to penetrate the paint or pull up from deep. Spain were an appalling 2-for-22 from three-point range. France out-rebounded their larger counterparts 50-28 and 16-8 on the offensive glass. France were led by Boris Diaw (15 points) and Nicolas Batum (13 points), guys who needed to play well throughout the contest and did.

Les Bleus pounced to an 8-0 lead off the tip. France defended well and were effectively scoring off backdoor plays often in the game. Evan initially checked into the contest at the 1:23 mark with France down 15-13. He didn’t get a shot up in that period but the French were tied up after the first period. Fournier started the 2nd quarter. Evan would cause Pau Gasol to stumble into a travel thanks to impeccable help defense. The 21-year-old was mostly defending Sergio Llull and Juan Carlos Navarro.

Fournier’s first shot was an aggressive lefty lay-up take past three Spaniards that he couldn’t convert but that Rudy Gobert finished with a putback jam. Evan remained cognizant of where the big 7’2″ Jazz center was at all times. Evan’s next shot unfortunately was an airball 3-pointer that he rushed. Fournier exited at the 5-minute mark with the game tied at 21-21. France would go on a 7-0 run, Mickael Gelabale picked up his 3rd foul and Evan checked in again at the 3-minute mark. France led 35-28 at halftime as Spain was an awful 1-for-11 on 3-pointers. France were 1-of-2 from deep which meant they were taking much more efficient shots. Winning the rebound battle 25-13 (9 French offensive boards) against the much bigger hosts helped significantly. Evan in 9 minutes was 0-of-2 from the field but had 2 rebounds and an assist and made an impact.

Spain started Llull and benched Rudy Fernandez to open the third period and the French’s first three offensive possessions were turnovers as Spain went on a 6-0 run. It took France three and a half minutes to score. Things got chippy with the game tied midway through the third as Spain benefited from Florent Pietrus and Llull mixing things up and drawing technical fouls. Spain led 43-42 after three quarters thanks to a ridiculous Rudy Fernandez alley oop dunk that could shift the momentum of any game. Evan didn’t play in the third period.

However, Fournier did start the 4th period of this tight contest. Fournier defended Jose Calderon. Coming off a curl, Evan missed a good 3-point look that would have given France the lead again. Evan redeemed himself by driving from left to right and finishing a very difficult righty lay-up while his body went away from the basket giving France a 46-45 lead. Evan would curl off another screen and drive to the hole causing Pau Gasol to foul him on his lefty lay-up attempt. Evan made both free throws and France led 48-45 at the 7:26 mark. Evan would then miss his third triple attempt before finding Boris Diaw and watching the Spur drain his triple to extend the French run to 7-0.

Evan switched onto Rudy Fernandez out of the timeout as Fournier continued to be a defensive wall. Fournier would miss his 4th three-point attempt after doing a wonderful job of losing Navarro in the left corner to give himself the open look. The entire second half was a defensive duel. at the 4-minute mark, Fournier would help strip Pau as Rudy Gobert was playing outstanding man defense. Gobert’s size may have been MVP of the game. France led 57-52 with 1:50 remaining as no matter what Spain did they couldn’t reel their opponents in. Collet decided to finally sit Evan at this juncture in the contest. Heurtel would drain a 3-pointer dagger to put Spain up 8 with a minute left and you knew France had the contest after that Thomas bucket.

It’s an unbelievable victory for France without Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nando De Colo, Ronny Turiaf, Ian Mahinmi, Kevin Seraphin, and Alexis Ajinca playing for the roster. The French have a chance at a podium spot now as well as automatic qualifying to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Be on the lookout for another game preview. Keep your Friday late afternoon open, Magic fans, if you can.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Evan Fournier FIBA World Cup Quarterfinals Preview

2014 September 9
by Adam Papageorgiou

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The Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier has continued to impress at the FIBA World Cup. Off the bench, he’s now the French national team’s 4th-highest scorer at 7.3 points per game. That’s better than Boris Diaw and Mickael Gelabale. It’s too bad it’s all most likely going to come to an end against tourney hosts Spain in the Quarterfinals. The Spaniards have been shredding everyone in sight in their six games by an average margin of victory of 26.5 points. That includes a 24-point victory over France in Group A play a week ago. It’s not a 43.8 ppg margin of victory like the 1992 USA Dream Team, but it’s dominant nonetheless.

Spain-France will still be a massive basketball matchup as there will be plenty of high tensions between the two rivals:

“Once again Spain, and once again it will be a fight,” France’s Mickael Gelabale said. “We have three days to prepare for this game. France and Spain is like a clasico game, and everybody is waiting for it.”

Despite the beating dished out by Spain, they’re still out for French blood since France defeated them last year in the EuroBasket Semifinals. Are France better since the September 3rd meeting? Maybe. It would help if Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw shot better than a combined 6-for-21 from the field. The French also have to convert better on their 3-pointers than the 5-for-25 outing they had against Spain. Evan is playing more and seeing more offensive touches since his positive impact in that blowout defeat. Fournier was crucial in France’s Round of 16 victory over Croatia. A win that the French almost choked away – with Fournier on the bench – that has Batum calling progression to this Spain matchup ‘a miracle’.

Evan is still only shooting 25% on 3-pointers in this competition, but his defense and constant attacking of the offensive paint have been vital to French success of late. France played tight in their contest against Croatia. I would expect Coach Vincent Collet’s squad to be much more loose on Wednesday knowing fully well that they’re the underdogs. It’s all about who can share and move the ball best.

All of that won’t matter if Spain rebounds, dishes, and drains 3-pointers the way we are accustomed to seeing from the hosts. It’s the greatest Spanish team in history, they’re a team I still expect to beat Team USA should they meet in the Finals. Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull, and keep naming off the roster. France needs to play a near perfect game on both ends of the court. They need to hope Spain is shooting cold and that the rebound battle stays relatively close. The French need to find a way to have an impact scoring in the paint. Batum and Diaw need to play like stars and some of the supporting crew needs to step up. Hopefully Fournier is again one of those guys to step up.

Tip-off is Wednesday at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN2.

On a side note, France will be hosting some of the first round as well as the entire final round of EuroBasket 2015. So if Evan Fournier stays healthy and plays decent with the Magic, he’ll be on French national team again next year playing in front of a home court advantage.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Magic in Running to Sign Zoran Dragic

2014 September 9
by Adam Papageorgiou

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According to Shams Charania of RealGM, the Orlando Magic are interested in signing 6’5″ guard Zoran Dragic. Despite extending his contract back in June for another 2 years with Spanish League club Unicaja Malaga, there is an opening in the 25-year-old’s contract that allows for a buyout. That opening closes shut on October 5th. The Magic are allegedly competing with three other NBA teams for the Slovenian’s services.

If you didn’t already assume it, yes, Zoran is the younger brother of Goran Dragic. Both are left-handed shooters, but Zoran is taller and more of a shooting guard and small forward. Zoran played with Slovenian side Krka from 2010 to 2012 where he helped win 2 domestic league championships, a EuroChallenge title, and a Slovenian League Finals MVP award (2011). Zoran went undrafted in 2011 before playing a few Summer League contests in that same offseason with the Houston Rockets.

For the past 2 seasons, Zoran has been teammates with former dreaded Magic draft pick Fran Vazquez at Unicaja Malaga where they’ve faced Euroleague competition. Zoran had a disastrous first year away from Slovenia, but his second season was much better. In the ’13-’14 Euroleague campaign, Zoran played 22 games averaging 10.9 points per game on 35.4 3PT%. He’s typically a 70 percent free throw shooter. At the FIBA World Cup Zoran played 7 games. In Slovenia’s 119-76 loss at the hands of Team USA, Zoran tallied 11 points and 5 rebounds on 4-for-12 shooting (2-of-6 on 3s).  In 26.3 minutes per contest in the tournament, Zoran averaged 12.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, and 1.4 spg on 50.0 FG%, 43.3 3PT%, and 69.2 FT%. Zoran is striking while the iron is hot in trying to live his NBA dream.

This rumor is an intriguing development because the Magic have 16 players under contract with fourteen of those deals being guaranteed for the 2014-2015 season. Dewayne Dedmon‘s contract doesn’t become guaranteed until the start of the regular season, while Peyton Siva is all but guaranteed to be heading to the Erie BayHawks come the end of October.

When Rob Hennigan went to Spain earlier this year to watch Fran Vazquez play and to interact with the center and his agent (and to rule out Fran ever playing for the Magic), Orlando’s GM got a clear look at Zoran as well. His defense, fast break style, and perimeter arsenal all fit into what Jacque Vaughn wants this team to do moving forward. Considering the buyout, for Orlando to nab Zoran they need to offer him more than just a training camp invite. Do the Magic waive Dedmon, deal another Magic player, or do one of the other teams in the running snag him? Orlando would be low on big men if they get rid of Dewayne. Zoran can definitely contribute off an NBA bench, I just don’t believe it will be this one.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

VIDEO: Aaron Gordon Talks Twitter and Haters

2014 September 9
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Let’s get some kinder NBA news flowing. Enjoy a quick interview that VICE Sports conducted involving Orlando Magic rookie forward Aaron Gordon talking about the good and bad of Twitter and dealing with haters. I’ll reiterate, for an 18-year-old, the franchise has an atypically level-headed player on their roster.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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Jay Hernandez Joins Magic Coaching Staff

2014 September 9
by Adam Papageorgiou

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The Orlando Magic have named Jay Hernandez assistant coach/player development. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed. Hernandez founded Pro Hoops, Inc. back in 2004. Pro Hoops is a basketball training service based in New York for teams and individuals seeking to improve their performance. Their mission is to help basketball players of all ages reach their full potential. Jay has helped train various NBA players that include Tobias Harris and former Magic man Jameer Nelson.

“We are extremely excited to add Jay (Hernandez) and his family to the Orlando Magic,” said Head Coach Jacque Vaughn. “Jay will bring a tireless work ethic and dedication to development to our coaching staff.”

Tobias and Jameer have given testimonials as to how Hernandez’s Pro Hoops program has helped them.

Hernandez played one season at the University of New Hampshire (1996-97) and three seasons at Hofstra University (1998-2001). He helped Hofstra to a berth in the NIT in 1999, then back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2000 and 2001. Hernandez went on to play professionally in Puerto Rico for three seasons.

Usually when one coach comes in, that means another exits.

Unfortunately, Luke Stuckey has not been retained by the team. Stuckey was brought in by the franchise 2 years ago when Jacque Vaughn was first hired.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek