Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

Do Not Let the Madness March Over HBCU Basketball

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

by Gus Griffin








March Madness is here and we college basketball fans are excited.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) annual ritual is the single most entertaining sports event in the world for me.

It is also a cash cow. The NCAA will get $857 million from Turner this year. Within a few years, it will be generating over $1 Billion in TV revenue alone.

I am also a proud Historically Black College and University (HBCU) graduate of Howard University!

As March Madness grows to include more teams, it is crucial that we fight against efforts that would exclude HBCU’s. The most specific threat against HBCU’s is the call to eliminate the automatic bid system.

The current system allows any Division 1 team that wins its conference championship to secure an automatic bid to the tournament.

This is how you sometimes end up with teams with say a 15-15 record in the tournament. ESPN commentator Jay Bilas, whose opinion I generally respect, would do away with this. His contention is that the best 68 teams should be selected via record, who you played, and where you played them, as well as the infamous “eye test”. In a vacuum, it is a compelling case. Who among us that are sports fans don’t want the best teams in the playoffs?

The problem is that nothing in this world is ever in a vacuum. There is both a historical and current day context for all understanding and college basketball is no different.

The history is that up until 1957, HBCU’s were not permitted to participate at all due to the Jim Crow laws of that day. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) was actually the first to admit such schools. The NCAA was forced to admit schools in order to compete.  There was a time when only conference champions made the tournament. This is why arguably the greatest team in the history of Maryland basketball did not get to play in the tournament. The 1973-74 team that featured John Lucas, Tom McMillan, and Len Elmore finished 23-5. All of their losses were to North Carolina, 8-time defending champion UCLA, and eventual national champion North Carolina State, that beat Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Some say that game was the greatest college basketball game ever played.  There were calls to eliminate the automatic bid at that time but the alternative of awarding at-large bids won out and was implemented in 1980. This was a boon for the power conference schools, while keeping the automatic bid process.

The tournament has expanded over the years largely due to its incredible popularity. However, with every expansion comes the call to eliminate the automatic bid process.

Doing so would be a deathblow for HBCU basketball.

Contrary to what the current Secretary of Education thinks, HBCU’s were not born out of choice but out of a necessary response to racism. That same factor has always undermined these institutions’ financial struggles. Participation in this tournament not only gives them a rightful cut of the eventual $1 billion TV pie, but also helps with recruitment of both athletes and non-student athletes.

You may think if they want to participate, they should have to earn it like every other school. How did that work out for Central Florida in college football? They went undefeated, concluding by whipping Auburn from the mighty SEC, which beat both title game finalists. Yet they were systemically locked out of any chance to win the college football title. There was nothing that they could do differently because the power schools do not have to play them. The same would and already does happen to HBCU’s. The best they get is a “pay to play” trip across the country to play larger programs for a check. Only in the tournament do they get to compete in a neutral site.

It is not as if HBCU’s have no history of success.  Of the eight number 15 seeds to win a game, three were from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC, the home of my Howard University).

We are talking about a basketball legacy that has produced Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, and Sam Jones. Such talent now rarely considers HBCU’s in basketball, which is a byproduct of the raid that integration brought about. Simply put, the struggles of HBCU basketball are not from bad coaching or management, but they are a direct result of the expansion of opportunities for the players. The automatic bid process is the only safeguard that keeps HBCU’s at the table. The system is rigged to favor the power schools and without the automatic bid, HBCU’s will be shut out.

It should remain and we should fight any argument otherwise.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

3 all-time greats go down on the same day!

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017


by Gus Griffin







March Madness trivia question:


Have 3 coaches with more combined wins ever all lose on the same day in the NCAA tournament?


Mike Krzyzewski – 1071, Rick Pitino – 770, and Tom Izzo – 544,  for a total of 2385.


Throw in 8 national titles as well.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports


Friday, March 17th, 2017

by Gus Griffin







For those of you so caught up and even “outraged” over LaVar Ball’s mouth, relax! You are missing a much larger business and commerce point which is the fact that the NCAA, shoe companies, and even coaches routinely do to its athletes, what we fear and complain he is doing to his son.  Which do you think has his best interest at heart?

The only thoughts that I will add center around Harold Miner, or better known at the time as “Baby Jordan”.

That’s right, there was once a player, also out of Southern California, he literally went to and played for USC, hyped to be the next Michael Jordan. With that hype was a shoe brand which both the maker and he profited off well. He did win 1 or 2 slam dunk contests, if that impresses you. Beyond that, he had an enduring 4-year NBA career, averaging 9 points a game. And in the end: who cares?

Here is what those annoyed by Daddy Ball don’t understand. When it comes to hype or promotion, it doesn’t matter if the words are true. It doesn’t matter if there is reason to project them to be true in the future. Hell it doesn’t even matter if either the father or son believe the hype themselves. All that matters is that we are talking about it, and by that measure, LaVar Ball is indeed crazy…crazy like a fox.

As for those who contend he is putting undue pressure on his son, it would seem to me that you would actually have to know his son personally to confirm that, and most of his father’s critics do not know the son. If on the court play is any indication of him feeling the pressure, my guess is that UCLA wants his father to talk even more. Last year they won 15 games. With Ball as the only major addition they have won 29 games thus far this year, including road wins over Kentucky and Arizona. He averages 14 points 6 assists, and nearly 8 boards a game. If you have actually watched him play, a more athletic version of Jason Kidd is a valid basketball-based comparison. Where is the evidence of his father’s mouth adversely affecting him?

In the end, my money is on LaVar Ball looking a lot more like Richard Williams than Marv Marinovich, and both he and his son(s) will take that to the bank. If more parents of phenom college athletes took his approach, maybe we could make more progress in breaking the NCAA’s monopoly on its endless supply of free labor.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Villanova Wildcats are National Champions!!!

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016


The Villanova Wildcats have captured their first college basketball National Championship in 31 years, in one of the greatest Final games in NCAA Tournament history!  Show your ‘Nova pride and party like it’s 1985 in OFFICIAL championship gear, by clicking the link below:

Villanova Wildcats 2016 National Championship Gear

Philadelphia Unsigned Senior High School Basketball Showcase

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

by Devin McMillan

Dev Blog






High school basketball with a purpose was played this past weekend in the hoops-rich city of Philadelphia, PA.  Division 2, Division 3, junior college, and prep-school coaches & scouts from up and down (but not limited to) the Eastern Seaboard descended upon Philly to get a glimpse of the City of Brotherly Love’s top unsigned seniors (boys & girls), showcasing their talents in hopes of landing a ticket to further their basketball careers, as well as a ticket to higher education.

Put together by Retroaction Sports, the 6th annual boys’ event took place on Saturday, April 18th, at Imhotep Institute Charter High School, while the inaugural girls’ event took place the very next day at Mastery Charter School – Pickett Campus.

Prior to the showcase, two of the event’s organizers from Retroaction Sports (Richard Guillen & Jamal Green) joined War Room Sports for a radio interview, where Green explained why they hold this event year after year.

“We originally started because we wanted to help kids in the Tri-State Area [and all over].  We just really wanted to give kids a shot and a chance to get recruited, mostly from the Public League and Catholic League, who really weren’t getting highly recruited… We’ve been blessed to get a lot of kids in school over the past 5-6 years… Helping kids get into school is our #1 goal.”

Richard Guillen followed up by letting us know that Retroaction Sports is much more than just a basketball program.

“The Retroaction Sports Movement goes way beyond this stuff [basketball] because we’re just trying to help these kids earn their education and give them a little bit more flexibility at life.”

In a packed gym at Imhotep Charter, dozens of talented high school seniors showed up to punch their tickets to an opportunity at the life flexibility Guillen spoke of.  As expected, when 17-18 year olds are playing in front of an audience that can change their futures, nerves and jitters plagued the early action of each game.  Once the participants settled down and got into a groove, nerves and jitters transformed into an amazing display of athleticism and sheer hunger.  When the dust settled after five extremely hard fought games, representatives from the numerous colleges and universities in attendance scrambled to get to guys that could potentially be important cogs in the next generation of their programs.

Several guys had moments throughout the day, but here are a few of my standout players from Saturday:

Amir Hinton – 6’4” Combo Guard – Abington High School (My most outstanding player of the showcase)

Khalif Tinley – 6’1” Wing Guard – Imhotep Institute Charter High School

Dom Morales – 6’2” Wing Guard – High School of the Future


On Sunday, the ladies took center stage.  I was very impressed with the level of play at their showcase.  Not because I didn’t expect them to be so talented, but because it seemed as if no one caved to the pressure of playing in front of college coaches and scouts.  As expected, the girls didn’t draw the same type of crowd as the boys the day before, but those who didn’t show missed out on a great display of a fundamentally sound, intelligent brand of basketball.

In a couple of games stacked with immense talent, a few young ladies really stood out to me:

Romeira Tucker – 5’7” Combo Guard – Audenried High School

Ka’ryne Benson – 5’5” Combo Guard – Goretti High School

Aigner Bookard – 5’7” Point Guard – International Academy

Diamond Talley – 5’9” Small Forward – Central High School


All in all, it was a great weekend of basketball for an even greater cause.  What Retroaction Sports is doing in the community is a much needed vehicle for kids that dream of reaching greater heights with their love of basketball being a means to an end.  Throughout the weekend, I watched Rasool Hajj of Retroaction Sports work the crowd of college coaches, personally advocating on behalf of players (girls & boys) who’d sparked interest among the coaching fraternity in attendance.  I even saw him advocating on behalf of players who weren’t having their best day at the showcase, but should be noticed nonetheless.  Being an alumnus of Philadelphia Public League Basketball myself, it is great to see guys working hard for the kids who didn’t get a plethora of attention during their high school playing careers.  Talent is oftentimes discovered in places that aren’t so obvious.  Having met Hajj when I myself was a young kid running up and down the basketball courts of North Philly, I can attest to his love for the game and his dedication to the advancement of the next generation.  If you possess similar traits, I encourage you to get involved.   Whether you’re in Philly, Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and beyond, I encourage you all to visit and find out what you can do to help next year’s showcase be even greater.  You can also keep an eye on the website to find out about any other events the organization has going on throughout the year.  Big kudos to the work that Hajj, Green, and Guillen are doing, providing flexibility in the lives of Philly youth.


Devin McMillan, for War Room Sports

The Future of Team USA

Friday, August 8th, 2014

by Jon Carroll





Is doubt creeping in for NBA players regarding USA Basketball? (Image via

Is doubt creeping in for NBA players regarding USA Basketball?
(Image via

Even before seeing Paul George’s gruesome injury during last Saturday’s Team USA scrimmage in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, I was thinking of writing something about the future of NBA players and their involvement in the Olympic process.  It started with NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, Kawhi Leonard, deciding not to play, followed by LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and then Kevin Love.  Just as I was about to send this in, a big shoe dropped as Kevin Durant withdrew from the team.  LeBron James, the most notable player in the game, is not playing in 2014, and I would be surprised if he returned to Team USA for a fourth Olympics in 2016.  Ever since the 2004 Olympics, when a then nineteen year-old LeBron earned a Bronze medal, the National team, directed by Jerry Colangelo has developed a program where players make a three-year commitment so that when the players take the floor at an Olympics or World Cup, they will have had more than a three-week training camp as preparation.  It is because of this program that I am confident that Team USA can continue to excel in international competition moving forward without having to tap the superstars of the league for service over and over again.

While it was somewhat eye-opening to see Kawhi Leonard turn down the opportunity to increase his stardom by being a key member of this World Cup team, it is not all that surprising given whom he plays for and who his teammates are.  The San Antonio Spurs make it clear through their actions that they are all about the playoffs and championships.  Coach Gregg Popovich rests players during the regular season with no real concern of the opponent, occasion, or potential consequences he may face from the league office.  It is clear that Leonard has gotten the message and sees international play as a hindrance to that goal.  If you look at the output of his teammates, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli in the 2012-13 season after both played in the Olympics, it is hard to argue that the extra games in the Olympic tournament did not take a toll after playing another 90+ games before losing in the Finals to the Heat.  This was particularly true for Ginobli who posted career-low numbers.  Kevin Durant noted in his statement about not playing, “I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”  As an NBA fan, I would much rather see players with this mindset and in peak condition for NBA playoff competition than summer international tournaments.  The NBA has enough depth of talent that if you tweak the current program slightly, you still have enough talent to field a quality team without putting the top stars at risk when they are already playing nearly 100 games per season.  International play is also a chance for young NBA talent to develop and get a running start into their young NBA careers.

The main suggestion I put forth is to limit the number of Olympic cycles that players can make on the National team to two.  In this way, by the time a player makes his second team, he is just entering his prime and can focus on his NBA career without the extra wear and tear of summer competition.  This would save someone like Stephen Curry, who has been injury-prone, from having to shoulder the offensive burden in this upcoming World Cup in favor of younger stars like Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Anthony Drummond, all of whom are 21 or younger.  Speaking of age, I would suggest bringing the age limit back down to 22.  Yes, having a younger team puts the USA in a position like 2004 where a young nucleus of James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade were outplayed by more experienced teams.  However, with the global popularity of the NBA, it serves their purposes better to send emerging talent to international tourneys and risk losing than to put extra wear and tear on the bodies of the most marketable superstars.  Here’s what a 22 and under squad could look like for the World Cup:

Kyrie Irving
Trey Burke
Victor Oladipo
Elfrid Payton
Tim Hardaway, Jr
Bradley Beal
Jabari Parker
Doug McDermott
Aaron Gordon
Anthony Davis
Mitch McGary
Andre Drummond

We are quickly moving out of the era where international stars are comfortable playing at home in other leagues and then representing their countries in international play, which has been the biggest threat to American teams over the years.  There are very few Arvydas Sabonis’ running around these days who wait to come to the NBA.  International stars now come to the NBA as quickly as possible so over time, the idea of a team that has played together for years being able to beat USA all-stars has quickly eroded.  I hope that a change comes before we reach a situation like we had in 2004 where thirty players were invited to the team before a full roster could be assembled.


Jon Carroll, for War Room Sports

Emmanuel Mudiay: Bucking the System

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

by Jon Carroll





(Image via

(Image via

Emmanuel Mudiay made headlines this week by signing the richest contract ever for a high school graduate to go overseas and play basketball.  Despite reports that this decision was made to escape inquiries into his eligibility and amateur status by the NCAA, Mudiay has insisted that this was about taking care of his family.  He told “I was tired of seeing my mom struggle”.  With his decision to pursue the overseas route to prepare for the NBA, Mudiay joins a group that includes Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler, both of whom are now in the NBA.  Mudiay’s decision is a rare one among elite high school prospects, even in the age of having to be nineteen to be draft eligible.  I hope that other elite high school athletes will give this avenue increasing consideration moving forward for reasons relating to the court and off.

On the court, there is the obvious issue of pay.  Mudiay is scheduled to be paid $1.2M to play for Guangdong of the China Basketball Association.  The athletic potential of young black men is commodified so early these days that coaches are forced to scout middle school games in order to stay on top.  With that commodification comes parasitic behavior which often leaves the athlete with little to no say over their future.  When it comes to college, the popular narrative is that elite prospects should be grateful for the $200-300k in scholarship that they could get over four years and forget about any other possible money they could make, not to mention the first class education.  I used to buy into this argument as an educator, but it crumbles when you recognize that the majority of the time, the athlete has long ago decided that they want to be a professional athlete.  A year of unwanted classes on a full scholarship pales in comparison to $1.2M and not having to check-in at the 9am lecture or 6pm study hall. If they have an opportunity to pursue their passion at eighteen and be paid for it, then why should they be stopped?  Olympic athletes, tennis and baseball players have been exercising this option for years.  Young, talented basketball players should feel no shame in doing the same.  By doing so, they have an opportunity to escape the identity shackles that American culture places on their worldview.

Going to China effectively gives Mudiay a one year fellowship in one of the leading civilizations in the world.  He has an opportunity to experience a completely different lifestyle.  This next year will have an impact on his life long after he’s done dribbling the ball.  Perhaps he learns the language, perhaps his notion of “blackness” evolves, maybe he makes business contacts that he can leverage when he does make it to the NBA as expected next year.  Yes, being seen numerous times on ESPN during the college season is a big stage, but so is becoming a star in China.  The exposure on national TV also means little if your game doesn’t develop and you can’t make it past the initial three-year rookie contract.

While Jennings, now a Detroit Piston, lamented that his time in Italy was not all fun and games, he acknowledged that he did mature.  It also sounds like he was humbled by not being treated like a star while playing for Lottomatica Virtus Roma.  A scout noted that he increased his capacity to play defense and that his draft stock had not been harmed.  At worst, Mudiay will be immersed in a professional culture that will prepare him for the rigors of the NBA and he won’t have to worry about being dissected at every turn the way Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were this past year.  He’ll be doing this while controlling all facets of developing his brand, which is a key component to being a professional athlete today.

While the overall success of Jennings’ and Tyler’s careers can be questioned as neither has yet become an all-star, what cannot be denied is that they were not adversely impacted by their time overseas.  Ultimately it enabled them an opportunity to pursue their chosen professions at a high level and prepare them to play on the world’s most elite basketball stage.  Both matured on the court, and I would venture to guess they learned a lot about being an adult.  I expect the same for Mudiay and hope that as these examples continue to mount, that the prospect of going to foreign land will become a more tantalizing option for the nation’s elite high school basketball players who do not want to submit to the current NCAA policy.


Jon Carroll, for War Room Sports


Monday, February 10th, 2014

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog






(Image via

(Image via

This past week, a lot of us who watch sports with the enthusiasm of addicts witnessed what went down with Marcus Smart during the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech game, where he was shown to shove a fan after he tumbled into the crowd after trying to block a shot. There have been several blogs, comments, and discussions about what caused a 20-year-old NCAA player to push a fan after being in close proximity with him. The overriding conclusions that have been put out there are that the Texas Tech fan, namely Jeff Orr, used a racial slur towards Marcus Smart, prompting him to do what he did out of disgust and annoyance at what was said.

A tearful Mario Bolatelli (Image via

A tearful Mario Bolatelli
(Image via

Also, within this very interesting week in sports, in the Serie A in Italy, we witnessed Mario Bolatelli break down in tears during the AC Milan vs. Napoli game, where AC Milan lost. At some point during the game, Bolatelli was subbed and was subsequently taunted by the notorious Italian fans that were making monkey gestures and noises. Whether or not this is the reason why Mario broke down on the sidelines is debatable. There are reports that he shed tears due to the sheer level of racism he had to endure and has had to endure his whole career, being an African who only knows Italy as him home. There are other reports that he shed tears because he was disappointed with his play and wasn’t too happy that his team was losing.

These two situations remind me of two other Soccer players, Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng, who while playing in Spain and Italy respectively, both walked off the field due to incessant racial abuse from the fans in two different games. In the case of Kevin Prince Boateng, the game had to be abandoned because his teammates walked off with him.

These scenarios always bring about the question of what is the right reaction from multi-million dollar athletes (with the exception of Marcus Smart, of course, who is still a collegiate athlete) who are subjected to such abuses. Are they meant to just sit there and take it and carry on with the task of what they are paid to do, which is to simply play the game? Or, are the regulatory bodies in various sports meant to intervene and ensure that there are hospitable environments in stadiums and arenas across the world, so that super star athletes do not have to endure the whims of fans who decide to be ignorant?

In my opinion, the onus remains with the athlete in reference to how he controls his emotions. At the end of the day, it is a game we are talking about. Somebody calling you the “N word” or a “bloody African monkey” cannot warrant a justifiable reaction out of you, especially when the prospect of your actions can affect the overall harmony of any team. Case in point, Marcus Smart (the outstanding player for Oklahoma State) has now been suspended for 3 games. Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng were heavily fined for their actions. The reasons being that there are overwhelming precedence’s for how an athlete is meant to behave, especially during game time. Any violation of that leads to consequences. A fan or group of fans provoking you does not unfortunately override that precedence.

Amateur and Professional Athletes, regardless of their background, need to come to the realization that these remarks, as horrific as they are, cannot and should not affect them in any way, because it is never personal. Why would you allow your emotions to go haywire because some overweight coward decides to be ignorant towards you? A coward that will never earn the kind of money you are earning. A coward that may never achieve in life what you have achieved as an athlete.

The need for targeted emotions and controlled reactions towards fans in sports is necessary because it all becomes too distracting when an inconsequential moron like Jeff Orr gets notable mention because he successfully pushed Marcus Smart’s buttons.

The irony is that the hearts and minds of people like that and those fans in Europe will probably never change. The only change I will ask of professional athletes the world over is to actually stop giving a damn and just play the game to the best of their ability, entertain us all, and go home with your fat salaries.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


Why Kansas center Joel Embiid could end up being the best player out of the 2014 NBA Draft

Friday, December 13th, 2013

by Christian Roberts

Christian Roberts Blog






Joel Embiid


With all the hype surrounding Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, and teammate Andrew Wiggins (rightfully so – all three will be great), a new-comer to the sport of basketball, Joel Embiid, may end up surpassing all three of them at the next level.

The special skill-set embodied by Embiid, is what has NBA scouts drooling. Also the fact that he’s only been playing this game for a few years and he is already this good. He’s basically dominating while learning on the job. His defensive prowess is unmatched. Offensively, he one of the most efficient and effective big men in college basketball. Once he gets a better awareness and feel for the game, which will come along as he plays, he will be unstoppable.

Showing an array of post moves some big men in the NBA don’t even have, you can see why some scouts are putting him in the conversation for the #1 overall pick in the 2014 draft. One NBA exec is even quoted as saying, “If he’s not the first overall pick, he’s definitely the second”. That’s high praise for a young man who is just now getting his feet wet.

While only playing 20 minutes per game, the 7-foot/250 pound center makes his presence known every game. Teammate and fellow freshman Andrew Wiggins, plays 10 minutes more per game than Embiid, but you could argue, the center’s impact is much bigger. The only real downside to his game is his rawness to the game and he is prone to foul trouble. The game that’s being played in the NBA now-a-days, with all the flopping, could pose a problem for Embiid and his physical presence. As long as he continues to get “coached up” and plays under control, he should be just fine.

A center with this kind of unlimited upside, both offensively and defensively, doesn’t come around too often. You can see why he’s receiving the praise he has received thus far.

The NBA will have to wait for now though, as the future lottery pick will play a key component in the Kansas Jayhawks’ quest for a National Title this year. But when that time does indeed come, don’t be surprised if Joel Embiid is the first name you hear called off the board in next year’s draft.


Christian Roberts of Sportz Overtime, for War Room Sports

Ulric Maligi Makes His First Visit to The War Room!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013



Ulric Maligi, Southern Methodist University (SMU) assistant men’s basketball coach, will be in The War Room this Thursday, November 7th, to discuss his ascension up the coaching ladder, his tutelage under hall of fame coach Larry Brown, and more!

Tune in Thursday, November 7th at 6pm ET to hear our conversation with Ulric!  To tune in, go to and click the “Listen Live” button…or dial 323-410-0012 to listen LIVE by phone.

In the meantime, follow Coach Ulric Maligi on Twitter @Coach_Maligi, and check out the SMU Men’s Basketball website at

While you’re at it, you should also join the War Room Sports Facebook page at and follow us on Twitter @WarRoomSports!

Finally, if you own an Android phone or tablet…an I-Phone, I-Pad, or I-Pod, please go to your Google Play and/or App Store and download the FREE War Room Sports mobile app!  It’s the VERY BEST way to stay up on all of our media content from one central location!