Fare game

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Coaches train a critical eye toward every dribble at The Peach Jam. They ponder whether or not a recruit might fit in with their team with every pass and shot.

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Cook Gracie Parks (left) and server Rosetta Cohen replenish the fried chicken as assistant coaches Reggie Rankin (upper left) of University of Dayton and James Holland of Alabama make their way through the line at Madison's Day Kitchen.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Cook Gracie Parks (left) and server Rosetta Cohen replenish the fried chicken as assistant coaches Reggie Rankin (upper left) of University of Dayton and James Holland of Alabama make their way through the line at Madison's Day Kitchen.

Those are tough calls. It's a good thing the lunch decision is a lay-up. Madison's Day Kitchen at The United House of Prayer is the top-ranked choice this week.

New Minnesota coach Tubby Smith calls it a "must-stop." He was turned on to the place by Augusta State athletic director Clint Bryant.

Smith favors the fried liver.

"It's down-home cooking and you can't help but love the atmosphere," Smith said, who also favors a steak at Augustino's. "Where else can you get some food that is spiritually lifting but at The United House of Prayer. I think it is the most wonderful place."

Pick any day during the Peach Jam. Then head to Madison's for lunch. There will be coaches swarming over barbecued ribs, catfish, collard greens and pig's feet as any game with all the hot prospects.

Madison's benefits from referrals that have sold coaches used to meals at country clubs and golf courses on expense accounts.

"One of my assistants brought me last year," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "I loved it. I've been coming ever since. I was here on Thursday and brought some more guys with me today. There's no place like this in Oklahoma. Or I've yet to find one if there is. "

Capel reeled in Duke assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski with a recommendation. The sight of Wojo eating soul food at Madison's is an image unto itself.

"I had the whiting fish," he said. "This is a good place. Good food. Good soul food. I like it."

Florida coach Billy Donovan has his own approach to the week. He rarely leaves North Augusta's Riverview Park Activities Center.

"I'm all business," Donovan said. "I only leave between the afternoon and evening sessions long enough to get a workout in."

Smith and the new Minnesota staff stayed at a cabin at the River Club this week. That's where Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun spends his mornings.

He loves to golf at Sage Valley but the travel time won't work. He usually plays nine holes on an early tee time before arriving for the morning's first games.

He shared a memory about what the week is about to him by pointing at the door of Gym 1 at the Activities Center.

"Right inside that door is where we found Caron Butler," Calhoun said. "Darius Miles was a prospect that year and he was going against Caron Butler. Caron scored 38 points that game and absolutely killed Darius Miles."

Butler was 18 months out of reform school. He was a part of a gang that was lifted out of a public high school and all sent to Maine Central Institute.

"I saw Caron inside that door and said we absolutely had to get that kid," Calhoun said. "I knew we had to have him. He became one of the greatest kids I've ever had. One of the greatest people I've ever been around. Now he's an All-Star. It all came out of a trip to North Augusta and a basketball game right on that gym floor."

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425

HAVING A PEACHY TIME

A sampling of the area places college basketball coaches enjoy while in town for the Peach Jam:

- Jim Calhoun, Connecticut: Mally's Bagels and Grits (now closed); Sage Valley Golf Course at Mt. Vintage Plantation

- Jeff Capel, Oklahoma: Madison's Day Kitchen at The United House of Prayer

- Billy Donovan, Florida: Prefers to work out during his free time at his hotel.

- Tubby Smith, Minnesota: Augustino's; Madison's Day Kitchen at The United House of Prayer

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