With the NBA Draft in the books we can officially put last season in the rear-view mirror. The top of the Draft was no surprise as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid went 1-2-3. Actually, most of the Draft was not particularly surprising, but there are a few things that caught our eye. Outside of Toronto drafting a player who is “two years away from being two years away”, we we surprised to see Gary Harris and Shabazz Napier slip so far. I don’t think either were guaranteed top-10 picks and Napier was probably a borderline lottery pick at best, but both probably went at least six spots lower than what we would have expected and teams in higher spots made moves to acquire players at similar positions who simply are not as good as these two.
The annual Coaches vs Cancer event announced their semifinal match-ups on Wednesday with Stanford playing UNLV and Duke playing Temple with the winners playing the following night. We would expect Stanford and Duke to meet although UNLV with all of its freshmen could surprise Stanford. If Stanford does advance (we are going to assume Duke will beat what should be a fairly mediocre Temple team) it would produce an interesting match-up between Mike Krzyzewski and Johnny Dawkins. We would not expect the Cardinal to be competitive with the Blue Devils based on talent alone although the Blue Devils may struggle integrating all of their new pieces early in the season. What would be interesting is seeing Krzyzewski face off against his former player, protege, and potential candidate to replace him if and when he does retire.
So maybe that soccer thing didn’t work out exactly how we wanted, but basketball is still a sport that we do not need to rely on other countries to advance. The US demonstrated its dominance with a 113-79 victory over Canada to win the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships. The victory was one of the closer games for the Americans as they won their five games by an average of almost 57 points per game including this 34-point win that made their average margin of victory plummet. As expected the Americans had a well-rounded attack. Despite what you might read about these wins and how certain players (not student-athletes until they are in college) played we would not read too much into it as they were playing against vastly inferior competition.
A significant college prospect was taken off the recruiting board on Wednesday when Georgios Papagiannis announced that he was signing with a Greek club rather than going to college. Papagiannis, a 7’1″ center was a consensus top-50 player in the class of 2015 and had already taken unofficial visits to Maryland and Penn State. His decision should not come as a shock to observers because foreign recruits provide another potential source of talent they also have a much higher likelihood of opting to play overseas rather than coming to college in the first place.
With the NBA Draft on everybody’s mind this week, CBS had its own draft, but did it for college coaches. As Gary Parrish, who wrote the accompanying article, notes there are many ways to define the best coach. For the purposes of this exercise they defined it as the best coach for the next five years. Most of the selections seem pretty reasonable, but we would question both Mike Krzyzewski (5th) and Kevin Ollie (22nd) slipping so far. Obviously Krzyzewski’s resume is better than his next five-year prospects, but he would have been in the top two in our draft if we had done one. As for Ollie, you can certainly point out that he was very close to getting eliminated early from this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the fact is that he wasn’t and he might be the most coveted NBA coaching prospect in the college ranks, which ought to count for something with recruiting in the future.
Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at email@example.com.
With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.
Rush the Court:Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?
Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.
Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)
RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?
Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.
Coming into the season Georgia State was already going to be the favorite in the Sun Belt and they became an even bigger favorite last week when the NCAA granted Kevin Ware a transfer waiver enabling him to play for Georgia State next season. Ware, who transferred from Louisville and is best known for his gruesome compound fracture in their 2013 Elite Eight game against Duke, will have two years of eligibility remaining. Even Ware never regains the explosiveness that made him a key piece of that Louisville title team he could be an important piece in a Georgia State team that already had one of the better backcourts in the country with both R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow returning.
If you remember the uproar created by Taylor Branch’s opus in The Atlantic nearly three years ago (here’s our Cliff Notes summary and our interview with Branch), one of his major points of contention was that schools only offer student-athletes one-year renewable scholarships. So in the event that the student-athlete is injured, doesn’t perform up to expectations, or the program decides to move in a different direction, the student-athlete is out of luck. Southern California may have taken one of the first steps to ending that practice by deciding to offer four-year scholarships in its “revenue sports”. Those sports will include football and men’s and women’s basketball. We are not sure what the actual effect of this will be (basically what percentage of student-athletes have their scholarships pulled on a year-to-year basis), but it is great PR for the school.
The NCAA released its attendance figures for the 2013-14 season last week. Outside of the big numbers like over 25 million tickets being sold to watch Division I basketball there were some interesting figures. On the macro side of it, attendance was down slightly from previous years–overall attendance decreased slightly (by 104 per game or 356,532 total) and NCAA Tournament attendance decreased too (more than 61,000)–although both can be attributed to a degree by the venues that the games were played in particularly in the case of the NCAA where the regional games were for the most part not played in gigantic domes. If you want a more detailed, but still big picture overview, check out Jeff Eisenberg’s post highlighting eight other key figures from the report.
With the Ed O’Bannon case playing out in court, it was interesting to see Kentucky sign a 15-year, $210 million multimedia marketing rights deal with JMI Sports. Although the deal does not include TV rights, it does include just about everything else for the school and puts it in-line with Alabama as the richest such contract in NCAA history for a school not giving up TV rights. With schools signing these kinds of deals and looking at other potential revenue streams (such as entertaining the idea of selling alcohol at games) it will be increasingly difficult for schools (particularly bigger ones) to argue against providing athletes with a share of the revenue.
With the NBA Draft just two days away there have been a few big updates over the past week both of which you have probably heard by now. The biggest news was Joel Embiid requiring surgery on his broken foot, which will likely make him miss the first part of the season and drop out of the top 3 in the Draft. The other news was that Isaiah Austin withdrew from the NBA Draft and will end his basketball career after being diagnosed with Marfan’s syndrome through what has been described as pre-Draft testing. We are not sure what triggered the work-up (reports say an EKG abnormality, but testing for Marfan’s based on that seems a bit extreme) or what about Austin’s presentation led them to tell him to stop playing–an aortic root problem is the only thing that we can think of–but at least Austin will not go away empty-handed as he had a $1 million insurance policy.
Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul, dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past January, Sean Miller and Arizona made waves by signing the top ranked shooting guard on the West Coast in Tyler Dorsey. At the time, the 6’4” Southern California native was ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 10 prospect in the class of 2015. With the commitment, it appeared as though the Wildcats were continuing their run on the top talent in California. Then in May, the Wildcats signed another 6’5” guard from California, in Justin Simon (No. 14 – 2015). During this time, Dorsey’s stock began to slip in the spring AAU season despite averaging 17.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game playing alongside some of the top talent on the West Coast. As a result, he then dropped down to a four-star recruit and No. 24 in the rankings. Rumors have been circulating about Dorsey’s commitment for the last month as Miller appeared interested in several other shooting guard prospects, including five-star guard Allonzo Trier (No. 15 – 2015), who was just offered a scholarship.
What’s next for both parties? Well, the Wildcats still have Simon on board and are going after a trio of five-stars in Trier, Isaiah Briscoe (No. 16 – 2015), and Antonio Blakeney (No. 20 – 2015). With Miller an assistant coach on the USA U-18 team, both Trier and Briscoe made the 12-man roster while Dorsey didn’t survive the first cut. As for Dorsey, he was heavily pursued prior to his Arizona commitment and will be tracked heavily by Pac-12 schools during the July recruiting period.
2. Loaded NBPA Top 100 Camp Kicks Off
The NBPA Top 100 camp kicked off earlier this week in Charlottesville, Virginia. Some of the top players in the country are brought in (mostly upperclassmen) for a four-day camp that features scrimmages and instruction on the court and a fair amount of life advice from former players and guest speakers off the court. Last year, center Cheick Diallo (No. 5 – 2015) won the MVP award, while players such as Myles Turner (Texas) and Isaiah Whitehead displayed (Seton Hall) their five-star skills. Diallo is back in action, as are some of the big names to know going forward, such as Ben Simmons (No. 2 – 2015), Thon Maker (No. 3 – 2016), and DeAndre Ayton (2017), among many others. With no consensus regarding the top-ranked players in the class of 2015 some of the match-ups that take place over the next few days could go a long way to determining where players stand going forward. One match-up to pay attention to is the point guard battle that will take place on Friday night between Junior Smith of North Carolina (#25 – 2016) and Seventh Woods (#8 – 2016) from South Carolina.
Most college sports fans probably aren’t following the day-by-day action in the Ed O’Bannon vs. the NCAA case taking place in Oakland, California, this month, and why would they? First of all, there’s no nifty “doink doink” Law & Order plot mover to let us know we are moving on to a more important part of the proceedings, and secondly, many people probably don’t believe that the outcome will amount to much change in their annual sports viewing habits anyway. Fair points, both, but if you’re interested in summarily catching up through the better part of two weeks of proceedings and following along in the future, SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel and Andy Staples have you covered with their daily updates. The big fish scheduled on the line this week, of course, is NCAA president Mark Emmert, who will be called to testify today and possibly beyond (if necessary). Emmert has been a staunch public supporter of the NCAA’s amateurism model throughout his four-year tenure, and you have to wonder if he will fall victim to fits of hubris while on the stand defending what is widely becoming disparaged as an indefensible system. His testimony could be a key tipping point in the ultimate outcome of this case, so keep an eye on it.
The underlying force driving the O’Bannon case, of course, is money. It’s always money, and specifically, who is getting their grubby little hands on it. To most Americans just getting by, the division of tens of millions of dollars between the NCAA, schools and the television networks doesn’t much move the needle — in their view, it’s just a case of rich people enriching other rich people. But even their fur gets a little raised when a clearly successful business model that can produce a third of a billion dollars (“B”) in a single year doesn’t give a taste of the steady stream of money to those whose backs on which all those dollars were made — the athletes. And yet, the Pac-12, as Dennis Dodd reported this week, produced $334 million in 2012-13 — the most of any conference in college sports history — disseminating around $18.5 million back to each school as a result. Once you start to add ticket sales, bowl games, NCAA Tournament shares and other revenue producers to each school’s athletic pie, you start to see some very large numbers generated at the bottom of the spreadsheet. Good luck with your arguments for amateurism, NCAA.
Kansas basketball got some really interesting news earlier this week when it was announced that Bill Self’s team will represent Team USA in next summer’s 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Typically, the WUG teams have consisted of some of the top rising stars in college basketball, but the all-star model with limited practice time for players to get to know each other has resulted in only one gold and two bronze medals in the last seven events (Team USA won six straight golds from 1989-99, for some perspective). The Jayhawks have another loaded team coming into next year’s college basketball season, but a number of those players such as Cliff Alexander and Wayne Selden, are unlikely to still be in uniform for international competition a year from now. Still, perhaps the knowledge of Self’s system and the resultant familiarity among the remaining players will allow Team USA to improve on its ninth-place finish in 2013. We can only hope.
It wouldn’t be summer without some transfer news, and there were a couple of name-brand players who found new destinations this week. First, LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a solid if not spectacular player whose senior-year scholarship was not “renewed” by head coach Johnny Jones in Baton Rouge, has resurfaced at Oklahoma State and was deemed eligible to play for the Cowboys immediately. This is a major boon for an upcoming year where head coach Travis Ford is in dire need of a reliable point guard after the losses of both Marcus Smart and Stevie Clark from his team. It may not save Ford’s job in Stillwater, but it gives him a fighting chance. In other news, Maryland guard Nick Fausthas decided to finish his career across the country at Long Beach State. Unlike Hickey, who took advantage of the NCAA’s “run-off” rule to become eligible for next season, Faust will have to sit out 2014-15 before playing his senior year with The Beach. We wish both the best of luck in their new environments.
You probably heard about the too-soon passing of the late great baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn earlier this week, and while every American sports fan recognizes the ridiculous batting prowess of the man who hit safely 3,141 times with a .338 average over two decades in the majors, they may not realize that Gwynn was a college hoops star before he ever became one of the friendliest and most beloved faces of Major League Baseball. As SI.com‘s Brian Hamilton explains in this piece, Gwynn to this day remains one of the best point guards to have ever played at San Diego State, a two-time all-WAC selection on the hardwood that featured the best single-season assist average in program history (8.2 APG in the 1979-80 season). We never saw him play hoops, but we have to imagine that he brought the same passion and respect for our game as he did to the baseball diamond. RIP, Tony Gwynn.
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name:Rodney Hood
NBA Position:Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Projected Draft Range:Mid First Round
On The Journey From Duke To The NBA, Rodney Hood’s Sweet Stroke Should Travel Well
Overview: It was Hood, not Jabari Parker, who was the Duke newcomer with the highest offensive rating last season (119.8 to Parker’s 111.7), and the Mississippi State transfer also doubled as the Blue Devils’ best perimeter defender to boot. The latter point may not be stating much on a team that finished 116th in defensive efficiency nationally, but Hood projects as a solid two-way player at the next level – something that may not necessarily be the case for his more-acclaimed former teammate. No, we aren’t starting a push for Hood to hear his name called before Parker’s on draft day, but the sophomore’s production to buzz ratio (the PTB?) clearly and quietly outdistanced that of Duke’s All-American. All year long, Hood showered in buckets from everywhere on the floor, shooting 49 percent from two-point range, 42 percent from three-point range, and 80 percent at the free throw stripe. He was also a capable ball-handler and passer for Coach K’s team (more assists than turnovers), and used his plus athleticism well enough on defense to earn Duke’s “Best Defensive Player Award” at the team banquet. His shooting touch may have eluded him at the most untimely of moments last season — he went just 2-of-10 from the field against Mercer in the Blue Devils’ shocking second round NCAA Tournament ouster — but Hood made quite the impression in his one and only season in Durham. He will almost surely be overshadowed by Parker one final time on draft night, but green room attendants should make room for two Dukies, because the 2014 lottery could very likely house both Hood and Parker.
Doug Gottlieb has made his skepticism of Aaron Gordon’s NBA upside very clear. Check the following tweets for a glance at his feelings on the matter, and dig further through his timeline for more on the topic.
Aaron Gordon a top 5/10 pick? I must be missing something- great motor,no position,can’t shoot,doesn’t want to post up — someone explain?
To be clear, these are perfectly reasonable opinions. And, just like I did back in the preseason when I questioned Gottlieb’s pick of California as the #10 team in the nation in his preseason poll, I’ll freely admit that Gottlieb is more often right than wrong and has probably forgotten more about the sport than I’ll ever know.
Gottlieb’s argument on Gordon boils down to the fact that the Arizona product is a tweener who can’t shoot the ball from distance nor score in the post. All of those points are perfectly reasonable. It’s true that at this time we’re not sure if Gordon will project as an undersized four or a powerful three at the next level. It’s also true that Gordon’s shot is, at best, a work in progress; personally I called it an offense that would make baby Jesus cry. And it is additionally true that Gordon is, let’s say, unpolished around the paint; his points in college came either from putbacks or athletic plays against overmatched defenders. I won’t make a single argument against any of those points.
There may not be a bigger question mark at any position for a given team in the Big 12 than the point guard spot at Kansas. After Naadir Tharpe left the program, paving the way for signee Devonte‘ Graham to enroll in Lawrence, the question moved from “who will play at the point?” to “how will the freshman fare?” First-year point guards have rarely led the way for Bill Self’s teams at Kansas, so Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star is here to give the lowdown on the winding story of how Graham and Kansas matched up with one another. If Graham doesn’t pick things up in the Jayhawks’ system early, Self will again be left to his backup options of Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp.
A pair of Iowa State Cyclones have had some run-ins with the law recently, earning sophomore guard Matt Thomas and Southern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader indefinite suspensions after each was cited for driving while intoxicated at different points in the offseason. As stupid of a decision as it is to drive while drunk, it would be a surprise if head coach Fred Hoiberg held either player out of game action once the season gears up. Still, both players have opportunities to make big impacts for the Cyclones next season, so it would be in everyone’s best interests for them to remain out of trouble off the court.
Roughly one year ago, Stevie Clark was unofficially anointed the point guard in-waiting of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, after encountering a couple of legal incidents himself, Travis Ford dismissed him from the team, leaving an opening for a new floor general. Former LSU point guard Anthony Hickey is set to join the Cowboys and could fill that role as a transfer, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to get a waiver to play immediately. He has some makeup questions of his own, but if he is ruled eligible and realizes the opportunity in front of him, he could play a big part in steadying the Cowboys’ ship after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign.
Last week, Kansas State rolled out its finalized non-conference schedule for the 2014-15 season, and while it isn’t a juggernaut, it looks plenty daunting. The Wildcats have two true road games (at Long Beach State and at Tennessee), and Bruce Weber‘s team will head out to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational. This year’s field will be competitive as usual, with Arizona, San Diego State, Pittsburgh and Purdue among the competitors, but another interesting potential showdown could involve former Big 12 member Missouri. Last season, the Wildcats had to make up for some embarrassing early losses, but with an improved squad, they’ll obviously look for a much better showing this time around as they get ready for what lies ahead later in the season.
In another scheduling tidbit, Baylor learned the team it will face in its Thanksgiving tournament, as the Bears will square off against Memphis in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena on November 27 and will face either Illinois or Indiana State the following evening. In the aftermath of the losses of Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip from last year’s team, the Bears will need to make hay early if they are to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in the program’s history.
One of the major criticisms of conference realignment was that it would effectively kill many of the major rivalries that help drive college basketball. One of the best to supposedly disappear was the Syracuse–Georgetown rivalry. It turns out that did not last too long as the two schools reached an agreement to resume the rivalry in the 2015-16 season. The two sides agreed to a home-and-home deal with the first game at Georgetown and the two teams playing at Syracuse the following season. We hope this starts a trend where schools revive rivalries that ended with conference realignment.
The Bruce Pearl experiment is already reaping benefits for Auburn even if Pearl is still technically under his show-cause penalty. Pearl already picked up Kareem Canty in the most confusing transfer this season and earlier this week he got a commitment from Niagara transfer Antoine Mason. Mason, the son of former NBA star Anthony Mason, averaged 25.6 points per game as a junior, which was second in the nation to only Doug McDermott. Mason might only have one year of eligibility left, but he is a huge pick-up for the Tigers as he will be able to play immediately thanks to a graduate student waiver.
Michigan State lost some big pieces this offseason with the departures of Keith Appling, Adreian Payne, and Gary Harris, but they picked up a big transfer in Eron Harris. The West Virginia transfer averaged 17.2 points per game as a sophomore and will sit out this season, but has two more years of eligibility remaining. Harris reportedly chose Michigan State over Michigan and Purdue. Although the Spartans will take a step back next year with all of their departures we would not expect them to stay down for long with Tom Izzo and with Harris coming in a year they should have a major talent infusion.
You might not have heard of Igor Ibaka before, but you can probably guess from his last name that he is the younger brother of Oklahoma City star Serge (ok, maybe the younger brother part might be kind of hard to figure out. Ibaka, who has played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, has committed to play at Oklahoma State after averaging 13.7 points and 9.6 rebounds as a freshman at the junior college. He might seem like a very promising prospect given his pedigree, but we would caution you that he will be 22 in July, which is why he cannot play for a junior college team. According to reports, Ibaka plans on spending the next year finishing up his associates degree then transferring to Oklahoma State in time to play the 2015-16 season.
Jim Larranaga probably will never coach a Miami team as good as the one that the 2012-13 team, but he is putting together a pretty solid group of recruits. His latest addition is Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy who will be transferring to Miami with two years of eligibility remaining. Murphy averaged 6.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game last year as a sophomore. Murphy will be one of the rare breed of transfers these days in that he will sit out the upcoming season and be eligible to play in the 2015-16 season. We are not sure what how Larranaga has done it, but he appears to have some kind of Big 12 transfer pipeline as Murphy will be joining Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez and Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan on the Hurricane roster.
Finishing off the group, we’re going through each Pac-12 team one by one to recount the season and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Cal.
What Went Right
Seniors Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon turned in their best seasons in their careers in Berkeley; there was some promising production out of the freshman class; and the Golden Bears got off to a promising 5-0 start in conference play, with three of those wins coming on the road. Heading into the tail end of January, it looked for all the world that it would be Cal – rather than some of the other league teams like Oregon, UCLA and Colorado, each of which had flashed a little leg earlier in the season – that would have the best chance to challenge Arizona’s presumed dominance in the conference.
In Mike Montgomery’s Final Year On The Sidelines, The Golden Bears Underachieved (credit: Doug Benc)
What Went Wrong
But, on the heels of that optimism, the Golden Bears went to USC and lost in a terrible effort, allowing a bad Trojans team to cut through their defense without much effort. Mike Montgomery’s squad was never the same after that point. They took advantage of a rowdy Saturday night home crowd and an injury to Brandon Ashley to knock off Arizona a couple weeks later, but won only four more games the rest of the way (they lost nine of their last 14 games) prior to an NIT invitation. The root causes of this failure are many, but relying on freshmen like Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews for offensive firepower did not help things. Tyrone Wallace, despite showing tremendous improvement in his sophomore campaign, was still inconsistent. And the frontcourt of Solomon and junior David Kravish never really scared anyone.