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Lords of the Hoops: USA U19s Win Gold In Worlds

Get lost, Frodo and company.  Liv Tyler, you can stay.  But recognize, today, it’s the USA U19s who are the toast of New Zealand.

In an event we’ve had a fun time following this summer at RTC, the USA Under-19 squad took the gold medal at the Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand over the weekend, going a perfect 9-0 for the tournament.  Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) led the Americans with 18p/2r/6a/5s in the finals against the U19s from Greece, with UTEP’s Arnett Moultrie adding 10p/9r/2a.  The USA placed two players on the All-Tournament Team (which, in New Zealand, is apparently called the “All-Star Five”), namely Taylor, and Butler’s Gordon Hayward.  The title is the Americans’ first in this competition since 1991.  Incidentally, if you’d like another name to watch out for (we had previously told you about Rutgers’ Mike Rosario who played for the Puerto Rico U19s and the 54 he plopped on last-place France), don’t forget Croatia’s Mario Delas.  He was named the tournament’s MVP and is currently set to go 18th on nbadraft.net’s 2011 mock draft.

Sing it proud, guys.  (Credit:  usabasketball.com)

Sing it proud, guys. (Credit: usabasketball.com)

The final against Greece was indicative of the entire tournament for the US squad in that it was a true team effort.  In the final, all but one player on the team played at least 11 minutes and there were seven players who contributed at least seven points.  Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) crafted a US team with players suited for those crazy, confounded international rules, not to mention one that produced an extremely balanced attack, and they brought home the hardware.

Of course, the big question is what each individual player will take from this experience — besides a sweet gold medal which looks a little like a NYC subway MetroCard tied to a lanyard, and what I’m sure are some lovely photos of the NZ countryside — and how he’ll apply it to the rest of his college career.  Travel of this nature can only help to broaden a young man’s mind; and we all know that everyone wants to beat the tar out of the United States whenever they get the chance and that everyone guns for us.  That’s a sentiment some guys on this team (like Taylor from Kansas, Darius Miller from Kentucky, eventually Seth Curry from Duke) might be used to, and while that environment provides invaluable experience for everyone involved, it’s especially good for players from smaller programs.  Doesn’t look like Moultrie or Hayward had a problem with it, eh?  It’ll also be interesting to see if Southern Illinois makes a jump forward this year with Lowery having spent quality time around two of the best in the business in Dixon and Painter.  In any event, great work all around, gentlemen!  Enjoy showin’ off the new bling.

Conference Tournament Primer: Sun Belt Conference

Championship Fortnight continues with the last five conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and WAC.

Dates: March 13-16
Site: New Orleans Lakefront Arena (New Orleans, LA)

SunBelt

What to expect: Georgia State won the regular season Sun Belt title by five games and will be the clear-cut favorite in New Orleans. The Panthers are lethal on the offensive end, led by a pair of guards – coach’s son R.J. Hunter and Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow – who average more than 17 points per night and rarely turn the ball over. They rank among the 25 most efficient offenses in the country, a scoring prowess that enabled them to win 14 straight games earlier this year (school record) and finish 17-1 in the conference. However, the top seed has not won this tournament since 2009, including a recent stretch of three-straight champions seeded fifth or worse, and talent does exist elsewhere — Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton is a legitimate NBA prospect, while his frontcourt teammate Shawn Long averages 19 points and 10 boards a night. Arkansas State and the Ragin’ Cajuns both gave Georgia State trouble in the regular season. Western Kentucky, meanwhile, has a chance to win this tournament for the third straight year. Any one of those three could spoil the Panthers’ outstanding run.

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Rasheed Sulaimon Crescendos While Quinn Cook Spirals

Rasheed Sulaimon came into this season with high expectations for himself, as did most all of college basketball and Duke fans. Sulaimon had averaged 11.6 PPG in 29 minutes per game as a freshman and was coming back better than before, surrounded by even more talent. The shooting guard position seemed to be Sulaimon’s to lose as well, with freshman and fellow Texas native Matt Jones the only other true shooting guard on the roster. Sulaimon was riding an extreme high after his very successful freshman campaign and his gold medal winning summer on the U-19 USA Team, making him a back-to-back gold medal winner. There were even whispers of the 6’4” Texan making the leap to the NBA, but his draft stock never firmly solidified itself in the first round.

Rasheed Sulaimon rises up to send it to OT versus unbeaten Syracuse (Footbasket.com)

Rasheed Sulaimon rises up to send it to OT versus unbeaten Syracuse. (Footbasket.com)

Unfortunately for Sulaimon, this type of performance didn’t materialize and surrounded by talented offensive threats like Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, he wasn’t having the ball in his hands as much as he would’ve preferred. Sulaimon made his living as a slasher his freshman year, darting into the lane and creating his own shots. With shooters and primary offensive options like Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly spotting up, this worked well for last year’s Duke team. But with Parker doing exactly that at a much higher clip, those lanes were shut down and a lot of touches for Sulaimon were disappearing. Instead of adapting to a new style of play and efficiently playing alongside Hood and Parker, Sulaimon resisted and was thrown into Coach K’s doghouse where he stayed up until recently, even chalking up a dreaded DNP-CD in December against Michigan. Sulaimon didn’t exactly “break out” immediately after that game versus Michigan, playing only 5 minutes versus Gardner Webb. But since the December 19 game versus UCLA, Sulaimon has been improving and playing with a newfound sense of confidence, outside of two outliers at Clemson and Pittsburgh. Read the rest of this entry »

Big 12 M5: 11.27.13 Edition

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  1. For Bob Huggins and West Virginia to rebound after a dreadful season last year, improved point guard play this season was identified by Huggins in the preseason as a must. That responsibility falls on junior guard Juwan Staten. In a 78-60 win over Old Dominion on Tuesday in the Cancun Challenge, Staten finished with 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting while dishing out 9 assists against just one turnover. West Virginia will play tomorrow in the championship game against the winner of St. Louis and Wisconsin, who will provide a formidable test for the Mountaineers to determine how they stack up against some of the better teams in the nation.
  2. On Monday, Gary Bedore of KUSports.com explored the possibility of Kansas head coach Bill Self replacing Mike Krzyzewski as head coach of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team when Mike Krzyzewski hangs up the whistle in his Olympic coaching career after the 2016 games. Self, however, doesn’t feel the possibility is very realistic with names like Doc Rivers and Greg Popovich also thrown out as replacements. During the offseason, Self addressed the possibility of eventually coaching at the NBA level, saying if given the opportunity, he might be tempted to consider it. After landing the Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor duo who teamed up for the USA U19 team, it’s hard to argue that Krzyzewski’s involvement in USA Olympic hoops hasn’t at least benefited in a small way his recruiting at Duke.
  3. After struggling to a 3-3 start against what was considered to be a fairly soft non-conference schedule, Kansas State will look to use the short Thanksgiving break to regroup as their schedule intensifies with a home match-up against 3-0 Ole Miss on December 5, followed by a neutral site (although only by definition) tilt with Gonzaga on December 5 in Wichita, Kansas. Through the first six games, Bruce Weber’s squad has averaged 62.7 points per game, ranking 326 in the nation out of 351 teams. If there’s a silver lining for Wildcat fans, Weber’s complicated motion offense took a bit of time last season before really clicking and helping K-State finish in a tie for first place in the Big 12.
  4. We talked Monday about the suspension of Oklahoma State freshman guard Stevie Clark, and on Tuesday, head coach Travis Ford released a statement on the situation, saying that Clark was not with the Cowboys due to personal matters and continues to be a valued member of the Cowboy basketball family. On Monday, there was a thought that perhaps Clark had left the team, although his mother denied the rumor. Regardless, his departure from the Oklahoma State lineup will be something to keep an eye on moving forward and whether it has a significant impact on the Cowboys’ overall play.
  5. Speaking of Oklahoma State point guards, if you haven’t had a chance to see this yet, take a look at the 70-foot shot Marcus Smart drilled to end the first half against South Florida on Monday night. Smart picked right up where he left off against Memphis, scoring 23 points in the first half and 25 total to go along with four assists and four steals in a 93-67 rout. Smart’s intensity early this season appears to be destined to remind everyone that he’s still among the best in college basketball this year.

Morning Five: 07.10.13 Edition

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  1. Summer is the season for college basketball players to improve themselves. Whether that means lonely nights in the gym getting up thousands of shots, long hours in the weight room fantasizing about drawing contact and-1, or organized games against real teams from other countries, the point is the same. Get better. The FIBA U-19 World Championships featured a number of players either entering or returning to our game next season, and Mike DeCourcy breaks down the top eight performers from the Prague, Czech Republic, event where Team USA won gold. The article is in the dreaded slideshow format, but we’ll offer an olive branch in that DeCourcy actually writes a good several-paragraph narrative about each player — in other words, the click-throughs are worthwhile. And that Aaron Gordon kid headed to Arizona? He’s going to cause quite a stir next season, even though he’s one of the few impact freshman who won’t be residing in Lawrence, Lexington or Durham. 
  2. So who’s got next? We’ll find out very soon, as the first of three separate key four-day recruiting windows for college coaches opens this afternoon at 5 PM ET. For a nice primer on the where, the who, and the when, as well as the key storylines and coaches feeling the most pressure to perform, CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Borzello hooks it up with a comprehensive analysis. The biggest thing we’re interested in over the next few weeks are any tells that the Class of 2014’s top two prospects — Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones — end up as a package deal somewhere. It’s extremely rare that the top two players in a single class view themselves as an inseparable and dynamic duo, but that very well could be the case with these two. He also touches on the difficulties that new Butler head coach Brandon Miller faces, as well as UCLA’s Steve Alford and Minnesota’s Richard Pitino. Fair points, all. (Side note from the get-off-my-lawn crowd: Can we lose the recruitnik notion of the shortened usage of the word “commit” to refer to “commitment?” Commit is a verb. Seriously, there’s no gray area here.)
  3. One of DeCourcy’s summer stars at the U-19 was Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, and the defending national champions have managed to stay in the news in a variety of ways lately. The best news we’ve perhaps heard all summer is that Kevin Ware and His Broken Leg are rehabilitating at a phenomenal pace, so much so that head coach Rick Pitino believes that his rising junior will be ready to play basketball again in October. It turns out that the doctors who said the clean break of his femur was actually somehow a “good” thing compared to the alternatives were exactly on point. Pitino’s comments were made at a press conference announcing that Louisville’s 2013 Final Four floor will be auctioned off in pieces to raise money for pediatric cancer research and care. Kentucky did a similar thing last year — proving, once again, that these two programs will stop at nothing to one-up the other, even in causes of virtue — raising over $200,000 in the process.
  4. The old adage is to follow the money, and in the case of North Carolina’s PJ Hairston and his association with Haydn Thomas and his propensity for spending tens of thousands of dollars on rental cars (seriously, who does that?), the flow of cash keeps getting more interesting. USA Today Sports reported on Tuesday that four of Thomas’ (or his roommate Catinia Farrington’s) rental vehicles had received a total of nine unpaid parking tickets on the UNC campus between the dates of February 22 and May 28 of this year. And yet, Haydn in previous media reports said that he has no association with the school and doesn’t even like the Tar Heels. Roy Williams, for his part, is waiting until all “the facts are in,” and so is everyone else. But isn’t there really only one question that matters here — what is Hairston’s true relationship with Haydn and why is he driving around committing crimes in Haydn’s vehicles?
  5. Conference realignment has been largely viewed as a pox upon their houses by most of us in the college basketball community over the last several years, as traditional basketball leagues have been folded, spindled and mutilated into something resembling nothing like their former selves. But as ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil writes, “what if we were all wrong?” Her point is that the basketball armageddon that we all foresaw may not have actually come to fruition. The ACC, always and forever at its heart a basketball league, has improved its stock substantially with the addition of basketball schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse, not to mention a strong Notre Dame program (with Louisville to come). The new Big East is all about roundball, with Creighton, Butler and Xavier joining a strong group of the Catholic Seven headlined by stalwarts Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova. Even the national darling Mountain West added Utah State, a strong and well-supported program that will challenge the likes of San Diego State, New Mexico and the rest for wildest fan base. While we’re not completely sold that all these moves are for the greater benefit of the sport, what choice do we have? Let’s lace ‘em up and see what happens.

Team USA’s U-19 Title Hints at an Awesome Upcoming Season

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The hype leading up to the 2013-14 college basketball season will be immense. It already sort of is, when you really think about it: Andrew Wiggins’ announcement to join Kansas set the college hoops world aflame. Duke’s Jabari Parker was plastered on the cover a Sports Illustrated magazine comparing him to LeBron James. Kentucky’s recruiting class is being described in the loftiest echelons of hyperbolic recruiting praise. A host of talented sophomores spurned probable NBA riches for another go with their respective college outfits. Everything about the upcoming season looks great. I can’t wait.

A championship run at the FIBA world championships is yet another testament to the quality and depth of the young talent college hoops will have on offer this season (Craig Miller, USA Today).

A championship run at the FIBA world championships is yet another testament to the quality and depth of the young talent college hoops will have on offer this season (Craig Miller, USA Today).

Over the weekend, some of the USA’s best players age 19 and under put those expectations on the line in international competition, and held serve in convincing fashion. Team USA beat Serbia Sunday, 82-68, to earn the gold medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championships. Taking home first prize was no guarantee for the Red, White, and Blue, who have won just three of the last eight U-19 FIBA crowns, including 2011’s lamentable fifth-place finish. International basketball – and all the well-coached, cohesively groomed, fundamentally-drilled international players, international rules, and international travel quirks compacted within – is an entirely different breed of hoops. Former US teams as high as the senior level have struggled to adapt to FIBA-regulated play, and this team, for all its massive talent advantages, was not immune to those very same issues. Basketball’s recent popularity worldwide – plus, you know, us not winning every single time we step on the floor – has made one fact exceedingly clear: There are no foregone conclusions in international basketball. Team USA’s U-19 group was not willing to make any.

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Morning Five: 07.09.13 Edition

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  1. There were a couple of big moves involving players that will be eligible to play next season. The biggest involves Memphis who announced that incoming freshman Kuran Iverson had been cleared academically by the NCAA to play this season. Iverson, a 6’9″ forward who is ranked in the top 40 by most recruiting services and happens to be the cousin of Allen Iverson, can add quite a bit to the Tigers lineup that is still waiting to hear if Michael Dixon and Rashawn Powell will be eligible to play. At this point it seems like neither will be eligible to play, which makes the addition of Iverson even bigger. The other move, which is also pretty significant, but is of a shorter duration involves Arizona State, which picked up Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall, who will be graduating next month and can play for the Sun Devils this coming season. Picking up a player of Marshall’s talent (averaged 15.3 points per game in the Big Ten) is a huge addition for a team that has hopes of contending in the Pac-12 next year. It will be interesting to see how committed Marshall is to the team since he initially was planning on going to Europe rather than look at another college. If his minutes dwindle or he struggles to fit in with his new teammates, we wonder how long it will take him to start looking at international flights out of Phoenix.
  2. Coming off a surprising Final Four appearance Wichita State appears to be flying high. Their hiring of Steve Forbes as an assistant coach might not register with casual fans, but it is quite a pick-up. You may remember Forbes from his time at Tennessee as an assistant before he received a one-year show-cause penalty for being evasive when NCAA authorities tried to investigate Bruce Pearl’s meeting with Aaron Craft at a cookout. Forbes had served as head coach at Northwest Florida State (a junior college) and becomes the first member of Pearl’s former staff to get a Division 1 job. Wichita State should benefit from Forbes’ experience as one of the top recruiters in the nation.
  3. This past Friday a US District Court Judge ruled that the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon case can amend the lawsuit to include a current NCAA athlete as a plaintiff. Of course, the obvious concern for any athlete would be that the NCAA will single out this individual for additional investigations that the individual would not otherwise be subjected to. Yesterday, the lawyers leading the anti-trust lawsuit sent the NCAA a letter asking the NCAA to agree that no such actions will be taken against such an individual and that joining the lawsuit would not jeopardize the individual’s eligibility. In theory this is nice, but we have a hard time believing that the NCAA would give a current athlete blanket immunity and since they will not we suspect that they will miraculously stumble upon evidence that leads to an investigation of that individual.
  4. Winning international titles might have been a foregone conclusion for the US National Team for years, but as we have seen in recent years that is not necessarily the case particularly when we are not sending our “A” team. So the Under-19 team winning the World Championship is certainly worth celebrating even if it will not get mentioned in most sports sections. The team, which was led by Billy Donovan, Shaka Smart, and Tony Bennett, defeated Serbia 82-68 to win the gold medal. Arizona fans will be particularly pleased with the performance of Aaron Gordon who was named Tournament MVP. Gordon was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Jahil Okafor (class of 2014; uncommitted). We expect several players from this team–primarily rising freshmen and sophomores–to have big seasons including Marcus Smart, who did not make the All-Tournament Team, but will probably be a Preseason First-Team All-American.
  5. With the World University Games going on most college basketball fans will be paying attention to the performances of some college stars, but as Andy Glockner points out the more interesting aspect might be the shot clock. It seems like we hear every year about how scoring is down in college basketball and how decreasing the shot clock from 35 seconds to 24 seconds would speed up the game and increase scoring. As Glockner points out international competitions use the 24-second shot clock and from the comments of many college players and coaches it seems that they prefer the 35-second shot clock. It may seem obvious that they would prefer something that they are used to, but the argument that Colorado coach Tad Boyle makes about a shorter shot clock making the game more homogeneous in terms of playing style is an interesting one. In the end, the NCAA should probably base their decision on the length of the shot clock around what makes it a better product for the public, but we are guessing that coaches will prefer to keep the status quo even if it hurts the popularity of the game.

Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

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  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.

One Name Sticks Out On The Finalized U-19 Team USA Roster

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Most Team USA basketball gatherings come with a lulling standard disclaimer: we, the United States of America, produce the best basketball players in the world. We’re better than you. I like saying that today, because as the game sinks its teeth into burgeoning hoops hotbeds in far-flung locales across this here planet we call Earth, other nations are catching up. Before you know it, there will be Yao Mings and Dirk Nowitzkis and Tony Parkers sprouting up left and right, and my proclamation won’t sound so secure. Maybe we’ll actually enter international basketball events with serious doubts over our talent and athletic advantages. After all, hastily throwing a group of NBA superstars without a savvy coach to meld them into one consistent whole can, as we learned through humbling defeats at recent Pre-Coach K Team USA Tournament events, pose losing-sized problems and nation-sized freakouts. Not to worry: the day where Spain and Argentina and Russia become our competitive equals on the hardwood are a long way down the road. Our hegemony over Dr. Naismith’s game is safe for now.

Familiar names line the U-19 Team USA Roster. Elfrid Payton is not one of them (AP).

Familiar names line the U-19 Team USA Roster. Elfrid Payton is not one of them (AP Photo).

Ensuring that relative strength extends down on through the youth ranks is especially important, and if you’re interested in seeing at least a prospective few of the next generation of Dream Team legends – some players opted against participating in the Team USA festivities – Tuesday’s announcement of the final cuts on the U-19 Team USA roster might be something worth looking into. Check out that list. Depending on how closely you follow recruiting, most of these names should be familiar to you. The most recognizable name is Marcus Smart, and you definitely don’t need me to tell you why. Rasheed Sulaimon had a nice freshman season for Duke and looks ready to help the Jabari Parker-upgraded Blue Devils make a real run at the Final Four this season. Jerami Grant could be this year’s version of Michael Carter-Williams in that, much like MCW, he is a highly touted recruit who played backup minutes as a freshman (he started a few games while James Southerland was overcoming his mid-season academic eligibility roadblock), but will benefit from a massive spike in floor time his sophomore year. Montrezl Harrell is an electric frontcourt presence you probably remember best for doing this in the midst of the Spike Albrecht-spawned insanity of the first half of the national championship game. For the recruitniks, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow need no introduction. Across the board, even when you account for all the players who opted against participating, there are well-known, well-established, stars-in-waiting talents ready to compete –and hopefully, hammer home the idea that our international hoops dominance, so prominent under Coach K’s guidance, is birthed in the grassroots levels – for national pride against some of the best foreign amateurs in the world.

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Morning Five: 06.19.13 Edition

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  1. You may just be wiping the epic Game 6 of the Spurs-Heat out of your blurry eyes this morning, but it turns out that all the stars and incredible plays by the professionals making plays in The Finals doesn’t represent the only wow-factor surrounding the basketball world this week. As CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish reported yesterday, Canadian wunderkind Andrew Wiggins showed up in Lawrence, Kansas, for the his year-in-residence earlier this week, and already the reviews of the superstar recruit’s work ethic and talent are off the charts. Good news for Jayhawks fans: According to this KUSports.com report, the school also announced on Tuesday that its new contract with Time Warner to broadcast its third-tier television rights will ensure that Kansas fans around the country (and general college basketball fans wanting to see Wiggins) have more access than ever before (you have to read through the comments to understand it, but it’s there).
  2. Georgetown basketball hasn’t had the best 2013 thus far, given the embarrassing defeat to Florida Gulf Coast in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, the subsequent loss of superstar Otto Porter to the NBA, and Tuesday’s devastating news that rising star Greg Whittington — who was academically ineligible for the spring semester, missing the FCGU debacle — has torn the ACL in his left knee and could be out for all of next season. In 13 games last season, the lithe Whittington averaged 12/7 along the front line as he and Porter shored up John Thompson III’s lockdown defense. Even without the return of Porter, good things were predicted for next year’s Hoyas with Whittington joining returnees Markel Starks, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and Nate Lubick as a talented and experienced core to compete in the new Big East. Without Whittington available, Georgetown appears to be a bit light on offensive ability unless someone unforeseen steps up.
  3. A couple of years ago, we wrote this piece about an “all-world junior” at UNC-Asheville who happened to be the high-rising son of Grammy-winning rock legend Bruce Hornsby. Keith Hornsby enjoyed a pedestrian but solid freshman campaign before exploding to become a second team all-Big South selection as a sophomore, where he averaged 15/4/3 APG while shooting 38 percent from deep and a ridiculous 92.5 percent (second nationally) from the foul line. With the resignation of his head coach Eddie Biedenbach after the season, Hornsby decided it was time to move on. He announced on Tuesday that he will transfer to LSU, choosing the Tigers over NC State and St. Mary’s. Although he must sit out the required transfer year, this is potentially a very nice transfer pickup for Tigers’ head coach Johnny Jones, who is accumulating a good amount of talent down in Baton Rouge.
  4. Stories like these are part of the reason we love college basketball. Meet Elfrid Payton, one of the 12 players to make the U-19 USA Basketball team. The rising junior at Louisiana-Lafayette had absurd all-around numbers last season — 16/6/6 APG/2 SPG as an all-Sun Belt second team selection — but it was his play in the Team USA tryouts that has been turning people’s heads. As Mike DeCourcy reports, Payton’s exceptional athletic ability on the defensive end allows him to guard three positions along the perimeter, and his offensive talents have ensured that he will find playing time on a group that includes Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, and Washington’s Nigel Williams-Goss in the backcourt. We’re definitely excited to see this kid’s progression after this summer’s experience.
  5. Not everybody in this business was busy watching the the NBA last night, as Michigan head coach John Beilein made some time to visit Detroit’s Comerica Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of the Tigers-Orioles game. Wearing his college number (#35), he said that former Detroit great Al Kaline gave him a sage piece of advice to avoid embarrassing himself: “Throw it high.” His toss found the catcher’s mitt without issue, and he used the opportunity to share some of the thoughts he had on the Wolverines’ scintillating run to the national title game in April. His key takeaway: Enjoy it more. Wisdom, Beilein-style.

Morning Five: 06.17.13 Edition

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  1. We are not sure what to make of Jerome Seagers and his decision to transfer from Rutgers to Auburn then back to Rutgers in less than two months in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal and claims that he left Auburn because he wanted to be closer to his family in Maryland while recovering from his time at Rutgers. Basically the entire thing does not make any sense, which is how we often feel about many of these transfers. As you would expect Seagers will be eligible to play next season for Rutgers since he never played for Auburn although with the way the NCAA enforces rules we would not have been shocked if they made him sit out a year for his indecisiveness.
  2. With Ricky Ledo having sat out last season we had almost forgotten about him, but it appears that NBA scouts have not as the Providence freshman is getting plenty of workouts from NBA teams. Ledo, who was a partial qualifier, worked out with the Providence team last season and according to Providence coach Ed Cooley often played the role of the best player on the opposing team thanks to his skill set, which was certainly well above any of the Providence non-starters. We don’t think that Ledo’s presence last season would have made them a NCAA Tournament team last season, but if he performs well in the NBA you can be sure that more than a few Providence fans will be asking themselves what might have been if he had been able to wear a Friar uniform.
  3. We are never sure what to make of how college players perform at the international level or even in tryouts. Many times they can be an indication of a player making a leap to another level, but there have been many cases where players do not carry over that solid play to their college teams. The same can be said of poor performances. Still the decision by the USA U-19 National Team to cut Rodney Purvis and Shaq Goodwin from the team that they made last summer is an interesting one. As Mike DeCourcy notes both omissions were surprising given the way that Purvis performed in workouts and the lack of interior depth the team had that should have assured Goodwin a spot on the roster. While the team lacks a big college star outside of Marcus Smart it does contain an intriguing mix of players who would seem poised to become stars on their teams next season.
  4. The recruitment of Michael Chandler will be interesting because it was just two years ago that he was a top-50 recruit and a top-five center in the class of 2011. Of course, that was before he was declared academically ineligible and had to go to junior college ending up at Northwest Florida State where he averaged 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Even though some players particularly centers take a while to develop those are pretty uninspiring numbers from a player at that level trying to play Division I basketball. Still it appears Chandler has plenty of suitors including Purdue. Given Chandler’s output at the junior college level we would be surprised if he ended up being much more than a marginal contributor at the high-major level.
  5. On the other end of the spectrum we have Kadeem Allen, a first-team JUCO All-American, who has drawn interest from Arizona, Kansas, and Oklahoma State. Last week, Arizona formally extended Allen a scholarship offer. We don’t pretend to follow the JUCO scene that closely (our comments on Chandler were reflective of his low production not his actual game), but the people we follow who know the JUCO scene seem to believe that he is a high-major player and his first-team status suggests that is at least a reasonable possibility. Allen will spend another year at the JUCO level before heading to Division I, but he could be an interesting addition to whatever team he winds up playing for.

Morning Five: 06.11.13 Edition

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  1. Coming into this season Scottie Wilbekin‘s starting job was in peril with the arrival of talented freshman Kasey Hill at Florida, but you might have reasonably expected that the rising senior could bank on his experience and maturity to give him an edge in playing time. That is until Wilbekin was suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules. This is not the first time that Wilbekin has been suspended indefinitely in the off-season as he faced a similar suspension last year and ended up missing the first three games of last season. We have no idea what Wilbekin was suspended for and if it is related to his suspension last year, but it places Billy Donovan in a difficult situation on both what to do with Wilbekin as well as how to ease Hill into the starting point guard job as we would expect Wilbekin to miss at least a few games at the start of the season if the infraction was significant enough to warrant the team disclosing it in June.
  2. It should not come as too much of a surprise but Andrew Wiggins will not be playing for the Canadian national team this summer. Wiggins like many of his American contemporaries is passing on the opportunity to play for his country’s U19 team at the FIBA World Championships. Like them Wiggins will be trying to get an early start on his college experience and given how brief Wiggins’ stay is expected to be that makes sense. Of course we do not expect this will have any long-term repercussions for Wiggins in terms of being named to future Canadian national teams as he is essentially viewed as the future of the sport in the country.
  3. Even in the crazed world of college transfers the decision by Jerome Seagers to back out of his transfer to Auburn is a curious move. Seagers, who averaged 6.5 points and 2.6 assists per game last season, announced his transfer from Rutgers to Auburn in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal. Now a month later Seagers has decided that Auburn is not the ideal destination for him. We will probably never be sure of the reason why Seagers decided to back out of the transfer, but according to Auburn the stated reason is that  “he hadn’t truly recovered emotionally from his time at Rutgers.” Whatever the reason is for his decision it will be interesting to see where Seagers ends up, but from the school’s statement it would appear that he wants to be closer to his family in Silver Springs, Maryland.
  4. Speaking of transfers The New York Times took a look at increasingly onerous transfer restrictions with a focus on a couple of particularly notable cases. The article does not take a look at some notable cases in college basketball where player transfers were blocked although the ones we have seen do not block nearly as many universities (see Todd O’Brien) so we know the problem extends beyond just college football. The big question of what drives these type of tactics is one that the article cannot get to bottom of because coaches will never talk about it, but it is likely one of asserting their power over the athletes to try to prevent future transfers by making the transfer process as difficult as possible.
  5. There are a lot of crazy stories happening with conference realignment, but one that will probably be largely overlooked is how moving conferences will change the finances for schools even in areas that are not the school’s primary focus. Take the move of Kenya Hunter for example. Normally we would not highlight the move of an assistant particularly one who has not been rumored as a top candidate for significant head coaching positions, but Hunter’s lateral move from Georgetown to Nebraska speaks to the changing finances of the two schools. This is not to suggest that Georgetown is falling apart, but instead should highlight how TV contracts can alter how an athletic program is built because five years ago we could not even fathom someone leaving Georgetown for a similar position at Nebraska (frankly, we are still having trouble comprehending it).