After Friday’s recruiting coup, Duke fans have to be feeling pretty good about next season even if some of the flaws of this year’s team are starting to become apparent. Today the hopes for next season could be ratcheted up another level as Justice Winslow, a five-star small forward, makes his college announcement and based on what many recruiting analysts are saying Duke is expected to be his choice although he is also considering Arizona, Florida, Stanford, UCLA, and Texas A&M. Winslow is reportedly being recruited by Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, the two top-five recruits who committed to Duke last Friday and played with Winslow on the US National Team. If Winslow opts to head to Durham, the Blue Devils should have the #1 class wrapped up and most likely will be your preseason #1 next season.
The fortunes of Duke Mondy and Dante Williams have taken quite a turn in the past week. During their trip to play at Cal last week the two players were accused of rape charges that were quickly dropped, but were suspended indefinitely from the team for their actions although they had already been cleared of the rape charges. Yesterday, Oakland announced that the two players were back on the team after a two-game suspension. We won’t get into the moral issues of the suspension and what they did since this is not really the place to discuss that, but we will note our amusement at the school’s internal review of the incident. What investigation could the school, which has no power out in California (the school is based in Michigan), have conducted in such a short period of time? We have no problem with them letting the two play again, but the idea of a legitimate internal review seems ridiculous.
There is a tendency to overstate the historical importance of sports figures and we have seen it with plenty of individuals. One individual who we feel deserves all of the praise that he has received for his social work is North Carolina legend Dean Smith. Yesterday, Smith was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey were among the other individuals honored at the ceremony. The only other men’s basketball coach who has been bestowed the honor is John Wooden. The last few years have been difficulty for Smith and his family due to health-related issues so we hope that they were able to enjoy the day and the honor.
On the other side of the spectrum for North Carolina is the ongoing case of P.J. Hairston. The North Carolina junior who was last seen recreating Grand Theft Auto in the Research Triangle has been left in eligibility limbo while the school looks into his case. Yesterday, after weeks of inactivity in the case (at least publicly), Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas, the man linked to the rental cars that Hairston was driving, pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, drug possession with intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia from a December 2012 arrest. Thomas will be sentenced to 36 months of supervised probation, receive a suspended sentence of 23 to 47 months in jail, and must complete 100 hours of community service in the next 12 months. This case appears to have nothing to do with Hairston, but the charges that Thomas pleaded guilty to will not help his cause with UNC administrators looking at his case although the team’s poor play so far this season might.
We would have loved to have been in East Lansing to witness the scene at the local Taco Bells when Michigan State students showed up expecting free tacos, but were turned away as the school had decided not to continue its promotion with the company of giving away free tacos when the team scored 70 points or more. In a move that may have prevented chaos on the Michigan State campus Taco Bell has decided to reestablish the tradition although it will be company-sponsored and not school-sponsored. We suspect with the faster pace that the Spartans appear to be playing at this season Michigan State students will be claiming quite a few free tacos this winter.
Friday’s major commitments turned out to be a case of the rich get richer. The big announcement was the simultaneous commitment of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones to play for Duke next year. As we said on Friday morning just the addition of those two should give Duke the #1 recruiting class in the country this year and quite possibly make them the preseason favorite for the 2015 national title. In perhaps the most controversial move of the day Cliff Alexander selected Kansas, but not before picking up an Illinois hat, putting it down, and then finally putting on a Kansas hat. The move generated a fair amount of criticism with many Illini fans and possibly the coaching staff thinking that they had the inside track on Alexander, an Illinois native. We doubt that the two teams will play next season, but we imagine the reception that Alexander would receive would not be unlike what Eric Gordon received on his only trip to Illinois. In the wake of the other news, Stanley Johnson‘s commitment to Arizona got lost in the shuffle, but the addition of another Mater Dei star (Aaron Gordon is also from there should help the Wildcats reload and help ensure that they will still be a force when Gordon presumably leaves Tucson after this season.
In a reminder that fans should not be too hard on a recruit when he spurns your school, Quentin Snider announced that he was backing out of his commitment to Illinois (Friday was not John Groce’s finest day) and recommitting to Louisville. Snider originally committed to Louisville in August 2011 before backing out of that commitment at the end of July 2013 and chose Illinois in September 2013, but when Jaquan Lyle backed out of his own commitment to Louisville the Cardinals needed a point guard for the class of 2014 and Snider decided to return to his original commitment. Although Snider never officially announced it, Lyle’s committment and backing out of his committment at Louisville likely played a large role in Snider’s vascillation.
The case involving Duke Mondy and Dante Williams that led the two Oakland players to temporarily be arrested on rape charges before being dropped. Without getting into too many details (you can go to TMZ for that, seriously) it appears to be a case of the players getting involved with a woman after their curfew while on a road trip and the woman becoming upset at the end and accusing the players of rape. While the players were able to avoid any serious legal repercussions it appears that they may be facing a rather stiff punishment from the school.
At this point in the season we do not know what to think of Florida with their ever-changing roster. While Billy Donovan did reinstate Dorian Finney-Smith, who responded with 17 points and nine rebounds in his first game back, they are still without Damontre Harris, who remains off the team. With all of the uncertainty around the Gator lineup they remain one of the harder teams to get a handle on early in the season. Having said that if Donovan can get some semblance of a rotation by Christmas time they could be a tough out in March once again.
Last year, Jack Taylor made international headlines with his 138-point performance. This year, he barely gets a mention in the Morning Five with his 109-point outburst yesterday. Taylor’s performance yesterday is third all-time trailing just his effort last year and a 113-point game in 1954. His stat line (and his output) would be a solid five game stretch for most players: 35-of-70 from the field, 24-of-48 3, and 15-of-17 from the free throw line. Perhaps our favorite part of the game summary is the school mentioning the “big games from others” who scored between 10 and 15 points. For perspective, Taylor scored 53 in the first nine minutes of the second half.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The newest update comes from our Summit League correspondent, Charlie Parks.
Reader’s Take – Almost every team in the Summit has its star this year, but to win this conference and have a legitimate shot at upsetting a powerhouse in March, you need a #2 option that is just as reliable in a big situation.
IUPUI appears to have the most talent with Alex Young and Leroy Nobles, as either guy can get you 20-plus easy-looking points at any given moment. But keep in mind, its not just the most talented duo, but also the two guys that give you the best opportunity to win. What doesn’t always show in the stat column can and often does show up in the win column (that little bit of Bobby knight-wisdom was for free).
Coaching Carousel – There have been a few key coaching changes this offseason in the Summit League. The one that could affect the balance of power the most in the conference is the departure of Ron Hunter from IUPUI. After 17 years leading the Jags, Hunter took the job at Georgia State. His longtime assistant, Todd Howard, was promoted to fill the vacancy. Hunter led IUPUI to its only NCAA berth back in 2003, but you could sense a change was needed and that Hunter had taken IUPUI as far as it was going to go under his direction. He is a solid coach, but the new scenery may be beneficial for the Jags.
More Carousel. The other coaching change of note is the departure of Dane Fife from IPFW. Fife moved on to accept a position on Tim Izzo’s staff at Michigan State. The move is a big bummer for the Mastodons, who have been steadily improving over the last six years under Fife, culminating in last year’s 18-12 record. His baby-faced assistant, Tony Jasick, now has the challenge of taking IPFW to the next level. IPFW may have taken a small step back in its ongoing quest for a conference title.
Sutton Returns to Coaching. One team that improved with a new coaching change has to be Oral Roberts who hired former Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton. Sean served at ORU last year in an unofficial manner but he wasn’t able to really interact with players. But this year, the son of one of the legendary coaches in college basketball will try to bring the Golden Eagles back to the top. Sean was known as one of the best recruiters in the country during his long tenure as assistant coach under his father at Oklahoma State, so it will be interesting to see what kind of talent he will be able to attract to Tulsa.
Rolling Out The Welcome Mat – Two new teams have joined the Summit League, and Division I: South Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha. Personally, I was hoping for an already established D-I school to join the fray, but The Summit obviously has an agenda by grabbing these start-up teams. UNO is the new “ooey-pooey” of the Summit League, at least as far as nicknames go. South Dakota will begin play this year, whereas UNO will start next season.
Keith Benson Goes League – Keith Benson became the first Oakland player ever drafted when he was taken in the second round (48th overall) of the NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Reviews for Benson have so far been mixed, but he will definitely get his opportunities assuming the NBA plays basketball again.
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George Mason’s band director, Dr. Michael W. Nickens, has his swagger on. Pic via @davestipe on Twitter.