Latest Kanter Report: A Blow To Kentucky

Posted by nvr1983 on September 7th, 2010

Like much of the state of Kentucky we have spent much of the off-season wondering whether or not Turkish super-recruit Enes Kanter would be declared eligible by the NCAA this season. As late as Tuesday morning it appeared that the NCAA would make a ruling regarding his eligibility within the next two weeks. Typically when the NCAA is ruling on a freshman’s eligibility the focus is on the student-athlete’s academic eligibility, but despite only spending one year in a US school Kanter appears to have been declared academically eligible. The real issue comes from questions over whether he is still an “amateur” due to his time playing semi-professional basketball for a Turkish team during the 2008-09 season. Earlier, Kanter stated that he had not received any money while playing in Turkey. However, today the New York Times’ Pete Thamel reported that Nedim Karakas, the general manager of Fenerbahce Ulker (Kanter’s previous team) had given Kanter more than $100,000 in cash and benefits during Kanter’s time with the team. For his part, Kanter (through his adviser Max Ergul) has stated that this should not affect his eligibility as the amount spread out over his three years with the team is “like any other kid who goes to prep school and gets the $30- or $40,000 scholarship.”

Will Kanter Ever Play NCAA Basketball?

While we wait on Kentucky, Kanter, and the NCAA to sort this out it is worth pointing out the one potentially seedy part of the story — Fenerbahce Ulker’s potential ulterior motive for providing this information to the NCAA. According to most reports, Kanter did not leave the team on the best of terms as his decision to go to the US for high school and then college meant that not only had the team lost one of the top junior prospects in the world, it had also lost out on the opportunity to collect a large transfer fee if he were to go to another European basketball team. If Kanter were to be declared ineligible by the NCAA, it is expected that he would head back to Europe to play while waiting to enter the NBA Draft. His signing with a European team would trigger that transfer fee resulting in a large cash windfall for Fenerbahce Ulker, the same people who are trying to provide the NCAA with information that would make Kanter ineligible to play for Kentucky. When questioned about this conflict of interest, Karakas responded by saying “I am sorry for telling this for Enes, but we cannot lie if someone asks the whole story, we cannot hide. . .This is real, and the NCAA’s main goal is to protect the amateur side of sports.” To be fair to Karakas and Fenerbahce Ulker, Kanter’s previous playing background was enough to scare off such high school basketball powerhouses such as Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep from adding a player that many analysts consider the top young interior player in the world.

The NCAA’s decision on Kanter will be a huge determinant of the Wildcats’ success this season as he would fill a void left by the departed DeMarcus Cousins and provide the Wildcats with the spark they need on the inside to help them advance deep into the NCAA Tournament. At the present time the only statement that the University of Kentucky has released about the situation is as follows: “The University of Kentucky is working diligently with the NCAA on this matter and we fully support Enes Kanter and his family through this ongoing NCAA review. We will have no further comment.” Meanwhile, John Calipari, who has been quite active around the state of Kentucky this off-season, has not issued a statement on the recent news although we will be keeping an eye on him to see if he says anything.

This much we know.  The burden will rest with Kentucky to prove that Kanter is indeed eligible, and that any payments he took from Fenerbahce Ulker were  actual and necessary to only cover his (reasonable) expenses and did not rise to the level of a salary.  The organization notably did not provide Thamel documentation of the “salary” that was paid to Kanter, so if they’re truly blowing smoke on this in an effort to destroy Kanter’s amateur status, presumably the NCAA would know this.  KSR breaks down the key questions to focus on in this matter, and but at a certain point (presumably after UK makes its best arguments) it will be the NCAA that has to make the difficult decision as to how much is too much when it comes to whether payments made to Kanter were merely expenses or a full-timer’s salary.

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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Is Calipari’s Three-Year Recruiting Run the Best Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on August 16th, 2010

An interesting question came up among the Twitterati over the weekend when it was learned that Rivals #8 (and rising) recruit in the Class of 2011, Anthony Davishad formally committed to Kentucky.  Davis’ commitment marks the third top ten recruit in that class to have committed to John Calipari’s Wildcats, and the seventh in the 2009-11 recruiting cycles, a ridiculous feat. 

  • John Wall (#2, 2009)
  • DeMarcus Cousins (#3 , 2009)
  • Brandon Knight (#4, 2010)
  • Enes Kanter (#7, 2010)
  • Michael Gilchrist (#1, 2011)
  • Marquis Teague (#5, 2011)
  • Anthony Davis (#8, 2011)

Throw in a few other high-level recruits such as Daniel Orton (#19, 2009), Eric Bledsoe (#52, 2009), Terrence Jones (#11, 2010), Doron Lamb (#26, 2010), and an unnamed superstar or two to be named later (Quincy MillerLeBryan Nash?), and suddenly there is a realization that we could be in the midst of the single greatest run of recruiting prowess since the Wizard of Westwood had every blue-chipper from coast to coast lining up to play for him.

Calipari Continues to Rack Up Blue-Chippers (LHL/M. Cornelison)

This is what Calipari was referring to when he infamously said on draft night in June that having five UK players selected was the greatest night in the program’s history.  It’s all marketing.  As Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue notes when referring to Anthony Davis’ quotes about the commitment, Calipari isn’t selling the Wildcat program of all hoops-all the time as much as the dream; the dream, of course, being a fast-track to the League. 

But notice what is not mentioned — Kentucky tradition, the facilities at UK, playing in front of 24,000 every game, being on TV all the time — none of these things are mentioned.  Recruiting has changed.  Calipari has taken the NBA one-and-done rule and used it like the Pied Piper, tempting players to Kentucky not with cash to families or under-the-table deals, but with a short path to all the riches they desire.

Whether you believe the last sentence or not, the truth remains that players are beelining for Lexington, which brings us to the point of this article.  We have to dig pretty deep in our memory banks to remember a recruiting run that even begins to approach this concentration of elite talent.  Granted, there’s a bit of an apples/oranges confounder here — much of the reason that Calipari can load up on talent every single year is because there’s a reasonable expectation that the previous year’s competition for minutes will be gone (see: Wall begets Knight begets Teague, for example).  Still, we’ve come up with one strong comparison in the modern era (we hope you add your own in the comments below): Duke 1997-99.  As a brief aside, UNC from 1990-93, Michigan from 1991-94 and Duke from 1999-2002 were also very strong periods of recruiting at those schools, but over four recruiting cycles rather than three. 

Duke 1997-99 (recruited by Mike Krzyzewski)

  • Elton Brand (#1, 1997)
  • Chris Burgess (#7, 1997)
  • Shane Battier (#8, 1997)
  • William Avery (#14, 1997)
  • Corey Maggette (#16, 1998)
  • Jason Williams (#3, 1999)
  • Carlos Boozer (#8, 1999)
  • Casey Sanders (#16, 1999)
  • Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (#26, 1999)

The recruiting rankings alone are nasty, but when you consider the actual accomplishments of this group, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Six lottery picks, three NPOYs, two title game appearances and a national championship (2001).  In two of the years where they didn’t cut the nets down, (1999 and 2002), Duke was the prohibitive favorite to win the title (finishing #1 in the final AP poll every year from 1999-2002) in large part because they had more talent than anybody else.  They actually won it all in 2001, but we’re still trying to figure out how Jim Calhoun’s vastly underrated (but also undermanned) Huskies were able to slay the Duke dragon in 1999 (oh, right, Trajan Langdon).  It was an amazing run of talent acquisition, and we haven’t seen anything like it for at least a decade.

Duke Had Three NPOYs in Four Seasons (SI)

Therein lies the rub.  With boatloads of talent comes expectations, and winning the press conference is great for tone-setting, but getting to and winning Final Fours is what matters most in Lexington.  Again, the Duke era was different in that with the exception of Corey Maggette in 1999, Coach K did not lose any players as 1-and-dones; but that won’t deter the vultures from ripping Calipari if he continues to sign elite talent without bringing back the accompanying hardware to support it.  The biggest case in point of this thinking is how Michigan’s Fab Five class of 1991 is often considered a failure for merely going to two straight NCAA championship games and losing.  It remains to be seen how this era of Kentucky basketball will play out (so far, one Elite Eight appearance), but we already know that the level of recruiting enjoyed by Calipari in his first three classes there rivals anything experienced in the modern era.  Coach K’s classes from 1997-99 set the bar very high — it’s now up to the individual players — from Knight/Kanter/Jones to Gilchrist/Teague/Davis — to match or exceed their accomplishments.   

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2010 One-and-Dones: Was It Worth It?

Posted by rtmsf on July 22nd, 2010

After another summer of loud belly-aching, moaning and groaning about how the NBA’s one-and-done rule is methodically destroying college basketball as we know it, we’re left with the fact that, in reality, only eleven players from the prep class of 2009 found their way into the 2010 NBA Draft pool.  As it turns out, approximately 90% of the RSCI Top 100 players from last year’s freshman class will return to play another season of college basketball in 2010-11.  And this is not unusual.  In the four NBA Drafts where one-and-doners were forced to attend at least one year of college (2007-10), there have been a total of 35 such players, or around nine per season.  There are obvious problems with the NBA’s one-year rule that we won’t get into here, but we shouldn’t be losing our heads over what amounts to a handful of players each season.

And what about those players — how did it go for them?  We can safely presume that if you’re good enough to be one-and-done, a year in college probably worked out well enough for you (ahem, Tommy Mason-Griffin excepted).  But we’re more interested in the schools.  How did recruiting and ultimately matriculating a one-and-done player work out for those institutions?  Put in real terms, was bringing a player like Derrick Favors on campus at Georgia Tech for one year worthwhile?  What about Calipari’s den of young Cats?  You may recall that we did this school-centric analysis in each of the last three summers (2007, 2008, and 2009), and the basic conclusion that we’ve found is that one-and-done players have generally benefited their schools in the two areas that matter most: 1) wins; and 2) marketability.  Let’s take a closer look at this year’s group.

2010 One-and-Dones

Kentucky – Well Worth It. Say what you want about the meltdown of Calipari’s Cats in the Elite Eight against a tougher, more experienced West Virginia team, but the fact that Kentucky brought in the #1 recruiting class of 2009 and delivered on the implied promise that Cal’s system develops NBA draft picks is why his cadre of one-and-dones (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton) was well worth it.  And here’s the what behind the why: four five-star prospects arrive in Lexington next year (Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones) and two more are signed on for 2011 (Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) with several others lurking in the wings.  Not every one of these players will become a one-and-doner, so eventually Calipari will be able to season some experienced talent around his annual lottery pick arrivals (see: 2008 Memphis) to give himself a great chance to win that elusive national title.  As far as the difference in Q rating from the Gillispie era to now, it’s like that $22M/year Tiger Woods lost in endorsements since last November somehow ended up in Lexington as gold-plated streets.  UK has become the program du jour for the young, moneyed and hip, and when the head coach infamously stated that this year’s NBA Draft night was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he’s referring to marketability.  The pitch: come to Lexington, play a fun style of uptempo basketball, win 30-35 games, market your brand on television through our deals with CBS and ESPN, have a shot to win a title, meet celebrities such as LeBron James and Drake, and end up shaking David Stern’s hand in a year or two…  not exactly fraught with hard decisions.  If Calipari can keep his program in the headlines for the right reasons, this class will be looked at as the tipping point for a whole new era of Kentucky basketball.  Definitely well worth it.

John Wall Was Only the First of Many Cats to Meet Stern

Marshall – Well Worth It. If you recruit a player who wasn’t even ranked in the RSCI top 100 and he ends up dominating your league as a freshman center to the point of becoming the Conference USA defensive POY and leading the nation in blocked shots, it was well worth it.  Hassan Whiteside’s one year in Huntington led the Thundering Herd to its best season in over two decades, culminating in a fourth-place finish in CUSA, big late-season wins over UAB and Tulsa, and a quarterfinal appearance in the CIT.  For a program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1987, any postseason appearance is a great year, and Whiteside’s patrolling of the paint had no small part in it.  The unfortunate part of Whiteside’s meteoric rise is that the Herd had such a good season that as a result it also lost its head coach Donnie Jones, which may impact the long-term marketability aspect of Whiteside’s year there.  Nevertheless, we doubt anyone at Marshall regrets the year that both Whiteside and Jones resided in Huntington together, so we think that this was a huge boost for a mid-major program not used to having such players around.

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Calipari: Draft Night = Championship? Is This What It’s Come To?

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2010

Last night’s NBA Draft was pretty boring from start to finish (Wes Johnson’s pants generously excepted), but there was one moment that resulted in our jaws on the floor at the RTC West Coast Compound, and it didn’t even involve one of the players (or random “USA”  chants from drunken New Yorkers).  We’ve been unable to find the video of this yet (let us know if you have), but at some point during the middle of five Kentucky players being selected in the 1st Round, ESPN interviewed John Calipari, who had this to say about the grand evening:

This is the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball.

Seven Better Nights Than Last Night

Now, we’ll excuse Coach Cal’s uber-salesmanship and a bit of hyperbole while getting caught up in the moment, but c’mon Coach…  we can think of at least seven nights that were probably a tad better for the Big Blue faithful than June 24, 2010 (see above).  And if we’re being honest with ourselves, many more than that.  In fact, while UK fans as a whole seem genuinely happy for Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe and Orton as individuals for fulfilling their lifelong dreams, there is still a lingering sense of what could or should have been for the team, especially if some of the players stuck around.  This sentiment is heavily anesthesized by the fact that another truckload of blue-chippers are already en route to Lexington for 2010-11, but rival blog Card Chronicle nails the reality underlying this situation:

If in the next two years Cal continues to dominate recruiting and continues to produce first round NBA Draft picks but doesn’t lead the Cats into the final week of the season, watch how drastically the tide will turn.  Success for Kentucky fans means national championships. This current wave of insanity excitement might seem to be the product of last year’s success or all the top-rated recruits or all the national attention, but really it’s all driven by the feeling that national title No. 8 is right around the corner. […] On the flip side, you get the feeling that Calipari feels like this is succeeding. Kentucky basketball is back to being a mainstay in the top ten, they’re being talked about on the news on a regular basis, he’s got celebrities showing up at Rupp Arena, he’s getting the top prep talent in the country to come to Lexington and then he’s getting them in a position to make millions before they can drink legally. […] But if Calipari isn’t able to turn status into championships within a reasonable (to Big Blue Nation) amount of time, watch the relationship disintegrate. Kentucky fans will start to debate whether or not all this glam is good for the program and Cal will become (understandably) bitter.

Which makes Calipari’s comments today on the Dan Patrick Show (audio link) all the more intriguing.  According to Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader, when Patrick pointedly asked Calipari how last night’s draft could be the best moment in such a proud program’s history, Calipari answered that it “depends on your frame of reference” before explaining how UK is a players-first program.  When asked again whether a national title or a night like last evening was better, he similarly dodged the question by saying that you need the latter to win the former.  Fair enough, but these feints in the light of day certainly give credence to what CC was saying above.  No matter how much he may want it to be true, Calipari’s success at UK will ultimately not be measured by the number of draft picks he puts into the first round — it’ll be measured by the number of banners he puts in the rafters.  Surely he knows this.  Right?

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Patrick Patterson

Posted by jstevrtc on June 23rd, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Patrick Patterson

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’9/235

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late Lottery

Overview: John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins may have been flashier and grabbed more headlines, but if you ask people around Lexington who their favorite Wildcat was from this past season, Patrick Patterson’s name will come up more than you’d expect.  While his numbers were impressive enough (14.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.9 BPG), that’s not what Kentucky supporters use as the reason for their reverence — and reverence is the right word, there.  They’re quick to point out that those numbers were actually down from the previous season (17.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.1 BPG), and the reason they were down was because he was fine with scoring less and yielding the spotlight to his aforementioned young teammates, as that’s what the team dynamic required.  They love talking about how he finished his bachelor’s degree in three years, while at the same time going far above the call of duty when it came to community service and public appearances during his time in the Bluegrass.  In short, people in Lexington love this guy, and why shouldn’t they?  He played three seasons that can be credited to three different head coaches; he was recruited by Tubby Smith, played two years for Billy Gillespie and a final one under John Calipari.  Basketball wasn’t fun at UK for those first two years for the players or the fans, and especially not for Patterson, who didn’t even get to play in an NCAA Tournament.  You couldn’t blame Patrick if he had sulked in his dorm room for a while and then caught the first bus out of town.  Instead, he flourished — in the classroom, on the court, and in the community, knowing if he kept working hard that sweeter days would eventually come.  Those sweeter days arrived last season.  And the next one is Thursday night in New York.

Patterson finishes confidently at the rim, but it was the jump shot he debuted last year that wowed scouts...and fans.

Will Translate to the NBA: Patterson’s physique got more impressive each year at Kentucky, the biggest and quickest transformation coming last summer when he moved out to California and worked with a personal trainer.  His body is therefore NBA-ready, and it also speaks to his work ethic.  He’s also shown that he’s willing to eschew personal glory in favor of the betterment of the team, and there might not be a better “character guy” in the draft.  He added a jump shot over the summer before last season, then hit it consistently during the year, a move that greatly increased his appeal to NBA scouts, and it goes nicely with the fair range of post moves he already possesses.  Whether it’s him who scores or not, good things tend to happen when he gets the ball in the post; he’s a nice interior passer and easily finds the open man on the perimeter.  He was an underrated defender down low at Kentucky and seems to love going body-to-body with opponents who are trying to overpower him.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Daniel Orton

Posted by jstevrtc on June 22nd, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Daniel Orton

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’10/255

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: If you needed any further proof that the NBA Draft selects players on potential and not on actual past performance, look no further than Daniel Orton.  That’s not to say that Orton didn’t produce for Kentucky in his one season there.  He certainly did everything that was expected of him, and did it well.  But we’re talking about a player who averaged 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and just 13.1 minutes a game.  That said, Orton was excellent in his role as a backup to DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson as needed, excelling on defense, specifically shot-blocking, and showing enough raw offensive skills to have the scouts salivating. He only hit double-figures twice all season, but that’s just because of the limited minutes.  With talent like this, if he’d have gotten the time (or stayed in school longer) his numbers would have probably been about triple what they were.

An intense, imposing physical specimen, Orton will carve out a living hitting the glass and blocking shots.

Will Translate to the NBA: Orton’s body was NBA-ready by the time he played his first college game.  He frequently uses that size to overpower defenders on his way to the basket and finish with confidence.  Though it could stand a little more arch, his jumper is fairly solid at this early stage.  He is physically imposing but actually has very nice touch on his shot after a post move and certainly as he gets right up to the rim.  On the defensive side, he’s way ahead of the curve in terms of shot-blocking ability, and that skill is evident whether he’s guarding his man straight up or if he’s  leaving his man and helping from the weak side.

Needs Work: Orton played so little compared to a lot of prospects, teams just don’t have that much to go on.  He had surgery on his left knee during his last year of high school, and while he never appeared to be favoring it, there were times when simple post moves or getting up the floor on a break seemed a little harder than one would think.  Because he’s going to make his living down low, he’s going to be getting to the free throw line a lot, and raising his percentage up from the 52% he shot at Ketnucky (to be fair, that was also his field goal percentage) is required.  Finally, it was a single incident, but the in-game sideline spat with coach John Calipari in the SEC Tournament was highly publicized, and Orton didn’t help his image by actually leaving the bench and going back to the locker room, even if he was under orders.  He’ll need to convince teams that his head’s in the right place and he won’t make a habit of openly questioning authority.

Comparison Players: Orton’s use of his physique to do things like create space for shots, set screens, and out-muscle opponents for rebounds reminds us of Leon Powe of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  If a Kentucky example is needed, his physique brings to mind the Rockets’ Chuck Hayes; like Hayes, Orton’s greatest value to an NBA team will come on defense.  Hayes is a little quicker, but Orton actually has a higher offensive ceiling.

Best Case Scenario: The key to Daniel Orton’s success will be patience.  He has the body and all the tools to carve out a very nice decade-long NBA career, if not longer.  But because he’s being drafted largely on potential, the team that drafts him will need to see some of that potential become realized in practice and in limited game time before they’ll really unleash him.  That’s not the easiest thing for young players to accept.  If he can show off his defensive abilities enough through hard work in practice, he’ll get more minutes in games, and then the offensive chances will come.  If he’s satisfied with that, after a few seasons his game could be refined enough to where he’ll find a niche on a team that needs a tough-nosed, hard-rebounding, “glue-guy” type of player that the fans love, the type of player that embodies the hard work coaches would like to see out of their whole roster.

2013 Projection: The process described above will still be happening after three seasons.  We wouldn’t be surprised to see him start to get increased minutes late in his third season and thereafter.  Up to that point, we’d expect Orton to have made an early living as a rebounding and shot-blocking specialist while the full range of his offensive game continues to grow.

Best NBA Fit: Orton will be taken almost right in the middle of the draft, and while Oklahoma City (21st and 26th pick) needs front line help in a major way — and it’s a pick that would land Orton back in his home state — the best fit for him as far as teams in that range is the Boston Celtics (19th pick).  Despite their post-season success, Boston was one of the worst rebounding teams in the league (29th of 30) and averaged a -1.5 rebounding margin.  If Kendrick Perkins‘ knee remains suspect and the retirement rumors about Rasheed Wallace are true, the Celtics would be left without a true center, and the third man on the depth chart at PF would be the unimpressive Shelden Williams.  Plus, you could do a lot worse than to have Kevin Garnett as a teammate and mentor.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Eric Bledsoe

Posted by jstevrtc on June 21st, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Eric Bledsoe

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’1/190

NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: Even with high school phenoms like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Daniel Orton headed to Lexington back in the fall of 2009, Eric Bledsoe was immediately liked by Kentucky fans.  He was going to give their beloved team something they hadn’t had in a while — a designated shooter.  Though Bledsoe was primarily a point guard in high school with reliable handle, he was also known as more than just a serviceable shooter from distance, a combination Wildcat fans craved at the time, especially considering the poor marksmanship and turnover-prone nature of Wildcat backcourts that preceded the Wall/Bledsoe duo.  As if that wasn’t enough, even though Wall didn’t commit until later, Bledsoe won over many card-carrying Big Blue Nation members by expressing his desire to return Kentucky to hoops prominence, proclaiming on his signing day that he and his fellow recruits were coming to Lexington to “get shit right.”  Playing out of position for almost every minute of his only college season, he gave the Wildcats what they expected — a good shooter who also provided a second point guard option, as well as a better-than-expected penetrator and creator.  He shot 38% from beyond the arc, but his streaky nature meant defenses had to stay close to him, which enabled him to utilize his blistering first step to rocket past defenders.

If he can motivate himself to improve on the defensive end, his value will increase during his early years in the league.

Will Translate to the NBA: Bledsoe’s a rock.  He has tremendous upper body strength and he’s great at using it to blaze a path to the hoop, absorb contact, and still score.  He’s quick in every direction, including straight up off the floor, and doesn’t lose much of that pace even when he has the ball.  He’s shown that he can play both point guard and shooting guard at the elite college level, so the team that drafts him will feel like they’re getting a skill set that spans the job descriptions of two different positions.  He definitely possesses a shooter’s mentality, and shows no fear in firing away even if he misses his first few attempts.

Needs Work: Bledsoe is streaky from long range, and on off-nights he would occasionally sulk, resulting in less production, more turnovers, and extended bench minutes.  Though he started the season as a capable defender, this is an aspect of his game that actually got worse as the year progressed.  His quickness should translate quite easily to the defensive side, so the fact that he went backwards in this area points to the fact that it’s a matter of motivation, and that won’t do in the NBA.  Despite his upper body strength, he’s still just 6’1, and that underscores the need for him to get his head right as far as defense is concerned and become a good close-up defender.  Finally, even though he’s got great springs, he doesn’t get a lot of elevation off the ground on his jumper, and he could use that at his height.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: DeMarcus Cousins

Posted by jstevrtc on June 20th, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: DeMarcus Cousins

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11/290

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Early to Mid Lottery

Overview: DeMarcus Cousins showed up at Kentucky as part of the Calipari Revolution of 2009 as the man who was supposed to do for the Wildcat frontcourt what John Wall was projected to do for the back.  High expectations, indeed, but the man they call “Boogie” actually lived up to them.  At various points in the year Cousins was statistically the most efficient player in the country, and was a tenth of a rebound away from averaging a double-double (15.1 PPG and 9.9 RPG) for his only season in Wildcat blue.  In the early part of Kentucky’s SEC campaign, Cousins put up 11 double-doubles in one 13-game sample, including a string of seven in a row, totalling an impressive 20 on the year.  He may have developed a reputation as a “hothead” or “wildcard” — two terms long in vogue to describe him — but Cousins seemed to enjoy such descriptions and used that characterization to his advantage, especially when using his imposing frame to gobble up rebounds or punish rims with put-backs.  Throughout the season, he showed he possessed the skill to finish on the inside with authority as well as the ability to drill a jumper out to about 15 feet.  He may have only been in Lexington for one year, but his hard work, production, openness with the fans, and personality have endeared him to Wildcat supporters to the point where he’ll be an icon in Lexington for decades to come.  His tip-in at the buzzer against Mississippi State that put the SEC Tournament Final into overtime (which Kentucky eventually won) may represent the pinnacle of one terrific year in the Bluegrass — one that earned him SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

Beats by Boogie: The stratosphere's the limit, given the right fit.

Will Translate to the NBA: Cousins’ knack for vacuuming the ball off the glass is his greatest NBA-ready skill right now.  It’ll especially serve him well on the offensive end, as he’s superb at snagging garbage buckets off missed shots by his teammates.  Even though he only averaged an assist per game at UK, he’s a better passer than many people will remember, especially on the interior.  And let’s face it, he wasn’t exactly asked to distribute the ball a lot (Kentucky had another guy doing that).  The intensity and emotion that he brings to the court need no adjustment, and the right setting in terms of teammates and coaching staff could help him better focus that drive into improving the areas in which he needs to gain some ground.  He won’t jump out of the gym, but he’s happy going body-to-body with the other team’s biggest player on defense and has surprisingly good timing in terms of shot-blocking, and led his Wildcat squad in that category (1.8 BPG).  Finally, though Cousins is known primarily for his finishing ability close to the rim, he often showed a turn-around jumper and a fade-away of impressive accuracy, both of which he’ll need.

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Morning Five: 06.01.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on June 1st, 2010

  1. Just ahead of the release of findings from the NCAA’s investigation of the USC basketball (and football) program, Tim Floyd says that he’s not too worried.  Of course, he has no reason to be, since he’s at UTEP now.
  2. If this whole Eric Bledsoe story regarding alleged rent payments and the question of “impermissible benefits” sounds a tad familiar, you may be remembering a story from ZagsBlog.com from a few days ago about Oklahoma’s Tiny Gallon and a similar situation.  The problem for Sooner supporters is…this happened while OU was already on probation.
  3. Speaking of Mr. Zagoria…a few days ago he provided further news about Herb Pope, who’s said to be on the road to a full recovery (from what, exactly, we’ve not been told) and more hoops at Seton Hall after that terrifying collapse back in late April, when it was said that his heart actually stopped during a workout.  A relative is supposedly going to hold a press conference soon to discuss exactly what happened. While we admit we’re intrigued by the diagnosis, when it’s revealed, we hope it will show this to be a one-time event and that the guy’s got nothing to worry about in the future.
  4. Mike Miller from MSNBC.com invites the Washington Wizards to consider using that top draft pick on DeMarcus Cousins ahead of John Wall or Evan Turner.
  5. We’ve ridden Bobby Knight pretty hard around these parts in the past, so it’s only fair that we mention the free clinic he held over the weekend for about 80 kids — and their parents — in Duncanville, TX at the new Bob Knight’s Fieldhouse, a project that The General truly cares about and to which he’s deservedly happy to have his name attached.

 

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Marquis Teague To Kentucky

Posted by jstevrtc on April 22nd, 2010

Marquis Teague, the top-rated point guard and fourth-ranked player overall in the high school class of 2011, announced moments ago that he planned to attend Kentucky and play for John Calipari a couple of autumns from now.  This news had been unofficially broken on Twitter yesterday by Teague’s friend Tony Wroten, Jr., another highly ranked (and still undecided) PG prospect in the class of 2011, so today’s announcement came as little surprise.

Teague is the latest Kentucky commit. There will be more. (IndyStar)

This verbal gives Calipari his second top 5 prospect for 2011 in the last week.  The top-ranked player in that class, 6’7 SF Michael Gilchrist, committed to Kentucky last Wednesday, the same day that big-time PG prospect Brandon Knight decided to bring his skills to Lexington for next season.  As if that week weren’t good enough, at Saturday’s Jordan Brand Classic (so-called) in New York City, Doron Lamb, a 6’4 shooting guard ranked in the top 30 for 2010, also pledged to Kentucky.  And the commitments — for both 2011 and 2010 — don’t look to be done, yet.

Despite the lack of surprise, Teague’s verbal today is also noteworthy because of where he isn’t going.  Hoop fans know all about Marquis’ brother Jeff Teague, the former star at Wake Forest and current Atlanta Hawk, but Teague’s father Shawn played for Rick Pitino at Boston University.  Like Jeff before him, Marquis stars for Pike High School in Indianapolis, not even a two hour drive from Louisville.  The Cardinals could use a point guard now that Edgar Sosa’s gone.  We’re not saying the two things are related or how much effect it ever really could have had, but as of late last season Pitino’s staff at Louisville includes a former assistant at Pike High School named Shabaka Lands, hired as “special assistant to the head coach.”  It’s easy to see how badly Pitino wanted Teague, and with the Cardinals having only (as of now) one verbal commitment from a player within the ESPNU-100 — 6’5 SG Justin Coleman, from Huntington WV — and considering that Teague was at one time considered a virtual lock for Louisville, Cardinal supporters are worried that Teague’s verbal commitment today is an indicator of how highly-ranked high school prospects regard these two programs in the Bluegrass State.

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