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Archive for June, 2008

The Top 10 Recruiting Classes For 2008

Posted by Patrick on June 30, 2008

“Rebuilding Year” is a phrase that Ben Howland never utters, and why would you need to when you coach the most storied program in college basketball? In this day and age, finding freshman to fill starting spots is a lot easier than it used to be. For 2008, UCLA got five tremendous recruits, which is why UCLA is number one on my list of the best recruiting classes for 2008.

Recruits:

(“Stars” are equal to Scout.com’s player rankings)

SG-Jrue Holiday (5 star recruit, No.1 SG)- This kid is a winner. He isn’t on the court to showboat his skills to eventually garner himself a higher pick in the draft. On top of that he can score at will, although he isn’t the greatest three point shooter. Holiday can get to the rim and post double digit points every night.

C-J’Mison Morgan (5 star recruit, No.3 C)-This guy kind of reminds me of Dan Gadzuric (another UCLA standout), neither were very athletic and can’t pass, but they can finish around the rim and they have great hands for catching the ball in the post. Morgan can be a top center in college basketball, but I don’t think he will be next season.

PF-Drew Gordon (4 star recruit, No.15 PF)- Gordon is at UCLA to rebound, and rebounding is what he will do.  This kid is all about the dirty work: blocking shots, getting offensive rebounds, and just all out hustling. If he can improve his scoring, he has the athleticism to be an All-Pac 10 selection.

SG-Malcolm Lee (4 star recruit, No.7 SG)- This guy reminds me of Austin Daye from Gonzaga, he has tremendous upside but he needs a little work on strength before he can take that next step to being a big time player. At 6’4” 165 pounds, it would be nice to see him gain some muscle. Other than that he has a pretty good stroke from behind the arc.

PG- Jerime Anderson (4 star recruit, No.3 PG)- Once again I am going to compare a UCLA recruit to a current Gonzaga player; Jeremy Pargo. Anderson has the natural ability to get to the bucket but his passing and perimeter shots aren’t great. I think a year to be the understudy behind Collison is what this kid needs and in the future he can be the guy you want with the ball late in the game.
Like UCLA, here is a team that lost a lot of players to the draft and graduation. Memphis had a lot of holes to fill and they did it nicely. John Calipari did his best job getting the late commitment from Tyreke Evans, who helped make this class number two on my list.

Recruits:

SG-Tyreke Evans (5 star recruit, No.2 SG)- Evans is all about using his athleticism to score, and when you watch him this year you may see comparisons to Kobe Bryant.  He can shoot it from three, and he can create for himself. There isn’t any reason Evans can’t be an All-American in his first NCAA season.

SF-Wesley Witherspoon (4 star recruit, No.13 SF)- Another late addition to the Memphis recruiting class, Witherspoon will probably be a bench guy his first season. He needs to bulk up before he can be a great forward but the basics are there. He has length and athleticism… its just about putting it all together.

PF-Matt Simpkins (4 star recruit, No.29 PF)- Simpkins is a great defender and has great athleticism, which is pretty much the bread and butter of Memphis basketball. He won’t score a ton, but he can still be an offensive presence if he is guarded by someone smaller than him.

PF- Angel Garcia (4 star recruit, No.19 PF)- In my opinion, Garcia is a very underrated recruit. He is a 6’10” guy that can shoot threes and he can spread the floor on you which will help this athletic Memphis roster. If he can consistently make three pointers he can win the Tigers some ballgames.

Dino Gaudio has done a great job getting this program back on track after the tragic death of then head coach Skip Prosser. The Demon Deacons should have a fun time with these outstanding freshman, and they might just lead this team to an NCAA tournament appearance.

Recruits:

SF-Al-Farouq Aminu (5 star recruit, No.4 SF)-This is another guy that has the ability to create shots for himself.  He will have no problem being the go-to-guy for Wake. We’ll also see how he does playing against his brother who plays for Georgia Tech.

C-Ty Walker (5 star recruit, No.4 C)- He is a tremendous defender and can block shots inside. If he improves on the offensive end, Wake will be a much scarier team next year. As for now, he should work on strength in order to have the ability to battle in the post with ACC big men.

C-Tony Woods (4 star recruit, No.10 C-This guy is an athletic rebounder. He is a great player to have in the game but, like Walker, he needs to improve his offense. If he does, these two guys could be a scary combo.

Kosta Koufos was a great center, but Ohio State more than replaced him with BJ Mullens. In my opinion Mullens is the best incoming freshman; he is an athletic, tall, and versatile player. Thad Matta did another great job preparing this team for an NCAA tournament run with this class. The word is Terrelle Pryor will not be playing basketball in college (source: http://www.terrellepryor.org)

Recruits:

C-BJ Mullens (5 star recruit, No.1 C)-I love this kid, and I believe that he can be the best player in college basketball next season. The key for him is rebounding on the offensive end. If he does that, you might be seeing games like this in the Big Ten.

SG-William Buford (5 star recruit, No.3 SG)-Buford provides a scoring guard that the Buckeyes lacked last season.  He can penetrate to the basket which will open up shots for Mullens. Buford may be the key to the Buckeyes success this season.

PG-Anthony Carter (3 star recruit, No.21 PG)-Plays a good point guard position but isn’t a huge factor on the offensive end. His job will be getting Mullens and Buford the ball when he gets off the bench.

SG-Walter Offutt (3 star recruit, No.29 SG)- Tore his ACL last season for the second time. He may be done with basketball, but that remains to be seen.

It must be fun having Roy Williams’ job: getting some of the best recruits while having the best team in the nation heading into next season. This group might not get the playing time that they would at other schools, but they could have a national championship at the end of the season. Nonetheless, they are outstanding players and that’s why UNC is number five on my list.

Recruits:

PF-Ed Davis (5 star recruit, No.3 PF)-Davis is lengthy and he can rebound. As for now, he isn’t a great scorer in the low block but he has time to develop. Playing for UNC, he won’t have to contribute as much right away.

PF-Tyler Zeller (5 star recruit, No.7 PF)- Zeller is a scorer (he averaged 32.1 PPG in high school) and if he can improve his strength, he can put up double digits consistently as early as his sophomore season. He is also a good guy to have running the floor; don’t think this guy will ever pass up the opportunity for a bucket.

PG- Larry Drew (4 star recruit, No.4 PG)- He doesn’t have a great perimeter shot, but like the other freshman he’ll have time to develop it. In the future he can be a good point guard for the Tar Heels.

SG- Justin Watts (3 star recruit)- He is an athletic combo guard, he’ll eat up minutes late in his career but don’t expect much next season.

Rick Pitino gets yet another stellar recruiting class for 2008. Samardo Samuels is an amazing player and should score with more ease than most freshmen in the Big East. With this class, Louisville should easily fill the hole left by two big men: Derrick Caracter and David Padgett.

Recruits:

PF-Samardo Samuels (5 star recruit, No.1 PF)- Samuels will dominate almost anybody inside. He is a big time scorer and will prove it next season for the Cardinals.

PF-Terrence Jenniings (4 star recruit)- He will be a defensive presence; the Cardinals will want him to block shots and not try to do too much offensively. He is a 20 year old playing as a freshman, was originally an ’06 recruit.

SF-Jared Swopshire (4 star recruit, No.18 SF)- Looks a lot like Ronald Ramon, and plays a lot like him too. He has a good three point shot, but he isn’t the most athletic guy on the floor. He can be a go-to-shooter in the future.

SG-Kyle Kuric (3 star recruit, No.28 SG)- Won’t see much time if any next season, and he may be one of those guys who transfers in the future. However, he can shoot the three so if he improves athleticism he may be a good player.

Georgetown will have a tough time replacing last year’s team even with a great recruiting class. In the event that these guys can stick around another season, the Hoyas should be back in contention for a national championship. John Thompson III did a great job recruiting these players.

Recruits:

PF-Greg Monroe (5 star recruit, No.2 PF)- Great athlete and a great scorer, he will have a huge offensive load to carry for Georgetown next year and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

C-Henry Sims (4 star recruit, No.7 C)- Not a great scorer/rebounder, but he will be in there for defense. He can block almost anyone’s shot but won’t be a threat on the offensive end.

SG-Jason Clark (4 star recruit, No.12 SG)- He is a mid range shooter that plays good defense and isn’t too quick. He needs to develop his perimeter game if he wants to really help this Georgetown team because I don’t see a lot of players on that team that can make threes.

PF-Chris Braswell (4 star recruit, No.18 PF)- Quick guy that can score inside but doesn’t play too great defensively. He needs to be a little more consistent with his scoring but can be a great player in the future because he has good size.

UConn will have a great team next season regardless of recruits. However, getting top players never hurts. Jim Calhoun was smart to go out and get a point guard, especially one as good as Kemba Walker. The rest of the recruits may have to wait their turn to get into the limelight, but it will be worth the wait and all should be great players.

Recruits:

PG-Kemba Walker (5 star recruit, No.2 PG)-Not a good three point shooter but he is a tremendous athlete and plays a great point guard. He gives it his all on the court and plays great defense. He can really help this UConn team reach the Final Four.

PF-Ater Majok (4 star recruit, No.10 PF)- He is a quick forward but he isn’t a great scorer down low. He might see a lot of time next season but he won’t get too much of an offensive load to carry as his main objective will be playing good defense.

SG-Nate Miles (4 star recruit)- Needs to improve his strength but he can be a very good three point shooter for the Huskies in the future.

SG-Scottie Haralson (3 star recruit, No.38 SG)- Has good strength, but will probably be riding the bench next season. If he does see time, don’t expect a lot of scoring.

Bill Self set himself up for another possible national championship run in the future with this class. He got himself a set of twins (seemed to help Stanford) and three other great basketball players. In the future these guys could contend with past year’s teams for one of the best teams in Kansas history.

Recruits:

PF-Markieff Morris (4 star recruit)- Has great size and can score the basketball. He won’t be tremendous next season but he should be a great player in the future if he can continue to play good defense.

PF-Marcus Morris (4 star recruit)-Has grown a couple of inches and now has surpassed his brother in height. Like him, he can score the ball and will need to keep improving defense to be a great player.

SG-Tyshawn Taylor (4 star recruit, No.20 SG)- Originally committed to Marquette but backed out when Crean left for Indiana. He can push the tempo and score in transition and is a pretty good pickup for this Kansas team.

SG-Travis Releford (4 star recruit, No.10 SG)- This kid can be a big time scorer for the Jayhawks if he can improve his mid-range game. He can score a lot of points as early as next season.

PF-Quintrell Thomas (4 star recruit, No.32 PF)- Great rebounder and a tough guy, but he needs to work on his offensive game in order to be a great player for Kansas in the future.

SG-Tyrone Appleton (3 star recruit, JUCO)- Won’t see a lot of time, but will be used for defense.

SF-Mario Little (3 star recruit, JUCO)- Also won’t see a lot of time, can score sometimes but mainly used for defensive situations.

+ Not only is the Big East the best conference this year, but it looks like its setting itself up to be the best conference in years to come. Bob Huggins got a key late signing in Devin Ebanks, and if he can keep Ebanks around campus for a couple seasons then the Mountaineers could be contending for a final four in short time.

Recruits:

SF-Devin Ebanks (5 star recruit, No.3 SF)- Has a good shot, but not from three point range. He is an athletic combo forward that can score a ton of points for WVU. If he sticks around longer than his freshman year he will put up tremendous numbers.

PF-Kevin Jones (4 star recruit, No.11 PF)- Should improve his perimeter shot before he becomes a great player for Huggins, but as for now, he is a good athlete and a great passer. He is small so he’ll probably play more of a small forward in college.

PF-Roscoe Davis (4 star recruit, No.34 PF)- He is a big player that needs to work on scoring, but he plays pretty good defense and can be a good interior defender. If he improves his offense he can be a great weapon for the Mountaineers.

PG-Darryl Brant (3 star recruit, No.26 PG)- He won’t see a lot of time this year, but in the future could be a good player. He needs to work on his point guard skills before he sees a lot of the court, maybe a year to learn the position will help this kid.

Also Considered: USC, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, Alabama, Tennessee

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Impact Of The New Three

Posted by Zach on June 30, 2008

Davidsonwildcats.com photo

In the scope of college basketball these days, more and more teams are relying heavily on the three-point shot to win games. At just 19 feet and 9 inches away from the basket, the three-point line has opened up scoring opportunities for long-range dynamos like Stephen Curry and Chris Lofton that seem to be taken with more frequency than the lost art of the mid range shot. Mid majors run their offense not around “how can we get the ball into the paint?” but “how can we get the best look from three?” Basketball, especially at the college level, has changed dramatically.

That’s why I’ve been surprised talk about the three-point line move from 19’9 to 20’9 hasn’t received as much publicity. Sure, the move isn’t too awfully drastic, and I’m sure teams had the new line painted in their gym just seconds after their 07-08 season came to an end, but it’s still a move that may turn marginal three-point poppers into terrible ones, and could turn some marginal three-point shooting teams into ones addicted to their worst enemy.

Without even looking this up, I could have guessed Butler shot the most threes of any team in the nation last season. As most compelling mid-majors tend to be, Butler has always been centered around the three-point shot. They actually take more threes (40.8% of their shots) than twos (39.1%), and you can be sure head coach Brad Stevens recruited more Indiana boys ready to shoot 3’s.

The loss of A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell, Julian Betko and Mike Green may squelch that plan slightly, but this how Butler plays, along with many other mid-majors. Drake shot 38.4% of their shots from downtown, Davidson 34.4%, BYU 33.1%…and even high majors like Georgetown, Oregon and Vanderbilt (all over 1/3 of their shots) could be affected. How are freshman on these teams going to adjust? Will, say, Brad Stevens or Bob McKillop allow his team to shoot 35% of their shots from deep when, surely, the national percentage will go down with the line being pushed back?

It opens up an interesting question that these coaches must consider. It also lends to the idea that high-majors who have the recruiting prowess to reel in these talented 6’9 and 6’10 forwards and centers that dominate the post, once again, have the ultimate advantage. The teams that relied on the three-point shot less than anyone else, North Carolina at 18.8%, will not be affected. Connecticut, Michigan State and UCLA are all also members of the top five. UNC, for example, loves to penetrate with Ty Lawson or feed the post to Tyler Hansbrough. Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are the only players who can become too three-heavy at times, until Roy Williams sets them straight.

What you could see from the new three-point line: a decrease in the number of threes taken and threes made, coaches disallowing their low-30% three-point shooters to pop treys at any open look, a struggle for freshmen mostly relying on the long jumper, a decrease in the amount of mid-majors stunning high-majors by pouring in threes, at least for the time being. The move may be somewhat subtle, but will the impact be?

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Patrick’s Early Summer Top 25

Posted by Patrick on June 29, 2008

Now that the NBA Draft is over and done with, basketball fans can switch their sights to the upcoming NCAA season. Although it may seem like light-years away, it is never too early to speculate on who the best teams in the nation will be; thus here is my Top 25:

1. North Carolina

Roy Williams may just have one of the most talented college basketball teams of all time. With the return of Tyler Hansbrough (last year’s player of the year), Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, and a supporting cast built around senior Bobby Frasor and freshman Tyler Zeller; it looks as if this team might go undefeated.

Wayne Ellington/ daylife.com photo

2. Pittsburgh

The reigning Big East tournament champs are back and as strong as ever. Stars such as Sam Young, DaJuan Blair, and Levance Fields will highlight this roster. Also key role players like Gilbert Brown and Tyrell Biggs will be solid contributors. Like North Carolina, this team will be very senior oriented. The big question however is: can Levance Fields shoot the ball like Ronald Ramon, and if not who will pick up the slack? Mike Cook will also be back for his sixth year of eligibility.

3. Notre Dame

Juniors Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney are one of the best duos in college basketball. They also return point guard Tory Jackson who can lead this team as far as they want to go. Notre Dame on the inside can compete with any team in the nation, but a lot of questions arise about their guard play. Hopefully, for them, McAlarney can continue his lights out shooting and Jackson can control the offense.

4. UCLA

The Bruins lost Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Russell Westbrook, but return star point guard Darren Collison. However, they return a great shooter in Josh Shipp and Ben Howland went out and got the best recruiting class in the nation. Jrue Holiday, Drew Gordon, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee, and Jerime Anderson are five of the best freshman in the nation and all will be in a UCLA uniform next season. Once again everyone should expect the Bruins back in the Final Four.

5. Duke

Duke returns almost its entire team except for DeMarcus Nelson (who will be missed), and Taylor King who decided to transfer. Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, Gerald Henderson, and Jon Scheyer will all be back looking to avenge their terrible NCAA tournament showings the last two seasons. Add a stellar recruiting class highlighted by guard Elliot Williams and the Dukies should be dancing deep into the tournament.

6. UConn

An early exit out of last years tournament was taken hard this group of Huskies, however they will be back and better than before with Hasheem Thabeet and AJ Price leading the way. Leading scorer Jeff Adrien and sophomore Jerome Dyson will also be key contributors this season. Point guard Kemba Walker, a freshman, should lead this team in the right direction and coach Jim Calhoun could very well have another Big East championship under his belt come March.

7. Michigan State

The big question at MSU this year is whether or not Kalin Lucas can play the whole season the way he played in last year’s NCAA tournament. If he can, then the Spartans should not only win a Big Ten title but they should also be in the thick of things come April. Delvon Roe was the big recruit in the 2008 recruiting class and will have to play a very vital scoring role for this team. Raymar Morgan, Marquise Gray, and Goron Suton also return and will also have big roles to play.

8. Arizona State

When was the last time Sun Devils fans could say they were the best basketball team in Arizona? Not only will that be true for this season, but ASU could be playing in the Final Four. Jeff Pendergraph and James Harden will be playing with chips on their shoulders after being the biggest snub out of last years tournament.

9. Gonzaga

The Bulldogs return their entire starting lineup for the 2008-09 season. Jeremy Pargo, who withheld his name from the draft, is one of the best guards in the nation. Sophomores Steven Gray and Austin Daye will be the three point shooters, and senior Josh Heytvelt and junior Matt Bouldin will try to show everyone that they are better players than they showed last season. A Final Four isn’t out of the question for Gonzaga.

10. Louisville

The reason I have Louisville this low is because of Derrick Caracter’s decision to transfer. Had he not, Louisville would without a doubt be a top 5 team. I love the offensive potential for this team: Samardo Samuels, Earl Clark, Jerry Smith, etc. but I don’t believe they are deep enough on the bench to contend with the likes of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh in the Big East.

11. Marquette

Buzz Williams has a lot to work with next season. The Big Three (Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal) return for their senior campaigns. Shooters Maurice Aker and David Cubillian look to continue their great contribution off the bench, and Lazar Hayward will be a contender for All-Big East at the Small Forward position. The big question is if the Golden Eagles can pick up the rebounding slack left by Ousmane Barro. If not, they could be in for another year where they are looked at as underachievers.

Dominic James/ hoopsvibe photo

12. Purdue

The Boilermakers were certainly the surprise team last year, but it will take a lot of production from E’Twuan Moore and Robbie Hummel to continue the success. Scott Martin will definitely be missed, but in a weak Big Ten this team shouldn’t have a problem biting on the heels of Michigan State.

13. Miami

Jack McClinton showed us he was for real last year in the NCAA tournament, the question is: Are the Hurricanes? Last year was a huge step in the right direction for this program, and hopefully they can continue in stride. Of course, nothing comes easy in the Atlantic Coast Conference. This team will have to have more offensive options than just McClinton if they wanna be right there with Duke and UNC.

14. Texas

Texas could be in contention for the Number One ranking had DJ Augustin not decided to go to the NBA. The Longhorns will still be the favorites to win the Big 12, with AJ Abrams taking over most of the scoring duties and big man Damion James trying to build on last year’s campaign (remember his game against UCLA, WOW)! This Texas team can go deep into March.

15.Oklahoma

Blake Griffin is probably the best basketball player in the country. Let those words sink in, and now think about how great Oklahoma will be if they just get some consistent guard play. Even without the guards, Griffin is good enough to lead the Sooners back to the NCAA’s. Look for these guys to be nipping at the heels of Texas for a Big 12 title.

16. Tennessee

Losing Chris Lofton will definitely hurt the Volunteers this season in terms of the National picture, but in the SEC they shouldn’t have much of a problem taking home the title. Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, and J.P. Prince will try to provide this team with enough scoring to put them back on the national stage in March, but as of right now it looks like they’ll go through some growing pains adjusting to Life-After-Lofton.

17. Villanova

The Sweet 16 performance last season was a great way to show the country that this team deserved to be in the tournament, however Villanova fans know that last year’s play during Big East play was pretty much downright awful. This year they will once again look to Scottie Reynolds for the scoring and to bring them back to the glory in the tournament.

18. West Virginia

(O.K., I swear that this is my last Big East team) The Mountaineers will definitely miss Joe Alexander, but the Great Bob Huggins won’t have a hard time building another Sweet 16 caliber team. Devin Ebanks was a huge sign for WVU, and Kevin Jones was also a key pickup. However, if they want to get back to the deep rounds of the tournament they will need consistent play from Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler.

19. Ohio State

B.J. Mullens is my favorite player in this incoming class. I think he is easily the most gifted athletically and can probably make a run at Big Ten player of the year. If Jon Diebler can shoot the ball it will open up more for Mullens inside and get rid of those double-teams. Diebler can also shoot teams out of zones which will help the Buckeyes make a deep NCAA run.

20. Memphis

The Tigers lost just about every player on their roster with any value. However, like UCLA, they had a tremendous recruiting class. Tyreke Evans will highlight the class and is a lot of people’s “number one player” in this incoming freshman class. Also freshman Wesley Witherspoon and Angel Garcia will have to make huge contributions for the Tigers to get anywhere near the success of last season.

21. USC

Here is another case of a freshman that will do most of the scoring on this team. In this case, Demar DeRozen will be the Trojans go to guy. Taj Gibson will also have to provide some of the spark, because he had a pretty sub-par season in 2007.

22. Wake Forest

I love what Dino Gaudio has done for this Wake Forest team. He came in after a tragic death and now has positioned Wake Forest for a chance to get back to their glory days. Al Farouq-Amini will lead the team in terms of scoring, and center Ty Walker (also a freshman) will carry a lot of the weight. James Johnson will be a key player if this team wants to make it deep into the tournament, but I’m sure any Demon Deacons fan would take even an early round exit after what has happened the past two seasons.

23. Florida

Billy Donovan’s team got off to a hot start last season, but that can be credited to his weak scheduling. The loss of Marreese Speights will definitely hurt, but I expect a big year from Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas. Add a pretty stellar recruiting class to those two, and Florida could be contending for an SEC title.

Nick Calathes/ SI.com photo

24. San Diego

Question: How many players did San Diego graduate last season?

Answer: Zero.

Brandon Johnson, Rob Jones, and Gyno Pomare all played tremendous at the end of last season. Trust me, the upset over Connecticut was no fluke, this team is for real and they will be back next season ready to make an even deeper run into the tournament.

25. Davidson

Two Words: Stephen. Curry. I think if me and three of my friends were put on the court with Curry we could get some upset victories. All joking aside though, this kid is phenomenal and it would be a travesty for Davidson to be left out of any preseason top 25 after last year’s tournament.

Also Considered: Kansas, Minnesota, Arizona, Syracuse, Dayton

Posted in Team Rankings | 3 Comments »

Three Double Digit Scorers Moving

Posted by Zach on June 29, 2008

Three major conference players who made big contributions to their respective teams in 2007-08 are either transferring or returning home:

Stanley Robinson of the UConn Huskies has enrolled in summer classes at a local Alabama community college, and will miss the first half of the Connecticut season at least, according to the The Day in Connecticut.

“He will not play in the first semester,” head coach Jim Calhoun said. “I’m not keeping him out. The NCAA is not keeping him out. But we asked for a medical redshirt. We’re just going to keep him out of school.”

Robinson hopes to return to UConn for the stretch run if he can get his academic and personal life in order. Calhoun often references many occasions in which Robinson has skipped class to return home. Sounds like his career at UConn is in serious jeopardy. The 6’9 forward averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season.

– According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri standout guard Keon Lawrence has decided to transfer with two years of eligiblity remaining, claiming the reason as only personal. Lawrence excelled in big games last year, scoring 24 @ Texas Tech and 25 @ Kansas on Big Monday. Lawrence is from the Newark, NJ area, so look for a possible transfer to Rutgers, Seton Hall or St. John’s, as Lawrence has stated his interest in returning to a Big East school. He averaged 11 PPG last year.

Keon Lawrence/ Journalstar.com photo

– The Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting former Iowa State forward Wesley Johnson has picked Syracuse as his new school beginning in 2009-10.

“I liked what they had to offer . . . enough to end the recruiting,”Johnson said. “I really liked the school a lot. I got to meet the coaches and see the campus and the Carrier Dome. I felt good about it.”

Johnson, who averaged 12.4 PPG in the Big 12 as a sophomore last season, canceled trips to other Big East and Big Ten schools because Syracuse wowed him in such a big way.

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Top Ten 2009 Prospects

Posted by Zach on June 28, 2008

Demar Derozan/ Nike Hoop Summit

The 2008 NBA Draft ended late Thursday night, and while it seems that the 2009 Draft won’t feature as many star-studded, one-and-done freshman like Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo, the top prospects for next June are immensely talented and feature their own unique skill sets. More experienced college players like Darren Collison, Earl Clark, Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry will be featured, along with still a fair amount of freshman like Tyreke Evans, B.J. Mullens and Brandon Jennings.

I’ve narrowed down the expected class to my Top 10 players for the 2009 draft:

1. Demar DeRozan, SG, Southern Cal

Most experts have Blake Griffin pegged as their #1 prospect, but I’ll opt for DeRozan, an unbelievably athletic shooting guard from Compton projected to make an immediate impact as Southern Cal in his one year. He’s an explosive, quick scorer with NBA size and leaping ability that will make scouts drool, but has more of a complete repertoire than just highlight dunks. His shooting range and skilled rebounding also are very impressive and worth being the number one overall selection.

2. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma

Griffin appears to be a Carlos Boozer clone, someone that will average 20 and 7 at the NBA level. His polished skill set around the rim is more developed than most professional players, and he’s extremely difficult to keep from scoring in the paint. The most impressive facet of Griffin’s game is his rebounding ability, both offensively and defensively. Defense needs to improve, but the toughness is there.

3. B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State

As you’ll see soon enough at Ohio State, Mullens is an enigma that needs motivation and polish. Nobody possesses as much pure upside and potential to dominate as Mullens, but the seven footer can often lack discipline and motivation. He’s very athletic, the opposite of a usual stiff even given his size. Mullens is a gifted rebounded and finisher with a strong NBA frame. Defense also needs refining.

4. Brandon Jennings, PG, Arizona

The rumors are afloat that Jennings may opt to play in Europe. Regardless, his stock as an NBA stud will not decline with this decision. At Oak Hill Academy this past year, one of the most distinguished programs in the nation, Jennings averaged 35 points and 8 assists per game. He has top notch athleticism and quickness to the rim, an excellent jump shot and court vision similar to a young Chris Paul. If he decides to play in Tucson, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill will love to play with him.

5. Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut

NBA scouts have been drooling over this kid’s potential for years now. His offensive game needs plenty of molding and development before he can become a threat on both ends of the floor at the next level, and even in the loaded Big East. But this kid is the best pure defender in the nation. His shot-blocking ability is off the charts and explosive leaping ability controls games in the paint.

6. Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA

Many scouts believe Holiday is a more talented Russell Westbrook, the same Westbrook that just went fourth overall in the 2008 Draft. Holiday is versatile at both guard positions, but excels controlling the offense, both with his passing and court vision, and excellent motor to the basket. He’s also the most developed defender of the class at the guard position- his aggressiveness leads to steals and Holiday is committed equally on the defensive end.

7. James Harden, SG, Arizona State

If you asked a college basketball fan who the Freshman of the Year in the Pac-10 was last season, most would say O.J. Mayo, or Kevin Love, or Jerryd Bayless. They’d all be wrong. James Harden took the crown as a freshman in 2007-08, scoring 17.8 per contest while shooting 53% from the floor. Harden is a flat out scorer with an above average jumper and a knack of getting to the basket. His length and wingspan will undoubtedly impress NBA scouts.

8. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina

Lawson is an example of someone who will shoot up draft boards because of his explosiveness and athleticism. He’s a Superman quick point guard who will lead the top team in college basketball, so scouts will know how he does playing with talent. Lawson is a blow-by scorer with plus court vision and strong finishing ability, but he badly needs to lessen the turnovers and strengthen perimeter shooting, or defenders will just play off of him.

9. Nick Calathes, SG, Florida

Calathes really flew under the radar as a freshman last season at Florida, not only for his shooting abilities (37% from 3, and he can even improve on that), but his passing ability (6.1 APG) and rebounding (5.3 RPG). Calathes is a complete player who can play three positions, possesses excellent ball handling and scouts will rave about his basketball IQ. The biggest part of his game is the three-point shooting, which has seemingly unlimited range.

10. Tyreke Evans, SG, Memphis

Evans, much like Jennings, is a super-recruit who excelled at a top high school program in the nation, scoring 33 PPG and grabbing nine boards. Evans is a flat out scorer, someone with a quick first step who nails mid-range jumpers at a consistent basis while also finishing at the rim. He’s a gifted ball handler, someone who will excel in John Calipari’s system. One negative: Evans can be a selfish player.

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Zach’s Early Summer Top 25

Posted by Zach on June 27, 2008

For the debut posts on our new college basketball blog, Pat and I decided to release our mid-summer Top 25 for your enjoyment. Much like Katz, Parrish, Goodman and other college hoops writers, nothing gets us more pumped for the college basketball season than an ordered list of the top contenders in hoops. The Big East will be the most common representative and can tout the label of Best Conference in the Nation this season. In fact, it’s not even close. But an ACC school tops my list, and you’ll never guess who.

1. North Carolina

This might be the most loaded college basketball team in decades. Roy Williams hit the jackpot on Declaration Monday with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all withdrawing their name from the NBA Draft. Couple their staying with guaranteed Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson inside, along with forwards Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller joining the show, the Heels have the best team in the nation by a large margin. Even Bobby Frasor returns from injury.

2. Pittsburgh

The choice for #2 was a difficult one (two other Big East teams were considered, to give you an idea of the strength of that conference), but I ultimately settled on Pittsburgh because of their leadership, experience and versatility on the roster. Sam Young emerged in the Big East Tournament as a true force in the paint and with the mid-range jumper, and super sophomore DeJuan Blair is a keeper. The leadership emerges from Levance Fields at the point and sixth-year senior Mike Cook, recovering from an ACL tear.

Levance Fields/ SI.com photo

3. Louisville

The Cardinals lost their main man in the middle and best passer David Padgett, but his scoring can be easily replaced by incoming freshman Samardo Samuels. Rick Pitino will surely take advantage of his perimeter depth and athleticism, and hopefully Edgar Sosa is ready to take over the point guard role full-time and finally show some maturity. Sharp shooter Jerry Smith and double-double machine Terrence Williams will be key pieces if Pitino wants a conference title.

4. Duke

Since Lance Thomas plays soft, the Blue Devils lack a force inside, an element that will likely lead them to their downfall in March. Still, the overall talent level on the team is incredible. The two stars will be Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler, and even the role players- Thomas, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer- are all positive contributors, especially with Paulus’ newfound shooting range. All-American wing Elliot Williams will also play an important role.

5. Notre Dame

I know…another Big East team. Notre Dame deserves the honor, though, with Luke Harangody, reigning Big East Player of the Year, and the best three-point shooter in any major conference, Kyle McAlarney, leading the way for Mike Brey’s team. Other than maybe Lawson and Hansbrough, this is the best tandem in college basketball. The two underrated cogs are explosive point guard Tory Jackson, an assist machine, and forward Ryan Ayers.

6. UCLA
The losses of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the lottery will sting at first. Once you look past those two departures, though, you see an immensely talented team loaded with potential. Preseason All-American Darren Collison returns and will be able to play a full season without injury, teaming with backcourt mate Josh Shipp for a formidable duo. The recruiting class is just ridiculous that coach Ben Howland put together- Jrue Holiday (4th overall player), J’Mison Morgan (#23) Malcolm Lee (#39) and Drew Gordon (#42) are all future standouts.

7. Connecticut

I really like the makeup of this Connecticut team heading into 2008-09, and I feel this is finally the year they take off in a big way. Kemba Walker is the huge coup recruiting-wise, and he’ll join defensive stud Hasheem Thabeet and a strong guard duo of a healthy A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson. Jeff Adrien is one of the most underrated players in the nation. This team is the seventh best in the nation and yet the fourth best in their own conference.

8. Michigan State

Sure, the Spartans lost floor leader and energizer Drew Neitzel as a senior, but the team returns enough toughness, depth and talent to win the Big Ten title. Raymar Morgan will be the focus of the offense inside and outside, and the addition of super frosh forward Delvon Roe takes the pressure off contributors like Durrell Summers and Goran Suton. My favorite player on Michigan State is speedy quick point guard Kalin Lucas, who can get up and down the court in a heartbeat and has great finishing ability.

9. Purdue

Closely shadowing the Spartans in the Big Ten race will be up-and-coming Purdue, who stunned the college hoops world with their emergence, even as young as they were constituted (winning games in the Kohl Center with a team of freshmen and sophomores is nothing to forget). The team surprisingly lost Scott Martin to Notre Dame, but return Robbie Hummel, an all-around playmaker on the floor, and E’Twaun Moore, a 43% shooter from deep. Matt Painter might be the brightest young coach in the nation.

10. Gonzaga

Outside of UNC, no team improved more on Declaration Monday than Gonzaga, who retained explosive scorer and point guard Jeremy Pargo for another season in the WCC. Pargo teams up with Matt Bouldin, an aggressive slasher with a strong mid-range game, and Stephen Gray, a sophomore with unlimited shooting range, in the backcourt. The frontcourt is led by Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye, the former of which is looking to rebound to superstar quality.

11. Texas

With Kansas losing seemingly everyone not named Sherron Collins, the Longhorns are in position to take over the Big 12. A.J. Abrams leads the way for Texas, a 16.5 PPG scorer from last season, and will be teamed with athletic forwards Justin Mason and Damion James. Also, Conor Atchley inside and outside is a positive contributor. Rick Barnes is one of the more underrated coaches in the nation.

12. Tennessee

The Vols lost a huge amount of their productivity after last season- Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith as seniors and Ramar Smith and Duke Crews for other reasons- and still have the talent to win a watered-down SEC. The players that need to step up are J.P. Prince, a slashing guard who found himself playing a key role down the stretch, along with Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith, a forward with excellent post moves. Their leading scorer, though, could be freshman Scotty Hopson.

13. Arizona State

The Pac-10 may be down from recent campaigns, but can you believe how fast Herb Sendek turned around this program from laughing stock to conference title contender? It all began with the coup of James Harden, a potential lottery pick in 2009, and a player emerging as one of the best in the nation, scoring at a 17.8 PPG pace in his freshman year. His sidekick is Jeff Pendergraph, another fearsome scorer. Look for the team to be motivated after their 2008 snub.

14. Marquette

Buzz Williams first year in charge of the Marquette program will be his easiest. The team returns every key piece from last season outside of the 5-position, a spot less important due to the team’s run-and-gun type offense. Jerel McNeal emerged as the team leader and clutch performer, breaking out in the second round game vs. Stanford and testing the draft waters. I love Lazar Hayward’s game down low. Dominic James needs to improve his shooting and Wesley Matthews needs to be more aggressive.

15. Memphis

The Tigers and John Calipari lost Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, yet still find themselves in my top 15. Why? For one, they return three outstanding defensive players and reliable scoring weapons in Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson and Shawn Taggart. The biggest reason is freshman sensation Tyreke Evans committing, an explosive, dynamic scoring guard who will tear up Conference USA. Plus, you know the team will rack up the conference wins.

16. Miami

The Hurricanes will experience their first basketball season with high expectations in years, a welcomed change for Stan Heath and his staff in South Beach. Jack McClinton is an all-American contender at the guard position, a tremendous scorer (17.7 PPG) with the ability to take over games. We saw it during his 38-point outburst in the NCAA Tournament against Saint Mary’s. Miami also return their other top three scorers and it should be enough to finish third in the ACC.

Jack McClinton

17. Oklahoma

Many draft experts are pegging Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin as the top overall pick in the 2009 Draft, showing you how much raw potential and playing ability this kid possesses. He’s a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor and has an array of advanced post moves. Along with guard Tony Crocker, Jeff Capel brings in a strong batch of freshmen led by my sleeper in the entire class, shooting guard Willie Warren.

18. Villanova

The bulk of the team is back from one that shocked the nation by being added to the NCAA field, then shocked the nation again as a 12 seed defeating Clemson and Siena to reach the Sweet 16. The returning squad is immensely talented led by guards Scottie Reynolds, an all-around playmaker who can shoot and dish, and Corey Fisher, an outstanding 2-guard with great shooting range.

19. West Virginia

Does the Big East have enough representatives in this Top 25? The loss of Joe Alexander and Darris Nichols stings, but don’t underestimate the quality of Bob Huggins recruiting class, led by top 10 player Devin Ebanks and top 30 player Kevin Jones. Also, the team returns players who shined in a big way during the team’s tournament run, namely Joe Mazzulla, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler.

20. Wake Forest

Here is my breakout team for 2008-09, one that could make major noise in the ACC. We saw the potential during their big win at home against Duke, especially from their phenomenal guard combo of sophomores James Johnson and Jeff Teague. The real boost comes from the best recruiting class in the school’s history, led by top small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and five-star center Ty Walker. Following the tragic death of Skip Prosser, new coach Dino Gaudio has done a commendable job.

21. Baylor

Along with Wake Forest, Baylor is another team that will be severely overlooked in preseason publications and polls. Losing Aaron Bruce is a negative, but the return of all-Big 12 performers Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn will aid in the scoring category. Guards Henry Dugat and Tweety Carter are also very useful players. Baylor is a team that could sneak up on the tog dogs in the Big 12.

22. Southern Cal

Davon Jefferson made a huge mistake staying in the Draft rather than returning to school, where he could have led USC to a top-10 or 15 ranking rather than going undrafted. Tim Floyd still has a very formidable amount of talent returning and entering, most notably Demar DeRozan, who may be the best freshman in the nation next season. Also, Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and Angelo Johnson are solid players.

23. Davidson
The loss of point guard Jason Richards will take some trials and learning to overcome, and it could affect how Davidson plays in its annual non-conference death march through ACC country. Still, the NCAA darlings will mold and go undefeated in the SoCon once again. Andrew Lovedale will take over the role of mainstay in the paint and Max Paulhus Gosselin will need to transition from glue guy to scoring option if the team wants to surprise again. There’s another pretty good player they have I’m forgetting about. He’s an okay shooter.

24. Wisconsin

It’s awfully difficult to discount the team that annually plays the best defense in the nation from the top 25. They return reliable scoring options, as well. Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes form an outstanding inside-outside combination, and three-point gunner Jason Bohannon will contribute. Also, expect sophomores Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer to step up to the plate for Bo Ryan.

25. Ohio State

The Buckeyes lost an awful lot of talent and leadership for my liking, but they fill the last slot in my top 25 mainly due to potential and ability. David Lighty has to emerge as the leading scorer, and Jon Diebler must shake off his freshman shooting woes to become the three-point specialist he was in high school. The big coup is freshman B.J. Mullens, a 7 foot local center who is a taller and more talented Kosta Koufos, and has shot up prospect rankings since his commitment.

Also considered: Florida, Georgetown, UNLV, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, San Diego, Syracuse

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Our Inspiration

Posted by Patrick on June 26, 2008

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