Aaron Torres’ Take
By Aaron Torres on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Tonight, the future of the entire NBA will change at right around 8:30 ET. That is when this year’s NBA Draft lottery kicks off, and we begin to find out what this year’s draft will look like.
Yup, now that players have declared for the draft, this is the next big step in the process, to go along with individual workouts, the NBA Draft Combine (also taking place this week) and of course the draft itself on June on Thursday, June 20th.
So with the NBA Draft Lottery tonight, what do you need to know? Here are a few things:
What is the NBA Draft Lottery?
I find it impossible to believe that anyone reading this article wouldn’t know what the NBA Draft lottery is, but for the one percent of one percent who might not be sure, here goes:
The NBA Draft lottery is a literal lottery (with ping pong balls and everything) which helps the NBA determine the draft order. Every team that didn’t make the playoffs this season (assuming they haven’t traded their pick) is eligible, with the worst teams having the best odds of landing the number one pick.
Only the top three picks are determined by the lottery, and from then on, the draft order is determined based on win-loss record. The worst teams get the highest picks.
Coverage of the draft lottery begins at 8:30 ET, which means that by 9:00 p.m., we will all know who is selecting where. And the fortune of one franchise will change forever (more on that coming).
Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 148: John Beilein + NBA Draft Lottery + UK and Memphis Recruiting Wins
By KSR on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
It’s Monday, and we’ve got a WILD edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron reacts to breaking news of Michigan’s John Beilein headed to the NBA. Plus he shares thoughts on Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery, discusses big recruiting wins for Kentucky and Memphis and as well as how the NBA Playoffs prove the value of college basketball. Here is a rundown of today’s show:
John Beilein to the NBA: Aaron reacts to the shocking, stunning news that Michigan head coach John Beilein will go to the NBA. He explains why this makes sense from the Cavaliers perspective, and what they will be getting in a head coach. Also, what the heck does Michigan do now for their next head coach?
The NBA Playoffs Are Proving the Value of College Basketball: As Aaron watched the NBA Playoffs this weekend, he noticed how many players – from Steph Curry to Kawhi Leonard to Damian Lillard – stayed in college for more than one season. He explains why the numbers show that we’re looking at the NBA Draft wrong, and why players should be staying in college longer, not leaving for the NBA as quickly as possible.
Previewing the NBA Draft Lottery: The NBA Draft lottery is Tuesday and Aaron has some thoughts leading into the big event.
A Big Basketball Recruiting Weekend: Johnny Juzang is going to Kentucky — what kind of impact will he have on the Wildcats? Also, after Memphis added two more big-time players it’s fair to ask: Just how high will Penny Hardaway’s club be ranked heading into next season?
Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.
By KSR on ©May 09th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
It’s a new edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron is joined by his old friend Nick Coffey to talk about the Kentucky Derby fallout and put a bow on the college basketball FBI trials. Then Aaron talks about his way too early ranking of SEC teams and answers listener-submitted questions. Here’s a rundown of today’s show:
Fallout from the Kentucky Derby: Nick Coffey was at the Kentucky Derby and he joins Aaron to discuss the scene at Churchill Downs. Nick explains why Saturday’s ruling is more common than most people realize, but why it still shouldn’t have been called. Also with Maximum Security and Country House now out of the Preakness is this the worst case scenario for horse racing? Finally, Aaron and Nick finish by wrapping up the FBI trials in college basketball.
SEC Power Rankings and Aaron Answers Listener Submitted Questions: Aaron wraps the show solo, discussing “Way Too Early” SEC basketball power ratings for 2019-2020, which he wrote for KSR this week. Also, he answers listener questions: If Kentucky fans could only take Jaden McDaniels or Kerry Blackshear, who should they go after? Plus, will any head coach lose his job from the FBI trial?
Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.
By Aaron Torres on ©May 08th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Over on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, we created a new segment this week called “User Submitted Questions.” It is – wait for it – questions submitted by listeners to the show, which I answer at the end of every episode. The topics are pretty much fall under the category of “whatever the hell the listeners want answered” ranging from college hoops, pop culture, my upcoming bachelor party in Vegas, you name it (by the way, you can submit your question at [email protected]).
Anyway, one of the questions submitted this week (which will run on tomorrow/Thursday’s episode of the show) was so good, I decided to bring it here. That question:
If Kentucky could only get one post player in this class, which should Kentucky fans prefer? Jaden McDaniels or Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Again, it’s such a great question, I decided to bring it here. Let’s take a look, and start with McDaniels:
Who Is He:
McDaniels is the more traditional John Calipari recruit, a can’t miss high school player who seems destined to be a one-and-done star in college before heading off to the NBA. And he’s gotten there with a wild backstory: At this point last year, McDaniels wasn’t even ranked in the Top 100 players nationally. But after blowing up in the April evaluation period he jumped into the Top 10 of virtually every ranking nationally, and never really left.
In terms of his game, McDaniels is kind of the mold of a “new-age” power forward, a player who – despite being 6’11 – can handle the ball and hit three pointers, as well as play down low. Think Jonathan Isaac who played at Florida State a few years ago (and now with the Orlando Magic), or in a bit of an extreme example, Kevin Durant.
Admittedly, I’m not saying that McDaniels will ever be the best player on the planet (like Durant is now) but that they have very similar skill-sets. Seeing McDaniels in person, it’s easy to see why some recruiting experts believe he has more NBA upside than any player in high school basketball right now.
As mentioned above, the upside of McDaniels is through the roof. He hasn’t figured it all out yet (as I mentioned after the Nike Hoops Summit, his ball-handling needs work) but when he does put it together, look out. McDaniels has “NBA All-Star” type potential down the line.
Back to the Nike Hoops Summit for a second, because that’s the last place I saw McDaniels play. He wasn’t actually on the Team USA roster, but instead, was brought in as a practice player to oppose the American squad. Still, on a floor that included James Wiseman, Tyrese Maxey, Cole Anthony and others, McDaniels stood out. He just looked and moved differently than the other guys – he was just more fluid and athletic for his size than anyone else on the court. To use a term the kids are dropping pretty regularly these days, McDaniel is just different.
Unrelated, but you know what else I liked about McDaniels? You could tell he took it personally that he was left off the Team USA roster, and made it a point to prove those on the selection committee wrong that night. For most of the scrimmage between the two sides he was the clear aggressor, a player who took it at Wiseman or Vernon Carey or whoever opposed him every chance he got.
McDaniels wasn’t perfect that night, but in that environment – against the best players in high school basketball, in front of NBA scouts – he was fearless. And that’s hard not to like.
This is pretty easy: He’ll be a freshman next season. And for freshmen, there is always a learning curve, even among the elite players. While we always tend to focus on the freshmen who become stars right away (John Wall, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson etc.) the bottom-line is that for most guys there is an adjustment period. Even guys who are perceived to be “stars” coming into college take time to develop, if they ever develop at the college level at all (think “Romeo Langford”).
Therefore, while McDaniels is uniquely gifted, I’m not sure that he will simply be able to get by on physical tools alone next season. If anything, it’s the exact opposite; I think he could struggle a little bit (at least early) due to his overall lack of strength. McDaniels is listed at 6’11 but only 185 lbs. Even if he bulks up in a summer weight-training program, it will still take some time to adjust. Another question I have: How will he fare when the ball isn’t in his hands? That’s not to say that he’s a selfish player or anything, but like so many other great players, McDaniels is at his best when he is making plays for himself. Can he get buckets in the flow of an offense? That remains to be seen.
Oh, and one final question that is unique to McDaniels: If he does end up at Kentucky, how will he handle being so far from home? This is a kid who has notoriously shied away from attention and who has let his parents do most of the talking/decision-making in the recruiting process. Well, it’s safe to say that the spotlight is a lot different in Lexington, Kentucky than it is in Seattle, Washington. Especially when mom and dad aren’t there to shied you from the media.
It’s not a knock on the kid, just a reality of his situation.
Likelihood he ends up at Kentucky:
When I recorded my podcast on Wednesday morning, I said that I still thought it was somewhat unlikely that McDaniels ended up at Kentucky. I put the likelihood at 70/30 in favor of Washington getting him.
But thennnnnnnnn, Evan Daniels put out a “crystal ball” prediction that McDaniels will ultimately choose the Wildcats. There is no recruiting guru I trust more than Evan, so if he says it, I’d say that it’s more likely than not that McDaniels does indeed play for the Wildcats.
Now, let’s move on:
Who is He:
Blackshear is the new-age Kentucky recruit, a graduate transfer who has played college basketball for the last three years and is now potentially seeking a new home, depending on what happens in the NBA Draft process. Like Reid Travis, Blackshear can be an immediate contributor down low and would start from Day 1 for the Wildcats.
In terms of his game, he plays a lot like Travis, as a big, strong, physical low-post presence, who averaged just under 15 points and eight rebounds a season ago at Virginia Tech. Unlike Travis however, everything didn’t run through him at Virginia Tech. Although he averaged 15 points per game, he did it on just 10 shots per contest, an insanely efficient clip.
Add in the fact that Blackshear has an emerging perimeter game (he actually hit 63 three-pointers last year) and he would not only be a much-needed veteran presence on next year’s roster, but would bring plenty of talent to the table as well.
Again, this is obvious: Blackshear has not only played college basketball, but played it at an insanely high level. As mentioned above, he averaged just under 15 points and eight rebounds last year and did it in arguably the toughest conference in all of college basketball. The fact that he had maybe his best game, against the best team Virginia Tech played all year doesn’t hurt, when he dropped 18 and 16 in a Sweet 16 loss to Duke.
While there would obviously be some sort of adjustment from “playing at Virginia Tech” to playing under the bright lights in Lexington, the actual on the court adjustment would likely be minimal at most.
There is still some downside to Blackshear, and the most obvious is this: Does he actually want to be in college anymore? As he continues to test the NBA Draft waters right now, it’s clear he wants to stay in. Therefore, if he does have to come back to college basketball, how excited will he be, to be there? Will he really come back to college ready to work? Or be moping that he’s not in the NBA?
The other part, and I don’t think this is as big of a deal, but how will Blackshear adjust to playing with so many good players? It’s obviously a good problem to have, and again, it isn’t as glaring as it appeared to be with Reid Travis last year. Unlike Travis at Stanford, the entire offense didn’t flow through Blackshear at Virginia Tech.
Still, he did average nearly 30 minutes a game last year and played even more down the stretch. Will potentially splitting time with EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards (assuming they return) and Nate Sestina be a big deal?
Likelihood he ends up at Kentucky:
This one is hard to project.
First off (as I said above) it seems like Blackshear is truly intent on giving everything he has to the NBA Draft process. I still haven’t seen a single mock where he is listed as a player who will get drafted, but as the old saying goes “you only need one team to fall in love.” And even if he isn’t projected to be drafted, at 22-years-old, with his degree in hand, there’s always the possibility that Blackshear says “screw it” and decides to begin his professional career.
But then, on top of Kentucky having to fend off the NBA, they also have to fend off other suitors at the college level as well. To me, the most obvious one is Florida, a team where Blackshear is – quite literally – the missing piece. The Gators are absolutely loaded in the backcourt next season with Andrew Nembhard, Tre Mann, Scottie Lewis and others, but have no one to play in the post. Blackshear could step in, be a difference-maker right away, and probably take 20 shots per night if he really wanted to.
Other schools will get into the mix too, but assuming it comes down to Florida and Kentucky, what Blackshear would have to ask himself is this: What is the better place to play? The spot where he will have unlimited playing time and the chance to put up bigger stats? Or the place that’s a bigger stage and more routinely puts out NBA Draft prospects.
There is no easy answer, but that is what a college decision for Blackshear would come down to.
Alright it took us long enough, but here we are. And to answer the question (and spoil a bit of tomorrow’s podcast):
If I’m a Kentucky fan, and could only take one of the two it’d be Blackshear.
Blackshear is a player with major college experience, and one who has been battled-tested against the best teams in the sport, in the toughest venues. He’d add a veteran presence to the roster, and the great thing about him is that he is hyper-efficient. Again, he only averaged 10 shots per game at Virginia Tech. Think about how much easier those shots will be with all the talent surrounding him in Lexington?
As for McDaniels, look the kid is a special player, with a chance to be really, really, REALLY special down the line. But he is just a kid. His best basketball will be played long after he’s in Lexington, when he’s 24, 25 and 26-years-old. While it might be cool for a Kentucky fan to one day look up, see McDaniels in an All-Star game and say “Wow, I remember when he played in Lexington” it doesn’t do anyone good in the 2019-2020 college basketball.
Both would be really solid additions to the roster. But if I could only have one, I’d take Blackshear.
(To hear Aaron’s full breakdown of this topic, be sure to subscribe to Aaron’s podcast, with the Blackshear vs. McDaniels debate available on Thursday’s episode)
By Aaron Torres on ©May 06th, 2019 @ 10:00pm
We’re still only in the first full week of May, over 200 players have declared for the NBA Draft with many set to return to school, and recruiting decisions are still being made – so there’s really no legitimate reason that anyone in the media should begin looking ahead to next college hoops season.
Thankfully, I’m not just anyone in the media – and I won’t be deterred by a simple thing like “hundreds of kids still deciding whether or not they’ll come back to college or not.” Instead, I’m going to give you what America wants… what they need, dammit, a Way Too Early 2019-2020 SEC basketball preview.
Now again, to be clear, this is a Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Too Early look at the season ahead. Virtually every single program in the conference has at least one player who is currently “testing” the NBA Draft waters and may eventually return (May 29th is the deadline to withdraw). And there are still several high school basketball stars that have yet to make college decisions. Many could end up at SEC schools like Johnny Juzang (Kentucky), RJ Hampton (Kentucky) and Trendon Watford (LSU).
Still, below our best look at a Way (WAY) Too Early SEC Power Ranking for the 2019-2020 season. Please note, that any player with an asterisk (*) next to their names are players that are currently testing the NBA Draft waters. We did our best to speculate who will come back (like say, Kentucky’s E.J. Montgomery) and who will stay in the draft (Jared Harper, Grant Williams, Tremont Waters) etc. but again, these are speculations. However, if it feels like a guy will stay in the draft (think “Jared Harper”) then I have left them off next year’s roster. I’ve also included recruits who are projected to go to SEC schools but haven’t yet committed as part of next year’s projections as well. That includes Juzang at Kentucky and Watford at LSU.
Ok, enough fluff, let’s get to our Wayyyyy Too Early SEC Power Ranking:
Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 146: Kentucky Derby Controversy + Former Heavyweight Champ Michael Bentt
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 06th, 2019 @ 10:30am
Just a few days after PJ Washington joined the show, we have another very special Aaron Torres Sports Podcast for you on this Monday. Aaron recaps a wild weekend at the Kentucky Derby and discusses the NCAA looking into Arizona’s basketball program. Then, as promised, Aaron is joined by former heavyweight champ Michael Bentt, for a long look at his career and his new show on Netflix “Losers.” Here’s today’s rundown:
Kentucky Derby Controversy: Aaron recorded today’s show immediately after the Kentucky Derby and discusses the controversy with Country House winning this race after Maximum Security was disqualified. Aaron feels bad for Maximum Security bettors and admits he didn’t know there was replay review in horse racing. Also, did the stewards get the call right?
Arizona is Being Investigated by the NCAA: In what is essentially the only college hoops news of recent days, Aaron discusses the NCAA investigating Arizona basketball and why honestly, it isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. Aaron also asks the question: If the FBI couldn’t find proof that Sean Miller was cheating, and the NCAA cleared both DeAndre Ayton and Jahvon Quinerly (the recruit who accepted money) how much trouble can they get in?
Former heavyweight champ Michael Bentt joins the show: Finally, Aaron is joined by former heavyweight champ Michael Bentt to discuss his long, winding career, and his new show on Netflix “Losers.” They discuss the highs of his career, which included being the heavyweight champion of the world, and the lows of getting knocked out in front of millions of people. Bentt’s complicated relationship with his dad, and his new life as a boxing trainer to Hollywood stars like Will Smith and Clint Eastwood. This episode is unlike anything Aaron has done in the past!
Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for all of Kentucky’s basketball players, but maybe no one more so than P.J. Washington. Since the season ended, Washington has been busy finishing up classes, rehabbing his injured foot, declaring for the draft, and of course, taking part in a statewide autograph tour.
The autograph tour wrapped up last night at KSBar in Lexington, but Washington’s most memorable stop occurred earlier in the trip. That’s because on yesterday’s episode of KSR’s “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast,” Washington was the guest, and shared a story of the single strangest thing that happened on the autograph tour.
??BIG. GUEST. ALERT. PJ Washington joins tomorrow (Thursday) Aaron Torres Podcast. He talks about his decision to return to UK, the 2019 season and the craziest thing he's seen on his signing tour. Subscribe to have the episode delivered to your phone:https://t.co/WPMCUILj1M pic.twitter.com/A28N4DJNok
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) May 2, 2019
And trust us, it’s weird.
“There was this one item that I signed,” he said. “I think it was like a [real] wildcat. It was like dead, or something. It was the weirdest thing I’ve seen so far.”
The comment caught Aaron off-guard, to the point that he had to ask the question everyone was wondering: So, was like the wildcat stuffed, or well, how exactly did that work?
“I think it was stuffed,” Washington said. “I was kind of shocked. I’ve never seen anything like it. Signing it was kind of weird.”
In addition to the strange encounter with an actual wildcat, Washington also discussed this past season, and specifically his emergence from “struggling star” early, to “one of the best players in college basketball” by March. Washington admitted that the season didn’t start off as planned, and that he was tentative early on in the process. However, he did eventually hit his groove.
The turning point came in a home game against Mississippi State, where Washington went for 21 points, six rebounds and four blocks. And from there, he never looked back.
“Once I played good that game, after that it was just kind of kept going from there,” Washington said. “After that game, I kind of bought into ‘I’m going to be this guy every night. I’m going to work my butt off in practice. Just trying to lead by example.’ I was just trying to be a leader for my teammates. After that it all just kind of took a good turn I would say.”
It certainly did, as Washington led the Wildcats to another 30-win season and to the Elite Eight.
From there Aaron also chats with P.J. about the status of his injured foot, what NBA teams are telling him about the draft process, and what his thoughts on next year’s team are.
To download the entire interview, please click here.
By Aaron Torres on ©May 02nd, 2019 @ 12:00pm
The deadline to declare for the NBA Draft was just over a week ago, and after it came and went we learned one important thing: MAN, did a whollllllllllle lot of people decide to “test the waters.” Overall, 233 college underclassmen declared for the draft, a number that doesn’t include seniors like Admiral Schofield, Cameron Johnson and others who will end up getting drafted.
Meaning, that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 or so players, fighting for 60 draft spots. Woof.
Now obviously not all those guys will end up staying in the draft, which means that basically every major program in college basketball is in wait-and-see mode right, as many of their best players are “testing the waters.” Add it up and it has put college basketball in a straightjacket, making it impossible to project what teams will look like next season. It’s especially difficult when you consider that for the first time ever, players can hire agents and still retain eligibility. Therefore, even hearing a guy say “I’m hiring an agent” doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be back in college next season.
Still, as I started to look at the SEC picture for next season, I was amazed at how many keep players are currently testing the draft waters. Which is what spawned this article today: The 14 biggest “stay or go” decisions in the SEC This season.
(Please note: I’ve purposely left off players who have already said that they will stay in the draft like P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Jontay Porter and Daniel Gafford. I also left off Jared Harper who has said that he plans on staying in the draft regardless of what his draft position looks like).
Here’s the list:
14) Jeremiah Tilmon, F/C, Missouri
The Tigers are a semi-intriguing team coming into next season, with a bunch of young, backcourt and wing players set to return. That includes Mark Smith, Torrance Watson and Javon Pickett, all of whom averaged at least seven points per game last season. It isn’t unrealistic to expect all three to make a jump next season.
The issue in Columbia is down low, where, if Tilmon decides to leave, Cuonzo Martin’s club has next to no size in the paint. Tilmon wasn’t necessarily great last season, but he did average 10 points and a team-high six rebounds per game last year and does give the Tigers an experienced, big body they despartely need.
With Tilmon back, the Tigers are a sneaky interesting, potentially middle-of-the-pack SEC team next year. Without him they are a fun, guard-heavy lineup that basically has no size down low.
13) Savion Flagg, G, Texas A&M
In a bit of a surprising piece of news, Texas A&M doesn’t actually look terrible heading into Buzz Williams’ first season in College Station. Williams has already scrapped together a nice recruiting class and returns some key pieces including second-leading scorer Wendell Mitchell, as well as guard T.J. Starks. Starks missed a bunch of time this year with injuries after showing flashes as a freshman in 2018.
Still, the key piece for the Aggies is Flagg, who led the team in scoring last year (12 ppg) and also averaged nearly eight rebounds per game. Yes, eight boards per contest. As a guard. Not too shabby.
That’s also why Flagg’s return is so important. The SEC is a grind, especially for an undermanned, first-year head coach. Williams needs all the help he can get. And Flagg would certainly provide that.
12) A.J. Lawson, G/F, South Carolina
To be blunt, I’m not sure there was a more bizarre team in all of college basketball this season than South Carolina. Yes, the Gamecocks went just 16-16 overall, but also finished fifth in the SEC standings. Not terrible. But not great, and now they lose a bunch of key guys, including leading scorer and rebounder Chris Silva. It puts South Carolina in a precarious place heading into next season.
Their one saving grace however could be the return of Lawson, who averaged 13 points per game and was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team this season.
The bigger question is: Will he come back? Lawson is an intriguing prospect, but one that virtually all draft pundits believe would be better suited returning to school and preparing for the 2020 NBA Draft. Heck, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony even compared Lawson’s decision to that of P.J. Washington’s last year.
If Lawson does come back, the Gamecocks have a star to build around. If he doesn’t, there’s a realistic chance they’re the worst team in the SEC.
11) Reggie Perry, F, Mississippi State
Although Perry isn’t a household name, he is a former McDonald’s All-American and did emerge into the Bulldogs’ best interior presence over the second half of the year. He finished the season averaging 10 points and seven boards per game, which are pretty impressive numbers for a freshman playing for the notoriously difficult Ben Howland.
And with the team’s two leading scorers – Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters – off to the pros, the Bulldogs really do need Perry back to be a threat in the SEC. With his return, the Bulldogs have a star to build around, and a nice core overall with Perry, Tyson Carter, Nick Weatherspoon and others.
Without him the Bulldogs have a massive hole down low and are at best, a middle of the pack SEC team.
10) Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn
Okeke has quite possibly the hardest decision of any of any player in the SEC. Prior to his devastating knee injury in the NCAA Tournament, Okeke was trending as a first-round pick, but now it’s anyone’s guess if he will even get selected at all if he doesn’t remove his name from the draft.
It really is an impossible decision, with no easy answer. If Okeke decides to return to school, it will probably take him a while to get fully healthy, and it’s hard to imagine him getting back to the form he showed prior to his injury next season. If he does return, it seems realistic that this could be a two-year injury for Okeke, meaning he’d have to come back next season and the one after to regain the form he had before the injury.
On the opposite side, if Okeke stays in the draft he will be entering at the literal low point of his draft stock. It’s still certainly possible he gets drafted based on potential alone. But it’s also possible he won’t get drafted at all.
Okeke’s return greatly impacts Auburn on the court, so we will put him here. But whether he does return or not is anyone’s guess.
9) Emmitt Williams, F, LSU
8) Javonte Smart, G, LSU
7) Skylar Mays, G, LSU
Safe to say it’s been an adventurous off-season in Baton Rouge, where Will Wade’s name continues to come up in the FBI trials, and five different LSU Tigers have declared for the draft. It seems certain that two (Tremont Waters and Naz Reid) will stay in, but what about Mays, Smart and Williams?
None of the three are projected to be picked, which raises an interesting question: What if they all decided to come back?
Should they come back (and assuming their coach does too), the Tigers will again be a really good team in the SEC, probably not elite like this year, but capable of finishing somewhere as high as fourth in the league standings.
Of course at this point, it’s fair to ask whether LSU really wants any of them back, especially Smart, who was at the center of the alleged wiretap in which Will Wade allegedly discussed paying him. Wouldn’t it make sense for LSU to distance itself from Smart (or heck, even pay him to stay away) so he never has to talk to the NCAA?
I think so. And I wouldn’t expect Smart, or frankly, any of these three to be back.
6) Nic Claxton, C, Georgia
Because so much of the focus at Georgia this season was actually on next season when Anthony Edwards arrives, it kind of got overlooked just how good Claxton was. The big, 6’11 center not only led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, but also showed that he is a great athlete with the tools to play at the next level.
Add it up, and Claxton might be the most under-discussed “testing the waters” prospect in the SEC this season. If he stays in the draft he could end up as a potential late first round/early second round pick. If he comes back, he will give Georgia one nasty inside/outside combination with Edwards, and should make the Bulldogs a threat to make the NCAA Tournament
(Of course because Tom Crean coaches Georgia, I wouldn’t be surprised if they underachieved).
5) Breein Tyree, G, Ole Miss
The Rebels were one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball last season, going from a last place finish in the SEC in 2018 to an NCAA Tournament bid in 2019. And it was thanks in large part to Tyree, who blossomed under Kermit Davis, averaging nearly 18 points per game. In the process, he earned All-SEC first team honors.
The question now is whether or not he returns. With him, the Rebels have their rock, a star to build around and a realistic shot to return to the NCAA Tournament. Without him they are probably back to be a bottom-half of the SEC type team.
4) Nick Richards, C, Kentucky
3) E.J. Montgomery, F, Kentucky
While Grant Williams and Jordan Bone (more on them coming) are clearly better players, an argument could be made that Richards and Montgomery’s returns are more important to the success of their individual teams.
That’s because while the pair averaged just eight points and seven rebounds last season, they are essentially the only frontcourt help Kentucky has for next season. Grad transfer Nate Sestina will help, but I’m not sure the transition from Patriot League to SEC will be an easy one. Other grad transfers may be available on the market, but as of right now, none are definitively going to Lexington.
These two are literally the difference between the Wildcats being a preseason Top 5 national championship contender, and a good, but not elite team nationally.
2) Jordan Bone, G, Tennessee
1) Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
So I don’t think you need me to tell you the importance of a team potentially returning the conference Player of the Year (Williams) and a second-team All-League honoree (Bone). Still, in case it’s not clear, the return of each is MASSIVE. For whatever you think of Grant Williams, he is a monster down low who averaged just under 19 points and seven rebounds per game. Bone was maybe the league’s most consistent point guard while averaging 13.5 points and six assists per contest a season ago.
The question is, will either stay? Ironically, it’s Williams – projected by some as a late first round pick – who seems more intent on returning to school, while Bone (who some believe will go undrafted) looks more likely to keep his name in the draft.
With both back, Tennessee is again, an SEC and national title contender. Lose both and the Vols will be good, but not elite.
Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 145: PJ Washington Joins the Show! Plus Other College Hoops Odds and Ends
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 02nd, 2019 @ 11:30am
It’s Episode 145 of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast – with a special guest, as P.J. Washington joins the show. Before Washington joins the show though, Aaron recaps a wild week in college basketball. Here is a rundown of the day’s show:
Odds and Ends from Around College Basketball/Football: Aaron wraps up a wild week across college sports. He tells you why you shouldn’t believe everything you hear in the FBI trial, and why the whole premise of the trial is rooted in lies. He then talks about the wild back-story on UCLA’s coaching hire – was John Calipari really close to taking the job? Plus, Reggie Bush says he’s going to “recruit” Urban Meyer to USC. Is Meyer-to-SC inevitable?
PJ Washington joins the show: Next up, PJ Washington joins the show, before the final stop on his signing tour. He shares his craziest signing tour story (and it’s crazy), as well as what the last year was like in Lexington. He explains why he is happy with his decision to return to college, how he improved as a player and what the next steps are. He also gives an updated on his injured foot, and shares what he thinks of next year’s Kentucky Wildcats starring Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey.
By KSR on ©April 29th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
We may be nearing May, but SO much is still going on in the world of college basketball, and in a new edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Aaron recaps it all. He starts by discussing new twists in the FBI trial, including why is no one calling out Duke, why Sean Miller shouldn’t worry and is Rick Pitino innocent? Then he wraps by talking about the recruitment of Johnny Juzang. Here is a full recap of today’s show:
The latest on the FBI Trial: With the FBI trial starting up again, Aaron gets you caught up. He explains what new schools are involved, why it will be hard to prove certain schools broke rules, and why is no one questioning Duke after Marvin Bagley and Zion Williamson’s names have emerged? Plus, why Sean Miller has nothing to worry about… yet. And is Rick Pitino really innocent?
What’s new with Johnny Juzang:Aaron wraps by discussing about the warp-speed recruitment of Johnny Juzang. Aaron explains who he is, and why he believes that Juzang will ultimately commit to Kentucky. If Juzang does sign with the Wildcats, what role will he play and what impact will he have? Aaron has the scoop.
By Aaron Torres on ©April 26th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
It’s no secret that Kerry Blackshear Jr. is the No. 1 target on Kentucky Basketball’s board right now. It’s also no secret that it was a BIZARRE week in his recruitment.
On Monday, Rivals.com’s Corey Evans reported that John Calipari visited Blackshear’s parents for an in-home meeting.
— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 22, 2019
Well, not exactly. Almost immediately after Evans put out that report, Blackshear’s father, Kerry Blackshear Sr., denied that the meeting ever happened.
FWIW, Kerry Blackshear Sr. told me just now he did not meet with John Calipari today. "That wasn't the case."
He said they're working on a date. "We're trying to figure that out right now as we speak.'
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 23, 2019
Well, it gets even weirder, since later in the week Blackshear Sr. admitted that he lied, and that the meeting did in fact happen.
So it appears John Calipari did in fact meet on Monday with Kerry Blackshear Jr. and his family, as reported by @russhoops. Kerry Sr. told several reporters the meeting did not take place.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 24, 2019
And since those bizarre interactions, everyone has tried to figure out what to make of Blackshear Sr.’s behavior. Did he not want details of the meeting getting out to the media? Did Kentucky tell him to keep things hush-hush, especially with two big men (Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery) testing the NBA Draft process?
Only Blackshear Sr. knows, but the man who was on the other side of this mess, Corey Evans of Rivals.com, joined KSR’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast this week to explain his version of the event. He also discussed Blackshear’s recruitment and gave updates on R.J. Hampton and Jaden McDaniels (you can download the full show by clicking here).
Evans was hesitant to speculate on what the Blackshear family might have been thinking, but added that because Kerry Blackshear Jr. was a relatively low-rated recruit coming out of high school, his family might not be used to this kind of attention.
“There’s definitely some pressure there on all sides,” Evans said. “I think of what Kerry was in high school. He was a relatively thought of prospect. But it wasn’t like this. It’s not nationally acclaimed, coming from every angle. The family has never dealt with this.”
Strange ordeal aside, it’s clear that Kentucky is in fact in the mix to land Blackshear if he returns to college. And if he does land in Lexington, the Wildcats are getting an instant impact player that Evans called “maybe the best grad transfer I can remember” after he averaged 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in the rugged ACC. The question now is, after this bizarre week, where exactly does Kentucky fit into the pecking order?
Evans made it clear that Blackshear Jr.’s full focus is on the NBA. But if he does return to school, Evans said that, as has been reported elsewhere, the Wildcats, Florida and Texas A&M (where Blackshear’s old coach Buzz Williams is) are the teams to beat.
“First off, what I think Kerry would like to do is go to the NBA,” Evans said. “But if he does return to college those three schools would atop his list. That would be Florida, the local program that is bringing in a super-talented class. They already have a couple guys [in the backcourt] in terms of Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson and all they’re really missing is that stud big man. He can take Florida from a potential Top 4, Top 5 SEC team, to a dark horse Final Four team. Kentucky is there [in the mix] as well. Texas A&M too. Buzz Williams was the guy who recruited him when no one outside a select few schools were really on him.”
Evans also mentioned that he believes Michigan State, Tennessee and Gonzaga are making a strong push for Blackshear as well, but are currently on the outside of those three schools looking in.
Outside of Blackshear, the rest of the recent recruiting buzz with Kentucky has been on a few select players, including 2020 guard prospect R.J. Hampton, who is expected to reclassify into the class of 2019, as well as Jaden McDaniels.
Hampton is a transcendent talent, a player who Evans said “might be in the mix for the top player in the class of 2019” if he decides to reclassify. Unfortunately, with a loaded backcourt next season with the return of Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley and the arrival of Tyrese Maxey, it doesn’t seem like Kentucky makes a ton of sense for Hampton.
“John Calipari was there [Thursday] along with Kenny Payne to do their best to get two Texas guys with Hampton along with Tyrese Maxey,” Evans said. “They’re doing their best, but it’s not the right fit I believe.”
With the return of Tre Jones at Duke, Evans gave the Blue Devils “about a one percent chance” of landing Hampton, and said he believes it will likely come down to Memphis and Kansas.
And finally, there is the long, winding, maybe never-ending recruitment of Jaden McDaniels. The 2019 prospect is finally, just now starting to take his recruitment seriously. But even just weeks before most freshmen will enroll in college, Evans and most recruiting experts have no great feel for where McDaniels will land. He did say that he wasn’t as convinced as everyone else that the choice would be Washington, but added that no one is quite sure right now.
“I talked to his family two weeks ago and they told me that Jaden had begun to start to turn his focus towards his recruitment,” Evans said. “He doesn’t have to do anything until — honestly, he could sign Financial Aid papers and show up on campus at any of those colleges, and they likely keep a scholarship for him just in case it happens.
And it sounds crazy like, ‘that would never happen.’ But Jaden is just that kind of guy to do that. He just wants to ball. He doesn’t care about the recruiting process whatsoever. His family has kept him down to Earth throughout this all. I think there’s been some traction. But nothing where we’re talking about a commitment.”
Overall it was a fun conversation with Evans, and in-depth on three of the biggest prospects that Kentucky is currently recruiting. To listen to the full interview, please click here.
By KSR on ©April 25th, 2019 @ 11:00am
It’s Thursday and you know what that means: An all new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast! Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to discuss all sorts of news across the world of basketball and grade the SEC’s coaching hires, and then later in the show, Rivals.com’s Corey Evans joins to discuss a bizarre week with Kerry Blackshear’s recruitment, plus other recruiting news:
Aaron and Nick Grade the SEC Coaching Hires: Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to open the show, and they swing around a bunch of different topics. With Nick headed to Nashville for the NFL Draft, is this the least exciting draft ever? And what’s a better bachelor party city: Nashville or Las Vegas? Plus, the guys grade the SEC’s four coaching hires, explain why they love Buzz Williams to A&M and Eric Musselman to Arkansas and why Jerry Stackhouse might be destined to fail at Vanderbilt.
Corey Evans Discusses His Bizarre Interaction with Kerry Blackshear Sr.: Next up, Aaron is joined by Rivals.com’s Corey Evans to discuss the bizarre situation with Kerry Blackshear Sr. earlier this week. Corey explains what happened, and the guys wonder: Why did Blackshear Sr. lie to the media about a meeting with John Calipari? Also, where does Blackshear’s recruitment stand right now?
Where UK Stands with other Targets: The guys also discuss the latest on RJ Hampton — if he comes to the class of 2019 where will he end up? And will Jaden McDaniels EVER commit to a college?
By Aaron Torres on ©April 22nd, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Darin Graham will never forget the first time he had a chance to coach Johnny Juzang. It was the summer of 2015, and the Compton Magic AAU squad was playing a tournament in Canada. Etop Udo-Ema, the famed director of the Magic, told Graham prior to the team’s departure that Juzang would be joining the team for the tournament.
At the time Juzang was only in eighth grade, but already regarded as one of the top players in his age-group, player known for his smooth offensive game and ability to hit deep jump shots. And when he showed up at the gym, he left a memorable impression on Graham, who remains his coach with the Magic to this day.
“He’s like ‘Coach, call me Silky,’” Graham, who also goes by ‘Coach DG,’ said last week with a laugh, remembering back to that first meeting four years ago. “To this day, I’ll call him ‘Silk’ here and there.”
It was a memorable introduction to a player who has lived up to the nickname over the last four years, as a scoring wing and one of the most complete offensive players in all of high school basketball. In the process, Juzang has evolved into a consensus five-star prospect in the class of 2020, and a player that just about every college basketball program in America would love to get to their campus. Juzang holds offers from the likes of Kansas, Virginia, USC and UCLA (the offer came under the previous staff led by Steve Alford), with Villanova connecting last week to express interest. Most recently, Juzang was offered by Kentucky, when John Calipari and assistant Joel Justus were in California last week. Early reports are that the Wildcats are open to adding Juzang in his original class of 2020, or 2019 if he chooses to reclassify.
— Compton Magic (@Compton_Magic) April 19, 2019
Regardless of where Juzang plays his college basketball and when, some program will get much more than just that “silky” smooth scorer that Juzang sold himself as all those years ago. While Graham said that Juzang continues to score at will (with the ability to do so at all three levels), what has impressed him the most as a coach is how his game has continued to grow and round out.
The kid who was once known as a deadly three-point shooter is now a much more complete player.
“I really love how he’s stepped it up on the defensive end,” Graham said. “His ball-handling [has improved]. He’ll get in there and rebound. And he continues to work on his body.”
In terms of the “why” behind Juzang’s evolution, Graham sees a number of different factors which have played a role in his growth as a basketball player. Graham credits the culture of competition within the Compton Magic program – a program which has produced hundreds of Division I college players through the years, including current NBA guys like T.J. Leaf and Allen Crabbe. He credits Juzang’s parents and family, which includes older brother Christian, a guard who just completed his junior year at Harvard. And he credits Juzang himself for putting in the work to get better.
According to Graham, Juzang’s best attribute might be that – in a world where too many young players think they know it all – he remains incredibly coachable.
“What I do like, from eighth grade to now is that when he gets constructive criticism, he works on that,” Graham said. “You can tell him, ‘Hey man, you need to work on this.’ He’s done it. You can see the evolution. From eighth grade to now, he’s in the 11th grade, he’s added something to his game every single year.”
As for what’s next, it seems a little early to say exactly where Juzang’s recruitment stands. He did take an official visit to Virginia last fall, and has long been linked to USC, where Eric Mobley – the father of two of his AAU teammates – serves as an assistant coach. There were also early rumblings about UCLA, but it’s hard to know where things stand with the new coaching staff in place.
Still, one thing that Graham did harp on throughout the interview was that Juzang is open to play just about anywhere in the country, and he doesn’t want people to assume that just because he’s from California he is only willing to play on the West Coast. The California schools are obviously an option, but ultimately Graham says that Juzang wants to go “where it’s competitive, and he wants an opportunity to show what he can do on that big stage.”
That’s good news for Kentucky, and if Juzang were to one day choose the Wildcats, another thing working in their favor is that there literally might not be a better AAU program in America to prepare Juzang for life in Lexington than the Compton Magic. The Magic are a loaded AAU squad which blistered through their schedule last summer going 46-2 overall, claiming a national championship by beating the top Adidas and Nike programs from across the country, with a roster stacked with future college and NBA stars. The 2019 class featured McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Mobley and Top 30 prospect Onyeka Okongwu who are both headed to USC, as well as Jarod Lucas (headed to Oregon State) who is one of the all-time leading scorers in California high school history. The 2020 class includes Evan Mobley, the consensus No. 1 overall player in the class, who is the early front-runner to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Not to mention Juzang, another Top 20 prospect nationally.
Point being, Juzang is used to playing with other elite players. And it wouldn’t be anything new if he enrolled at a school like Kentucky where he’d be surrounded by future stars.
“Being that he’s been with all these top guys, if he goes to a Kentucky or a Duke or a wherever, it’s perfect,” Graham said. “He’s battle-tested. He knows what it is. He’s not going to go in there saying ‘I need 30 shots a game.’”
And with that, the last big questioning remaining is which class Juzang will play college basketball as a member of. Graham was hesitant to speculate about a potential reclassification for Juzang, simply stating that Juzang and his parents will come to a decision on the topic in the coming months. All Graham would add was that if Juzang did want to move to 2019, “all his options are open.”
Regardless of what he does though, and where he ends up, Graham knows one thing for sure: As good as Juzang has been, the best is yet to come.
“There’s no ceiling on this kid yet,” Graham said. “He hasn’t reached the ceiling. He isn’t close. I’m excited to see what the next summer brings. And the next summer.”
“His IQ is off the chains. When you match that IQ with how hard he works, he can be an incredible guy.”
By Aaron Torres on ©April 22nd, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Last week Kentucky fans got a bit of recruiting news that caught their interest – as Evan Daniels reported that Kentucky was one of many schools interested in Nevada transfer Jordan Brown.
The 6’11 Brown is a former McDonald’s All-American who never really found his niche in Reno this season, and following the departure of head coach Eric Musselman to Arkansas seemed intent on moving on to another location. Honestly, that wasn’t all that different from the rest of his teammates. As of a week ago, basically every player on the Nevada roster had put their name in the transfer portal and Brown was no different. And as I told you last week I thought there was a real chance that Brown would in fact leave Nevada, with Kentucky serving as a realistic landing spot.
Yet over the weekend, something interesting happened – and it was something that might make it more likely Brown returns to Nevada next season than I’d originally anticipated.
For starters, a couple other Wolf Pack players have announced they will remain at the school. That includes the leading returning scorer from last season (a kid named Jazz Johnson), as well as the school’s top recruit for 2019-2020, junior college All-American Eric Parrish. Then on Saturday morning, Jalen Harris, a transfer who is expected to be the team’s starting point guard decided to return as well.
So why does that matter for Brown? It’s because after those three announced they would return, they put on an all-out blitz to keep Brown in Reno. They even went so far as to go meet with him in his hometown of Roseville, California on Saturday.
And since it’s 2019, they of course documented it all on social media, with their own catchy hashtag “OperationPackBack.”
Below are a few posts from Saturday. And while Brown isn’t pictured in any of them, Roseville is his hometown, and it’s clear that they were in town to see him. To the credit of the Nevada players, it is abundantly clear that they are doing everything they can to keep the core of the team together after three straight NCAA Tournament appearances under the previous coaching regime.
— Jalen (@TheJalenHarris) April 20, 2019
— NOLIMIT.JA22 (@Jazz_Johnson22) April 20, 2019
— Jalen (@TheJalenHarris) April 21, 2019
Now it will be interesting to see whether this all works or not.
Frankly I’m not sure that being re-recruited by his teammates will have all that much impact on Brown’s decision. In the end, what will matter is something very simple: As a former McDonald’s All-American, he clearly wants to get to the NBA, and get there as fast as possible.
And that’s what his recruitment will come down to. Which path will get him to the NBA faster: Having to sit out a year at another school and hope that they turn him into a pro in the 2020-2021 season? Or playing next year at Nevada, and hoping that he can evolve into an NBA prospect under Steve Alford?
So ultimately I’m not sure how much the player’s decision to meet with Brown will have on him, but it obviously won’t hurt in trying to get him back to campus. It’s also made me wonder if it’s more likely now than it was, say a week ago, that Brown does in fact return to Nevada. Had you asked me last Thursday, I would have said (and did say) that I thought it was almost certain that Brown would leave for another school. But after this weekend, when his teammates went out of their way to show him what a priority he is, I think it’s more likely somewhere in the neighborhood of 50/50 or so that he decides to leave at all.
In the end, of Brown does stay at Nevada, it probably won’t be because of any incredible recruiting pitch by Alford. But instead it will be because of the push from his teammates and the opportunity to continue to play next season without having to sit out.
What happens next remains to be seen.
Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 142: Jordan Brown’s transfer + Will Wade and Sean Miller finesse court appearance
By KSR on ©April 22nd, 2019 @ 11:30am
It’s Monday, and you know what that means: An all new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. In the world of college basketball we learned surprising details on the upcoming FBI trial, and Aaron has an update on the recruitment of Jordan Brown. Plus, thoughts on Matt Hurt to Duke and Keldon Johnson’s sweet car. Here’s a recap of today’s show:
Will Wade and Sean Miller will NOT appear in court: For months, April 22nd was the day that Sean Miller and Will Wade were set to appear in court at the FBI trial — until Friday, with the shocking announcement that neither has to testify. Aaron explains why the decision was made, and what it means for the future of both coaches. Also, why coaches across the country are furious about the judges decision. Was this whole FBI investigation a big waste of time?
Details on Jordan Brown’s transfer from Nevada: A few weeks back Nevada forward Jordan Brown announced his decision to transfer, and late last week we found out that Kentucky, Arizona and a number of other prominent schools are after him. Aaron gives all the details that he knows on Brown, and explains why in the end, staying at Nevada might be more likely than many previously believed.
Other odds and ends around college hoops: He explains why he isn’t sold that Matthew Hurt will be a difference-maker at Duke next season, and also comments on the sick car Keldon Johnson was seen driving around LA in last week.
By Aaron Torres on ©April 18th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
On Thursday afternoon, Kentucky fans (and fans of a bunch of major college basketball programs) got some updated transfer news, as Evan Daniels gave the latest on the recruitment of Nevada big-man Jordan Brown. Since putting his name in the transfer portal a week ago, things have been quiet in Brown’s recruitment. But as Daniels reported, there are a number of schools who have already reached out, and Kentucky is indeed one of them. It’s something I hinted would happen in a post earlier this week.
So now that we know that Brown is indeed available and seriously considering a transfer, what do you need to know?
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) April 18, 2019
As someone who knows the Nevada program well, here is what I’ve heard about Brown from sources close to him, and where his recruitment stands. This is what you need to know, and what I expect to happen next:
Who Is Jordan Brown?
Brown was one of the most coveted big men in the class of 2018, a player who appeared in the McDonald’s All-American Game and as a member of Team USA In the Nike Hoops Summit. He finished his high school career ranked among the Top 20 players in the class of 2018.
And prior to committing to Nevada he was recruited by, quite literally, every big-name school on the West Coast including UCLA to Arizona, Cal and Nevada. According to some people I trust he was actually set to commit to UCLA until Shareef O’Neal decommitted from Arizona last winter. At that point, UCLA had just one scholarship for the two front-court players and told both that whoever committed first had the spot. O’Neal grabbed the scholarship and Brown was forced to look elsewhere.
Ultimately, after a long, drawn out process that saw him as the last major recruit to commit last spring, Brown chose Nevada. He was just the second McDonald’s All-American to ever commit to the school, the other being local high school start Luke Babbitt back in 2008.
To put it simply, Brown is the biggest recruit Nevada basketball ever signed.
Why Did He Struggle So Much in His First Year in College?
Although Brown was the most decorated recruit ever to sign with Nevada, his first year was a struggle. He averaged just three points and two rebounds in 10 minutes played per game.
But while that would appear to be a bit alarming on the surface, it shouldn’t be. The bottom-line is that Eric Musselman is a coach that – like Jay Wright and others across college basketball – simply prefers older players to young ones, and Brown got buried on the depth chart behind more experienced players. Nevada started three fifth-year seniors in the front-court and at the end of the day, it was probably the right decision, considering that the Wolf Pack went 29-5 overall and ended up in their third straight NCAA Tournament.
Still, the buzz out of Reno was that as the season went on, Brown gained some confidence. As a source close to him told me, Brown has “looked like his old self” the last couple weeks and was due for a big season next year.
Is It Too Early to Guess Where Brown Might Be Leaning?
Short answer, yes. As Brown’s father Dion told Daniels, a host of schools have reached out besides Kentucky, ranging from Arizona, to Oregon, Ohio State and others. And honestly, that might even be downplaying it a bit. The same source close to Brown told me that since he put his name in the transfer portal, “every major program in America” has at least reached out to gauge interest. Pick a school and they have at least called to gather details, according to the person I spoke with.
Other intel I've gathered on Jordan Brown the last few days: I don't expect him to stay at Nevada. Lot of staff turnover and not the greatest relationship with Steve Alford from his HS days. Would be somewhat surprised if went to Arkansas too. Hunch is he lands somewhere new
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) April 18, 2019
With that said, here is what I can also tell you: Steve Alford’s arrival at Nevada will have no impact on Brown’s decision to stay or go in Reno. If anything, it might hurt it.
I know that sounds strange considering that Brown nearly committed to Steve Alford’s UCLA Bruins were in high school, but the bottom-line is that from my understanding, Alford had little role in the recruitment process. Brown’s father in fact confirmed that to a Reno area newspaper, admitting that former UCLA assistant David Grace (who just joined Jerry Stackhouse’s staff at Vanderbilt) did most of the work in his recruitment. Also, it doesn’t help that – according to people I trust – Alford doesn’t plan on keeping anyone from Musselman’s staff on board in Reno, and that Brown was especially close to that staff.
Point being, despite the fact that Alford actively recruited him out of high school, the relationship isn’t as strong as you might expect.
After speaking to the same person who is close to Brown, my hunch is also that he won’t be following former Nevada coach Eric Musselman to Arkansas. I don’t feel quite as strongly on that one, but my gut feeling is that if Brown does move on he’ll want a fresh start.
If Brown Elects To Transfer, Can He Play Right Away?
Since this is a question I’ve gotten quite a bit, let’s just nip this right now: Barring some unforeseen waiver from the NCAA offices, no, Brown won’t play next season. Yes, he’ll have to sit out the season.
And if anything, that’s the only reason I could see him remaining at Nevada (although as I said, I think it’s unlikely at this point). As a former McDonald’s All-American who is watching a lot of other friends get drafted, does he really want to sit out another season?
Again, in my mind, that’s the most likely reason he would stay at Nevada.
Here’s Why Sitting Out a Season Can Be Good However
Regardless of where Brown chooses, I actually think sitting out a season could be good for all parties involved. At the end of the day, it would give him a full year to get used to his new school and program, head coach and teammates. Every kid wants to play, but there are benefits to sitting out.
Still, let’s say Brown did ultimately choose Kentucky – and to be clear, that’s not my prediction. It’s way too early to speculate.
Still, let’s say he did. It would give him a year to get used to campus, and also give Kentucky a former McDonald’s All-American and potential future NBA pro to lead the scout team every day. Can you imagine the value it would give a guy like Nick Richards or E.J. Montgomery to go against that type of player every day?
From Kentucky’s perspective (or whatever school he picks) there is no downside.
If He Chooses Kentucky What Kind of Player Will They Get Down the Road
In addition to getting a great practice player in 2019-2020, if Brown were to choose Kentucky, I think he could be a difference-making power forward/center prospect come the 2020-2021 season. While Brown did struggle to adjust to college life this year, he is still 6’10 with over a 7-foot wingspan and crazy athletic. Nevada tried to play him almost exclusively in the post this season, but he has the skills to step 15 or 20 feet away from the basket and hit shots from there as well. Think that with a year to sit out and develop, he could be a monster two years down the road? I’d say so. And when I say “monster” I mean like “All-SEC First Team” type guy.
Again, it’s way, way, WAY too early to speculate where Brown will end up.
But if the Wildcats were able to sign Brown, he could be the first big puzzle piece already locked in for the 2020-2021 season.
By KSR on ©April 18th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
It’s full-fledged off-season mode, as Aaron Torres and Nick Coffey discuss the comings and goings now that college basketball is done. They discuss the following topics:
Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson stay in the Draft: Since the last time the guys spoke we got major news out of Lexington as both Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson elected to remain in the draft. Aaron and Nick debate: Are either of them ready? Aaron also wonders whether Herro may get typecast, while Nick asks: Could he really have improved his draft stock by coming back another season?
The transfer portal is bumping: The guys discuss the big news that Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear is now in the transfer portal. The guys discuss transfers and ask the question: How many can really make an impact at a school like Kentucky or another major school? Also, why fans shouldn’t just assume that Blackshear will end up at any particular school.
Other odds and ends from around college hoops: Finally, the guys wrap up by talking about other odds and ends around college hoops. They discuss Rick Barnes’ honest conversation about the UCLA job + why did Jemarl Baker elect to leave Lexington? And finally they talk about crazy St. John’s boosters gone wild!
By Aaron Torres on ©April 16th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
The lifeblood of any successful college basketball program is recruiting, and after years of mining high school basketball for the top talent, it’s a new world for Kentucky basketball as transfers are all the rage. Sure, UK will still get their share of McDonald’s All-Americans out of high school, but as Reid Travis proved this year, it’s never a bad thing to add older, more experienced players to the roster as well. If they can talk politics with the coach, even better.
Kidding on the last part (sort of) but the bottom-line is that the transfer wave is sweeping college basketball and there’s no turning back, so Kentucky might as well get involved. They have already, with two commitments in the past two years, including a commitment from Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina two weeks ago.
With Sestina in the fold, the question now is, “Who should be next?”
Virginia Tech big man Kerry Blackshear Jr. has entered the transfer portal, source told ESPN. Would be arguably the best grad transfer available.
14.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) April 16, 2019
One obvious name became apparent on Tuesday, with the news that Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear has entered the transfer portal. But beyond him, who else should Kentucky look at?
After watching a ton of college basketball, talking to some people around the sport, and just some good old-fashioned speculation, here are a few names they should consider pursuing.
Kerry Blackshear, forward, Virginia Tech (grad transfer)
Blackshear is this year’s version of Reid Travis, as an immediately eligible grad transfer, who has performed at the highest levels of college basketball and can, literally make an immediate contribution to whatever program he decides to commit to.
The 6’10 Blackshear has done it at the highest-level, averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in the ACC this past season, and saved some of his best games for some of Virginia Tech’s toughest opponents. That included a monstrous 18-point, 16-rebound effort in a near-upset of Duke in the Sweet 16. Again, if you can average 15 and 7.5 in the ACC, you can play anywhere.
Blackshear just put his name in the portal on Tuesday morning, so it’s impossible to know what schools have or will be interested. But considering his success in the ACC and the fact that he’s eligible immediately, expect all the big-name schools to get involved. And yes, that will almost certainly include Kentucky.
Jordan Brown, forward/center, Nevada (sit out next year, three years of eligibility remaining)
Brown is a former McDonald’s All-American and Top 25 prospect who spent last season at Nevada. It didn’t totally work out in Year 1 for Brown with the Wolf Pack, as Eric Musselman preferred to play fifth-year seniors Trey Porter and Jordan Caroline in the front-court over a first-year player. Brown averaged just five points and three rebounds in limited minutes.
With that said, the talent is still there for the 6’11 Brown, and the buzz out of Nevada is that he improved exponentially over the back half of the year and was ready to be a major contributor next season. We’ll never know however, as Musselman is off to Arkansas, and the buzz I’m hearing is that he doesn’t plan on staying at the school to play for Steve Alford. The other buzz I heard is that once he did enter the transfer portal last week he heard from “every major program in the country,” a group that would presumably include Kentucky as well.
Should Kentucky seriously consider Brown, he could serve as a bridge to a new wave of transfers: The players who sit out for a season, develop and are ready to contribute one year down the line. Should he choose Kentucky (and it’s waaaaaay too early to speculate) he’d serve as a great practice player next year, as someone who could do battle every day with Nick Richards, E.J. Montgomery and others, before stepping into a major role in 2020-2021.
Jahvon Quinerly, guard, Villanova (sit out next year, three years eligible remaining)
To be blunt, I have no idea if Quinerly – another former McDonald’s All-American who simply didn’t work out at his previous school, Villanova – would have interest in Kentucky, or vice versa. But I actually think the pair would make a perfect fit.
Let me explain why.
Quinerly was the player who got caught up in the FBI scandal at Arizona, before he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing and ended up at Villanova. Here’s the thing that I’ve been told though: The reason he chose Arizona wasn’t over money. Instead, it was because Arizona was set to lose their entire roster (which they did this season), and he was promised that the ball would be put in his hands from Day 1 and he’d have the keys to the offense. When Arizona got in trouble with the FBI, Quinerly ended up at Villanova, a place where it’s notoriously difficult for freshmen to get on the floor. Especially at the point guard position.
That’s also why I love the fit at Kentucky. Not only would Quinerly get a season to get comfortable with UK and his staff, but he would also go to a school and play for a coach who is notoriously well-known for letting his players play through their mistakes. If you have a point guard that needs to be on the court to feel confident, there literally isn’t a better coach to play for than John Calipari.
With Ashton Hagans almost certainly gone after next season and the possibility that Tyrese Maxey (and who knows, maybe Immanuel Quickley) as well, Kentucky would have its next answer at point guard.
Sam and Joey Hauser, F, Marquette (sit out next year, one year and three years of eligibility respectively)
Of all the names to enter the transfer portal so far this off-season, the Hauser brothers were by far the most shocking. The pair averaged 14.9 and 9.7 points respectively last season at Marquette and were expected to be key components to a team that would have been ranked in the Top 5 nationally to start next season. Had they returned, Marquette would have returned their Top 7 scorers. Now, they have two major holes in the front-court.
It’s fair to ask what to make of two kids who are 1) Getting major playing time and 2) Still elect to leave a team with title aspirations (I would have my concerns) but the fact remains that both will make any team that they join in the 2020-2021 season an instant contender.
In terms of “what’s next” it’s expected to be a “Who’s Who” of big-time programs interested in them, as reigning champion Virginia has already been projected as a leader for their services. No reason to think that Kentucky can’t or won’t make a call to them as well.
By KSR on ©April 15th, 2019 @ 10:30am
It’s Monday and you know what that means, a new Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron takes you around the world of college hoops and even talks a little golf after Tiger Woods’ triumphant win at Augusta. A full rundown of the show:
Will Wade is Back: In a stunning turn of events, after a meeting with LSU’s administration Will Wade was reinstated as LSU’s head basketball coach late Sunday. Aaron explains why Wade still may never coach again at LSU, but if he does, can he convince some of his star players to return? Also, what will the reaction be the next time Wade lands a big recruit?
The Uninspiring Steve Alford to Nevada Hire: Next Aaron goes in on Nevada’s decision to hire Steve Alford as its next head coach. He explains why Nevada should have stayed in house, and why even though Alford is a good coach, it wasn’t a good fit at this point. Will they live to regret it?
Nike Hoops Summit + Tiger Woods: Aaron wraps by discussing his trip to the Nike Hoops Summit for KSR last week. What did he think of Tyrese Maxey and who else stood out? Finally, he takes a deep dive into Tiger Woods win at Augusta, and why it truly is the greatest comeback story in sports history
By Aaron Torres on ©April 13th, 2019 @ 10:00am
While most of America was sleeping on Friday night, the high school All-Star game toured continued, when the Nike Hoops Summit tipped off at 10 p.m. ET. The game – which pits the best American players against the best from those across the globe – featured many of the names that high school basketball fans are familiar with. Guys like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman and Nico Mannion, not to mention Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey.
And for those who weren’t able to stay up, well I’m sorry to tell you, but you missed an awesome matchup. That’s because after last year’s game was a total dud (in large part because some of the top American players like Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford sat out with injuries) this one was highly competitive as Team USA beat the World Team 93-87, in a game that came down to the final minutes.
Still, you don’t care about the final score. What you want to know is what we learned about the players who will come to dominate college basketball next year, which is what I’m about to do below. There was a lot to take away from the Nike Hoops Summit, so let’s get to it. I’d also add that in addition to the game, media had access to practices all week, so in addition to the game itself, below are some thoughts on what we saw at practice behind the scenes.
Here are 10 Takeaways from the Nike Hoops Summit
(Before we get started, one note: Unfortunately from the perspective of Kentucky coverage, there simply wasn’t all that much to report. Tyrese Maxey was at the event, and I shared thoughts below, as well as 2020 prospect N’Faly Dante. Unfortunately, they were the only two guys with Kentucky ties in this game.
So if you’re looking for strictly Kentucky coverage, make sure to hit bullet point 1 and 10 and skip the rest. However, if you want to learn about players who will play all over college basketball next year from Kentucky to Arizona, Duke and Memphis, read the entire post. Thanks!)