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Aaron Torres’ Take

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 145: PJ Washington Joins the Show! Plus Other College Hoops Odds and Ends

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.

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.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 144: Johnny Juzang + Latest on College Basketball Trials

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.

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.


Corey Evans Gives the Latest on Kerry Blackshear, R.J. Hampton and Jaden McDaniels

(Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports)

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.

Cool, right?

Well, not exactly. Almost immediately after Evans put out that report, Blackshear’s father, Kerry Blackshear Sr., denied that the meeting ever happened.

Weird, huh?

Well, it gets even weirder, since later in the week Blackshear Sr. admitted that he lied, and that the meeting did in fact happen.

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.


Nevada Players Go All-Out to Try and Keep Jordan Brown in Reno

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.

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

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.

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.


Who is Jordan Brown? And What Do You Need To Know About His Recruitment?

Who is Jordan Brown? And What Do You Need To Know About His Recruitment?

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?

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.

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.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 141: Goodbye Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, Hello Transfer Portal

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!

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.


(Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Five More Transfers that Kentucky Should Consider Pursuing

(Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports)

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?”

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.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 140: Will Wade is Back, Steve Alford and Tiger Woods

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

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.


10 Takeaways From Friday Night’s Nike Hoops Summit

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

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!)

(more…)


Matthew Hurt Discusses Kentucky and Tyrese Maxey’s Final Recruiting Pitches

Matthew Hurt Discusses Kentucky and Tyrese Maxey’s Final Recruiting Pitches

Photo by adidas

One more week.

That is how long college basketball fans will have to wait to find out where Matthew Hurt, the top unsigned forward the country will attend college next season. While he officially has a handful of schools left on his list, 247 Sports Evan Daniels said yesterday on Kentucky Sports Radio that he is down to just Kentucky and Duke.

Duke is perceived to be the favorite for the five-star forward from Minnesota but to John Calipari’s credit, he isn’t going down without a fight. Calipari is set to meet with Hurt at his home this weekend for one final in-person pitch, after Hurt returns from the Nike Hoops Summit, which will be played on Friday night.

Speaking of the Hoops Summit, KSR sat down with Hurt to discuss his recruitment on Thursday in the lead-up to the game. We dove into a number of different topics, starting with this: When he does make his final decision, what will he be looking for in a school?

“I’m looking for how I fit with the coaches, teammate-wise, playing-wise,” Hurt said. “I think I can fit any style. It’s just how the culture is. Winning is a big thing for me. All I want to do is win.”

From there, Hurt not only discussed each school, but also how players who are committed to those schools are still trying to recruit him. Hurt went over Duke’s pitch from Wendell Moore and Vernon Carey, before discussing what Tyrese Maxey has said to him over the previous few days. And it sounds like Hurt really has created a bond with Maxey after the players both played at the McDonald’s All-American game a few weeks ago.

“We’ve had a great experience playing together,” Hurt said when discussing Maxey. “I think he’s a great player. I think he’s one of the best point guards, shooting guards in this class. I think highly of him.”

Hurt also thinks of highly of returning Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans, and the possibility of playing with him as well.

“I know him a little bit,” Hurt said. “He’s a lockdown defender. I watched him this year. He’s tough. He knows the right way to play basketball. He makes the right pass at the right time.”

Ultimately most recruiting experts (including Evan Daniels) believe that Duke remains the team to beat in Hurt’s recruitment. But with the way he spoke about Maxey and Hagans, does Kentucky have a better shot than we realized?

To listen to Hurt’s entire interview, watch the video below.


Skal Labissiere Discusses His Best Memories at Kentucky

(Photo via Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers)

One of the great things about Kentucky basketball is that no matter how long ago any individual played for the Wildcats, they are always part of the brotherhood that is Big Blue Nation. No matter how long they are away from campus, they will always be a “Cat.”

That is certainly the case for former Wildcat Skal Labissiere who is currently in his fourth season in the NBA, after spending one season, during the 2015-2016 campaign, at Kentucky. Skal is currently playing for the Portland Trailblazers (after being traded by the Sacramento Kings in February) and now that he’s back in Portland, it allowed him to re-live one of the best moments of his youth career on Thursday night, when he took in Nike Hoops Summit practices. Back in 2015 Skal played in the game, as his 21 points (and 30 points from future UK teammate Jamal Murray) helped the World Team seal a victory.

KSR caught up with Skal on Thursday night, and he was happy to reflect on his memories of the Hoops Summit. More importantly, he also shared his thoughts on this past season of Kentucky basketball, which ended in the Elite Eight against Auburn.

“They were very good,” Skal said, before he stopped to continue.

“I just wish PJ [Washington] was healthy the whole time. That’s my guy. I was very excited for him the whole season. The way he showcased his skills in the way that I knew he could. So I was just excited for the guys in general.”

Clearly Skal watched a lot of the 2019 Kentucky Wildcats. Later in the interview he also took a second to reflect back on his one season in Lexington. There, he discussed his most memorable moments, which didn’t include games or results, but the relationships he built.

“The best memory for me is the friendships I got to make there,” Skal said. “I still talk to some of my closest friends that I met while I was on campus. Dillon Pullium was a walk-on. He was like a brother to me.”

To listen to the full interview with Labissiere, listen below.


Tyrese Maxey “Can’t Wait” To Compete with Ashton Hagans Next Season

It’s that time of year for Kentucky fans – the time where everyone is trying to figure out who will stay, who will go, and what next year’s Wildcats will look like. And this year is no different. At this point, we know that P.J. Washington and Reid Travis are gone, and we’re trying to figure out Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro’s will do next.

But there is one decision that has gone final, and that was the decision of Ashton Hagans, who shocked some by announcing this week that he will return to college next season. He won’t test the draft waters. He won’t gauge the NBA’s interest. He’s already focused on what’s needed to have success next season.

Of course with his return came a bit of concern: Would his return have any negative effect on Tyrese Maxey, the high school All-American guard who is headed to Kentucky next season?

KSR caught up with Tyrese Maxey at the Nike Hoops Summit on Thursday night, and Maxey couldn’t be more exited to team up with Hagans.

“Ashton is an elite defender, a great leader, and he’s going to bring great action to our team next year,” Maxey said when asked his thoughts on Maxey’s return. “And I can’t wait to go against him every day in practice.”

And that last part is what’s most important, and why it’s no surprise that Maxey isn’t worried about Hagans’ decision to return. Remember, the one thing that John Calipari never does in recruiting is promise a player anything – but instead, promise him that he’ll have to work once he gets to campus. The better player will play, and in a lot of cases both will. But no matter who plays what minutes, both players can get better because of it.

“It’s going to help me a lot,” Maxey said. “He’s an elite defender like I said. He’s going to push me, I’m going to push him and we’re going to get better together for the team.”

From there, Maxey touched on a number of other things with KSR, all of which can be seen in the video below. He shared his thoughts on how Kentucky’s season ended, the message John Calipari has given him recently and whether or not he’s recruiting anyone else that’s at the Hoops Summit.

However, Maxey did have one final message to UK fans before departing:

“Be ready,” he said. “We’re coming.”


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 139: Title Game Recap + Ashton Hagans is Back + Mick Cronin to UCLA

College hoops season is officially over, but that doesn’t mean that the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is done talking roundball. On this episode, Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to recap the title game, before turning his attention to Mick Cronin’s move to UCLA and Ashton Hagans’ return to Kentucky. Highlights:

Thoughts on the title game: The guys discuss the epic national championship game. Why people who were critical of Virginia have been silenced and the wild emergence of DeAndre Hunter. Also, is it fair to say that Virginia was “lucky” to be in the title game, while also being worthy of winning the national championship?

Mick Cronin to UCLA: Next, Aaron breaks down the good and the bad of the Mick Cronin hire at UCLA. Why Cronin might not be as bad as people think, but how good can he actually be? Plus the one thing Cronin needs to do to ensure success at UCLA.

Ashton Hagans is Back: We’ve gotten some big time draft decisions in the last week, including Ashton Hagans’ return to Kentucky and Tre Jones at Duke. Aaron explains why it’s fair to say that neither were ready to go pro, but can still have a major impact on the college game next season. Also, just how good can Kentucky be with Hagans back? And finally, did Grant Williams hint that he might return?

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.


A Way Too Early Top 25 for the 2019-2020 College Basketball Season

A Way Too Early Top 25 for the 2019-2020 College Basketball Season

The 2018-2019 season officially came an end on Monday night, and Virginia is your national champion after a wild, overtime win over Texas Tech. But while Cavaliers fans celebrate, the rest of the college basketball world has already turned their attention to next season.

So let’s do the same, with my “Way Too Early Top 25” for the 2019-2020 season.

Now before we get into the names, faces and teams to watch in 2019-2020, it’s important to give the same disclaimer we always do this time of year: Even though the 2019 season has ended, it’s still VERY early to truly figure out what teams will look like in 2019-2020. Players all over the country are testing the NBA Draft waters and we won’t know until late-May who is coming back to college. Not to mention that a number of big recruits (Cole Anthony and Matthew Hurt among others) are still figuring out their college destinations, a few head coaching jobs have yet to be filled, and transfers will alter the trajectory of other teams as well. Add in the fact that this ongoing FBI trial could continue to shake things up even further, and again, it’s REALLY early to try and figure out who will truly be elite or not in 2019-2020.

With that said, below is our best guess at what next season will look like. To be clear, some of the “who will stay” and “who will go” projections are simple guesses at this point. Some like Zion Williamson are obvious, but most aren’t, and so each player and team is a little different. In the case of a player like Tennessee’s Jordan Bone who has said “I plan on staying in the draft,” that is taken into account, but if a player is truly on the fence, I’m simply doing my best to guess what every player will do. I’m bound to get some of these wrong. It’s inevitable.

Still, here is the early “Way Too Early Top 25” for 2019-2020, and I’ll be sure to have an updated one in late April, after everyone has removed their names from the NBA Draft.

LETS…. GOOOOOOOOO!!!

(*** This article published before the announcements that Mick Cronin would leave Cincinnati for UCLA, and before Michigan announced Iggy Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole will test the draft waters. We’ll continue to update as players make their “stay or go” decisions)
(more…)


Fans Need to Have Realistic Expectations for Nate Sestina

(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

On Thursday, Kentucky picked up a big recruiting win. That’s nothing new. What is new however is that for a second straight year, it wasn’t a high school All-American who chose Kentucky (although a few of them have over the past few months). Instead it was a graduate transfer.

That player is Nate Sestina, who followed the lead of Reid Travis, and elected to use his final season of college eligibility in Lexington. The 6’9 Sestina averaged just under 16 points and eight boards per game last year, while shooting 38 percent from behind the arc.

With the news, it helps shore up a massive need in Kentucky’s front-court, where the team will lose Travis and P.J. Washington after this past season. Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery are expected to be back, and more guys may be on the way, but for the time being, the Wildcats have another big body to plug in up front next season, something they desperately needed.

And as we begin to look ahead to next season, and the role Sestina might play, it’s important to remember one thing: While John Calipari is increasingly growing more and more comfortable with the graduate transfer route, it’s unfair to expect Sestina to be Reid Travis 2.0. They’re two different guys with two different experiences, and in the same way it would be unfair to expect an incoming freshman to be the “next Tyler Herro,” it’s unfair to expect Sestina to seamlessly step into Travis’s shoes. At the same time, Sestina can still play a very valuable role with next year’s team. And to be blunt, he might end up having a bigger impact that any high school guy Kentucky can get at this point.

Let’s start with the Travis point, and let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Reid Travis spoiled Kentucky fans. Yes, Travis had his flaws – most notably dealing with extreme length and size on the interior. But it also isn’t an exaggeration to still say that he is one of the best grad transfers to ever hit the market. After all, there is a reason that most guys are looking for a place to play a fifth and final year of college basketball. If they were good enough to be making money in the NBA, that’s where they would be instead of on a college campus.

But even by that standard, Travis is the exception to the rule. While his NBA prospects are largely up for debate, there simply aren’t that many guys out there who have been a two-time All-Conference performer in a Power 5 league like Travis was (well, assuming you still consider the Pac-12 a “Power 5” league). There aren’t all that many guys who have averaged 20 and nine while playing against the likes of DeAndre Ayton, TJ Leaf and other future NBA pros through the years.

So that’s what’s most important to remember with Sestina: It’s kind of what I said at the top. He is going to be a good player, and someone who will likely serve a role, playing alongside Montgomery and Richards in the front-court next year. Based on the film I’ve seen (admittedly, I didn’t watch a ton of Bucknell games last year), he seems like a solid, hybrid four-man, who can step out and shoot, or put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. It seems like his skill-set really is suited to play alongside Montgomery and Richards, as a “small-ball” four.

Still, it’s also important to remember that it is a major step up in competition for Sestina to go from Bucknell to Kentucky, the Patriot League to the SEC. This isn’t Reid Travis from jumping from one (slightly inferior) Power 5 conference to another, but a dude literally jumping from a mid-major to the highest of high majors. There are going to be some growing pains. Just like there were with Travis this season.

At the same time, there is another element of this transfer which could be true as well: Is it possible that Sestina could have a bigger impact than some of the freshmen Kentucky has pursued in the front-court this season? The answer is absolutely.

Look, I’m not going to throw any particular 18-year-old kid or recruit under the bus, but I do think that time has proven that while so many freshmen come in with hype, each one grows at his own pace. Sure, we focus on Zion Williamson, but let’s not forget that E.J. Montgomery was actually ranked ahead of him in some recruiting rankings. Romeo Langford got stats but had no impact in the win-loss column at Indiana, and Nassir Little came in with a lot of hype at UNC and played well, but was never a star. Therefore, while Matthew Hurt or Jaden McDaniels will come to college next year with plenty of hype, is it possible that they struggle? Of course. Or that Sestina, as a 22-year-old, who has seen and done it all before, could actually have a bigger impact than either? Absolutely.

And therefore, that’s what’s important to remember about today for Kentucky. Sestina probably won’t be a double-double guy like he was at his last place, and he probably won’t even at times be as good as Travis, who played a wildly important role for last year’s club.

But will he be a contributor, and frankly, maybe even a bit better than some of the freshmen that will have so much hype coming into next season.

The answer is an absolute yes.

 

 


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 137, Presented by House of ‘Cue: Calipari Lifetime Contract + Final Four Preview

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 137, Presented by House of ‘Cue: Calipari Lifetime Contract + Final Four Preview

We may be down to four teams in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but there’s still plenty to talk about, and you can hear it all on a new episode of the “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron discusses John Calipari’s lifetime contract, the Eric Musselman rumors to Arkansas and what to expect this weekend at the Final Four.

Here’s a recap of today’s show:

A Deep Dive into John Calipari’s Lifetime Contract at Kentucky: Aaron breaks down the news of the week, John Calipari signing a lifetime deal at Kentucky. Aaron explains why he believes this is great for Calipari, Kentucky and college basketball as a whole, and why it’s only fitting that Calipari end his career at Kentucky. He also discusses the UCLA side of things, why it shouldn’t be considered “insulting” that they offered less money, and why this could be good for UCLA too. Even though they missed out on Calipari, can they still get a big name coach?

A Final Four Preview: Next, Aaron talks about the games this weekend at the Final Four. He wonders, which teams will actually show up to play, and which will just be happy to have made the Final Four? Is this the time that Auburn’s injury woes finally catch up with them? And why Aaron is happy Michigan State got the national stage – and win – against Duke last weekend. Also, Aaron talks about the brief, but unfounded rumors that Nevada coach Eric Musselman was headed to Arkansas.

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.

Today’s show is brought to you by…

For the best barbecue in Central Kentucky, visit “House of Cue” conveniently located off Interstate 89, or at our new stand at Kentucky Proud Park. For more details and menus visit House of Cue on the web at https://www.facebook.com/houseofcue/