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Aaron Torres’ Take

Enes Kanter: Kentucky would have “100 percent” won the national championship if eligible

Enes Kanter: Kentucky would have “100 percent” won the national championship if eligible

Former Kentucky practice star and current New York Knick Enes Kanter had quite the journey to get where he is today. After coming over from Turkey, Kanter had a back-and-forth battle with the NCAA, who eventually declared the 6-foot-11 center ineligible for receiving money as a professional athlete back home.

Even without Kanter, the 2010-11 Wildcats made it to the Final Four before falling to Kemba Walker’s Connecticut Huskies, who went on to win the title.

For Kanter, the team, and the Big Blue Nation as a whole, it only makes you wonder what could’ve been.

Our very own Aaron Torres had the opportunity for a sit-down interview with Kanter about his time at Kentucky and the NBA, where that exact topic came up.

If Kanter was eligible? Kentucky would have another banner, “100-percent.”

Check out the transcript of the entire conversation, followed by the link to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast:

On what the fans at Kentucky meant to him:

I remember even when I couldn’t play at Kentucky, the whole state was doing ‘Free Enes’ signs everywhere. The cups, the flags, everything, that was awesome. That shows how much that the people around love you. And that was awesome for me because I came from Turkey. And for Americans to just respect you that much, it was like ‘You know what? I’m not going to Europe to play basketball. I’m staying right here.’

His fight with the NCAA:

It was tough because I was 16-years-old turning down a million dollars, a million dollars to come and play NCAA basketball.

What happened:

[They, the club, paid] expenses [that it].

It was tough for a 16-year-old kid turning down a million dollars to come here and play college basketball. And then when they say ‘You can’t play college basketball’ it was so frustrating for me.

First, they said ‘you can practice with the team.’ And then they said ‘You cannot even practice with the team anymore.’ The NCAA said ‘no more practicing with the team.’ They made me ineligible permanently.

His fight with the NCAA:

It was still a process.

*** We even told the NCAA, ‘let me sit my first year and play my second year.’ Yes [I was willing to stay a second year]. I told them [that]. And then they said ‘you cannot even practice with the team anymore.’ So Kentucky hired me a special coach and I was working out with him by myself. It was so frustrating I remember.

*** Then the news came out. I woke up and it was on ESPN, ‘Enes Kanter, permanently ineligible. He can never play college basketball ever again.’ It was so frustrating. I came here to play college basketball.

*** And then I sat down with Coach Cal, and Coach Cal told me ‘hey if you want to leave, you can leave to Europe and go play somewhere. But if you want to stay, we are your family.’ And then I said ‘Coach, I want to stay, but I cannot even practice with the team, how am I going to stay?’

So they made me a student assistant coach. I was a coach. I was a 17-year-old coach, 18-year-old coach. I think I was maybe the youngest coach in NCAA history. So they made me a coach and Coach Cal and all the coaches said ‘this is your game. Every practice is your game. So go as hard as you can, try to get ready for the draft.’ Because the NCAA said ‘you’re never going to play.’

I was an assistant coach, so I could practice.

I remember all my buddies were out there playing basketball, and I was down there sitting on the bench taking notes as an assistant coach. Taking notes. It was so frustrating. I had to go to the draft because I couldn’t play.

His entire journey:

Even before that, I tried to go to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. They told me ‘you’re a professional, go somewhere else. Then I went to Mountain State in West Virginia. Then the same, thing. I stayed there two or three weeks and they said ‘Go somewhere else.’ Then I came to Simi Valley, California, prep school. Rules are different here so I could play here.

Couldn’t play high school, couldn’t play in college and then finally I got drafted in 2011, I was the third pick because I killed it in the combine and everything. And then I remember a week later the news came out, there’s a lockout. So no high school, no college, no NBA. I was like ‘they don’t want me to play basketball in America. Americans, don’t want me.’

Would they have won the 2011 national championship if he could play?

For sure. 100 percent. We went to Final Four, we lost to UConn. We even beat Ohio State with Jared Sullinger. I definitely think [we would have won it all]. And we still talk about it today. Doron [Lamb] came to see me in New York, and we were like ‘Man, if I had played we would have won the national championship.’ I love my teammates.


You can easily listen to the podcast on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


As Kentucky watches closely, there are no major updates on Matthew Hurt’s recruitment

Photo by adidas

LOS ANGELES — With the second session of the recruiting calendar under way, college basketball coaches are back watching AAU basketball, and over the last couple days John Calipari has been camped out with Joel Justus in Los Angeles. Between Adidas and Under Armour events, there are no shortage of prospects to see, from the Cats’ top priority James Wiseman (playing with an Adidas sponsored team this weekend) to teammates Josh Green and Nico Mannion on the Under Armour circuit. Green has interest from UK, and Mannion could as well after reclassifying to the 2019 class on Friday.

However, it seems like in addition to all those other guys, Calipari’s interest in Minnesota forward Matthew Hurt has picked up exponentially over the last couple weeks. After arriving Thursday afternoon, Coach Cal has bounced all over LA to watch Hurt at every stop, as Hurt played at the Under Armour event Thursday night and returned to the court at the Adidas event Friday afternoon.

After also watching Hurt last weekend in New York it’s clear Hurt is a priority for Coach Cal. Although Hurt is taking it in stride seeing all these coaches courtside to watch him.

“I’m trying to focus on the game, and helping my teammates,” Hurt said on Wednesday night, when asked if it was fun to play in front of so many big-name coaches. “That’s what’s important.”

Calipari wasn’t in the stands Wednesday (he was in Milwaukee) but Hurt did leave a memorable impression for the coaches who were there, including Justus, as well as a handful of big-name head coaches such as Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Penny Hardaway. The 6’10 forward showed a diverse offensive skill-set, which included an array of nice moves towards the basket, as well as a deep three-point shot, and also hit a buzzer beater to clinch his team’s first win. Following that game he admitted he was rusty after traveling cross-country, and backed that up with a more impressive 19-point effort Thursday.

In terms of his recruitment, there has been strong buzz for a while that Kansas is the perceived leader, but Hurt remained steadfast when speaking with KSR that his recruitment remains wide-open (for the record, KSR’s T.J. Walker has said that he believes the Wildcats are in good shape in the Hurt recruitment).

According to Hurt, nothing has changed in his recruitment. No teams have gained or lost ground, and he will set up visits once AAU season wraps in a couple weeks.

“I’m trying to cut it down after AAU,” he said. “No visits set up yet.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nKHAU1WNWE


A Couple Takeaways After Watching James Wiseman on Wednesday Night

IG: bigticket_j13

LOS ANGELES — It was an up-and-down couple days for James Wiseman at Peach Jam last weekend. Coming into the event it was a near consensus that Wiseman was one of two players (along with Vernon Carey) who should be considered the top player in the high school class of 2019. Yet after playing good but not great at Peach Jam (he averaged 16 points and 5.8 rebounds over the course of that weekend), some called into question whether Wiseman should be considered at all for the top spot.

Well, if Wiseman heard those whispers, he showed – beyond a reasonable doubt – on Wednesday night that it is way too premature to remove his name from the conversation of “the best player in high school basketball.” After electing to switch AAU teams (his normal squad, the Bluff City Legends, finished their season last weekend) Wiseman arrived at the Adidas Summer Championships in Los Angeles Wednesday night and put on a show everyone in attendance from coaches, to fans and yes this writer for KSR.

Still, despite appearing to play with a chip on his shoulder, Wiseman said that wasn’t the case at all.

“Really I don’t [feel like I have anything to prove],” Wiseman said following the game. “I feel like I played hard at Peach Jam. I think I showed everything, my offensive game, everything.”

An official scorer from Adidas said that Wiseman finished with 20 points and nine rebounds on Wednesday night, but watching him in person it felt like a much more dominant performance. Beyond just the raw numbers though, Wiseman showed off a skill-set that fits the profile of a player who many consider to be the No. 1 player in the country and a potential future No. 1 pick in the draft.

Over the course of a couple possessions, Wiseman did everything from hit a deep three, to put back a monster dunk, with a beautiful up-and-under move in the paint. Defensively he tore down a couple big rebounds and slapped away a block shot in those same few possessions. Even in a gym where there was other elite talent (consensus Top 10 prospects like Matthew Hurt and Trendon Watford were also in the building), Wiseman stood out as by far the best player at the event (for those wondering, 2020 big man Evan Mobley was probably the closest behind him).

What will be interesting to see is what comes next in Wiseman’s recruitment. Wiseman has claimed all along that his recruitment remains open, and reiterated that Wednesday night, telling me that he plans to release a new “Top 8” schools soon. Still, the consensus seems to be that there are only two really contenders in his recruitment, Kentucky and Memphis, and the crowd on Wednesday night seemed to indicate that. Kentucky assistant Joel Justus was there (multiple sources told KSR that John Calipari is expected in today) and Memphis’ Penny Hardaway and assistant Mike Miller were there as well.

Maybe even more interesting, was who wasn’t there. Although Wiseman said that schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Vanderbilt have reached out to him (in addition to his top two), outside the contingent from Memphis and Kentucky, as best I could tell, only North Carolina’s Roy Williams seemed to be there explicitly for Wiseman. Kansas didn’t appear to have a coach in the building (although maybe I missed them). And in a wild twist, no one from Duke watched him either. That is especially telling, considering that both Coach K and assistant Jon Scheyer were not only in Los Angeles, but at the same court earlier in the night to watch Matthew Hurt. All they had to do was literally not move from where they were, and they could have seen Wiseman play a few minutes later. Yet they were gone by the time his game tipped off.

Understand, that is a knock on Coach K, but instead, feels to me like an indicator of where Duke believes they stand in Wiseman’s recruitment.

Even though Wiseman claims that Duke has been in touch, if the Blue Devils were seriously pursuing him, I find it hard to believe that Coach K wouldn’t be courtside, especially since he was already in the building. Some will argue that Duke has prioritized other big men including Vernon Carey and Isaiah Stewart and that’s fair, but let’s be honest, it’s not like Duke hasn’t recruited multiple guys at the same position before (like R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson this year, for example).

Therefore, seeing both Coach K and Scheyer leave once Wiseman took the court can only lead me to one conclusion: They don’t believe they have a real shot at him. To which I ask, when was the last time that Duke basically punted on even trying to recruit the best player in high school basketball?

Those are the times we’re in however and – as has been reported by everyone – it appears as though Wiseman’s recruitment will ultimately come down to Kentucky and Memphis when it’s all said and done.

In the meantime, Wiseman doesn’t seem particularly worried about recruiting, or much else for that matter.

“I just want to keep working hard,” he said when asked about his plans for the rest of the summer. “And just keep getting better.”

If Wednesday was any indication, he is well on his way to doing just that.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 61: Mega-Recruiting Recap with T.J. Walker + Corey Evans

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 61: Mega-Recruiting Recap with T.J. Walker + Corey Evans

It’s a new week and with it a new Aaron Torres Sports Podcast – and after the biggest recruiting weekend of 2018, Aaron brings in two of the biggest experts to break it all down. First, it’s KSR’s T.J. Walker, then Rivals.com’s Corey Evans.

After Aaron breaks down Day 1 of SEC Media Days and the new Final Four sites announced, he turns to T.J. The guys do a deep dive on the following subjects:

James Wiseman: Wiseman is the biggest name in recruiting circles and Aaron gives you the inside scoop on everything you need to know. Does either Kentucky or Memphis have the edge in his recruitment? Is it possible he can reclassify to 2018? Also, has Vernon Carey passed him as the best player in this class?

Vernon Carey: With Carey impressing folks across college basketball the last few weeks, is it time to bump him to No. 1 in the recruiting rankings? Also T.J. explains why he believes that Kentucky is in better position with him than most realize.

Cole Anthony: And finally, is there any “news” on Cole Anthony? Is there any way to know where he’s leaning? And does Kentucky have a chance? Also, T.J. discusses his new podcast which will be released soon.

Next up, national recruiting expert Corey Evans joins the show after a busy week in Atlanta. He discussed the following with Aaron:

Dontaie Allen: Allen was the fastest-rising star of the weekend. What kind of player is he and what allowed him to have success in Atlanta? Also, will Kentucky offer? When? And how quickly will Allen accept if they do?

News and Notes from Around the Rest of Atlanta: After an extensive talk about Atlanta, Corey wraps up by discussing other news and notes from the Under Armour event. What are his thoughts on Top 10 prospect Josh Green and his AAU teammate Nico Mannion? Could they be a package deal? And could USC – yes, USC – finish with a Top 5 class in the country or even No. 1?

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Changing AAU Basketball Will Hurt, Not Help College Basketball

© Robert Deutsch | USATSI

Over the last week few days, some of the biggest name writers in college basketball (including our buddy T.J. Walker) have descended upon Peach Jam, the biggest AAU event in the country. And over the last few days virtually every single one of them have written the same article, about how the NCAA’s proposed changes to the July college basketball recruiting period are awful and will ultimately hurt the sport. CBS’s Gary Parrish wrote about it here. NBC’s Rob Dauster did the same here. I encourage you to check out both articles.

Now before we get into the meat of this article, let’s first explain what the rules changes are for those of you who might not have been paying attention.

Under the current model, coaches have a handful of select weekends (mostly in April and July) when they can be out on the road recruiting, mostly by attending AAU tournaments. However, after the FBI probe last fall, the NCAA became worried about the influence of sneaker companies (mainly Nike, Adidas and Under Armour) on the recruiting scene and decided that they’d like to alter the July recruiting period. They’d do away with the sneaker-organized events (like Peach Jam, the Under Armour event in Atlanta etc.) and instead host regional camps run by the NCAA. The best players at each camp would then advance to a national, All-Star type camp later on in the summer.

Again, the ultimate goal would be to reduce (though not completely eliminate) the role that sneaker companies play in recruiting. In theory, fewer sneaker-run AAU events mean less control of players by AAU coaches and handlers, which in theory means less shady business in recruiting. Putting aside the dumb stereotype that all AAU guys are bad people (something that couldn’t be furthest from the truth) let’s simply look at the idea of running All-Star camps instead of summer tournaments. Because the simple truth is – that as Parrish and Dauster explained in their articles – it’s an awful idea, one that not only does little to actually help even the best players, but instead will actively hurt hundreds and hundreds each and every year.

To explain why, it starts with the simple premise of understanding what “AAU basketball” is, a simple concept that Condoleezza Rice and the people put in charge of “changing college basketball” never really understood.

For starters, “AAU basketball” is much more than just a few events run by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, where the best players play in front of college basketball’s biggest name coaches. Sure, that’s part of it, which is why you saw John Calipari and Bill Self and Sean Miller hopping from event to event this week. However, that’s only part of it.

First off, “AAU basketball” often starts at ages as young as six or seven-years-old. Secondly, even at the highest levels (for 17 and 18-year-olds) it’s not as though it’s only the best players playing for the biggest name coaches while wearing Nike or Adidas. Instead, for every one Peach Jam, there are dozens of tournaments played by mostly low and mid-major recruits, for low and mid-major coaches.

As a matter of fact, while so many other college basketball writers were at Peach Jam this week, your favorite writer (me!) was actually at one of those events. It was called the “Pangos Premiere 80 Event” in Los Angeles, and I can tell you this: There were no John Calipari’s or Sean Miller’s sitting in chairs on the baseline, nor were there any James Wiseman’s or Cole Anthony’s on the court. Instead, there were a few Pac-12 assistants and mostly coaches from schools that you never hear or unless they make the NCAA Tournament out of one-bid leagues. I didn’t see any “Kentucky” or “Michigan State” polo shirts, but did see plenty of “Northern Colorado’s” and “San Francisco’s.”

And on the court, there were, frankly, a bunch of players who you’ll probably never hear of unless they get their “One Shining Moment” in a March down the road. There was Gabe Toombs, a powerful wing player from Utah who – after an extensive Google search – doesn’t even have a 247 Sports recruiting page. There was Andrew Graves, a 6’10 forward who told me that his only offer was Utah State – at least until the Utah State coaching staff got fired this spring. Now he’s not quite sure who is recruiting him. There was a kid named Demetrius Calip who threw down a monster dunk that left the whole gym shook (including me, who can be seen in the freeze frame with my right hand in the air)… but has seemingly no big offers.

And really, the Pangos Premiere 80 is what AAU basketball is about. It’s not about the 8-10 kids every year who we know will be lottery picks. It’s about the hundreds who are fighting for a single scholarship offer in hopes they might be able to continue their careers and get a free education. That’s what the Rice Commission didn’t understand and why their proposed change would be a disaster. Fewer events mean fewer opportunities for kids to be seen. Many of the kids at the Pangos Premiere 80 might not have even been invited to the proposed regional camps, and many others certainly wouldn’t have advanced to the second and third stages where more college coaches can see them.

To use an example more close to home, how much has the July evaluation period helped someone like Dontaie Allen, who is seemingly picking up a couple new offers every hour? You think it’s hurt him by going to Atlanta for the Under Armour event? On the flip side, even as good as he is, you think agents and shoe reps are surrounding him like vultures trying to funnel money to him? Don’t be ridiculous.

As a matter fact, most kids are a lot like the Gabe Toombs and Andrew Graves and Dontaie Allen’s of the world, guys just hoping for a chance to impress college coaches and earn a scholarship.

It’s something that the Rice Commission and the NCAA don’t fully understand.

It’s also who will be most impacted if these proposed rule changes go into place.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 60: Silly Louisville lawsuit + New Mexico coach Paul Weir

It’s another episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron is joined by New Mexico coach Paul Weir to discuss what Aaron believes will be one of the most fascinating college basketball teams in America in 2018-2019. But first, Aaron’s buddy Nick Coffey stops by to talk the biggest topics of the day, and boy oh boy did they have plenty to discuss:

The Papa John’s Fallout: The “Papa John’s” story reached the world of sports, as John Schattner is out after his inflammatory comments earlier this week. The question now – what does it mean for Louisville athletics, with Schattner’s name and company attached to the stadium?

Louisville basketball players sue the NCAA: Next the guys stay in Louisville to discuss former Cardinals players suing the NCAA following the removal of the 2013 national championship banner. Nick explains why the lawsuit is essentially frivolous and the players have little chance of winning.

Changes to AAU basketball: With AAU basketball season here the guys discuss why proposed rule changes from the NCAA are absurd and will only hurt college basketball and its players, not help it.

Finally, who would argue the NFL is a more entertaining product than college football?: Finally, the guys dig into a popular topic on social media earlier this week, with one Sports Illustrated writer claiming that the NFL is a more entertaining product than college football. Aaron questions who would make such a claim, while arguing that college is superior in just about every way imaginable.

Next up, Aaron is joined the head coach of the New Mexico Lobos, a team to keep an eye out for heading into the 2018-2019 college basketball. Weir took over last season and immediately led them to the Mountain West title game, and has an improved roster last year which includes a slew of transfers including former Ohio State guard Jaquan Lyle and Kansas forward Carlton Bragg. The pair discusses:

The unique change that allowed New Mexico to have success in Weir’s first season: As Aaron laid out in a previous episode, Weir made a drastic change which allowed the Lobos to be rapidly improved the second half of last season. Weir explained what that change is, what went into the decision and how his players reacted.

Updates on a loaded transfer class: Weir explains the impact that Lyle and UConn transfer Vance Jackson will have heading into 2018-2019. Weir also updates the status of former Kansas forward Carlton Bragg who is also in Albuquerque, and explains how he plans to keep his team focused with a vastly improved roster.

New Mexico’s book club: Finally, Weir explains how he started a “book club” at New Mexico and how his players have responded positively to the experience.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Kevin Knox is Shaping Up To Be the Steal of the 2018 NBA Draft

There are a couple rules in life I like to follow. Never trust someone with two first names. Never let someone dressed as Elvis officiate your wedding. And never, ever make too many sweeping judgments about a basketball player off his performance at NBA Summer League.

Still, I can’t lie – the last week has made me flip my stance on one of those rules (and for those asking, no I’m not getting married any time soon). Instead, it’s at Summer League where after a white-hot start, Kevin Knox is making re-consider everything I thought I knew about the event. Not only has Knox been a flat out revelation at Summer League and – all things considered – quite possibly the most impressive player, but he’s also shaping up to be the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that when all is said and done, he could end up as one of the two or three best players in this entire class.

The ironic part about all that is that I was actually super-high on Knox even before the draft. If you guys listen to my podcast (subscribe here!) you know that out of every national media member I was quite possibly the most outspoken on Kevin Knox’s long-term ability, and when I saw him pegged as a guy who would likely go in the middle of the teen’s in most mock drafts, I publicly questioned it. At the time I truly believed he had the skill-set of someone who should go somewhere between the No. 5 and No. 10 pick in the draft. I’m not going to lie and say that I would have taken him over DeAndre Ayton or Marvin Bagley, but did think he should fall into the next group with Mo Bamba, Trae Young and Wendell Carter, as guys who should be taken in any order depending on the need.

Well apparently the Knicks were listening, and maaaaan have they looked smart so far.

For those who haven’t been following Summer League particularly closely here’s what you need to know: Through Tuesday’s games, Knox is averaging a paltry 23.3 points per game, on a combination of rim-rattling dunks, a solid mid-range game and deep three-point shooting that we knew he had at Kentucky, but didn’t always show. That 23.3 point per game average is tied for second most with the Lakers’ Josh Hart, with only Atlanta’s John Collins having a higher point per game average. Keep in mind that both of those guys are second year players who both spent last season in the NBA, giving them a leg up on the rookie class. In terms of Hart specifically, he turned 23-years-old in March, making him a full four-and-a-half years older than Knox, who won’t be 19 until next month.

And really, that’s one of the most incredible things to me about this performance from Knox so far – he’s doing it at just 18-years-old. Keep in mind that Knox isn’t just young by NBA standards or even Summer League standards (an event which is littered with guys in their mid to late 20’s looking to make the NBA), but he’s even young relative to his peers in the 2018 class. Some quick Wikipedia research reveals that he’s a full a year younger than guys like Ayton, Bagley and Bamba. Can you imagine how far along Knox will be a year from now, when he’ll actually be the same age as most of the 2019 draft class (for example, top 2019 draft prospect Cameron Reddish is just one month younger than Knox)? Heck, can you imagine where he’ll be six or seven years from now when he actually reaches his physical peak and potential?

That’s also why I don’t necessarily believe the whole “don’t put too much into Summer League performances” when it comes to Knox. For one, he isn’t a third or fourth year college player that is close to reaching his potential, but just now starting to scratch the surface. Furthermore, he’s got the perfect skill-set for today’s NBA. At 6’9, he’s comfortable taking opponents off the dribble, but also capable of taking and making deep three’s. In other words, he’s got the skills of a two-guard… but in a 6’9 frame. You know how valuable that is?

For comparison’s sake, think back to this year’s NBA playoffs. Remember that Rockets-Warriors series (which was basically the NBA Finals)? How there were times that outside of Kevin Durant (who is a once-in-a-generation, seven foot freak) no one on the floor was taller than 6’8 or 6’9? How everyone could handle the ball and shoot jumpers? How everyone needed to be able to defend multiple positions? How, to use a term John Calipari coined years ago, both those teams play “positionless basketball?”

To which I ask, name me one guy better suited for the “positionless” era in the NBA than Knox? There are a few who are equally as adept (Jaren Jackson, Michael Porter if healthy etc.). But nobody who can seamlessly handle things on the wing like Knox, who can score at all three levels and defend multiple positions.

Add it up and you can see why I’m so high on Knox. He’s the perfect player for the era we live in.

Admittedly there is still a long way to go and he has a lot of work to do, and no, Summer League isn’t always the be all, end all of a guy’s career.

Still, right now he looks fantastic.

He looks like the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 59 – Summer League Fever + Texas Tech coach Chris Beard

It’s a post-holiday edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast and a big one at that! Summer League is underway and Nick Coffey and Aaron Torres have caught the fever, plus a visit from Texas Tech coach Chris Beard after he led the Red Raiders to the school’s first Elite Eight appearance in school history last March. The guys start in Summer League though, where they discuss:

Kevin Knox’s emergence as a star: It’s always tough to take too much out of Summer League, but is Kevin Knox emerging as a star in front of our eyes? Aaron and Nick think so, and wonder whether he ends up as the steal of this NBA Draft. The guys also explain why his game might be suited better for the NBA than it ever was for college.

Trae Young’s struggles: The guys also touch on the struggles of Trae Young early on in summer league. The guys explain why they’re annoyed that Young’s game hasn’t evolved at the NBA level, and wonder why he’s trying to take on so much. Also, at what point is it too early to start wondering if the Hawks made the wrong selection with Young?

Grayson Allen: Finally, the guys wrap up by talking about why they’re not only OK with Grayson Allen’s hard fouls, but how it might be the path to a long, professional career for him. They also talk the re-emergence of one player who skipped college basketball last year, and why they’re happy for a former star who has suffered one injury after another.

Next up, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard joins the show. As you may remember, Beard led Texas Tech to one of the most remarkable seasons in college basketball last year. In just his second season at the school, the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight. He discusses all that and more starting with:

His unique path in coaching: Beard describes his wild ride through coaching, which includes stops as head coach at the JUCO and DII levels + the ABA. What did those experiences teach him that he takes with him today? Also, why being let go at Texas Tech as an assistant a decade ago led him to where he is today.

How he gets his players to buy in: Aaron asks the simple question: How does Beard have so much success so quickly, at every stop he goes to? Beard how he gets players to buy in and believe in his system. He also explains his personal philosophy of only “getting one shot” and taking advantage of it.

His torn ACL: Finally, Beard talks about his health, after suffering an ACL-tear mid-season. Beard never stopped coaching, and explains why recent lottery pick Zhaire Smith is to blame for the fact that he hasn’t gotten surgery yet.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Get to Know Fast-Rising 2019 Prospect Josh Green

Get to Know Fast-Rising 2019 Prospect Josh Green

We are officially just days away from the start of the July recruiting period, and as we get closer, Kentucky fans are starting to get a better sense for what their 2019 class might look like. The class is already off to a strong start with the commitments of Tyrese Maxey and D.J. Jeffries, but could become historic if James Wiseman, Cole Anthony, Vernon Carey (or some combination of the three) head to Lexington.

Still, there are other players who are quickly moving up the Wildcats’ radar and one name to keep an eye on heading into July is Josh Green. The combo guard who is originally from Australia and now plays at IMG Academy has had a monster six months, and after viewing him at the Nike Hoops Summit in April (where he scored 11 points as one of the youngest players in the event) I mentioned that I expected Kentucky to get into the mix before the summer was done. That appears to be the case as Rivals.com’s Corey Evans recently reported that in addition to the schools that were already recruiting him (Arizona, UCLA, USC, Virginia, Kansas) two blue bloods, Kentucky and North Carolina had begun to show interest. That interest coincides with Green rising into the Top 10 national rankings for both Rivals and ESPN’s recruiting services.

So what do Wildcats fans need to know about Green? We spoke to Justin Downer, one of Green’s coaches with West Coast Elite, the Under Armour AAU team club he has played with the last several summers. And while Green’s mix tapes show a diverse athlete, able to throw down monstrous dunks, what separates him according to Downer is his ability to do everything else.

“What’s not on the highlight tape is the kind of defender he is,” Downer said. “He can lock down on the ball, and cut off passing lanes, block shots, he’s a really, really high-level defender. He’s [also] a willing passer.”

Downer continued.

“He’s always understood the team concept,” he said. “He’s always understood the team game, he’s always understood how to win.”
Downer credits Green’s upbringing for shaping his unique skill-set. His father Delmas Green played college basketball here in the United States and then eventually spent a few years playing professionally overseas, so Green and his older brother (who now plays at UNLV) always had a good base of knowledge and genetics to work off of. The fact that he grew up in Australia – where fundamentals are emphasized over actual game play – helped too. It also allowed him to slowly develop into the player he is today.

“The thing about Josh is that he has always been a freak competitor,” Downer said. “He always plays so hard. So everything else kind of caught up with him. His shot has gotten better every year. He’s an improved ball-handler. That’s why people now see him as more of a combo guard instead of a wing.”

Downer’s comments align with Green skyrocketing up the recruiting rankings in the last few years. After a strong summer playing for West Coast Elite last year, Green was a consensus Top 40 recruit, before he blew up even further thanks to great showings at both the “Basketball Without Borders” event at NBA All-Star weekend and the Nike Hoops Summit. Both are events where some of the best high school players in the world participated, and despite being one of the youngest players at each event, Green shined. He has parlayed that play into a strong spring these past few months with West Coast Elite, where he has averaged 20 points per game as one of the top players on the Under Armour circuit. His team also is sitting near the top of the standings with a 9-1 overall record.

Add it all together and Green is now one of the hottest commodities on the recruiting trail. As mentioned up top, he is now ranked in the Top 10 in the 2019 recruiting rankings by both ESPN and Rivals.com.

And as Green’s profile has continued to grow, so too has interest from colleges. At the Nike Hoops Summit, Green told KSR that he was hearing primarily from schools like UCLA, Kansas, USC and Virginia, but went out of his way to specify that no one school led in his recruitment. According to Downer that is still the case as some of the biggest names in college basketball – Kentucky and North Carolina specifically – have begun to call.

“I think he’s in a place where he really wants to focus on July,” Downer said. “He really wants to finish this thing strong. He doesn’t think he can make any sort of list until the end of July because he loves a lot of schools on the list, but also wants to look at the new ones coming in.”

While recruiting will pick up heading into the fall, it looks more and more like Green’s sole focus right now is becoming the best player in high school basketball.

“He’s ready to keep climbing, and keep pushing so that his hard work pays off,” Downer said. “He’s going to make sure he doesn’t take his foot off the gas.”


You Might Not Like WKU Hiring Charles Bassey’s Guardian – But There’s Nothing Illegal About It

Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the latest twist in the Charles Bassey to Western Kentucky saga unfolded. Although I’m not so sure you could call it a “twist” as much as an inevitability.

That’s because in what has been expected for a long time, Western Kentucky went ahead and hired Hennssy Auriantal, Bassey’s guardian, as an assistant coach. Understand that from the time that Bassey – a five-star player, ranked among the top high school prospects in the country – decided to reclassify and commit to Western – something like this felt inevitable. It wasn’t certain, but you could feel it coming. Like Rick Pitino swearing “I’ll never do another interview again” – only to do an interview a few minutes after that, this one seemed like an absolute certainty.

Of course as soon as the news became official, you know what happened next: The Twitter mob came out and attacked Western Kentucky. We got the typical “never bet against Rick Stansbury in recruiting” tweets from many. Others called the move everything ranging from sketchy to unethical to immoral.

But while this move feels grimy on the surface (and well, it is), it’s important to remember one important thing: Hiring Bassey’s guardian is completely legal under NCAA rules. It might not feel right, but that act alone doesn’t constitute any NCAA violations. And if anything, we should probably give Stansbury a little credit here. If all it took to get Bassey was to hire Auriantal, good for Western Kentucky for pulling it off. All 350+ Division I programs could have done the same thing. They all could have made the hire and landed a potentially program-changing, five-star recruit. Why should we be mad at Stansbury for actually pulling it off?

Now to be clear (and in defense of those other 350+ Division I teams) there are of course other reasons to question the legitimacy of Bassey’s recruitment. Let’s also get another thing clear: This isn’t me picking on an 18-year-old kid. These are simple facts that have been reported through the media.

For starters, questions have surrounded Bassey since he left his first high school in Texas, and the local media in Kentucky have done an incredible job of looking into the credentials of Bassey’s new high school, Aspire Academy (which ran in conjunction with DeSales High School in Louisville). Add in the fact that Bassey was able to graduate a year early by reclassifying and that even Aspire Academy admitted that they had no idea whether or not he has a degree from the school, and it’s understandable why some are questioning the merits of the Bassey-to-Western Kentucky thing. Especially when you remember that no major college basketball powers seriously recruited Bassey outside of Western Kentucky, even despite the fact that he was a Top 10 recruit and played within driving distance of several schools that in theory should have been recruiting him (Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana).

Again, it’s OK to be skeptical. But again, if all we’re talking about is Western Kentucky choosing to hire Bassey’s guardian as an assistant coach? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

As a matter of fact, it’s actually more common than you might think. Remember, both Missouri and Washington hired Michael Porter Jr.’s dad in the last two years, with the hopes of landing his two sons (Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay). USC recently hired a guy named Eric Mobley, whose younger son is the No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2020 and older son is a Top 15 prospect in the class of 2019. Again, nothing wrong there. Just like there was nothing wrong with Memphis hiring a guy named Keelon Lawson to land his two sons a few years ago (a pair of players who have since transferred to Kansas) or when Bill Self hired Mario Chalmers’ dad to bring along his son. Heck, if you want to go historic, Larry Brown hired Danny Manning’s dad back in the early 1980’s to land Danny Manning, who eventually led the Jayhawks to the 1988 national championship. Think Brown regrets making that move? I bet not.

Put simply, hiring people to land star recruits is a practice as old as time. Understand that as long as coaches get hired and fired based on how many games they win, they will always do whatever they can within the rules (and sometimes outside the rules) to get players. That includes hiring parents, guardians and AAU and high school coaches if it helps them get star players. Heck, the NCAA even tried to step in and slow down the practice, by putting in a new rule a few years ago that said that if a school is going to hire a parent or guardian to land a recruit, they have to hire them as a true assistant coach (as opposed to a non-sense operations position). And you know what? It hasn’t slowed up the practice at all.

That’s also why the more I dig into the Bassey situation, the more angry I’ve become with the media coverage. For one, the media is smearing the name of an 18-year-old kid and his guardian (even if it is fair to raise other questions about eligibility etc.). Furthermore, why is it OK for Missouri, Washington or Kansas to hire someone affiliated with a big-time recruit, but not Western Kentucky? Because it’s Western Kentucky and they’re not supposed to get a player of Bassey’s caliber? Get out of here.

At the end of the day, every Division I program had a chance to hire Auriantal and every Division I program had a chance to land Bassey because of it. Western Kentucky is the one who actually got it done.

Therefore, go ahead and dislike the move by Bassey, Auriantal and Western Kentucky.

But just remember: They didn’t actually do anything wrong.


Recruiting Expert on Tyrese Maxey: “Big Blue Nation Will Love This Kid”

We’re still a full four months away from the start of the 2018-2019 college basketball season, but at Kentucky, it’s never too early to look ahead to what’s next. The simple reality is that as talented as next year’s team is capable of being, the task of having to replace them in 2019-2020 is never far from John Calipari’s mind. With so many future NBA stars on the roster, it can’t be.

The good news for Coach Cal is that in a weird way, he’ll almost have an extra recruiter on the road this summer. That “recruiter” is actually Tyrese Maxey, the five-star guard from Texas who committed to the Wildcats back in May.

Recruiting insider Corey Evans of Rivals.com believes that Maxey could be Calipari’s best recruiter this spring and summer.

 “He is one of the most infectious, outgoing kids I’ve ever dealt with,” Evans told Kentucky Sports Radio this morning. “You don’t think he’s going to sell Kentucky basketball? Big Blue Nation will love this kid. He is outgoing, charismatic, loves the game.”

He continued.

“You always worry about these elite level guys,” Evans said. “Do they really love the game? You know what I mean? And if they don’t [love the game] they might be able to fake it until now, or maybe even into college. But the NBA level? The reason that these guys don’t pan out is because they don’t have the extra drive, they don’t love the game as much. Tyrese Maxey loves the game, and that’s one thing Kentucky fans will see from the get-go, if they haven’t seen it already. He loves the game. He’s going to be a Day 1 leader for John Calipari.”

In addition to speaking about Maxey, Evans also weighed in on the great white whale in recruiting in 2019: James Wiseman. The 6’11 forward from Memphis is the consensus best player in the class of 2019. But if you feel like you haven’t heard much about Wiseman’s recruitment in the last few months, you’re not alone.

Here’s what Evans had to say on Wiseman.

“There’s not much shaking right now,” Evans said. “It’s kind of been in a stall pattern a little bit. Let’s face it man, it’s dog versus dog, Kentucky versus Memphis. What’s going to happen? Everyone is waiting for the shoe to drop. Nothing has happened lately.”

“It’s like, Penny Hardaway gets hired in April and this giant snowball gets rolling down the hill, all these guys he coached and all the top kids in Memphis start committing to Memphis. And then of course [James] Wiseman [is] the last guy standing in a way, and nothing has happened for two months. We’re all in a stall pattern right now.”

To see what Corey said about this year’s freshmen, click here.

And to listen to Corey’s entire interview on Kentucky Sports Radio, click on Hour No. 2 below:


Ep. 57: Aaron Torres Sports Podcast – T.J. Walker and Arnie Spanier

Ep. 57: Aaron Torres Sports Podcast – T.J. Walker and Arnie Spanier

It’s a little bit of a different episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast this week. Nick Coffey is still away, and Aaron welcomes two guests to the show. First, Aaron is joined by KSR’s T.J. Walker to talk all things college hoops. Then, Aaron’s radio partner on Fox Sports Radio Arnie Spanier hops on to tell old-school radio stories. Starting with T.J., he and Aaron discuss:

The Wendell Carter Drama at Duke: How did Duke get themselves in this mess, and how likely is it that Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t honest with the Carter’s during the recruiting process? Also, Aaron explains why John Calipari never seems to find himself in these messes. Plus, how much will Duke miss Jeff Capel now that he’s gone?

The Charles Bassey Drama at Western Kentucky: The latest on Charles Bassey at Western Kentucky, after his own high school principal questioned whether Bassey ever even received a diploma or not. T.J. explains the details of what went on behind the scenes at Aspire Academy, and the guys agree that the real victim here is actually Bassey himself.

Finally, what’s the buzz at Kentucky with the addition of Reid Travis: Finally Aaron asks T.J. his thoughts on Kentucky now that Reid Travis is on campus. How good can this team be? And is it fair for Aaron to state that the Wildcats are the title favorites entering 2018-2019?

Next up, it’s story time, as Aaron is joined by Arnie Spanier. Arnie hosts Fox Sports Radio with Aaron every Saturday from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET, and they discuss the following:

Arnie’s beginnings in radio: Arnie explains how a trip to watch his brother play high school basketball started his career. Also, how he got offered his first job in Vegas, and where he has worked since.

Some of his craziest stories from his time on air: How Bryan Colangelo (yes, that Bryan Colangelo) convinced him to go bungee jumping and why the Lakers were furious with him for joking about a Kobe Bryant injury. Also, how he met his wife doing a segment for his show.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Why the 2018-2019 Season Might be the Most Important of the Calipari Era

When Reid Travis committed to play his final season at Kentucky last week, I made a statement that day that frankly, I didn’t think was all too controversial: With the addition of Travis, Kentucky was officially the team to be in college basketball entering the 2018-2019 season.

Again, I didn’t find that comment to be all too controversial. With Travis now in the fold, UK simply possessed the best combination of skill, athleticism, depth and experience of anyone in the country. And apparently I wasn’t alone in thinking that. Within the next 24 hours of my initial comment, ESPN tabbed the Wildcats the favorites in 2019. So too did CBS. And within the last 24 hours, Vegas came full-circle and named Kentucky the team to beat next season.

So yeah, the Wildcats are going to be good. Realllllllly good.

Of course, as you might imagine not everyone agreed. Just as soon as I sent out the tweet below, stating that the Wildcats were the best team in college basketball entering next season, I got brush-back from fans from all sorts of other fan-bases across college basketball. They all basically shared the same sentiment, which went a little something like this: “Oh, you media guys are all the same. Of course you love Kentucky. You overhype them every off-season, and they still only have one national championship to show for it.”
(more…)


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E56: Jim Calhoun

It’s another edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast – and woooooo is it a doozy, as Aaron is joined by the Hall of Fame, former head coach of UConn basketball Jim Calhoun. As a UConn alum, Aaron went bonkers, reliving Calhoun’s glory days, his best players and teams, as well as his new job as a head coach. Plus, the wild story of how Bob Knight convinced Calhoun to take the UConn job instead of Northwestern nearly 40 years ago.
First however, Aaron hits on some of the biggest topics and in and around basketball, including:
Reid Travis’ Arrival at KentuckyAfter briefly hitting on the topic last week, Aaron takes a deep dive into the Reid Travis commitment at UK. He explains why Travis now makes Kentucky complete, as well as the team to beat in college basketball in 2018-2019. Aaron also explains why the hype surrounding this year’s team is different than in years past.
Turmoil at UConnAaron looks at the tricky, legal situation involving Kevin Ollie and his buyout at UConn. Aaron also explains why the situation might be a bit more complicated than many have made it out to be.
Johnny Jones gets Another Job: How? 
NBA Awards Show: The dumb Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell debate, and Bill Russell gave the middle finger to all of America.
Next up, Aaron does a deep dive with the Hall of Famer, Jim Calhoun. The pair hit on a number of topics, including:
 
Calhoun’s New Job at a DIII SchoolCalhoun explains why he shockingly took the job at St. Joseph’s College, a Division III school in Aaron’s hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut. Calhoun also explains the differences between building a program at the DIII vs. DI level, and how coaching at a former all-girls college helps recruiting.
The Rise of UConn BasketballCalhoun takes listeners behind the scenes of how he built UConn basketball from a program with no resources and facilities into a Big East power. What was it like walking into a league where six coaches became future Hall of Famers? And when did he know he had the program on the right track?
Calhoun Discusses his Best Players and Teams: Finally Calhoun wraps up by talking about the best players and teams from his time in Storrs. Why the 2004 team – featuring Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor – was his most talented, but not necessarily the “best.” And why he readily admits we’ll never see anything like what Kemba Walker pulled off in 2011.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.