Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.





Basketball

Basketball Season Coverage

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

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

USA Today Sports

The college basketball off-season is always wild, but is it just me or has this one been especially bananas?

Seriously, since the day the season ended, here are a few things that have happened: Mick Cronin left Cincinnati for UCLA. John Beilein left for the NBA and was replaced by Juwan Howard. We went through an entire FBI trial under the assumption that it would result in (at least) Sean Miller and Will Wade losing their jobs, only instead, both somehow survived. Memphis went from one Top 50 recruit to four, with the additions of Precious Achuiwa, Boogie Ellis and Lester Quinones. Cole Anthony (North Carolina), Matthew Hurt (Duke), Cassius Stanley (Duke), Trendon Watford (LSU), Jaden McDaniels (Washington) and Johnny Juzang (Kentucky) also announced their college decisions. RJ Hampton announced he’d reclassify, then cut his recruiting list from five to four, four to three, went back up to four with Texas Tech, cut Kentucky to get back down to three, then eventually committed to play for the… New Zealand Breakers. Huh? Oh, and Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Cassius Winston and Markus Howard were among the big names who announced they’d return to college basketball.

Of course, while that handful of guys announced they’d be back, hundreds – literally hundreds – declared for the draft. And because players were allowed to declare with an agent this year, it left the sport in a fit of chaos, with no one quite sure who was actually just “testing the draft waters” and who was actually planning on staying in.

Only now, finally, mercifully, we have hit May 29th. The pre-draft portion of this process is complete and we now know who actually is coming back to college and staying in the draft.

And with that, we have a much clearer picture of what next year of college basketball will look like.

Here was my initial “Way Too Early Top 25” from back after the day ended. And below, is my updated list post NBA Draft deadline.

(more…)


Today on KSR: College Basketball Wins at the NBA Draft Deadline

It was a wild NBA Draft withdrawal deadline. After more than 12 hours of chaos, college basketball was the real winner Wednesday.

It was the best case scenario for the Big Blue Nation. Just before 6:00 p.m., E.J. Montgomery announced he would return to UK for a second season in Lexington. The addition guarantees John Calipari will have three posts — Montgomery, Richards, Sestina — to work with in 2019-20. They may not be alone.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. was one of the last players to remove his name from the NBA Draft pool. The former Virginia Tech All-ACC forward will explore grad transfer options. Kentucky has the name brand and championship potential, but a crowded backcourt could push him to join Andrew Nembhard, Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson not far from his hometown in Gainesville, Florida.

Blackshear’s future will remain uncertain a little longer, just like Quentin Grimes. Not long after Devon Dotson announced he would return to Lawrence, we learned his backcourt running mate removed his name from the NBA Draft. Instead of returning to Kansas, Grimes will transfer, capping off a bizarre offseason for the Jayhawks.

Closer to home, Jordan Nwora is giving Louisville fans hope. With the return of the Cards’ leading scorer, they’ll be a preseason top five team. After years of rule-breaking, they finally have hope, maybe too much hope. An assistant coach AND the athletic director are calling for a Final Four. How cute.

Many fringe players could have made the leap, but decided to return to college basketball.

  • Myles Powell — Seton Hall
  • Mamadi Diakite — Virginia
  • Charles Bassey — WKU
  • Devon Dotson — Kansas
  • Xavier Sneed — Kansas State

Those were just a couple of the decisions from yesterday. See who will stay and who will go in this long list from Jeff Goodman.

The SEC Basketball Schedule is (almost) Set

We do not have the dates, but we do know UK’s SEC opponents. In a surprising twist, the league will not make the Cats play LSU twice. Instead, the Cats will play a Nic Claxton-less Georgia at home and on the road.

2019-20 SEC Home Games 2019-20 SEC Away Games
Alabama Arkansas
Auburn Auburn
Florida Florida
Georgia Georgia
Ole Miss LSU
Mississippi State South Carolina
Missouri Tennessee
Tennessee Texas A&M
Vanderbilt Vanderbilt

A Big Addition for Michigan?

Juwan Howard could make a splash with one of his first hires. The Michigan head coach has reportedly offered an assistant coaching job to Phil Martelli, who spent the last 24 seasons leading the St. Joe’s basketball program. Martelli would be the perfect ying to Howard’s yang.

Rex Chapman is BACK

The King of Twitter was taken off the social media site for a few days. “Twitter jail food is better than real jail food,” he said.

Florida Offers Richie Leonard

Since the Florida offensive tackle de-committed from UK, Florida State has done everything to convince Leonard to commit to play in Tallahassee. Yesterday, the Florida Gators joined the fold, giving Leonard an offer from each of Florida’s “Big Three” schools. Leonard is set to officially visit UK next weekend.

I’ve been cooking up a few voluminous football recruiting pieces that will be ready to hit the presses this afternoon. Hold onto your butts.

Great News from Alex Trebek

Just three months ago the Jeopardy host announced he had stage four pancreatic cancer. Luckily, his body has responded to chemotherapy.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” he told People. “The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory…some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent.”

Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Trebek.

The NBA Finals Begin

The basketball hiatus is over. For the first time, an NBA Finals game will be played north of the border. Toronto hosts Golden State at 9:00 p.m. on ABC. DeMarcus Cousins returned to action in practice this week, however, Steve Kerr is still unsure how he will be able to use Boogie.

“DeMarcus has done an amazing job coming back from the injury, which we felt at the time was season-ending. So he’s done an incredible job of rebounding, rehabbing, and now here he is. He’s scrimmaged a couple times this week. He’s pain free, so it’s really more a matter of rhythm and timing and conditioning, all those things.

If this were the regular season, I’d throw him out there and he’d play whatever minutes he could tolerate and we’d build him up from there. This is not the regular season, it’s the Finals, so we have to figure out what’s the best way to utilize him. How many minutes he can play, what the game feels like, what the matchups are like. So some of that will be determined by what’s happening in the game, and the other stuff is just internal with our staff.”

Ryan Lemond’s Last Day in Jail

It’s been a wild ride over the last two weeks. Tonight Ryan Lemond says sayonara to KSJail. Last night the inmate received some company from the rest of the KSR crew. They’ll talk about their haunting experience beginning at 10:00 a.m.


Kerry Blackshear Jr. withdraws from the NBA Draft

Glenn Beil | USA TODAY Sports

It’s already been a big day for Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster thanks to EJ Montgomery’s decision to return for a sophomore seasonand the night is far from over. Kerry Blackshear just made things even more interesting.

The Virginia Tech grad transfer just announced he has withdrawn from the NBA Draft, meaning he’ll be eligible to compete on the collegiate level next season. Blackshear made the announcement on Instagram.

“After taking the time to weigh my options, I have decided to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft. I am still evaluating my options for my last year of eligibility and feel extremely fortunate to be in the position that I am in. I look forward to continuing my education and earning a Master’s degree while competing in the sport that I love as I continue working toward my goal of playing professionally.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kerry Blackshear (@kjblack15) on

Blackshear, listed at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, was a second team All-ACC selection last season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He also led the Hokies with 28 blocked shots and ranked third with 83 assists. He entered his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal after Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams left for the Texas A&M job, and ESPN named him the No. 1 ranked college basketball transfer on the market. 

Several insiders predicted Blackshear would leave his name in the Draft or even try his hand at the G League, even though he wasn’t one of the players invited to this year’s NBA Combine. On the other hand, Blackshear was high on Kentucky’s list after announcing his decision to transfer, and the UK staff met with him right away. At one point, Kentucky even seemed like the favorite in the grad transfer’s recruitment. Now, could a Montgomery-Richards-Sestina front court hurt the Cats’ chances?

It’s important to acknowledge his decision to withdraw from the Draft does not necessarily mean Blackshear is heading to Lexington, as he clearly states he’s still evaluating his options. Other contenders include Florida, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Tennessee and Texas A&M, or he could decide to return to Virginia Tech. However, with the NBA officially out of the picture, he could be Kentucky’s to lose.


OFFICIAL: UK and Montgomery CONFIRM a sophomore season

OFFICIAL: UK and Montgomery CONFIRM a sophomore season

It’s official!

Reports of an EJ Montgomery return were released a few minutes before 6:00 ET Wednesday afternoon, but things weren’t necessarily official until Montgomery eventually confirmed the news himself. He made the announcement on Instagram.

“Hey Big Blue Nation: I just want to say thanks for all you’ve done for me and my family. I enjoyed putting on a Kentucky uniform with my brothers and playing in front of the best fans in the nation. I appreciate your support for me and my team this season.”

“I want to say thanks to Coach Cal, Coach KP, Coach Joel, Coach Robic [and] Coach Barbee for pushing me every single day to be the best I can be on and off the court. I got to compete against the best of the best everyday in practice. We had a good season on the court because of our love for the grind. I’m proud of what we accomplished together. BBN, I’m back – year two.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Year 2????

A post shared by Ej Montgomery (@_mont23) on

The folks with UK confirmed the news soon after his video was posted.

John Calipari also weighed in, saying Montgomery has only “begun to scratch the surface of his potential.”

“I’m thrilled to be able to continue to coach EJ. He has a special skillset and he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his potential,” Calipari said in the press release. “EJ knows how hard this is going to be, and I know he’s ready to embrace the grind and do everything he can for this team while continuing to develop into the best version of himself.”

Calipari also acknowledged it was a tough choice for Montgomery and his family.

“When EJ and his family set out to go through this NBA Draft process, I told EJ he had my full support no matter what he decided,” Calipari said. “I know this was a tough decision for EJ and his family because of the positive feedback he received throughout this process. EJ improved so much during the season and I know how much he wants to show our fans what he can do with another year.”

Let’s go.


REPORT: EJ Montgomery will RETURN to Kentucky for sophomore season

EJ Montgomery will return to Lexington next year for a sophomore season with John Calipari and the University of Kentucky, according to NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

It clearly came down to the wire, but Montgomery ultimately decided a second lap around Rupp Arena is the best move for himself and his future career.

Last season, the freshman averaged 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while totaling 38 total blocks, 16 steals and 15 assists.

We still haven’t received any official news from Montgomery himself or from the University, but Woj typically knows what he’s talking about. We’ll have more as the story develops.

*UPDATE*

Jeff Goodman has also announced Montgomery’s pending return.


REPORT: Kentucky basketball may play in London during 2020-21 season

It may be time to get your passports up to date, Kentucky fans.

According to Darrell Bird of The Cats’ Pause, John Calipari has been contacted about playing in London next season, and the potential opponent is “a good one.”

“[John Calipari] told me he has been contacted about Kentucky playing in London during 2020-21 season,” he said in a Twitter post. “Can’t reveal possible foe, but it’s a good one.”

Kentucky has been on three foreign exhibition trips since Calipari has been in Lexington, with the 2010-11 team playing in Canada and the 2014-15 and 2018-19 teams taking trips to the Bahamas.

In terms of regular season games outside of the states, Kentucky took on Arizona State in Nassau during the 2016-17, while the 2009-10 Wildcats played two games in Cancun as part of the Cancun Challenge.


I Accidentally Caused an International Incident Last Night

I Accidentally Caused an International Incident Last Night

The internet really is a funny place sometimes.

Yesterday, I wrote an article detailing why I didn’t think it was the best move for RJ Hampton to spend next season in New Zealand playing in the NBL Australia’s professional basketball league. Honestly, at the time, the article didn’t feel all that “controversial” to me. Hampton’s stated reasoning for going to Australia was that this league would “best prepare him” for the NBA in 2020 and beyond, and I simply didn’t believe that.  I simply didn’t buy that playing in a league with a 28-game schedule, against good, but not elite international competition was the “best” way to prepare him for the NBA.

And yes, the competition is good, but not elite. With all due respect, the last two Rookie’s of the Year in the league have been Isaac Humphries (Kentucky) and Harry Froling (Marquette), two players who literally couldn’t get off the bench for major colleges.

To be clear, I never said the level of competition in college is better than Australia. But again, Hampton’s stated goal was to do what will “best prepare him for the NBA.” And as I said on my podcast (though unfortunately not in the article), part of the “best way to prepare” is to play against the best possible competition. Therefore, playing in the G-League (which is an option for elite high school players) or in a top European league seemed like it would be better preparation. Beyond that, if it was really about “living a pro lifestyle” I believe that college was just as good of an option, you know, since colleges actually play more games, over a shorter stretch of time than the NBL.

Now call me crazy, but to me, that doesn’t feel all that controversial of a take. You can disagree, but my argument seems relatively simple and logically thought out.

Or, so I thought.

Because apparently I caused an international controversy by simply stating that I don’t believe Australia/New Zealand is the best option for RJ Hampton next season – which it isn’t.

In essence, I got the entire country of Australia mad.

There were so many tweets that my thumb got tired scrolling through them all. But here are some of the best ones:

Or Scott.

Or Brayden.

Tiago’s tweet doesn’t really make sense, which is disappointing since he has “writer” in his bio. I do appreciate the effort of casually dropping an f-bomb in however.

For those who tried to defend the league (which isn’t necessary), they argued that the league has produced several future NBA players the last couple years. You know, the same amount that the big-time colleges (Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas) produce every season:

Heck, Harry Froling, last year’s NBL Rookie of the Year even got involved. Yes, the same Harry Froling who averaged three points per game at Marquette two years ago.

There are more and more and more and more, but we’ll just stop here. Especially since this whole story ends with a happy ending.

Although, I have pissed off every fan and media member in Australia, the folks at the NBL, the league Hampton will play in, couldn’t have been nicer, even if he called me Adam.

After a few DM’s with Nick, it appears as though the head of the league will be appearing on the next Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to discuss my article.

Can’t wait.

And sorry to all of Australia for making you mad.

Even if what I wrote was true.


Five reasons to be excited for Junior Nick Richards

This afternoon, Sophomore Nick Richards officially graduated to Junior Nick Richards, as the 6-foot-11 center announced he would be returning to Kentucky for another season.

“These past two years have been the best of my life,” Richards said in a press release. “It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve learned a lot, but the job’s not done yet. BBN, are you ready for year three?”

We know it’s a big decision for the Wildcats and the layout of the 2019-20 roster, but why?

Here are five reasons why Kentucky fans should be excited about Richard sticking around for another season in Lexington:

It was a necessity

Before we get into the specifics of what Richards brings to the table as a player, the fact of the matter is that Kentucky needed a body in the frontcourt, and they needed one badly.

We’re still waiting on a decision from freshman forward EJ Montgomery, but looking at the roster as it currently stands, they are loaded in the backcourt and incredibly thin up front. Before Richards made his decision today, Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina (6-foot-9) was the only confirmed scholarship player on the roster listed as taller than 6-foot-7.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has flirted with small-ball lineups as of late, and he certainly has the tools to utilize them a lot more next season with Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks Jr. both being solid post threats. Having just one legitimate big man, though, is far too risky going into the year.

If Montgomery leaves for the NBA Draft, Kentucky would still like one more piece to add to the frontcourt, with Kerry Blackshear Jr. being the obvious replacement option. If the Virginia Tech forward stays in the draft, that would leave the UK coaching staff scouring the graduate transfer market (slim pickings) and/or forcing their hand to convince a 2020 prospect or two to reclassify to 2019.

One more piece is certainly doable. Adding two solid contributors this late in the game, though? That’s an awful lot of pressure on the coaching staff.

With Richards now back for a junior campaign, the Cats have a bit of flexibility and far less weight on their shoulders to hit a home run to close out the 2019-20 roster.

Potential for spike in production

As much as Kentucky needed Richards to return from a pure numbers standpoint, it’s also important to factor in that we could see a massive jump in the 6-foot-11 center’s game next season.

Looking at Willie Cauley-Stein’s statistics from his time in Lexington, specifically during his phenomenal junior campaign, the 7-footer managed PER-40 numbers of 13.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per contest. Taking an even deeper look, Cauley-Stein finished with an offensive rating (points scored or produced per 100 possessions) of 119.8 and a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 80.

As for Richards last year, the sophomore big man had PER-40 totals of 13.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks per game to go with an offensive rating of 123.1 and a defensive rating of 93.4.

Obviously Cauley-Stein was the superior player and was a consensus First-Team All-American and National Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, but Richards is no chopped liver.

When he announced he was returning to school this afternoon, John Calipari said that he believes Richards could be the best big man in the nation.

In fact, he expects it.

“I’m excited to continue to coach Nick because I know how special he can be,” he said. “I’ve told him, ‘If you come back, I’m expecting you to be one of the best big men in the country.’ There is no reason he can’t be. There is nothing that Nick hasn’t seen at this point, and he knows what my expectations are for him in his junior season. I want him to dominate the game and affect it on every single possession.”

With confidence, Richards has proven he can be that dominant player. He’s had point totals of 25, 14, 12, 11, and 10 (five times), rebound totals of 19, 15 (twice), nine (twice), and eight (five times), and has finished with two or more blocks 21 times in two seasons as a Wildcat.

We joked a lot about “Sophomore Nick Richards” last year, but if he can combine his natural gifts as a pure athlete with just a slight bit of confidence in his abilities, the forward out of Kingston, Jamaica can be a high-impact player for Kentucky next season.

Style of play

As mentioned earlier, Coach Cal toyed with small-ball lineups a bit last season, and judging by how he has constructed his roster with long, athletic wings, he’s interested in doing something similar this season. In fact, sources have told KSR that the Kentucky head coach is trying to go back to his four-out Dribble Drive system this season and play in the open floor as much as possible.

Richards is the perfect big man to make that happen.

The current roster is loaded with players that thrive in transition and are comfortable making plays with the ball in their hands. Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Whitney, Brooks Jr., and Dontaie Allen are all stellar at grabbing rebounds and/or loose balls and just taking off. With Sestina having the ability to knock down deep jumpers at a consistent rate, the only obvious hole on the team was a rim running big with the ability to run the floor, catch lobs, and defend the paint.

Richards is that guy.

He was compared to Cauley-Stein as a high school recruit, and unfortunately, we’ve only seen flashes of that in his first two years in Lexington. In his third, the fit is perfect for Richards to finally unlock some of that hidden potential.

Experience

This is an easy point to make, but it’s always an important and valuable one.

In two years, Richards has been to a Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight. He’s had his ups and downs as a player, but he knows what it takes to win basketball games in the SEC and in postseason play.

We’ve seen sophomores like PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel, Isaiah Briscoe, and Tyler Ulis play major roles in recent memory, and we’ve also had graduate transfers such as Reid Travis, Julius Mays, and now Nate Sestina provide guidance as college basketball veterans. That being said, we rarely see third-year players with two full seasons under their belt in Lexington with the ability to provide that much-needed leadership in the locker room. In fact, this is the first time in three years that Kentucky has had a scholarship junior on the roster.

To take it a step further, it’s entirely possible that Kentucky boasts a starting lineup with a true freshman (Maxey, Whitney), sophomore (Hagans), junior (Richards), and senior (Sestina) next season.

Keeping Richards around for another year was huge for team chemistry and overall leadership.

Time for more phenomenal quotes

During his first season at Kentucky, Richards told KSR at UK Media Day that he enjoyed sitting in the dark in his free time. No television, no phone, no distractions, nothing.

“Nick Richards, he loves to sit in the dark. I don’t know why,” former UK point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said in 2017. “A lot of times when I go to his room, he’s just in the dark. His blinds are always down, he just loves the dark. I don’t understand why.”

When asked for his response, the Kentucky center had no rebuttal.

“Yeah, I do,” Richards said. “(I don’t meditate, either), I just… Whenever I’m by myself, I love sitting in the dark. It’s just how I’ve been since I was a little kid. I didn’t really like being around lights that much. I guess that’s a bad habit of mine.”

(Proof is HERE if you don’t believe me)

And then oddly enough, when Drew Franklin asked him about it this past season, Richards acted like he had no idea what he was talking about. Whether he dropped the habit, forgot he ever did it, or just lied, the quote was an absolute gem.

Fast forward to the end of this past season, Richards gave us yet another fascinating quote during the NCAA Tournament that certainly made headlines.

Prior to Kentucky’s Round of 32 matchup with Wofford, the Wildcat big man said the UK frontcourt was simply “better than them overall.”

“It’s a really good advantage for us,” he said. “They’re not really as athletic. … Their bigs are really skilled around the basket, they know how to move on the floor, but we’re just better than them overall, I think, so the advantage is our way, in my opinion.”

Probably wasn’t the best idea to give the Terriers locker room material with the season on the line, but it was priceless either way.

Hopefully a confidence boost this offseason will provide more great quotes and even better on-court performances.

Welcome back, Sophomore Junior Nick Richards.


There’s No Proof New Zealand Will Better Prepare RJ Hampton for the NBA Than College Hoops

@CourtsideFilms

On Tuesday morning, RJ Hampton sat down in front of ESPN’s cameras and made the announcement that every kid dreams of when he first picks up a basketball…. He’ll be playing next season for the New Zealand Breakers.

Ok so obviously I’m being sarcastic, but it is a decision that sent shockwaves across the entire world of basketball. There have been players who have gone overseas for a year (Brandon Jennings, Jeremy Tyler, Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrence Ferguson) and a few others who’ve sat out of college basketball all together (Mitchell Robinson and Darius Bazley). But none quite like Hampton.

The reasons are two-fold. One, there were no academic or NCAA issues holding Hampton back. Unlike Jennings, Mudiay and Ferguson, if RJ Hampton wanted to play college basketball, there was nothing stopping him. But two, and more importantly, he’s simply better than all of them. Hampton was by basically any tangible measurement, one of the Top 5 prospects in America last year. Barring something shocking, he will be a Top 5 pick next year’s NBA Draft – the kid is honestly that good. Yet rather than playing it safe and doing what hundreds of other elite prospects did, he took an alternative path.

And ultimately, if there was any doubt why he chose that alternative path, Hampton made it clear Tuesday morning on ESPN. He said it’s because he believes that this is what will best prepare him for a future in the NBA.

“My No. 1 goal is to play in the NBA,” Hampton said. “I wanted to be an NBA player before I ever wanted to be a college player. This is about getting ready for the next level faster and more efficiently.”

And that’s all fair and good, and of course the media went out of the way to applaud him for such a courageous decision. There’s just one problem: After doing some pretty extensive research on Hampton’s new team and league, I can’t find a single shred of evidence that it will actually better prepare him better for the NBA than college would have. If anything, I think you could make a legitimate case it’s the exact opposite, that college is the better alternative than this particular pro league.

Now before we go further, I want to make something abundantly clear: This article wasn’t written to go after Hampton or his family. I didn’t do this because I love college basketball (which I do) and want to attack any kid who makes any alternate decision. Hampton made the decision that was best for he and his family, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What bothers me is the media lauding him for the decision without doing any research. Because like I said, I can’t find a single ounce of evidence that would indicate that from strictly a basketball standpoint, this was a better decision for him than going to a big-time college basketball power.

Now for those of you who don’t know anything about the NBL (which was me, like six hours ago) let me give you a few details. Because while the NBL is, in theory, a pro league, with salaries and arenas and things of that nature, it isn’t a pro league in the traditional sense that we think of in America. As best I can tell, it’s more on par with a high-major college league. The players are a little older, and the amenities are a little worse. But playing in this league will be a far cry from playing in a junior/mini NBA, which is what everyone has made it out to be.

For starters, the NBL season basically runs equivalent to the college season. Games start in early October and run through early March. But here’s the catch: They only play 28 regular season games, plus a few for the playoffs. This year’s NBL champs, the Perth Wildcats, played a grand total of 34 games this year, including the playoffs.

In essence, the NBL runs over the same period of time as college hoops, only plays fewer games. So if part of this decision was to allow Hampton to adjust to the “professional lifestyle” (like he said on Tuesday morning) well he’s really not doing that. This league isn’t about playing one game and hopping on a flight to the next like in the NBA, and it certainly won’t prepare Hampton for the grind of an 82-game NBA schedule any better than college basketball would have. I sure hope he likes to practice, because that’s basically what’s he’s going to be doing every day for six months of his life.

Now of course at the same time, I know most of you are thinking: Ok, fine, whatever, the schedule isn’t so intense. But the competition level in Australia will be way better than in college basketball. He will be playing against grown men after all.

Serious question though: What if those grown men aren’t all that good?

Because here’s what you need to know about the big, bad, mighty NBL, which is going to so well prepare Hampton for the NBA next season: The 2019 league MVP was… Andrew Bogut. The same Andrew Bogut who hasn’t averaged more than six points per game in the NBA since 2014. The same Andrew Bogut who returned to the Golden State Warriors for the playoff push late this season (once the NBL season was done) and played a grand total of 24 minutes in the Western Conference Finals.

Honestly, Bogut is a great leader and locker room presence, but at this point is actual basketball tangibles are up for debate. If there were 450 players on NBA rosters this season, I don’t think you could legitimately make a case that he was in the Top 400. And that’s the guy who was the best player in this league?

As a matter of fact, let’s take things one step further: You know who won the Rookie of the Year in the NBL last season? A guy by the name of Harry Froling, a kid that college basketball fans should tangentially remember. He played at Marquette two seasons ago and averaged three points per game. Two years ago the league’s Rookie of the Year was Isaac Humphries, who couldn’t get off the bench at Kentucky.

So to be clear… the last two Rookie’s of the Year in the NBL couldn’t get off the bench at major colleges. And… THIS LEAGUE IS GOING TO BETTER PREPARE RJ HAMPTON FOR THE NBA THAN COLLEGE??? WHEN THEIR TWO BEST PLAYERS COULDN’T EVEN PLAY IN COLLEGE? JUST STOP!!!!!!!!

And I haven’t even hit on other factors. Remember, “preparing” for the NBA isn’t just about the competition on the floor (which is suspect at best) but other variables too. For example, what are the weight-training programs like in the NBL? I know he’d be working with a work class strength and conditioning coach at Kansas, Memphis, Duke or Kentucky. I can’t say I’m as sure about the merits of the Breakers’ strength plan. What will he be eating while he’s over there? Because I know that every major college basketball program in America has a nutritionist, and in many cases, a private chef on staff.

By the way, if this path really is going to so much better prepare him for the NBA than college, shouldn’t we at least go back to the last kid who went from high school, to the NBL, to the NBA? That would be Terrence Ferguson who skipped a season at Arizona, went on to the NBL, then was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017. In his first NBA season, he averaged three points per game. In his second NBA season this year he averaged seven. Well by golly, it sure does show how much better he is because of his season in Australia. How much would he be averaging had he gone to college instead of played professionally? Half a point worse. Again, just stop.

Now again to be clear, this isn’t anything personal about RJ Hampton. He’s a great kid and a great player, and the bottom-line is that he is going to end up a Top 5 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft whether he played at Kansas or with the New Zealand Breakers next year. In his case, he chose the path that was best for him, even if it was a bit different.

My only issue is using the reasoning that it will better prepare him for the NBA than college basketball.

That simply isn’t true at all.