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Aaron Torres’ Take

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 157: Seth Greenberg joins the show!


It’s Thursday and it’s time for an all new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, with a very special guest: ESPN’s Seth Greenberg joins the show! First though, Aaron is joined by his good friend Nick Coffey, as they whip around the world of sports. Here is a rundown of today’s show:

Thoughts on all things basketball: With little college basketball news the last couple days, the guys talk a little bit of everything from across the world of sports. They start by discussing Kevin Durant’s injury, and ask: Why was there such a rush to point blame when KD went down? They then transition to next week’s NBA Draft, and wonder if this is the most boring draft ever with the top three picks seemingly locked in. Also, they discuss Tyler Herro’s rising stock, while Keldon Johnson is tumbling. Could he possibly fall to the second round?

Seth Greenberg joins the show: Next up, one of the faces of ESPN’s college basketball coverage, Seth Greenberg joins the show. He shares his thoughts on Durant’s injury, and how he would have handled things as a coach. Then Greenberg discusses all the big issues in college basketball: Did the FBI investigations really solve anything? Is college basketball in a better place than it was two years ago? And how much trouble will all of basketball be if the one-and-done rule gets removed. Finally, Seth talks about the “TBT” Tournament, where he will be calling games in Lexington later this summer.

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.


Getting to Know the 2020 Recruiting Prospect: Daishen Nix

Getting to Know the 2020 Recruiting Prospect: Daishen Nix

To say that the state of Alaska hasn’t produced a ton of basketball talent through the years would be an understatement – you can pretty much count on one hand the number of big-time players who’ve come from the state. Trajan Langdon. Carlos Boozer. Mario Chalmers. Kamaka Hepa, a former Top 50 recruit who just finished his first season at Texas. Maybe one or two more, but that’s really about it.

Even so, it seems as though we’ll all soon be able to add another name to the list: Daishen Nix. The five-star guard in the class of 2020 is originally from Alaska, moved to Las Vegas a few years ago and has now seen his college recruitment blow up in the last year or so because of it all. A point guard widely considered to be the best passer in this entire class, Nix is ranked in the Top 15 nationally by both 247 Sports and Rivals.com with virtually every school in America after him. That list ranges from some of the biggest programs in college basketball like Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona, Gonzaga and Kansas, to others like Maryland, Alabama and plenty more. At this point it’s hard to find many programs anywhere in America who aren’t interested in the 6’5 guard.

Nix spoke to KSR last week at the Pangos All-American Camp in Los Angeles, chronicling his wild journey. It all began in Alaska where he spent his childhood, before his family decided to move to Las Vegas. Ironically, the decision had little to do with basketball. His mom simply visited her cousin who lived in the area, and the family liked it enough that they decided to make the plunge.

One very nice side-effect however, is that the decision has unquestionably helped Nix’s basketball career.

“I think it [the basketball] is way better,” Nix said. “The competition is better.”

Asked how he likes living in Las Vegas, Nix laughed and said “it depends on the time of year,” as he’s still adjusting to those insanely hot Vegas summers. But again, from a basketball perspective the move has worked out well.

Nix was a relatively unknown player throughout the early portion of his high school career, before a strong summer last year launched him into the national spotlight and up the recruiting rankings. That continued this past season when he averaged 19 points, six rebounds and five assists per game at Trinity International High School in Las Vegas, and this spring, he was invited to a Team USA combine at the Final Four in Minneapolis. He also appeared at the Pangos All-American Camp earlier this month, an event which featured virtually every big-time player across high school basketball.

In terms of his recruitment, Nix’s wide-ranging list of schools reflects a player who is still just now starting to get comfortable with all the attention. As of right now 247 Sports doesn’t have a single Crystal Ball prediction in his recruitment, and his offer list seems to expand by the day. Schools like Maryland and Alabama were perceived to be early favorites, while in the last few months, more traditional powers like Kansas, Arizona and Gonzaga have gotten into the mix. Nix just took an unofficial visit to UCLA last week, and Washington is another emerging West Coast program who Nix says he’s been in touch with.

Then there’s Kentucky. While they haven’t officially offered Nix yet, they visited him a few months back. And he liked what he heard from assistant coach Joel Justus.

“He liked my passing, getting my other teammates involved, getting everyone involved on my team,” Nix said. “He also talked about my shooting, my defense is getting better. I liked that [the constructive criticism].”

So that’s the good news on Nix, as his star continues to rise. The bad news is that for any school hoping to get a commitment from him soon, well, good luck.

Nix said that as of right now he doesn’t even have a formal list, and probably wouldn’t even begin to cut things down until the middle of his senior season. While he said that he doesn’t plan to wait until the last minute like Cole Anthony or Jaden McDaniels, Nix probably won’t commit until the spring.

Ultimately that’s not really all that surprising though.

From Alaska to Las Vegas and a rise up the recruiting rankings, Nix’s journey is just getting started.

And it will be fascinating to see where it all ends up.

Below is some video of Nix, and here are some other 2020 prospect profiles:

Cade Cunningham

Johnny Juzang (before he committed)


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 156: Sneaker Mogul Sonny Vaccaro + Kerry Blackshear Update


We’re starting the week with a very special episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron is joined by one of the iconic names in all of grassroots basketball, Sonny Vaccaro. Vaccaro talks about all the issues plaguing college hoops, including assistant coaches going to jail, and his thoughts on RJ Hampton, in a wildly entertaining interview. But before Sonny, Aaron talks about some developments from over the weekend, including:

What’s next for Kerry Blackshear? On Friday, surprising news emerged, as Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear ended up taking an official visit to Arkansas. Aaron explains why Blackshear’s recruitment might not be as simple as we once thought, shares what he believes Arkansas’ pitch was, and how serious a threat the Hogs are in his recruitment. He also discusses Jordan Brown’s commitment to Arizona, and why this is way bigger for the Wildcats than most realize.

Sonny Vaccaro joins the show: Next up, Aaron is joined by an icon in the world of grassroots basketball, Sonny Vaccaro. Vaccaro discusses his role in getting the shoe companies involved in college basketball, and how it snowballed to the point that assistant coaches are now going to jail. Also, after he helped Brandon Jennings go overseas out of high school, he shares his thoughts on RJ Hampton. He also explains why he’s never seen a prospect quite like Zion Williamson. This is a MUST listen interview for any college hoops fan.

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. 155: Kerry Blackshear + Arizona Assistant Gets Prison Time


There’s better way to get the weekend started than by downloading an all new Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron riffs on the biggest topics across college hoops. He hits on a number of topics, starting with:

The Latest on Kerry Blackshear: Kerry Blackshear is the last big puzzle piece for the 2019-2020 college basketball season, and Aaron shares what he is hearing. With Blackshear headed to Gainesville this weekend, Aaron explains why Florida and Kentucky both have a unique pitch to Blackshear, and it’s up to him what to choose. Also, Aaron says Texas A&M is a bigger factor than he expected.

Kenyon Martin Jr.’s Stunning Decision to go Pro: A week after RJ Hampton announced he would turn professional in Australia, Kenyon Martin Jr. announced he would go pro as well. Aaron wonders aloud what the market is for a three-star recruit, and why both Australia and the G-League might not be interested in taking him. Also, why this decision could be proof that the NBA is making a big mistake by removing the one and done rule.

Prison Book — Aaron wraps by talking about a big commitment for Alabama, and why it’s absurd that former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson got jail time for his role in the FBI scandal.

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.


Top 2020 Prospect Cade Cunningham Talks Recruitment, Interest in Kentucky

To say last week served as a busy few days for Cade Cunningham, one of the top high school basketball prospects in the class of 2020, would be an understatement.

The 6’7 wing who is originally from Texas and played at Montverde Academy last year, just finished up school last Wednesday. He then flew back to Texas for a single night, before coming to Los Angeles for last weekend’s Pangos All-American Camp, where he competed against a slew of the best prospects in high school basketball. That included some of the top prospects in the class of 2020 (including a couple Kentucky targets) like Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Isaiah Todd and Dashien Nix, as well as some of the top players in the class of 2021, including Terrence Clarke, Paolo Banchero and others.

Yet despite the quick turnaround from finishing finals to one of the most competitive All-American camps in the country, Cunningham was taking it all in stride when he spoke to Kentucky Sports Radio on Friday night.

“It’s just good to be out for the summer,” Cunningham said with a smile. “Great to be here.”

It certainly appeared that way over the weekend, as Cunningham thrived against the elite competition at Pangos. Cunningham ended up winning Co-MVP of the event, as he showed off a versatile offensive game and ability to score from all three levels on the court, in addition to innate passing ability and court awareness. In the process, his play also solidified a quickly growing narrative on Cunningham: Even though he is ranked among the Top 10 prospects nationally, many recruiting analysts believe Cunningham is actually under-valued in some of their recruiting rankings. The hot talk right now is that if Cunningham continues on this upward trajectory throughout the summer, he will be ranked in the Top 5 by the end of the summer, and potentially as high as No. 2 behind Mobley, a center from California.

In terms of his recruitment, Cunningham recently cut his list down to a final 10 schools. He told KSR that he did that because he thought it was unfair to lead on schools that he had no interest in, and didn’t want to be “disrespectful” to coaches or waste their time.

With those 10 schools Cunningham claims he has no leader, although most recruiting experts seem to believe that while it’s early, Oklahoma State is in the driver’s seat. Which leads to the question most fans are asking: With offers from schools like Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas, what is it about Oklahoma State that has them at the top of Cunningham’s list? The answer is simple: Loyalty.

“Coach [Mike] Boynton, he was the first coach to offer me when he was an assistant,” said of Boynton, who is now the Cowboys’ head coach. “So we’ve had a good connection, relationship since then.”

Most experts believe that right behind Oklahoma State is Kentucky, the blue blood of all blue bloods. Cunningham has long been an admirer of Kentucky’s, dating all the way back to the John Wall, “One and Fun” days of 2010.

“That’s the first team I remember,” Cunningham said of his history with Kentucky.

For the Wildcats, the biggest sell remains that Kentucky is a pathway to the NBA. The staff itself has sold Cunningham that he could have a similar impact as Keldon Johnson, who just completed his freshman season and may end up as a lottery pick this spring.

“Coach Cal is great,” he said. “It’s hard not to take a look at that track record and take them seriously.”

Again however, it’s early and Cunningham went on to admit that a lot of other big-time schools are in the mix. He said that he likes Florida because one of his best friends, Omar Payne (another Montverde product) recently enrolled there. He added that Washington head coach Mike Hopkins is a “genuine guy” and the two hit it off right away. Cunningham also described Texas as “the home state school.”

But again, it’s early and don’t look for much movement in Cunningham’s recruitment for a bit.

For those looking to catch Cunningham in action, he is one of 34 players who was invited to try out for the Team USA U-19 team which will compete in Greece later this summer. Training camp will take place June 15th through 18th, with games tipping off on June 24th.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 154: Are UK and UofL really both Top 5 teams next season?

After a busy Monday hosting Kentucky Sports Radio, Aaron Torres is back to his regular stomping grounds of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, to discuss a wild couple days in college hoops with his good buddy Nick Coffey. With the NBA Draft deadline behind us, it’s time to take a deep dive, including:
Are Kentucky and Louisville Really Both Top 5 Teams Entering Next Season?: With both Kentucky and Louisville getting key pieces back at the deadline, Aaron and Nick ask: Is the rivalry back? The guys say so, and wonder: Are we putting too much pressure on EJ Montgomery? And what happens if Chris Mack doesn’t win big in Year 2?
A Look At the Rest of Aaron’s Top 25: Aaron released his Way Too Early Top 25 last week, and the guys break down the teams who made the cut. Is the ACC headed for a downturn next year, and is the Big East on an upswing? The guys also talk about a few teams that are led by big-time veterans, who could surprise.
Finally, the guys wrap up by discussing Aaron’s battle with the country of Australia, as Nick chimes in with his thoughts on the whole ordeal.

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. 153: Aaron’s Beef with Australia + NBA Draft Deadline + Early Top 25

It’s been one wild week for the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Early in the week, Aaron started an international controversy, all while the NBA Draft deadline came and went. Aaron talks about his beef with Australia, the winners and losers from the NBA draft deadline and he answers your questions! Here is a rundown for today’s show:

Aaron’s International Incident: Aaron explains how an article on RJ Hampton led to him beefing with the entire continent of Australia. Aaron gives background on the incident, why he doesn’t take back what he said and the one thing he’d do different if he could. Also, he shares some of his favorite reactions to the article — shout out to Torrent Craig!

The NBA Draft Deadline: Aaron talks about the winners and losers of this year’s NBA Draft deadline. Why the deadline put Kentucky, Louisville and Kansas in the driver’s seat going into 2019-2020, and why one Big East team might have been the biggest winner of all. Also, Penny Hardaway may have ended up as the biggest loser.

His Way Too Early Top 25 for 2019-2020: Finally, Aaron discusses his way too early Top 25 now that the deadline is done. Are we on a collision course for a No. 1 vs No. 2, Michigan State-Kentucky season opener? Why the FBI boys, LSU and Arizona are thriving heading into 2020, and one big thought on North Carolina.

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.


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…)


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.


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.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 152: R.J. Hampton to New Zealand + NBA Draft Decisions

Big news on this Tuesday afternoon, as Aaron survived his bachelor party and is back with an all new edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. He discusses all the major developments from across basketball, including RJ Hampton to New Zealand, Kansas getting a key piece back, and even some NBA Finals thoughts. Here’s a rundown:

RJ Hampton to New Zealand: Aaron reacts to the somewhat shocking decision of five-star guard RJ Hampton, who elected to play in New Zealand next season. Aaron understands Hampton’s desire to play basketball full-time, but also questions if it is really “better preparation for the NBA” than going to college. He has some stats and notes that will surprise you.

LSU will once again be loaded next year: Next up, Aaron discusses the late-breaking news that LSU will return Skylar Mays and Marlon Taylor to next year’s team. This news came after Javonte Smart announced his return last week, and Trendon Watford committed to the school. Love them or hate them, Will Wade’s boys are going to once again be an SEC contender next season.

Other odds and ends from across the basketball landscape: Finally, Aaron wraps up by discussing the NCAA’s surprising decision to reinstate Silvio De Sousa at Kansas. Plus he even talks a little NBA Finals, and explains why he thinks that yes, the Raptors have a chance against the Warriors.

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.


EJ Montgomery Might Be The Most Important “Stay or Go” Decision Left in the NBA Draft

Late Tuesday night, under the cloak of darkness, one of the last big puzzle pieces in the 2019 recruiting class officially fell. After a back-and-forth recruitment, one that left even the best recruiting experts uncertain of where he’d land, Jaden McDaniels officially decided to play at Washington.

Although Washington was the spot that McDaniels’ recruitment had trended for weeks, no one really knew where he’d end up… until he actually ended up there, choosing the Huskies over Kentucky while most fans slept the night away.

But with McDaniels’ recruitment officially closed, another reality set in for Kentucky on Wednesday morning: For the Wildcats to reach their full potential next season, they need EJ Montgomery to come back to Lexington. As a matter of fact, I think you could make a legitimate case that of all the players who are still truly “testing the waters” in the NBA Draft process, Montgomery is the most important decision left anywhere in college basketball.

Now to be clear, this isn’t just about McDaniels’ decision to go elsewhere, as it was never really an “either/or” kind of deal between the two. Although both are listed at 6’11, they play a completely different style of game, with McDaniels much more comfortable putting the ball on the floor as more of a hybrid, new-age four-man in the mold of Kevin Durant, Tracy McGrady or Michael Porter Jr. (to be clear, I’m not comparing McDaniels upside to any of those players – just his style of play). Montgomery, as we all saw last year, is more of a traditional four-man, not quite as comfortable making plays for himself, but more competent around the rim and in the paint.

Had McDaniels chosen Kentucky he wouldn’t have necessarily been a player to “replace” Montgomery, but instead one to compliment him.

Still with McDaniels finally of the picture, Reid Travis graduated, and PJ Washington gone after his sophomore year, there is in fact a gaping hole in the Kentucky front-court. And the best option to fill that spot and maximize the potential out of this entire Kentucky team would be for Montgomery to return.

The bottom-line is that Montgomery fills an incredible void for the Wildcats next year as a big-time threat down low. Admittedly, he didn’t have a great offensive season last year (averaging just four points a game) but did show flashes, with 11 points and 13 boards against South Carolina, and a couple other double-figure scoring games, to go along with several more where he helped the team on the glass. Considering his pedigree as a McDonald’s All-American it doesn’t seem far-fetched to assume that he would make a leap similar to PJ Washington last summer and become a focal point of the offense. He might not become an All-SEC caliber player like Washington. But it isn’t necessarily inconceivable either.

Just as important, his skill-set certainly fits with the other guys that Kentucky is projected to have back. If the Wildcats want to go big, Montgomery can play the four-spot, with Nick Richards (assuming Richards returns as well) serving as a rim protector and true center. If they want to go small, Montgomery would fit in well as a new-age five-man, with Kahlil Whitney stepping in at the four-spot. John Calipari wants to play position-less basketball, and the two of them really would make a dynamic duo together.

Because of that, Montgomery is the missing piece for Kentucky. The guy who makes them the heavy favorite in the SEC, and a legit national championship contender.

But without him? There is that gaping hole in the middle, with no obvious replacements available.

Looking at the other options, we all know that Richards doesn’t have the offensive upside of Montgomery, and I do worry about Nate Sestina’s ability to transition to the increased competition in the SEC. Kerry Blackshear is of course a possibility, but he seems hell bent on staying in the draft if at all possible. Beyond that, it seems like a reach to get any other high school players to reclassify, and no other grad transfers have been linked to UK either.

Yup, EJ Montgomery remains the best available option for a consistent front-court presence for the Wildcats next year.

Will he be back?

It could be the difference between the Wildcats being a legit title contender and a good, but not great team.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 151: Arkansas Head Coach Eric Musselman + Jaden McDaniels Fallout

The holiday weekend is coming up — but before you hit the road, make sure to download the newest episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Aaron discusses Jaden McDaniels commitment and what it means for Washington and Kentucky, as well as the hire of Juwan Howard at Michigan. Then he is joined by his old friend Eric Musselman, who recently took the Arkansas Razorbacks head coaching gig. Here is a rundown of today’s show:

Jaden McDaniels commits to Washington: Late Tuesday one of the last big dominos in college basketball recruiting fell when Jaden McDaniels committed to Washington. Aaron explains why its huge for the Dawgs, and why Washington should start the season in the Top 15. Also, he explains what it means for Kentucky, and why the return of E.J. Montgomery now becomes that much more important.

Juwan Howard is the new head coach at Michigan: Aaron breaks down the decision by Michigan to hire Juwan Howard as its next head coach. While some in the media have questioned the hire, Aaron actually thinks it works. He explains why you shouldn’t compare Howard to Penny Hardaway or Chris Mullin, but instead, another former NBA star turned active college coach.

Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman joins the show: So a little over a year ago Aaron got everyone on “The Muss Bus” and Eric Musselman once again makes his return to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. Musselman talks about his decision to leave Nevada, why the Arkansas job was so appealing, and how he plans to recruit and build the program. Also, can he convince Aaron to make a trip down to Fayetteville for a game next season?

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.


If Jaden McDaniels is Truly Torn, Let’s Give Him His Space

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

We’re now officially towards the back-end of May, and yet we somehow don’t appear to be any closer to the end of the recruitment… that just won’t end. I’m of course talking about Jaden McDaniels, the five-star forward from Seattle, who has seemingly been trying to decide between Washington and Kentucky since the Obama administration. Yet despite summer school starting in just a week or two, he doesn’t appear to be any closer to actually making his college decision.

Or is he? Who knows.

Frankly, it feels like he could commit a minute after this article publishes. Or a month from now. No one seems to have any idea. McDaniels doesn’t do interviews, doesn’t seek attention on social media and doesn’t truly seem in any rush to make a decision.

If anything, he is the opposite of what college basketball recruiting is in 2019. He doesn’t seek the spotlight. He actively avoids it.

Never was that more apparent than this weekend, when we actually got some interesting information about McDaniels recruitment. Information that came from the most unlikely source: His older brother Jalen.

San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels was at the NBA Draft Combine this weekend, where he was stopped by the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton and asked about his younger brother.

There, Tipton asked if the elder McDaniels had any idea when his brother would decide. I mean, his older brother would have to know, right?

Maybe not.

“Whew, man, I’m wondering the same thing, honestly,” Jalen said. “I mean, honestly. I feel like it should be coming soon, though.”

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s holding it up,” Jalen said. “I know it’s between two schools. He’s just trying to make the right decision.”

My goodness. In a world where it’s easier to get information out of Fort Knox than it is the McDaniels camp, doesn’t this interview tell you everything you need to know about Jaden McDaniels recruitment? If McDaniels own brother has no idea where he is going, is it possible that maybe, just maybe, Jaden himself has no idea either?

The answer is probably a “yes.” And if Jaden really does have no idea where he wants to go to college then let me say this: He deserves respect from all of us (especially folks like me in the media) while making his decision.

Now look, before we go any further, I already know what some of you are thinking: “Aaron, do you really believe that Jaden McDaniels own brother has no idea where he is going to college?” It of course possible that the elder McDaniels does know and doesn’t want to give away the suspense. It’s also certainly possible that, considering that Jalen McDaniels has been at San Diego State the last three years, that he just isn’t all that close to his brother’s decision-making process any more. That certainly seems plausible.

At the same time, if you just read his comments, do you really believe that the elder McDaniels is part of some big conspiracy and trying to shield his brother? Or do the comments read like an older brother who genuinely has no idea what his baby bro is thinking (and yes, I just dropped a casual, Johnny Drama “Baby Bro” in this article).

To me it’s the latter.

And when you think about it, doesn’t it kind of make sense that Jaden McDaniels might be genuinely confused as this point? After all, as much as we professionalize all these big-time basketball players and assume that they’ve got it all figured out (since they’ll be in the NBA within a year), the reality is that they’re still 17, 18 and 19-years-old. For most of them, this is the first truly big decision that they will make in their lives. That’s especially the case for Jaden McDaniels. He isn’t a kid who has been the focus of a big-time recruitment since he was a sophomore in high school, but was relatively unknown until about a year ago. He also isn’t some kid who spent a year or two at Oak Hill Academy or Montverde adjusting to life away from home. This is all, quite literally, new to him.

So, you think that this might be overwhelming for him?

Seriously, think about everything he’s choosing between right now: The place he has called home his whole life, or a school that’s 3,000 miles away. Playing in front of friends and family for the next year, or on the biggest stage in college basketball. Playing for a solid Pac-12 program where expectations will be somewhat low, or on a team that will very likely start the season ranked in everyone’s Top 5 and be expected to compete for a national title. Being the hometown hero? Or playing for his “dream school.”

When you think about it like that… man is that a lot on the shoulders of an 18-year-old kid.

Maybe I’m overthinking things, but to me, this doesn’t seem like the type of kid to simply use social media to build drama between two fan-bases. He doesn’t seem to be waiting on anything honestly, other than for his heart to tell him where to go to college.

To me, this just seems like an 18-year-old kid who is truly torn on his college decision.

If his brother has no idea where he’s going, it probably means no one does including Jaden McDaniels.

So let’s all give him the respect he deserves as he tries to figure things out.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 150: Penny Hardaway has the top-ranked recruiting class, but can he win with them?

It’s Monday and we’ve got a great show for you lined up, as Aaron talks about some of the biggest topics in hoops, before answering some of your user-submitted questions! Here is a rundown of today’s show:

Penny Hardaway has the No. 1 ranked recruiting class: Now what: Memphis picked up another top ranked recruit on Friday, and the question everyone wants to know is: Can Penny Hardaway win with all that talent? Aaron explains what problems Penny might run into, and why having too much talent might actually be a bigger problem than most fans realize. Later Aaron discusses why Hardaway has officially become the Jim Harbaugh of college basketball

Javonte Smart is… returning to LSU? Next up Aaron discusses two big developments in college basketball. Grant Williams has officially announced he’ll leave Tennessee, while in a shocking move, Javonte Smart says he’ll return to LSU. Aaron explains why this move is so shocking and why there are probably people in Baton Rouge that aren’t all that happy with Smart’s decision.

Plus, Aaron wraps the show by answering listener-submitted questions! How did he get his start in journalism? Will the one-and-done eventually go away? And is there an update on Jordan Brown?

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.


Penny Hardaway Has a Loaded Roster – But Can He Win With It?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In case you hadn’t heard, Memphis picked up a commitment from a five-star basketball player this afternoon.

That’s not to be confused with the other five-star they pulled in earlier this week. Or the top-rated grad transfer they secured last Saturday. Or the four-star guard they got last Friday.

That’s right, Memphis is on a recruiting run for the ages right now, one which – at least for now – has landed them the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

Overall, the Tigers have commitments from two McDonald’s All-Americans (James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa), six Top 100 players (Wiseman, Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, D.J. Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge) and one of the top grad transfers on the market (Rayjon Tucker, who averaged 20 points at Little Rock last season). Add them in with a couple returning players, and it’s indisputable that Memphis will have one of the 3-4 most talented rosters in the country next season. I fully expect them to start the year ranked in everyone’s preseason Top 10.

To Penny Hardaway’s credit, he has done what he said he would do when he was hired a year ago. He has convinced the top players across high school basketball to come to Memphis. To his credit he hasn’t relied solely on the players he coached in high school or AAU, but has brought in the best players from across the country, ranging from New York (Quinones, Achiuwa) to California (Ellis) and everywhere in between.

Now to the more interesting part of the equation: Penny Hardaway has signed one of the most talented recruiting classes in the country. But will he be able to win with it? That right there might be the single most fascinating question in all of college basketball heading into the 2019-2020 season.

Now to be clear, I’m not as “Anti-Penny” as many others out there. I do understand why he frustrates opposing fan-bases with his confidence (some would say “cockiness”) and bravado on the recruiting trail. Him taking unprovoked cheap shots at Rick Barnes last season certainly didn’t help things.

At the same time, I never believed the notion that he was some AAU hotshot who was destined to be a failure as a college head coach. This is a guy who played basketball the highest level, and brought in a staff full of sharp, smart basketball minds, which includes a former NBA Coach of the Year in Sam Mitchell. That staff, including Penny, knows basketball.

On top of their X’s and O’s prowess, Penny also entered college basketball with an understanding of how the AAU and recruiting game work as well. Unlike other guys who came from the NBA (Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Avery Johnson) he wasn’t going to be overwhelmed by the recruiting aspect of coaching college basketball.

Again, I liked the Penny hire last year, and for the most part I thought he did pretty good in year 1 at Memphis. He inherited a mostly “bleh” roster and led them to a 22-14 overall record and a fifth-place finish in the AAC, where all four of the teams who finished ahead of him (Houston, Cincinnati, UCF and Temple) made the NCAA Tournament. His team got better as the season wore on, winning five of its final six regular season games and beat a couple teams that ended up making the NCAA Tournament.

For the most part I thought Penny actually overachieved in Year 1. And I thought his ability to get the most out of a below-average roster was a positive sign heading into Year 2 at the school.

Still, for as good as he was in Year 1, he is in store for something completely different heading into next season. Understand, there is a big difference between taking a rag-tag group of guys and getting them to overachieve like he did this season, as opposed to what he will face next season, with a roster full of big-time recruits, with NBA dreams and the expectations and egos that come along with it.

Ultimately that will be the story of the 2019-2020 Memphis Tigers: Can Penny keep everyone happy?

It will be fascinating to watch, and something that is impossible to know the answer to. Penny isn’t John Calipari or Coach K, and hasn’t been juggling talented rosters for decades at a time. Quite the opposite. He’s a coach who has never been on this stage, with this pressure and this level of expectations before. Even more, he is doing it with a lot of kids (and their families) who he has known for years, and who at times he coached in the high school or AAU levels. What will happen when he has to tell a kid (or a mom or dad) who he has known for a decade that they simply aren’t good enough? Or what happens when he has to tell a Top 50 recruit that he is headed to the bench?

These are the things that no one has an answer to right now.

And at the sake of using the rest of the article to break down Memphis’ depth chart, here are some of the issues I believe could pop up next year.

  • He has, at the very least four players who expect to use Memphis as a one-season springboard to the NBA next season. And honestly that number might be conservative. They are James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Rayjon Tucker and Boogie Ellis. Can he keep all four happy, especially the first three, if they aren’t the focal point of the offense?
  • Ellis committed to Memphis in large part to prove to the NBA that he can play point guard and run an offense. This despite the fact that he’s really more of a scoring/combo guard than he is a true point. Can he run an offense and keep others happy, while also getting his own offense?
  • D.J. Jeffries decommitted from Kentucky, because he wasn’t happy that they continued to recruit players at his position even after he committed. Well guess what? Achiuwa plays the same position, is a better player and will almost certainly start over him. How will that fly with Jeffries?
  • Tyler Harris (Memphis’ leading returning scorer) and Alex Lomax (a former Top 150 recruit) are both Memphis kids who played for Penny in high school. I’m guessing that both assumed they were headed for bigger roles next season. What happens when they get bumped down the depth chart by the newcomers? Especially since they are both from Memphis, with ties to Penny dating back to their AAU days? How will that fly with their families, and in the community?
  • How do Lester Quinones (a Top 50 recruit) and Rayjon Tucker (a grad transfer) co-exist, when they’re basically the same player? Tucker has declared for the draft and will could potentially stay in. But if he doesn’t, can they co-exist?

Add it up and you have a lot of kids, with a lot of expectations and it will be fascinating to see if Penny is able to keep them all happy.

In the end, maybe Hardaway really is that good of a coach, and maybe he figures out a way to maximize all those players and allows Memphis to reach its potential. Maybe Memphis will live up to that preseason Top 10 ranking and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

But the reality is that this is basketball. We just have too much of a track record (at all levels) that when you have one ball, and that many superstars, it’s hard to keep everybody happy.

Will it work? Won’t it?

This may be the single most fascinating question in college basketball entering the 2019-2020 season.


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 149: NBA Draft Lottery Recap + UCLA Tourney Ban?

It’s an all new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, as Aaron is joined by Nick Coffey to recap a surprisingly busy week in the world of college basketball. The guys hit on a number of issues, including:

Reaction to the NBA Draft Lottery: The guys react to the shocking news that the New Orleans Pelicans have won the draft lottery! Does this make it more or less likely that Anthony Davis is traded? What if Zion really went back to Duke? And Aaron explains why he actually thinks things worked out nicely for the Knicks.

A new rule allowed players to profit off their “likeness”: The guys talk about the NCAA looking into players profiting off autograph signings and other things related to “their likeness.” What potential problems could that cause?

Could UCLA be hit with an NCAA Tourney ban? Finally, the guys discuss UCLA potentially being banned from the NCAA Tournament because of a bad APR. Aaron says this proves that the concept that “one and done players stop going to class after the first semester” is dumb. Also, does Nevada regret giving Steve Alford a 10-year contract?

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.


Everything You Need to Know About Tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery

Tonight, the future of the entire NBA will change at right around 8:30 ET. That is when this year’s NBA Draft lottery kicks off, and we begin to find out what this year’s draft will look like.

Yup, now that players have declared for the draft, this is the next big step in the process, to go along with individual workouts, the NBA Draft Combine (also taking place this week) and of course the draft itself on June on Thursday, June 20th.

So with the NBA Draft Lottery tonight, what do you need to know? Here are a few things:

What is the NBA Draft Lottery?

I find it impossible to believe that anyone reading this article wouldn’t know what the NBA Draft lottery is, but for the one percent of one percent who might not be sure, here goes:

The NBA Draft lottery is a literal lottery (with ping pong balls and everything) which helps the NBA determine the draft order. Every team that didn’t make the playoffs this season (assuming they haven’t traded their pick) is eligible, with the worst teams having the best odds of landing the number one pick.

Only the top three picks are determined by the lottery, and from then on, the draft order is determined based on win-loss record. The worst teams get the highest picks.

Coverage of the draft lottery begins at 8:30 ET, which means that by 9:00 p.m., we will all know who is selecting where. And the fortune of one franchise will change forever (more on that coming).

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