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Friday, April 28, 2017

College Basketball

HS coach: Kawhi Leonard was originally slated to play for UCLA

Kawhi Leonard

Could Kawhi Leonard have assumed the torch from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love as the next great Bruin baller?

In a feature by Sam Gardner of FOX Sports that ran on Thursday, Leonard’s high school coach, Tim Sweeney of Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California, said the San Antonio Spurs superstar originally had his sights set on UCLA for college and was “signed, sealed and delivered” to then-head coach Ben Howland. But Sweeney claims that jealousy over Leonard’s standout play in a brief AAU stint with the L.A. Dream Team in 2008 led to his falling out of favor with the more prestigious programs in the area.

“Kawhi outshined Renardo Sidney and everyone on the team,” Sweeney was quoted as saying. “The Sidney group all of a sudden was badmouthing him around everybody, OK? Everybody kind of bought in it, and all these big-time schools — which were probably about eight or 10 of them — dropped off. They literally dropped off the face of the map.”

For what it’s worth, Gardner notes that Steve Fisher, Leonard’s head coach at the university he ultimately wound up attending, San Diego State, as well as Justin Hutson, Leonard’s lead recruiter, were both unaware of the blacklisting of sorts that Sweeney claimed.

Leonard wound up averaging 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in his two seasons at SDSU. At the time, he was largely seen as a raw prospect who mainly specialized on the defensive end, nowhere near the two-way machine he has since blossomed into (as even his current head coach will admit). But given that the Bruins were led by the likes of Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee during that two-year stretch, it’s worth wondering if landing a big fish like Leonard could have bought Howland, who was fired in 2013, some more time and drastically altered the way the UCLA program looks today.

5 players making a mistake by leaving school early for NBA Draft

Nigel Williams Goss

It’s difficult to begrudge any young player who chooses to forego additional time playing as an amateur when they could cash in on their talents by heading to the pros. Judging the financial standing of any young man or the motivation behind his decision to turn pro can get dicey.

Making the choice to begin playing professionally is a huge proposition, and the timing of that decision can have serious repercussions for the player’s chances to succeed as a pro and potentially affects their future career earnings.

Any player has the right to choose to use their skills to earn money, but some choose to cash out too soon and hurt themselves in the long run.

The new draft system allows players to test the waters and play out the draft process, receiving feedback if they don’t hire an agent. Some players forego that safety and hire an agent right away, jeopardizing their career before it even starts.

Here’s a look at five players who are making a mistake by leaving school early.

1. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga

Players can often misinterpret a run through March Madness as a rise in their draft stock. Williams-Goss may be doing just that.

He was excellent for the Zags this season, earning first-team All-American honors. The point guard showed himself to be a lockdown defender, floor general, and capable shooter after transferring from Washington.

Projecting those skills to the next level, however, can be tough. Williams-Goss’ defense could diminish, since he doesn’t have true NBA size or speed. He shot 36 percent from the college three-point line, but rarely showed NBA range.

Williams-Goss will likely hear his name called during the second round of June draft. Had he returned to Spokane, bulked up his body and refined his shot, we may have seen him as a first-round pick in 2018.

2. Dillon Brooks, Oregon

(more…)

Elijah Stewart blasts false draft report as trash

Elijah Stewart

Elijah Stewart blasted a reporter for sharing false information about why he did not enter the NBA Draft.

Stewart, who averaged 12.3 points per game as a junior this season for USC, was weighing his draft options. He ultimately decided not to test the waters and chose to return to school.

There were some questions about what happened with Stewart, whom many were expecting to test the draft. Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony reported on Tuesday that Stewart simply “forgot” to submit his paperwork to the NBA.

Stewart saw that tweet, responded to Givony, and dismissed the report as trash.

That report was very difficult to buy. When it comes to a decision that big, very few people would simply forget such an important step.

Nigel Williams-Goss leaving Gonzaga for NBA Draft

Nigel Williams Goss

Nigel Williams-Goss is leaving Gonzaga, and he is not looking back.

The Bulldogs guard announced on social media Tuesday that he will be leaving college and hiring an agent as he prepares for his future as a professional basketball player.

Two years ago I transferred to Gonzaga University with three main goals: earn my college degree, improve my game and help Gonzaga reach its first ever Final Four. I’m proud to say all three of my goals were met. In the classroom, I earned my degree in Psychology and have begun work on my Masters. On the court, my teammates and I made school history winning 37 games, advanced to the Final Four, and played in the National Championship game. Coming to Gonzaga is the best decision I ever made. What I was most surprised by this season was not the wins, awards, or recognition, but rather the genuine love I felt with our fans in Spokane. Since arriving, everywhere I went, I have been surrounded by love from the Gonzaga community. I cannot describe the incredible relationships I have formed in my time here and would not trade my experience for anything in the world. I could not be more grateful or humbled to call myself a Zag for life! After many discussions with my coaches and family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft with representation. I am 100% confident in this decision and believe I am prepared both mentally and physically to take this step in my career and my life. As always, I give all glory to God for granting me this opportunity. I will continue to represent the entire Gonzaga community to the best of my ability. To all my teammates, coaches, fans, supporters, and believers…I love you and thank you! Forever and always… #GoZags

A post shared by Nigelwg5 (@nigelwg5) on

The key with Goss’ announcement is that he will sign with an agent, which means he is losing his final season of eligibility.

Williams-Goss transferred to Gonzaga after playing his first two seasons at Washington. The transfer couldn’t have worked out better, as Williams-Goss improved his play and became part of the best team in Gonzaga’s history. He helped lead the Bulldogs to the finals of the NCAA Tournament, as he averaged 16.8 points, 6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game last season.

Williams-Goss played well throughout the tourney, which likely helped his stock among interested NBA teams. He is projected by some to be a second-round pick.

Justin Jackson, girlfriend Brooke Copeland get engaged

If Justin Jackson wants to have an even better month in May than the one he had in April, the North Carolina basketball star is really going to have to get creative.

Jackson, who recently declared for the NBA Draft, helped lead the Tar Heels to a national championship less than two weeks ago. He might tell you that is the second-best thing that has happened to him this month, as Jackson and his girlfriend Brooke Copeland got engaged over the weekend.

Forever with my best friend!! #RingChasing #SheSaidYes. PC: @dawnchapmanwhitty

A post shared by Justin Jackson (@jjacks44) on

Jackson averaged 18.3 points per game — 19.5 in the NCAA Tournament — this past season. He’s expected to go somewhere near the top 10 in the draft. Copeland is no stranger to success on the basketball court, either, as she just finished her junior season with the Florida Gators.

While Jackson didn’t find a way to incorporate his proposal into the game the way some college athletes have done before him, Copeland seems pretty ecstatic anyway. Congrats to the happy couple.

H/T The Spun

Michael Porter Jr: ‘I want to win in college’

Michael Porter Jr Jontay

Michael Porter Jr. doesn’t want to be the next top lottery pick to get his numbers in his one-and-done season but miss the NCAA Tournament.

Speaking at the Jordan Brand Classic earlier this week, the five-star forward said that he doesn’t want to follow the mold of Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, a pair who could go as the back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft despite being on underachieving teams in their lone college year.

“I’m not looking to do that, I’m looking to be my own person,” said Porter Jr, per Adam Zagoria of FanRag Sports. “And I know how Markelle and Ben Simmons did but [at] Mizzou we got pieces. We got players coming back that have been through it and if we get these freshmen, I think we’ll really get it rolling and surprise a ton of people.

“I care about individual success a lot but team is more what I’m worried about,” he continued. “I want to win in college. I’ve always hated losing so that’s what I’m worried about.”

Porter Jr. committed to Missouri after an organizational shake-up caused him to decommit from Washington, where Fultz attended college. The 18-year-old headlines a top-10 recruiting class for the Tigers, but he’ll have his work cut out for him, given that they went 8-24 last season (dead last in the SEC) and have a new head coach in Cuonzo Martin.

Report: Miles Bridges leaning toward returning to Michigan State

A potential NBA lottery pick is reportedly passing on the draft to return to school.

Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reported Wednesday that Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is leaning toward returning for his sophomore season.

This definitely comes as a surprise. Bridges was probably going to be a lottery pick, having averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year. As part of a group of four highly-touted freshmen, the Spartans would be a very dangerous team with all of them returning to school. Tom Izzo’s annual Midnight Madness extravagance is going to be something else at this rate.

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