The Luck of the Irish: Bonzie Colson is Coming Back

Notre Dame fans can rejoice in their unending luck. Bonzie Colson is coming back to South Bend for his senior year, and this is bigger news than you think.

Colson had an outstanding junior year. He shot 52.6 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from 3-point land. Colson also averaged almost seven field goals per game, so I think it’s safe to say he was a big factor for the Irish. He will be next year too.

Notre Dame could clinch the ACC

College basketball fans have expected Duke or North Carolina to take the ACC over the last few years. These top two teams have strong recruiting classes, great programs and legendary coaches. Notre Dame is starting to come into this conversation and Colson will have a big part in this for the 2017-18 season.

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Courtesy of si.com)

Colson has made significant jumps each year at Notre Dame. He averaged 5.6 points in 12.1 minutes per game in his freshman season. Next year he went up to 11.1 points in 25.3 minutes per game. This past season he really broke out, averaging 17.8 points in 32.1 minutes per game, as well as 10.1 rebounds.

He will be expected to play big minutes as a senior. His improvement over the summer will be paramount to the team’s success. He and Matt Farrell will be leading the Irish against some very good ACC teams.

However, Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson and Tony Bradley of UNC have all declared for the draft. Duke is also losing Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson to the draft. Both top-contending teams will be very young next year, and Notre Dame has the opportunity to grab and ACC title with their experience coming back.

You lose some, you gain some

It is important to note that Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem have graduated. These two seniors accounted for a lot of minutes on Notre Dame’s squad this past year and combined for 27.6 points per game.

Matt Farrell will be returning as a senior and hopefully improves his stats from this year. He averaged 14.1 points and 2.5 turnovers in 34.4 minutes per game. Farrell will have to finish around the rim consistently and be more cognizant of turnovers if he is to truly impact his team next year. The Irish also have Temple Gibbs, Nikola Djogo, Austin Torres and John Mooney coming back.

Notre Dame has bonzie colson returning

Matt Farrell of Notre Dame (Photo Courtesy of sportingnews.com)

More importantly, they are bringing in D.J. Harvey Jr., who is ranked 50th in ESPN’s top 100 recruits. He’s a 6-foot-6, 205 pound small forward that will have a direct impact his freshman year. He is a hard-working player, and it helps that Notre Dame lost Vasturia and Beachem. This will give him greater opportunity to learn and earn minutes right away. Colson will be able to guide Harvey and hopefully pull together all of these players for a successful year.

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The Never Answered Question: Should Division I Athletes Get Paid?

The aging question, should college athletes get paid?

If you’re looking for a decisive article with one specific standpoint, this isn’t it. Because when push comes to shove, both arguments are valid.

If one would heavily involve themselves in this discussion on whether or not college athletes should be paid, there is a good chance their opinion could go either way.

Starting for the argument of ‘they shouldn’t get paid’.

It makes sense, a lot of sense. Why should division I athletes who are most likely receiving tuition scholarships get paid? They’re basically already getting paid to go to school while they play sports. While regular students who don’t play sports are going to likely have absurd amounts of student loans.

Yes, division I student athletes who play a major sport (or any sport) have an insane schedule. And by insane I mean busy, like really busy. For division I athletes it is a full time job and more.

College Athletes

Johnny ‘Money’ Manziel was believe to have made profits off of autographs (photo/ Google Images)

But what about the kids who aren’t 6 foot 8 and can’t throw down a two handed jam from the free throw line? What about those kids who can’t bench 20 reps at 225lbs and can’t run a 40-yard dash in less than 4.6 seconds?

Believe me, I know what it’s like to be one of those kids, because I am one. And at first glance I by no means want college athletes to be paid because while they’re basking in the limelight and not paying to go to college, I am paying to go to college and I will most likely make less money after college than they will.

To me that’s not fair and I get it when people strongly argue that they shouldn’t get paid for those specific reasons. But those same people turn around (including myself) and often buy memorabilia or tickets to a sporting event and benefit off of division I athlete’s success.

A recent Statement by Duke basketball legend, J.J Reddick raised some brows a few weeks ago when he came out and stated that he firmely believes that college athletes should be paid. And he has a point.

Universities are profiting off of their sports teams and programs. Including jersey sales from specific players, of which the player doesn’t receive any of the profit.  Which is one of the main reasons there are no college sports video games any more.  Players believed if they weren’t making a profit off of themselves than companies shouldn’t be able to make profits off of them either.

College Athletes

NCAA sports video games stopped being made after athletes weren’t paid when other companies were able to make profits off of them (Photo/ Google Images).

Which also, brings up the other scenario of what happens if the day ever came when college athletes were paid. What would happen when the most popular player (often the quarterback) gets paid a considerable amount off of jersey sales while the less popular players (like the offensive line) don’t get paid at all but are still equally important?

I don’t have the answer to that. That’s what makes this issue so complicated.

There also lies the fact that college athletes at major universities also have the constant high probability that they will get injured. In some cases these injuries take up a considerable amount of recovery time and can impact the chance of the athlete competing at the next level and actually getting paid.

Students who don’t play sports don’t have that fear. They don’t have to go to work everyday, as athletes go to practice, and worry that if a bone gets broken or an Achilles gets torn, they might not be able to get the degree they want. On top of academics, athletes have to worry about that everyday.

The bottom line is that whether you think they should be paid or not, it’s not going to chance any soon. The NCAA who is a powerhouse of an organization has made it very clear that they don’t think athletes should be paid.

It really comes down to what background you’re from. If you had to work you’re but off to get through college, get a good job, and make money that way, it’s understandable if you don’t want college athletes to be paid. But if you maybe were a college athlete and understand the schedule they have and the pressure and the constant fear of being injured, then you might side with them being paid.

An argument that has been going on for a good amount of time now has gained some considerable traction these past years, seems like it won’t be ending anytime soon.

 

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Taking a Closer Look at the Number One Overall Recruit: Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. brings in the new era of college basketball players. He is the clear No. 1 recruit in the 2018 class according to ESPN.com. We will see just how good he can be come November.

The 6-foot-10 superstar put up some absurd stats in his senior year to help him finish on top of ESPN’s top 100 high school players in the country. He averaged 36.2 points per game, 13.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.7 blocks. I guess you could say that’s how you fill up a stat sheet.

Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. goes in for a dunk in his game in the state quarterfinals in March (Photo/ Johnny Andrews)

Porter, who was once a Washington signee, is now headed to Missouri. The switch happened after former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was fired and replaced with long time Syracuse assistant coach, Mike Hopkins.

After former Washington assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. was awarded a position in Missouri’s coaching staff, his son Porter Jr. followed. This arguably was Missouri’s biggest recruit ever, and undoubtedly their biggest recruit in the past decade. Their highest ranked recruit before Porter was Montaque Gill-Caesar, who was ranked 41st in ESPN’s top 100.

Porter, who is already projected to go No. 1 overall in next year’s draft, comes into Missouri with scouts raving of his talents. Porter has an unbelievable combination and balance of physic and skill. The 18-year-old stands 6-foot-10, 215 pounds for a unique brew of size, length, bounce and skill that makes him the best player in the class.

He is versatile on the perimeter despite his size. He is able step back and tack the long jumper and can virtually get whatever shot off he wants because of his long frame.

Porter is also very comfortable in running the floor and in space, which is unique for a player his size. He has displayed the ability to shoot the 3-pointer or take a couple dribbles and pull up for a mid-range jumper. He has also shown a nice touch around the rim, and his ability to finish above the rim is greatly evident.

He’s basically got everything that entails a superstar, and that’s just on the court. Off the court, he is also one of the most interesting recruits in the country, starting with his family.

Michael Porter Jr.

Porter was named MVP of this year’s McDonald’s All American game this year (AP Photo)

Porter has basketball in his blood. His father, of course, is now on the coaching staff at Missouri and was previously on the staff at Washington. His mother was also an elite basketball athlete in high school. As stated previously, Porter averaged 36.2 points per game in high school, which is 22.5 points fewer than his mother.

That’s right. Porter’s mother, Lisa Porter, averaged 58.7 points per game.

Not a typo.

She went on to play for the University of Iowa and scored over 1,300 points in her career. She also lead Iowa to their first Big Ten title.

On top of that, Porter is dating actress Madison Pettis, who is best known for her appearance as Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in “The Game Plan.”

Regardless of his off-the-court life, what most people should be concerned with is what he can do on the court. There is no question he is the best recruit this year coming out of high school and there is no question that the kid can hoop.

A talent like that could make Missouri relevant again in the win column and maybe help them to another tournament appearance. That is something that they haven’t seen in a long time.

 

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Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Why Miles Bridges Declining the Draft is a Good Thing

Last week, Miles Bridges said he would return to Michigan State for his sophomore year of college basketball. Spartan fans couldn’t be happier that their star freshman will be coming back.

He told fans at his press conference last week, “I have personal goals here. I want to win a national championship.” ESPN has had a few mock drafts which put him in the top 20 but the NBA will not see Bridges for another year. Here is why Bridges made the right decision to return to college:

1. Another Year with Coach Izzo

Coach Tom Izzo is unarguably a legendary coach, and his awards are mere evidence of his success. Izzo won a national championship in 2000, appeared in the Final Four seven times and has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times. In 2016 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with a .712 winning percentage in his career.

Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Tom Izzo speaks with guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This is all to say that the guy knows his stuff. Bridges will continue to learn a lot about Izzo’s motto: “players play, but tough players win.”

Coach Izzo is also well known for scheduling a very tough non-conference schedule in preparation for March, which will only benefit Bridges and the rest of the Spartans.

Along with Coach Izzo, think about Draymond Green. He stayed at Michigan State for four years and is now having one heck of a career in the NBA.

Green has had a lot of success with the Golden State Warriors over the course of five seasons. He won a championship in 2015 and has the perk of a 15.3 million dollar salary for 2017.

Miles Bridges is a lot like Green with a 6’7” stature and strong explosive moves. Bridges looks more like a guard than Green did in his Michigan State days, however there are lots of similarities.

2. The College Experience Will Help Miles Bridges and his Draft Stock

Miles Bridges Declines Draft

Miles Bridges of Michigan State Spartans. Mandatory Credit to spartanavanue.com

This statement rides on a lot of “ifs” because it won’t be true unless Bridges really improves his sophomore season. The experience will help if he can produce better statistics, take his team further in the tournament and have more success. However, if all of these ifs become reality, his draft stock will increase.

Bridges had the potential to make millions but he turned it down for the opportunity to go to school and win a national title. That says a lot about him as a player and a person.

He also averaged 16.9 points per game, which is the highest for a freshman since Magic Johnson who averaged 17 points per game his freshman season.

A lot of people are worried about his draft stock declining if he stays another year. However, the risk of staying another year could put him in the top 5 for overall picks. Another year with Coach Izzo and more growth, could be the key to even greater success in the NBA.

3. NEXT YEar is looking even better

The Spartans will have a lot of returners for the 2017-2018 season. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward will be coming back, along with Joshua Langford and Tum Tum Nair Jr. for his senior season. Eight of the top ten players will be returning for next year. They will have something special if Coach Izzo can keep everyone healthy and working hard.

Just last week Jack Hoiberg, son of Fred Hoiberg (Chicago Bulls head coach), said he would be walking onto Michigan State’s basketball team for the 2017-2018 season. Hoiberg will be joined by Jaren Jackson and Xavier Tillman, two power forwards who have signed with the Spartans. Jackson stands at 6’11, ranked 16th in the nation and will play good minutes for the Spartans next year. Tillman is 6’9 and 250 pounds, a little bit thicker than Jackson but will also add size to the Spartan roster for next year.

Bridges made the right decision to stay, despite the NBA being a very enticing choice. Teammates and fans of Spartan Basketball will get to watch him at the college level for one more year and next year could be big for the Spartans because of his decision.

 

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Michigan State Poised For A Late Run Next Season

Don’t be fooled by Michigan State’s past season struggles. They’re not going anywhere.

The Spartans somewhat fell off the wagon this year after they went 20-15 in a rather shaky Big Ten. Not to say the Spartans had a bad season, but it just wasn’t the Michigan State we are used to seeing.

The Spartans finished 10-8 in the Big Ten with a loss in the second round of the Big Ten tournament to Minnesota. Many thought the Spartans might miss out on a trip to the big dance. However, the Spartans were rewarded with a nine seed and a matchup against eighth-seeded Miami.

Michigan State defeated Miami rather handily. However, in the round of 32, the Spartans were faced with the one seed and tournament favorite, Kansas. Despite keeping it close for much of the game, Michigan State lost 90-70.

After Tom Izzo’s young, injured and often overwhelmed team lost, he said the group “gave me everything they could give me.”

Michigan State

Bridges told fans he has “unfinished business” after declaring he would come back for his sophomore season (Photo/ Al Goldis)

The Spartans are looking forward, starting with returning star forward Miles Bridges.

Bridges, who was considered by many to be a lottery pick in next year’s upcoming NBA draft, officially decided to come back for his sophomore season a few days ago. He averaged 16.9 points per game, which are the highest points per game for a freshman at Michigan State since Magic Johnson. Bridges also averaged 8.3 rebounds, which is the most by a Michigan State freshmen since Greg Kelser in 1975-76.

“I got some unfinished business here,” Bridges said. “I want to stay.”

Even though Bridges could have left for the NBA and made millions of dollars, he decided to work on his game while enjoying the college life both on and off the court.

“I’d rather stay here and get better,” he said.

Many still had Michigan State as a highly ranked team going into next year even before Bridges decided to return. Much of that has to do with a core group of young guys, who showed towards the end of the season that they can be really good.

They have an elite low-post scorer with Nick Ward, a potential future quarterback of the offense with Cassius Winston and a dangerous off-ball wing with Joshua Langford. Those players, along with Bridges, were all freshmen and are all returning for their sophomore seasons.

There is a lot that this group has to improve upon, like reducing turnovers and improving on the glass. They will have to get a good contribution from additional players like Matt McQuaid and their incoming class. The new class consists of two really good top recruits.

Michigan State

Top recruit Jaren Jackson will join the Spartans next season in their hunt for another championship (Photo/ Mike Dinovo).

First, there is 6-foot-11, 225 pound forward Jaren Jackson, who was one of the top recruits in the country. The big man has not only been praised for being a big presence down low, but he can also step out and hit the mid or long range jumper, making him a matchup nightmare.

The Spartans also signed 6-foot-9, 250 pound forward Xavier Tillman, who was voted first team all state in Michigan. They are also trying to land highly recruited high school seniors Brandon McCoy, a 7-foot center from California and Mark Smith, an elite point guard from Illinois.

Regardless of if they end up signing McCoy and Smith or not, the Spartans will have a high-powered team on both ends of the floor. They will be more experienced, formulated and ready to make a serious run late in March.

 

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The March Madness Narrative: About More than the Champion

The NCAA Tournament is known as March Madness for its fast-paced, unforgiving mad rush to the cutting of the nets over an abbreviated three weekend period. There is so much more to the story than just the one team rushing the court and lifting the trophy. Each weekend hits teams like a hurricane. Within moments of their celebrations ending coaches must have players turn on a dime for the next game less than 48 hours away.

At the end of the tournament, we are left with one winner. This year, that is the North Carolina Tar Heels. However, that is nowhere near the full story. The tournament produces things that can supersede even the Final Four or the champion of the season.  This type of environment forges stronger memories that last. It produces magical runs, heart-pounding and tense action as well as singular moments that capture our hearts. What is made in March lasts forever.

Bryce Drew hit one of the more memorable shots in tournament history. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Throughout the years, many things have surpassed the champions in our memories, but certain moments continue to captivate us. Many people could not name the 1998 Final Four of Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah and Stanford but the vast majority of basketball fans know the phrase “Drew, for the win!” and the Ole Miss loss to Valparaiso that accompanies it. This is now a moment etched in stone. It speaks to the fact that the chaos of March Madness can create a generational memory that lasts far beyond winning a game or the championship.

There are countless examples of this. For small schools, moments such as these can define a program.  They can be the thing that coaches point to when attempting to recruit against bigger schools. Need a better example of this? Look no further than the legendary Davidson run to the Elite 8 with now NBA All-Star, Steph Curry. Big moments for small schools are part of what defines March.

Even Blue Blood programs, however, can also see their drama elevate fan folklore to a higher level. Take what is arguably the most iconic moment in NCAA history: Christian Laettner hits his shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 championship game…the championship game for the region that is. Duke and Kentucky each have amazing programs in their own respects but every time these two share the court together, this is brought up by fans and broadcasters alike. Laettner had a less than stellar career in the NBA and was a forgotten part of the 1992 NBA Olympic “Dream Team” but he is forever immortalized for one shot in a game that was only to make the Final Four. Making the Final Four is certainly something to be remembered, but that game is referenced far more than the Blue Devils championship victory over the Michigan Wolverine’s “Fab Five.”

It is not just moments that capture our hearts, but runs as well. The 1983 run by Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State Wolfpack is a true story that moves far beyond the 40 minutes on the game clock. That year’s title run was capped by one of the more inconceivable upsets of the Houston “Phi Slamma Jamma” team that featured future hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler. This Memory of March moved beyond 1983 into the life of the late Valvano and seemed to mirror his outlook on the impossible battle for his life.

March Madness is just prone to stories such as this. With the tense nature of the one and out tournament, drama is sure to elevate the intensity. Yet, time and time again teams put together seemingly impossible roads to the Final Four. Shaka Smart and VCU became the first team to go from the NCAA’s First Four play in game to the Final Four. Though they were unable to bring home the title, this is remembered just as fondly. George Mason’s historic run to the Final Four in 2006 made a career path for Jim Larrañaga much easier to achieve.

Chris Chiozza (11) lets a prayer fly. (Photo courtesy of fansided.com)

This year’s tournament is no exception in either case. Several moments have grabbed our attention. Thus far there are two points in time that stand out the most. The first is The Wisconsin-Florida ending. The game came down to the final second of regulation and eventually led to overtime.  With Wisconsin leading by two points, Florida had one final chance. Enter Chris Chiozza. Going the length of the floor, Chiozza let a leaning, running, impossible shot fly. Buckets. This gives Florida fans that, “Hey, remember when…?” for years to come.

Luke Maye’s shot to beat Kentucky is an example of just how the tournament can become something wholly other than itself. Maye originally was to be a walk on at North Carolina. With some roster shifting, Roy Williams found one for him and he has torn it up in the NCAA tournament. This season he averages 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. In these past four NCAA Tournament games he sits at 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. This includes arguably the most important shot in the tournament thus far.

The Kentucky and North Carolina game was marred by officiating woes but did not lack in end of game drama. The Wildcats surged back from a nearly double digit deficit with two minutes to go. Freshman Malik Monk’s three tied the game with under 8 seconds to go. Roy Williams commented that the team knows to push the ball with this amount of time left.  It worked. Forward Theo Pinson took the ball 80 feet and used his body to create separation for Maye who drained a mid range jumper with Minimal time left.  He showed up to an early class the next morning and received a standing ovation.

In addition to these brief stops in time, there have been more lengthy runs in this tournament that were less than expected. The South Carolina Gamecocks reached the Sweet 16 this year for the first time in school history,  Then they made the Elite Eight. No reason to stop there, so they made the Final Four. This is a team that was off the radar for so many. South Carolina was picked in 0.6% of brackets to reach the last weekend.

Michigan made do with their practice jerseys. (Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com)

There is one more storied run in this tournament that will go down in the history books. The Michigan Wolverines are the epitome of what March Madness is supposed to be. They got hot coming in to the tournament. Considering the fact that they almost did not make their conference tournament, they are a surprise. The Wolverines plane from campus to the Big 10 tournament skidded off the runway and caused some minor injuries. Due to the nature of the investigation, John Beilein’s squad were forced to play in practice jerseys. Their regular equipment remained on the scene of the incident. They did  not just play well, they won the whole thing. They rode that momentum all the way into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Their last win was over a Louisville team that many experts believed talented enough to make the Final Four.

Now, the Wolverines went on to lose in fantastic fashion to the eventual champion of the region, the Oregon Ducks. Even though they were just inches away from continuing the magic, there is still plenty to rejoice in here. You see, faced with a less than ideal situation the team found a way to put a string of wins together and make something out of it. This is nothing short of the stories that March creates each and every year. This year it happened to be Michigan.

For some schools, just making the tournament is the ultimate goal. So when a school like Lehigh takes down Duke there is more magic present than the powerhouse making it all the way. March is beautiful because of things within it, not just because of the last team left standing’s victory. College sports entail a high level of passion whether it is a family tradition or an alma mater. That is why reaching a little higher than expectations or completing that wonderful play at the end of the game often gets remembered longer.

On title night, there is a reason that it does not end with the presentation of the trophy. There is still one last piece of business to attend to. When “One Shining Moment” plays it is different every year.  New images are now engraved in our minds of that year’s tournament. March is the time when the ordinary becomes extraordinary.  Every moment has the potential to become something eternal, and that is what this month is all about.

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Georgetown Basketball

Patrick Ewing Reigns in the New Era of Georgetown Basketball

It’s a new era for Georgetown basketball; an era that has been a long time coming. Patrick Ewing, a Georgetown great, took over as head coach earlier this month and is looking to bring the program back to the glory and success that we are all used to.

Georgetown Basketball

Patrick Ewing in his press conference earlier this April (Photo/ Nick Wass)

John Thompson III was relieved of his head coaching duties earlier this March. The son of Georgetown great head coach John Thompson Jr. had been at the realm since 2004. Georgetown, with the hire of Ewing, keeps the head coaching job in the Georgetown family.

“If it was any other university, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Ewing said at his introductory news conference earlier this month. “But it’s my alma mater. It’s Georgetown. I’m a Hoya. I just thought it was a great opportunity to come back and try to rebuild the program.”

Ewing’s resume speaks for itself. He had three All-American seasons with the Hoyas, including three national championship appearances in 1982, 1984 and 1985. He captured the title in 1984. He basically put a small catholic school on the map as a college basketball powerhouse.

Ewing was then the first overall pick in the 1985 draft. He was drafted by the Knicks where he spent 15 of his 17 years in the NBA. He put the Knicks back into serious contention for a championship.

He was an 11-time All-Star and calibrated a Hall-of-Fame career. He spent the next 15 years after his retirement in 2002 as an assistant coach for the Wizards under Doug Collins, the Houston rockets under Jeff Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic under Stan Van Gundy and most recently Charlotte Hornets under Steve Clifford.

Despite the impeccable resume, Ewing still has a tall task in front of him.

The Hoyas have missed the NCAA tournament three times in the last four years. They made it to the Final Four in John Thompson III’s third season, but have only made it past the round of 32 once since then.

For a program that has the 31st most wins in college basketball history out of the 347 Division I teams, the Hoyas haven’t seen that type of wining mentality in the past few years. They are looking to regain the top ranks of college basketball with Ewing in charge.

After spending the past 15 years in the NBA as an assistant, the main concern with Ewing was recruiting. As an assistant coach in the NBA or any coach in the NBA, you don’t recruit. You don’t have to ask players to come play for you because they get paid to play for you.

Recruiting is one of the biggest parts to college basketball and is essential in rebuilding a program or keeping it successful. In the past 30 years that Ewing has been in college, it might be safe to say recruiting has gotten a little different.

Georgetown Basketball

Patrick Ewing and coach John Thompson Jr. after their National Championship win in 1984 (AP Photo)

Ewing doesn’t see that as a dilemma.

“What I’m going to do is put around myself a great staff who has the ability to go out and recruit and teach me all the things I need to know until I get up to speed in terms of recruiting,” Ewing said. “But I don’t see anything different. It’s all about going out and selling your program. I think that I’m a great salesman.”

Ewing knows he has work to do with kids in high school who have probably never seen him play. “Maybe they know me from Space Jam,” he joked.

All the support is in place for Ewing to succeed. Ewing gets the next best thing after waiting years for an NBA head coaching job. There is no doubt from his supporters that he and the program will succeed.

“He is certainly used to the pressure and he is totally ready as a coach,” Stan Van Gundy said. “The adjustment will be recruiting. That’s the challenge that will determine his success. He will do a great job coaching.”

 

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2017 Dream Team: The Biggest Awards in College Basketball

Now that the 2016-17 college season has officially ended, it’s time to hand out the awards. ESPN had their annual College Basketball Hoophall Awards Night this past Friday, and here is who came out on top. All of these awards make up an unofficial dream team, if you will.

John R. Wooden Award

This award goes to college basketball’s most outstanding player, which happened to be Frank Mason III of Kansas. It isn’t by happenstance that he received this prestigious award.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Frank Mason III of Kansas wins the John R. Wooden Award (Photo Courtesy of AndoverLeader.com)

He wasn’t too elated about this achievement, which is understandable given the circumstances. He isn’t the player to be prideful about his individual success, but rather team success. Given that his team didn’t make it to the championship game, he said, “I know right now it probably sounds crazy, but it doesn’t mean much to me right now.”

In other words, his team comes before him, which is shown in his response to the award. Some people might be maddened by his “ungratefulness,” but in actuality, his perspective is purely that of a good leader and teammate.

The award is still well deserved considering his statistics for the season. Mason finished his senior year averaging 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is versatile and shoots well from the outside. His clip is 47.1 percent from the arc and 49 percent from the floor. He led the Jayhawks to many key victories in the Big 12.

Scouts are concerned about his 5-foot-11 height. However, he is one of the deadliest shooters in the college game. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in the draft.

Julius Erving Award

This next award goes to the top small forward in the game, which was Josh Hart of Villanova. Hart was also named Big East Player of the Year for his outstanding play.

Senior Josh Hart of Villanova (Photo Courtesy of SI.com)

The senior averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 33.2 minutes per game for the Wildcats. He shot 51 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from 3-point land. He is no doubt an efficient scorer and shows defensive toughness.

His years as a Wildcat have groomed him to be a presence in the NBA. He has worked his way up each year. He was named to the Big East All-Freshman team in 2014. Hart was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore. He helped lead his team to a National Championship during his junior year, which prepared him for a stellar senior season.

Although Villanova didn’t make a deep tournament run, they had a very successful season. Hart will likely be somewhere between the 20th-30th draft pick range. Some have speculated that the Portland Trailblazers will pick him up.

Jerry West Award

Malik Monk is a scoring machine. It’s no wonder he earned the top shooting guard award on Friday. The Kentucky guard was nothing short of incredible this year.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Malik Monk throws down a dunk for Kentucky (Photo Courtesy of thebiglead.com)

Jerry West himself was one of the great guards in his day. He played for West Virginia and led his team to a National Championship. His nicknames include “Mr. Clutch” and “Mr. Outside” for his clutch shooting capabilities and overall strength on the perimeter. Monk definitely fits the bill.

His scoring capabilities allowed him to have four games with 30 or more points, including 47 against North Carolina. He averaged 19.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Coach Calipari had great things to say about the freshman.

“With Malik you’re talking about a superior athlete with skills and an ability to score that make him truly unique,” Calipari said. “What I love about Malik is that, as the season went on, he learned how to help our team win by doing more than just score. He became an efficient player who I believe will make an immediate impact at the next level.”

Monk earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors as well and declared for the draft just last week. He is predicted to be a top five overall draft pick this year.

Karl Malone Award

The Karl Malone award went to none other than Johnathan Motley of Baylor University as the nation’s top power forward.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Johnathan Motley of Baylor University (Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports)

Motley’s statistics this season were quite impressive. He averaged 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. In their most recent Sweet 16 loss, he added 18 points and nine rebounds.

The junior has two things going for him. He is a great offensive rebounder with his length and athleticism. He also protects the basket very well, especially in Baylor’s 2-3 defense. Motley also has outstanding foot speed for his 6-foot-9, 230 pound frame.

Yesterday he declared for the NBA draft, but also will not be hiring an agent. He is expected to go in the top 40.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award

The fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski was named the top center of the year. The Polish big man is a prowess in the post. He stands 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, which is hard to guard. He also has great court vision and has an advantage on anyone in the college game because of his size.

College Basketball's Biggest Awards

Przemek Karnowski of Gonzaga (Photo Courtesy of newsday.com)

His statistics this year were respectable. He averaged 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The Bulldogs went to him down the stretch in close games for his ability to make strong back-to-the-basket moves.

When asked about the award, Karnowski said, “It means a lot… all the hard work I put in throughout my whole life in basketball is paying off and I’m really happy about it.”

As far as the draft goes, many scouts aren’t truly worried about his basketball abilities. They are worried about his back. Karnowski missed a good chunk of his junior season due to bulging discs in his back, which could be a problem in the future.

All of these players are well-deserving of their awards after some impressive seasons. All are looking ahead to the draft and it will be fun to see where they end up.

 

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Why Duke’s Season Wasn’t a Total Failure

Many believe this season was a disappointment for the Duke Blue Devils. However, it’s odd to think of Duke’s season as a disappointment considering everything they accomplished.

They finished the season 28-9, which would be considered a really good season for most teams. They also won the ACC tournament, where they had to go through Clemson, Louisville, the eventual national champion North Carolina and Notre Dame.

The word “disappointing” is still thrown around and used to describe their season. Sure, they had a really talented roster and maybe they should have won more games or gone further in the NCAA tournament. However, describing their season as “disappointing” is unfair and inaccurate.

They were the obvious preseason number one to start the season and a heavy national championship favorite. They had a roster of what many people considered to be their most talented roster in a decade.

As the preseason progressed, we watched their players fall like dominoes. Those players included their three top recruits.

Jayson Tatum sat out the first eight games with a foot injury and eventually made his college debut against Maine. Marques Bolden missed the first eight games as well with a leg injury. Number one overall ranked recruit Harry Giles also tore his ACL twice in high school, which lead him to miss the first eleven games.

Duke Basketball

The Blue Devils went 4-3 in Coach K’s absence earlier this year (Photo/ Gerry Broome).

On top of the freshmen injuries, senior captain and team leader Amile Jefferson reinjured his foot, which caused him to miss a couple games. Grayson Allen, who was a player of the year candidate at the beginning of the season, was suspended one game after another tripping incident.

Player injuries are something that is a part of the game and unfortunately happen quite frequently. However, when your coach is injured, that’s a whole different story.

Mike Krzyzewski missed a month after undergoing midseason back surgery. In his absence, the Blue Devils went 4-3 under interim head coach Jeff Capel. In that month, he banned the team from the locker room and from wearing any team or Duke gear.

The Blue Devils still managed to bounce back. After falling to NC State at home for the first time since 1995, Duke managed to string out a win streak of seven games. That included a win against eighth-ranked North Carolina, 14th-ranked Virginia and 20th-ranked Notre Dame.

Just when it looked like Duke was headed for disaster, they pulled it together as only Duke can. With everything they went through with the only self-inflicted wound to be that of Grayson Allen, Duke’s season was actually somewhat impressive.

Duke Basketball

Duke players celebrate their ACC tournament championship in March (Photo/ Getty Images).

They were one game away from another 30-win season. They beat the eventual national champions two out of three games, including one in the ACC tournament. They were also the first team to win four games in a row to win the ACC tournament. Many believed the ACC to be the best and hardest conference in the country. Making history that same year is nothing short of impressive.

Duke basketball comes with exceptionally high expectations. We expect them to be good whether you love them or hate them.

When they lose nine games in the regular season and fall in the second round of the NCAA tournament, many are quick to assume the season was a failure. They didn’t win the national championship, but come next season, there will be another banner hanging in Cameron.

Needles to say, it could have been a lot worse.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (Post Tournament)

Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, it is time to fully dive into the 2017 NBA mock draft. The NBA season is still unfolding, but many teams are starting to focus on the draft, especially the lottery teams.

The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first. He is the consensus number one pick. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft 2.0.

1: BOSTON CELTICS (VIA BROOKLYN): MARKELLE FULTZ PG WASHINGTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It is obvious the Celtics do not need a point guard. Isaiah Thomas has proven his worth time and time again in the NBA. Any player can be a bust out of college. It is still unlikely that Fultz will be a bust, but he has not proven anything in the association.

Boston needs a second scoring option. They play great team defense and find themselves in trouble with Thomas being their only viable option on offense. Boston will take Fultz, but it could be because they plan on trading him for a superstar. Fultz is the clear number one pick, but it is unclear if he will ever play a game for Boston.

2: PHOENIX SUNS: JOSH JACKSON SF KANSAS

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable wing alongside Devin Booker. Jackson averaged 16.3 points per game at Kansas. He is a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Jackson has a good feel for the game and is dangerous on offense. He can score both inside and out and is a very underrated passer.

Pairing him with a future superstar like Booker is only going to lead to success for Phoenix. Having a core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson will make the Suns a threat in the west in two to three years. Jackson doesn’t have to be a franchise player in Phoenix. He just has to be Robin to Batman, which makes him a perfect fit in the desert.

3: LOS ANGELES LAKERS: LONZO BALL PG UCLA

It is difficult to predict what the Lakers will do. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is a lack of veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player. If they keep the pick, expect them to take the best available player, which would be Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top three prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q.

Ball will be a floor general capable of running an NBA team and becoming an on-court coach. He showed at UCLA that he can make everyone around him better.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. The Lakers need a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be. D’Angelo Russell is a great young player, but could you imagine a backcourt for the next 10 years of Russell and Ball? Sleep on that Hollywood.

4: ORLANDO MAGIC: JAYSON TATUM SF DUKE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Magic seem to have an unclear direction. Orlando hasn’t made the playoffs for four straight years and that needs to change quickly. Frank Vogel has improved the team, but he needs more talent outside of Aaron Gordon.

Jayson Tatum could grow to be an NBA superstar. Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready.  He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and he could become the missing piece in Orlando.

5: PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: MALIK MONK SG KENTUCKY

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, didn’t make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Reports came out that the Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: NEW YORK KNICKS: DE’AARON FOX PG KENTUCKY

De’Aaron Fox did nothing but help his stock in the tournament, especially when he dropped 39 points against Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.

The Knicks badly need a franchise point guard to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Fox would be the perfect fit in New York.

Fox is left handed, which is sometimes hard to defend because defenders are so used to right handed players. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him. Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency, but has proven he can control a game. The Knicks need that more than ever.

7: SACRAMENTO KINGS: JONATHAN ISSAC PF FLORIDA STATE

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. Issac could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential, who could grow into a solid NBA starter.

8: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: LAURI MARKKANEN PF ARIZONA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com/)

Minnesota has a franchise center and small forward in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They have young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Timberwolves need experience and veteran leadership more than anything, so it is tough to predict what they will do with this pick. Lauri Markkanen would be a perfect option for the Timberwolves.

Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to become a Dirk-like power forward. He can stretch the floor or go inside. Markkanen can also play the center position to spell Towns. Markkanen needs to add some weight, but could really help the Timberwolves become a playoff team.

9: DALLAS MAVERICKS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN PF GERMANY

From one German to the next.  Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Dallas. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside and outside. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

Sitting him behind Dirk for a year would be the perfect step in developing Hartenstein. He could relate to Dirk easily and due to Dirk being a legend, would really learn how to become a great pro.

10: SACRAMENTO KINGS (VIA PELICANS): DENNIS SMITH PG N.C. STATE

The Kings need a young explosive point guard. Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have since not all are looking for a point guard.

The Kings would get a player like Russell Westbrook by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has the insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick if the Kings want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team while building around Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein.

11. DETROIT PISTONS: HARRY GILES PF DUKE

Detroit needs a big man alongside Andre Drummond. Picking Harry Giles would be a shock here, but could be a huge steal. Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one pick before he began having injury problems.

We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender.

12: CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MILES BRIDGES SF MICHIGAN ST.

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

13: DENVER NUGGETS: JUSTIN JACKSON SF NORTH CAROLINA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(http://www.sportingnews.com)

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Denver. Their young core is close to being a legitimate playoff contender, and Jackson would really help them.

He has great length and can stretch the floor. For most of the tournament, Jackson played great. He had a subpar performance in the title game, but can still become a good NBA starter.

Jackson needs to add weight, but is a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His mid-range jumper is well polished and Denver would instantly get better by drafting Jackson.

14: INDIANA PACERS: FRANK NTILIKINA PG FRANCE

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Pacers have Jeff Teague, but he has not really proven to be a franchise point guard. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become a franchise point guard.

15: MIAMI HEAT: TJ LEAF PF UCLA

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need.

TJ Leaf has a high motor and can play both inside and out. Miami would get a player who could be molded into a star by Erik Spoelstra.

16: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: JOHN COLLINS PF WAKE FOREST

John Collins is a bit of a project. If the Trailblazers take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset to build around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

17: CHICAGO BULLS: IVAN RABB C California

Robin Lopez is an average NBA center at best. The Bulls need a young center who can come in as a defender. Rabb is a solid defender who needs time to develop a back to the basket game.

18: ATLANTA HAWKS: JUSTIN PATTON C CREIGHTON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images )

Dwight Howard is no longer a top center. Atlanta needs to think about the future and Patton would be a great pick. He is a seven-foot monster that averaged 12.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman at Creighton.

19: MILWAUKEE BUCKS: BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

The Milwaukee Bucks are building something special. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like a future MVP and Kris Middleton is a stud. Drafting Adebayo will give Kentucky a presense inside to make the Bucks even more dangerous.

20: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA MEMPHIS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Tyler Lydon has improved vastly from his freshman season to sophomore season. Lydon improved his points, rebounds, assists and free throw percentage. At 6-foot-9, Lydon can stretch the floor and he would be a great fit in Portland.

21: OKLAHOMA CITY: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA WASHINGTON): LUKE KENNARD SG DUKE

Luke Kennard is a scoring machine. Brooklyn needs alot of help, even though they have been playing well since the beginning of March. Kennard isn’t going to be a guy who changes a franchise, but he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA.

23: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.cbssports.com/)

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

24: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

25: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Magic could use some of that in their locker room. Josh Hart improved his scoring each season at Villanova, and that should translate into the NBA.

26: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project, and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round, especially with it being their third pick in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

27: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): Jordan Bell PF Oregon

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Jordan Bell was a second round pick before the tournament. Bell was a huge reason Oregon reached their first Final Four since 1939. The Nets would get a solid rebounder who brings in a heavy motor and will give you everything he has.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

30: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

 

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