Per CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman, Texas A&M forward Khris Middleton will be leaving school for the NBA draft.
If the report is accurate, the decision is likely to be roundly criticized. Middleton averaged 13.2 points and just over 5 boards per game for an Aggie squad that, quite frankly, underachieved badly, finishing 14-18 on the season, and winning just four games in the Big 12. At 6’7″ and 210 lbs., Middleton doesn’t have prototypical pro size, and he has not, to date, shown exceptional skill as a ballhandler, shooter or defender, either. He took just 77 shots in an injury-shortened junior season in College Station, making 20, and is projected by most recruiting analysts to be no better than a second-round pick.
Middleton’s third season at A&M was his first under Billy Kennedy, so this may be delayed fallout from the coaching change precipitated by Mark Turgeon’s late-breaking move to Maryland in 2011. The Aggies were already in a rough spot, losing seniors David Lobeau and Dash Harris to attrition, but the defection of Middleton will leave the team dangerously short of proven frontcourt talent. Kennedy has landed 2012 commits from three highly-rated guards, but has only the hilariously-named 6’5″ Billydee Williams in his sights for a frontcourt position. Expect A&M to pursue a game-ready JuCo player or two if Middleton flies the coop.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.