Nike Global Challenge Recap: James Young earns MVP

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Michigan native James Young was terrific during Nike’s EYBL season.

A 6-foot-6 left-hander, Young proved himself an athletic slasher that could really shoot the ball from beyond the arc. But through three games at Nike’s Global Challenge, Young had struggled for the USA’s Midwest team. He was averaging 15.0 points, but shooting just 42% from the floor and 2-17 from three while committing 13 turnovers. The Midwest went 3-0 in pool play, but it wasn’t the result of a sterling performance from Young.

That changed in the title game, however.

Young finished with 29 points — including a flurry that saw him score 16 points in a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter — on 12-23 shooting (5-10 from three) to lead the Midwest to a 100-86 win over Andrew Wiggins and Team Canada.

For observers (ahem, like me) that were questioning how a gunner that couldn’t shoot was so highly-regarded, Young did a fine job providing an answer. Everyone is allowed a couple off-nights in a row, and a glimpse of the kind of show that he can put on when he gets it going was enough to earn American MVP honors.

Some other top performers:

Troy Williams (19.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5-13 3PT’s): Williams had a tough spring, but he showed off why every coach in the country wanted him back in March. He’s an incredible athlete, and standing 6-foot-6 with impressive lengths, he’s always been a highlight waiting to happen. The 38.5% shooting from beyond the arc was nice, though.

Wes Clark (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg): Young’s AAU teammate, Clark is currently one of the most underrated point guard prospects. He isn’t nationally ranked (which will change very soon), but with his athleticism, quickness, ability to penetrate and finish at the rim, and range on his jump shot, Clark should have a much higher-profile come August.

Nigel Williams-Goss (17.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg): Washington got a good one in Williams-Goss. He’s a solid facilitator that is one of the few kids that communicates well on the court. He didn’t shoot all that well, but he was able to penetrate. Had 24 points in his first game and went for 18 points, six assists, five boards and no turnovers in a dominating win over Brazil in the third-place game.

Andrew Wiggins (19.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg): Wiggins was clearly the best prospect at the event, but he didn’t play his best at this tournament. That’s what happens when defenses face-guard you.

Trey Lyles (21.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg): Lyles put on one of the most impressive performances, with 27 points and 11 boards in a win over USA East. The focus on Wiggins allowed Lyles to have space to shine.

Theo Pinson (15.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg): Pinson showed off a well-rounded game. He hit some threes, he threw down a couple of dunks, he made plays defensively, he penetrated and dished. What I liked the most was that Pinson made some big plays in the final minutes.

Nick King (18.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg): King is a Memphis native and another lefty that consistently was able to score around the paint. A 6-foot-7 slasher, King also showed off the ability to step out and knock down a three.

Bobby Portis (12.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg): Portis didn’t do much damage with his back to the basket, but he was active on the glass and ran the floor well.

Marcus Lee (12.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.0 bpg): Lee was very impressive. He showed off a soft touch around the basket, impressive athleticism and an ability to dominate around the rim. He blocked seven shots in one game.

Internationals:

Gao Shang (27.3 ppg, 42.5% 3PT’s): China was never competitive, but Shang was a guy that caught the eye of a lot of NBA scouts. He gave Troy Williams 26 points in a half and went for 35 twice.

Janus Tamulis (18.5 ppg): Tamulis was a good defender that was a streaky shooter. Scouts liked him, and the rumor was that he was considering coming to the States to play in college.

– Deryk Evandro Ramos (16.3 ppg, 3.5 apg, 50% 3PT’s): Ramos was a tough point guard that didn’t turn the ball over, defended well and proved a competent playmaker. One high major head coach said he thought Ramos could be the best point guard in the event as he watched him give Cat Barber 16 points and nine assists in Brazil’s win over USA East.

Derek Reese (20.0 ppg, 11.3 rpg): The Puerto Rican Tennessee-commit was one of the most productive players at the event.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.