Yet another AAU coach gets a high-major assistant position

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Villanova’s basketball staff has undergone a restructuring.

Doug West is leaving, according to a tweet from Jeff Goodman, and will be replaced by Doug Martin.

Normally, coaching staff changes don’t require a post of more than a couple words, saying where the new assistant coach came from while stuffing in some quote from a press release by the head coach on why this new hire will lead them directly to a national title.

But Jay Wright’s decision to hire Martin is quite interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Martin coaches for DC’s Team Takeover, one of two powerhouse AAU programs in one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. And I’m sure the fact that Villanova is currently pursuing Josh Hart, a DC native and a kid that plays for Team Takeover, had nothing what-so-ever to do with Wright’s decision to bring Martin aboard.

“I like Villanova’s coaching staff,” 2013 Sidwell Friends guard Josh Hart told SNY.tv at the recent “Live in AC” event. “They seem kind of genuine and that kind of thing. And also my 16s coach I think is going to be at Villanova so that’s never a bad thing.

“I know I will be taken care of with him there.”

It’s become a bit of a hot topic in recent years. According to a story from Mark Gianotto of the Washington Post, 13 coaches from the DC Assault program have become assistant coaches. One of those coaches is Dalonte Hill, who was hired at Kansas State because Bob Huggins knew Michael Beasley would come along with him and is now an assistant at Maryland. David Cox is responsible for three starters at Rutgers. Martin is the fourth Takeover guy to get a Division I coaching job. Kenny Johnson’s hiring at Indiana helped Tom Crean land a commitment from Stanford Robinson.

And it’s not just the DC area, either. Ben Howland hired Korey McCray of the Atlanta Celtics last June and has two Atlanta natives in this year’s recruiting class, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams.

This trend has, obviously, rubbed some people the wrong way. There is a stigma involved with being an AAU coach, three scarlet letters that mark you unscrupulous, money-hungry and incapable of coaching basketball. There are plenty of cases where that stereotype is true, but there are also good coaches on the AAU circuit. Don’t believe me? The DC Assault had former NBA head coach Eddie Jordan working for them in April. Former No. 1 pick Pervis Ellison has coached Philly’s Team Final in recent years.

The bigger problem, however, is the assumption that hiring an AAU coach as an assistant implies that there is something else — something straight out of the movie ‘Blue Chips’ — going on. While there are unquestionably situations where that is the case, the bottom line is that these AAU coaches are getting these jobs because of who they know, not what they know. Recruiting is all about connections, and, frankly, it’s much easier to hire a guy that already has connections with a group of talented recruits than to hope that the coach that is hired is able to build those friendships over time.*

(*For those that don’t remember, in 2010, the NCAA passed a rule that curbed some of these package deals. They implemented a rule that said a school couldn’t recruit a player that was associated with anyone hired to a non-coaching position. No more putting a player’s father on staff as a strength and conditioning coach, in other words. If you’re going to hire a coach for his connections, you have to hire him as one of your three assistants.)

By hiring a guy like Martin or Johnson or Hill, you get immediate results and, hopefully, an immediate infusion of talent.

It is a bit discomforting — when you step back and look at it, grown men are relying on their relationship with 16 year old kids to get them six-figure paydays — and, like I said, it’s unlikely that all of these deals are acceptable in the eyes on the NCAA.

But I, personally, have no issue with it. Recruiting is all about connections, and if you can’t recruit talent into your program — if your staff doesn’t have those connections — you won’t be winning many games or coaching for very long at that institution.

And you better get used to it. As this method of recruiting continues to prove successful, it will only become more common-place.

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.