Western Kentucky v Mississippi Valley State

Sean Woods might not have many friends in return to Lexington

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Sean Woods is somewhat of a legendary figure in Lexington, Kentucky.

He was a member of “The Unforgettables” at Kentucky, a group of seniors that had stayed with the program through harsh NCAA punishment following the tenure of Eddie Sutton that resulted in several severe sanctions including an NCAA Tournament ban. Woods and other players such as Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Duke on the legendary Christian Laettner shot.

Well, Woods made his way up the coaching ranks, taking Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA Tournament last season — a nearly impossible feat if you look at the conditions of the athletic programs at the Itta Bena school. He’s now in his first season at Morehead State and he brings the Eagles down Interstate 64 to play the Wildcats.

After some of his comments in his pregame press conference, Woods might not get the reception he would like when the two teams tip-off on Thursday.

The question was posed by a reporter in the teleconference about how current Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein said he knew nothing about Laettner’s shot in 1992. From there, well, I’ll just let Woods tell it.

“Kids now-a-days, they play too many video games,” Woods said. “I mean, [just] being honest with you. They don’t get it. They play basketball, but they don’t know what basketball really is…I walked into a deal the other day when they had that telethon [for Hurricane Sandy relief] at WKYT, and I didn’t like the vibe, I’m just going to be honest with you, of those guys.

“It’s just, it’s totally different now. And it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way society is now. And you know, I think my generation…my [graduating] class to maybe four, five years after that, you know what I’m saying, these kids don’t know anything. And I bet you any type of money, besides the kids that are from Kentucky that’s on UK’s team, they couldn’t tell you anything about not one player in the history of Kentucky basketball.”

This is some pretty serious chatter from such a simple question, but if you listen to the audio, Woods seems to go off on a tangent that he probably has been thinking about personally for some time.

Earlier in the press conference, Woods started by prefacing what he meant. Pointing out that he never saw players like Earl Monroe and Wilt Chamberlain play, but knew all about them.

The comments look worse in print/online than they actually are. Woods seemed to be wanting to point out that the history of Kentucky basketball and how kids today don’t seem to know much about it, but took it a little too far.

He has a point. But history itself fades to some degree in everything. Our grandparents remember Pearl Harbor like it was yesterday (not that I’m comparing the two, just using it as a basis for a significant event) but for the 70s and 80s babies, it’s an historic holiday, but nothing that really gets to our hearts.

In sports parlance, it’s the same way for Kentucky basketball. I was way too young to remember “The Shot” itself, but I remember a lot of stories about it. Though I’m from the area, so it was unavoidable. Recruits of today outside the state aren’t necessarily devoid of history, they just have more current events and issues and moments to remember, not ones that happened before they were born (which makes me feel old as well).

Woods has since backtracked a bit via his Twitter account in a series of tweets.

In no way were my comments meant to offend or insult the current players at UK. Simply an observation of today’s youth everywhere….I greatly admire Coach Cal and what he has done for the University of Kentucky and college basketball….I will always be proud to have worn a Kentucky Wildcat uniform and to be the head coach at Morehead State University.

So there. It wasn’t the smartest of moves for Woods to say what he said at that length, but he did and he owned up to it (somewhat). He’s a great person and coach, and in dealing with him in several interviews and games, he’s a very honest and engaging person. Sometimes that’s a gift and a curse.

Regardless, Woods will probably have a few less fans when he enters Rupp Arena on Thanksgiving.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.