Player of the Week: Rodney McGruder, Kansas State
McGruder came into this season with the expectation of being one of the most dominant players in the Big 12, but it took a while for the Kansas State senior to really find his groove in Bruce Weber’s new system. In the Wildcat’s first Big 12 game of the season, McGruder showed why he came into the season with all of the hype: the Washington DC native scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half — hitting five threes in the second 20 minutes after entering the game with just 11 triples on the season — to lead K-State to a win over Oklahoma State.
“Rod got cooking and that was great for him,” Weber told reporters. “He got in one of those zones, and we needed it, and he rose up.”
The funniest part about McGruder’s Saturday had nothing to do with what happened on the court; it was what he did after he left the court. Following the game, McGruder did an interview with Kansas State radio and a spot on TV, took a shower … and left the arena without making his way to the press conference. It’s a good thing he lives close, because he had to turn around and make his way back to talk to local reporters.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team
- G: Joe Jackson, Memphis: Jackson had 20 points, seven assists, four steals and just two turnovers in the Tiger’s 85-80 win over Tennessee on Friday night. The uber-talented Jackson looks like he is finally starting to play up to his potential. Over the last four games, he’s averaging 17.5 points, 5.3 assists and has just five turnovers in 141 minutes while shooting 19-34 from the field. The Tigers won the last four games. The last time they lost? Five games ago, when Jackson went for 23 points and eight assists against Louisville. And based on the way he’s played the past three weeks, I think we can chalk up the eight turnovers he had to Louisville’s pressure.
- G: Preston Medlin, Utah State: After getting out to a slow start this season, Medlin is averaging 21.3 points and shooting 41.9% from three over his last four games. That’s includes a 3-0 stretch this week. In a 75-66 win over Seattle, Medlin had seven points and an assist in a game-changing 13-3 run late in the second half. And in the 82-75 OT win against Idaho, Medlin not only hit the game-tying three at the buzzer, but he took over in the extra period. The Aggies are now 4-0 in WAC play and 13-1 on the season.
- G: Troy Daniels, VCU: You already should know about how hot Troy Daniels was over the last few weeks, but it culminated on Wednesday when he hit 11 threes in a win over East Tennessee State. He didn’t put up those same numbers against Lehigh on Saturday, but he did finish with 11 points and hit arguably the most important shot of the game in the final minutes.
- F: Jerelle Benimon, Towson: Benimon has been one of the most improved players in the country this season, and he proved it again this week. The Georgetown transfer averaged 18.5 points, 12.0 boards, 4.5 assists and 4.0 blocks as the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 start in CAA play. That includes a win at Drexel.
- C: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: Olynyk may be the one player in the country that is actually more improved that Benimon. He had 21 points in the second half to lead the Zags to a win at Oklahoma State on New Year’s Eve and followed that up with 33 points and 10 boards — his first career double-double against a Division I opponent — in a win at Santa Clara.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.
Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.
Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.
This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.
Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.
Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.
Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.
(H/t: Ball is Life)
Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.
The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.
Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only 3-25.
Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.
Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.
The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.
A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.
Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.
North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.
The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.
Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.