Louisville Cardinals NCAA Basketball Celebration

Russ Smith could decide NBA future on Wednesday

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Louisville guard Russ Smith told members of the media that he will announce his decision on whether or not he’ll enter the NBA Draft on Wednesday.

Smith, who had been reported to be entering the draft shortly after Louisville’s victory in the national championship game two weeks ago. Since that story, in which his father was the one who started the speculation, Smith has been said to be “50/50” on which way he’ll go.

Smith went from a reserve guard who barely played as a freshman and nearly transferred to being the offensive focal point of a team that has been to back-to-back Final Fours and won a national title in the last two seasons. He averaged 18.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and was one of the top defenders in the nation, averaging 2.1 steals per game in 2012-13.

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)

The reviews on Smith’s pro prospects have varied. He’s got the ability to score, and his shot selection improved from last season to this season — his shooting percentage went from 35.6 percent in 2011-12 to 41.4 this season — and he has the lateral quickness and ball-hawking abilities to stick in the league defensively, but being in that 6-foot to 6-1 range, his ability to play the two-guard is suspect.

He may need to improve his point guard skills to hang at the next level, but with junior college transfer Chris Jones and freshman Terry Rozier slated to come in next season to replace Peyton Siva, who knows if he’ll get the chance? It really does look 50/50 at this point.

The deadline for underclassmen to enter the NBA Draft is April 28.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?