Mitch McGary, Adreian Payne

NBA Draft Early Entry winners: There are a lot of them

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With the deadline to enter the NBA Draft having come and gone at midnight on Sunday night — and with the last-minute decisions made by Adreian Payne, Andre Roberson and Isaiah Austin — we now have a full list of all the meaningful college hoopers that made the decision to jump to the league early. 

Here are the early entry’s biggest winners

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

Michigan State: Not only did the Spartans get Adreian Payne back for his senior campaign in a semi-surprising decision on Sunday afternoon, the Spartans had already received word that Gary Harris would be returning for his (hopefully healthy) sophomore season. With everyone else except for Derrick Nix returning, Michigan State not only looks like the favorite to win the Big Ten, they have the pieces to make a run at Kentucky and Louisville for the No. 1 spot in the preseason rankings.

Oklahoma State: The Pokes are going to enter the season as the favorite to win the Big 12 thanks to the return of the nation’s best freshman in 2012-2013, Marcus Smart. Smart would have been a top five pick had he headed off to the NBA. Instead, he’s once again team up with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash to give Travis Ford one of the biggest and most athletic perimeter attacks in the country.

Louisville: The Cardinals lost Gorgui Dieng to the NBA, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pitino had said that Dieng would be heading off to the pros a number of times during the season. But Louisville did return Chane Behanan, who some thought might be off to the NBA, as well as Russ Smith, who said that he would be heading to the NBA after the Cards won the title. With Smith back in the fold, Louisville now has a real chance to repeat as champs.

Point guards in this draft: The biggest name to pull out of the draft was Marcus Smart, meaning that guys like Trey Burke, CJ McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams will slide higher up the list of available point guards. That’s good news for them. But with borderline first rounders like Shabazz Napier, Jahii Carson and Russ Smith also returning to school, guys like Shane Larkin and Ray McCallum find themselves in a better position to sneak into the first round.

Creighton: Doug McDermott is the best player to ever don a Creighton uniform, and he’s back for his senior season. He’ll be the preseason Player of the Year in the new Big East, Creighton’s first time playing in a league above the Missouri Valley. They’ll contend for the league title with Dougie McBuckets back. The Bluejays might not have finished in the top half of the league without him.

Baylor: The Bears got great news on Sunday, as Isaiah Austin officially announced that he would be returning alongside Cory Jefferson to anchor Baylor’s front line for another year. I hesitate to say Baylor is a Big 12 contender, since they’ve been unable to truly contend with an overabundance of talent recently, but they certainly have the pieces to do so.

Syracuse: Getting CJ Fair back was huge for the Orange. He’s the only player that they have for next season that can a) play on the win in their zone and b) do more than run, jump and be active. He’s got a really nice mid-range game and can step out and knock-down a three.

Michigan: Losing Trey Burke hurts, but it’s not a surprise. Seeing Tim Hardaway Jr. head off to the NBA isn’t a shock, either. But with Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III both returning to school, the Wolverines will have a shot at winning the Big Ten.

College Basketball: It’s going to be awesome next season. Seemingly every single fence-sitter made the choice to return to school, and it’s going to make for some truly compelling hoops throughout the season. Kentucky-Louisville will be unbelievable, with Duke-UNC and Michigan-Michigan State not too far behind. Oklahoma State will look to upset Kansas in the Big 12, as will Baylor. McDermott will make a run at 3,000 points while Syracuse will make a run at ACC supremacy. There are as many as five teams that could legitimately be voted No. 1 in the preseason. Is it November yet?

Six more early entry winners:

  • North Carolina: James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston return, which offset the loss of Reggie Bullock enough to keep the Heels at the top of the ACC.
  • Arizona State: We all win with another year of Jahii Carson in college.
  • Tennessee: Both Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae announced they’ll be back in college next season, meaning that a healthy Jeronne Maymon will make the Vols dangerous.
  • Florida: The Gators return Patric Young and, suddenly, have arguably the best front line in the SEC.
  • Kentucky: Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein both announced that they will be passing up the NBA and returning to Lexington for another year.
  • UConn: Shabazz Napier remaining in Storrs makes the Huskies a real threat in the AAC.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.