Matt Graves inks first recruit at South Alabama

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Just a little over a month on the job, first year South Alabama coach Matt Graves announced the signing of 6-8 forward Austin Karazsia as his first recruit.

Graves, who was Brad Stevens’ right-hand-man at Butler during their back-to-back Final Four runs, and South Alabama made headlines in late March when the Jaguars announced the hiring. Just weeks later, Graves hired former steady Butler point guard Ronald Nored to his staff.

Karazsia, who excels on the gridiron perhaps as well on the hardwood passing for 3,328 yards and 42 touchdowns last fall at Linton-Stockton High School, hails from the Hoosier state living just less than 90 miles from the Butler campus.

Is Graves transforming South Alabama into Butler South? Probably too soon to make a bold statement like that, but one cannot help but make that parallel with Nored and now Karazsia heading south to Mobile, AL to join Graves.

In a release from the South Alabama athletic department on May 2nd, Graves had this to say about Karazsia:

“I am very excited that Austin has decided to join the Jaguar basketball family. He really fits in with our program’s vision and values. We believe his upside is tremendous now that he will be able to focus year-round on basketball after having an outstanding career as a two-sport athlete.”

Karazsia led Linton-Stockton to a 24-4 record last season and to the Class 2A state championship game and his coach, Joey Hart, had this to say about the gifted multi-sport athlete:

“Austin combines work ethic, size, intelligence and a skill-set that allows him to continually improve. He shoots awfully well for a kid his size and he doesn’t run like a big kid—he’s athletic and can move, but the biggest thing with him, is his work ethic and intelligence. It’s two intangibles that give him a great chance to succeed.”

“Work ethic” and “intelligence” are two intangibles that seemingly describe every successful Butler basketball player during Matt Graves’ tenure as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs — he was named as the associate head coach in 2010. In fact, these descriptors are an apt depiction of what Ronald Nored brought to the Butler program from 2008-2012.

The late 2013 signing is attributed to Karazsia deciding to pursue basketball at the collegiate level, rather than football. If history tells us anything, it is that having a good deal of success in football at the quarterback position — a highly cerebral one at that — will bode well for Karazsia on the court; one has to look no further than Aaron Craft and Greg Paulus who were both high school star quarterbacks.

If we are to glean anything from Karazsia’s commitment to South Alabama, it is that Matt Graves may be developing a pipeline straight from his old recruiting grounds in Indiana.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.

Gonzaga star undergoes surgery on his shoulder

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The most important players for Gonzaga heading into the 2018-19 season will have an offseason dedicated to rehabilitation.

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga’s starting point guard, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a shoulder that he injured back in December. According to the Spokesman-Review, Perkins expects to be healthy and ready to play by the start of next season.

Perkins averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists during the 2017-18 season despite playing through those shoulder issues. After December’s win over Washington, a game in which Perkins left wincing in pain and clutching his shoulders, Perkins said “Just popped out a little bit. It’s not very strong right now, but everything is good.”

For my money, Perkins is the player that is going to be the x-factor for the Zags next season. They have a terrific front court with Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie returning, and with the likes of Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert back, there is plenty of talent on the wings. Perkins, the senior point guard, is the blue that is going to be needed to hold it all together.

Gonzaga is a top five team heading into next year. They have national title aspirations. Perkins might end up being the guy that determines whether they live up to those goals or get knocked out of the field in the Sweet 16.