Elite players returning to school and their impact on recruiting

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While much is made of how schools react to an unexpected departure to the professional ranks, just as important is how programs adjust when players decide to return to for another season. The decision can lead to a juggling act in some cases, with programs looking to keep as much talent as possible without surpassing the NCAA’s 13-scholarship limit. How that affects the newcomers expected to join the program ultimately boils down to whether or not the program has available scholarships.

That was certainly the case for Baylor, which retained the services of both Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. With those two returning to Waco minutes would be difficult to come by for a newcomer such as Dominic Woodson. As a result there was a parting of ways, with Woodson ultimately landing at Memphis where there’s a better opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Another Big 12 school that received positive news on the NBA Draft front is Oklahoma State, which will welcome back guards Markel Brown and Marcus Smart and forward Le’Bryan Nash. While Smart, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and one of the nation’s best lead guards, is the headliner of the three each has important roles to play for a program looking to ascend to the top of a conference that has been dominated by Kansas over the years.

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The decisions, especially Smart’s, to return to Stillwater may have surprised outsiders but they didn’t catch Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford off-guard.

“I think they all wanted to come back, but also they had an obligation to see where they were at as well,” Ford said of his three players in a phone interview with NBCSports.com. “We never discussed it with them [during the season] and we never let it become as distraction. Even as a coaching staff we didn’t talk about it a whole lot.”

Once the season was completed Ford discussed the possibilities with each player, and according to Ford his program prefers to go by the NBA’s withdrawal deadline when it comes to the decision-making process.

“I think the NBA deadline probably makes the most sense. I don’t know how much you gain with the NCAA deadline,” said Ford. “I know for us, we studied it and came to the conclusion that the NBA deadline is what we were looking at.”

To that point, the recruiting process when it comes to the possibility of losing a player (or players) to the professional ranks begins well before April. Programs can ill afford to not consider all possibilities during the summer/fall before the season begins, because if they do and a player does leave the pickings are incredibly slim in the spring from a recruiting standpoint.

Oklahoma State has five signees in its 2013 class, one of which being point guard Stevie Clark. But even with Smart being a projected lottery pick as the season progressed, Oklahoma State didn’t use the possibility of him leaving (and thereby opening up minutes) as a selling point.

“You can discuss the possible scenarios that happen, but for us in recruiting we don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on that,” Ford noted. “If we’re recruiting somebody to come play for us, we want them to come in and make an impact whether somebody’s leaving or not. That’s not something we’re trying to sell to recruits, that ‘somebody may leave so you may be able to step in.'”

In addition to the question of what a player with the NBA Draft decision in front of them will do, there’s also the question of whether or not that prospective member of the program will be on board with the idea of competing with an incumbent for minutes. For some recruits this can be an issue, with the desire for immediate playing time having a significant impact on their decision. But for others, the opportunity to not only compete for minutes but also play with other talented players is a plus.

That’s all part of the recruiting process, and accurately gauging a recruit’s thinking in situations such as this one is why programs can’t afford to wait until the spring to make moves.

The position that Oklahoma State found itself in at the end of April is an ideal one. Their three best players all decided to return for another season, but even if that didn’t turn out to be the case the Cowboys had done enough on the recruiting trail to ensure that they had enough depth entering the 2013-14 season.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Louisville’s Deng Adel and Ray Spalding to test draft process

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A season that began with the firing of Rick Pitino in mid-October came to an end Tuesday night, as Louisville lost to Mississippi State 79-56 in a Postseason NIT regional final. There are a lot of questions to be answered, most notably who will lead the program moving forward after interim head coach David Padgett led the Cardinals to 22 wins.

As for the players, two announced following the loss that they will be going through the NBA Draft process. Junior wing Deng Adel and junior forward Ray Spalding both confirmed that they will be entering the NBA Draft but not hiring agents, so as to preserve their collegiate eligibility should they decide to return to school.

This will be the second time that Adel has entered the NBA Draft, doing so last spring before making the decision to return to school.

Playing just over 33 minutes per game, the 6-foot-8 Adel averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three. Moving into the starting lineup after serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Louisville, the 6-foot-10 Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game.

Mississippi State advances to NIT semifinals at MSG

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Mississippi State advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York with a 79-56 victory over Louisville on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State (25-11) will face Penn State (24-13) on March 27.

Lamar Peters opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and Mississippi State led by at least nine points the rest of the way. Weatherspoon scored eight points during a 12-3 run to start the third for a 51-31 advantage and MSU cruised.

Aric Holman added 16 points and eight rebounds for Mississippi State, which has won its most games since the 2009-10 season. Xavian Stapleton and Nick Weatherspoon each chipped in with 12 points. Abdul Ado had three blocks to tie Jarvis Varnado for the most blocks by a MSU freshman with 67.

Ray Spalding paced Louisville (22-14) with 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. The Cardinals shot 35 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-32.

Gregg Marshall does right by Alex Lomax with NLI release

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Memphis introduced Penny Hardaway as its new head coach Tuesday morning, with the former Tiger great and Memphis native making his triumphant return to campus.

And it didn’t take long for Hardaway’s hiring to have an impact on the recruiting trail either, as the point guard who led Hardaway’s Memphis East squad to its third straight TSSAA AAA state title is expected to play for his longtime mentor.

Alex Lomax, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State, requested to be released from his NLI on Tuesday. It didn’t take Marshall long to make his decision, granting Lomax’s request and citing the unique circumstances in his statement as to why.

“Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the 5th grade has become a Division I head coach,” Marshall said. “Allowing him out of his NLI without any penalty is the right thing to do.”

The National Letter of Intent, for those who may not be too familiar with it, is a document that when signed binds the recruit in question to the school they’ve committed to. If the circumstances surrounding the recruitment change, getting released from the NLI can be incredibly difficult. Coaches and universities have no obligation to release a recruit once they sign, and it seems like every year we run into a situation where a coach is refusing to so.

Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham is only a senior this season because, after signing an NLI with Appalachian State, he was not given a release and forced to go to prep school for a year. That’s not as uncommon as you might think.

That is also perfectly within the bounds of the rules, if not the laws of being a decent human being.

Wichita State and Marshall could have taken this opportunity to make life miserable for Lomax, and there would have been those who rushed to say that since the young man made a commitment he should stick by it no matter what. Lomax was a noteworthy recruiting win for the program during its first season in the American Athletic Conference, as the Wichita State went into Memphis and landed a pledge from a prospect who was likely to be a key part of the program’s plans moving forward.

But the hit that comes with allowing Lomax to leave without fuss is far less severe than what happens if Wichita State and Marshall make things difficult for him.

Faced with the opportunity to do the right thing and help out a young player, Marshall and Wichita State did just that.

The program should, and will, be applauded for it.

Stevens’ 30 points leads Penn State past Marquette in NIT

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face either Mississippi State or Louisville at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey’s missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Report: Joseph Chartouny to transfer from Fordham

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After three seasons at Fordham, guard Joseph Chartouny will be leaving the school to play his final year elsewhere. News of Chartouny’s transfer was reported Tuesday afternoon by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, and the 6-foot-3 guard from Montreal will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

Chartouny made 28 starts for the Rams this season, averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals in 36.0 minutes per game. Leading the nation in both total steals and steals per game, Chartouny was an Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection.

In three seasons at Fordham Chartouny, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, averaged 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Given his abilities as a defender and a distributor, Chartouny stands to be a popular player amongst programs looking to add an immediately eligible contributor who also has ample experience at the Division I level.

With Chartouny reportedly moving on, Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer has a significant hole to fill in his backcourt rotation for 2018-19.

Transfers Antwon Portley (Saint Peters’s) and Erten Gazi (DePaul) will be eligible next season, with reserve Cavit Havsa set to be a junior next season. Fordham’s also landed three perimeter recruits in its 2018 class, with three-star point guard Nick Honor among that trio.