NBA COMMISSIONER STERN GREETS NUMBER ONE NBA DRAFT PICK DWIGHT HOWARD

Looking Back: The 2004 Recruiting Class

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Next week, the first session of July’s live recruiting period will begin, and high school hoopers around the country will take their talents to tournaments across the country, looking to impress coaches enough to earn a spot on a team at some level.

Those that are good enough will be playing for a scholarship. The best of the best will have a spot in all of the top 100 recruiting rankings on the line.

Over the course of this week, we will be looking back at the RSCI — a composite index for top 100 lists — to reinforce a point: recruiting rankings are not a guarantee. Top ten recruits flame out and unranked players make the NBA. The only thing that is a given is that hard work will be talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Keep that in mind while tracking where a kid is ranked and who is recruiting him.

We’ll be looking at the Class of 1999-2008, the last 10 classes that have finished the five years they are allowed to use their four seasons of eligibility.

To read through the rest of our Looking Back posts, click here.

THE TOP 20

1. Dwight Howard: Howard’s been a popular person of late, as he is the most sought-after free agent in the NBA this summer. Howard went straight from high school to the NBA, with the Orlando Magic selecting him with the first pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. While blessed with immense physical gifts, there’s still work to be done from a maturity standpoint with his departure from Orlando being the most glaring example why. In nine seasons as a pro, Howard has averaged 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game.

2. Shaun Livingston: Originally a Duke commit, Livingston also took advantage of the ability to go directly to the NBA out of high school. Livingston was selected fourth overall by the Clippers, but his career was derailed by a horrific knee injury in 2007. After missing the remainder of that season and all of the 2007-08 campaign, Livingston played 12 games in 2008-09 and has been in the NBA ever since. Livingston averaged 6.3 points and 3.3 assists per game last season.

3. Al Jefferson: Like Howard, Jefferson is on the free agent market this summer. Jefferson went straight from high school to the NBA, and in nine seasons as a pro the 15th selection in the 2004 NBA Draft is averaging 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

4. Josh Smith: Like AAU teammate Howard (Atlanta Celtics), Smith entered the 2004 NBA Draft straight out of high school. Selected 17th overall by Atlanta, Smith has averaged 15.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in nine seasons. He’s also a free agent this summer.

5. Rudy Gay: Gay was the lone member of the Top 5 to go to college, with his recruitment not lacking for controversy. In two seasons at UConn, Gay averaged 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Drafted eighth overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by Houston, Gay has career averages of 18.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

6. Sebastian Telfair: The subject of a book and a documentary, Telfair originally committed to attend Louisville before deciding to enter the 2004 NBA Draft. Telfair was picked 13th overall by Portland, and he’s played for eight different franchises in his nine seasons as a pro (7.4 ppg, 3.5 apg).

7. Marvin Williams: Williams played just one season at North Carolina (11.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), helping Roy Williams win his first national title and generating the greatest amount of draft buzz of any player on the team. Picked second overall by Atlanta in the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams (career averages: 11.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg) spent seven years with the Hawks before joining the Jazz prior to the 2012-13 season.

8. Robert Swift: Swift’s tale is a sad one, with the Bakersfield native never reaching the potential that led to Seattle selecting him with the 12th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. Swift spent four nondescript years with the franchise, and his last professional action came with the Tokyo Flame (now defunct) in 2011. Swift was in the news earlier this year for refusing to leave his foreclosed home.

9. Malik Hairston: Hairston was the only Top 10 player who spent four years in college, as he averaged 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as an Oregon Duck. Drafted in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft by Phoenix, Hairston would be traded to San Antonio where he played a total of 66 games over two seasons. Hairston played for Olimpia Milano in the Italian league this past season.

10. Randolph Morris: Morris played three seasons at Kentucky (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg), and ended up joining the New York Knicks five days after Kentucky was eliminated from the NCAA tournament. (Per NCAA rules Morris was allowed to return to school as a junior since he wasn’t selected in the 2006 NBA Draft, and with the NBA prohibiting players from re-entering the draft the Knicks were able to sign him as a free agent.) Morris has played with the Beijing Ducks since 2010, and this past season he teamed up with Stephon Marbury to lead the franchise to its first-ever league title.

11. Glen Davis: “Big Baby” was one of the SEC’s best players during his three seasons at LSU, and he was one of the leaders for a team that reached the 2006 Final Four. Davis was a second round pick in 2007 (Seattle), and he was part of the deal that sent Ray Allen to Boston. Davis has played in Orlando the last two seasons with 2012-13 being his best as a pro (15.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

12. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge nearly made the decision to enter the 2004 NBA Draft, but ultimately the Seagoville, Texas native ended up playing for Rick Barnes at Texas. After his freshman campaign was shortened by a season-ending hip injury, Aldridge came back as a sophomore and ended up being one of the best big men in the country. He’s since played seven seasons in Portland (drafted 2nd overall by the Bulls in 2006, then traded), but it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll remain a Trail Blazer.

13. D.J. White: White spent four seasons at Indiana, with his sophomore campaign consisting of just five games due to a broken foot. As a Hoosier White averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and he was selected 29th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. The 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year has spent the majority of his career in the NBA, most recently joining the Boston Celtics in March.

14. Joe Crawford: Crawford spent four seasons at Kentucky, where he would average 11.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest as a Wildcat. Drafted by the Lakers in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft, Crawford seen the majority of his action as a pro in China (Beijing Ducks) and Israel (Maccabi Rishon). His last NBA action (regular season) came in 2009, when he finished the season with the New York Knicks.

15. Darius Washington Jr.: Washington joined John Calipari at Memphis, and it’s hard to discuss the point guard’s time as a Tiger without mentioning one of the most heartbreaking moments in recent college basketball history. But to his credit Washington bounced back as a sophomore, averaging 13.4 points and 3.1 assists per game for a team that reached the Elite 8. Washington would go undrafted in 2006, and outside of a brief stints with the Austin Toros (D-League) and the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 he’s spent his professional career overseas.

16. Juan Palacios: Palacios arrived on the Louisville campus amidst much fanfare, but it’s safe to say that the forward from Colombia didn’t live up to the praise (8.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg in four seasons). Since the end of his college career Palacios has played for five different teams, most recently playing for JSF Nanterre in France.

17. Jawann McClellan: Despite Aldridge’s higher national ranking it was McClellan who won Texas’ Mr. Basketball award in 2004. From there it was off to Arizona, where he averaged 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a Wildcat (McClellan played just two games in 2005-06 due to a knee injury. McClellan had to deal with the passing of his father as a freshman, and the knee issues would continue to nag him throughout his college career. McClellan is currently an assistant coach at Jack Yates HS in Houston.

18. DeMarcus Nelson: Nelson spent four years at Duke, averaging 10.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest as a Blue Devil. Undrafted, Nelson became the first undrafted rookie in NBA history to start on opening night with the Golden State Warriors. Outside of that brief stint with the Warriors (he was sent to the D-League in November 2008) and another with the Bulls in 2009, Nelson’s spent most of his career overseas. Nelson played for Red Star Belgrade this past season.

19. Daniel Gibson: Gibson, like Aldridge, spent two seasons at Texas (13.8 ppg, 3.5 apg) before moving on to the professional ranks. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft by Cleveland, Gibson has been a Cavalier for all seven seasons of his career (7.8 ppg, 2.0 apg).

20. Jordan Farmar: The Taft HS (Los Angeles) product played just two seasons at UCLA but he certainly had an impact, averaging 13.3 points and 5.2 assists per contest as a Bruin. As a sophomore Farmar helped lead UCLA to its first national title game appearance since 1995, scoring 18 points in the Bruins’ loss to Florida. Drafted 26th overall by the Lakers in 2006, Farmar has played six seasons in the NBA with spells at Maccabi Tel Aviv (2011) and Anadolu Efes (2013) sprinkled in.

OTHER NOTABLE NAMES 

  • 21. Rajon Rondo
  • 23. J.R. Smith
  • 25. Corey Brewer
  • 26. Arron Afflalo
  • 37. Greg Stiemsma
  • 42. Dorell Wright
  • 48. Al Horford
  • 54. Drew Neitzel
  • 64. Andray Blatche
  • 68. Darnell Jackson
  • 72. Joakim Noah
  • 89. Nick Young
  • UR: Jeff Green
  • UR: Taurean Green
  • UR: Roy Hibbert
  • UR: Tyrus Thomas

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

White decides to return to Nebraska

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Nebraska’s second-leading scorer from last season will return for his senior season as Andrew White III announced Wednesday he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.

“I felt good about the pre-draft process, White said in a statement released by Nebraska. “It was encouraging, and I gained as much ground as anyone throughout the process. I wanted one more year to fine tune my game and put myself in better position for the NBA next summer.  

“I want to thank the teams who invited me their in-house workouts, and Nebraska for supporting me during this process.  It has been very helpful in gathering information in preparation for my future Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress throughout the spring and being understanding and supportive, as I evaluated whether to turn pro or return for my senior year.”

White, a Kansas transfer, tallied 16.6 points per game last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We are excited to have Andrew remain with our program,” coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a valuable time for him, as he has tested his skills against some of the best competition and received very important insight from key NBA personnel.  

“We look forward to continuing to help Andrew’s development to improve his NBA profile even more than he already has done through this process.  I believe next year could be our most complete team with a great opportunity for success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, I’m happy Andrew will be with us to go out and prove it.”

The news is certainly welcome for the Cornhuskers and Miles, who will be under pressure to show improvement after back-to-back disappointing seasons following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. Shavon Shields, last year’s leading scorer, has exhausted his eligibility and the Huskers will need White to help fill the void.

Trimble coming back to Terps

Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
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Melo Trimble is returning to Maryland.

The Terrapin guard will be back to for his junior season in College Park, according to multiple reports.

Trimble went from freshman first-rounder to question mark after a rough end to his sophomore season for Maryland in which his points per game, shooting percentage (both overall and from 3-point range) and rebounding dipped from his first season. Only his assists per game showed any sort of improvement. He waited until the last possible day to announce his intentions to return to school, but really his options were limited after seeing his production drop.

His decision to come back to school gives him a shot to restore his draft stock while Maryland gets its floor general back to help ease the transition from last year’s Sweet 16 squad that lost Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman. The Terps might not be a sure-fire top-25 team with Trimble back, but their NCAA tournament chances are now significantly higher.

Nevada lands Martin twins

Caleb Martin, Jordan Roper
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Eric Musselman keeps adding reinforcements to his roster. For the 2017-18 season.

Musselman and Nevada received commitments from N.C. State transfers and twin brothers Caleb and Cody Martin, according to multiple reports.

That brings Nevada’s sit-out transfer count for this upcoming season to four with Hallice Cooke (Iowa State) and Kendall Stephens (Purdue) already in the fold. Under NCAA transfer rules, the quartet will have to sit out the upcoming season before being eligible in 2017-18.

Caleb averaged 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 36 percent from deep while Cody put up 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.

The timing of having four sit-out transfers works well for the Wolf Pack given that two of the team’s three leading scorers from last year, D.J. Fenner (a senior) and Cameron Oliver (a sophomore), return while senior transfers Marcus Marshall (Missouri State) becomes eligible. Having those four experienced transfers begin playing in 2017-18 while all but two players from this upcoming team slated to return makes Nevada an interesting team, a year from now.

Louisville big man heading to NBA Draft

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After a day of mixed messages, Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku finally made it official.

He’s staying in the NBA Draft.

“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process,” Onuaku wrote in an Instagram post, “me and my family have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft.”

The day started out with Cardinals coach Rick Pitino telling multiple media outlets that the 6-foot-10 sophomore would remain in the draft after he declared last month without an agent and attended the draft combine. Onuaku, though, appeared to at least mildly refute that with an Instagram post that said his decision wouldn’t come until later Wednesday evening. Which it did, confirming Pitino’s words.

The confusion may have been frustrating for observers, but Onuaku’s social media presence no doubt has benefited from the bizarre day.

Onuaku averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 assists in 24.6 minutes per game last season, making his per-40 numbers, a metric NBA teams like to take into consideration, nothing short of fantastic. He also shot a not-so-shabby 62.0 percent from the floor. His size, athleticism and ability to score around the basket (he’s taken one 3-pointer in two seasons) make him a potential first-round selection in next month’s draft.

The 19-year-old Onuaku underwent a procedure on his heart last week due to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. It has been described as a minor procedure that will not affect his ability to play long-term or work out with teams leading up to the draft.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, should be able to absorb Onuaku’s loss seemlessly as they return the bulk of last year’s team that went 23-8 and was ranked 10th in KenPom, but was banned from the postseason as a result of the Katina Powell bombshell. Newcomers Tony Hicks (Penn transfer) and V.J. King (consensus top-30 recruit) will also make for solid additions.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.