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.

No. 22 Xavier pulls away to 86-75 win over Georgetown

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers reacts after a play in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI — Edmond Sumner overcame a painful left shoulder and led a second-half surge that swept No. 22 Xavier to an 86-75 victory over Georgetown on Sunday, ending the Musketeers’ longest losing streak in three years.

Xavier (14-5, 4-3) had dropped three straight — all against ranked Big East teams. The Musketeers allowed a 12-point lead to slip away in the second half on Sunday before their injured point guard frustrated the Hoyas (10-10, 1-6) again. Sumner had a career-high 28 points in an 81-76 win at Georgetown on Dec. 31.

Sumner wore a support on his injured left shoulder and sat on the bench grimacing late in the first half. He had a jumper, a three-point play and a pair of free throws during a 12-3 run that put Xavier in control 70-61. He finished with 14 points.

Trevon Bluiett led Xavier with 24 points. J.P. Macura added 20.

Rodney Pryor scored 23 for Georgetown, which lost for the sixth time in seven games.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Xavier dropped from 15th to 22nd last week after road losses to Villanova and Butler. A home loss to Creighton on Monday put Xavier in danger of dropping out of the Top 25.

BIG PICTURE

GEORGETOWN: Junior guard L.J. Peak scored 21 points and had six rebounds in the loss to Xavier on Dec. 31, keeping the Hoyas in the game with clutch shots down the stretch. The Musketeers clamped down in the rematch — he was only 3 of 12 for 12 points.

XAVIER: Free throws again were an issue early. Missed free throws were a major factor in the Musketeers’ 72-67 loss to Creighton on Monday, when they went only 16 of 29 from the line. They drove to the basket and drew fouls on Sunday but were only 12 of 19 from the line in the first half, which ended with Xavier up 34-33. The Musketeers finished 36 of 49 from the line overall.

UP NEXT

The Hoyas host No. 7 Creighton on Wednesday. They split their series last season, with each winning at home.

The Musketeers play at crosstown rival Cincinnati, which is ranked No. 20. Xavier has won three in a row and seven of the last nine in the annual game.

VIDEO: Watch Marcus Keene score all 50 of his points

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Marcus Keene, the nation’s leading scorer at 29.8 points, went for 50 yesterday, the first time in four years a college player has done that.

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball Sunday on NBCSN

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: A detailed view of a Spalding basketball during a quarterfinal game between the Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers in the 2015 Men's Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 13, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 invades NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Sunday.

It begins at 2:00 p.m. with La Salle at VCU. Both of these teams are fighting for first place in the Atlantic 10 standings as the Explorers sit at 5-1 in league play and the Rams are at 4-2.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

No. 6 Baylor uses late spurt for 62-53 victory at TCU

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) reacts to a play against Texas in first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 74-64. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Sixth-ranked Baylor and TCU kept trading the lead in the second half, with a 9 1/2-minute gap when neither team could muster consecutive scores.

Then the Bears finally closed out their 10th straight Big 12 victory over TCU since their instate rival joined the league four years ago.

Ishmail Wainright swished a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:16 left, and there was then a TCU miss and more than a minute before Johnathan Motley’s layup for the Bears. Manu Lecomte added a layup to cap the 7-0 spurt that finally put Baylor (18-1, 6-1 Big 12) ahead to stay.

“This was typical of the Big 12. Hard-fought game, both teams playing extremely hard. The day after the game, it’s amazing how drained everybody is,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I hope fans enjoy it, because we’re worn out.”

There were five ties and 13 lead changes after halftime.

The partisan sellout crowd of 7,276 might not have enjoyed it as much, but the Horned Frogs (14-5, 3-4) have shown great progress in their first season under coach Jamie Dixon, the former TCU point guard.

While the Frogs have already won two more games than all of last season, Dixon feels like they have let their last two game slip away late.

“Obviously got some disappointed guys in that locker room, me included,” Dixon said. “Really thought we were here to win this game. … My feeling we were ready to win them, and we were prepared, and we did things right, did things necessary.”

Lecomte scored 17 points while Motley had 15 points and eight rebounds, along with a punctuating dunk in the final minute. That came soon after Lecomte’s alley-oop pass for a dunk by Jo Lual-Acuil, who finished with 11 points.

Vlad Brodziansky had 19 points and 10 rebounds for TCU, while Kenrich Williams had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: This is the first time the Bears have ever been 18-1 overall or 6-1 in the Big 12. They have won their last three games since losing in their first game after reaching No. 1 for the first time in school history.

TCU: Brodziansky and Williams didn’t get much help from the rest of their teammates. TCU shot 29 percent from the field (17 of 58) — Brodziansky and Williams were a combined 12-of-26 shooting; the rest of the team was 5-of-32. “We outrebounded them (38-37), we had lower turnovers (8-10), things we want to do,” Dixon said. “But simply put, the shooting percentages always stand out.”

COMING FROM BEHIND

Baylor is 6-1 this season when trailing at halftime, and has outscored its opponents by more than 10 points in those second halves. “Blessed to have great leadership from the upperclassmen. They don’t panic, they don’t rattle, they stay together,” Drew said. “And they believe in each other.”

TCU led only 24 seconds in the first half, but grabbed a 28-26 halftime lead on Williams’ 3-pointer with 7 seconds left. Baylor opened the second half with four straight layups.

CATCHING AIR

When asked about Wainright’s go-ahead 3, Motley called it a “big shot. I air-balled one, Al (Freeman) too. The fans made sure they let us know. It didn’t matter, we just stayed aggressive, and my teammates trusted me to shoot again.”

UP NEXT

Baylor is home against Texas Tech on Wednesday before consecutive road games, including the SEC-Big 12 Challenge next Saturday at Ole Miss.

TCU plays its next two Big 12 games on the road, starting Monday at Oklahoma State. The Frogs then host Auburn before going to Kansas State.

No. 18 Duke’s insane second half propels them to win

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 21:  Matt Jones #13 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after making a three-point basket against the Miami Hurricanes during the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 70-58.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Matt Jones scored all 13 of his points in the second half as No. 18 Duke used a 31-4 run to start the second half, turning a 36-25 deficit into a 56-40 lead as they beat Miami on Saturday night, 70-58.

The Blue Devils were listless defensively and, frankly, bad on the offensive end of the floor throughout the first half, but Jones sparked the second half run with a pair of early threes.

Jayson Tatum added 14 points for the Blue Devils while Marques Bolden played by far his best game as a collegian, finishing with eight points and four boards in 23 minutes, numbers that don’t necessarily reflect his impact.

Miami was led by 19 points from Davon Reed, but looked like a totally different team after halftime.

Here are three things we learned from Duke’s win:

1. The benchings worked: Duke was awful in the first half on Saturday. All of those issues that have popped up this season? They were, once again, at the forefront, and the Blue Devils went into the break down 11 while everyone in my profession tried to figure out what witty lede they were going to use to put an end to Duke’s season.

Saturday also happened to be just the third time in 19 games this season that Duke started their ideal starting lineup – Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Harry Giles III, Amile Jefferson and Tatum. But interim head coach Jeff Capel benched three of those starters in the second half, sending Allen, Kennard and Giles to the bench to watch. And it worked. Frank Jackson, Bolden and Jones provided a spark that made the Blue Devils looked like they were Mario Bros and had received star power.

Giles managed just eight minutes on the night. Kennard and Allen combined for 18 points on 5-for-17 shooting.

And it didn’t matter. Duke played their best defensive half of the season – I’d argue it was the best defense they’ve played since the 2015 NCAA tournament – and ended up cruising to a double-digit win.

2. A Matt Jones three may have changed Duke’s season: I’m well aware that the statement that I’m about to make is hyperbolic and as full of #narrative as possible, but I’m going to say it anyway: The first of Jones’ three second half threes – the one that came after he stole an outlet pass, the one that rattled in-and-out before bouncing off the backboard and back in again – may just be the turning point for Duke’s tumultuous season.

Duke has had more issues this season than I care to recount here for the umpteenth time, but one of the biggest issues they’ve faced this season has had to do with the effort level they have played with and the confidence level of the players on the floor. But when that three went in, the Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd went nuts. Even before Miami called a timeout, Capel was nearly to half court, as fired up as anyone on the floor. There was a very distinct, very noticeable change in energy, both in the building and coming off of the bench, and the results can be seen in the way Miami struggled to score.

I know this idea is a reach. I know. I swear I do.

But I just can’t ignore the fact that, after that Jones three, the Duke players looked like they were having fun, like they truly enjoyed playing on this basketball team, for the first time in more than a month.

3. Amile Jefferson returned: Jefferson is the leader of this team on the floor, the captain and the guy that holds their defense together. Part of the reason Duke looked atrocious defending ball-screens against Florida State and Louisville is that they were playing without their best defensive big man.

He was back on the floor on Saturday, recovered from a bone bruise in the same foot he broke last year. This is big because of the fact that Duke hasn’t been the most forthcoming broken when it comes to the injury status of their players.