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.

Clemson basketball returns home after Barcelona van attack

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson’s basketball team arrived back on campus, a day after a deadly van attack in Barcelona that occurred just outside their hotel.

The Tigers were preparing to play their fourth and final game of a summer tour of Spain when a van drove up on a sidewalk and crashed into scores of people in Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13. Clemson canceled the final game and flew back home as scheduled Friday.

Teams from Arizona and Oregon State were also staying at the hotel. A fourth team, Tulane, was in Barcelona at a different hotel. All of the schools said their parties were unharmed.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell tweeted Friday the team had landed in Atlanta and was “excited to be back in this great country.”

Tulane’s new court design brings back ‘Angry Wave’

(Photo courtesy of Tulane Athletics' Twitter account)
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Tulane’s court design is a throwback.

On Friday night, the school revealed the new look inside Devlin Fieldhouse, with the old “Angry Wave’ logo taking its place at center court.

A little over a year ago, Tulane University announced that the old ‘Angry Wave’ logo would be reincorporated into the athletics department as a secondary logo.

Over half a century ago, the “Angry Wave” was born and became one of the most visible marks of Tulane Athletics.  Together for the first time with the “T-Wave” the Green Wave now boasts one of the most unique sets of logos in collegiate athletics.

The Green Wave finished the 2016-17 season with a 6-25 (3-15 AAC) record. The program is currently on a foreign tour in Barcelona.

Five-star big man names final two schools

(Photo by Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
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There are only two schools in contention for the services of five-star big man Nazreon Reid.

On Friday night, the 6-foot-10 New Jersey native named Arizona and LSU as the two finalists. Before the start of the July live evaluation period, Reid had trimmed his list to seven programs. Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Seton Hall, and UCLA did not make the latest cut.

The Roselle Catholic High School center has ties to commits from both programs. Jahvon Quinerly, who picked Arizona over Villanova earlier this month, played with Reid, winning championships in 2015 and 2016 with Sports U in the Under Armour Association. According to Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com, Reid has developed a friendship with LSU pledge Javonte Smart through USA basketball and the grassroots circuit.

Reid’s commitment will bolster an already star-studded recruiting class for Sean Miller, as Quinerly is accompanied by five-star recruit Shareef O’Neal and four-star guard Brandon Williams. With Dusan Ristic exhausting his eligibility and DeAndre Ayton destined to be a top-10 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, Reid would play a key role down low for the Wildcats during the 2018-19 season.

For LSU, this would add additional momentum for new head coach Will Wade. Since taking over the program in March, Wade has landed commitments from Smart and Tremont Waters.

Reid is listed as No. 13 overall player in the Class of 2018, according to Rivals.

Duke recruit Bagley hoping to play in the 2017-18 season

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Marvin Bagley III, widely considered the top recruit in the class of 2018, reclassified this week and could be eligible to play for Duke in the upcoming season.

His decision immediately thrusts the Blue Devils toward the front of the national-title conversation for the 2017-18 season.

But what exactly does it mean to reclassify and how does the process work?

According to the NCAA, all incoming student-athletes must complete 16 core courses from a list that includes English, math, natural or physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy. Classes such as physical education, health and music do not count as core courses, nor do remedial classes or classes completed through credit-by-exam.

The student-athlete must also show proof of graduation from high school and have an ACT/SAT test score that corresponds to his or her core course GPA on a sliding scale; the higher the GPA, the lower the standardized test score needs to be.

The NCAA eligibility center’s amateurism team then determines whether to certify a student-athlete. The process and requirements are the same for every sport.

Bagley is scheduled to graduate from Southern California’s Sierra Canyon High School later this month, completing his course work a year ahead of schedule. His transcripts may be a little more complicated because he attended three different high schools and the NCAA will review his final transcript following his graduation to determine if he is eligible to play Division I basketball.

Bagley’s move is not unprecedented.

Through the years, five-star prospects who want to get a jump on their college careers — and potentially professional careers — have gone through the same process, though usually not right before the fall semester begins as Bagley did.

Mike Gminski is considered the leave-high-school-early originator, graduating a year early so he could play at Duke in 1976. He went on to become an All-American and played 17 NBA seasons.

In recent years, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Duke’s Derryck Thornton and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns were among the student-athletes who graduated early to play college basketball sooner. Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo graduated a semester early and joined the Wildcats in January last season, but did not play. He declared for the NBA draft before deciding to return to Lexington.

Jontay Porter reclassified this year so he could play a year early with his brother, top recruit Michael, at Missouri. Canadian guard R.J. Barrett, considered the top recruit in 2019, has reclassified so he can graduate in 2018.

“With AAU and year-round competition basically, a lot of the players are ready for college-level play at an earlier age,” Gminski told WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2015. “And most of these guys have been around a lot. They do a lot of traveling. They tend to mature pretty fast.”

Early graduation in football became popular in the early 2000s, though they typically only do it a semester early to enroll in college for the spring semester and participate in spring practices.

Baseball player Bryce Harper left his Las Vegas high school after his sophomore season and earned his GED so he could start playing professional baseball sooner. He played one season for the College of Southern Nevada and was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals.

An opposite trend has started playing out in recent years, with parents holding their kids back a year so they can become bigger, stronger and more polished — some as early as middle school. Many top-tier recruits hold off going to college for a year, instead playing for elite prep schools after graduation for more seasoning and exposure.

Bagley opted for the get-to-college-early route, changing the landscape in college basketball in the process

Did Nike plagiarize JellyFam, Minnesota freshman Isaiah Washington to sell kid shoes?

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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The JellyFam movement started as nothing more than a way for a little New York City point guard to add some flair to his game, a way to stunt on an opponent when you can’t dunk on that opponent, and has grown into something no one, not even Isaiah Washington, could have imagined.

Washington is that little point guard, and a few years ago, he and a couple of his hooping buddies coined the jelly, which, at its root, is essentially nothing more than a finger roll. Where the magic happens is when that finger comes after weaving around an opponent or finishing the layup despite the presence of a shot-blocker at the rim, with a sprinkle of NYC Point God showmanship. Think Kyrie Irving’s layup package if they happened at Rucker Park with an And1 Mixtape crew filming the game:

What JellyFam has turned into is a full-blown, grassroots movement powered by social media.

And while Washington is the face of the movement, it’s not just him. A half-dozen other talented New York hoopers are members of JellyFam, but Washington is the star. He’s a celebrity on the city’s hoops scene, drawing massive crowds wherever he goes and garnering more than 335,000 followers on Instagram despite having just 27 posts on the site. It’s not as if Washington is a sure-fire NBA All-Star, either. He’s a 6-foot-1, 160 pound point guard that doesn’t crack the top 50 on any of the major recruiting services and is headed to Minnesota to play his college ball.

His popularity is tied directly to the movement that he created.

It’s a shame, however, that he cannot profit off of it, not if he wants to remain an amateur that is eligible to play college basketball.

That doesn’t stop corporations from profiting off of what he has created.

Today, Nike released a new colorway for the kid size PG1s, Paul George’s signature shoe, that has been dubbed the ‘JellyFam PG1’. It’s being sold for $90 on their website right now. This is what it looks like:

What you’ll notice, in addition to purple and turquoise colors that are a staple in the JellyFam gear that Washington wears, is the straps. On the right foot, it says “score in bunches”. On the left foot, you’ll see a design that looks like basketballs on a grapevine … or the grape emoji, with basketballs instead of grapes.

Washington and the rest of the members of JellyFam have adopted the grape emoji as their own when posting on social media.

According to a Nike spokesperson, these shoes were “inspired by Paul George’s love for fresh grapes.”

What Nike is doing here is wrong.

They are trying to capitalize on a movement created by athletes that are not allowed to monetize something they built simply because of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. They are stealing the work created by these young men simply because they can. At worst, this is plagiarism.

Washington did not respond to messages from NBC Sports, but on Friday morning he tweeted, “It’s crazy bro they know I can’t so they just take advantage.” That tweet has since been deleted.

If you read this space, you know my feelings on the NCAA and amateurism. It’s wrong and it needs to be changed, but that’s another column for another day that’s been written thousands of times.

This column is much simpler: An international, multibillion-dollar company like Nike is already profiting off of the unpaid labor of amateur athletes.

Stealing their art, their work, their movement to try and sell sneakers to kids for $90 is despicable.

And I’m not sure there’s anything else to add.