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.

Maryland big man Michal Cekovsky out for the season

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Michal Cekovsky #15 of the Maryland Terrapins is defended by Zedric Sadler #2 of the Rider Broncs during the first half at Xfinity Center on November 20, 2015 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Maryland big man Michal Cekovsky will be out for the rest of the season with a fractured ankle, the school announced on Monday.

The 7-foot-1 junior went down with the injury late in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin. He had recently rejoined the Terps’ rotation and had started to get more comfortable, scoring 10 points against the Badgers before leaving the game.

Cekovsky appeared in 17 games this season and averaged 7.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game

“I feel badly for Ceko as he has endured a number of injuries throughout the season,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said in the release. “It felt like he was really starting to turn the corner and his best basketball was ahead of him. We anticipate a full recovery for next season and we will be there to support him through the rehabilitation process.”

Without Cekovsky in the lineup, more pressure will be put on Damonte Dodd to stay out of foul trouble while staying productive. Sophomore Ivan Bender also figures to see more minutes now as he has already seen double-figure minutes off the bench for the Terps the last three games.

This loss will hurt Maryland’s frontcourt depth but they should still be able to withstand this injury with the firepower they have on the perimeter. Junior Melo Trimble is still playing fantastic ball while the team’s freshmen have also been solid for most of the season.

Maryland finishes the regular season with three out of four games at home as the one road game comes at Rutgers.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim isn’t pleased when asked by reporter if Syracuse is ‘impatient’

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02:  Head coach Jim Boeheim of the Syracuse Orange reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Jim Boeheim has never been a man that’s shied away from saying what he feels, even if that results in him going after a reporter during a press conference.

On Sunday night, Boeheim did just that, when he was clearly unhappy about being asked whether or not his team was ‘impatient’:

Boeheim had reason to be upset beyond that particular line of questioning: Not only did his team lose a tough road game thanks to a pretty bad call in the final 20 seconds, but that loss might be what costs them a spot in the NCAA tournament.

With Demarcus Cousins in New Orleans, it’s time for John Calipari-to-the-NBA to heat up

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With Demarcus Cousins ending up on New Orleans – I hesitate to call that fleecing a “trade” – to join forces with another former Kentucky Wildcat, it only makes sense for the dots to get connected: John Calipari to the Pelicans!

Dan Patrick didn’t waste any time diving right in on Monday morning, opening his interview with Coach Cal with: “Can I have permission to start a rumor about you?”

Before Patrick even had a chance to define said rumor, Cal hit him with a, “Not. Happening.” He doubled down on his denials later on that morning by telling a teleconference of reporters, “that’s not going to happen.”

This is what Cal has to say. When you’re the head coach at Kentucky, an incredibly high-paying job and arguably the best in the college basketball business, you cannot be publicly campaigning for another position, even if it is an NBA gig with two of the league’s top 12 players. And while Cal isn’t exactly forthcoming when it comes to what he reveals in the media – his name gets mentioned with an NBA job roughly every six months, and he has the same answer every time – I think I believe him here.

Why?

Because I don’t think he gives up his lucrative seat as the celebrity overlord of college basketball for anything less than the perfect job: One where he can win immediately, avoiding the indignity of another NBA flameout like the one he had with the Nets 17 years ago, and one where he is given total and complete roster control. He wants to be the coach and the GM, and I’m not sure New Orleans is in a position where they would get rid of GM Dell Demps, who orchestrated The Fleecing Of Sacramento, or head coach Alvin Gentry, who was hired prior to the start of last season and could feasibly get this group back to the Playoffs this year, for a guy that last coached in the NBA in 1999 after getting fired 20 games into a season.

And all of that is before you consider that Cousins still needs to ink a long-term deal with New Orleans at some point for this theory to truly be viable, although finding a way to bring in Cal could certainly help Cousins make this decision.

I also get it.

Cal, better than anyone else since Cousins first touched a basketball, found a way to channel Cousins’ immense talents. If anyone can find a way to get Boogie to shed his baggage, it’s probably Cal. Then factor in the chance that he would find a way to be able to reel in, say, John Wall, and those are dots that are just screaming to be connected.

A Kentucky reunion in the Big Easy. Big Blue Nation would buy every ticket available at the Smoothie King Center. Who wouldn’t love that?

Maybe it happens. But at this point, I have a hard time seeing Coach Cal giving up his throne atop Lexington.

Coaches Poll: Gonzaga remains atop the top 25, Baylor and Virginia tumble

SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 10:  Head coach Mark Few of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts to a call in the second half of the game against the Akron Zips at McCarthey Athletic Center on December 10, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  Gonzaga defeated Akron 61-43.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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Once again, undefeated Gonzaga finds themselves sitting al alone atop the Coaches Poll. The Zags are also No. 1 in the NBC Sports top 25 and the AP Poll.

Villanova and Kansas are two and three again, while Arizona and UCLA round out the top five.

Here is the full poll:

1. Gonzaga
2. Villanva
3. Kansas
4. Arizona
5. UCLA
6. Louisville
7. Oregon
8. North Carolina
9. Baylor
10. Kentucky
11. Duke
12. Florida
13. West Virginia
14. Purdue
15. Wisconsin
16. Cincinnati
17.Notre Dame
18. Saint Mary’s
19. Virginia
20. Florida State
21. SMU
22. Butler
23. Creighton
24. Maryland
25. Wichita State

AP Poll: Gonzaga remains No. 1, Baylor falls to No. 9

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)
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP
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The Zags remained alone atop the AP Poll on Monday morning, amassing 59 of a possible 65 first-place votes.

Villanova remained at No. 2 and Kansas stayed steadfast at No. 3. Baylor dropped from fourth to ninth after a pair of losses, while Virginia went from 14th to 18th after losing to Duke and North Carolina in the same week.

Here is the entire poll:

1. Gonzaga (59 first-place votes)
2. Villanva (5)
3. Kansas (1)
4. Arizona
5. UCLA
6. Oregon
7. Louisville
8. North Carolina
9. Baylor
10. Duke
11. Kentucky
12. West Virginia
13. Florida
14. Purdue
15. Cincinnati
16. Wisconsin
17. SMU
18. Virginia
19. Florida State
20. Saint Mary’s
21. Notre Dame
22. Butler
23. Creighton
24. Maryland
25. Wichita State