Looking Back: The 2006 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. Greg Oden: Given the injury issues at the pro level, many people tend to forget just how dominant Oden was in high school. The big man spent one season at Ohio State, where he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title game appearance in 2007. While he played just 82 games in Portland, last playing in 2010, there’s a good chance that Oden will be back in the NBA in the very near future.

2. Kevin Durant: He’s done well for himself. And while he wasn’t the top pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, he was the top pick in this one.

3. Brandan Wright: Wright averaged 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in his one season at North Carolina, moving on to become the 8th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft (Charlotte, which traded him to Golden State). He’s played for three different teams in his five NBA seasons (missing the 2009-10 campaign due to a shoulder injury), with career averages of 6.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

4. Spencer Hawes: Hawes played just one season at Washington, where he averaged 14.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. The 10th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft (Sacramento), Hawes 9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in six seasons as a professional. He’s been a Philadelphia 76er since 2010.

5. Ty Lawson: After three seasons and one national title at North Carolina, Lawson was drafted 18th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft (drafted by Minnesota, which traded his rights to Denver). While he spent his first two seasons in Denver as a reserve, the last two have seen him emerge at the point guard position (16.7 ppg, 6.9 apg in 2012-13).

6. Thaddeus Young: Young played one season at Georgia Tech, averaging 14.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest. Drafted 12th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft (Philadelphia), Young has played all six of his seasons with the 76ers (career averages: 13.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

7. Chase Budinger: Budinger spent three seasons at Arizona, a program that at the time was going through a tumultuous period due to instability at the top. After averaging 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a Wildcat, Budinger was drafted by the Pistons (then traded to Houston) in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft. Budinger played his first three seasons in Houston before being traded to Minnesota during the 2012 NBA Draft, and he has since received a three-year, $16 million deal from the Timberwolves.

8. Wayne Ellington: Ellington spent three seasons at North Carolina, where he teamed up with Lawson, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough to help lead the Tar Heels to a national title in 2009. Drafted 28th overall by Minnesota in the 2009 NBA Draft, Ellington played 78 games last season in Memphis (40) and Cleveland (38). Career averages: 6.9 points, 2.0 rebounds per game.

9. Brook Lopez: He and twin brother Robin landed at Stanford, with Brook averaging 16.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in his two seasons on The Farm. Drafted 10th overall by the Nets in the 2008 NBA Draft, Lopez has averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a pro with one All-Star Game appearance (2013).

10. Gerald Henderson: In three seasons at Duke Henderson averaged 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. From there it was off to the NBA, as he was selected 12th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by Charlotte. In four seasons as a pro Henderson is averaging 11.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

11. Darrell Arthur: Arthur averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest during his two-year run at Kansas, where he helped lead the Jayhawks to a national title in 2008. Drafted 27th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by Portland, which then traded his rights to Memphis, Arthur has averaged 6.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest as a pro.

12. Javaris Crittenton: Crittenton averaged 14.4 points and 5.8 assists per game in his one season at Georgia Tech, and he would move on to be selected 19th overall by the Lakers in the 2007 NBA Draft. Crittenton played for three different NBA teams before making the move overseas, and he hasn’t played professionally since 2011 (Dakota Wizards of the D-League). In April Crittenton was indicted on charges of attempted murder and illegal gang activity in connection with a 2011 drive-by shooting.

13. Daequan Cook: Despite averaging 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in his lone season at Ohio State, Cook was drafted 21st overall by the 76ers in the 2007 NBA Draft. Cook’s rights were traded to Miami, and since then he’s played for four different franchises in his six years as a professional (6.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg).

14. Sherron Collins: The Chicago native would spend four seasons at Kansas, playing on a team that won a national title (2008) and then taking over to lead the Jayhawks to Big 12 titles in 2009 and 2010. Collins wasn’t selected in the 2010 NBA Draft, but he did play 20 games with the Bobcats during the 2010-11 season before being waived in February 2011. Collins last played for Hacettepe University in Turkey (2011-12), and he’s been working to get in better shape this summer.

15. Damion James: The powerful forward averaged 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in four seasons at Texas, playing well enough to be picked in the first round or the 2010 NBA Draft by the Hawks. After spending two seasons with the Nets, James has spent most of his time with the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League (he received a 10-day contract from the Nets in January).

16. Vernon Macklin: Macklin is the highest rated player on this list to have played at two schools, as he transferred from Georgetown to Florida after his sophomore season. In four collegiate seasons Macklin averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, and he was selected by Detroit in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Macklin most recently played in the Philippines for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

17. Derrick Caracter: Caracter’s college career was an uneven one, as the talented big man struggled with maturity issues for much of his first two seasons as a Louisville Cardinal. After averaging 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a junior Caracter was selected in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft by the Lakers. He’s since played in both the NBA and the D-League, with his most recent action coming in Israel with Bnei Hasharon.

18. Stanley Robinson: A prolific leaper from Birmingham, Robinson signed on to attend UConn out of high school. Off-court issues would ultimately result in his having to spend a semester working at Prime Materials Inc. in Windham, Conn. before returning to the program in time to help the Huskies reach the 2009 Final Four. After averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a Husky, Robinson was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft by the Magic, going on to play three seasons in the D-League.

19. Robin Lopez: Lopez spent two years at Stanford, where he averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Drafted 15th overall by Phoenix in the 2008 NBA Draft, Lopez has averaged 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in five seasons as a pro (playing last season in New Orleans).

20. Lance Thomas: Thomas played four seasons at Duke, where he would average 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest and play on the 2009-10 team that won the national title. Undrafted out of college Thomas’ pro career began with the Austin Toros of the D-League but he would eventually work his way into the NBA, where he’s played with New Orleans since the 2011-12 season.

OTHER NOTABLE NAMES

  • 21. Mike Conley Jr.
  • 24. Earl Clark
  • 25. Brian Zoubek
  • 27. Quincy Pondexter
  • 29. D.J. Augustin
  • 37. Scottie Reynolds
  • 46. Taj Gibson
  • 57. Jodie Meeks
  • 64. Hasheem Thabeet
  • 69. Tweety Carter
  • 82. Dexter Pittman
  • 83. Luke Harangody
  • 93. Greivis Vasquez
  • 99. Da’Sean Butler
  • UR: Lazar Hayward
  • UR: Jordan Hill
  • UR: Jerome Randle
  • UR: Epke Udoh
  • UR: Russell Westbrook

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

College Hoops Contender Series: Does Kansas have the talent to overcome awkward roster construction?

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Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.

Last week, we gave you our Final Four sleepers and talked about six different Final Four contenders – Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova, Wichita State, USC and Miami – that are just flawed enough that we can’t call them contenders.

There is a pretty clear-cut delineation between the four or five best teams, the clear national title challengers, and the rest of the country this season.

This week, we will be taking a deeper dive into five of those teams.

What makes them good enough to win a national title?

But why won’t they win a national title?

We took a look at Kentucky yesterday. Now let’s break down Kansas and what makes them a title contender.

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Devonte’ Graham (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WHY THEY WILL WIN

They’re Kansas, and Kansas does not lose Big 12 races.

I don’t expect that that will change this year, and there are four reasons why:

  1. Phog Allen Fieldhouse: Kansas does not lose there. It just doesn’t happen, which means that you can pencil in nine Big 12 wins for them off the bat. Then, consider that …
  2. … the rest of the Big 12 is down: Outside of West Virginia, is there anyone in the league that should scare Kansas? Baylor could be a top 25 team, but losing Jonathan Motley will keep them out of the Big 12 title discussion. Texas should be relevant again, but even with the addition of Mo Bamba and the return of Andrew Jones, I think they’re more ‘top 25 good’ than ‘challenge Kansas’ good. Oklahoma is still rebuilding. Texas Tech and TCU look like they could be NCAA tournament teams, but not much more. Iowa State lost what feels like everyone. Oklahoma State and Kansas State are … whatever.
  3. And Bill Self is still Bill Self: There’s a reason that he is already a Hall of Famer despite being just 54 years old. He’s one of the best in this business, and if the 13 straight regular season titles didn’t convince you yet, I’m not sure that anything will. At this point there is no reason to assume anything other than Self trotting out a team that is going to be in and around the top ten, in the mix for a No. 1 seed and, as such, a Final Four and title contender. It’s just what Kansas does.
  4. Most importantly, Kansas is still super-talented: It starts with Devonte’ Graham, who I think has a real shot at being an all-american this season. He’ll be playing his more natural point guard position, and he may actually be a better pure point guard than National Player of the Year Frank Mason was last season. Malik Newman, a former top ten recruit that redshirted last season, will be joining Graham in the back court. Svi Mykhailiuk is back, as is LaGerald Vick, while another transfer — Sam Cunliffe — will be eligible come December. Throw in Udoka Azubuike and Billy Preston up front, and the Jayhawks have a nice blend of talent, youth and experience.

All that said, I don’t think this will be the best Kansas team we’ve seen in recent years.

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Lagerald Vick (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

WHY THEY WON’T WIN

Everything about this Kansas team just feels kind of … weird.

Let’s start with the transfers. They have five of them on the roster this year. Three will be redshirting this season. One, Sam Cunliffe, won’t be eligible until December after transferring out of Arizona State just one semester into his Sun Devil career. Another, Malik Newman, will be eligible to play this season after redshirting last year, teaming up in the back court with Devonte’ Graham, who is in a weird position in his own right.

Graham was a point guard in high school. He was a point guard when he signed with Appalachian State and he was a point guard when he was forced to go to prep school for a year because the Mountaineers wouldn’t let him out of his Letter Of Intent. He was also a point guard when he arrived at Kansas, and he proceeded to spend the next three years playing off the ball as point guard Frank Mason went from being the other guy in a recruiting class that included Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid to the National Player of the Year as a senior.

For the first time in his college career, Graham will be taking over the primary point guard duties in a back court that includes a player in Newman that wants the ball in his hands and likes to shoot as much as anyone in college hoops.

How that back court pairing gels will likely end up being the most influential part of the Jayhawk season.

But there’s more.

Let’s talk small-ball for a second.

Bill Self, for years, was a coach that wanted to do nothing more than he wanted to play two bigs. Sometimes, those bigs were the Perry Ellis-type, face-up fours whose ability to score in the mid-range was elite. Sometimes, like when he made it to the national title game in 2012, he had Thomas Robinson lining up next to Jeff Withey.

However it played out, the constant was two big men … until last season, when Josh Jackson showed up and suddenly Self had the ideal small-ball lineup: Two point guards, two tough and athletic wings that could make threes and a big body in the post that can block shots and get rebounds. With Jackson now gone, Kansas and Self now have something of a problem on their hands. As it stands, there are just nine eligible scholarship players on the Jayhawks roster. Only three of them can be considered big men — Udoka Azubuike, Billy Preston and Mitch Lightfoot.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Udoka Azubuike (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

In an ideal world, one where Self has a back court that includes a pair of ball-handlers that will be in his starting lineup and a shortage of big bodies, the Jayhawks would once again play small-ball.

The problem?

Jackson was the glue that held that lineup together. He was the prototype college four. He was tough as nails defensively, he could rebound like a power forward and he defended the rim when needed. He was also a matchup nightmare on the offensive end, a natural wing and skilled playmaker with three-point range and the ability to grab a rebound and immediately spark transition.

Kansas does not have that guy anymore. LaGerald Vick is an excellent spot-up three-point shooter and the kind of athlete that will be a plus-wing defender, but he’s all of 6-foot-4 and he’s nowhere near the playmaker that Jackson was. Cunliffe, when he finally gets eligible, is a little bit bigger than Vick but not all that different of a player. Svi Mykhailiuk is a skilled player on the offensive end of the floor that has, shall we say, question marks defensively.

In theory, the answer to this problem would be for the Jayhawks to play Azubuike, a former five-star recruit, and Preston, a five-star prospect in the Class of 2017, together. Frankly, they actually fit fairly well together. The problem is that this would mean that the only front court depth that Self would have is Lightfoot, who looked out of his element in the 102 minutes he played as a freshman.

There isn’t an easy answer to this issue.

It’s one of the pitfalls of taking three sit-out transfers the same year.

Which is why this Kansas team has such a weird feel to it.


Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

PREDICTION

Overall, Kansas is going to be fine.

Outside of West Virginia, the rest of the Big 12 is not all that intimidating. The Jayhawks should win their 14th straight Big 12 title.

But there is valid reason to be concerned about what this team is going to be able to accomplish against the best teams in the country. Last year, they were the team that created the mismatches, that forced teams to play their way or take the loss.

I just don’t see how that happens this season. I’m not sure Kansas going small would force the best teams to match them because I don’t think it’s all that worrisome having a college four guard the likes of Vick, Cunliffe or Svi. I also don’t think their two-big lineup will be all that effective unless Preston has a bigger impact — i.e. all-Big 12ish — than I expect and Lightfoot proves to be a better bench presence than I realized.

The combination of Bill Self, the amount of talent on the roster and Phog Allen Fieldhouse will keep the Jayhawks in and around the top five throughout the year.

But I think they will be more matchup-dependent in the NCAA tournament than you would think a potential No. 1 seed would be.

Iowa’s McCaffery: ‘I’ve turned programs in’ for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”