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.

Final Four Preview: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 7 South Carolina

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The first game of this weekend’s Final Four will feature the two outsiders that have crashed the final weekend of the college basketball season: No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 7 seed South Carolina. 

This is the first Final Four for both Frank Martin and Mark Few, meaning one of the two will be playing for a national title on Monday night.

Here is everything you need to know about the Final Four opener:

WHEN: Saturday April 1st, 6:09 p.m.

BETTING LINE: Gonzaga (-6.5)

THREE KEY MATCHUPS

1. Who checks Sindarius Thornwell?: Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, and it’s really not all that close. He’s not only the leading scorer in the NCAA tournament to date at 25.7 points, but he’s also been a lockdown defender for the Gamecocks.

But the reason Thornwell is going to be such a problem for Gonzaga is ability on the offensive end of the floor. At 6-foot-5 with long arms and the physicality of a nose tackle, Thornwell can bully guards in the paint. But you can’t guard him with a bigger defender because he is, after all, a guard. He’ll blow by them or shoot a three over them when given space.

Gonzaga doesn’t really have an answer for a guy like that. None of their guards are taller than 6-foot-4. Few put Johnathan Williams III on Trevon Bluiett in the Elite 8 and he slowed down the Xavier star, but Xavier trots out a small-ball line with Bluiett at the four. Thornwell will, at times, play the four for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks start two bigs. The easy answer is to double Thornwell on the catch, as South Carolina’s bigs, Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar, are non-shooters, which is why I expect South Carolina will eventually be forced to play small.

2. Can Gonzaga’s guards do anything against that South Carolina defense?: South Carolina and West Virginia play different defenses — WVU presses 94 feet while South Carolina plays half-court man-to-man or a 2-3 zone — but the point or their defenses are essentially the same: They want to force you out of the sets you want to run and make your playmakers try to beat their defenders one-on-one.

And the Mountaineers were totally successful. Nigel Williams-Goss was awful — 2-for-10 shooting five turnovers — and Josh Perkins was invisible, and the game became a rugby match, which is exactly how WVU and SC want to play. Offensively, Gonzaga is a similar team to Baylor in the sense that their guards aren’t great at creating off the dribble against players that are more physical and more athletic than them and they are at their best when they run offense through the post.

Baylor’s guards couldn’t do anything against South Carolina, and they lost by 20. Gonzaga’s guards are significantly better — Williams-Goss is an All-American — but if they struggle the way they did against West Virginia, Gonzaga might be in trouble.

3. Who wins the battle of the front courts?: Like I said earlier, Gonzaga’s offense is at its best when they are getting the rock to Przemek Karnowski and Johnathan Williams III in the post. As tough as South Carolina’s front court is, they are going to be at a serious size disadvantage against Mount Poland and JW3, and that’s to say nothing of Zach Collins, a McDonald’s All-American and a potential one-and-done prospect. If Gonzaga can force South Carolina to play big — with Thornwell at the three instead of at the four — they’ll have a much better shot at winning this game.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

THE BEST STORY LINE: Both of these teams are programs that probably shouldn’t be in the Final Four.

And I don’t mean that as an insult.

Gonzaga, 25 years ago, was one of the worst programs in the WCC, but they’ve managed to hold on to a potential Hall of Famer in Mark Few for 18 years, and it’s paid off. They’re now a top 15 college basketball program in the Final Four. And South Carolina is a place with almost no basketball history to speak of. This is their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance since 1974. Prior to their upset of Duke in the second round of the tournament, South Carolina had never won back-to-back NCAA tournament games.

It doesn’t matter who wins.

It’s incredible that one of these two teams will be playing for a national title on Monday night.

CBT PREDICTION: I like South Carolina (+6.5). I don’t know if the Gamecocks can win this game, but I do think that they will be able to keep it close in a low-scoring game as Sindarius Thornwell as another big game and their defense keeps them in the mix.

Report: Referee that worked Kentucky’s Elite 8 loss receives death threats

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Yesterday, we told you about the Kentucky fans that were flooding the FaceBook page of a referee with negative — and obviously fake — reviews and comments, torpedoing his company’s star rating on the site.

As our Travis Hines wrote, “What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.”

This story took a darker turn on Wednesday morning, as ESPN reporting that the referee has received harassing phone calls at both his home and his business while also receiving death threats.

From ESPN:

Sources said the phones at Higgins’ home and business, also known as Rooferees, have been “ringing off the hook” since the game, with angry Kentucky fans calling to complain and some even going so far as to make death threats.

Come on, people.

All this because you didn’t like the calls a ref made in a game where the 18-year olds who play basketball in your favorite school’s jersey lost?

The overwhelming majority of Big Blue Nation are good folks that love their ‘Cats and own too many articles of clothing that are Kentucky blue. But as with every fan base, the vocal minority of idiots ruins the fun for everyone.

The Seven Biggest Final Four Storylines

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1. Gonzaga’s chance to win a national title: To me, this is the most fascinating part of the Final Four, and it’s not because Gonzaga needs to win to make the statement that they are an elite college basketball program. I don’t believe that to be true or a fair assessment of what they are right now. The Zags are a perennial top 15 team, they’ve reached 19 straight NCAA tournaments and won in 16 in those 19 dances, they recruit McDonald’s All-Americans that are talented enough to go one-and-done and they currently start an All-American point guard that began his career playing for arch-rival Washington.

They’re doing just fine.

What would make this story so incredible is the rags-to-riches ride that Gonzaga is on. 25 years ago, Gonzaga was thought of as the worst job in the WCC. They don’t have a natural recruiting base — Spokane is basically in Idaho, it ain’t Seattle — and there weren’t facilities in place to set that program apart from any other in the league. They didn’t reach an NCAA tournament until 1995, but by 1999 they were in the Elite 8, they reached the Sweet 16 in back-to-back years after that, and the rest is history. They went from a high school gym to an arena that holds 6,000 people and is a bucket-list destination for all college hoops fans. They went from not having a weight room to chartering flights for recruiting trips.

They went from the bottom of Division I to the pinnacle of the sport. Completing that journey with a national title would only be fitting.

2. North Carolina’s redemption run, Roy Williams one of the greatest ever?: One year ago, North Carolina was on the receiving end of one of the most soul-crushing title game defeats ever. In any sport. To erase a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes against Villanova, hitting a miracle three with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game, only to have it disappear with one Kris Jenkins jumper is brutal.

But the Tar Heels, despite losing Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, are right back in the Final Four as the favorite to win the title. And if they do win, it may be time to start calling Roy Williams one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all-time. As in top five. Think about it like this: If Roy cuts down the nets again, he’ll have won three national titles in a 12-year span and become one of just six men — John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp, Jim Calhoun, Bob Knight — to win that many rings and one of just three to do so in the modern era of college basketball, since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

He’s won eight ACC titles in the last 14 years compared to Coach K’s three. He’s been to five Final Fours in the last 14 years and nine total, the fourth-most of all-time. Most think of Williams as a coach that just rolls the ball out there, but maybe it’s time we starting giving him credit for being one of the greatest to ever do it.

3. Frank Martin has South Carolina in the Final Four: While Gonzaga is the mid-major program in this Final Four, the “outsider” so to speak, the program that doesn’t belong here is South Carolina. The Gamecocks have little to no basketball history to speak. This is just their fifth NCAA Tournament since 1974. Prior to this season, they had never won back-to-back games in the NCAA tournament. They lucked into Frank Martin because this was a comfortable landing spot when he wanted out of Kansas State because he didn’t get along with his boss.

And now Martin, who is an underdog in his own right, is just two games away from winning a national title. Who would’ve thought that any of that was possible?

4. West Coast is back!: For the first time since 2008, we have a team from went of the central time zone playing in the Final Four; two, actually. That also means that we may end up getting our first national champion that’s further west than Kansas since Arizona won the title in 1997. Mike Bibby was the point guard of that team. His son was a freshman at South Florida this year. It’s been a while.

5. Dana Altman’s handling of the Oregon rape case: Altman probably should have been fired three years ago. The basics: days before the start of the Pac-12 tournament, three Oregon players — Brandon Austin, Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis — were accused of sexual assault by a female student at the university. Two of those players played in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, although Altman claimed he did not know details of the investigation — the allegations, the accused, etc. — only that there was an investigation, so he did not suspended his players.

Two months later, the graphic details of the allegations were released in a police report, and the three players were dismissed from the program. It also should be noted here than Austin was brought into the program despite having a previous sexual assault allegation hanging over his head, a fact that Altman also claimed ignorance of.

Altman will be asked about this.

(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

6. The one-and-done factories aren’t in the Final Four: Duke got bounced in the second round. UCLA and Arizona lost in the Sweet 16. Kentucky and Kansas went out in the Elite 8. Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr. and Jarrett Allen didn’t make the tournament. Miles Bridges and Jonathan Isaac lost in the first weekend and no one thought much of it. Given just how loaded this freshmen class was, i’s a pretty surprising result that there are no one-and-done stars in the Final Four.

There are a couple of freshmen that may have the opportunity to turn pro this spring — Gonzaga’s Zach Collins and North Carolina’s Tony Bradley — but those two played their way into being potential first round picks coming off the bench. They weren’t recruited as one-and-dones.

What does this say about the one-and-done culture?

Probably nothing beyond the fact that Kentucky lost on a buzzer-beater and Kansas played like Kansas State against Oregon. But it is worth noting.

7. Can North Carolina win a title while waiting for the NCAA to rule on them?: This is probably going to end up being the elephant in the room every time that Roy Williams steps up to the podium to speak this week. As you are probably well aware, the UNC athletic department has been mired in a scandal involving fake classes that helped keep athletes eligible for what feels like a decade. Due to legal battles regarding the Notice of Allegations, the case has been pushed back and pushed back and pushed back again. At this point, I think that the sun will burn out and Jim Boeheim will retire before we actually get an answer here.

Here’s the better question: If Williams wins a title this season, will this be his curtain call?

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.