It’s July. We still have more than 11 months until next year’s draft. NBA front office types are more concerned with their summer league rosters, who they’re inviting to training camp and whether or not they need to drop A-Rod off of their fantasy baseball team than worrying about who will and who won’t be in the 2014 NBA Draft.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Smart will be off to the NBA.
“It’s safe to say that if, by the grace of God I’m healthy and everything, this will be my last year at Oklahoma State,” Smart told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports after Team USA’s minicamp in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Smart is one of two collegians partaking in the event, along with Creighton’s Doug McDermott. “Nothing will change my mind on that. [Oklahoma State] understands. They didn’t figure I was coming back this year. They were just as surprised as everyone else.”
Smart is right; is was a massive surprise when he made the decision to return to school. But it was a refreshing decision, one that wasn’t rooted simply in chasing the money and had more to do with the fact that Smart simply wasn’t ready to deal with the rigors of being a professional. He wanted another year of being a college kid before after to deal with the real world.
Remember, a 15 year career will be much more lucrative than earning a couple of million bucks extra on your first contract but flaming out of the league in three years.
“You can only go to college and be a college athlete once,” he told Spears. “College is a great experience. This is where you have fun. This is where you find yourself as a young man and grow up into an adult before you enter the real world.
“The NBA is the real world. Everyone just sees the entertainment part, but there is a business part to it also.”
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.