Several members of Arizona had decisions to make regarding their future following a season that ended with an appearance in the Elite 8.
While Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley announced they would all return to school, giving the Wildcats another talented front court next season, starters Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson declared for the 2014 NBA Draft.
For the 6-foot-9 Gordon this had been an expected since he arrived on campus as one of the more talked about freshmen in the country. In his lone collegiate season, Gordon averaged 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per game. He is projected as the No. 8 overall pick according to DraftExpress.com.
Johnson will forgo his senior season after being named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and a second team All-American, leading Arizona in scoring at 16.3 points in addition to his 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Despite his success this season and improvement made in his career, Johnson is on the outside looking in as far as the first round is concerned. He’s currently projected as the No. 48 overall pick by Draft Express.
“He’s made a meteoric improvement across the board in his time at Arizona, and that stems from his unbelievable attitude. Nick, his family and our staff came together and we think it’s appropriate that he moves on to the next level,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Tuesday. “When you’re a first-team All-American, it speaks volumes to your talent. He leaves Arizona with my complete support and I have no doubt that he’s going to be successful at the next level.”
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.