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2014 NBA Draft: What early entry decisions are we still waiting for?

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source: AP
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Today is the day after the NCAA’s April 15th deadline for players to enter the NBA Draft.

It’s also the day after the most irrelevant deadline in American sporting culture.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Tuesday as two of his players, Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, declared for the NBA Draft. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matter.”

What that means is that while the NCAA’s official early entry deadline has passed, college coaches — including the self-serving ACC coaches that moved the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline up two months — still have to wait 11 days to hear about the potential pros on their roster.

Here are the 14 guys we’re still waiting to hear from:

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, Duke: Most expect both Dukies to be headed to the NBA, but, ironically enough, it seems more likely that Parker, a top three pick, would return that Hood, a mid-first rounder. Duke is already looking like they will be one of the top three teams in the country heading into next season without either of these two. That’s what happens when Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen join the likes of Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson. The one thing that team would be missing, however, is a big wing that can score. If either player returns, Duke could end up being scary-good next year.

Kentucky’s guys: Julius Randle and James Young are both expected to leave. Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress are both expected to return. The two that are major question marks are Andrew and Aaron Harrison, neither of whom are projected as guaranteed first round picks. Kentucky is going to once again have an overwhelming front line next season, but where they are going to struggle is in their back court. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are both excellent recruits, but they’re not the kind of instant impact players that you typically find with Kentucky freshmen. They’re four-year guys. And they’re also the entirety of the Kentucky perimeter attack next season. If the Harrisons return, it would give those two a chance to develop while spending more time playing a role. Either way, Kentucky is going to be a top five team entering next season.

Mitch McGary, Michigan: The Wolverines are losing Jordan Morgan (graduation), Jon Horford (transfer), Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III (NBA). They will bring back Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, a trio that will give them one of the best perimeters in the country, McGary would be the rock in the paint. With him back, Michigan is a top 15 team. Without him, they’re borderline top 25. He’s currently projected as the No. 31 pick, according to Draft Express.

DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright, UConn: With both Daniels and Boatright back for their senior years, UConn would likely enter the season as the favorite to win the American. But coming off of a national title and with their stock as high as it is going to be, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both leave.

Jordan Adams, UCLA: The Bruins had a promising recruiting class this season, but with Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine both going pro, losing Adams, who is projected as a late-first round pick this season, would leave them without a veteran scoring presence.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons has the talent to be a lottery pick and the attitude to spend his career in the NBDL. He’s projected as a second rounder, according to Draft Express. Purdue will be in major rebuilding mode without him.

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson: McDaniels turned out to be one of the ACC’s best athletes and most versatile defenders. I’m not sure the Tigers are a tournament team next year with him, but they certainly aren’t without him. He’s projected as the No. 20 pick in this year’s draft, according to Draft Express.

Six more names to keep an eye on:

  • Khem Birch, UNLV
  • Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Jordan Mickey and Jarrell Martin, LSU
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Southern Conference to keep championships in North Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The Southern Conference will keep four league championships in North Carolina despite the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference withdrawing championships because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people.

The league said it will honor commitments for these tournaments: men’s soccer in Greensboro, men’s and women’s basketball in Asheville and men’s golf in Pinehurst.

“We don’t want to punish the local host communities by pulling the championships out of the state this year,” Commissioner John Iamarino said Friday. “That point did resonate with presidents and chancellors.”

The league said in a statement its presidents and chancellors “reaffirmed their resolute opposition to legislation that discriminates against any individual.”

Iamarino said his conference was prepared for criticism in light of the NCAA and ACC decisions over the North Carolina’s law, which excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections. It also requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

HB2 was signed into law this year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who has defended it as a commonsense safety and security measure.

The Southern Conference is headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Its 10 schools – Citadel, Chattanooga, East Tennessee, Furman, Mercer, UNC Greensboro, Samford, VMI, Western Carolina and Wofford – are in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The decision on the championships came after two conference calls among league leaders.

“While not unanimous, we found enough common ground to get to this point,” Iamarino said.

He said the league was influenced by the North Carolina host communities, all urging the conference to hold its events as planned. In Asheville, Iamarino said he met with about 30 people, including some from the LGBT community, who promised to fight the HB2 law but wanted the basketball tournaments to remain.

Iamarino said the venues involved are privately controlled and the league is confident of there will be an inclusive atmosphere at the events. The men’s golf event will be held at Pinehurst Country Club and the basketball at a neutral site in Asheville.

The soccer will be played on the Greensboro campus.

Earlier this month, the NCAA removed seven championships from North Carolina, including first- and second-round games of the men’s basketball tournament scheduled for Greensboro. The ACC soon followed suit, pulling 10 of its championships from the state, including the football title game that was scheduled for Charlotte.

The ACC on Thursday relocated the football game to Orlando, Florida.

Iamarino said Southern Conference presidents and chancellors will meet in May to see if more action is necessary. He said there’s concern similar laws could extend beyond North Carolina.

“This could be a long-term issue,” he said.

Iamarino said he’s also concerned the schools against keeping the championships in North Carolina might take their own actions, perhaps boycotting the league events played there.

“It’s a real concern,” he said. “We’ll continue to communicate and prepare for everything.”

Report: Virginia Tech forward Blackshear still recovering from offseason foot surgery

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Kerry Blackshear Jr. #24 of the Virginia Tech Hokies and Kamari Murphy #21 of the Miami Hurricanes go for a rebound in the second half during the quarterfinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament Verizon Center on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Virginia Tech sophomore forward Kerry Blackshear will miss the start of training camp as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery, according to a report from Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The 6-foot-10 Blackshear played in all 35 games for the Hokies last season as he battled through the foot injury to average 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. According to Barber’s report, Blackshear had surgery on his right foot five days after the 2015-16 season ended, but he’s still wearing a walking boot to help recover. There has been no timetable given for Blackshear’s return.

Blackshear will be a key piece for a Virginia Tech team that is a bit thin up front this season. Freshman Khadim Sy can provide some minutes up front, but he’s inexperienced and center Nick Fullard has to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Getting a healthy Blackshear will be a key storyline for a Virginia Tech team that many will have in the preseason top 25.

Indiana roster dealing with handful of injuries as practice begins

BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 20:  A general view of  the SMU Mustangs game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on November 20, 2014 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Indiana has been hit with the injury buy a bit during the start of practice and it doesn’t only involved the recent announcement of knee surgery for senior Collin Hartman.

According to a report from the Indiana Daily Student the Hoosiers are also dealing with a knee injury for junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore Juwan Morgan hasn’t been cleared for practice yet after offseason shoulder surgery.

The 6-foot-6 McSwain had a knee injury flare up when he came to Indiana and had surgery to clean it up. Crean told the Indiana Daily Student that McSwain was still a few weeks from returning.

That means Indiana has to find early practice minutes to replace Hartman, Morgan and McSwain up front which gives more reps to players like O.G. Anunoby and freshman big man De’Ron Davis.

Since Anunoby and Davis both dealt with some offseason injuries and guard Robert Johnson was recently cleared to return, Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean is remaining cautious during the early part of practice this season. Crean also has to monitor the return of starting guard James Blackmon Jr. after he missed most of last season with a torn ACL.

“We would have already practiced this morning and they would be ready to go tonight, if this were a year ago,” Crean said in the report. “We have to tailor make this thing. We can’t be in too much of a rush with these guys.”

Obviously, the frontcourt injuries are something to keep an eye on for Indiana during the early part of the season. None of the three injuries seem severe, but Hartman’s timetable to return hasn’t been listed and McSwain and Morgan are missing valuable early time in practice.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps younger players like Anunoby and Davis get more acquainted with the first team early on since both could have an impact this season.

Texas lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Jase Febres

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Texas and head coach Shaka Smart continue to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of Texas, as the Longhorns landed a commitment from Class of 2017 four-star guard Jase Febres on Friday night.

The 6-foot-5 Febres is considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings as he burst on the national radar this summer with some strong shooting performances. Febres shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the month of July after battling through injury during the spring. Besides owning good size for a wing shooter, Febres also takes pride in defending and he can rebound a bit from the wing as well.

Febres is going to have to improve his overall offensive package if a defense plays him off the three-point line, but he has upside as a three-and-D guy with the Longhorns.

The Class of 2017 is starting to round into shape for Texas as Febres joins four-star power forward Jericho Sims and four-star forward Royce Hamm. Since taking over the Texas job, Smart has done a great job of keeping local talent home as he now has five four- and five-star prospects from the state in the last two classes.

 

VIDEO: Kentucky fans get married in the ticket line for Big Blue Madness

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Kentucky fans have unique ways of making their annual Big Blue Madness event the most chaotic tip-off event of the season. While Big Blue Nation is waiting in line for tickets to this year’s festivities in Tent City, one couple decided to go the extra mile.

After securing the first spot in line for tickets, Ray Branham and Vicki Harvey opted to get married. According to a post from Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio, the couple had already been talking about tying the knot, but decided to make the move once they had the top spot in line. As you can see by the wedding video, it was a very Kentucky-themed ceremony as the duo got married in front of friends and other Kentucky fans.

I can’t say I’m surprised two Kentucky fans decided to get married in line for something like Big Blue Madness and this (unplanned) wedding gives this year’s event something unique that we will always remember.