Tyler Ennis downplays Jim Boeheim’s critical remarks on NBA Draft decision

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CHICAGO — Much has been made of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim being critical of his own players after they make a decision to enter the NBA Draft early.

After a tremendous freshman season as the Orange’s starting point guard, Tyler Ennis became the latest former Syracuse player to leave for the NBA Draft after appearing in the lottery of multiple mock drafts.

Despite those promising projections for Ennis, Boeheim went on SportsCenter in April and made some critical remarks about his starting point guard and how he wasn’t fully prepared to join the professional ranks.

“I think he is a great college player, but I think physically he could have used another year,” Boeheim said on SportsCenter. “I think when you get to the NBA, you need to be as physically ready as you can be, so I think Tyler could have benefited from another year, but certainly he is a tremendous player and a very smart point guard.

“I think point guard is probably the hardest position to break into in the NBA … but he has the skill set to be able to do that … it’s just a question of landing in the right place.”

But during last week’s NBA Draft Combine at Quest Multisports in Chicago, Ennis downplayed his former head coach’s remarks and he told NBCSports.com that he viewed Boeheim’s take in a different way.

“That situation, I think the media and the outside people that really don’t know the situation kind of got a different angle than (the players) did,” Ennis told NBCSports.com. “Even through my decision to enter the draft, I sat down with coach a few times and talked to him. And even to this day we’re able to speak and be on the same page. We’re both loyal people, we have a good relationship and he just wants what is best for me.”

It’s not surprising to see Ennis downplay Boeheim’s remarks because he’s probably used to his former coach bringing a certain dose of truth into the equation. Ennis has probably heard plenty of critical remarks from Boeheim in practice, during games and in film sessions so this is likely nothing new for him.

Those kinds of remarks from Boeheim rub certain people the wrong way because it looks like he’s putting the Syracuse program’s interests above the interests of his individual players, but I’m sure his players don’t think much of it after playing for him and hearing it straight from him all season.

As for the NBA Draft process, Ennis is viewing the proceedings much like he did when he entered Syracuse last fall — as an underdog.

“It’s been great and it’s been a journey but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. As an underdog, I had a lot to work for and I had to impress a lot of people and that’s what I’ve had to do my whole career,” Ennis said. “That’s what kept me motivated (entering college) and going through this (NBA Draft) process, I’m going through the same thing. I’m just finding ways to keep myself motivated and I know going to the next level won’t be easy. So even after this process of being drafted, I have a lot of work ahead of me.”

Much has been made about Ennis playing in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone throughout the season, as many basketball analysts question the point guard’s ability to defend in the more man-to-man focused NBA. Ennis believes he’ll be fine on the defensive end at the next level.

“I think my defense is going to surprise a lot of people,” Ennis said. “At Syracuse people question the defensive end (because of the 2-3 zone). I think through workouts and when teams watch me defend I think I’ll surprise a lot of people on the defensive end.”

Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game during his freshman season at Syracuse.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.

A record $439 million was bet on basketball in March in Las Vegas

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The month of March was quite friendly to Las Vegas.

According to ESPN, more money was bet on basketball during the month of March than in any month in the state’s regulated sports betting history.

And while the numbers produced by Las Vegas books don’t separate college and professional basketball betting, the money coming in on college hoops is pretty clear: $439 million was bet on basketball in March, more than double the $213 million bet on the sport in February.

It was profitable, too.

Those Vegas books kept more than $40 million dollars of the money that was gambled on basketball, which shattered the previous record of roughly $28 million in winnings.