Jahlil Okafor

Who are the players to watch for in the 2015 NBA Draft?


Much of the coverage of the 2013 NBA Draft at the time was centered around the fact that it didn’t stand up to the 2014 NBA Draft. That’s what happens when Anthony Bennett goes No. 1 while Andrew Wiggins getting ready for a season at Kansas.

That won’t be the case for the 2015 NBA Draft, as it doesn’t have the same kind of hype as this year’s draft crop. That said, here are 16 names you NBA fans want to keep an eye on:

Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor right now is my pick to go No. 1 in the 2015 draft. Between his size (6-foot-11, at least 250 lbs), his footwork and his soft touch, he’s got all kinds of potential as a low-post scorer.

Cliff Alexander, Kansas: You’ll see a lot of people comparing Alexander to Montrezl Harrell over the course of the offseason, and that’s actually not that bad of a comparison, only … Alexander dunks angrier. Way angrier. He’s as powerful of a front court player as you’ll find next season.

Kelly Oubre, Kansas: Oubre might end up being the best wing in the country next season. His game is fairly reminiscent of James Young, an athletic, 6-foot-7 lefty shooter. For my money, however, Oubre will actually be a better player — shooter, specifically — as a freshman that Young was.

Chris Walker, Florida: Walker is a freak athlete at 6-foot-10, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2013 that couldn’t enroll at Florida until the second semester and then had to deal with an NCAA-mandated suspension. He’s got world’s of potential, but his development this summer is going to be a key. He was uninspiring down the stretch last year.

Emmanuel Mudiay, SMU: Mudiay will play his freshman season at SMU, as he chose him hometown school over Kentucky. He’s a big, strong, athletic lead guard and he will be leading a Mustang team that has the pieces to push for a top ten ranking in the preseason.

Stanley Johnson, Arizona: If Oubre isn’t the best wing in college basketball next season, there’s a good chance that is because Johnson earned the title. He’s a 6-foot-7 bulldog, a wing that I’ve seen run the point for his team while defending an opponent’s center. He’s cut from the same cloth as guys like Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. One assistant at a top 25 program told me Johnson’s elite because he’s one of the few players whose position can simply be labeled “junkyard dog”.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: RHJ is a terrific athlete blessed with good size and a great wingspan. He can pass, he can make plays defensively and he’s great around the rim. But will he learn how to shoot the ball?

Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Jackson is going to be the best offensive threat for North Carolina next season. He’s a 6-foot-8 sharpshooter with one of the best mid-range games — his floater is lethal — you’ll see.

Karl Towns, Kentucky: I think Towns is probably Kentucky’s best NBA prospect heading into the 2014-2015 season. He’s a seven-foot center with three-point range.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert had a terrific year playing in the shadow of Nik Stauskas as a sophomore and should thrive for the Wolverines in his absence this season. The lanky, 6-foot-6 wing is a streaky-but-dangerous three-point shooter that has proven he can take games over.

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Kaminsky exploded on the scene as a junior with a 43-point outburst early on in the year and carried his play over into the NCAA tournament, where he was one of the break out stars. He could have been a first round pick this season. He’s a seven-footer with three-point range, post moves and the handle and mobility to put the ball no the floor. He’s limited, however, as he isn’t all that quick or athletic.

And five more:

  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
  • Justise Winslow, Duke
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas
  • Delon Wright, Utah
  • Dakari Johnson, Kentucky

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?