Diamond Stone discusses his package deal, recent weight loss


PHILADELPHIA — For the second time in two days, the most anticipated matchup of the day at Reebok’s Breakout Classic turned into a bust.

Diamond Stone, the No. 6 ranked recruit in Rivals’ top 150, squared off with Elijah Thomas, who checks in at No. 11, and the two combined to finish without a single field goal and a total of just three points as Thomas’ team put a whooping on Stone’s team. On Wednesday during the opening game of the camp, Stone dominated Skal Labissiere for about five minutes until that second plate of pregame macaroni got the best of him.

Stone struggled with the physicality of Thomas, as he was unable to establish good position on the low block and he couldn’t find a way to bully his way to the rim from 15 feet out.

“There’s a lot of competition, big time guys and guys I know,” Stone told “This was a real physical game between me and Elijah. We’re both physical players. The refs weren’t giving a lot of calls, but that’s the way it should be between the two most physical players in the Class of 2015.”

In short, Thursday provided Stone with a template for what he needs to do to take the next step in his development: continue to develop his face-up game and add to his back-to-the-basket repertoire.

“I need to be able to make my moves faster,” he said.

Every prospect at this age is a work in progress, but it’s clear to see that Stone has already started that process of improving. He’s worked on his body, getting rid of some of his baby fat and toning up his physique. His father told that he’s down to 246 pounds from 263 earlier this year, something that Stone credits to long hours in the gym and the weight room this spring.

As far as Stone’s recruitment in concerned, the big story that all of the recruiting world is talking about is a package deal between him and the nation’s best guard, Malik Newman. Stone told that nothing is set in stone (pun intended) and that both he and Newman are open to any school that is looking recruit them, individually or together.

As Stone tells it, the two have been friends for years, and that the package deal is more about two buddies that want to go to school together than anythhing.

“We met in eighth grade at John Lucas Camp, and we just connected right there,” Stone said. “He’s one of my best friends. I talk to him every day.”

“Who wouldn’t want to go to college with their best friend?”

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.