Arizona-commit Justin Simon may not be a PG, but that may not matter

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PHILADELPHIA — For all intents and purposes, Justin Simon’s recruitment is done and overwith.

The 6-foot-5 guard from California committed to Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats in the spring, yet another in a long line of elite west coast recruits pledging to play in Tucson. It was a fairly early commitment for the five-star prospect, who ranks No. 23 in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals, as he made his decision prior to his final July live recruiting period.

What that means is that instead of heading out on the road over the course of the 15 evaluation days in July with a goal of proving himself to recruiters around the country, the most important month in an aspiring college player’s career has turned into, well, just another month for Simon.

“I’m glad my process is over,” Simon told NBCSports.com from the Reebok Breakout Classic this week.

A typical five-star recruit will spend his summer playing on courts that are lined with the kind of hall of fame-caliber head coaches and high major assistant coaches that would make an average college basketball fan blush, as the top programs in the country will make a point of tracking all the players they are targeting throughout the summer. Coaches that have already earned a commitment from a player will do the same, a recruiting technique known as babysitting.

As far as Simon is concerned, he’d be happiest if Arizona’s coaches were the only ones that didn’t show up to a game he played all summer long.

MORE: All our content from the 2014 July Live Recruiting Period

“I’d like to have some guys to play with,” Simon said with a laugh, driving home the point that he doesn’t need to be babysitted. He’d rather Miller and his staff worry about finding a scoring guard to replace Tyler Dorsey than be concerned with having to sit court side every time he takes the floor.

“Coach Miller’s doing a great job recruiting guys,” he said. “I chose Arizona because they have great locker room guys and great people already.”

At the high school and AAU level, Simon spends quite a bit of time playing on the ball. He’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he’s a very capable ball-handler and an excellent distributor. He has the vision and passing ability to make plays for his teammates when his penetration draws extra defenders, which is one of the reasons that he’s able to consistently rack up assists at this level.

The question is going to be whether or not Simon ends up as a full time point guard at the college level. As of now, Simon is at his best when he’s allowed to use his physical tools to make plays. He’s terrific in transition and athletic and rangy enough to make plays at the rim. He threw down a pair of windmill dunks during a game at the Elevate Hoops Showdown tournament. Simon is also a terrific defender, both on the ball and playing in the passing lanes, and when he has the ball in his hands in the open court, it’s a virtual certainty that someone on his team will be getting a high-percentage shot.

The problem?

That skill set will make a player look excellent in AAU and camp settings. What happens when Simon is forced to run an offense, or bring the ball up while playing Sean Miller’s more deliberate tempo? The other question mark is his ability to shoot the ball. It’s no where near consistent enough, meaning that it would be possible to play far enough off of Simon to take away his driving ability.

“My jump shot around the arc, I need to develop that better, and more consistency on my pull-up,” Simon said.

Put all of that together and we get to a point where the question has to be asked: can Simon be a point guard on a team that will be competing for a national title, or is he a do-it-all perimeter player?

The answer to that question might lie in who the Wildcats landed in the Class of 2014: four-star point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, a 5-foot-9 playmaker. Or it might lie in who else Arizona is recruiting in the back court in the Class of 2015. They originally accepted a commitment from Tyler Dorsey before parting ways last month and have been heavily involved with — and have offers out to — both Isaiah Briscoe and Allonzo Trier. All three are ball-dominant scoring guards that spend a lot of time playing with the ball in their hands.

If Miller is targeting a perimeter attack of Jackson-Cartwright, Briscoe and Simon, does he really think that Simon is going to be a full-time point guard?

To a point, this conversation is moot, because regardless of what position Simon will play in college, he will be an impact player on both ends of the floor.

Felder no longer part of South Carolina basketball program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina point guard Rakym Felder is no longer part of the Gamecocks basketball team.

Felder, a key freshman reserve for South Carolina’s Final Four team two years ago, was dismissed from the program by coach Frank Martin on Monday.

The 5-foot-10 Felder, from Brooklyn, New York, was suspended last summer after his second arrest in less than a year. Felder was not enrolled last fall. He was allowed to return in the spring semester although he did not play.

Martin said there were guidelines Felder had to follow upon coming back “and unfortunately, he has not met those expectations.”

Martin has not detailed those guidelines for Felder’s return to the court.

Felder had 15 points in South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament win over Duke in 2017

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.