Rob Dauster

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The eight most important NBA Draft Early Entry decisions remaining

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The deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft is on Wednesday, May 24th, meaning that the players that have not signed with an agent have roughly 48 hours left to determine their basketball future.

Here are the ten most important decisions left to be made:

1. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

  • Projected: Late first round or early second round
  • If he stays in: It will be a massive blow for Purdue, although one that the program should not be surprised about. Swanigan had an argument to be the National Player of the Year last season with the year that he had, and frankly, I’m not sure what else there is for him to prove at the college level. We know what he is offensively, and I don’t think that his flaws as a player are necessarily fixable. How much can he improve his body? How much different can he be as a defender? At this point he is what he is as a player.
  • If he returns: The Boilermakers will be returning a guy that will be a lock to be the Preseason National Player of the Year. Without him, Purdue still has a shot to be a top 25 team and a threat to finish near the top of the Big Ten. With him? Matt Painter will have a chance to repeat as the Big Ten regular season champ, even with Michigan State looking like the best team in college basketball.
  • CBT says: He should, and probably will, remain in the draft.

2. Tony Bradley, North Carolina

  • Projected: Early second-round
  • If he stays in: It would be a significant loss for the Tar Heels, but not a fatal one with Joel Berry set to return as a potential National Player of the Year candidate along with Theo Pinson, Luke Maye and Kenny Williams also in the starting lineup. What’s missing would be that experienced presence in the middle.
  • If he returns: North Carolina would be without a doubt one of the top national title contenders. With Bradley in the lineup, the Tar Heels simply won’t have a huge weakness in the lineup that teams can immediately exploit. It won’t make them the clear-cut title frontrunner, but it’ll put them in the top tier.
  • CBT says: With a first-round selection no guarantee, Bradley has a lot to gain returning to one of college basketball’s best teams.

3. Mo Wagner and D.J. Wilson, Michigan

  • Projected: Wilson is a potential first round pick, but Wagner may end up going undrafted
  • If they stay in: The biggest loss for Michigan is going to be point guard Derrick Walton, who was on another level at the end of last season. John Beilein’s teams are at their very best when they have a great ball-screen point guard, and their season is going to depend, in the end, on how Ohio transfer Jaaron Simmons adjusts to a higher level. But Beilein also runs an offense based on spacing the floor, and there’s no better way to space the floor than having a pair of big men that can step out on the perimeter and make threes.
  • If they return: Suddenly, Michigan goes from being a team that could end up making the NCAA tournament to one that has a ceiling of being a top 15 team. Wilson probably has the most to gain by coming back for another year. He’s dealt with injuries throughout his career, and his defensively versatility and perimeter skill make him him a more likely first round pick if he can prove he’s more than just a one year wonder. Wagner may actually have a higher ceiling, but he needs to get tougher and show he can defend and rebound.
  • CBT says: The safe bet is that Michigan loses Wilson and gets Wagner back, but I wouldn’t be shocked if both returned to school.

4. Justin Jackson, Maryland

  • Projected: Mid-second round with first round potential
  • If he stays in: It’s a massive blow for a Maryland team that will be looking to replace Melo Trimble, the man who is as responsible for turning around the Terp program as Mark Turgeon is. But Jackson has some NBA potential. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he can defend multiple positions and he shot 44 percent from three. He’s built in the combo-forward mold that NBA teams love these days. There’s a real chance he leaves as a one-and-done player, and while the Terps have some other young, talented pieces, this loss could cost them the NCAA tournament.
  • If he returns: Maryland should once again be a fringe top 25 team. Jackson has the chance to develop into an all-Big Ten kind of player next season as he takes on a bigger role of the offense. The freshmen trio of Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter should have Maryland fans excited.
  • CBT says: All it takes is for one team to fall in love with Jackson’s potential to get him picked in the back end of the first round. How he performs at the combine may determine that.

5. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky

  • Projected: Late first round, early second round
  • If he stays in: Kentucky has a ridiculous amount of talent joining the program next season, enough that John Calipari will likely have the pieces to make another push for an SEC title and a trip to the Final Four without him. At this point, he is really the only five-star off-guard on the roster, and losing him means the Wildcats may take a hit on the defensive end, but that would also allow some better shooters to get on the floor, so it may end up being a wash.
  • If he returns: Kentucky suddenly looks like a team that is going to be as good as anyone on the defensive end. Between Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards and, potentially, Mo Bamba, there is as much length and athleticism on that roster as Coach Cal has ever had. Where their points come from will be the question, and this may be what gets Diallo to stay in the draft. He may be the most explosive athlete in the draft, but he’s also very raw. He’s not a shooter and he doesn’t have a great feel for the game. There’s a line of thinking that, if he returns to a team that doesn’t have myriad options offensively, he could end up being exposed on that end of the floor.
  • CBT says: I think it would be in Diallo’s best interest to return — remember, he redshirted the second semester of last season after enrolling in January — but I would not be shocked to see him remain in the draft.

6. Thomas Welsh, UCLA

  • Projected: Undrafted
  • If he stays in: The Bruins will still have quite a bit of talent and will be a preseason top-25 team, but losing a player like Welsh would seriously lower their ceiling. Take a big step back is certainly something Steve Alford will look to avoid after a breakthrough season last year that started with him under some pressure.
  • If he returns: The Bruins won’t be the toast of the Pac-12, that distinction will stay with Arizona, but UCLA asserts itself as a top-15(ish) team that has enough firepower, especially with a major 7-foot contributor, to at least push the Wildcats in the league.
  • CBT says: Welsh has a lot of tools, but probably even more questions that make his stock pretty low right now.

7. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

  • Projected: Second round to undrafted
  • If he stays in: The Musketeers are suddenly one of the younger teams in the Big East with a roster that has just three players — J.P. Macura, Sean O’Mara and Kaiser Gates — that have spent more than one year on the Xavier campus. I still think Xavier would be able to get back into the NCAA tournament, as they will have some young talent on the roster and Chris Mack at the helm, but their upside will be significantly diminished.
  • If he returns: Xavier will have a preseason all-american on their roster, a potential Big East Player of the Year and a guy that could end up averaging 20 points as a senior. He, along with J.P. Macura, will anchor a Musketeer roster that, beyond them, will be very young but promisingly talented. They’re probably a tournament team either way, but with Bluiett in the fold, they might have a chance to get back to the Elite 8 again.
  • CBT says: Return to school

8. Deng Adel, Louisville

  • Projected: Second round to undrafted
  • If he stays in: Louisville will have lost their two most dangerous perimeter scoring options — Donovan Mitchell looks like he is going to sneak into the back-end of the lottery — from a team that really struggled to score from the perimeter. That would be a crushing blow for a Cardinal team that was the Preseason No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25 when it looked like both would be returning to school.
  • If he returns: Louisville has their go-to scorer on the wing and Adel will have a chance to prove that he can play that role full-time. He really came on down the stretch of the 2016-17 season, and with an offense more or less built around him as the leading man, he’ll have every opportunity to prove himself an NBA-caliber wing scorer.
  • CBT says: He returns to school.

Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins receiving interest from … the NFL?

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Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins is receiving interest from professional leagues in the United States, just not the league that you might expect for a guy that playing basketball for the Wildcats.

Hawkins, according to a story from the Lexington Herald-Leader, is getting interest from the NFL:

[Draft Express’ Jonathan] Givony said that he’s heard some NFL teams have been calling Hawkins about possibly trying out a career on the football field. Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. confirmed to the Herald-Leader that Hawkins has indeed heard from NFL teams in recent weeks — his football potential, particularly as a defensive back, has been mentioned before.

Going from college basketball to the NFL is not unheard of. In fact, it’s quite common, particularly at the tight end position. Jimmy Graham played basketball for four years at Miami. Antonio Gates played basketball at Kent State. Tony Gonzalez played at Cal. Julius Thomas played at Portland State. Just last year, Rico Gathers made his way onto the Dallas Cowboys. NFL teams scout college basketball teams to find guys that can fill that role.

But Hawkins isn’t going to be a tight end.

He’s 6-foot with a 44.5 inch vertical, long arms and freak athleticism. The NFL wants him to be a cornerback.

This has happened before as well. Remember this shot? It was made by a point guard named Demetri Goodson, who left Gonzaga after his sophomore season, transferred to Baylor to play football and has spent the last three seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

Arizona’s Rawle Alkins withdraws from the NBA Draft

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Rawle Alkins announced on Sunday night that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to Arizona for his sophomore season.

“Still have some unfinished business to take care of,” Alkins posted on Twitter. “Declaring for the NBA Draft has taught me more than I could have imagined and has been an incredible experience. I can’t wait to help the Wildcats win a national championship next year with a great team, great coach, and the most amazing fans in the world behind us.”

Alkins averaged 10.9 points and 4.9 boards as a freshman, including a career-high 20 points in a first round win over North Dakota.

The Wildcats are currently the No. 2 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25.

Texas commit Mo Bamba is Shaka Smart’s narrative-defining recruit

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Texas landing a commitment from Mo Bamba — a top three prospect in the Class of 2017, a potential top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and a kid that was chased by both Duke and Kentucky throughout his senior season in high school — is a bigger deal than people are giving it credit for.

And on this surface, this is big, both literally (Bamba is 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan; one top 25 coach referred to him as “a dinosaur”) and figuratively (he’s the highest-rated recruit to pick the Longhorns since that Durant guy).

Bamba is the kind of player that is, in theory, a season-changer. He’s as dominant of a defensive prospect as we’ve seen come through the ranks of American basketball and, given his wingspan and shot-changing prowess, the potential to be a Rudy Gobert-esque presence around the rim.

That’s critical for Texas and head coach Shaka Smart given the way that Smart wants to play. When he was still at VCU, Smart thrived using a style that he dubbed ‘Havoc’, which featured a full-court pressure, aggressive man-to-man defense and traps all over the floor. It’s an aggressive, gambling style of play that becomes just that much more difficult to deal with for opposing offenses when there is a shot-blocker in front of the rim. Bamba’s presence would make it easier to overplay passing lanes, to gamble for steals and to switch all exchanges — which, essentially, is what Smart wants to do on that end — because mistakes will not end up leading to layups, not with Bamba back there.

With Andrew Jones, a former five-star combo-guard, expected to return for his sophomore season, Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis back for another year and the addition of four-star Matt Coleman, a more natural fit at the point guard spot, along with three more top 100 prospects, suddenly a Texas program coming off of a last-place finish in the Big 12 has a reason to be optimistic.

Because let’s call it like it is: This is pivotal season for Smart.

RELATED: Mo Bamba is college basketball’s most unique prospect

He’s been at Texas for two years. In his first season, he took Rick Barnes’ roster to the NCAA tournament playing a way that wasn’t exactly what you would expect from a team that he coaches. Last year, with a roster that was very young but mostly filled with players that Smart had recruited into the program, the Longhorns were dreadful. Their point guard play was lacking, their leading scorer never returned to the floor after a January suspension and their best player during Big 12 play, Jarrett Allen, went the one-and-done route.

This year is the year that defines the narrative of Smart’s tenure.

It’s his program now, through and through, and until Bamba committed, there wasn’t all that much reason to believe that Texas was bound for a major turnaround.

There is now.

It’s not crazy to think that the Longhorns could end up finishing in the top four in the Big 12 next season. I won’t do it, but I’m not sure it’s wrong Texas in a preseason top 25.

And that all happened because Smart was able to outduel Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari on the recruiting trail.

Smart has been the head coach at Texas for more than two full years now, long enough to miss an NCAA tournament and have his name linked to open jobs in lesser leagues that are nowhere near as prestigious as Texas is — it’s widely considered a top five job in the coaching industry, but he finally has Texas heading in the direction of a place many thought it would be after he was hired.

Whether or not it gets there remains to be seen.

But there’s no questioning just how important Bamba’s commitment was, to Texas and to Shaka Smart himself.

PHOTO: West Virginia’s Nathan Adrian seems to be enjoying ‘#retirement’

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It took a while for him to get there, but Nathan Adrian, the first graduate of Morgantown HS to play for the Mountaineers on scholarship since 1956, turned himself into the fan favorite for West Virginia as a senior.

It wasn’t just the long hair or the hustle.

He was one of their own.

His family owns 2,000 acres in Barbour County, where Adrian is an avid deer hunter and fisherman. In a story written by Sports Illustrated during the NCAA tournament, teammate James Long recalled how the team took a trip to a gun range once and Adrian “missed two shots all day.”

There is also this glorious anecdote, hinting at the fact that Adrian playing through a wrist injury during a dreadful sophomore season was typical:

As a high school senior, Adrian played through a broken second metatarsal in his right foot. Asked how the injury occurred, Adrian explained it “just kind of happened. Foot went numb.” Asked how he managed to play on it, Adrian smiled and repeated himself: “Foot went numb.”

He’s as West Virginia as West Virginia gets, which is what makes the announcement that he is “#retired” just so perfect:

#retired

A post shared by Nathan Adrian (@njadrian_11) on

He’s on the water wearing jorts and a wrinkled Miller Lite t-shirt with the flow in midseason form and a bass in his right hand.

That’s the dream right there.

Texas lands commitment from top five recruit Mo Bamba

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Mo Bamba, a top five prospect in the Class of 2017 and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, announced on Thursday that he will be attending Texas for what is expected to be his one and done season.

Bamba is a 7-foot-1 center with a 7-foot-9 wingspan and the potential to be a Rudy Gobert-esque defensive presence around the rim. He picked Texas over Kentucky, Duke and Harvard, among others.

Texas has already added point guard Matt Coleman in the class, and the expectation is that Andrew Jones will be returning for his sophomore season. If wings Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach take a step forward, the Longhorns have the kind of young talent to make some noise in the Big 12.

RELATED: Mo Bamba is college basketball’s most unique prospect