Cuonzo Martin

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

1 Comment

There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Report: The Porters are headed back to Missouri

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
2 Comments

The coaching carousel looks certain to change the fate of a potential 2018 No. 1 NBA Draft pick, and, perhaps, that of a downtrodden program and a coach starting his fourth job in six years.

When you have the talent of Michael Porter, Jr., you can change a lot of lives.

The dominos are falling fast, so to recap on how the coaching, recruiting and draft landscape is shifting here’s what’s gone down.

First, came news that Missouri had offered its head coaching position to Cal’s Cuonzo Martin. Later that afternoon, Cal announced that Martin had resigned from his position, and a little later the Tigers made it official it was to join them in Columbia.

Then, not long after, Washington ended the Lorenzo Romar era in Seattle, putting his assistant, Michael Porter, Sr., – and his son – presumably on the market.

Within minutes of Romar’s firing going official, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi reported that Porter, Sr. would would be joining Martin’s staff at Mizzou. From there, it’s not hard to connect the dots that his son, an elite recruit and serious option atop the 2018 draft, won’t be far behind.

It’s a lot, but it’s not exactly surprising to see how it unfolded once things spun into motion, first with Martin’s decision and then with Washington’s.

You see, the Porter family has extensive roots in Columbia, as NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster documented this summer in a profile about the family.

The family lived there for seven years. It’s where Porter, Jr. grew up. His two sisters play on the Mizzou women’s team, which is coached by his aunt.

This move makes sense for everyone involved.

Yes, it may feel a little dubious that Porter, Sr. has seemingly parlayed his son’s talents into a pair of job opportunities, but Porter, Jr. is a program changer. Martin is counting on it.

The situation that the new coach is inheriting is a pretty poor one. The three-year Kim Anderson era was an abject failure with a total of 27 wins to show for itself. The program is also not far removed from NCAA penalties stemming from an impermissible benefits case.

If there’s one way to jump-start a program and a new tenure, it is to add one of the best players in the country. It gives Martin and Missouri some cache on the court and on the recruiting trail, should Porter, Jr.’s presumed one-year tenure end with his name among the first called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver in June of 2018.

Guard Harris-Dyson becomes Cal’s third 2017 commit

Leave a comment

On the heels of the first open evaluation period of the month of July, California received some good news regarding its 2017 recruiting class. Monday it was reported by Scout.com that 6-foot-4 guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson verbally committed to Cal, becoming the third member of the the Golden Bears’ 2017 recruiting class.

Harris-Dyson, who attends Heritage Christian School in Northridge, California and plays his grassroots basketball for the Earl Watson Elite program, joins grassroots teammate Jemarl Baker and Alec Hickman in the 2017 recruiting class for Cal. Also playing with Harris-Dyson and Baker on that Earl Watson Elite team is highly regarded power forward Ira Lee, who is another of Cal’s recruiting targets in the 2017 class.

With Cal due to lose multiple key contributors on the perimeter at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, including Jabari Bird and Sam Singer, adding options was a point of emphasis for Cuonzo Martin and his staff when it came to the 2017 recruiting class.

Harris-Dyson, who has the ability to play either wing position, will help in that regard. This past weekend Harris-Dyson received high praise for his play at the Elite 100 Camp in Claremont, California, with Martin and associate head coach Tracy Webster both in attendance for his games. California still has room for more additions, especially in the front court with their pursuit of Ira Lee, and they’ll also have Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee available for the 2017-18 campaign.

California, Martin finally sign official contract

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Leave a comment

Back in April 2014 California hired Cuonzo Martin to be lead its men’s basketball program following the retirement of Mike Montgomery. While the two sides clearly had an agreement, Martin never signed an official contract and they simply worked off of the terms of the offer sheet. That “technicality” gained more attention this spring with the investigation into former assistant Yann Hufnagel (who’s now at Nevada) due to allegations of sexual harassment made by a female reporter.

As part of the investigation the school looked into Martin’s actions to ensure that he acted properly once made aware of the allegations. And with a contract having yet to be signed, there were questions as to whether or not the investigation could lead to Martin losing his job.

In the end Martin was found to have acted properly, and shortly after releasing its findings on the investigation the school announced that its head coach has finally signed an official contract.

While it’s understandable why there would be a delay in Martin’s signing a contract this spring given the ongoing investigation, what’s the reason for it taking more than two years?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the reason given by current athletic director Mike Williams was the lack of a full-time athletic director. Sandy Barbour, who’s now at Penn State, hired Martin before being relieved of her duties two months later. Williams would serve as interim AD for ten months before having the tag removed.

With this all cleared up, it should help Martin and his staff on the recruiting front as they look to not only build on last season’s NCAA tournament appearance but stick around a bit longer than they did (first round loss to Hawai’i).

California forward Brown enters NBA Draft

AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

With two highly regarded freshmen on the roster, California head coach Cuonzo Martin had to prepare for the possibility that at least one of them would be leaving Berkeley after one season. That came to fruition Thursday afternoon, as Jaylen Brown announced at a press conference on campus that he will forego his final three seasons of eligibility and enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

Projected to be a lottery pick in this summer’s Draft by DraftExpress.com, it comes as no surprise that the Georgia native would decide to move on.

Brown averaged 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. The perimeter shot is the area where Brown will need to show improvement during pre-Draft workouts, as he’s a physically gifted talent who managed to hurt opponents via dribble penetration on many occasions playing either the three or as an undersized four.

With Brown moving on Cal is still awaiting a decision from power forward Ivan Rabb, who some believe may be more likely to remain on campus for another season. But with just one player in their 2016 recruiting class (junior college transfer Don Coleman; UNLV transfer Jordan Cornish will have to sit out next season), Martin and his staff have some work to do even if Rabb were to return.

Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird are both expected to return for their senior seasons, as is reserve Roger Moute a Bidias.

Utah beats California in OT, advances to first-ever Pac-12 title game

AP Photo/John Locher
Leave a comment

When hired as Utah head coach in 2011, Larry Krystkowiak took on what at the time was a monumental task. The program, which finished below .500 in each of the two seasons prior to Krystkowiak’s arrival, was making the move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 and a lot of work needed to be done to ensure that the program would not only be competitive in its new home but successful as well.

That first team won just six games, but Krystkowiak and his staff steadily rebuilt the Utah program, and last season the Runnin’ Utes made their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005. Late Friday night Utah took another step forward, as they advanced to the Pac-12 tournament title game for the first time in program’s brief history in the conference with an 82-78 overtime win over No. 3 seed California.

Lorenzo Bonam’s coast to coast drive for a layup that left his hand just before time expired pushed the game into overtime, and in the extra session the Runnin’ Utes were able to grab control of the game and hold off the Golden Bears in the end.

Last year’s team had a first round draft pick in Delon Wright, and this year’s group is anchored by a projected lottery pick in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl’s ability to not only score from 15 feet and in but also find open teammates makes him a tough matchup. And with this being the case, Cal made the decision to defend him straight up as opposed to sending double teams on the catch or first dribble.

As a result Poeltl finished the game with 29 points and 11 rebounds, outplaying the Golden Bear front line. What helped Cal was the fact that Utah shot just 7-for-21 from three, and fellow forward Kyle Kuzma had a quiet night with just five points. But Bonam added 18 points, and senior Brandon Taylor adding 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field.

Both teams found the going tough at times offensively, with Cal’s Jaylen Brown shooting 3-for-17 from the field and fellow freshman Ivan Rabb being held in check until he made a couple key shots late in regulation. But in the extra session it was Utah that executed well enough to get the shots they needed to pick up the win. That goes hand in hand with the questions some have asked regarding the Golden Bears’ ability to finish close games against quality competition.

Cal’s done a very good job of this at home, where they finished the season undefeated, but that hasn’t carried over into games away from home. There was the loss at Virginia in December, and the collapse at Arizona just last week. Of course there’s no shame in losing to a Virginia, Arizona or Utah, but given the talent and the teams they’ll need to beat in order to make a run deep into the NCAA tournament Cal needs to get better in tight situations.

While Cal will return home to get ready for the NCAA tournament, Utah will look to come up with a strategy that can be successful against an Oregon team that swept the season series. And in Utah’s fifth season as a member of the Pac-12, a win over the Ducks would be a watershed moment for a program that has steadily developed into one capable of sustaining (and building upon) this success for years to come.