Tag: Nerlens Noel

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky

Questions still need answering, but Kentucky takes a step in the right direction in win over UNC-Asheville

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Kentucky isn’t there yet. They looked sloppy and careless at times and are still learning how to play with each other, but it was evident in the Wildcats’ 89-57 victory over UNC-Asheville that John Calipari has a special group on his hands.

Kentucky didn’t need to beat the Bulldogs by 32 points in order for the nation to recognize that the Harrison twins, Julius Randle, and the other future NBA players on the squad are a special group but, if nothing else, tonight reaffirmed that notion.

Recall last year’s Kentucky team that had a bevy of talent and future pro players on the roster. Expectations were high in the preseason, perhaps unreasonably so, and the Wildcats fluttered throughout the year thanks to inconsistent play at point guard and Nerlens Noel suffering a torn ACL midway through the season. That team never seemed to click, and while it’s still extremely early for the current team, the chemistry seems to be there.

Yes, the sloppy play for much of the first half that saw Kentucky head to the locker room with an unimpressive 41-31 lead needs correcting. Yes, missing 18 free throws is a legitimate concern. And yes, whether freshman point guard Andrew Harrison will be able to shoulder the load of leading this team or not is in question.

However, what we saw tonight was a team that seemingly enjoys playing with each other and has fun. It sounds juvenile for a team to “have fun” out on the floor, but far too often last season that appeared to be an issue.

The star of the night was freshman Julius Randle, who poured in 23 points and corralled 15 rebounds. There is no doubt he will be a menace in the paint throughout the season, but what was so encouraging about Randle’s night was drilling 11-13 from the line. He’s going to receive double and triple teams and he is going to be sent to the line a fair amount, especially with the new defensive rules. If he can hit 75% of his free throws or better, he becomes that much more of a threat.

Conversely, there has to be a cause for concern that the rest of the Wildcats combined to shoot 19-35. Free throw shooting has bit John Calipari’s teams in the past — remember some of his teams at Memphis — and that’s an area needing work.

One can only learn so much after blowing UNC-Asheville out at home. Kentucky’s game against a talented Michigan State team next Tuesday will be a good barometer of just how far along the Wildcats are — how the youthful talent on Kentucky maintains their composure against a veteran Spartan team will be telling.

One of the primary questions of this team over the summer months was if Cal could get these future NBA players to all buy-in. Tonight was a step in that direction.

Cornell’s First Team All-Ivy forward Shonn Miller sidelined with shoulder injury

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Shonn Miller missed the final four games of the 2012-13 season with a shoulder injury. Despite having the summer months to get healthy, the same shoulder continues to nag Miller, and there’s a strong chance he will miss the entire 2013-14 season.

From Cornell’s preseason prospectus which was released last week: “…[R]eturning first-team All-Ivy League forward Shonn Miller continues to recover from an injury that has left him sidelined throughout the preseason.”

Miller is a menace on both ends of the floor and a real stat-stuffer. In fact, Miller accomplished something that only one other player in college basketball did last season:

It’s easy to see what a game-changing type of player Miller is and how important he is to the success of Cornell; he was named to the First Team All-Ivy in 2012-13 and the Rookie of the Year in 2011-12. In fact, the Big Red lost the final four games of last season with Miller watching from the sidelines.

Given the recurring injury and the fact he has missed practices, it is almost a certainty that Miller will miss the non-conference portion of Cornell’s schedule. Based upon reports from the Cornell Basketball Blog, there’s a strong chance Miller will miss the entire season:

Embarking on his fourth season at Cornell, Bill Courtney has yet to finish above .500, and if he was to have any shot at eclipsing that mark, Miller needed to be healthy for season. However, Courtney is bringing in some highly touted recruits, and should have a team that will be in line to contend for the Ivy League title in 2015-16, especially if Miller elects to redshirt and return for two more seasons.

Hypothetically speaking, if Cornell looked like a true contender in the Ivy Legaue this season, perhaps Miller would try and return once league play begins. Yet, with the next two seasons shaping up as good ones for Cornell, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Miller redshirts for 2013-14 and has two years left of eligibility remaining.

While losing Miller is devastating for the coming season, it actually may work to Cornell’s advantage in subsequent seasons.

Invitations extended to the NBA Draft’s “Green Room”

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As reported by ESPN’s Chad Ford, the NBA has extended invitations to the “green room” for draft night this coming Thursday, June 27th. This room is designated for players who are projected to be selected in the top half of the first round — “the lottery.”

Those invited are Nerlens Noel (Kentucky); Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Otto Porter (Georgetown); Alex Len (Maryland); Anthony Bennett (UNLV); Ben McLemore (Kansas); Trey Burke (Michigan); Michael-Carter Williams (Syracuse); C.J McCollum (Lehigh) and Cody Zeller (Indiana).

If there is one name on the preceding list that isn’t like the others, it’s Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, who is the only player from a mid-major league that has been invited to the green room. Make no mistake, McCollum has proven he belongs in this group, but it isn’t often that a player from the Patriot League reaches the NBA. In fact, in the history of the league, there has only been one other player make his mark in the NBA and that was Colgate’s Adonal Foyle.

This year, McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala will be drafted. For extended draft reading on McCollum, NBC Sports’ Raphielle Johnson spoke with him and his coach, Dr. Brett Reed.

According to Ford, “In the past, the NBA has expanded the list of green room invites as the draft date nears. Typically, the NBA has invited 13-to-15 players. This year, the league has told a number of agents it may add a few names to the list as the draft approaches.”

Other names that may receive an invitation to the green room are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Steven Adams (Pittsburgh), Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA), Sergey Karasev (Russia), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greence).

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11