Early this month 2014 combo forward Ray Kasongo reportedly decided that he would attend Oregon, picking the Ducks over UConn. But within hours of making that decision Kasongo had a change of heart, announcing that he needed more time to make his decision.
On Friday Kasongo made that decision, re-committing to Oregon via his Twitter account.
It is an honor and true blessing to officially announce that I have committed to the University of Oregon !!!!! #LetsGoDucks
Kasongo’s commitment caps a good day for Dana Altman’s program, with the NCAA clearing Houston transfer Joseph Young to play immediately. Young will help Oregon on the perimeter immediately, and in regards to Kasongo the hope is that the athletic forward will be ready to do the same when he arrives on campus next year.
Oregon loses three front court players, UNLV transfer Mike Moser and seniors Richard Amardi and Waverly Austin after this season. That means both Kasongo and junior college transfer Dwayne Benjamin (he’ll arrive in 2014 as well) will have the opportunity to earn significant playing time in 2014. Oregon has two other wings on the current roster in juniors Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit, and underclassmen Ben Carter (sophomore) and Jordan Bell (freshman) will factor into the Ducks’ plans as well.
Kasongo is Oregon’s third verbal commitment in the 2014 class, joining the aforementioned Benjamin and point guard Casey Benson.
Given the current state of basketball, with a player’s high school graduating class having to be one year removed from graduation in order to be eligible to enter the NBA Draft, the nation’s best freshmen tend to arrive on campus amid much fanfare. With the general feeling being that if not for the rule none of these players would ever set foot on a college campus, it’s almost as if the hype machine’s been sped up to warp speed in some cases.
Enter Kansas freshman wing Andrew Wiggins, the top-ranked player in the 2013 class and in the eyes of some a near lock to be the top pick in next June’s NBA Draft. Incredibly gifted, the Canadian is one player expected to make sure that Bill Self’s Jayhawks remain the class of the Big 12. And unlike many freshman phenoms, who tend to be the focus of sport-specific magazines, Wiggins is the subject of a feature story (link to a short photo gallery; the article hasn’t been posted online yet) in the November issue of GQ.
And for all the comparisons to one LeBron James, he isn’t the current pro Wiggins feels his game is most comparable to.
Unlike LeBron James, who weighed 240 pounds in high school, Wiggins is no monster; he’s a wraith. Which may be one of the reasons the kid from Toronto is loath to make the comparison.
“Aw, it’s not fair to even say my name in the same sentence as his,” says Wiggins during his first week of classes at Kansas. “I haven’t even played one game of college ball.” Is there another player who’s more comparable? “I like Kevin Durant’s game! Ain’t nothing he can’t do. Shoot. Has a handle. Plays D. Scores at will. Durant, man! Has that killer instinct.”
Durant spent one season in the Big 12, averaging 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game at Texas in 2006-07. Can Wiggins approach those numbers? While the talent is certainly there to do so, under Self the Jayhawks haven’t had a leading scorer average more than 20 points per game in a season since Wayne Simien averaged 20.2 ppg in 2004-05 (the next-highest average for a season was Sherron Collins’ 18.9 ppg in 2008-09).
Kansas has always had multiple offensive options, and while some may be more talented than others the Jayhawks tend to do a good job of finding multiple quality looks on a consistent basis. According to kenpom.com the lowest a Kansas team has been ranked in offensive efficiency is 45th (2006).
With the amount of talent at Self’s disposal heading into this season, Kansas won’t lack for options (but they will be young). With that (and the Jayhawks’ statistical history under Self) being the case, offensive balance may be a safer bet when forecasting the upcoming season for Kansas when it comes to their offense. And that could ultimately benefit Wiggins in the end.
With centers Omar Oraby and D.J. Haley out of eligibility at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, the USC Trojans can use some more big men as they look to improve their standing within the Pac-12. On Thursday head coach Andy Enfield and his staff received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-10 center Jabari Craig, who becomes the Trojans’ third commitment in the 2014 class.
It's official!!! I had a big dream which came to reality, it was me going to USC! To move on and continue my journey. #FightOn@Vi_Massiah
Craig joins power forward Malik Price-Martin and point guard Jordan McLaughlin in USC’s 2014 class, and each player plays a position in which the Trojans had a need for additional depth. Craig, who currently attends Fishburne Military Academy, took official visits to both USC and Arizona State last month. Craig attended Tucker High School in Georgia last year, where he averaged 8.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
“USC was a dream school for me. I always wanted to go to the school. I’ve been there, I’ve seen what it’s like,” Craig said on Fishburne’s athletic website. “They have everything to offer for me, and I have what they need.”
Outside of seniors Oraby and Haley (one-year transfer from VCU) the Trojans are young in the front court, with sophomores Strahinja Gavrilovic and Darion Clark (Charlotte transfer; will sit out the 2013-14 season per NCAA transfer rules) and freshman Nikola Jovanovic being the only players with eligiblity remaining after this season.
With that being the case both 2014 front court commitments should have the opportunity to compete for minutes as freshmen, and the same can be said for McLaughlin on the perimeter with USC losing Pe’Shon Howard and J.T. Terrell.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.
When the latest round of conference realignment came to its conclusion, the Western Athletic Conference looked nothing like the league many had become familiar with. Of the fifteen players to receive All-WAC honors last season just two return: New Mexico State’s Daniel Mullings and Sim Bhullar. Both played pivotal roles on last season’s WAC tournament champion squad, with the 7-foot-5 Bhullar winning tournament MVP honors and Mullings earning a spot on the All-Tournament team.
They’re also two of the reasons why Marvin Menzies’ Aggies are expected to win the conference’s regular season title in 2013-14, with Mullings assuming the role of the WAC’s most versatile player. As a sophomore Mullings posted averages of 13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game, leading the Aggies in scoring and steals. And with New Mexico State losing two double-digit scorers, including leading rebounder Bandja Sy (11.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Mullings stands to have more responsibilities on his plate.
And the overwhelming feeling is that the Toronto native has worked hard enough to be ready for the challenge.
“When Daniel came in, he was relatively raw but very athletic and he was a gym rat,” Menzies said in a phone interview with NBC Sports. “He’s lived in the gym and worked above and beyond the hours we’re allocated to improve his game.”
After a freshman season in which he was a supplementary piece on an NCAA tournament team led by Wendell McKines, Mullings led the Aggies with a possession percentage of 23.7% as a sophomore. After surpassing the 20-point mark just twice as a freshman Mullings did so nine times in 2012-13, including 23-point outings in late-season wins over WAC regular season co-champion Louisiana Tech and Idaho.
His overall field goal percentage remained about the same (47.0% compared to 48.9% as a freshman), but Mullings’ greatest improvement came as a perimeter shooter. After making just 27% of his shots from beyond the arc in 2011-12, Mullings knocked down 37% of his shots from deep and attempted 31 more three-pointers as a sophomore (54 compared to 23 as a freshman).
“The biggest differences [from freshman to sophomore year] were developing my shooting an easing into more of a leadership role alongside our seniors,” said Mullings, who also noted his improved played on the defensive end (2.3 spg after averaging 1.6 as a freshman).
Outside of Mullings and the aforementioned Bhullar the Aggies return other contributors from last season’s team. Forward Renaldo Dixon (5.6 points, 4.0 boards) proved to be a valuable reserve in 2012-13, center Tshilidzi Nephawe (7.2 points, 5.2 boards) returns after playing in just nine games due to a hand injury and guard K.C. Ross-Miller is the team’s third returning starter. But even with this being the case there will be some adjustments to make given the fact that New Mexico State lost two double-digit scorers in Sy and Tyrone Watson (10.3 points, 5.0 boards, 2.8 assists). That’s where Mullings’ progression as a leader comes into play.
“As I’ve gone along I’ve become more vocal,” said Mullings. “I’ve been here for a couple years now so I know the system and what the coaches want, so I’ll be able to add whatever knowledge I have to help the new guys and the players returning.”
New Mexico State adds four newcomers, including 7-foot-4 center Tanveer Bhullar (Sim’s younger brother) and New Mexico JuCo transfer DK Eldridge, and they’ll have some depth at point guard thanks to the return of Ross-Miller and the arrival of freshman Travon Landry. The combination of talent, experience and conference turnover has made New Mexico State the prohibitive favorite to win the WAC in the eyes of many. It’s up to Mullings and his teammates to retain the focus needed in order to accomplish that task and return to the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season.
“We have to just focus on ourselves and whatever New Mexico State has to do,” said Mullings when asked about whether or not the changes within the WAC will affect the Aggies’ approach. “We can’t worry about everybody else, but obviously we have to be aware of the new teams in our conference.”
With a non-conference schedule that includes two games against rival New Mexico as well as contests against Arizona, Colorado State and Gonzaga, New Mexico State should be ready when WAC play begins in January. And there’s also a good chance that more college basketball fans will be familiar with Mullings’ game if they aren’t already.