While the 2015-16 season has yet to get underway, some in-season tournaments have already begun the process of finalizing teams for the 2016-17 campaign. Wednesday evening the Paradise Jam revealed its eight-team field for the 2016 edition of the event, which is scheduled to be played November 18-21, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands.
NC State, which has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons under head coach Mark Gottfried, is part of the event as are Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels. Completing the field are Creighton, Loyola-Chicago, Oral Roberts, Montana, Saint Joseph’s and Washington State.
Of the eight teams just two have made prior appearances at the Paradise Jam. Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s team finished fifth in 2009, with Ole Miss finishing third two years later. Washington State may have the most interesting connection to this tournament, however.
The father of forward Josh Hawkinson, who was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season and will be a senior in 2016-17, created the Paradise Jam back in 2000. That should make for a fun return to the Virgin Islands for Josh next November. Nels Hawkinson is the executive director of Basketball Travelers, a company some may be familiar with as they’ve set up foreign tours for many college basketball programs over the years.
While NC State and Ole Miss are the lone teams in this field to reach the NCAA tournament last season, Montana is one of the favorites in the Big Sky entering the 2015-16 season and ORU is expected to be a factor in the Summit League. Scott Sutton’s Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the Summit League preseason coaches poll.
Washington State is losing three first-year players as the school announced that junior forward Aaron Cheatum and freshmen guards Jackie Davis and Trevor Dunbar will transfer.
“We appreciate the contributions Aaron, Jackie and Trevor have made to the program over the last year,” head coach Ernie Kent said in the press release. “We wish all three off them nothing but the best both on and off the court.”
All three players had trouble staying on the floor consistently last season as Cheatum and Dunbar played in 16 games each while Davis appeared in 11 games.
The 6-foot-7 Cheatum averaged 5.8 minutes per game while the 5-foot-10 Dunbar had 9.8 minutes per contest. A 6-foot-4 guard, Davis was only at 5.1 minutes per game this season. None of the three players averaged more than one point per game or shot better than 30 percent from the field.
This looks like a case where Kent recruited a few players who weren’t able to be successful Pac-12 players and a change of scenery is probably best for all parties.
Washington State landed its point guard of the future on Monday as California native and three-star guard Milan Acquaah committed to head coach Ernie Kent.
The 6-foot-2 lead guard comes from a strong program in Los Angeles at Cathedral High School as teammates and fellow juniors Lucas Siewart (Arizona State) and Kobe Paras (UCLA) are already committed to play in the Pac 12.
Acquaah is averaging 20.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals a game, according to a story from Evan Daniels of Scout.com and he’s helped lead Cathedral to a 20-win season.
With the season ending shortly and the spring grassroots season beginning, we could see an uptick in Class of 2016 commitments as schools will pressure kids to commit before the April Live Evaluation Period.
The Cougars are now on the board in the 2016 class with Acquaah’s pledge.