Remember Brandon Knight?


On April 14th of this year, Brandon Knight signed a financial aid agreement with the University of Kentucky.

Knight, a five-star point guard that was universally considered a top five player in the class of 2010, was John Calipari’s fourth consecutive top point guard recruit. The other three were Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and John Wall. All three were one and done superstars. Evans was the “worst” of the trio because he went fourth in the draft, not first overall.

It was far from crazy to expect that Knight would be the talk of the Kentucky freshmen class.

But he’s been hardly more than an afterthought.

The same day that Knight signed with Kentucky, Coach Cal got a signature from another big time recruit, a 6’10” Turkish mystery by the name of Enes Kanter. Only three days prior to signing, Kanter had gone for 34 points and 13 rebounds against the USA’s best high school kids at the Nike Hoops Summit. That night, the hype surrounding Kanter began to build to a crescendo. It didn’t take long for the “Kanter could be ineligible” talk to start, either.

Two weeks later, while the Kanter-hysteria was beginning to fully blossom, another recruit was creating his own media frenzy. Terrence Jones was taking part in a press conference where he and his high school teammate Terrence Ross would jointly announce their college choice. Both players picked Washington, but immediately after Jones made his announcement, he spoke on the phone with Coach Cal.

Jones never signed a letter of intent with the Huskies, however, and it led to three weeks full of rampant speculation and rumor-mongering. When it was all said and done, Jones was on his way to Kentucky. It was a decision that didn’t sit well with Washington fans, and one that drew a reaction from just about every outlet that covers college hoops.

By September, the concern over Enes Kanter’s eligibility had reached critical mass. Pete Thamel had published the first of two articles speculating that Kanter had received six figures while playing for Fenerbahce Ulker, his club team in Turkey. The fervor spawned a Free Enes movemenet, but unfortunately Big Blue Nation’s passion was not enough, and Kanter was ruled ineligible earlier this month.

With Kanter out of the picture, the focus almost immediately turned to Terrence Jones. Going for 25 points and 12 boards in his first career game — just a day after Kanter was ruled ineligible — was a big reason for that, as was the fact that just four games into his college basketball career he was playing the team that he originally committed to. And now that Kentucky has advanced to the finals of the Maui Invitational, Jones has become the centerpiece of conversation thanks to his impressive performance in the paint. Everyone knew about this kid’s scoring ability and versatility, but the fact that he is averaging 11.8 rpg and 3.0 spg to go along with his 20.5 ppg has caught some folks off guard.

With so little being said about Knight, would it surprise you if I told you that he is averaging 18.8 ppg this season?

Because 18.8 ppg is impressive, whether you are a freshman or a fifth-year senior.

What if I said that Knight will end up being the most important piece on this Kentucky team?

Kentucky has talent this season, there’s no question about that. But they are young. There will be times when the Wildcats have as many as four freshmen on the floor at one time. The upper classmen? They may have been around for a couple years, but they certainly have not logged a ton of minutes on the court. Experience, for this team, is not a forte.

The Wildcats will be looking for a leader this season, and dollars to donuts Coach Cal puts the onus on Knight to be that guy.

Perhaps more important than a leader, Kentucky will spend much of the season in search of half court offense. There aren’t exactly a lot of shot creators on this team. As good as Jones has been, he’s not Kevin Durant. He’s not a guy you can give the ball to in an isolation situation and say “go get us a good shot.” Right now, he seems to be better when he allows his strength and athleticism to take over, finishing in transition and attacking the offensive glass.

Doron Lamb is a spot-up shooter. DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller have shown flashes, but both are far too inconsistent as decision makers.

That leaves Knight.

Now, Knight is not a prototypical point guard. He’s more of a combo-guard, a kid that will take, and make, a lot of perimeter jumpers. He’s got more Stephen Curry in him than he does Ty Lawson. The comparison I have used before is Sherron Collins. And that is fine in Coach Cal’s dribble-drive motion offense. The DDM is predicated more on having four or five guys that can be a threat when they have the ball in their hands than allowing one player to dominate possession of the ball.

That said, every team needs a guy they can give the ball too with the shot clock winding down. Every team needs a player that can produce a bucket when they really need one.

Knight needs to be that guy. If last night was an audition, it was a promising one. Knight scored 24 points on 10-17 shooting. He hit a number of big baskets down the stretch, baskets that helped Kentucky hold on to their second half lead. 10 of his point came in the last eight minutes of the game. He hit the jumper that gave Kentucky the lead for good at 44-43. He hit the and-one jumper that gave Kentucky their first five point lead since the first half at 57-52. He was the one heady enough to attack a cramping Venoy Overton with a back door cut after Washington had whittled a nine point lead down to three with just over two minutes left.

Detractors will point to his 8 turnover, no assist game. To that, I say that he is a freshman. No matter your talent level, freshmen are going the make freshman mistakes. It comes with the territory. Playing in front of a raucous gym on national television against a team with a defensively harassing back court in a game that turned into glorified pick-up basketball is not the easiest way to transition a freshman ball-handler to the college game.

The ability of Knight to transition will be, as much as anything, the key to Kentucky’s season.

The Cats have shown they’re willing and able to defend. Three point shooting will be a strength for this team, not a weakness. Josh Harrellson isn’t Enes Kanter, but he looks like more of a capable big man than he has been given credit for.

As a team, these Cats look better than we expected.

So long as Brandon Knight can bring them together.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.