Looking Back: The 2000 Recruiting Class

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Next week, the first session of July’s live recruiting period will begin, and high school hoopers around the country will take their talents to tournaments across the country, looking to impress coaches enough to earn a spot on a team at some level.

Those that are good enough will be playing for a scholarship. The best of the best will have a spot in all of the top 100 recruiting rankings on the line.

Over the course of this week, we will be looking back at the RSCI — a composite index for top 100 lists — to reinforce a point: recruiting rankings are not a guarantee. Top ten recruits flame out and unranked players make the NBA. The only thing that is a given is that hard work will be talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Keep that in mind while tracking where a kid is ranked and who is recruiting him.

We’ll be looking at the Class of 1999-2008, the last 10 classes that have finished the five years they are allowed to use their four seasons of eligibility.

To read through the rest of our Looking Back posts, click here.

The Top 20 

1. Zach Randolph: The Marion, Ind. native played just one season at Michigan State, averaging 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest on a team that reached the Final Four. From there it was off to the NBA, where “Z-Bo” made stops in Portland, New York and Los Angeles (Clippers) before finding a home in Memphis. For his career, Randolph is averaging 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

2. Eddie Griffin: Like Randolph, the Philadelphia native spent just once season in college before moving to the next level. In his one season at Seton Hall Griffin averaged 17.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, winning Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Griffin was picked seventh overall by Minnesota in the 2001 NBA Draft, but sadly he struggled in regards to pairing his skills with the maturity needed to prosper. Griffin died in 2007 when his car collided with a freight train in Houston.

3. Darius Miles: Miles was the highest rated player in the 2000 class to go straight to the NBA, where he was picked by the Clippers in the first round. Miles’ pro career was (despite a few flashes) for the most part nondescript, as he averaged 10.1 points per game. Miles also held roles in two movies, “Perfect Score” and “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.”

4. Gerald Wallace: Wallace averaged 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in his lone season at Alabama, and he’s put together a solid NBA career that’s still ongoing (he was part of the deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn). Wallace is averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 12 seasons as a pro, playing for five different franchises.

5. Marcus Taylor: The Lansing native arrived at Michigan State with a great amount of fanfare, and as a sophomore he averaged 16.8 points and 5.3 assists per game. Taylor would then leave school for the NBA (second round pick of the Timberwolves in 2002), and he spent seven seasons playing in various leagues around the world.

6. DeShawn Stevenson: Like Miles, Stevenson went straight from high school to the NBA. Unlike Miles, Stevenson is still in the NBA. Through 13 seasons the Fresno native has averaged 7.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, playing for six different teams (winning a title with the Mavericks in 2011).

7. Chris Duhon: As a freshman at Duke, Duhon proved to be a valuable player for a team that won the national title. Duhon is one of two members of the Class of 2000 Top 10 to spend four years in college, and he averaged 8.8 points and 5.7 assists per game as a Blue Devil. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2004 (second round), Duhon has played for four different franchises as a pro and was recently waived by the Lakers.

8. Mario Austin: Austin played three seasons at Mississippi State, averaging 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest for the Bulldogs. Like Duhon, Austin was a second round pick of the Bulls (in 2003) but he never played a minute in the NBA. He spent this past season playing for Al Kuwait SC in Kuwait.

9. Jared Jeffries: The Bloomington (Ind.) North product stayed home to play college basketball, playing two seasons at Indiana and helping to lead the Hoosiers to the 2002 national title game. Picked 11th overall by the Wizards in the 2002 NBA Draft, Jeffries has played 11 seasons in the NBA for four different teams (two stints with the Knicks).

10. Taliek Brown: Taliek joins Chris Duhon as the lone members of the Top 10 to spend four seasons in college, and like Duhon the point guard won a national title (2004). After running the show at UConn and becoming the school’s all-time leader in assists, Brown (7.8 ppg, 5.4 apg) went undrafted and most recently played for the Moncton Miracle of the National Basketball League (Canada). Brown took classes at UConn during the spring semester, as he’s working to complete his undergraduate studies.

11. Andre Brown: The Chicago native played four years at DePaul, averaging 10.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a Blue Demon. Brown’s professional career has featured many stops, with his most recent action coming with the Jeonju KCC Egis of the Korean Basketball League (10.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg).

12. Omar Cook: Along with Taliek Brown and Andre Barrett, Cook made up the triumvirate of NYC point guards who were expected to place their names alongside the likes of Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith. Cook left school after just one season (15.3 ppg, 8.7 apg), and was selected in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft by Orlando. He has since played in multiple leagues across the world, most recently playing for Caja Laboral in the Spanish League.

13. Jerome Harper: Harper’s issues off the court proved to be problematic, as his scholarship offer to Cincinnati was rescinded when the 6-5 guard was arrested on the day he was named a McDonald’s All-American. After two years at Indian Hills CC, Harper signed with Iowa State but was ineligible to play. In 2008 Harper had to turn himself in to Columbia, S.C. law enforcement to face charges regarding a murder committed in 1999. Harper most recently ran afoul of the law in March, when he was charged with attempted murder.

14. Alton Ford: Ford played one season at Houston, where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. Selected in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft by the Suns, Ford played three seasons in the NBA before playing overseas and most recently (2011) in the D-League.

15. Andre Barrett: Barrett (15.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) may not have been drafted after playing four seasons at Seton Hall, but he left the school as one of the greatest point guards in school history. Despite being undrafted Barrett fought his way into the NBA, ultimately playing for five different teams from 2004-07 and for the L.A. Clippers in 2008. Barrett most recently played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League.

16. Darius Rice: The nephew of Jerry Rice put together a solid four-year career at Miami, where he averaged 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a Hurricane. His best performance: dropping 43 on UConn as a junior in a stunning comeback victory. Rice went undrafted in 2004, and has since played in a number of countries with the hope of one day landing in the NBA. He most recently played for the Texas Legends of the D-League.

17. Abdou Diame: Diame went from Oak Hill Academy to Auburn, where he played two seasons before finishing up at Jacksonville State (career averages: 5.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg). Diame, a native of Senegal, is currently a member of Steve Smith’s coaching staff at Oak Hill.

18. Imari Sawyer: Sawyer joined fellow Chicago native Andre Brown at DePaul, with the 6-2 guard averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 assists per game in two seasons. Suspensions and off-court issues cut his college career short, and one of the best prep guards to come out of the Windy City never lived up to the praise he received in high school.

19. Cedrick Banks: The 6-3 guard from Chicago ended up playing four years at UIC, where he averaged 17.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Banks wasn’t drafted out of UIC, and he most recently played for Liège Basket in Belgium.

20. Rolando Howell: Howell played four seasons at South Carolina, averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a Gamecock. Howell played for the Dacin Tigers in Taiwan this past season, posting averages of 15.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS 

  • 23. Chris Wilcox
  • 32. Rickey Paulding
  • 34. Mike Sweetney
  • 47. Caron Butler
  • 53. Romain Sato
  • 56. A.J. Moye
  • 63. Kyle Cuffe
  • 69. Luke Ridnour
  • 85. Scott Merritt
  • 98. Marcus Melvin
  • UR: Gerald Fitch
  • UR: Jameer Nelson
  • UR: Dwyane Wade

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEOS: New footlocker commercials make fun of Trae Young, LiAngelo Ball

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A new series of commercials being released today by Foot Locker feature the stars of the NBA draft getting roasted.

Well, “stars”.

Because the commercial that is going to get the most play is of LiAngelo Ball, who never actually played in college. Ball, if you remember, was arrested for shoplifting while his UCLA team was on a trip to China. He was eventually dismissed from the program and ended up playing for a year in Lithuania before entering the NBA draft.

And, well, they touch on all of that in this commercial:

The other player to get roasted was Trae Young, who was a sensation for the first half of the college basketball season before a dreadful finish saw him losing 12 of his last 16 games. It was ugly, and Foot Locker made sure to remind him of it:

I appreciate the effort here from Foot Locker, but I have to say that these just are not all that funny.

Michael Porter Jr. says info on hip injury ‘got exaggerated a lot’

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Michael Porter Jr. told the Will Cain Show on Monday that he’s “feeling great” and that the information that made the rounds last week was “exaggerated a lot”.

Porter, who missed almost his entire freshman season after undergoing surgery on his back, cancelled a workout that was supposed to take place on Friday due to issues in his hip. It was reported to be spasms, bad enough that he wasn’t able to get out of bed, according to a report from ESPN. It’s worth noting that the original injury he was said to be dealing with at Missouri was a hip injury, not a back injury.

Porter eventually attended Friday’s team workout, although he didn’t workout, he only allowed teams to have their doctors evaluate his back.

“I got evaluated,” Porter said. “I let the doctors come in and do all their tests on me. I’m feeling good. I think the teams are comfortable, but I might get a couple workouts in.”

“It was just a little sore, so I told [my agent] my hip was kind of sore and he just wanted to shut it down for a couple of days,” Porter said. “And then people took that and kind of ran with it, saying, you know, my hip was injured, I couldn’t get out of bed. None of that was really true. I was just sore and I wanted to take a couple of days off. So that’s all that was.”

Porter added that his back is “normal. I have no issues with it. There’s no risk of reinjury [and] every MRI that I’ve done is perfect.”

2018 NBA Draft: 12 players outside the lottery that will out-perform their draft position

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In three of the last five seasons, the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award was given to a player that was picked outside of the top five.

Damian Lillard was the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Michael Carter-Williams went 11th in 2013.

Malcolm Brogdon? He was a second round pick in 2016.

This season, Donovan Mitchell, who was selected 13th in the 2017 NBA Draft, would be a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year if Ben Simmons had not been hurt last season.

Kyle Kuzma, the 27th pick in the draft, will be a First-Team All-Rookie selection.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at 12 players projected to be picked outside of the lottery in the 2018 NBA Draft are going to out-perform their draft position.

ROBERT WILLIAMS, Texas A&M

I know I said outside of the lottery and I know that Williams is projected by many to be scooped up in the back-end of the lottery, but he deserves a mention here because anyone getting him outside of the top ten will be getting a steal.

The reason for that is simple: Williams has the perfect set of skills to play the five in the NBA. At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and the kind of athleticism that will leave him in danger of concussing himself on the backboard, Williams has every tool needed to be a rim-running, lob-catching, rim-protecting center in today’s NBA.

NBA scouts saw this in Williams prior to last season. That’s why he was projected as a lottery pick early on in his freshman season, but the combination of returning to school, playing on a team where the pieces did not fit together and dealing with some suspensions and injuries throughout the year limited his production. The biggest hindrance? For a player that needs space to operate, Williams played on a team that had no floor-spacing whose go-to option offensively was Tyler Davis, a 6-foot-10 land-warrior that did all of his damage within eight-feet of the rim.

Put another way, playing in the NBA, where spacing is plentiful and point guards excel at throwing lobs up at the rim, will be better for Williams’ production than playing in college.

One other note on Williams: One of the biggest knocks on him is his work ethic. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy told me before the season started that the one thing that Williams had been working the hardest on was learning how to work hard. That’s a major reason why there are concerns about whether or not Williams will hit his upside or develop a three-point shot.

He can add nothing to his repertoire between now and when he hits free agency and Williams will, in my mind, be somewhere between Clint Capela and Tristan Thompson by then. If he drops all the way to the Wizards at No. 15, John Wall’s celebration will make Alex Ovechkin’s look humble.

DE’ANTHONY MELTON, USC

Everyone loves hot takes, so here’s a scorcher for you: If De’Anthony Melton had been allowed to play this season, if he had not gotten caught up in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, we would he talking about his as a potential lottery pick. Melton is a swiss-army knife. He’s 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, an athletic defender that averaged 2.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes as a freshman. His size and length should allow him to defend multiple positions, and his ability to create — 5.1 assists per 40 minutes as a freshman — makes him an intriguing and versatile talent. He was the only player in the NCAA to average 10 points, five boards, five assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes in 2016-17, something that has only been done seven times in NCAA history.

His big question mark is his ability to shoot the ball. That was the major reason he opted to return to school for his sophomore season; he made just 21 threes in 36 games at USC. Melton spent some time working out with Drew Hanlen, who helped reconfigure the shooting stroke of Jayson Tatum and Mo Bamba and is now working with Markelle Fultz to get his shot fixed, and had a full year to do nothing but get his shot right. It looked improved at the combine, and sources at USC say that he looked much-improved before he opted to leave school.

Melton is likely always going to be somewhat limited offensively, but I see him as a perfect fit as a role player alongside a ball-dominant lead guard.

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AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA

I love Holiday as a mid-to-late first round pick in this draft, and I think he has the potential to thrive as the first guard off the bench for a playoff team even as a rookie. The season he had as a junior — 20.3 points, 5.8 assists, 3.7 boards, 1.3 steals — has been underrated because of the disappointment that UCLA was. He’s a point guard by trade, and capable of playing against second-units in the NBA, but as a career 42 percent three-point shooter that spent last season playing alongside Lonzo Ball, he’s also quite capable of playing off-the-ball as a floor-spacer.

He’s just a shade under 6-foot-1, but he’s a good athlete with a 6-foot-7.5 wingspan and is a better defender than he’ll get credit for because of Steve Alford’s inability to coach a team to get stops. Throw in his NBA pedigree — he is the younger brother of NBA player Jrue and Justin — and I think you’re looking at a guy that will spend a decade in the league.

CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State

I love Hutchison’s potential as a scorer at the next level. He has positional size — 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan — and he spent the last year working on improving his shooting stroke and his toughness. His fluidity and shot-making should translate well to the NBA, and I think that he has the physical tools to hold his own on the defensive end of the floor. A late-bloomer with size, athleticism and the ability to shoot the ball should be something that playoff teams are looking for. I’m not sure that he is a starter at the NBA level, but I think he can help a playoff as a role player off the bench next season.

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KEVIN HUERTER, Maryland; MELVIN FRAZIER, Tulane; JOSH OKOGIE, Georgia Tech;  and KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton

All four of these guys fit the mold for what NBA teams are looking for out of a player at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second round. Players with positional versatility, size, length and shooting ability.

To me, Huerter is the best of the group. At 6-foot-7, he has the height to make up for what he lacks in length. He’s probably the best shooter of the group, and he has a much better feel for how to play than the others; he averaged 3.4 assists as a sophomore. Toughness and his impact defensively are the question marks, but what he’ll bring offensively will help to offset some of that.

Huerter, like Okogie, is also very young, younger than Mo Bamba, Deandre Ayton and Michael Porter Jr., and that adds to their intrigue. Okogie is just 6-foot-4, but his 7-foot wingspan, athleticism and ability to knock down perimeter shots makes him an ideal 3-and-D prospect, and his age is the reason why he’s likely to get picked ahead of Thomas, whose profile — 6-foot-3, 6-foot-10 wingspan, knockdown shooter — isn’t all that different.

Frazier is the x-factor. He’s the biggest (6-foot-7, 7-foot-2 wingspan) and the most athletic, but he’s also the rawest. The tools are there, and the 38 percent he shot from three this past season is promising, but sources around the Tulane program have said that number may be a bit fluky, like the 38 percent Josh Jackson shot from three as a freshman at Kansas. He’s a risk, but in the late-20s or 30s, he is certainly worth the risk.

RAWLE ALKINS, Arizona

Alkins hasn’t gotten much as any of the four players I just listed, but he’s a guy I think could sneak up on some people. He’s strong and athletic with that New York City toughness in his blood. He’s not a great three-point shooter, but he’s good. He’s not an elite defender, but he’s good. I do think he ends up in an NBA rotation by the end of next season, which is a pretty good return for a guy projected as a early-to-mid second round pick.

DEVON HALL, Virginia

Hall is a strong, 6-foot-4 guard with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and the kind of defensive toughness you know you are getting from a product of Tony Bennett’s system at Virginia. He shot 43 percent from three as a senior while averaging 3.1 assists. He can defend multiple positions, he can play off the ball and he is a playmaker when the ball is in his hands. As a mid-to-late second round pick, Hall seems to me to be a great fit as a back-end-of-the-rotation guard that will come on the cheap. I think he makes an NBA roster within two years.

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JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova

Brunson is so smart and so efficient and such a good shooter that I cannot imagine him not finding success in the NBA. Before Quinn Cook had the season that he had, I would have pegged Golden State as the perfect landing spot for Brunson. Now, I think he’ll probably slide to the second round, and if the Suns don’t land Aaron Holiday with the 16th pick, I think that might be a perfect landing spot for Brunson at 31. Either way, I think that his floor is Fred VanVleet, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.2 assists while shooting 41 percent from three as Toronto’s back-up point guard.

WHOEVER THE WARRIORS PICK

Golden State needs to find a player that can simply fill a role on the best team in NBA history, and they’ve proven in recent years that they excel at finding those kind of talents. Damian Jones was a miss, but Kevon Looney, Pat McCaw and Jordan Bell all played key roles for the Warriors during title runs the last two seasons. None of them are ever going to be great NBA players, but they don’t have to be: They are on a roster with two MVPs, three of the best shooters in NBA history and four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA today. All they have to do is the job they’re asked to do, and to do so on the cheap.

Whoever the Warriors get with the 28th pick should be able to do the same, whether that’s someone on this list — Thomas, Okogie and Brunson all make sense to me — or a player like Grayson Allen, a shooter that played both guard positions in college and is older and more physically ready for the league.

Penn State’s Mike Watkins arrested for third time in two years

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Penn State forward Mike Watkins has found himself in trouble with the law for the third time in his career as a Nittany Lion.

On Monday, Watkins, a 6-foot-9 forward that just completed his redshirt sophomore season by averaging 12.9 points and 8.8 boards, was arrested for possession of drug paraphenalia. According to a report from the Centre Daily Times, Watkins was found to have a weed grinder as well as three .40 caliber bullets in a team issued gym bag. Police were investigating Watkins for possessing an unregistered gun.

“We are aware of the incident and take this situation seriously,” Penn State Associate Athletic Director Jeff Nelson said. “We hold our student-athletes to high standards and will address this violation of team rules.”

In September of 2016, Watkins was arrested for criminal mischief and eventually ordered to pay nearly $3,000 in fines and fees, according to Centre County court records. Last July, Watkins was arrested for disorderly conduct after allegedly getting into a fight, and that led to Watkins being left home from Penn State’s tour of the Bahamas and suspended for the first game of the 2017-18 season for what was termed a disciplinary issue.

Annual doubleheader featuring state of Iowa’s four schools ending after 2018

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One of college basketball’s distinctive events is coming to a close after this season.

The Hy-Vee Classic, formerly the Big Four Classic, which has put the state of Iowa’s four Division I programs under one roof for a doubleheader each season since 2012 will have its last edition this December with the University of Iowa electing to exercise its option to pull out of the event with the Big Ten’s move to 20 conference games.

“The addition of two conference games is good for our fans, the Big Ten Conference and our strength of schedule,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a statement, “but unfortunately it created some scheduling challenges that impacts this event.”

The event was unique as it pit the state’s two Power 5 institutions – Iowa and Iowa State – against its two Missouri Valley Conference programs – Northern Iowa and Drake – on a rotating basis each season in the state capital of Des Moines. One year Iowa State would play Drake while Iowa would face Northern Iowa with the following year featuring Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa and Iowa vs. Drake. And so on and so forth for the last six years and ending after one last go-round this December.

The event was a sort of compromise to keep the intrastate series alive after years of both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones playing home-and-homes with Drake and Northern Iowa most years, putting them on the road in hostile MVC arenas.

That went away in 2012 and doesn’t appear to be likely to return with the dissolution of the yearly doubleheader.

“Although we would certainly welcome continuing to play games against UNI or Drake in the future,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said in a statement, “our ability to do that will most likely depend on each of their institution’s willingness to play games in Hilton Coliseum.”

Needless to say, Drake and UNI were not pleased with Iowa’s decision to force the end of the event.

“What has made our state unique on the college basketball landscape was the willingness and cooperation between the state’s four Division I universities to play each other on a regular basis,” Drake athletic director Brian Hardin said in a statement. “I understand the position that Iowa and Iowa State believe they are in. However, it is a sad day for passionate basketball fans of all four programs who have enjoyed nearly a century of history and rivalries between these four schools that were played in various great venues in our state.”

When the event was initially announced, it always felt like it was intended to act as a wind-down for Iowa and Iowa State – who will continue to face each other in on-campus games every year –  of the mid-major games that were popular with fans but not always with Hawkeyes and Cyclones coaches. Given the option, few Power 5 coaches are going to be excited about facing a lower-tier in-state rival every year anywhere other than its home floor.

Still, it’s a major loss for a unique situation in a small-population state that is not home to professional sports, but four Division I men’s hoops programs. College athletics is the passion in Iowa, and depriving the state’s fans of what were – if not national marquee – fun and interesting matchups that carry with them pride and bragging rights is a step in the wrong direction.

Ultimately, these games are likely going to be replaced on the schedules for the Cyclones and Hawkeyes with low-major opponents that won’t move the needle either at the gate or on their NCAA tournament resumes. Instead of an innovative event that against a co-worker’s or neighbor’s alma mater, Iowa and Iowa State fans can say hello to a steady diet of games against Bryant, Campbell and Maryland Eastern Shore while Drake and UNI get relegated to even more pronounced second-class status.

The move isn’t surprising, but it is disappointing.