Where do the undecided prospects from the 2016 NBA Draft Combine stand?

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — The 2016 NBA Draft Combine had more than a dozen players who are still trying to decide whether or not to return to college basketball or go pro immediately.

CBT caught up with many of them and also watched workouts at the combine and spoke to a handful of NBA scouts to get a feel for where each prospect stands as the May 25th deadline approaches. While some players have already officially signed with an agent or opted to go back to school, many others are still weighing their options for next season.

Already leaving

Cheick Diallo, Kansas – After a freshman season that only saw him play 201 total minutes, the former McDonald’s All-American has signed with an agent and will stay in the draft. With the way he played at the combine, this is probably the best decision for Diallo.

Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville – Rick Pitino is expecting his sophomore center to stay in the draft. The 6-foot-10 big man is having a minor heart procedure on Monday and will likely keep his name in the draft. At the combine, Onuaku measured well and showed that he can be a solid rotational big man in the NBA thanks to his ability to score around the basket, rebound his area and defend.

Malachi Richardson, Syracuse – Richardson signing with an agent and staying in the draft doesn’t come as much of a surprise, since the freshman wing had opted not to play in the combine. The 6-foot-6 Richardson will have a great chance to be a first-round pick if he works out well for a few teams.

Already returning to school

Justin Jackson, North Carolina – The sophomore is returning to North Carolina after a so-so showing at the combine. Jackson told NBCSports.com that he interviewed with 11 teams at the combine and got a lot of feedback regarding his shooting and ability to put on strength. Jackson could have been a second-round selection this year, but with another year of work on those problem areas, maybe he tries to test again next year.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/264779901″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Players who should go

Ben Bentil, Providence – Showing at the combine that he didn’t need Kris Dunn to be productive, Bentil was very good after an outstanding sophomore season. One of the more productive players in the camp’s scrimmages, Bentil hit shots from the perimeter, scored inside and also measured at a solid 6-foot-8 with a 7-1.5 wingspan. Providence could be in for a rebuilding year and Bentil won’t have Dunn making life easier on him, so it might be time for him to leave school.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson – One player who will likely make a late decision is Blossomgame, as the junior forward was very solid at the combine as he has a week of important workouts ahead. Blossomgame told reporters at the combine that he’s hoping to stick somewhere in the 25-to-40 range, and that’s very possible after he measured well and showed some good traits during combine scrimmages. With the way Blossomgame performed at the combine, a lot of NBA teams have positive things to say about him and he might be in position to be a late first-round pick.

Marcus Lee, Kentucky – It was not a good camp for the Kentucky junior big man, as he wasn’t productive in scrimmages and didn’t impress that much in athletic testing. Since Lee needs to add weight and increase his skill level, returning to Kentucky might seem like the obvious option. But is Lee going to get that many minutes when Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyard, Sasha Killeya-Jones and, potentially Marques Bolden, are all on the roster? Lee probably won’t be drafted, but he might as well get paid to sit on the bench and develop rather than sit a lot during his senior season.

Malik Newman, Mississippi State – One of the draft’s most intriguing players is Newman, a freshman guard who was up-and-down in his first year under Ben Howland. Many have believed that Newman would always be a one-and-done player but he’s seriously considering returning to school with a Mississippi State roster that is much better next season. Newman performed okay at the combine, as he showed he can take (and make) tough jumpers, but he wasn’t great in any one facet. With Mississippi State’s backcourt looking crowded next season, Newman might be best served to leave now if a team really likes him.

Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State – The junior big man is in a solid spot after the combine as Siakam measured in with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and showed that he can be a high-motor big man with a developing skill set. Since his former head coach, Marvin Menzies, is now at UNLV and Siakam is already 22 years old, he might be best served to leave now while his stock is the highest.

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall – While the consensus seems to be that Whitehead will stay in the draft, he told reporters at the combine that he’s still deciding on things as his decision will come on Thursday. With his ability to score and distribute a bit, Whitehead is an attractive guard for some teams who want a boost off the bench while others don’t want to deal with the potential headaches of a bad decision maker. Since Whitehead is coming off of a big sophomore season — in which the Big East produced two expected lottery picks and the national champions — I’m not sure his stock is going to get any higher if he returns and has another good year.

Players who should stay:

Josh Hart, Villanova – The defending champion and Wildcat junior guard told NBCSports.com that he’s “50/50” right now with his decision. I went a lot more in-depth on Hart and Villanova’s situation here. Given the way Hart struggled to adapt at the combine scrimmages, another year of building his offensive skills would help a lot.

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin – Wisconsin junior forward Nigel Hayes has already played in two Final Fours and a Sweet 16, but he’s also trying to get a feel for what his draft stock is. “All the teams are asking, ‘why are you here?’ They want to see if they’re wasting their time speaking to me and evaluating me and if I’m here to have fun or go on to the next level and be prepared,” Hayes said. With the way he passively went through combine scrimmages, it would be surprising to see Hayes stick in the draft. But this is a good learning experience for next year when Hayes is a senior.

Dedric Lawson, Memphis – One of the combine’s youngest players, Lawson didn’t look prepared at all for this setting as he was completely overmatched during most of the scrimmages. With Lawson’s brother and father still around at Memphis next season, a return to play for a year under Tubby Smith — at the very least — seems like a wise decision for Dedric’s NBA prospects.

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue – Because of a calf issue, Swanigan has been working through therapy and had to cancel a couple of team workouts. He told NBCSports.com that he’s about 85 percent at the moment and he didn’t look particularly great at the combine. Swanigan was sluggish at times and didn’t do much to help his own offense. He still hasn’t decided on next season, but he’d be wise to consider returning to a solid Purdue team. “I haven’t really thought about [signing with an agent or not]. Just focused on playing and enjoying the process,” Swanigan said.

Melo Trimble, Maryland – One of the more intriguing decisions left is from Maryland sophomore guard Melo Trimble. Since Trimble would be the only returning starter for the Terps, it gives him a unique perspective. “It makes it a lot harder. You’re not going to have any starters come back at all. For me, being the only starter coming back, it would be very difficult,” Trimble said. “If I went back to Maryland I also have people that have been there since I’ve been there — Damonte [Dodd], Jared [Nickens] and Dion Wiley — and everyone keeps getting better. That’s just how it is. The NBA is new faces all the time. It’s tough to think about how [last year’s starters around me are] not going to be back.” With the way he measured poorly, didn’t look in great shape and didn’t play well in scrimmages, another year of Trimble showing he’s a developing lead guard wouldn’t hurt.

Troy Williams, Indiana – It wasn’t a great week at the combine for the Indiana junior wing, but he’s still weighing his options for the future. “I would say I’m in the middle still. I’ll most likely make my decision after this week. Sometime next week, I go back to Indiana, I’ll talk to my family then,” Williams said. Williams shot the ball poorly, was reckless with the ball in his hands and didn’t show that great of a basketball IQ at the combine. I’m not sure Williams has a ton to gain by returning to Indiana, but he would have a potentially great team to play on in Bloomington.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

1 Comment

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

Getty Images

TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.