(AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Here are the college players to track for the 2017 NBA Draft


Here’s a quick look at 26 college players that NBA Draft fans will want to keep tabs on while eyeing the loaded 2017 draft.

1. Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas: Jackson is exactly what you want to see out of an NBA wing. He’s big, he’s insanely athletic, he can hit threes and put the ball on the floor, he’s incredibly tough and competitive. Think Andrew Wiggins, only with some dog in him. How does he perform when he’s used as a small-ball four at Kansas, and just how developed is he offensively? Those are the questions that will determine whether or not he’s the No. 1 pick.

2. Harry Giles, PF, Duke: How are his knees? He shredded his left knee before his sophomore season in high school and tore his ACL in his right knee before his senior season. If healthy, he’ll be in the conversation to be the No. 1 pick.

3. Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington: In a year where the point guard crop is absolutely loaded, Fultz has emerged as the best of the bunch. He’s not just a crazy-athletic, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose type. He’s a heady, change-of-pace lead guard that stands 6-foot-5 … and just so happens to have elite NBA point guard athleticism, too. There are people that would put Fultz No. 1 on a list like this.

4. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA: Ball will be the most intriguing prospect to watch this year. During his high school and AAU career he looked like he could be the next Jason Kidd, if not better. He’s got the size, the passing ability, the range. The problem? He’s yet to play basketball in a system that A) wasn’t tailor-made for his skill-set by his father and B) doesn’t feature his two brothers on the floor with him. Just how well will his game translate to the next levels?

5. Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke: At 6-foot-9, Tatum is such a smooth scorer at the small forward spot. But there are two things about his game that are red flags for me: 1. He thrives in the mid-range, and if the analytics revolution has taught us anything, it’s that the mid-range is the most inefficient place to try and earn a living in the NBA. 2. He’s really ball-dominant. He needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective. If he can work on those issues, he could have a lot of value in a league where versatility and big wings have value.

6. Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana: Bryant had a good freshman season with Indiana, one where he consistently improved throughout the year. But that was inevitable considering just how bad he was when he got onto campus, especially defensively. He’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and he plays the game hard and emotionally. Seeing just how much the rest of his game develops — defending pick and rolls, low post offensive, shooting stroke — will determine if he’s a first rounder or a lottery pick.

7. O.G. Anunoby, SF, Indiana: He has elite physical tools. He already is a terrific defensive player; ask Jamal Murray. He’s been compared to Victor Oladipo, although he’s about four inches taller than Victor. If he can make the same kind of jump offensively that Oladipo made, the rising sophomore could be a lottery pick.

8. Grayson Allen, Duke: A conversation that I had with an NBA scout during the ACC tournament has always stuck out to me: What makes Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray markedly better pro prospects over Allen? He’s the same size, he just as — if not more — athletic, he shot 41.6 percent from three, he’s a more versatile offensive threat. He’s predictable offensively, yes, and that performance he had against Kentucky in the Champions Classic is going to stick in the mind of a lot of people. But there’s a lot to like with this kid. Can it shine through on a roster loaded with lottery picks?

9. Dennis Smith Jr., PG N.C. State: Smith was considered by many to be the best point guard in the 2016 class before he tore his ACL his senior season. He was good enough that Cat Barber went pro to avoid risking playing behind him. So how healthy is he?

10. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State: He’s a 6-foot-11 wing that has guard skills. He’s also about as strong as a pipe cleaner. How assertive will he be at Florida State? How strong will he get? Can he defend? Isaac has a ton of upside but is a long way from reaching that upside.

California's Ivan Rabb encourages the crowd to cheer in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Mary's Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
California’s Ivan Rabb (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Here are 16 more names to keep an eye on

  • 11. Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal: Rabb had a chance to be a mid-to-late first round pick had he gone pro this season. Given the talent in the 2016 recruiting class, Rabb could end up improving significantly and still just be a late lottery pick.
  • 12. De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky: Dynamic playmaker. Elite defender. But can he shoot it well enough?
  • 13. Svi Mykhailiuk, SF, Kansas: Mykhailiuk has been in college for two years and is still four months younger than Jackson. A prized prospect when he enrolled, is this the Ukranian’s breakout season?
  • 14. Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse: He blocks shots and he hits threes. That’s enough to get you considered for the first round. But will he add the strength and mobility needed to avoid being the next Jarrod Uthoff?
  • 15. Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State: Bridges is a super-athletic wing playing for Tom Izzo. He’s going to shine in college.
  • 16. Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky: He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s athletic. But he’s also a bit undersized. He’s not Cliff Alexander, but is his ceiling more than Montrezl Harrell or J.J. Hickson?
  • 17. Chimezie Metu, PF, USC: Metu’s athleticism and mobility is terrific. His production hasn’t caught up just yet.
  • 18. Nigel Hayes, SF, Wisconsin: He’s got the physical tools to be a really good combo-forward in the NBA … if he can improve on his 36 percent shooting and 29 percent three-point shooting.
  • 19. Dedric Lawson, CF, Memphis: He averaged 16 and nine last season. He could average 21 and 12 next year. But can Tubby coach away his issues with inefficiency?
  • 20. Marques Bolden, C, Duke: Bolden is a 7-footer with a 7-foot-6 wingspan that checks in at 250 pounds. Just how much will his offensive game translate as he moves up a level?
  • 21. Omer Yurtseven, C, N.C. State: He’s a skilled and polished post player, but the Turk doesn’t have ideal physical tools for a center. He had 91 points and 28 boards in a U-18 game this spring.
  • 22. Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma State: Evans had his season cut short by injury and OSU’s struggles kept him off the radar. But he showed flashes of being a star in league play.
  • 23. Shake Milton, PG, SMU: A 6-foot-5 point guard with a 6-foot-11 wingspan that shoots 43 percent from three? It will be interesting to see what he can do with Nic Moore gone.
  • 24. Malik Monk, CG, Kentucky: He can be so entertaining and so inconsistent. Can he prove he’s not just a scorer, that he can be A) a playmaker or B) an elite shooter?
  • 25. Jarrett Allen, PF, Texas: He’s big, he’s long, he’s athletic and he plays with a motor. Think Steven Adams or Tristan Thompson.
  • 26. Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson: He could have been a second round pick this season. If he continues to improve as a shooter, the lottery isn’t out of the question.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.