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Re-ranking the 2008 recruiting class

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July’s live recruiting period, the last of its kind, just finished up, meaning that the Class of 2019 have fully had a chance to prove themselves to the recruiters and the recruitniks around the country.

Scholarships were earned and rankings were justified over the course of those three weekends, but scholarship offers and rankings don’t always tell us who the best players in a given class will end up being.

Ask Steph Curry.

Over the course of the coming weeks, we will be re-ranking eight recruiting classes, from 2007-2014, based on what they have done throughout their post-high school career.

Here are the 25 best players from the Class of 2008, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

Draymond Green (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

1. PAUL GEORGE (UR)

George was considered to be a three-star prospect out of high school, ultimately deciding to play his college basketball at Fresno State. In two seasons at the school George averaged 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game, and would go on to be selected by the Pacers with the tenth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

As a pro George has earned five All-Star Game appearances (most among 2008 prospects) while also being a four-time All-NBA and three-time All-Defensive team selection. George’s first All-Star Game appearance came in a season in which he was also named the NBA’s Most Improved Player (2012-13). Considered to be one of the top all-around players in the NBA, George has career averages of 18.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.

2. DAMIAN LILLARD (UR)

Like George, Lillard was also a prospect who was unable to crack the final Rivals Top 150 rankings for the Class of 2008. And like George, Lillard landed at a school — Weber State — where he would have ample opportunities to shine. He did just that, averaging 18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in three-plus seasons at Weber State.

A two-time Big Sky Player of the Year, Lillard would be selected by Portland with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Lillard, the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year, is a three-time All Star selection and has also made three All-NBA teams during his time with the Trail Blazers.

3. DRAYMOND GREEN (122)

Green is the highest-ranked player on this list who spent four years in college, and during his time at Michigan State he developed into one of college basketball’s most versatile players. In addition to being a Consensus All-American as a senior Green was also Big Ten Player of the Year, averaging 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

Yet that wasn’t enough to land Green in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, with Golden State selecting him with the 35th overall pick. It’s safe to say that the Warriors got an absolute steal in Green, whose versatility offensively has translated to the NBA and he’s also one of the league’s best defenders. The 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year (and three-time All Defensive Team selection), Green has made three All-Star Game appearances and is also a two-time All-NBA selection.

DeMar DeRozan (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

4. DEMAR DEROZAN (3)

DeRozan remained close to home for his college career, making the short trek from Compton to play one season at USC. In his lone season as a Trojan, DeRozan averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game before being selected by Toronto with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

His nine seasons with the Raptors were quite successful, with DeRozan helping to turn the team into a perennial factor in the East and earning four All-Star game appearances in the process. Also a two-time All-NBA selection, DeRozan averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a Raptor before being traded to San Antonio earlier this summer.

5. KEMBA WALKER (14)

Of the players on this list it can be argued that Walker’s collegiate career was the most successful. Two seasons after contributing as a reserve on UConn’s 2009 Final Four team Walker led the Huskies on a remarkable postseason run, winning five games in five days to take the Big East tournament and then going on to win the national title.

As a junior Walker was a Consensus All-American and national player of the year candidate, and he would go on to be selected by Charlotte with the ninth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Walker’s NBA career has been a success as well, with the point guard being an All Star each of the last two seasons and averaging 18.9 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.

6. KLAY THOMPSON (51)

After a high school career that saw Thompson land just outside of the Top 50 he headed north to play three seasons at Washington State. During his time on the Palouse Thompson averaged 17.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, which includes a junior season in which he accounted for 21.6 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from three.

Thompson’s production was good enough to see him get drafted by Golden State with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and since then he’s developed into a player who will likely (when his career ends) go down as one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history. Thompson’s been an All-Star selection each of the last four seasons, and in addition to being a key contributor on three NBA champion teams he’s also a two-time All-NBA selection.

7. ISAIAH THOMAS (92)

After finishing his high school career at South Kent Prep, Thomas would spend three seasons at Washington and average 16.4 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Thomas would develop into one of the top guards in the Pac-10 during his time in Seattle, but the production wasn’t good enough to convince most NBA teams to take a chance on him come draft day. Sacramento selected Thomas with the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, and he wound up averaging 11.5 points per game as a rookie.

After three seasons with the Kings Thomas would agree to a deal with Phoenix, which traded him to Boston less than a season into that contract. It would be in Boston where Thomas had his greatest success, earning two All-Star Game appearances and averaging 24.7 points and 6.0 assists per game. Thomas suffered a hip injury during Boston’s run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, and during that offseason Boston traded him to Cleveland. Thomas spent last season with the Cavaliers and Lakers, with the hip injury keeping him off the court for significant stretches. Now healthy, Thomas agreed to a one-year deal with Denver earlier this summer.

8. GORDON HAYWARD (UR)

Hayward, who fell outside of Rivals’ Top 150, was also an accomplished tennis player in high school. He would sign on to play for Brad Stevens at Butler, and few could have predicted that his collegiate career would last just two seasons. After a solid freshman campaign Hayward was named Horizon League Player of the Year as a sophomore, a season in which he helped lead the Bulldogs to the first of two consecutive national title game appearances and averaged 15.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Hayward would be selected by Utah with the ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, and in seven seasons with the Jazz he would average 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Hayward made the move to Boston last summer but saw his 2017-18 season come to an end just minutes into the season opener due to a horrific leg/ankle injury.

Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

9. JRUE HOLIDAY (2)

Much was expected of Holiday when he arrived at UCLA, where he averaged 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game during his lone season as a Bruin. It could be argued that in Holiday’s case the NBA game was a better fit for him, and despite those number he was still taken by Philadelphia with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Holiday’s four seasons in Philadelphia were solid, with the guard earning his first All-Star Game appearance in 2013.

After joining New Orleans as a free agent in 2013 Holiday struggled to stay healthy, playing in a total of 74 games the next two seasons. The more Holiday’s been on the court the better he’s been, with the 2017-18 season being the best of his career to date. Holiday had an impact on both ends of the court last season, averaging 19.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game, earning the first All-Defensive team selection of his career.

10. TYREKE EVANS (6)

The versatile Evans was entrusted with running the show for what would turn out to be John Calipari’s final team at Memphis, averaging 17.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. As a result Evans won the Wayman Tisdale Award, which is given to the nation’s top freshman by the USBWA. That Memphis team reached the Sweet 16, and it came as no surprise that Evans was off to the NBA once that season ended.

Selected by Sacramento with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Evans averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game as a rookie. For his career Evans, who averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game in Memphis last season, is accounting for 16.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds per night. Evans signed with the Pacers as a free agent earlier this summer.

11. REGGIE JACKSON (115)

Jackson spent three seasons at Boston College, where as a junior he averaged 18.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. One of the ACC’s best guards that season, Jackson would enter the 2011 NBA Draft and be selected with the 24th overall pick by Oklahoma City. Jackson spent three-plus seasons with the Thunder, spending the majority of his time there as Russell Westbrook’s backup.

Looking for a starting role Jackson was traded to Detroit during the 2014-15 season, where he’s been ever since. As a Piston Jackson is averaging 16.6 points, 6.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game, but injuries have limited him to 52 and 45 games over the last two seasons.

12. NIKOLA VUCEVIC (UR)

Vucevic flying under the radar from a rankings standpoint isn’t a huge surprise, as he played just one year of high school basketball in the United States. After a season at Stoneridge Prep it was off to USC, where Vucevic played three seasons and as a junior averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Drafted 16th overall by the 76ers in the 2011 NBA Draft, Vucevic played one season in Philadelphia before being included in a four-team trade that sent him to Orlando. In six seasons with the Magic, Vucevic is averaging 16.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

13. MARCUS MORRIS (29)

At both Kansas and in the NBA Marcus Morris has produced slightly better numbers than twin Markieff, and as a junior he earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors. After averaging 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game Morris was selected by Houston with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Morris spent just over a year with the Rockets before being traded to Phoenix, and he’s also played for Detroit and Boston during his NBA career. Last season Morris averaged 13.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 54 appearances for the Celtics.

Marcus and Markieff Morris (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

14. MARKIEFF MORRIS (49)

While Markieff’s college numbers weren’t as good as his brother’s, he did manage to be picked one spot higher in the 2011 NBA Draft. After averaging 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game as a junior Markieff was selected by Phoenix with the 13th pick, and the brothers would be reunited during their second season in the NBA. Morris would remain in Phoenix until the 2015-16 season, when he was traded to Washington. Morris has been a solid member of the Wizards rotation since his arrival, averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season.

15. GREG MONROE (8)

The New Orleans native spent two seasons at Georgetown, averaging 14.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a collegian. After that it was off to the NBA, with Monroe being drafted by the Pistons with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. An All-Rookie Team selection in 2011, Monroe has produced solid numbers during his NBA career with averages of 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. After spending time last season with Milwaukee, Phoenix and Boston, Monroe will reportedly sign with Toronto as a free agent.

16. BRANDON JENNINGS (4)

Jennings took what was, at the time, the road less traveled to the NBA as he played a season in Italy prior to entering the 2009 NBA Draft. A one-time Arizona commit, Jennings was selected tenth overall in that draft by Milwaukee, where he spent four seasons and was an All-Rookie Team selection in 2010. Since his first stint in Milwaukee Jennings has played for five teams, and that includes a late-season run with the Bucks last year after a productive stint in China. For his NBA career Jennings, who’s a free agent, is averaging 14.1 points and 5.7 assists per game.

17. IMAN SHUMPERT (39)

Shumpert’s three-year career at Georgia Tech was a very good one, and as a junior he became the seventh player in ACC history to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists. After averaging 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game it was off to the NBA for Shumpert, who was selected by the Knicks with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Shumpert’s been more of a defensive stopper in the NBA, and after receiving a reprieve in the form of his being traded to Cleveland during the 2014-15 season the following year he would win an NBA title. Shumpert was traded to Sacramento last season but did not appear in a game for the Kings due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

18. AL-FAROUQ AMINU (7)

Aminu spent two seasons at Wake Forest before turning pro. Aminu averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore, which was good enough to get him selected by the Clippers with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Aminu’s played for four different teams, with his best run coming as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. Aminu’s defensive versatility has made him a valuable member of the Portland rotation, and last season he averaged 9.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

19. ED DAVIS (15)

After serving as a reserve on North Carolina’s 2009 national title team as a freshman, Davis averaged 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game as a sophomore. And with that Davis was off to the NBA, going 13th overall to Toronto in the 2010 NBA Draft. A rotation big man who’s played with five different NBA teams, Davis boasts career averages of 6.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Next season Davis will be playing for a sixth NBA team, as he agreed to a deal with the Nets earlier this summer.

20. SHELVIN MACK (UR)

Mack played in back-to-back national title games with the Butler Bulldogs before getting drafted in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. He’s since bounced around the league, but he’s managed to put together a career that spans seven years to date.

21. WILLIAM BUFORD (19)

A McDonald’s All-American out of Libbey HS in Toledo, Buford finished his Ohio State career as one of the program’s top scorers. Over the course of four seasons Buford averaged 13.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, finishing with 1,990 career points. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009, Buford earned third team all-conference honors as a sophomore and second team as both a junior and senior. Undrafted, Buford spent the early stages of his professional career in the G-League before playing the last two seasons in Europe.

22. KYLE O’QUINN (UR)

O’Quinn was an unheralded recruit out of high school, ultimately becoming the focal point of a Norfolk State program that would pull off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history during his senior season. In four years at Norfolk State O’Quinn averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, winning MEAC Player of the Year as a senior. And he would lead the 15-seed Spartans to an upset win over Missouri in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament. Drafted by Orlando with the 49th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, O’Quinn has been a rotation big in the NBA and has career averages of 5.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

22. TREY THOMPKINS (30)

Thompkins may not have spent much time in the NBA, appearing in 24 games for the Clippers during the 2011-12 season, but that shouldn’t lead to what he accomplished in college being ignored. An SEC All-Freshman Team selection in 2009, Thompkins was a first team all-conference choice in each of his final two seasons at Georgia. For his career Thompkins, who was selected by the Clippers with the 37th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, averaged 15.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Thompkins has experienced success playing overseas, most recently playing for Real Madrid in the Spanish ACB.

23. TU HOLLOWAY (100)

Holloway’s four year career at Xavier was a highly productive one, as he was a two-time first team All-Atlantic 10 selection and the conference’s Player of the Year in 2011. During Holloway’s junior season, in which he averaged 19.7 points, 5.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game, he was also a third team AP All-American. While Holloway was not drafted in 2012 he has enjoyed a successful career overseas, most recently signing with Istanbul BB for the 2018-19 season.

24. TYLER ZELLER (33)

Zeller’s freshman season at North Carolina was capped by a national title, and by the time his UNC career was complete the 7-footer managed to earn ACC Player of the Year and consensus All-America honors as a senior. As a senior Zeller averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, shooting 55.3 percent from the field. Drafted by Dallas with the 17th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Zeller’s played for four teams and is averaging 7.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

25. ANDREW NICHOLSON (UR)

If you happen to wonder why the aforementioned Holloway didn’t win Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as a senior, Nicholson would be the reason why. During a senior season in which he averaged 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, not only was Nicholson the A-10 Player of the Year but he was also the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-American. In four seasons at St. Bonaventure, Nicholson averaged 17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, which led to he being selected by Orlando with the 19th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Nicholson, who played in China last season, averaged 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in five NBA seasons for the Magic, Wizards and Nets.

Byron Mullens (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

FIVE NOTABLES THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE TOP 25

BRYON MULLENS (1)

Mullens, the top prospect in the Class of 2008, played just one season at Ohio State and only two of his 33 appearances were starts. After averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game Mullens went pro, with the Mavericks taking him 24th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. Mullens averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the NBA, playing for four teams over the course of five seasons.

WILLIE WARREN (10)

Warren was productive in his two seasons at Oklahoma, averaging 15.2 points and 3.5 assists per game, but that did not translate to the NBA. Drafted 54th overall by the Clippers in the 2010 NBA Draft, Warren appeared in 19 games as a rookie and averaged 1.9 points per game. Warren most recently played professionally in the G-League for the Texas Legends.

JAMYCHAL GREEN (21)

Green was a two-time All-SEC selection during his time at Alabama, landing on the first team as a junior and getting a second team nod as a senior. In four seasons Green, who would go undrafted, averaged 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Despite not hearing his name called on draft night Green has managed to carve out a solid NBA career for himself, making his debut during the 2014-15 season and averaging 10.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game (both career highs) for Memphis last season.

LUKE BABBITT (31)

Babbitt enjoyed a very good two-year run at Nevada, winning WAC Player of the Year honors after averaging 21.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Selected by Minnesota with the 16th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Babbitt was traded to Portland on draft night and would spend his first three NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers. Babbitt, who’s averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game for his career, has since played for the Pelicans, Heat (two stints) and Hawks.

MARCUS DENMON (150)

After serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Missouri, Denmon moved into a starring role as an upperclassman and earned first team All-Big 12 honors as both a junior and a senior. Averaging 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a senior, Denmon was also a consensus second team All-American. Selected by the Spurs with the 59th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Denmon has not appeared in an NBA game, instead plying his trade overseas.

Ten mid-majors that can be the next Loyola-Chicago

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In each of the last five NCAA tournaments, there’s been at least one double-digit seeded mid-major that’s managed to advance.

The 2013 NCAA tournament boasted two such teams, 14-seed Harvard and a 15-seed in FGCU, that became national darlings over the course of the opening weekend.

Since then there have been repeat winners (Harvard won as a 12-seed in 2015, and Middle Tennessee advanced in both 2016 and 2017), and Loyola-Chicago reached the 2018 Final Four as an 11-seed.

What traits do these teams tend to have in common?

In many cases experience is key, be it from winning an NCAA tournament game the season prior or bringing back many experienced pieces (or both).

And for some teams, the presence of a star player has been the key.

Below is a look at ten teams that could pull off at least one upset in next spring’s NCAA tournament.

NOTE: For this post the following conferences (and teams) are not under consideration: ACC, American, Atlantic 10, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as BYU and Gonzaga.

Dan D’Antoni of Marshall (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

Loyola-Chicago

As noted above the Ramblers reached the program’s first Final Four since 1963 last season, knocking off Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State on the way to San Antonio. Porter Moser will have to account for the loss of two double-digit scorers (Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson) and the Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Year (Ben Richardson) from that team, but reigning Valley Player of the Year Clayton Custer is back as are fellow starters Marques Townes and Cameron Krutwig.

Sophomore Lucas Williamson and junior Bruno Skokna will need to take a step forward after serving as supplementary options last season, but the Ramblers’ ability to defend and share the ball on the other end of the floor should serve them well. Will it be enough to cause some mayhem in the NCAA tournament for a second straight year? That’s the question, especially with their top challengers in the Valley having improved.

Buffalo

Nate Oats’ Bulls dominated Arizona in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament, shooting nearly 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the 89-68 beating in Boise. Three starters from that team, guards CJ Massinburg, Jeremy Harris and Davonta Jordan, return as do valuable reserves Nick Perkins and Dontay Carruthers. Buffalo will have to account for the loss of Wes Clark, who was third on the team in scoring and first in assists, and forward Ikenna Smart, but there’s more than enough talent to get the job done. In addition to the returnees, Buffalo adds freshmen Ronaldo Segu and Jeenathan Williams to the mix. Not only does Buffalo have the tools needed to win an NCAA tournament game for the second consecutive season, but it could go beyond that in 2019.

Marshall

Marshall’s style of play made the Thundering Herd an entertaining team to watch last season, and with the tandem of Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks back on campus for one last hurrah expect more of the same in 2018-19. Elmore and Burks combined to score an average of 42.8 points per game, with the former also responsible for 6.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per contest. Dan D’Antoni did lose his best front court player from the team that knocked off Wichita State in Adjin Penava, who averaged 15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game.

Penava’s departure that means players such as sophomore Jansson Williams and Darius George and juniors Mike Beyers Ante Sustic will need to step forward. That being said the backcourt rotation, which in addition to Elmore and Burks includes the likes of Rondale Watson and Jarrod West (both averaged 7.8 ppg last season), is talented enough to cause some chaos in the NCAA tournament yet again. That being said Marshall won’t lack for challengers within Conference USA, one being Western Kentucky.

Mike Daum (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

HIGH-LEVEL STAR

South Dakota State

Three of South Dakota State’s top four scorers from last season’s NCAA tournament team are back, with the leader of that bunch being one of the nation’s best scorers in senior forward Mike Daum (23.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg). “The Dauminator,” who’s won the last two Summit League Player of the Year awards, is on pace to become the ninth 3,000-point scorer in Division I history, and his ability to score from anywhere on the court (46.2 percent FG, 42.5 percent 3PT, 85.1 percent FT) makes the 6-foot-9 forward an extremely difficult matchup for opponents.

Sophomore David Jenkins Jr., the Summit League’s top freshman last season, and senior guards Tevin King, Skyler Flatten and Brandon Key return as well. T.J. Otzelberger’s roster has both talent and experience, and with a player like Daum this could be the season in which the Jackrabbits break through and pick up the program’s first Division I NCAA tournament victory.

Western Kentucky

When a star has led a mid-major to an NCAA tournament upset, it’s usually be an upperclassman who’s done the honors with Georgia State sophomore R.J. Hunter (2015) being a notable exception. The Hilltoppers land here because of the presence of a freshman many scouting services pegged as a Top-10 recruit in 6-foot-11 center Charles Bassey. Bassey has the size, athleticism and skill needed to make an immediate impact at WKU, and he’ll need to with forwards Dwight Coleby and Justin Johnson having moved on.

That being said, Rick Stansbury has two really good guards in senior Lamonte Bearden and sophomore Taveion Hollingsworth, with the latter having scored 30 in the Hilltoppers’ Postseason NIT win at Oklahoma State. Add in the likes of sophomore guard Josh Anderson, transfers Desean Murray (Auburn) and Jared Savage (Austin Peay) and Top 100 prospect Dalano Banton, and Western Kentucky has enough in the cupboard to reach the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. And they have the potential to do some damage if they get into the field.

Seth Towns (Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

RETURNING TALENT

Harvard

More than 99 percent of the scoring from last season’s Ivy League regular season champion team is back, and that includes three all-league selections in juniors Seth Towns, Chris Lewis and Justin Bassey. Towns and Lewis combined to average 28.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game last season, with Bassey being part of a perimeter rotation that includes fellow juniors Bryce Aiken and Christian Juzang. Tommy Amaker has a roster that isn’t short on depth, talent or experience, which is why they enter the 2018-19 season as the clear favorite to win the Ivy League. And if the Crimson can successfully navigate the Ancient Eight’s four-team postseason tournament, something they were unable to do last season, look out.

Southern Illinois

All five starters return from a team that won 20 games and finished second in the Missouri Valley last season, led by seniors Armon Fletcher (14.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Sean Lloyd Jr. (12.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Kaivon Pippen (12.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg). The experience stands to serve Southern Illinois well in what projects to be a tighter Valley race than a season ago, which Loyola won by four games.

Two things to keep an eye on regarding the Salukis: what senior center Thik Bol can give them off the bench after missing all of last season due to a knee injury, and how they perform in close games. Ten of SIU’s 18 regular season conference games were decided by six points or less, with the Salukis winning eight. Will that good fortune carry over? Or better yet, can Barry Hinson’s team do enough to cut down on the number of close games it has to play? Either way, this sets up to be a good season for Southern Illinois.

Cal State Fullerton

Dedrique Taylor’s Titans won 20 games and the Big West tournament last season, earning the program’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2008. And with four starters back from that team, Cal State Fullerton may be in line for a return trip. The perimeter tandem of seniors Kyle Allman and Khalil Ahmad is outstanding, with the former being a first team All-Big West selection as a junior after averaging 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. As for Ahmad, he earned second team all-conference honors and averaged 15.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Add in junior forward Jackson Rowe (12.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg), and all three double-digit scorers from last season’s NCAA tournament team are back. The NCAA tournament experience for the Titans was a humbling one, as Purdue limited them to 48 points, but that should serve as motivation for this talented squad. Cal State Fullerton has the talent to become the first Big West team to win a Round of 64 NCAA tournament game since Hawaii did so in 2016.

Rider

All five starters are back for Rider, which won 22 games and the MAAC regular season title in 2017-18. But like Harvard, memories of how that season ended (a loss in the MAAC tournament quarters) could serve as fuel for the Broncs in 2018-19. Redshirt sophomore guard/forward Dimencio Vaughn, a first team all-MAAC performer, leads the way after averaging 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game with Jordan Allen, Frederick Scott, Stevie Allen and Tyere Marshall all back as well.

Add in grad student Anthony Durham, and Kevin Baggett has his top six scorers from a season ago to work with as Rider looks for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994. Navigating the MAAC tournament has proven difficult for the Broncs since joining the league in 1997, but this could be the group that breaks the run of bad luck. And given the production and experience on this roster, Rider could be a team first round opponents hope to avoid come Selection Sunday.

Lawyer: Evidence shows coaches knew of NCAA family payouts

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NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for a longtime Adidas employee urged jurors Thursday to use common sense and evidence to conclude college basketball coaches like Bill Self at Kansas and Rick Pitino at Louisville knew shoe companies were paying money to families of elite athletes to steer them to their schools.

Attorney Michael Schachter, representing Adidas sports marketing manager James “Jim” Gatto, cited testimony and evidence that emerged during the fraud conspiracy trial of Gatto, aspiring sports agent Christopher Dawkins and Merl Code, a former Adidas consultant.

“Ladies and gentlemen, what help do you think a coach thought Jim Gatto was going to provide in persuading a kid to go to their college?” he asked. “Jim works for a shoe company. He is not a guidance counselor. Kids don’t turn to him for assistance in where they should go to college.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Diskant, who has portrayed the schools and sometimes their coaches as victims of the defendants, said in a closing statement that coaches were not “running rampant.”

“Nothing can be further from the truth,” the prosecutor said, highlighting protocols in place at schools to ensure compliance with NCAA rules.

He said the defendants hid payments from coaches, knowing they would be fired if they facilitated payouts to players’ families.

“Does that mean that some of the coaches didn’t break the rules? No, it’s possible they did,” Diskant said.

The prosecutor noted that there was no mention of money in two voice messages Gatto left for Pitino. He also cited evidence that Dawkins, speaking of a financial payout, told the Bowen family: “I would never tell Rick anything like this because I don’t want to put him in jeopardy.”

Schachter told jurors that the government’s star witness — former Adidas consultant Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola — lied when he testified that he was concealing from universities the fact that cash was being paid to the families of top recruits.

He cited Gassnola’s testimony about a North Carolina State assistant coach. Gassnola, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges and cooperated with prosecutors, told jurors that he delivered cash in 2015 to Coach Orlando Early, who planned to give it to a personal trainer for highly touted point guard Dennis Smith Jr. so it could be relayed to the athlete’s family.

Schachter said evidence shows that Self “knew of and asked for a payment to be made to Silvio De Sousa’s handler.”

The lawyer added: “More than that, Coach Self requested just that kind of help that Mr. Gassnola arranged as a condition for Coach Self to permit Adidas to continue their sponsorship agreement with the University of Kansas.”

Schachter also cited a conversation his client had in late May 2017 with Pitino, saying it occurred just after Code told Gatto that he needed money for the family of Louisville recruit Brian Bowen Jr. because the University of Oregon, a Nike school, had made an “astronomical offer” to recruit him.

Schachter said Gatto wanted to be sure Pitino wanted Bowen before he spent his employer’s money.

“Why, precisely, would Louisville’s head coach think that a shoe company representative wants to speak with him about a player?” Schachter asked. “Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that the only explanation that makes any sense is that Coach Pitino knows exactly why Jim is calling to discuss a player.”

Bowen committed to Louisville on June 1, 2017, though he never played for the school. He now plays professionally in Australia. Pitino, a legendary coach, was never accused of a crime but was fired amid the investigation’s fallout.

North Carolina State announced last year that Early and the school’s head coach were leaving the program months before the corruption case became public.

Smith played one year at NC State. He now plays for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

De Sousa is a sophomore at Kansas.

The jury is likely to start deliberations Monday.

Watch list for Malone award released

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It’s watchlist season, y’all.

The latest preseason inventory comes from the Malone Award, given to the country’s top power forward, which features 20 names.

Kentucky has a pair of players with P.J. Washington and Stanford transfer Reid Travis while the mid-major ranks are represented by South Dakota State’s Mike Daum, Northern Kentucky’s Drew McDonald and UNCW’s Devontae Cacok.

Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson is also on the list as is senior All-American candidates Dean Wade of Kansas State and Luke Maye of North Carolina. SEC player of the year Grant Williams also makes the cut.

“We are privileged to annually present an award bearing the name of Karl Malone, a truly gifted player and an exemplary teammate,” John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “The young men on the watch list for this, and other awards in the Naismith Starting 5, should be extremely proud, and we look forward to watching them compete throughout the upcoming season.”

The list will be cut to 10 in February, then to five and finally awarded to the honoree in April. Players not named in the initial 20 can also work their way into consideration.

Arizona’s Deandre Ayton won last year, Johnathan Motley of Baylor in 2017 and Georges Niang of Iowa State in 2016.

2019 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award Candidates
Yoeli Childs, BYU
Zion Williamson, Duke
Juwan Morgan, Indiana
Dedric Lawson, Kansas
Dean Wade, Kansas St
Reid Travis, Kentucky
P.J. Washington, Kentucky
Jordan Murphy, Minnesota
Jordan Brown, Nevada
Luke Maye, North Carolina
Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky
Chris Silva, South Carolina
Mike Daum, South Dakota State
Grant Williams, Tennessee
Devontae Cacok, UNCW
Bennie Boatwright, USC
Simisola Shittu, Vanderbilt
Eric Paschall, Villanova
Noah Dickerson, Washington
Sagaba Konate, West Virginia

SEC banking on some veteran stars – even Kentucky

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Kentucky’s PJ Washington says coach John Calipari has “chilled out” at practice leading up to the season.

It doesn’t take as much yelling from coaches when you have a little seasoning and maturity on the roster, qualities that the Wildcats and other top Southeastern Conference teams are banking on to match — or even better — the league’s strong 2017-18 season. Calipari says he hasn’t had to raise his voice yet in practice.

“Last year it was pretty much every day but this year he’s kind of chilled out a little bit,” Washington said Wednesday at SEC media day. “We have experience obviously.”

Seriously? No yelling?

“I’m shocked, too,” Washington said. “He’s usually screaming every five seconds. Now, he’s just stopping practice and trying to teach young guys what to do.”

It helps when they’re not all young guys. Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis , a two-time All-Pac-12 performer, brought a wealth of experience to the lineup.

There are plenty of highly touted freshmen in Lexington and around the league, of course. But a number of standouts returned, too, including reigning SEC player of the year Grant Williams at Tennessee, Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford, Auburn’s Jared Harper, Florida’s Jalen Hudson and LSU’s Tremont Waters.

The SEC proved its back as a basketball power last season, sending a record eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. Optimism abounds again going into this season, with coaches not being shy about trumpeting the league’s strength.

“The league top to bottom has probably never been stronger,” Calipari said. “Top-heavy, too. Crazy.”

Added Mississippi State’s Ben Howland: “I can’t say enough about our league. This league is going to be so good this year. As good as it was last year, this year’s group is going to be even better.”

LSU coach Will Wade said last year there were a number of good teams, and now there are some that can be “elite.”

Plenty of players explored entering the NBA draft after last season but opted to return.

Tennessee and Auburn shared the SEC regular season title and return most of their top players. The Volunteers return all five starters and are led by Williams and senior Admiral Schofield. That experience prompts Howland to proclaim: “There’s no doubt they’re the team to beat in our conference.”

Auburn lost leading scorer Mustapha Heron, who transferred to St. John’s. Harper and Bryce Brown returned while center Austin Wiley and forward Danjel Purifoy are back after being ineligible last season.

“Austin is as big, as strong, as fast and as mobile as any big guy in the country,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, whose team is no longer undersized.

Wiley is recovering from a foot injury that could sideline him early in the season. Purifoy is still ineligible for the first nine games.

The Tigers snapped a 15-year NCAA Tournament drought last season.

Then there’s Kentucky. Washington, Quade Green and Nick Richards are among the returnees.

Travis is the Wildcats’ only preseason first-team All-SEC pick.

The Wildcats are the preseason league favorites — as usual. But teams like Tennessee and Auburn are potential preseason top 10 teams, too.

For all the returning veterans, there’s also a strong wave of incoming talent.

Kentucky brought in the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class with four five-star recruits, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

LSU was ranked No. 4, led by five-star forwards Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams, and teams like Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Florida also had highly rated classes. The Gators (Andrew Nembhard) and Commodores (Darius Garland) both signed five-star point guards.

“I think we have some really good incoming freshmen and I think we have some terrific veterans that have had a big impact on the league,” Calipari said. “The teams that won the league last year have most of their players back.

“We finally have a couple of returning players. It’s been awhile.”

7-foot-2 freshman Brown brings height to Bruins

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA has its tallest team under coach Steve Alford, and it added another inch after the summer thanks to the continued growth of Moses Brown.

Brown, a 7-foot-2 center from New York, said he grew an inch since his arrival on the UCLA campus. People have noticed, and he’ll be a star attraction in Westwood this season.

“A lot of people want to take pictures of me,” Brown said. “Every time I walk in class, the first person they see is me. The teacher always wants to pick on me, ‘Hey, how tall are you?’ So then I introduce myself in front of the class. It’s pretty cool. You meet a lot of new people.”

And then, of course, there are the people who just take selfies with Brown in the background. He sees them as he’s walking by.

“I pose a lot,” Brown said while flashing a peace sign.

Freshman guard David Singleton made it his personal mission to show Brown the beaches on the West Coast are better than those on the East Coast. Singleton, a 6-foot-4 guard who played at Bishop Montgomery High School in Los Angeles, said they went to the Santa Monica Pier, Huntington Beach, Venice and more in the summer.

“We went to Huntington Beach for Fourth of July and everyone was coming up to us and everyone was breaking their necks,” Singleton said.

Brown, who is wearing No. 1, said the biggest change for him has been his offseason weightlifting program. He’s ready to get his college career started and to try to help UCLA improve from its 21-12 season a year ago.

“I just want to get with all my guys. I want to build a relationship with my teammates,” Brown said. “We have a lot of chemistry.”

Brown weighs 250 pounds and said he’s excited that in college, he gets fed after practice. UCLA will be feeding him the ball when he’s on the court as he will present constant mismatches.

“Moses at 7-2 presents a lot of good problems,” Alford said. “Being 7-2 and length, really runs the floor well and for a guy that big, how he handles the ball and those types of things inside has been very impressive. He gives us a shot-blocker, which, to be honest with you we really haven’t had an elite shot-blocker since we’ve been here. I think he is that.”

His stature is even an eye-opener for his frontcourt teammates.

“I have to break my neck to see Moses, which usually does not happen to me,” said sophomore guard Chris Smith, who is 6-9. “When I stand next to him, to look in his eyes, I have to look up. I’ve never had to do that before.”