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Re-ranking the 2013 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 2013, with their final Rivals Top 150 ranking in parentheses:

(Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

1.  Joel Embiid (25)

The meteoric rise of “The Process” has been fascinating to witness. Embiid didn’t become a five-star caliber prospect until his senior season of high school. He parlayed that into one good season at Kansas before a stress fracture in his foot prevented him from suiting up in March. After missing his first two seasons of NBA ball with the Philadelphia 76ers due to injury, Embiid became one of the game’s best players — and biggest personalities — over the last several years.

Embracing the role of franchise savior in Philly, Embiid became a second-team All-NBA player in his first full(ish) season in 2017-18. Injury concerns prevent Embiid from playing on back-to-back nights during the regular season, but the All-Star is a major force when he’s healthy. Embiid signed a max extension to stay in Philadelphia after his rookie deal ended.

2. Andrew Wiggins (1)

One of the most hyped high school players of the past decade, Wiggins has been debated as much as any player on this list. Becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after a good season at Kansas, Wiggins has been remarkably durable during his four-year NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Missing only one game during that four-year span, Wiggins has averaged 36.2 minutes per game for his career as he’s grown into a functional scoring wing. During his third season, Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game as his inconsistent perimeter jumper improved enough for him to make a leap. Polarizing among some in the NBA community, Wiggins has been criticized at times for not making enough of an impact outside of scoring.

3. Aaron Gordon (3)

A mega-athlete at forward, Gordon has become a successful NBA starter during his four seasons with the Orlando Magic. The former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year showed flashes of potential greatness during his one season at Arizona. Since the Magic surprisingly (at the time) selected Gordon with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, he made some memorable appearances in the dunk contest while growing into one of the league’s better young talents. During the 2017-18 season, Gordon averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Magic as he looks like their centerpiece to build around the next few years.

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

4. Zach LaVine (44)

A classic late-bloomer, LaVine has used his supreme athleticism to make a name for himself in the NBA the past few seasons. Coming off of the bench during his only season at UCLA, LaVine’s dominant performance at the NBA Draft Combine vaulted him into a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. With the Minnesota Timberwolves, LaVine developed into a double-figure scorer while also becoming the fourth player in history to win back-to-back dunk contests. A torn ACL has limited LaVine’s play the past two seasons, as he was the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade that brought LaVine to the Chicago Bulls before the 2017-18 season. Despite a sluggish return from the ACL injury last season, the Bulls matched a lucrative offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings to retain LaVine this offseason.

5. Julius Randle (2)

After a decorated high school and college career that included a Final Four run with Kentucky, Randle has carved out a nice niche in the NBA. Playing the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Randle started to figure things out during the past two years as he was especially effective coming off of the bench in small-ball situations. Putting up 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game on 55 percent shooting this past season, Randle left the Lakers as a free agent this offseason as he signed to play with the New Orleans Pelicans.

6. Jabari Parker (4)

Another decorated high school player and one-and-done, Parker made an impact during his one season at Duke — particularly on the offensive end. Selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Parker showcased natural scoring ability during his four seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks — peaking at 20.1 points per game during the 2016-17 season. Parker’s big issue has been health. He’s suffered two torn ACLs during his four years in the The League. Showing flashes of former brilliance during his return late last season — including a 35-point game at Denver — Parker signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls this offseason. He’ll return to his hometown in the hopes of remaining healthy and revitalizing his career.

7. Bobby Portis (15)

The first player on this list to not be a one-and-done, Portis had a memorable sophomore season at Arkansas as he became SEC Player of the Year. Picked at No. 22 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, Portis has exceeded expectations by becoming one of the game’s better bench scorers. A shot-happy big man who can space the floor out to the three-point line, Portis put up 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in only 22.5 minutes per game for the Bulls last season. For as good as Portis has been on the floor, he’s perhaps best known for a violent fight with Bulls teammate Nikola Mirotic before the 2017-18 season. The incident left Mirotic with a concussion and multiple facial fractures as Portis was suspended eight games.

8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (21)

The former Arizona product has started to come into his own as an NBA player. Following two good seasons with the Wildcats, where he was one of the best two-way forwards in the country, Hollis-Jefferson has carved out a starting role with the Brooklyn Nets. In his third season as a pro, Hollis-Jefferson developed into a double-figure scorer who could do a little bit of everything. Although Hollis-Jefferson still struggles to make perimeter jumpers, he averaged 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during the 2017-18 season, as he started in 59 games for the rebuilding Nets.

9. Josh Hart (84)

After a decorated four-year college career at Villanova, not surprisingly, Hart has found his way into an NBA rotation. With the Wildcats, Hart went from low-end four-star prospect, to National Player of the Year candidate as he was a first-team All-American during his senior season. Hart also won a national title at Villanova and helped turn the Wildcats into one of the most consistent programs in the nation. At the NBA level, Hart is coming off of a promising rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers as he started 23 games and put up 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

10. Andrew Harrison (5)

The former Kentucky star made two Final Four appearances during his college career. As a pro, Harrison has steadily gained traction the past few seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. After beginning his career in the G League, Harrison has been a rotation player with the Grizzlies the past two seasons. Starting 46 games during the 2017-18 season, Harrison averaged 9.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as his campaign was cut short due to injury.

11. Pascal Siakam (UR)

A late-bloomer to come from the mid-major ranks, Siakam redshirted during his freshman season at New Mexico State due to injury. From there, Siakam has hit the ground running. He was named WAC Freshman of the Year his first season and WAC Player of the Year as a sophomore. Since getting drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, Siakam has developed into a well-rounded backup big man. Last season, Siakam played 81 games and averaged 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

12. Jordan Bell (68)

Bell has worked hard to make the NBA as he was a key role player for the Golden State Warriors during their 2017-18 championship run. Initially redshirted during his freshman season at Oregon, Bell eventually become a second-team All-Pac 12 player and the league’s defensive Player of the Year in 2017 as he helped the Ducks to the Final Four. As a rookie, Bell earned a lot of buzz in the NBA community as a do-it-all backup forward as he received a healthy amount of minutes during the NBA Playoffs.

13. Noah Vonleh (8)

Averaging nearly a double-double as a freshman at Indiana, Vonleh became the No. 9 overall pick of the Charlotte Hornets in the 2014 NBA Draft. Although Vonleh has continued to clean the glass at a solid rate as a role player, he hasn’t found the right fit during his four-year NBA career. Traded twice during his first four seasons, Vonleh has spent time in Charlotte, Portland and Chicago. The New York Knicks recently signed Vonleh for the 2018-19 season.

14. Jarell Martin (13)

Following two successful seasons at LSU, which included first-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore, Martin has found his way as an energy big man coming off of the bench. Spending the last three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Martin started 36 games last season as he averaged 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. During the offseason, Martin was traded to the Orlando Magic in a deal involving Dakari Johnson.

15. Wayne Selden (12)

The former McDonald’s All-American was a polarizing player at times during his three-year career at Kansas as he earned second-team All-Big 12 honors with the Jayhawks in 2016. Going undrafted in 2016, Selden defied expectations by going from the G League to earning NBA Playoff minutes as a rookie with the Memphis Grizzlies. Selden’s second season with the Grizzlies was cut short to 35 games during the 2017-18 season as he battled a right quad injury. Selden averaged 9.3 points per game during his second season.

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

16. Cameron Payne (UR)

Payne went from unranked mid-major player into an NBA lottery pick after only two seasons of college at Murray State. The former Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, Payne drew some Damian Lillard comparisons coming out of college since both players had similar college trajectories. Payne has struggled with inconsistent play and injury during his three NBA seasons. Last season with the Chicago Bulls, Payne looked like a potential rotation guard as he averaged 8.8 points and 4.5 assists per game in 25 games and 14 starts.

17. James Young (11)

Helping Kentucky to the Final Four as a freshman, Young parlayed second-team All-SEC honors into the No. 17 pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Spending his first three seasons with the Boston Celtics, Young was let go, as he eventually signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers last season. Still only 22 years old, Young has appeared in 95 career NBA games.

18. Semi Ojeyele (31)

Starting his college career at Duke, Ojeyele eventually transferred and found a better fit at SMU. After winning AAC Player of the Year honors in 2017, Ojeyele kept his name in the 2017 NBA Draft, as the Boston Celtics scooped him up in the second round. Playing in 73 games and 17 playoff games as a rookie last season, Ojeyele looks like a potential steal for the Celtics — although he’s stuck in a deep rotation of wings now that Gordon Hayward is returning from injury.

19. Frank Mason (76)

Exceeding all expectations during a memorable four-year career at Kansas, Mason evolved into a first-team All-American and one of the best two-way point guards in the country. Following his time with the Jayhawks, Mason was picked in the second round by the Sacramento Kings in the 2017 NBA Draft as he played in 52 games last season. Mason averaged 7.9 points and 2.8 assists per game.

20. Damian Jones (77)

The former two-time All-SEC first-team selection at Vanderbilt was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2016 by the Golden State Warriors. Although Jones has spent most of his pro career playing in the G League, thanks to the Warriors’ insane depth, he has played 25 games in the NBA the past two seasons. Most importantly, Jones has two rings in his first two seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how Jones develops over time since he’s been stuck on one of the deepest teams in basketball.

21. Sindarius Thornwell (43)

The former South Carolina star helped lead the Gamecocks to a Final Four appearance in 2017 as he was a first-team All-SEC selection that season. Picked in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft, Thornwell’s rights were traded to the Los Angeles Clippers before the season. Thornwell exceeded expectations by appearing in 73 games, and starting 17, for the Clipper as a rookie as he averaged a little over 15 minutes per game.

22. Tyler Ennis (22)

Jumping to the NBA after one season at Syracuse, Ennis was the No. 18 overall selection of the Phoenix Suns in the 2014 NBA Draft. Spending the past four seasons in the NBA, Ennis appeared in 186 total games and made 21 starts as he spent time with the Suns, Bucks, Rockets and Lakers. Although Ennis played in 54 games for the Lakers during 2017-18, averaging 12.6 minutes per game, he opted to sign a contract to play in Turkey for next season.

23. DeAndre Bembry (UR)

A former Atlantic 10 Player of the Year at Temple, Bembry was a first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 2016. The G League is where Bembry spent most of his first pro season, and last season, Bembry was limited by injury. During two pro seasons, Bembry has only played in 64 NBA games. But he should have a chance to earn much more playing time on an Atlanta team that is currently in the midst of a rebuild.

24. Christian Wood (40)

The former UNLV product spent two productive seasons in Sin City before turning pro, as he went undrafted in 2015 after receiving first-round buzz during the season. Bouncing between the G League and the last spot of NBA rosters, Wood played in 30 NBA games with the 76ers and Hornets between 2015 and 2017. But, after spending all of last season in the G League, Wood might have finally figured things out. A monster Summer League led to the Milwaukee Bucks signing Wood to a contract for the 2018-19 season as he’s expected to make the roster.

25. Wes Iwundu (UR)

One of six three-star prospects to enter Kansas State in the same recruiting class, Iwundu became one of the Big 12’s best players during his final two years on campus — earning third-team All-Big 12 honors. Selected in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic, Iwundu played in 62 games and started 12 last season. Remarkably, Iwundu was considered by some to be the fifth-best prospect on his own Houston Defenders AAU team coming out of high school as he played with the Harrison twins, Johnathan Motley (Baylor) and Derrick Griffin (Texas Southern).

(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

FIVE NOTABLES THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE TOP 25

Chris Walker (6)

The 6-foot-10 Walker never lived up to his immense hype as NCAA eligibility issues affected his freshman season at Florida. Even as a sophomore, Walker never found his footing with the Gators, as he left the program after two pedestrian seasons in the SEC. Going undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, Walker spent some time in the G League before eventually signing a deal to play in a Puerto Rican professional league in 2018. At one point in time, Joel Embiid, the No. 1 player in this class re-rank, was coming off of the bench in favor of Walker when the duo played together on the Florida Rams on the grassroots circuit.

Aaron Harrison (7)

While twin brother Andrew has been able to stick in the NBA the past few seasons, Aaron has had to grind in the G League. Playing in 35 career NBA games to this point, Harrison finished last season with the Dallas Mavericks after they opted to extend his 10-day contract for the rest of the season. The former McDonald’s All-American and Kentucky star is still looking for a spot for next season.

Kasey Hill (10)

Although Hill never made the NBA’s radar, he ended up as a solid four-year presence at Florida. Making a Final Four appearance as a freshman backup, Hill eventually became an All-SEC defender during his senior season as he was one of the league’s better guards. After his college career finished out at Florida, Hill went on to sign pro deals in Hungary and Greece. Hill was also grassroots teammates with Joel Embiid and Chris Walker on the Florida Rams.

Isaac Hamilton (14)

The middle brother of the three Hamiltons (Jordan Hamilton is oldest, Daniel Hamilton is youngest), Isaac had a very successful three-year run at UCLA as one of the Pac-12’s better scoring guards. Earning All-Pac-12 second-team honors in 2016, Hamilton went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. Hamilton played with the Indiana Pacers during Summer League last year as he spent 2017-18 in the G League.

Nigel Hayes (UR)

From unranked to one of college basketball’s best players, Hayes made two Final Fours and three all-Big Ten teams during his four seasons in Madison. Helping the Badgers to at least the Sweet 16 in all four of his seasons, Hayes is one of college basketball’s most accomplished players of the past decade. Last season, Hayes spent most of his year in the G League, but he did appear in nine NBA games — playing for the Lakers, Raptors and Kings. Hayes is expected to play for Galatasaray in the Turkish league this upcoming season.

Jay Wright on double-duty with Villanova, USA Basketball

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Jay Wright immediately accepted a chance to be an assistant coach with USA Basketball for this year’s World Cup.

And then he checked his calendar.

Villanova students are headed back to school this week — while the Villanova men’s basketball coach will be halfway around the world for the next month or so. It has been, and will continue being, a major schedule challenge for Wright as he’s tasked with both helping USA Basketball win a gold medal while his players are on campus getting ready to start their seasons.

“It was a snap ‘yes.’ That’s the problem,” Wright said. “And then after you think about it, you’re like, ‘wow.’ Only then do you realize what you’re missing at home.”

To be clear, Wright said this is a problem only half-seriously.

Logistical matters weren’t going to keep him from being part of the staff of assistants that include Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce — all working under USA Basketball head men’s coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is basketball heaven,” Wright said.

It’s not uncommon for college coaches like Wright to be part of the USA Basketball mix, which can collide with college calendars. At the most recent World Cup in 2014, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was the head coach and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim was one of the assistants — and that tournament ended in mid-September.

But at this tournament, which starts Aug. 31 in China with the Americans playing their first game against the Czech Republic a day later, Wright is the only college coach on the U.S. roster. Popovich, Kerr and Pierce all have some time before their ‘real’ teams start practice. Wright doesn’t have that luxury.

“He’s kind of doing double-duty right now,” Popovich said. “He’s keeping touch with his kids, and obviously doing a great job with the USA team. But he hasn’t forgotten about his Villanova guys.”

To make this work, Wright rearranged Villanova’s summer schedule, everything from player workouts to coaching meetings. He was able to do his usual gamut of recruiting, but his usual start-of-semester matters like meeting with parents and having newcomers get acclimated now will fall on his staff of assistants until he returns.

“You don’t say no to this,” Wright said.

The Americans needed a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles before arriving in Melbourne, Australia, where they resumed practice on Monday. They’ll play three games in Australia, the first of those coming on Thursday, before heading to China next week.

“Longest flight I’ve been on, but I’m happy to be here,” Boston’s Jayson Tatum said.

Popovich believes in a style of coaching where everyone gets a chance to argue all parts of the game — a participatory approach, like he uses in San Antonio. Wright is primarily helping with the U.S. defensive schemes, but he also gets his opportunity to offer suggestions for the offensive plans. And he’s usually one of the last coaches still working on the floor after practice, running groups through shooting drills.

“We’re meeting in the morning, watching film, meeting with the team, practicing, going back, watching film, then watching film with the team,” Wright said. “And then we all go to dinner, but all we talk about at dinner is basketball.”

Wright guided Villanova to national championships in 2016 and 2018. Over the last four seasons, only Gonzaga has won more games than the Villanova — the Bulldogs have 130 wins, the Wildcats 129. And he has plenty of USA Basketball experience, like a gold medal as coach at the 2005 World University Games and a select team coach before the 2010 World Cup and 2016 Olympic runs by the senior national team.

Despite his experience, Wright notes that being around coaches like Popovich, Kerr and Pierce for umpteen hours a day has been a basketball education.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity,” Wright said. “We’re only a couple weeks in and I’ve already learned so much that I can bring back to our team. It’s incredible. Honestly, I feel like I’ve grown in two weeks as a coach, as a leader, more than I have in the last 10 years.”

Pounding Nails: Mick Cronin’s plan to recast UCLA from blue-blood to blue collar

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Four months into his tenure, the players that he inherited as the new UCLA head coach have yet to experience a vintage Mick Cronin blowup.

They’ve seen them, mind you.

They pull up the YouTube videos on their phones. It’s something that the staff and the players laugh about it. But watching Mt. Cronin erupt on Ted Valentine, J.P. Macura or whoever Rob is is very different than experiencing first-hand the wrath of a man who once missed a season because he, quite literally, blew a gasket.

“I can tell it’s there,” Chris Smith, a junior wing and one of the elder statesmen on this UCLA roster. “We’ve seen snippets of it in practice.”

“He will get fiery,” added freshman Jaime Jaquez, “but he’s being patient.”

And there’s a reason for that.

(Which I’ll get to.)

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After 13 seasons as the head coach at Cincinnati, after rebuilding the Bearcats from the ground up, Cronin left the city where he was born to become the tenth man in the last 44 years tasked with getting UCLA basketball back to where it was under John Wooden. The hire did not come with a ton of fanfare; in fact, Cronin was, at best, UCLA’s fourth choice. They wanted Jamie Dixon, but they couldn’t negotiate their way around his buyout. The same can be said for Rick Barnes, who publicly stated that he would be the head coach of the Bruins right now if the program had ponied up enough. UCLA chased John Calipari, and while it’s obvious that Coach Cal was using them to get a raise out of Kentucky, the Bruins believed there was a real chance they could get a deal done.

The fact that Cronin was not UCLA’s first choice had nothing to do with the level of success he achieved with the Bearcats. There are six programs in college basketball that have been to the NCAA tournament the past nine seasons. Cincinnati is one of them. Michigan State, Gonzaga, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are the other five. Cronin is the only coach on that list that isn’t either in the Hall of Fame today or a lead pipe lock to be inducted in the very near future.

“A program like UCLA, winning is expected,” redshirt senior Prince Ali said. “He’s bringing that pedigree.”

Out of context, that level of consistency is remarkable.

In context, it’s even more impressive.

(I promise, I’m getting to the point.)

Remember, when Cronin took the Cincinnati job, it was at the height of the Big East’s powers in hoops. When he was hired, he had just two players on the roster, one of which was Connor Barwin, a walk-on recruited from the football team and a future NFL player. In his third season, the Big East had three No. 1 seeds in the tournament and a Final Four appearance. The first year Cincinnati reached the Big Dance, they were one of 11 schools from the conference to get a bid.

Making Cincinnati matter in a conference that was that strong was no easy task.

And that success was borne out of the one thing that, as it stands, is nowhere to be found in Westwood.

(We’ve arrived.)

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Cronin developed a specific brand for his Cincinnati program. They were tough. They were physical. They were going to grind you down defensively. They were going to win the battle of the boards. They were going to play that open stance defense.

More importantly, the players on the roster knew what to expect. They had been recruited by the Cincinnati staff. Those relationships would often last six years, from the time Cronin could start recruiting them as juniors in high school through their senior season in college. They went to Cincinnati because they wanted to be coached the way Cronin coaches, because they thought they could thrive playing the way Cronin’s teams play. They picked Cincinnati for a reason.

More importantly, they knew everything that was expected of them. There was a familiarity built off of roster continuity that allowed the program, in a sense, to run itself.

Now? In LA?

“Everyone is new,” Cronin told me last week. “New to me and me to them.”

Cronin knows there is going to be a learning curve with this group. The players have to figure out what they are being asked to do. They have to learn an entirely new terminology. They have to learn Cronin’s teaching style while he has to figure out the best way to get through to them. As he put it, “listening is overrated. It’s listen, learn and apply. The way [my players] learn and apply is going to determine our rate of improvement,” and it’s his job to figure out the best way for them to learn, and the easiest way for them to apply.

And then there is the elephant in the room. The players have to be reprogrammed to play a style that hasn’t been prevalent in Pauley Pavilion for at least a decade.

Cronin wouldn’t comment on what UCLA was before he arrived – “I cannot speak to anything that’s happened here prior because I wasn’t here.” – but I certainly can.

During his nine year NCAA tournament run, the Bearcats were, on average, ranked 15th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. The only season in which they ranked outside the top 22 in defensive efficiency was last year, when they “only” ranked 28th. UCLA, on the other hand, has ranked outside the top 100 in KenPom’s defensive ratings for three of the last four years. They haven’t finished in the top 30 since 2008, when Ben Howland was still getting the Bruins to Final Fours.

Put another way, Cronin is not only the new coach walking in the door, he’s the guy asking a roster full of players to play a way they’ve never been asked to play before.

That takes time.

And if he comes at them screaming like a madman every time they make a mistake, he’ll lose them.

He knows that.

“Being a college basketball coach is like being a starting pitcher,” Cronin said. “You have to change pitches. You’re pitching the whole game. You can’t throw fastballs every day.”

“You can’t get after people if they don’t believe or trust what you’re doing is real,” said assistant coach Darren Savino, who has been with Cronin for a decade, and that as much as anything else has been the focus of the first four months of the Cronin Era.

Cronin has taken a fairly unusual approach. There haven’t been team trips to the bowling alley. He hasn’t taken UCLA on any wilderness retreats or hired any Navy SEALS to come in and grind his players to a pulp with 5:30 a.m. workouts.

“I believe guys need to have a life and when it’s time to work, you work,” Cronin said. “I’m not into the corny stuff.”

I asked him to elaborate on that.

Prince Ali (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

“Showing up to your kid’s game is not being a parent. Taking your guys bowling is not being a coach or developing bonds,” he said. “After practice, the guys all go around saying ‘good work today,’ but during practice they make faces when a guy makes a mistake or doesn’t throw them the ball. Anyone can walk around saying good job, but what about when we’re competing?

“College basketball is 80 percent culture and how hard you compete. Do you care for each other? How do you interact? As a coach, you have to make it mandatory to play unselfish, play for each other and treat each other right.

“I can get after you as a coach. You don’t need to get on his ass because I will do that. You need to lift him up. My line is simple: ‘Your job is to worry about the team and helping each other. My job is to worry about you.'”

“I’ve felt the switch in culture. Everyone knows the whole idea is intensity and passion,” Smith said. “I’ve felt his presence in the gym, in practice. We’re going 100 percent in every drill. I can already see what the difference is going to be.”

“It’s great so far because there’s no stat sheet yet,” Cronin added with a chuckle.

UCLA lost their three leading scorers from last season in Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and Moses Brown, but there is more than enough talent on this roster for Cronin to get to the 10th straight NCAA tournament. Ali was a top 30 prospect nationally coming out of high school. There are three four-star recruits returning on the wing – Smith, Jules Bernard and David Singleton – and two coming back to school in the frontcourt. Jaquez is a local kid and a freshman that made his debut playing for the Mexican national team this summer, and both Tyger Campbell and Shareef O’Neal will be able to play this year after missing their freshman seasons.

Put another way, the problem with the UCLA program the last few years hasn’t been talent. In fact, the Bruins are deep enough that Cronin is actually concerned about making sure he finds enough minutes for everyone that deserves minutes.

The problem last season was simple, really. There was a lack of desire to play defense, there were too many guys playing for their draft stock instead of their teammates and there was a coaching staff that didn’t – or couldn’t – hold players accountable; Steve Alford was fired on Dec. 31st, and interim head coach Murry Bartow was nothing more than a substitute teacher.

Changing that mindset, slowly but surely, has been Cronin’s mission, and he knows that the process is far from complete.

“When you start to build a house, it’s a bunch of boards and nail,” he said. “You have to start pounding nails. You can’t look at it as a bunch of wood and a bunch of nails. You have to get up every day and start pounding nails, and eventually, you have a house.”

College Basketball 2019-2020 Preseason Top 25

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There is so much that is going to happen between now and the time that next season starts that it almost seems foolish to publish a preseason top 25 today.

But we’re doing it anyway!

A couple of notes: Who is going to head to the NBA is very much in the air right now. There are still a number of freshmen that have yet to announce where they are playing their college ball. The transfer market has barely heated up. For decisions that are up in the air, you’ll see an asterisk next to their name. We’re making predictions on what certain players will do and ranking based off of them. 

So with all that said, here is the preseason top 25.

1. MICHIGAN STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Nick Ward
  • WHO’S BACK: Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens, Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Rocket Watts, Malik Hall, Julius Marble
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Kyle Ahrens, Aaron Henry, Xavier Tillman

2. KENTUCKY

  • WHO’S GONE: P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis
  • WHO’S BACK: E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickly, Nick Richards
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen, Nate Sestina
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, E.J. Montgomery

3. DUKE

  • WHO’S GONE: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Marques Bolden
  • WHO’S BACK: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Vernon Carey

4. KANSAS

  • WHO’S GONE: Lagerald Vick, Dedric Lawson, Quintin Grimes, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore
  • WHO’S BACK: Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, Silvio De Sousa, Mitch Lightfoot, David McCormack
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaiah Moss, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna, Isaac McBride, Christian Braun
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Devon Dotson, Isaiah Moss, Ochai Agbaji, Silvio De Sousa, Udoka Azubuike

5. VILLANOVA

  • WHO’S GONE: Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Jahvon Quinerly
  • WHO’S BACK: Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Rountree, Brandon Slater
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore, Eric Dixon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Collin Gillespie, Bryan Antoine, Saddiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

6. LOUISVILLE

  • WHO’S GONE: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, Akoy Agau
  • WHO’S BACK: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, Steve Enoch, Malik Williams, Darius Perry
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Samuell Williamson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry, Fresh Kimble, David Johnson, Aidan Igiehom, Quinn Slazinski
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Fresh Kimble, Samuell Williamson, Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora, Malik Williams

7. MARYLAND

  • WHO’S GONE: Bruno Fernando
  • WHO’S BACK: Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith, Serrel Smith Jr., Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Darryl Morsell
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Chol Marial, Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell, Donta Scott
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Ricky Lindo, Jalen Smith

8. VIRGINIA

  • WHO’S GONE: De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Jack Salt
  • WHO’S BACK: Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Casey Morsell, Tomas Woldetensae, Kadin Shedrick, Justin McKoy
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kihei Clark, Casey Morsell, Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff

9. TEXAS TECH

  • WHO’S GONE: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Brandone Francis, Norense Odiase, Khavon Moore
  • WHO’S BACK: Chris Beard, Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew, Andrei Savrasov
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jahmius Ramsey, Chris Clarke, T.J. Holyfield, Kevin McCullar, Russel Tchewa, Terrence Shannon
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jahmius Ramsey, Davide Moretti, Deshawn Corprew, T.J. Holyfield, Chris Clarke

10. FLORIDA

  • WHO’S GONE: KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone, DeAundre Ballard
  • WHO’S BACK: Noah Locke, Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson, Dontay Bassett, Isaiah Stokes
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kerry Blackshear Jr., Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Jason Jitoboh
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Scottie Lewis, Keyontae Johnson, Kerry Blackshear Jr.

11. GONZAGA

  • WHO’S GONE: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, Geno Crandall, Jeremy Jones
  • WHO’S BACK: Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Admon Gilder, Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Ryan Woolridge, Brock Ravet, Anton Watson, Martynas Arlauskas, Pavel Zahkarov
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Ryan Woolridge, Admon Gilder, Corey Kispert, Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev

12. SETON HALL

  • WHO’S GONE: Michael Nzei
  • WHO’S BACK: Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Tyrese Samuel
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quincy McKnight, Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu

13. NORTH CAROLINA

  • WHO’S GONE: Coby White, Nassir Little, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Seventh Woods
  • WHO’S BACK: Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks

14. UTAH STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: Quinn Taylor
  • WHO’S BACK: Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta, Diogo Brito, Brock Miller, Abel Porter
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Alphonso Anderson, Liam McChesney, Sean Bairstow
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Diogo Brito, Abel Porter, Sam Merrill, Brock Miller, Neemias Queta

15. OREGON

  • WHO’S GONE: Paul White, Louis King, Ehab Amin, Kenny Wooten, Bol Bol, Victor Bailey
  • WHO’S BACK: Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Francis Okoro
  • WHO’S COMING IN: N’Faly Dante, C.J. Walker, Anthony Mathis, Shakur Juiston, Addison Patterson, Chris Duarte, Lok Wur, Chandler Lawson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Payton Pritchard, Chris Duarte, Anthony Mathis, C.J. Walker, Shakur Juiston

16. ARIZONA

  • WHO’S GONE: Justin Coleman, Ryan Luther, Brandon Randolph
  • WHO’S BACK: Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter, Brandon Williams, Alex Barcello, Ira Lee
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Max Hazzard, Terry Armstrong, Christian Koloko, Zeke Nnaji, Stone Gettings
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Max Hazzard, Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Ira Lee, Chase Jeter

17. SAINT MARY’S

  • WHO’S GONE: Jordan Hunter
  • WHO’S BACK: Jordan Ford, Malik Fitts, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Dan Fotu, Jock Perry
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Alex Ducas, Kyle Bowen
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse, Tanner Krebs, Malik Fitts, Jock Perry

18. XAVIER

  • WHO’S GONE: Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins, Kyle Castlin, Elias Harden
  • WHO’S BACK: Quentin Goodin, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Kyky Tandy, Dahmir Bishop, Zach Freemantle, Jason Carter, Daniel Ramsey, Dieonte Miles
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jason Carter, Tyrique Jones

19. LSU

  • WHO’S GONE: Tremont Waters, Naz Reid, Kavell-Bigby Williams
  • WHO’S BACK: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams, Marlon Taylor, Darius Days
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Trendon Watford, James Bishop
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor, Trendon Watford, Emmitt Williams

20. BAYLOR

  • WHO’S GONE: King McClure, Makai Mason, Jake Lindsey
  • WHO’S BACK: Tristan Clark, Mario Kegler, Jared Butler, Devonte Bandoo, Mark Vital, Freddie Gillespie, Matthew Mayer
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jordan Turner, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, Mark Vital, Mario Kegler, Tristan Clark

21. MEMPHIS

  • WHO’S GONE: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks Jr., Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton, Antwann Jones Jr.
  • WHO’S BACK: Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
  • WHO’S COMING IN: James Wiseman, D.J. Jeffries, Lester Quinones, Malcolm Dandridge, Damian Baugh, Lance Thomas, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyler Harris, Boogie Ellis, D.J. Jeffries, Precious Achiuwa, James Wiseman

22. AUBURN

  • WHO’S GONE: Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer, Chuma Okeke
  • WHO’S BACK: Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, Austin Wiley
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: J’Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, Isaac Okoro, Anfernee McLemore

23. TENNESSEE

  • WHO’S GONE: Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone, Grant Williams, Derrick Walker Jr, D.J. Burns
  • WHO’S BACK: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Yves Pons., John Fulkerson, Jalen Johnson
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Josiah James, Drew Pember, Olivier Nkamoua, Davonte Gaines
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Josiah James, Yves Pons, John Fulkerson

24. VCU

  • WHO’S GONE: Michael Gilmore
  • WHO’S BACK: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva, Vince Williams, Mike’L Simms, P.J. Byrd, Malik Crawford
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Jarren McAlister
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Marcus Evans, Isaac Vann, Vince Williams, Deriante Jenkins, Marcus Santos-Silva

25. OHIO STATE

  • WHO’S GONE: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods
  • WHO’S BACK: Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, Kyle Young, Justin Aherns, Musa Jallow, Jaedon LeDee
  • WHO’S COMING IN: D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, EJ Liddel, Ibrahima Diallo, CJ Walker
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: C.J. Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson

JUST MISSED

DAVIDSON

  • WHO’S GONE: Nathan Ekwu, Dusan Kovacevic
  • WHO’S BACK: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luka Brajkovic, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Carter Collins, David Czerapowicz, Bates Jones
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Hyunjung Lee, David Kristensen
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundson, Luke Frampton, Kishawn Pritchett, Luka Brajkovic

CREIGHTON

  • WHO’S GONE: Sam Froling, Kaleb Joseph, Connor Cashaw
  • WHO’S BACK: Davion Mintz, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Jacob Epperson, Damien Jefferson, Marcus Zegarowski
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Shereef Mitchell
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Davion Mintz, Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitchell Ballock, Jacob Epperson

WASHINGTON

  • WHO’S GONE: Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp, Dominic Green
  • WHO’S BACK: Nahziah Carter, Hameir Wright, Sam Timmins, Jamal Bey
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Isaiah Stewart, Jaden McDaniels, Quade Green, Marcus Tsohonis, RaeQuan Battle
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Quade Green, Nahziah Carter, Hameir Wright, Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart

COLORADO

  • WHO’S GONE: Namon Wright
  • WHO’S BACK: McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Evan Battey, Shane Gatling, Daylen Kountz
  • WHO’S COMING IN: No one
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: McKinley Wright IV, Shane Gatling, Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert

MARQUETTE

  • WHO’S GONE: Sam Hauser, Joey Hauser, Joseph Chartouny
  • WHO’S BACK: Markus Howard, Theo John, Sacar Anim, Ed Morrow, Jamal Cain
  • WHO’S COMING IN: Koby McEwen, Symir Torrence, Jayce Johnson
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Markus Howard, Koby McEwen, Sacar Anim, Brendan Bailey, Theo John

Ex-Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves acquitted in sex assault case

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FLINT, Mich. — A jury acquitted former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves Tuesday on charges alleging he sexually assaulted a woman in a motel room four years ago.

The verdict announced in a Genesee County courtroom in Cleaves’ hometown of Flint came after a nearly-two week trial that included the testimony of the Mount Morris woman, who told jurors that she had wanted to leave the motel room but Cleaves continued to force himself on her.

Evidence against Cleaves included a video that prosecutors contended showed the woman pulling away from Cleaves. Prosecutors argued she tried twice to escape from the motel room.

Cleaves did not testify. One of his attorneys, Frank Manley, said Cleaves had consensual sex with the woman who was in the motel room “of her own free will” after a charity golf tournament and visit to a bar. Cleaves’ attorneys told jurors that the woman lied about what happened because she felt guilty about cheating on her boyfriend.

The 41-year-old Cleaves was acquitted on all charges, including unlawful imprisonment and assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison had he been convicted.

Cleaves has long denied the allegations, saying in a March 2016 tweet that he was “innocent and the allegations are without merit.”

The trial itself came after a long legal battle that started in late 2016 when a district judge dismissed the charges, saying that there were a number of factors that suggested “something else was going on” between Cleaves and the woman.

But in 2017, the charges were reinstated after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal that contended the judge had abused her “discretion of power” in dismissing the charges. Then last year, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to review that decision, clearing the way for the trial.

Cleaves is a revered figure in Michigan, an integral part of a Michigan State team that won the national championship in 2000 before his six-year NBA career.

And on Tuesday, sitting in a courtroom was another reminder of that team: Coach Tom Izzo. Izzo told The Detroit News that he did not know the details about the allegations against his former star player but wanted to be in the courtroom to support Cleaves as he would “any of my guys.”

Mick Cronin lands first five-star recruit at UCLA

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Less than 24 hours after cutting his list to five schools, five-star point guard Daishen Nix committed to UCLA.

Nix is a 6-foot-5 point guard from Alaska that’s currently playing his high school ball in Las Vegas. He’s known for his court vision and elite basketball IQ with a developing jumper and a feel for the game that cannot be taught. He ranks as a top 15 prospect, according to 247 Sports.

He was Mick Cronin’s top target at the point guard spot, and Cronin landed him. That’s notable, because one of the concerns that people had about UCLA’s decision to hire Cronin was whether or not a coach known for his toughness, his intensity and his team’s propensity for being defense first would adjust to playing at California’s flagship program, where tempo is a must and defense has been, for the last half-decade, optional.

And while it remains to be seen how the team and program will adjust to his coaching style – I will have a story coming on that later this week – at the very least, Cronin has proven that he can dip his toe in the west coast recruiting waters and get a player that he prioritized.