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What if USA Basketball’s World Cup team was only college players?

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Since none of the best American pros seems all that interested in playing in the FIBA World Cup, we decided that it would be fun to take a swing at putting together a World Cup team built with nothing but college players. 

This is that team.

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COACH: Matt Painter, Purdue

This was a tough decision, but I’m going with Painter over the rest of the field because of the way that he can change what he wants to do and how his teams play. Purdue has been one of the best programs in all of college hoops the past four seasons, finishing in the top ten on KenPom three times – and no lower than 19th – while playing three very different styles. They went from using two bigs with Caleb Swanigan at the four to playing four shooters about Isaac Haas to basing an entire offense on running Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline off of pin-downs and DHOs.

Put another, he relies less on playing a specific brand of basketball and thrives on finding a way to make the pieces on his roster fit together, and in this situation, that makes the most sense to me.

And he has experience in the international ranks, having taken his Purdue team overseas for the 2017 World University Games. The Boilermakers did not win that event largely because his team was not overwhelmingly more talented than everyone they came across, like the rest of the coaches with experience running Team USA at youth levels.

ASSISTANTS: Mark Adams, Texas Tech, and Ed Cooley, Providence

I want Adams on this staff for his defensive mind. He was the brainchild behind what Texas Tech has done the last two seasons, and I personally love the way that his defenses force offenses to the baseline and takes away any and all sets they want to run. I have Cooley here because of the way his teams run through point guards and the prevalence of ball-screens on offense, and with a team that is more or less built around Cassius Winston, that is important.

Jarron Cumberland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

STARTERS

CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

This is the easy and obvious pick. Winston is the very obvious pick for Preseason National Player of the Year, and I’m honestly not sure if there is anyone else that can be in this discussion. He’s coming off of a year where he averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists while leading an injury ravaged Michigan State team to a Big Ten regular season title, a Big Ten tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. He’s a senior point guard that thrives in ball-screens, that is unselfish and that is an efficient shooter and scorer. He is the guy that we need to build this team around.

TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

No player has risen more in the minds of basketball people than Haliburton has in the last 18 months. From a complete afterthought as a recruit to a potential top 20 pick, Haliburton is coming off of a terrific showing in the U19 World Cup. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play the point, defend multiple positions and shoots threes at a 43.4 percent clip. He’s the perfect wing in the modern era of basketball.

JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati

Cumberland is one of the most underappreciated talents in college hoops, as he is coming off of a season where he posted 18.8 points, 4.4 boards and 3.6 assists for Cincinnati while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s 6-foot-5 but a physical 205 pounds can will be able to guard bigger wings. He’s also a veteran presence, a scorer that can create for himself and a guy that spent the last three years playing for Mick Cronin. You know the toughness is there.

KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Florida

Blackshear might be better suited to playing on a team where he is the starting five, but I think he fits as the four in this situation. He can score in and around the paint, but he’s also a capable three-point shooter with the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He’s also one of the few veteran bigs in college hoops right now that has the chance to play in the NBA one day. Getting a 23-year old to pair with a roster full of freshmen and sophomore posts matters.

JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Wiseman is one of just three freshmen on this team and the only one that I have slotted as a starter. The favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Wiseman is a 7-foot center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and all the athleticism in the world. He has decent touch and a perimeter stroke that is developing, meaning that there is a world where he is one day a floor-spacer in addition to being the kind of rim-runner I envision him being on this team. Part of the reason I have him starting here is that I think he’ll thrive as the roll man on a team with Winston and three shooters around him. I also think that, if motivated, he has the ability to do the kind of things that Mark Adams will ask a five-man to do defensively.

Wiseman’s status as a No. 1 pick as more to do with his potential longterm than what he is at this very moment, but I do think that the current version of Wiseman is the best fit at the five on this team.

Myles Powell (Elsa/Getty Images)

BENCH

MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall: There are two talented, undersized scoring guards in the Big East heading into next season and I was only going to take one of them. I went with Powell, who is more athletic, a better defender and less ball-dominant than Marquette guard Markus Howard. Put another way, I think that Powell would fit better on a team where the offense isn’t built entirely around him than Howard is.

COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina: Anthony is a bit of a weird fit on this team, but I think that he is a pretty good change-of-pace for Winston in the backcourt. He will more or less operate as the backup point guard on this roster, and while he plays the position a totally different way than Winston does, an aggressive, score-first guard with athleticism and the stones to take and make tough shots is needed on this roster.

TRE JONES, Duke: Jones is here for one reason and one reason only: perimeter defense. We have yet to see him be anything other than a liability on the offensive end of the floor, but assuming that he spent the offseason working on improving his perimeter stroke, the hope is that will not be the case anymore. Either way, one thing this roster lacked was a lockdown on-ball defender, and Jones will provide it without needing a certain number of shots to be kept happy.

ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas: I wanted shooting. Isaiah Joe is a shooter, knocking down 41.4 percent of his threes with more than eight attempted per game as a freshman. He is also about 6-foot-5 and averaged 1.5 steals at Arkansas, which means he should be able to contribute defensively as well.

AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois: Dosunmu had flashes of brilliance as a freshmen but ultimately returned to school for his sophomore season to prove he’s more of a lead guard than a combo and to continue to develop his jumper. His presence as a secondary ball-handler and what he can bring defensively makes him a nice fit in this roster build.

TRES TINKLE, Oregon State: Tinkle is not a name that many people are going to know, but he is an absolute baller and a big-time scorer. He is coming off of a season where he averaged 20.8 points, 8.1 boards and 3.8 assists, and at 6-foot-8, he has the kind of size that will allow him to play the four in smaller lineups while keeping the floor spaced.

ISAIAH STEWART, Washington: Stewart make end up being the most productive freshman in college hoops this season. He’s 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and a terrific rebounder and finisher in the lane. He’s not all that switchable or much of a rim-protector, but he’ll allow this group to matchup with teams that still play big-bodied posts.

REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State: Perry is going to be one of the breakout stars of college basketball this season. He’s coming off of an MVP run through the U19 World Cup, and the former McDonald’s All-American really came on strong down the stretch of last season.

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.

Who are the best basketball prospects that have yet to play in the NBA?

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Over the course of the next two weeks, Pro Basketball Talk will be rolling out a project that we have been working on for the last month: Ranking the top 50 players five years from now.

Players ranked 46-50 were unveiled today.

You can find that list here.

In the meantime, since it is relevant, here at College Basketball Talk we are going to take a look at the guys that, in 2024, may actually deserve a spot on a top 50 players list that you may not know about just yet.

So without further ado, here are the ten best prospects that have yet to play a game in the professional ranks.

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1. Emoni Bates, Class of 2022

Bates is the shoe-in at No. 1 on this list. Over the years I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the scouts that do recruiting rankings and cover the sport at the high school level. These guys have been in the business for a long time – some for decades – and every single one of them rave about Bates in a way that you don’t often see players get talked about. One called him the best freshman he’s ever scouted. One called him as good as any prospect that he’s scouted in more than 20 years in the business. One called him the best prospect in high school hoops, which is exactly where I have him on this list. Personally, I think that he’s the closest thing that we’ve seen to Kevin Durant since Kevin Durant.

I wrote a story on Bates from Peach Jam back in July, and one of the things that I made sure to note in that story is the danger that comes with this level of hype at this age. Many of the things that are being said about Bates were said about Renardo Sidney at the same age, and we know how that turned out. Part of the reason I’m a little less-hesitant to make such proclamations with Bates is that he has an alpha mentality and competitive streak that you don’t see all that often. So not only does he have the physical tools as a super-skilled, 6-foot-9 scorer with range out to the NBA three-point line, but once he gets on the court, he’s an a–hole in all of the best ways.

2. Cade Cunningham, Class of 2020

Cunningham is tailor-made for modern basketball. He’s a 6-foot-7, 220 pound point forward. He’s a tough, physical and athletic wing that, two years ago, made the transition to playing the point full time. He has the savvy, the maturity and the polish of an NBA veteran. He doesn’t have the highlight reel athleticism of guys like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, but he has the kind of functional athleticism that will allow him to split the defense, avoid the charge, absorb the contact and finish in traffic. He was the MVP of the EYBL circuit this past season, and if he continues to improve his shooting stroke, there’s a very real chance that he gets picked with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft.

I think the best way to phrase it is this: He will likely be the first player to ever get compared to Luka Doncic, and I’m not sure how much more complimentary you can get.

James Wiseman (Elsa/Getty Images)

3. James Wiseman, Memphis

4. Evan Mobley, Class of 2020

I’m listing these two together because they really are quite similar prospects. Both stand 7-foot. Both have the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow them to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. Both of them are capable defenders with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And both of them are skilled enough where they have the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens.

Now, there are some differences. Wiseman, at this point, is probably more physically developed – he is a year older – while Mobley, at 6-foot-11 and 200 pounds, is going to have to make the absolute most of the meal plan USC gets him on. Mobley, on the other hand, seems to be more accepting of the fact that he’s destined to be a five in the NBA while Wiseman, in the words of one NBA draftnik, “thinks he’s Giannis when in reality he’s a lot closer to Myles Turner.”

There is nothing wrong with being Myles Turner. He just turned 23 years old and he is coming off of a season where he averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 boards and an NBA-best 2.7 blocks while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s really good. But he also knows what he is and what he isn’t, and he isn’t Giannis.

5. Jonathan Kuminga, Class of 2021

Kuminga is a super-explosive, 6-foot-8 wing that is just now starting to figure out how good he has the chance to be. He has all the physical tools that you want out of a wing – height, length, athleticism, versatility – and he has shown that he is willing and able to defend multiple positions. The big thing with him in the long-term is going to be how well his jumpshot develops, and if that comes along, his upside is as high as anyone on this list. I do think it’s worth noting that at Peach Jam, he was in the same group as Terrence Clarke and Patrick Baldwin Jr. and justified his spot on this list.

6. Jalen Green, Class of 2020

Green has all the makings of a future top five pick. At 6-foot-5, he’s a naturally gifted scorer that makes the game look easy. He’s at his best when he’s slashing to the bucket, where he can finish above the rim and also has a shiftiness about him in the lane. He’s a capable ball-handler and passer, but he’s going to make his money as a bucket-getter. If his jumper catches up to the rest of his game, look out.

7. Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Edwards is a big time scorer and athlete that has the ideal physical tools for a combo-guard. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-5 with length and explosive athleticism. His game is well-rounded. He’s a good shooter that can also operate in ball-screens, create for his teammates and shoot off the dribble. In theory, he’s an ideal fit for a sport that is becoming more and more reliant on scorers that can create in isolation with shooters spacing the court. Part of the reason he stayed home to play for Georgia is that Tom Crean coached both Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade in college, and those two are what Edwards has the potential to be at the next level.

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8. Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Anthony is going to get a lot of hype heading into the 2020 draft. Beyond the simple fact that he is the son of UNLV legend and NBA journeyman Greg Anthony, Cole Anthony is headed to North Carolina, where Roy Williams is going to slot him into the same role that he used Coby White in last year. He is going to get a lot of shots, he’s going to score a lot of points and he’s going to have a lot of highlight reel plays in the process. My big question with Cole longterm is that I’m not convinced that he is big enough to play off the ball, I’m not sure he is a natural point guard and I don’t know if he is quite good enough to be allowed to play the way he has throughout his career at the NBA level. There is definitely some potential here, but I think the fit at the NBA level makes more sense with Green and Edwards than it does with Anthony.

RISING SON: Cole Anthony remains grounded while following his father’s footsteps

9. Terrence Clarke, Class of 2021

Clarke is a wiry-strong, 6-foot-6 off-guard from Boston that has the potential to be the No. 1 pick in whatever draft he ends up in. (There’s a chance he can reclassify into 2020.) He’s an explosive athlete that can finish in traffic while also displaying a high-level feel for the game. He’s an improving shooter that can create off the bounce in isolation, and his court vision and passing gives him the upside of having some positional versatility down the road.

10. Patrick Baldwin Jr., Class of 2021

As one coach at a top ten program told me this summer, Patrick Baldwin Jr. “is the best shooting big man I’ve ever scouted.” Still just heading into his junior year in high school, Baldwin recently went through a growth spurt that saw him sprout up to 6-foot-10. He needs to add some strength and weight to his frame (what 16 year old doesn’t?) but that size and shooting ability is not something that we see all that often. The big question for Baldwin is how well the rest of his game develops. Is he simply a pick-and-pop five, or will he continue to develop a floor game and the physical tools that will allow him to be a plus-defender in the NBA?

THREE THAT JUST MISSED THIS LIST

Jaden McDaniels, Washington: McDaniels’ upside is as high as anyone on this list save for Bates and Cunningham. At 6-foot-10, he’s a skilled wing with a perimeter game and a developing shooting stroke. It’s not hard to watch him play and see what he can be if he continues to put in the work, but he has a ways to go to get there. He’s still just 190 pounds and, at this point, more of a prospect that a producer.

Paolo Banchero, Class of 2021: Banchero is a tough prospect to gauge the ceiling of. He’s already 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds with a frame that should easily be able to hold more muscle, but without the kind of physical tools that will set him apart from the field. I think it’s also fair to say that his best skill at this point is how well-rounded he is. Put another way, he’s one of those guys that can do everything well – he can shoot it, he can pass, he can beat bigger defenders facing up, he can hold his own defending the paint, etc. – with an exceedingly high basketball IQ. Put another way, outside of continuing to stretch out his shooting range, I’m not sure just how much better he’s going to end up getting.

Jalen Johnson, Class of 2020: Johnson’s biggest strength at this point is probably his basketball IQ and passing ability at this size. He’s a 6-foot-9 lefty with a complete skillset and the kind of floor vision at this size that will make you think Ben Simmons lost his Aussie accent. Already committed to Duke, Johnson will likely continue to generate buzz as his defense and perimeter stroke improve.

Michael Avennati makes court filing alleging Nike cleared payments to Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford

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Lawyers for Michael Avennati filed a court motion on Wednesday alleging that Nike approved under-the-table payments to Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford while they were still in high school.

The alleged offers, which were for $35,000 to Zion and $20,000 to Langford, were found in “text messages, emails and other documents fro 2016-17” and prove “Nike executives had arranged for and concealed payments, often in cash, to amateur basketball players and their families and ‘handlers,'” the motion, which was filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleged.

Specifically, the motion alleges that:

  • EYBL manager Jamal James texted EYBL director Carlton DeBose and Nike’s recruiting coordinator John Stovall asking if they would be “willing to do … whatever may be needed for the Zion/Romeo situations as well as the money we’re now going to do for the [redacted because he is still a minor] kid in Michigan.” Stovall responded “Langford – 20 Zion – 35 [unnamed minor] – 15”. Stovall added that it was a bad idea for the offer to be put into print.
  • DeBose said in a text message with an unnamed Kentucky assistach coach that the shoe company was “funneling payments to high school players through at least 10 different EYBL coaches.”
  • An EYBL coach told Nike executives he was concerned about the money being paid to players and their families because it won’t end well for Nike and innocent coaches “will be deemed guilty by association.”
  • DeBose told Nico Harrison, Nike’s VP of North America basketball operations, that he’s “willing to bet that 38 of the 40 teams in the EYBL had to pay a moderate to considerable ransom to families just to play in the EYBL.” He also said the arrangements are “being viewed as a contract” by the players and their families.
  • Another Nike executive, Rachel Baker, allegedly said she was worried about carrying cash through an airport.

All the quotes listed above are from the motion itself. It refers to emails and text messages, but they are not attached. The motion can be read in its entirety here.

The motion does not make clear whether or not the money was actually delivered. Both Zion and Langford played their final season of AAU basketball on the Adidas circuit. Langford’s father was the coach of the AAU program that his son played for.

“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion,” Nike said in a statement. “Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case.”

Avenatti was arrested in March and charged with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose the way that the shoe company and its grassroots basketball league, the EYBL, funnel money to the elite high school players and their families. He threatened to hold a press conference at the start of the NCAA tournament announcing these allegations of misconduct.

Adding to the drama is the fact that Avennati represented Gary Franklin, who was the coach of the California Supreme at one point in time. Deandre Ayton, Bol Bol, Aaron Holiday, De’Anthony Melton, Solomon Hill and Brandon McCoy were among the players that spent time on his roster. The motion to dismiss also contains allegations that Franklin was directed by DeBose to make payments to people associated with Ayton, Bol and McCoy, and that he submitted false invoices to Nike to disguise the payments as expenses for the 501(c3) he operated.

Arkansas dismisses forward Gabe Osabuohien

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas has dismissed forward Gabe Osabuohien from the men’s basketball program.

Coach Eric Musselman announced the move Thursday without disclosing the reason.

“We have set a level of expectations for our student-athletes on and off the court,” Musselman said. “After discussions with Gabe, it was decided that it would be best to part ways. We thank him for his time at Arkansas and wish him well.”

The 6-foot-8 Osabuohien was born in Toronto but played at Little Rock’s Southwest Christian Academy. He played in 54 games with eight starts in two seasons with Arkansas. He scored 128 points (2.4 per game) and had 136 rebounds (2.5).

Ollie gets win over UConn in one arm of dispute

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HARTFORD, Conn. — The arbitrator in the dispute between UConn and Kevin Ollie has ruled that the former basketball coach is protected by a union contract when it comes to the standard the school must meet in proving his firing was justified.

The collective bargaining agreement between the school and the American Association of University Professors, of which Ollie is a member, requires a showing of serious misconduct in order to fire an employee for “just cause” and also affords Ollie other union protections

UConn had argued that Ollie’s personal contract superseded the union deal, allowing it to fire him in March 2018 for a broader range of offenses.

Arbitrator Marcia Greenbaum, in a decision filed on July 31, found that neither Ollie nor the union waived his union protections when signing his latest contract.

The arbitrator plans hearings to determine whether UConn fired Ollie for just cause, or if he is owed more than $10 million that was left on his contract, which was through June 30, 2021.

“Serious misconduct is the standard that now has to be proved by the university,” said Michael Bailey, executive director of UConn’s chapter of the AAUP. “I think, as the arbitrator said in her discussion, that is a heavy burden to be placed on the university.”

The school acknowledged Tuesday that the ruling will make proving its case more difficult.

“Nonetheless, UConn remains confident it can prevail in this matter, even against the higher standard, especially in light of the recent NCAA ruling,” said Stephanie Reitz, the school’s spokeswoman.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions last month placed the UConn program on two years of probation and sanctioned Ollie individually for numerous violations of NCAA rules during his tenure.

The Committee on Infractions said the violations mainly stemmed from improper pickup games at which student managers kept statistics for coaches, the use of a video coordinator as a coach, which resulted in more than the allowable number of coaches, and free training sessions provided to three players by a trainer who was friends with Ollie.

The NCAA issued a three-year, show-cause order for the former head coach for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and providing misleading statements to investigators and failing to monitor his staff.

That means that any NCAA member school that might hire Ollie must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows why those restrictions should not apply.

But Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said that does not mean the firing was justified.

“One should not assume that the NCAA’s recent action, which was totally lacking in due process protections, will have any relevance before an impartial arbitrator,” he said.

Bailey said he is hopeful that, in the absence of a settlement, the arbitration process can be concluded by the end of the year.