sphillipshoops

Getty Images

Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

1 Comment

Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

Getty Images
2 Comments

USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

AP Photo
Leave a comment

USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Orlando Magic reportedly targeting Houston’s Kelvin Sampson as next head coach

AP Photo
Leave a comment

The Orlando Magic are reportedly targeting Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson to be their next head coach, according to a report from Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Missing the NBA Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, the Magic parted ways with former head coach Frank Vogel earlier this offseason. Sampson is reportedly the team’s top target.

The 62-year-old Sampson has aided in a recent resurgence at the University of Houston as he led the Cougars to the second round of the 2018 NCAA tournament — the program’s first March Madness appearance in eight years. A former college head coach at Montana Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana before his recent four-year tenure at Houston, Sampson also has some NBA experience as an assistant coach.

While Sampson was serving a five-year show cause for NCAA violations during his time at Indiana, he coached for three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and three seasons with the Houston Rockets. Although Sampson has never been a head coach at the NBA level, he has connections with the Magic’s front office as President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond both worked for the Bucks while Sampson was there under head coach Scott Skiles.

Although Sampson has some very successful rebuilds at the college level, having to rebuild an NBA team as a first-time head coach would be a very difficult task. But, as Stein and many others have noted, the Magic have also been very mysterious about this coaching search. All of the Sampson chatter could be misdirection, for all we know.

A handful of college coaches have recently made the jump to the NBA — most notably Brad Stevens (Butler to Boston) and Billy Donovan (Florida to Oklahoma City) — but both of those coaches were significantly younger than Sampson was when they were hired. If the Magic are serious about Sampson, it would be a very bold choice given his age and lack of NBA experience.

Rutgers lands important 2019 in-state recruit

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rutgers kept an important in-state prospect home on Wednesday as top-150 prospect Paul Mulcahy pledged to the Scarlet Knights out of the Class of 2019.

The 6-foot-5 Mulcahy was a priority recruit for head coach Steve Pikiell and the Rutgers coaching staff as they’ve been recruiting the unique guard since they took the job. A versatile perimeter player who can play on or off the ball, Mulcahy is a gifted passer with good floor vision and instincts.

With the Scarlet Knights adding some talented players in the Class of 2018 in guards Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr., the program is starting to put together the makings of a strong backcourt for the future. Since Rutgers also has Geo Baker and Texas transfer Jacob Young (sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer rules) in the fold, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of Scarlet Knights basketball.

Mulcahy is exactly the type of recruit that Rutgers and Pikiell need to land if they hope to be competitive in the Big Ten. Regarded as the No. 134 overall prospect in the Class of 2019, according to Rivals, Mulcahy hails from Gladstone, New Jersey.

Auburn picks up transfer from Memphis

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Auburn picked up a key transfer on Wednesday as former Memphis guard Jamal Johnson pledged to the Tigers.

The 6-foot-4 Johnson is a former four-star prospect as he put up 6.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season while averaging 26.5 minutes per contest for Memphis. Johnson showed flashes throughout the season, including a 17-point effort against AAC-champion Cincinnati during the final game of the season.

A native of Birmingham, Johnson will be closer to home with his new school, as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Once he’s eligible, Johnson should become a key rotation piece for Auburn, as he has a chance to be a solid scorer.