Early entrants

NBA sounds ready to move toward lowering draft age limit

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In recent years there’s been an increased amount of conversation regarding the NBA’s rules for draft entrants, with the requirements since the 2006 NBA Draft being that a player be at least 19 years of age (during the calendar year of the particular draft that they’ve entered) and stateside players also be one year removed from high school.

On Tuesday, both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts discussed the age limit during their respective press conferences. And by the sound of things, the league appears to still be headed in the direction of lowering the minimum age to 18. While neither provided a date as to when the change could go into effect, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post the minimum age to enter the draft could be lowered in time for the 2021 NBA Draft.

The 2021 timeframe doesn’t come as a surprise, as it’s been mentioned during multiple conversations regarding the NBA Draft age limit. The NBA has steadily made progress towards each team having its own NBA G-League affiliate, and it will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition by the year 2021.

Having a G-League affiliate allows NBA teams to use those franchise to help young players get the on-court reps they need to get used to the parent club’s system, especially if they aren’t getting many minutes in the NBA. And a “one-to-one” relationship would be key for the league if it’s to lower its minimum age requirement in the future.

As for how this impacts college basketball, while some have stated that the “one and done” era has hurt the sport, an argument can be made that it’s been more beneficial than harmful.

There are a number of elite players who during the current era would have never set foot on a college campus if there were no age limit. That season on campus also gives NBA teams the opportunity to further evaluate those talents before they become draft-eligible players. And from an academic standpoint, programs that land “one and done” talent consistently meet — or exceed — the NCAA’s requirements when it comes to Academic Progress Rate, whether or not one thinks that the APR is a sham.

It’s becoming more clear that the NBA is ready to make a change, and based upon Roberts’ quote a move could be announced in the very near future. While college coaches won’t have an impact on the final decision, they will have to be prepared for the trickle-down effect that’s likely to occur on the recruiting trail as a result of elite prospects not having to wait to enter the NBA draft.

The Losers: Which college basketball teams got hurt the most by NBA draft early entries

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The NCAA’s deadline for players that are testing the waters came and went at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.

These are the programs that took the biggest hits. 

The biggest winners can be found here. 

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

VILLANOVA

The reigning national champions were hit hard by early departures, as four key contributors made the decision to forego their remaining eligibility. Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson moving on came as no surprise, as in addition to their work on the court both graduated in May.

But also moving on were Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman, with the former receiving positive reviews after both his 31-point outing in the national title game and two-day run at the NBA Draft Combine. The latter is seen as an intriguing talent who could go in the first round as well. None of the decisions were shockers, and Villanova did fill some holes with a very good recruiting class, but that’s a lot of lost production to have to account for heading into next season.

The big question now for the Wildcats is going to be how Jay Wright develops his team moving forward. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth are both fifth-year seniors. Jermaine Samuels is a sophomore that should be ready for a bigger role. The Wildcats have a terrific recruiting class coming in. There is a lot there to like, but for a program that has been a staple in the top five for the last five years, there may be something of a drop coming this season.

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MARYLAND

Heading into the offseason Maryland had the look of a clear Big Ten title contender, even with Justin Jackson’s decision to enter the NBA draft. But those chances took a significant hit on withdrawal deadline day, as wing Kevin Huerter made the decision to forego his final two seasons of eligibility.

Losing a player of Huerter’s caliber, a versatile offensive playmaker who was also the team’s best perimeter defender, is a tough blow for Mark Turgeon’s team to absorb. With Anthony Cowan and Darryl Morsell returning and a talented group of freshmen led by Aaron Wiggins joining the perimeter rotation, Maryland won’t lack for bodies. But they won’t have a perimeter option as versatile as Huerter in the mix, which may drop them down the Big Ten pecking order.

It wasn’t all bad news for Maryland, as Bruno Fernando made the decision to return for his sophomore season, but a budding talent in the post doesn’t make up for what they lost.

BRIAN BOWEN

It’s hard not to feel bad for this kid at this point. He got caught in the FBI’s investigation in college basketball corruption and he is now forced to deal with the brunt of the blame for the seedy side of the sport. He wound up at South Carolina after transferring out of Louisville, but Bowen’s college career came to an end before it actually started once the NCAA made it clear it would be some time before he was ruled eligible to play.

TEXAS A&M

Losing Robert Williams, an expected first-round pick, isn’t a shock considering the fact that there was lottery buzz for him last spring.

But the NBA draft prospects aren’t as clear for either D.J. Hogg or Tyler Davis, yet both decided to forego their final season of eligibility and turn pro. In Davis the Aggies lose their most productive interior scoring option, and Hogg was a 6-foot-9 forward who had range well out beyond the three-point line.

Those departures leave Texas A&M rather thin in the post, with Isiah Jasey (3.3 mpg in 15 appearances last season) and Saint Francis (PA) transfer Josh Nebo (12.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg in 2016-17) being the returning big men. And in an SEC that, after making positive strides last season stands to be even better in 2018-19, the lack of front court depth could be a killer for Billy Kennedy’s team.

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STANFORD

While the Cardinal did not have any players forego their remaining eligibility to turn pro, the program did lose a player who would have been on the short list of preseason candidates for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Reid Travis, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season, withdrew his name from the draft but decided to move on from Stanford as a graduate transfer. With Michael Humphrey having exhausted his eligibility, Jerod Haase’s front court rotation took a major hit with Travis’ decision.

Stanford won’t lack for wings next season, with Oscar Da Silva, Kezie Okpala and Kodye Pugh all returning, but the options in the post are limited. Josh Sharma and Trevor Stanback are the returnees inside, with freshmen Lukas Kisunas and Keenan Fitzmorris joining the program to add depth.

WAKE FOREST

It’s tough to think of an ACC program hit harder by draft departures this spring than Wake Forest, which lost two of its top three scorers from a season ago in guard Bryant Crawford and center Doral Moore. Crawford led the Demon Deacons in both scoring and assists, averaging 16.9 points and 4.9 assists per game.

As for Moore, he chipped in with 11.1 points per game while also averaging a team-best 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. What makes this all worse for Danny Manning heading into his fifth year at the school is that there were other departures as well, most notably Keyshawn Woods transferring to Ohio State. As a result a lot will be asked of Brandon Childress and a talented recruiting class headlined by Jaylen Hoard.

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THE DEADLINE WAS NOT GOOD TO THEM

THE BIG EAST

The Big East got crushed by graduation this offseason, as seven of the 13 players that received all-conference votes were seniors. Then Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges declared for the draft along with Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman. Creighton’s Khyri Thomas is gone. So is Georgetown’s Markus Derrickson. The top of the league took such a hit it’s hard to picture who out of that group will actually be able to contend with Villanova in a down year for the Wildcats.

WICHITA STATE

The loss of Landry Shamet proved to be even bigger for the Shockers, despite Markis McDuffie making the decision to remove his name from the draft and return. Shamet was one of the best players in the American last season, averaging 14.9 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from three.

Losing Shamet was tough enough for the Shockers, as his departure leaves a major question mark at the point guard position. What made it an even tougher blow to absorb were the release of Alex Lomax (he committed to stay in Memphis and play for Penny Hardaway shortly thereafter) from his letter of intent and Austin Reaves’ decision to transfer to Oklahoma. With Shamet no longer in the fold, junior college All-American Ricky Torres will need to hit the ground running for Wichita State.

PENN STATE

After winning the Postseason NIT the Nittany Lions entered the offseason with positive momentum, and with many of the key pieces from that team set to return there were expectations of an NCAA tournament in 2019. Unfortunately for Penn State, while other Big Ten programs experienced the joy of having key players return after testing the NBA draft waters talented point guard Tony Carr was “all in” and decided to forego his remaining eligibility.

As noted this isn’t a roster that lacks talent, with Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves among the returnees and a good recruiting class joining the ranks as well. But in Carr the Nittany Lions lost a player who led the team in both scoring and assists, and his possession percentage (29.6) ranked second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. Penn State can still be a tournament team, but the loss of Carr is a big deal for Patrick Chambers.

Admiral Schofield’s return sets up Tennessee for big 2018-19 season

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Tuesday afternoon, one day before the NCAA deadline for players to announce their intentions to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to school, the Tennessee basketball program received some good news.

Forward Admiral Schofield, who decided earlier in the spring to test the process without hiring an agent, announced that he will be returning to Knoxville for his senior season. As a junior Schofield averaged 13.9 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game, shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three-point range and 75.6 percent from the foul line.

Schofield’s return means that the top six scorers — and all five starters — from a team that won 26 games and a share of the SEC regular season title will all be back on campus.

While the rosters at Auburn — which shared the regular season title with Tennessee — and Kentucky are nothing to scoff at, a very good case can be made that Rick Barnes’ team should be the preseason favorite to win the SEC next season. At minimum, the Volunteers should be safely in the Top 10 of the preseason national polls this fall.

Creighton guard Khyri Thomas to remain in 2018 NBA Draft

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With leading scorer Marcus Foster out of eligibility, the biggest question for the Creighton Bluejays at the end of the 2017-18 season was what would junior guard Khyri Thomas do. Not only did Thomas establish himself as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country during his three seasons at Creighton, but he also made significant strides offensively.

Sunday afternoon Thomas, who originally entered his name into the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, announced that he has decided to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Thomas, who averaged 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game last season, has a good chance of being Creighton’s second first-round draft pick in as many years (Justin Patton in 2017). Making improvements offensively in each of his three seasons under Greg McDermott and his staff, Thomas shot 53.8 percent from the field, 41.1 percent from three and 78.8 percent from the foul line in 2017-18.

Being able to point to the development of Thomas and Patton, who redshirted before playing his way into the 2017 NBA Draft lottery, certainly won’t hurt Creighton’s efforts on the recruiting trail moving forward.

As for next year’s team, losing Thomas is a big deal given his impact on both ends of the court. Returnees such as Mitchell Ballock, Davion Mintz and Ty-Shon Alexander will have even more responsibility on their shoulders, and it should also be noted that the team’s leading returning scorer (forward Martin Krampelj) is working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in mid-January.

Losing three starters (Foster, Thomas and Toby Hegner) and a solid reserve in Ronnie Harrell Jr. (transferred to Denver) will be tough to absorb. But it gives the remaining Bluejays the opportunity to step forward, and if the last two seasons are any indication someone may be ready to make a major jump for Greg McDermott’s team.

Mississippi State announces return of talented quartet

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While Ben Howland’s Mississippi State Bulldogs fell short in their quest for an NCAA tournament berth, which would have been the program’s first since 2009, the 2017-18 season was a productive one. Mississippi State won 25 games and reached the semifinals of the Postseason NIT, and with many of the team’s top contributors having eligibility remaining the 2018-19 campaign sets up to be a promising one.

Tuesday afternoon it was announced that guards Lamar Peters, Nick Weatherspoon and Quinndary Weatherspoon and forward Aric Holman have all decided to return to school. All entered the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent, thus keeping open the possibility of returning to school if they chose to do so.

Nick Weatherspoon, who averaged 10.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this past season, announced his decision to return to Starkville for his sophomore season just over a week ago.

Quinndary Weatherspoon was a second team All-SEC selection, averaging a team-best 14.4 points per game to go along with 6.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. The 6-foot-10 Holman is a promising front court talent who led the Bulldogs in rebounding (6.7 rpg) while also scoring 10.9 points per game, and Peters was the team leader in assists with 4.5 per game.

As a result of Tuesday’s news Mississippi State will return its top seven scorers from 2017-18, and the program adds a solid recruiting class that includes four-star wing Robert Woodard III and junior college transfer Jethro Tshisumpa.

How good can Mississippi State be next season? At minimum a return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade should be expected given the returning talent and newcomers joining the program. In order to make that a reality, and be a bigger factor in the SEC race, Mississippi State will have to manage expectations that will be at their highest point since Howland’s hiring.

And the non-conference schedule, which didn’t help the Bulldogs’ argument for an at-large bid in 2017-18, will need to be better. A series with BYU was announced Tuesday, and that should help the Bulldogs’ computer numbers.

P.J. Washington’s father refutes speculation regarding NBA draft

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After averaging 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game, Kentucky freshman forward P.J. Washington made the decision earlier this month to go through the NBA draft process without hiring an agent. Washington, and other players in his position, have until May 30 (NCAA deadline) to withdraw their names and return to school should they choose to do so.

There has been some speculation that Washington is leaning towards remaining in the draft pool, something that was refuted by his father in a story written by Larry Vaught of Lex18-TV.

“We’ve got the combine and we will make a decision after that,” Paul Washington said. “As of now, nothing has changed. Until you hear it from P.J., nothing is official no matter what you might read or hear from others. That’s just speculation because, believe me, nothing has changed.”

P.J. Washington is one of three Kentucky underclassmen who are going through the process while preserving their collegiate eligibility, with Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt also not hiring an agent. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all decided to forego the remainder of their eligibility. There are obviously some things to figure out when it comes to the 2018-19 roster, with Kentucky adding yet another highly-regarded recruiting class in the summer.

But Washington, Gabriel and Vanderbilt all have the time to work through everything, and the feedback received from workouts with NBA teams and next month’s combine will undoubtedly help. It would be wise to use all the time afforded to them before making a decision, and it’s clear that in the case of Washington that’s exactly how this process will be approached.

“I don’t understand why this is such a big deal to some people. Maybe they don’t understand the process,” Paul Washington said. “We didn’t listen to everybody when P.J. was picking a college. Why would we listen to others now? We will help him with the information but he will decide what he wants to do after being able to gather all this information that is available to players now.”