Invitations extended to the NBA Draft’s “Green Room”

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As reported by ESPN’s Chad Ford, the NBA has extended invitations to the “green room” for draft night this coming Thursday, June 27th. This room is designated for players who are projected to be selected in the top half of the first round — “the lottery.”

Those invited are Nerlens Noel (Kentucky); Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Otto Porter (Georgetown); Alex Len (Maryland); Anthony Bennett (UNLV); Ben McLemore (Kansas); Trey Burke (Michigan); Michael-Carter Williams (Syracuse); C.J McCollum (Lehigh) and Cody Zeller (Indiana).

If there is one name on the preceding list that isn’t like the others, it’s Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, who is the only player from a mid-major league that has been invited to the green room. Make no mistake, McCollum has proven he belongs in this group, but it isn’t often that a player from the Patriot League reaches the NBA. In fact, in the history of the league, there has only been one other player make his mark in the NBA and that was Colgate’s Adonal Foyle.

This year, McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala will be drafted. For extended draft reading on McCollum, NBC Sports’ Raphielle Johnson spoke with him and his coach, Dr. Brett Reed.

According to Ford, “In the past, the NBA has expanded the list of green room invites as the draft date nears. Typically, the NBA has invited 13-to-15 players. This year, the league has told a number of agents it may add a few names to the list as the draft approaches.”

Other names that may receive an invitation to the green room are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Steven Adams (Pittsburgh), Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA), Sergey Karasev (Russia), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greence).

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Unfolding of Darius Cobb’s involvement with Kansas’ Ben McLemore

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Last night, Eric Prisbell of USA Today released a story documenting how Darius Cobb, Ben McLemore’s former AAU coach, accepted two $5,000 payments and three paid trips to Los Angeles from Rodney Blackstock in an effort to steer the talented Kansas freshman to sports agents and financial advisers hoping to represent him if and when he declared for the NBA Draft. McLemore declared on April 9th, and projects to be a Top 5 pick in June’s Draft.

Prisbell’s article contains a wealth of information, and at the time of its release it was hard to process exactly what this all adds up to for the University of Kansas and Ben McLemore. Much of this story continues to unfold, but John Infante offered some early thoughts on it earlier today. What is of particular interest are the parallels between Ben McLemore and the situation with Cam Newton at Auburn a few years ago:

Under Bylaw 12.02.1, the NCAA’s new and expansive definition of an agent (a.k.a. the Cam Newton rule), Blackstock almost certain can be classified as one. In fact, Cobb might fall in the category as well, which includes anyone who:

Seeks to obtain any type of financial gain or benefit from securing a prospective student-athlete’s enrollment at an educational institution or from a student-athlete’s potential earnings as a professional athlete.

Looking solely at Kansas’ involvement in the matter:

Blackstock’s appearance on McLemore’s pass list for multiple games may lead to the NCAA to conclude that Kansas should have known he was in some way connected to McLemore. Kansas may then have to detail what monitoring they did of the individuals that basketball players added to the pass list, and why the school did not know about Blackstock’s connections to agents. Failing to answer those questions would, if the case gets that far, raise Kansas’ institutional culpability quite a bit.

From a broader scope, Cobb and Blackstock’s involvement with McLemore’s basketball career is just one of many unfortunate examples of men directly involved and on the periphery of AAU basketball looking to capitalize on the abilities of a young star with seemingly unending talent.

This is a story to closely monitor as it continues to unfold, and as Infante states: “this case is likely to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.”

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Ben McLemore’s AAU coach: I took money from agents

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Ben McLemore surprised nobody when he declared for the NBA draft after just one season at Kansas. His sweet, sweet jumpshot, viewed through the lens of his family’s poverty, made the decision a no-brainer.

There’s nothing wrong with following your talents and earning money when you can. What allegedly went on behind the scenes, on the other hand, could lead to all kinds of trouble.

Eric Prisbell of USA Today wrote an article today, detailing a confession by McLemore’s AAU coach that agents made illicit payments to the coach, in hopes of securing the freshman superstar as a future client.

Darius Cobb, a St. Louis-based AAU coach, told USA TODAY Sports that he accepted two cash payments of $5,000 during the regular season from Rodney Blackstock, the founder and CEO of Hooplife Academy, a sports mentoring organization based in Greensboro, N.C.

Cobb says he also received three all-expense paid trips to Los Angeles — and that a cousin of McLemore’s, Richard Boyd, accompanied him on two of them — for meetings in January and February with sports agents and financial advisers hoping to represent McLemore if he left for the NBA after his redshirt freshman season at Kansas. McLemore, 20, declared for the NBA draft on April 9.

Later in the article, Boyd denies any wrongdoing. USA Today claims sources and evidence support some of Cobb’s statements, and the University of Kansas acknowledged they had been notified of the allegations and refused to comment further.

It’s a tangled story, and you owe it to yourself to read the entire article. Cobb appears to be coming forth in hopes of protecting McLemore, but the whole thing is very murky. As is so often true when agents and money enter the picture alongside talented young basketball players.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Late Night Snacks: Kansas survives, UNLV gets important win in MWC

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Game of the Day: No. 9 Kansas 68, No. 14 Oklahoma State 67

It was not one of the double-overtime games we’ve seen this season, but Naadir Tharpe’s late heroics made for an exciting ending. His runner in the lane put KU ahead by one and Oklahoma State could not convert on its final possession, giving the Jayhawks the win.

Kansas freshman Ben McLemore had one of his roughest games of the season with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting from the floor, but Tharpe’s confidence helped Kansas in overtime. Marcus Smart did not shoot well from the floor for Oklahoma State, but he still managed 16 points by getting to the free throw line and converting.

Important Outcomes

1. UNLV 61, No. 22 Colorado State 59

UNLV was fearless on the interior and got a much-needed win in the Mountain West. The key for the Rebels is to take smarter shots and becoming a more efficient offensive unit. As Rob Dauster writes in the link above, this is a step in the right direction, but UNLV must prove its ability to win on the road, too.

2. No. 18 Ohio State 71, Minnesota 45

Ohio State needed to stop its recent skid before moving into the final stretch of its Big Ten regular season schedule. A big night from Deshaun Thomas and a good overall defensive game made that happen. The loss raises legitimate concerns for Minnesota, too, a team that is turning the ball over far too often to have success right now.

3. Kentucky 74, Vanderbilt 70

Kentucky could not lose this game if it wanted to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Thanks to Willie Cauley-Stein, improved backcourt play, and maybe even an intrasquad dodgeball game, the Wildcats pulled it out. Click the link above for the back-story on the dodgeball game.

Starred

1. Gonzaga’s Team Effort  (85 points, 58% FG, +21 rebounding margin)

The nation’s No. 3 team simply dominated Santa Clara on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs remain undefeated in WCC play and a legitimate force out West. Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk led the way with 17 and 15 points respectively.

2. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Without Nerlens Noel in the lineup, Kentucky got crushed by Tennessee over the weekend. Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only reason the Wildcats bounced back with a win over Vanderbilt, but his defense around the rim on the game’s final two possessions helped to seal the victory.

3. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (32 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists)

Wolters already dropped 53 points earlier this season, but this performance was pretty impressive, too, coming just one assist away from a triple double. Oh, not to mention he also dropped 32 points.

Also of Note: Eric Mosley, St. Bonaventure (39 points, 12-of-18 FG)

Struggled

1. Ben McLemore, Kansas (7 points, 3-of-12 FG)

McLemore did not look confident for much of Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma State, especially contrasted with guard Naadir Tharpe, who took control down the stretch. This was the first game of his college career that he had truly struggled, so we will learn a good deal about McLemore when we see how he bounces back.

2. Minnesota Offense (29% FG, 2-of-15 3pt FG, 21 turnovers)

Granted, Ohio State is one of the nation’s better defensive teams. That being said, though, Minnesota’s offensive output was abysmal. The Gophers turn the ball over too much and it will be one of the biggest threats to its NCAA tournament hopes.

3. Greg Smith, Colorado State (4 points, 1-of-7 FG)

Smith averages close to 12 points per game for the Rams, but managed just four on Wednesday vs. UNLV. In Colorado State’s two-point loss, they could have used him.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Ben McLemore is expected to play on Saturday

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A sprained right ankle won’t keep Kansas’ leading scorer, Ben McLemore out of Saturday’s game against Texas.

In a 61-44 win against Baylor on Monday night, McLemore landed awkwardly, resulting in the freshman guard rolling his ankle. According to the Kansas City Star, McLemore returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out practice on Tuesday and only participating in a light shootaround on Wednesday.

“He’s gonna be close to 100 percent come Saturday,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self.

The Jayhawks, in the middle of a 14 game winning streak, will have their star freshmen against a struggling Longhorns team. Texas is sitting at .500 and is off to an 0-3 start in Big 12 play this season. However, next Tuesday, No. 4 Kansas has a road game with in-state rival, No. 16 Kansas State. Kansas will get McLemore a game to test that recovering ankle before Tuesday’s top 25 matchup.

McLemore has been the best option offensively for the Jayhawks this season, pouring in 16.4 points per game. Missing McLemore for any period of time is something Kansas can’t afford.

“I’d be nervous for anybody to get hurt,” said Self. “But because it was Ben, it seemed like to me there was a little bit of air in the building that left.

“But I don’t think I was scared; concern would probably be a better word.”

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Ben McLemore saves Kansas in thrilling overtime win against Iowa State

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Kansas needed a hero Wednesday night, locked in a tough conference opener against Iowa State.

The hero they got is a precocious 6-5 freshman who, judging by his performance against the Cyclones, has no reservations about stepping up in high-pressure situations on national television.

McLemore scored 33 points on an efficient 10-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-6 from three-point range, carrying the No. 6 Jayhawks to an 97-89 overtime win at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas struggled for an eight-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, breaking out of it with 8:34 to play. In the three minutes that would follow, McLemore scored 10 points, including a four-point play that pulled Kansas to within one point.

But his biggest shot came in the final seconds of regulation, banking a three-pointer with just over one second remaining to tie the game at 79-79 and force overtime.

Kansas dominated in overtime and sealed the victory.

The win preserves and extends Kansas’ home winning streak to 31 games and keeps Iowa State winless at Allen Fieldhouse since 2005.

It was a valiant effort for Iowa State, though, a team that has flown under the radar for much of the 2012-13 season. Despite a 10-4 start, the Cyclones boast one of the most high-powered offenses in the country, being in the nation’s Top 10 in both points and rebounds and the Top 20 in assists.

The key to staying in the game Wednesday was balance, with six players in double figures, including 15 points from guard Korie Lucious, who hit a few key three-pointers down the stretch for the Cyclones.

Kansas led by four points at the half, 42-38, but struggled through a nine-minute stretch that ended with 9:17 to play after a transition dunk from Travis Releford.

The Jayhawks traded baskets with the Cyclones through much of the middle of the second half, before Tyrus McGee sank a three from deep on the right wing with 4:02 left to extend the Iowa State lead to six points, 73-67.

Kansas pulled to within two points, 73-71, but forward Melvin Ejim owned the paint in the final minutes. He grabbed a big rebound off a missed three-pointer and laying it back up, then driving right at center Jeff Withey on the next possession and laying it up for two.

An Elijah Johnson floater got Kansas to within one point, 77-76, with 14.5 seconds to play. Iowa State hit two more free throws to extend the lead to three, which led to McLemore’s heroics.

For Kansas, Withey had a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Young also had a double-double, tallying 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_