Bradley Beal

Former Florida guard discusses Billy Donovan’s potential as an NBA head coach on ‘Dan Patrick Show’ (VIDEO)

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With the NBA Playoffs set to begin Saturday, Washington Wizards and former Florida guard Bradley Beal joined Chris Mannix on the “Dan Patrick Show” Friday morning. Among the topics discussed was the possibility of Beal’s college coach, Billy Donovan, making the move from the SEC to the NBA and Beal gave an interesting answer.

“I agree with the rumors; I think he’ll definitely leave,” Beal said. “He won’t pass that opportunity up too many times, and I think he’ll be a tremendous coach. He loves playing in pick & rolls, loves to space the floor and he gives his players freedom so I think he’ll definitely [do] well in the league.”

Donovan’s name is one that’s been tossed around the rumor mill in regards to the NBA coaching carousel of late, joining annual “favorite” Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State and UConn’s Kevin Ollie. While 16 teams continue to play there are others who either have a vacancy to fill (Denver being one) or are evaluating the head coaching position (Oklahoma City) and decisions at that level would impact the college game should a high-profile coach move to the NBA.

College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Ben McLemore is turning into the missing piece for Kansas: We all know what Kansas is missing this year: a go-to player. A star. A ‘give me the ball and get out of my way’ scorer that can be trusted with the ball in his hands in crunch time. Their best option? Freshman Ben McLemore, who is not only learning how to be a collegiate player right now, he’s learning how to be the focal point of an offensive attack; he played second-fiddle to Bradley Beal in AAU.

That aggressiveness was missing against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, and as a result, Kansas blew a five point lead with five minutes left as their offense bogged down. McLemore finished with 14 points on just seven shots against the Spartans. But two nights later, McLemore went for 25 as the Jayhawks erased an eight point halftime deficit against Chattanooga.

My point? He’s learning. He’s getting better. So watch out.

Has Murray State found their third option?: The key for the Racers heading into the season was to find out a way to take the pressure off of Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel. Who would play the role of Donte Poole this year? It certainly wasn’t going to be Zay Jackson, who got the boot after that ugly incident in the Walmart parking lot. Maybe Stacy Wilson is the answer. Through four games, the 6-foot-4 senior is averaging 17.5 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 46.4% from the beyond the arc.

What is going on with Larry Drew II?: Contrary to what all of the headlines will tell you this week, Shabazz Muhammad’s affect on this UCLA team is not going to be the biggest influence on the Bruins’ season. Drew will be. It’s a small sample size, I know, but Drew’s averaging 8.3 assists while committing a total of five turnovers over 108 minutes in three games. Will that last? Can he continue to be a playmaker and a facilitator for this team? Because if he can, with Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, the Wear twins and Tyler Lamb, there are no shortage of talents at Ben Howland’s disposal.

Memphis still has rebounding issues: After the Tigers struggled to knock off lowly Samford at home on Friday night, Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins had some very harsh words for Josh Pastner’s team. There are a host of issues plaguing Memphis right now, but none bigger than their board work. Calkins explains:

But in trots Samford — skinny, small and slow — and outplays Memphis for much of Saturday night. How does that happen? Or, better yet, how does this happen: How does Samford outrebound Memphis, 25-24?

How does Tarik Black get two rebounds in 25 minutes? How does Adonis Thomas get zero rebounds in 39?

“They shot 52 percent in the first half,” said Thomas. “There weren’t that many balls coming off the rim.”

Which is ridiculous, of course. There were plenty of balls coming off the rim. Samford missed 21 shots on the night. Memphis missed 24. So there were 45 balls coming off the rim.

Thomas didn’t get one of them. Even though he weighs 30 pounds more than any player from Samford. You’d think it would be humiliating at some point, wouldn’t you? You’d think Thomas would just say the heck with it, and focus on nothing else but getting a rebound, even if he had to tear one from a teammate’s hands.

If Glenn Robinson III plays the four, the concerns about Michigan go away: The Wolverines were vaulted up into the top five in the preseason polls this season, due in part to the return of Trey Burke. But a big factor in that bump was what the Wolverines were bringing in on the recruiting trail: namely, a lot more talent than we are accustomed to seeing John Beilein land. There were concerns that this could affect the way his system runs, and that was shown when the computer profiles showed that Michigan was overrated.

For me, the biggest question mark was at the four: were the Wolverines really going to try and play two of Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford?

Well, apparently they aren’t Robinson has been starting at the four. He’s averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 boards in two games against D-I competition, but more important is the fact that he’s shooting 3-6 from deep. Throw in Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway, and the only difference between the usual makeup of Beilein’s 2-3-4 and his current one is that the current one is longer, more athletic and more talented.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Bill Self: ‘This will all be a pretty good teaching tool for us.’

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ATLANTA – With 5:07 left on the clock against Michigan State on Tuesday, Kansas was firmly control of the opening game of the Champions Classic.

Travis Releford and Jeff Withey combined to score six straight points as the Jayhawks opened up a 59-54 lead, and with the momentum fully in their favor, Bill Self’s club looked like they were on the verge of handing Sparty their second loss in five days to kick off the season.

Kansas had the ball eight times in the final 5:07. One possession ended in a pair of Elijah Johnson free throws. Another ended with an and-one layup in transition by Ben McLemore off of a (foul-assisted) Keith Appling turnover. The other six possessions, which resulted in four missed jumpers and two turnovers, were just as ugly aesthetically as they were in the box score. In the end, the Jayhawks lost, 67-64.

No one wanted the ball in crunch time for Kansas. No one was ready, willing, or capable of demanding the ball and saying, ‘Clear out, I got this’. And that, more than anything, is where Kansas truly misses Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson.

“The thing about playing a game this early is somebody is going to lose,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said after the game. “If you look at it, I thought we were pretty good for about 35 minutes. I thought we played probably about as I good as I thought we were going to play.”

“But games are decided in the last five, and they were much better in the last five.”

The conundrum for Kansas lies in their roster makeup. They are one of the more experienced teams in the country. Three seniors start, two of whom are in their fifth-years. Another fifth-year senior comes off the bench. With the exception of Perry Ellis, every member of the Kansas rotation was part of the program last season when they made the national title game.

The problem is that all of those veterans are role players. Jeff Withey is arguably the most intimidating defensive force in the country, but he’s still not much of a threat on the offensive end of the role. Johnson is a nice complimentary scorer, nut he’s yet to prove he can handle being the focal point offensively. Releford is a glue guy, a defender that will hit open threes, and not too much more.

The stars?

The supreme talents?

The potential first round draft picks?

They’re all freshmen.

“Our freshmen are going to be good, but they’re pretty green and naive,” Self said. “They’re not your typical heralded freshmen that have had a lot of exposure. They’ve been pretty sheltered as far as experiences.”

McLemore is the guy expected to be the star for this group, but he still has to learn about to play that role. He may have been a top 25 recruit, but he wasn’t even the go-to guy when he played at high level events in high school. In AAU ball, he deferred to Bradley Beal, last year’s No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft. There are things that McLemore, who played just his second collegiate game after redshirting last season, has to learn to be able to do to thrive in that role.

“Plugging himself in where he knows where his shots are coming from, putting himself in the game where he’s more of an impact guy,” Self said of what McLemore needs to develop. “He’s a pretty efficient player, but seven shots for him is not enough. He needs to take more shots. He’s just so talented and he’s going to learn. It’s just all new to him. He’ll get. It’s going to take a while, but he’s going to get it.”

Ellis is a finesse player at this point in his career, and while nothing has changed about his ability to put up points, finesse power forwards aren’t exactly the ideal. Traylor showed off some unbelievable athleticism, with a ridiculous put-back dunk and one of the best fast-break blocks you’ll ever see, but right now he has Thomas Robinson’s motor without his skill set.

Those guys will learn and they’ll develop and they’ll get better as the season goes along, but throwing them into the fire in a nail-biter against a Big Ten contender on national television in the Georgia Dome isn’t exactly bringing them along slowly.

Give them time.

“I thought this was a good game for us,” Self said. “I’m not leaving out of here discouraged at all. I’m not happy we lost because you’re up in that situation, you’ve gotta close, and we didn’t close. But there were some good things that happened.”

“I think this will all be a pretty good teaching tool for us.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 15 Florida Gators

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 26-11, 10-6 SEC (t-2nd); Lost to Louisville in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Billy Donovan

Key Losses: Erving Walker, Bradley Beal

Newcomers: Braxton Ogbueze, Michael Frazier, DeVon Walker, Dillon Graham

Projected Lineup:

G: Scottie Wilbekin, Jr.
G: Kenny Boynton, Sr.
F: Will Yeguete, Jr.
F: Erik Murphy, Sr.
C: Patric Young, Jr.
Bench: Mike Rosario, Sr.; Casey Prather, Jr.; Braxton Ogbueze, Fr.; Michael Frazier, Fr.; DeVon Walker, Fr.; Dillon Graham, Fr.

Outlook: Last season, Florida was just a couple of possessions from the Final Four. If they don’t blow a 11 point lead in the final eight minutes to Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals, Billy Donovan would have been taking his team to the fourth Final Four of his career. But the Gators lost that game, and in the process they watch as Bradley Beal and Erving Walker played their final games in Florida uniforms.

If Florida wants to match that level of postseason success again this season, it is going to hinge on the play of two of Donovan’s most highly-touted recruits in the last four years — Kenny Boynton and Patric Young.

Boynton entered Florida four years ago as a top ten recruit, a 6-foot-2 combo-guard known for his ability to put up impressive scoring numbers. And through three seasons in Gainesville, Boynton’s backed up that hype, averaging at least 14.0 points every year, capped of by the 15.9 points he averaged as a junior. But Boynton has yet to make the jump from a quality scorer on a good team to an elite player, and part of the reason has been his shot selection and his consistency.

Boynton’s always been a shoot-first player, rarely seeing a three that he didn’t like. With Beal and Walker on the roster, that wasn’t as much of a problem, as he was able to play more off-the-ball and rely on the open looks that were created for him within the flow of the offense. Those initial open looks seemed to be a boon for his confidence, as he all-the-sudden became a dangerous shooter off the dribble. While he struggled a bit with his shot towards the end of the season, Boynton’s efficiency as a junior was through the roof. It’s amazing the difference in effectiveness for a jump-shooter when he has his confidence.

The question this season will be whether or not he reverts back into his old form now that Beal and Walker have been replaced with guys like Scottie Wilbekin, Mike Rosario, Will Yeguete and a group of freshmen guards that are a long way from being a one-and-done talent like Beal. Will he still be knocking down threes at the same rate? Will he still be as reliable with the ball in his hands? More importantly, will he be more a more willing facilitator for his teammates? While he doesn’t do it often, Boynton was underrated as a distributor and decision-maker last year.

The other question mark is going to be Patric Young. Young has always been an overpowering physical presence. He’s big, he’s strong, he has broad shoulders and he’s hyper-athletic. But he’s always been a bit of an underwhelming rebounder and shot-blocker for a guy with his physical tools, and his postgame has always had quite a bit of room for improvement.

Young has lottery-level potential, but he hasn’t yet scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. Some of the blame for that goes to the guards he played with last season. Young’s touches in the paint were few and far between as a sophomore. Will be become more assertive as a junior? Will he ever becoming the dominating presence that we all want him to be in the paint?

Beyond that, the Gators do have some quality role players. Wilbekin is a steadying presence at the point, a guy that doesn’t make all that much happen but that also doesn’t make all that many mistakes. Rosario, like Boynton, is a shoot-first ball-handler that will provide Donovan will a nice complement to Wilbekin and a scoring pop off the bench. Yeguete was one of the most valuable pieces for the Gators last season as a defender and an energy guy, running the point on their press. Murphy is a knock-down shooter at 6-foot-10 and will create space for Young in the paint. And the trio of freshman guards should be able to find a way to contribute.

And while Donovan has some pieces at his disposal, the question I find myself asking is just how well all of those pieces are going to fit together.

Predictions?: Florida is a year away. If we’re being perfectly honest, the more I look at this Florida team, the more I think that we have them ranked too high at 15th. With the freshmen and transfers Donovan has coming in next season, the Gators will be better prepared to compete nationally. I think this is still a tournament team, but this is not a group that should be ranked in the top 15.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

All is not lost for LaQuinton Ross

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Renardo Sidney, apparently, has not taught us anything.

Back when he was in middle school, Sidney was considered the next can’t-miss prospect, the latest in a long line of kids that expected to be NBA stars simply because they were able to dominate in their mid-teens.

We know how Sidney’s story played out. He took enough handouts to scare off both USC and UCLA, eventually ending up at Mississippi State, where he spent more time suspended than he did on the court before declaring for the draft as an overweight underclassmen. Today, Sidney is further from NBA stardom than he was when he was 14.

He’s far from the only example, however. On Thursday, Dan Wolken of The Daily did a fine job telling the story of LaQuinton Ross, a former best player in the country, playing at LeBron’s camp with Andrew Wiggins, the current best player in the country:

Like Wiggins, Ross was once the No. 1-ranked high school sophomore in the country. Today, he’s hoping a breakout year at Ohio State will propel him to the NBA where he can join other members of his age group like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal, who weren’t considered better prospects than Ross a few years ago.

“I’m just going to try to live up to the hype,” said Ross, a native of Jackson, Miss. “Everybody has expectations for me, so I’m just trying not to let them down.”

That was a sad thing to hear, because it doesn’t seem so long ago that people talked about Ross the way they now talk about Wiggins. Four years ago, I watched Ross play at an AAU tournament, mostly against kids a year or two older, many of whom have gone on to become successful college players. And he absolutely dominated them.

To date, Ross, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, has yet to live up to that potential. He missed the first month of the season with eligibility issues as a freshman and barely saw time after that.

The good news, however, is that Ross has plenty of time to turn his career around and plenty of skill to make that happen. And while he may be disappointed that his success hasn’t come as quickly as some of the other members of his high school class, he’s still young. He’s a sophomore. He is the furthest thing from a failure.

Those rankings that had him No. 1 four years back? They were based on potential; how good can a kid end up being if he puts in the work to maximize the skills that he was blessed with. The potential is still there for Ross to become something special.

And if he puts in the work, there is a very good chance that he’ll realize it.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Handicapping next season’s one-and-done candidates

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The NBA Draft saw nine freshmen drafted, all of which were originally highly ranked by recruiting analysts in the Class of 2011 as high school prospects. The route these talented players took in jumping to the NBA from high school may serve as a predictor for the 2013 NBA Draft.

To no surprise, the top five prospects in the 2011 group all made the jump. According to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Quincy Miller were the top five players according to the variety of rankings sources that are accounted for in the list. UConn center Andre Drummond likely would have been included in that group, but he reclassified too late into the class to be included in the player rankings. At the time, he was considered by many to be the top player in the 2012 class.

The highest-rated 2011 recruit who stayed in school was the No. 6 player, James Michael McAdoo. He didn’t see much playing time in a jam-packed front court at North Carolina, so it is understandable that he will wait a year before potentially making the jump to the NBA. Just behind McAdoo, Kentucky lead guard Marquis Teague continued the impressive track record of point guards under coach John Calipari that have made the one-and-done leap.

The other one-and-done draft picks are surprising in retrospect, with No. 18 Tony Wroten taking his talent but significant inconsistency to the NBA, and No. 38 Maurice Harkless making the most of a thin St. John’s roster to excel in his only season of college hoops.

Using the 2011 class as an example, it seems as if incoming freshmen wing Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA), and centers Nerlens Noel (Kentucky) and Isaiah Austin (Baylor) are very safe bets to declare after a year in college. The other members of the top-5 are less certain as UCLA-bound Kyle Anderson is a very unique player but doesn’t seem to fit the NBA mold athletically. Meanwhile, Pitt signee Steven Adams has the talent, but the Pitt system doesn’t have a track record for showcasing freshmen stars.

Looking further down, UNLV signee Anthony Bennett is physically at a grown man’s level as an undersized power forward. Smooth forward Alex Poythress seems to have an ideal skill set to be have a successful freshman year at Kentucky. No. 7 Kaleb Tarczewski also could have a shot as a legitimate, no frills 7-foot center with a good debut at Arizona.

Noted NBA Draft website DraftExpress.com has published a 2013 mock draft, with Noel and Muhammad projected as the top two picks. Austin and Poythress come in at No. 6 and 7, while Kentucky incoming shooting guard Archie Goodwin is shown as the No. 9 pick, which is one slot ahead of where he was ranked in the consensus recruiting player rankings. No other 2012 recruit is currently listed at this time.

Certainly, there will be a Harkless-like darkhorse that excels as a freshman. Some candidates include combustible Providence shooting guard Ricardo Ledo, who is arguably a top-5 talent, if he can keep his act together. Farther down the list, Syracuse center DaJuan Coleman is already a huge physical presence that will be hard to ignore if his conditioning has improved, and Memphis signee Shaq Goodwin demonstrated an impressive combination of size and strength on the USA Basketball 18U team. It seems very likely that another sleeper or two will also emerge to add to that group.

Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.