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Kentucky’s John Calipari gives take on potential NCAA live period changes

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With the NCAA potentially making monumental changes to the live evaluation periods as early as next summer, it has left the college basketball world asking a lot of questions about what summer recruiting could look like in the future.

The NCAA has talked about setting up youth development camps in collaboration with USA Basketball and the NBA. The groups will help identify which prospects might be allowed to speak to agents (about potentially going to the pros out of high school) while also setting up camps of prospective college prospects that college coaches would attend.

Since he’s known so much for his recruiting prowess and ability to land high-level players, Kentucky head coach John Calipari gave his take on the potential live evaluation period changes during an appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio on Wednesday.

Calipari seems to believe that dealing with agents, as a college coach trying to recruit student-athletes, could be the most troublesome new development in the potential rule changes as he elaborated on some of those difficulties.

“How do you decide who are the high school guys that should put their names in [the draft] and come out? How do you decide that? Do you want 1,000 tenth graders thinking they’re coming right out? Don’t care about academics? Who now can’t even get into a university? Who’s going to take care of those kids, society wise?” Calipari said. “Are we all just going to say, “Yeah, they were taught, it’s up to them’? They’re 16, 15-years-old. They can’t make logical decisions at that age. They’re all going to be thinking they’re going. How do we make a decision, which 10 or 12 go directly to the league? How do we make that decision? That’s my concern.”

Calipari also voiced his potential displeasure if players were allowed to come back to the school after the draft. Since Kentucky has so many players leaving early for the pros every offseason, this issue directly deals with the Wildcats more than most of the schools in college hoops.

“We’re talking about letting kids go through the draft and then come back to college. Well, what if there’s no scholarships for them when they come back after the draft? Can they go wherever they want? There’s some issues we’ve got to deal with if we’re doing it,” Calipari said.

Despite some of his concerns, Calipari seems ready for the next step in the recruiting world as he’s always been a coach who is a few steps ahead of many of his competitors when it comes to landing top-notch talent. Calipari might have some misgivings about the future, but there is no doubt that he’ll be prepared to adapt once the NCAA decides to make a move. Only time will tell what those moves might be and how Calipari and Kentucky reacts to them.

As Michael Porter Jr. joins Puma, will brand make splash into college basketball?

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As the 2018 NBA Draft approaches, Puma has made major headlines by signing a handful of lottery picks — including the potential top two picks in Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley.

Puma’s aggressive move to get back into basketball continued on Wednesday afternoon as ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. — another likely top-10 pick — will sign a multi-year deal with the apparel company.

Dormant in the basketball business since Vince Carter signed with the brand as a rookie in 1998, Puma has become one of the intriguing subplots of this year’s draft as they attempt to position themselves in a crowded basketball apparel market that includes heavyweights like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

But while Puma has made a splash by signing three potential top ten picks, and another potential lottery pick in Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith, the intriguing question becomes what the brand might do at the college and grassroots levels of basketball?

Besides targeting 2018 NBA draft picks, Puma has recently made a strong push as a lifestyle brand by forging partnerships with music icons like Jay-Z and Rihanna. The brand’s soccer division also received a boost when they opted to sign Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku to a roster that already included the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The company also has a longstanding partnership with 11-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt.

So, even outside of professional basketball, Puma is trying to make major moves, while spending major money, over the last several months.

Having star NBA talents signed to apparel deals is one thing. Those same companies often attempt to align with as many college programs and high school programs as possible. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have also formed their own spring and summer grassroots basketball leagues over the last decade with the EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet and the Under Armour Association.

While Puma is undoubtedly spending enough to be seen by the masses, it’s hard to say if they have the monetary means, or the labor, to make a major push into smaller basketball levels like college and the AAU scene. Multiple basketball and apparel sources speculated to NBCSports.com that Puma’s sudden rise into the NBA doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll want to make the leap into college or high school basketball.

That’s been the natural progression of the other apparel companies who have made a major mark in basketball, as those brands value the long-term relationships and local credibility that comes with having top-notch college and high school players wearing their product.

Maybe Puma doesn’t see things that way as they try to align themselves with star professional players. And for all of the talk of Nike having long-term relationships with Ayton, Bagley and Porter, all three of them jumped at the chance to make the most money with the new(ish) kids on the block. Money will still be the ultimate factor in a lot of athletes signing with apparel companies.

If Puma does decide to enter the college athletics arms race, it would certainly make for a fascinating apparel company to enter the mix. Since Puma has credibility in sports like golf, tennis, soccer and track and field they could also make a splash signing larger schools to long-term apparel deals that go across all sports.

But it remains to be seen what Puma’s long-term goal is after signing four strong draft prospects. Puma is off to a great start re-entering basketball, but we have no idea what kind of end-goal they have in mind. Or if that even involves college basketball.

Five-star guard Ashton Hagans enrolling at Kentucky after graduating year early

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Kentucky received additional reinforcements for the 2018-19 season on Friday as five-star guard Ashton Hagans graduated high school a year early with the intent to head to Lexington for next season.

The 6-foot-4 Hagans is considered by many recruiting analysts to be a top-ten national prospect in the Class of 2019 as he gives the Wildcats three five-star recruits at lead guard for next season. The Georgia state Player of the Year as a junior this past season, Hagans joins a crowded Kentucky backcourt that includes sophomore Quade Green and fellow incoming freshman and McDonald’s All-American Immanuel Quickley.

While the juggling of minutes is going to be a major storyline for head coach John Calipari this season, the addition of Hagans gives Kentucky even more lineup flexibility than they had before. Because Hagans has good size and defensive ability, he could be used to play alongside the smaller Green, giving the Wildcats a two-guard look that would have more defensive intensity. Playing Quickley and Hagans together would give Kentucky a bigger two-guard lineup that would have a chance to be pretty strong defensively.

And, of course, Calipari could opt to go with some three-guard lineups with other off-guards like Keldon Johnson or Tyler Herro to give Kentucky a tough perimeter attack.

Handling minutes and egos will be something to watch for in Lexington this season, but Calipari has handled this sort of situation with a Final Four appearance before. It’s hard to say if the Wildcats will try to play another platoon type of system like we saw in 2014-15, but if they end up getting graduate transfer forward Reid Travis, they might have the personnel to give it a shot.

John Calipari, Kentucky meet Triple Crown winner Justify

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In the state of Kentucky, basketball and horse racing are king.

Two passions of the Bluegrass state came together on Wednesday as John Calipari and the Kentucky men’s basketball team had a chance to meet recent Triple Crown winner Justify.

Taking some photos and videos on Twitter, the Wildcats got to spend time with the already legendary horse as they are hoping that some of his greatness rubs off on them for the upcoming season.

Missouri’s Jontay Porter believes he was first-round pick if he stayed in NBA draft

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Missouri forward Jontay Porter pulled his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft, but he still believes he would have been a first-round pick had he decided to turn pro.

In a story from Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the 6-foot-11 rising sophomore said that he was confident that he would have received the guaranteed contract and first-round status. But Porter decided to return to Missouri for his sophomore season for basketball reasons.

“When I did decide to go back to school, it didn’t matter where I was going to be picked,” Porter said in Matter’s story. “I was going back to school because I realized I didn’t want to take that leap quite yet. I can confidently say — I know the draft isn’t until the 21st — but I’m pretty confident I would have been a first-round pick. That really wouldn’t have been a question. Whether I was top 10 or top 30 I was pretty set on coming back.”

During his freshman season at Missouri, Jontay, the younger brother of potential top-10 pick Michael Porter Jr., put up solid numbers for the Tigers as he averaged 9.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. But since Jontay only played 24.6 minutes per game, while registering the highest body-fat percentage among NBA Combine participants, he is opting to return for another season.

Porter alluded to the fact that he wants to be more physically mature and ready for the NBA level when he eventually enters the draft. Some might believe that Porter’s first-round comments come across as cocky (which won’t be helped by the perception that his older brother is cocky) but he also had a strange journey to reach Missouri in the first place.

Reclassifying late to join Michael Jr. last season, Jontay never played his senior year of high school basketball and didn’t have the full summer to work on conditioning before joining the Tigers last season. With a full season already completed, and a full offseason awaiting, Porter could conceivably improve his conditioning and his numbers dramatically as a sophomore next season.

The 2019 NBA Draft also looks a lot weaker from a one-and-done freshman standpoint, so Porter could see his stock potentially rise by being in a weaker draft. Either way, Missouri is happy to have Porter back with them for next season as he’ll have major expectations for his sophomore season.

Brandon Martin, son of South Carolina coach Frank Martin, to play at USC Upstate

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Expect South Carolina coach Frank Martin to pay more attention to USC Upstate this fall.

New USC Upstate coach Dave Dickerson has announced his first recruiting class, which includes Martin’s son Brandon.

The younger Martin is a 6-foot-6 forward who averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per game during his senior year at Cardinal Newman High School. He then played a post-graduate season at St. Thomas More School in Connecticut.

Frank Martin is starting his seventh season coaching the Gamecocks. He has often used his son as an example during talks with the media about the difficulty of connecting with young people.

Dickerson was hired in April to coach the Spartans. He spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State under Thad Matta.