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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.

Texas A&M adds grad transfer big man

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Texas A&M added some much-needed frontcourt depth on Saturday as a source confirmed to NBCSports.com that Tennessee State graduate transfer big man Christian Mekowulu pledged to the Aggies.

The 6-foot-9 Mekowulu had a breakout junior season for the Tigers as he averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. With Texas A&M losing frontcourt players like Tyler Davis and Robert Williams to the pro ranks, adding an experienced rebounder and rim protector like Mekowulu is a great insurance policy.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Mekowulu translates to the SEC as Tennessee State didn’t play a lot of high-major programs last season. Putting up a double-double against Texas (15 points, 11 rebounds), Mekowulu didn’t have nearly as much success facing Kansas (five points, seven rebounds) or Purdue (10 points, four rebounds).

If Mekowulu can be consistent on the glass and defending the rim while providing a little bit of scoring, then he’s certainly worth taking for the Aggies.

Brian Bowen turns pro after NCAA rules him ineligible for next season

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The college basketball career of former McDonald’s All-American Brian Bowen is officially over before it ever began as the South Carolina guard will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to an official release from the Gamecocks, the NCAA informed the school that Bowen would be ineligible for at least the 2018-19 season based on the alleged benefits the Bowen family received from Louisville. Since Bowen hadn’t served a transfer year in residence at South Carolina, he was also potentially facing additional time that he would have to be out as well.

Bowen and his family were tied to the FBI’s investigation into college basketball this fall as an Adidas executive is alleged to have been part of a scheme to deliver $100,000 to Bowen’s family, according to court documents. Eventually cleared by the FBI on Nov. 2, Bowen was not allowed to play at Louisville.

After leaving Louisville amidst the investigation and enrolling at South Carolina in January, Bowen sat on the bench in the hopes of eventually being able to play for the Gamecocks. But the NCAA never gave the promising 6-foot-6 guard the chance to even begin his college basketball career.

“I am completely devastated by the NCAA’s ruling,” Bowen said in the South Carolina release. “All I ever wanted to do was continue my education and play college basketball, however, after learning of the ruling, and discussing it with my family and attorney, I’ve decided to pursue my professional career. I’m grateful to the University of South Carolina and Frank Martin for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be a Gamecock.”

This is a really tough break for Bowen, as he was likely never directly at fault for the stuff going on behind the scenes during his recruitment. While the evidence provided in the FBI investigation made it almost impossible for Bowen to be immediately eligible, he would have potentially missed over two years worth of time because of this situation.

For a former top-25 national recruit with a promising future, turning pro is probably the best course of action for Bowen at this point. It’s disappointing that we’ll never see Bowen play college basketball, but it’s likely for the best that he moves on and continues his career away from these investigations.