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The 14 players with the most on the line at the NBA Draft Combine

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The NBA Draft Combine begins on Wednesday, and meaning that nearly 70 of the best basketball prospects this side of the NBA will be trying to prove themselves up close and personal with NBA front office personnel. 

Interviews, 5-on-5 hoops, athletic testing, physical measurements. 

This is, essentially, a job fair for NBA prospects, and there are quite a few that will have plenty on the line this week.

This list is made up of 14 players that have quite a bit on the line as this week commences.

A player with a * next to their name has not yet signed with an agent.

THE GUYS THAT WEREN’T SEEN

One thing that was clear with the players that were invited to the Combine is that the NBA prioritized the unknown. College basketball All-Americans like Trevon Bluiett and Joel Berry II, players that every NBA scout has seen play dozens of times, did not get invited while talented underclassmen that missed some or all of last season did make the cut.

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MICHAEL PORTER Jr., Missouri: The big thing for Porter in this draft process is going to be his medical records and who he decides to share them with. He missed essentially the entire season after undergoing back surgery, and no team is going to risk a top five pick on him unless their doctors give the all-clear. That likely will not happen at the Combine. What will happen, though, is that Porter is going to have a chance to interview with some front offices, and that could help assuage some other concerns about him: That his arrogance and cockiness is too much. Does he already think he’s an NBA superstar? Is the work ethic there to capitalize on the potential that he has?

JARRED VANDERBILT, Kentucky*: Vanderbilt is another guy whose season was derailed by injury. He averaged just 17 minutes in 14 games this season, missing the first 17 games of the year with a lower left leg injury, the same thing that kept him out of the lineup for Kentucky’s final six games of the season. Vanderbilt is a big-time athletic with a body that can handle some physicality and the versatility to defend multiple positions. For someone whose career has been marked by injuries, selling a team on taking him early enough that he can get some guaranteed money has more importance for him that it does other players at his level.

DE’ANTHONY MELTON, USC: Melton was in line for what many believed to be a breakout season before getting caught up in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. He didn’t play one possession for USC this year despite putting up impressive per-40 assists, steals and blocks numbers as a freshman. He’s had nearly a full year to train and develop for this year’s draft, and this week will be his chance to show to NBA scouts what he’s now capable of. Proving he has a consistent jumper would be nice.

BRIAN BOWEN, South Carolina*: Bowen, a top 25 prospect coming out of high school, did not play this season after the FBI alleged that a $100,000 payment plan was set up to get him to Louisville. Bowen has since transferred to South Carolina, but there is no guarantee that he’ll ever be eligible to play next season. If he can get himself drafted in a range where he can get a guaranteed deal, that might be his best bet.

BILLY PRESTON, Kansas: After spending the first two months of the college basketball season waiting to get cleared, Preston left to sign a professional contract in Bosnia. He played a few games for KK Igokea, but he didn’t make much of an impact. Preston was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, a 6-foot-10 power forward with plenty of talent and even more question marks. There is a lot on the line for him this week as he tries to prove he is an NBA talent with an NBA outlook.

THE 3-AND-D GUYS THAT NEED TO PROVE THEY CAN 3 OR D

Everyone knows how valuable a 3-and-D wing can be, but that’s not the only thing that NBA teams are looking for. They want multi-positional defenders that can prevent penetration as well as rim protectors, all of whom that can, of course, make threes. Here are four names that could play their way into the first round.

KEVIN HUERTER*, Maryland: The guy that NBA draftniks fell in love with from Maryland was Justin Jackson, their long-armed, 6-foot-7 combo-forward who spent much of this season battling through injury. Jackson has some things to prove in his own right this year, but it may surprise some Terps fans to know that there’s an outside shot of Huerter playing his way into the first round of the draft. Huerter, a lanky, 6-foot-7 wing, averaged 14.8 points on 42 percent three-point shooting last season. The key question with him is going to be whether or not he has the tools to be a multi-positional defenders. The shooting stroke is already there.

SAGABA KONATE*, West Virginia and OMARI SPELLMAN*, Villanova: In an ideal world, an NBA team would be able to draft both Konate and Spellman and then blend Konate’s shot-blocking ability — a block-rate of 15.6, better than Jaren Jackson and Mo Bamba —  with Spellman’s ability to stretch the floor — 43.3 percent three-point shooting — to create the NBA’s ideal 3-and-D center. Unfortunately, this is not yet something that is medically possibly, which means that NBA teams will be evaluating a couple of things during the combine. Just how much more room for improvement is there with Omari Spellman’s body? Can he lose more weight and get more explosive, thus making him a better shot-blocker, without doing himself any physical harm? With Konate, NBA teams will likely be looking at whether or not his 79 percent free throw shooting (on 100 attempts) is the kind of thing that could lead to being a capable three-point shooter at some point in his career?

MELVIN FRAZIER, Tulane: Frazier’s name is probably not one that you’ve heard all that much about, but there is a very real chance that the Louisiana-native hears his name in the first round. An athletic, 6-foot-6 wing, Frazier is well-built with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He also significantly improved his shooting this season, making 38.5 percent of his threes and improving this true-shooting percentage by more than ten points. Defensive-minded, positionally-versatile and three-point range. That has NBA role player all over him. The question that people at the combine will be looking to answer is whether or not this shooting was a fluky season or a legitimate improvement.

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

THE GUARDS TRYING TO PROVE THEY CAN BE NBA PLAYMAKERS

TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse*: Trying to figure out what to make of Battle as a prospect is difficult. On the one hand, he spent this season as an inefficient, shoot-first lead guard that had more turnovers than assists. On the other hand, he was more or less the only outlet offensively on a Syracuse team that didn’t provide him with much help and asked him to take a large number of bad shots. Did he shoot under 40 percent on the season because he’s a bad shooter or a good shooter that spent the season taking low-percentage shots? That, along with the question of whether or not Battle is going to be a good defender at the NBA level, are the things he will be looking to prove to NBA teams.

DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova*: DiVincenzo is in such a weird spot here. He was very much in the eye of NBA scouts this year, playing on the nation’s best team alongside four more guys that could end up getting to the NBA at some point. But he also spent the year looking like he was an inconsistent, streaky scorer that struggled when handling the ball against pressure. Can he prove he’s more than that?

JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: We all know how good of a defender Jevon Carter is. The question that needs to be answered is whether or not he can be a point guard. One problem he had throughout his college career was shot selection, but like Battle, was that a product of who he is as a player or the way that West Virginia played?

DEVON HALL, Virginia: People don’t seem to realize just how good Virginia’s players are until they get to the NBA. Tony Bennett has done a terrific job of turning his program into a pipeline for role players at the next level, and Hall might be the next in line. A lefty-playmaker, Hall shot 43.2 percent from three and averaged 3.1 assists despite playing at the slowest tempo nationally and not being a point guard. He has good size and, playing for Virginia, is clearly going to be able to defend. This will be his chance to prove himself worthy of a pick that will get him a guaranteed contract.

JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA*: Jaylen Hands didn’t exactly have a great season. He didn’t defend well this season, he made poor decisions, he’s not a great passer, he’s an inconsistent shooter and he he did all that while playing behind one of the best point guards in the country in Aaron Holiday. That last part might be the one that is the most relevant here. Were Hands’ struggles this season a result of simply being forced out of position by a guy having an all-american season, or should there be legitimate concern about Hands’ future as a basketball player?

 

 

South Carolina’s Martin confident in Gamecocks’ future

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Frank Martin is confident South Carolina will take a step forward next season, no matter who is on court for the Gamecocks.

The seventh-year coach understands he’s got a couple of high profile dominoes left to fall in all-Southeastern Conference forward Chris Silva and highly regarded Louisville transfer Brian Bowen Jr., both who’ve declared for the NBA draft without hiring agents.

Whatever decision they make by the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline of May 30, Martin believes his team is poised to improve next fall.

“I’m in a good place with our roster,” Martin said Wednesday.

It hasn’t always appeared that way since the Gamecocks, a Final Four team in 2017, ended up 17-16 and out of the postseason.

Martin dismissed expected point guard starter Rakym Felder , arrested twice for fighting in less than a year, for not following through on the coach’s expectations upon his return to the program last January. Three reserves in guard David Beatty and forwards Khadim Gueye and Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia all transferred. Then Silva and Bowen, who must be reinstated by the NCAA for his role in a federal investigation into college basketball corruption, opted for the NBA.

Martin stands by his player development skills, highlighted by four-year starter Sindarius Thornwell, the star of the Final Four run and now on the Los Angeles Clippers.

“The ones that stay here get better, Martin said. “And the guys who played the most minutes are all coming back.”

That group is led by forward Mike Kotsar and guards Justin Minaya and Hassani Gravett, who combined for 85 starts last season. Kotsar, at 6-foot-10, was South Carolina’s third-leading scorer at eight points a game last season. Minaya, a freshman last year, was the Gamecocks’ best defender in Martin’s eyes and is ready to take a big jump as a sophomore. Gravett got most of the time at point guard last year and despite some reckless play — “Hassani drove me nuts last year,” Martin said — should develop as a decision maker this offseason.

Add Silva, the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year, and Bowen to the mix and “we’re pretty close,” Martin said.

Martin likes that Silva and Bowen are taking the opportunity to find out their status among NBA teams. Silva has worked out with Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, although he was not among the initial invites to the NBA draft combine in Chicago starting May 16.

Martin said he talks with Silva almost every day.

Bowen’s situation is different in that he has not yet played college basketball . He signed with Louisville, then was suspended when it came to light he was part of the FBI’s probe into the sport. Bowen was suspended by Louisville, then enrolled at South Carolina in January. The 6-foot-7 Bowen of Saginaw, Michigan, was part of practices for the Gamecocks this year.

Martin said Bowen declared for the draft to keep his options open should the NCAA not reinstate him. If were up to Bowen and his family, Martin said, Bowen would be a Gamecock next season.

Martin said Bowen’s mother told the coach that joining South Carolina has made the player “the happiest she’s seen him in a long, long time.”

South Carolina is hopeful the NCAA will make a timely decision on Bowen, who still must sit out another semester even with NCAA clearance before taking the court.

“We all understood” the uncertainty of the process when Bowen signed with South Carolina last winter, Martin said.

Even without Silva and Bowen, Martin believes there is talented help on the way in guards T.J. Moss and Jermaine Couisnard. Moss had offers from UConn, Florida and Mississippi State among others while Cousinard had offers at Illinois, Louisville and Virginia Tech.

Former Georgetown point guard Tre Campbell said this week that he will join the Gamecocks for next fall.

“There are good things happening,” Martin said.

South Carolina lands former Georgetown point guard Tre Campbell

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South Carolina added some depth to their back court on Tuesday, as head coach Frank Martin landed a commitment from Georgetown transfer Tre Campbell.

Campbell spent three seasons as a member of the Hoyas, but he never played a role as much more than a member of the Georgetown rotation; his career high of 4.1 points came as a sophomore back in the 2015-16 season.

Campbell also did not play during the 2017-18 season, as the program put out a release last August stating that he was no longer a member of the team but would remain on scholarship to complete his degree.

He will provide depth at the point guard spot for a program that lost a couple of them unexpectedly this offseason, but this is not a season-altering addition.

South Carolina basketball program subpoenaed by FBI in September

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In late September, ten people were arrested in connection with the FBI’s probe into corruption and bribery in college basketball. Among the ten was former Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans, who was accused of accepting $22,000 in bribes to help steer basketball players to agents or financial advisors.

Prior to joining Mike Boynton’s staff at Oklahoma State, Evans spent four seasons on Frank Martin’s staff at South Carolina.

As a result, the South Carolina men’s basketball program was subpoenaed by the FBI at the same time as those arrests. News of the program being subpoenaed was reported by Nathaniel Cary of the Greenville News on Tuesday.

Given the connection to Evans, it’s no surprise that South Carolina’s program was subpoenaed. That was also the case for the Oklahoma State, Arizona and USC programs, with former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson and former USC associate head coach Tony Bland being arrested as well.

Evans, Richardson and Bland are three of the eight who have also been indicted by the FBI in relation to the still-ongoing investigation.

All eight have pleaded not guilty, and financial advisor Munish Sood and grassroots basketball coach Brad Augustine were not indicted by the FBI. It was reported by Yahoo Sports in November that both Sood and Augustine appeared in the updated indictments as “co-conspirators.”

According to the Greenville News, South Carolina has hired a third party to work alongside the NCAA in investigating the men’s basketball program. In the subpoena, the grand jury has requested a host of documents including any communication between the basketball program or athletic department with the families of any current or former player dating back to January 1, 2014.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Video: Frank Martin’s first pitch misses its mark

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One of the great things about ceremonial first pitches in baseball is it lets teams and communities honor deserving people.

The other great thing is that it often makes people look silly.

We got the best of both worlds Tuesday evening when South Carolina coach Frank Martin tossed out the first pitch at a game of the Class A affiliate of the New York Mets, the Columbia Fireflies.

Martin, who led his Gamecocks to an unlikely Final Four appearance just over a month ago, was, as the saying goes, juuuuuuust a bit outside with that offering to the catcher. He was also just a bit short, too.

Maybe the best part, though, was Martin rotating his shoulder after the wayward pitch, as if it was caused by some random mechanical glitch or a sudden physical issue. Like if one of his players blamed an errant 3-pointer on his hands being sweaty or something.

Martin’s pitch was nowhere near the worst we’ve seen from celebrity guests, but still funny enough that he’s likely to catch some guff from his players – and the Internet – about it.