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Former UCLA player Billy Knight found dead in Phoenix

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For the second time in less than a week tragedy has struck the UCLA basketball family, as it was reported on Tuesday that the body of former player Billy Knight was found early Sunday morning in Phoenix.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Knight’s body was found by members of the Phoenix Fire Department and he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter by Phoenix Police. The cause of Knight’s death will be determined after the Maricopa County Medical Examiner runs a full autopsy.

Knight posted a video to his YouTube page that was published July 8, the same day his body was found, in which Knight discussed his struggles. (WARNING: The video is disturbing and could be triggering for people that have or are currently dealing with depression.)

Shortly after it was learned that Knight passed away members of the UCLA basketball family, including former teammates, friends and media members took to social media to send their condolences. Knight, who attended Westchester High School in Los Angeles, played at UCLA from 1997 to 2002.

On Friday it was reported that Tyler Honeycutt, who played two seasons at UCLA, was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, California home after a standoff with a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team.

Honeycutt’s death, which occurred after he barricaded himself in his home, is being investigated as a suicide.

Former UCLA standout Tyler Honeycutt found dead after standoff with LAPD

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Former UCLA standout and NBA player Tyler Honeycutt was found dead after a standoff with Los Angeles Police Department SWAT members early on Saturday morning.

The 27-year-old Honeycutt was identified by family members. The LAPD tweeted that they had gone into a Sherman Oaks residence after Honeycutt allegedly fired a gun at police and barricaded himself into the residence. When police eventually entered the home at 3:30 a.m., they found Honeycutt unresponsive.

Police initially received a call from Honeycutt’s mother, who said her son was acting erratically. That began everything around 5 p.m. on Friday when police arrived at the home and Honeycutt allegedly shot at them. Officers returned fire, and it appears that nobody was hit.

An investigation is still ongoing.

Honeycutt played for UCLA for two seasons as he was Pac-12 all-freshman team his first season and all-conference his second season. Eventually drafted in the second round to the Sacramento Kings at pick No. 35 in the 2011 NBA Draft, Honeycutt played parts of two seasons with them.

Honeycutt was traded to the Houston Rockets and waived. After spending some time in the D League, Honeycutt eventually made his way overseas for the past few seasons.

USC adds to No. 1 recruiting class with four-star wing Max Agbonkpolo

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USC added to its No. 1 overall recruiting class in 2019 on Friday as four-star wing Max Agbonkpolo pledged to the Trojans on Twitter.

A bit of a late-blooming wing prospect, the 6-foot-7 Agbonkpolo is the fourth top-75 prospect to pledge to USC in the Class of 2019. The Rancho Santa Margarita native joins five-star big man Oneyka Okongwu, four-star big man Isaiah Mobley and four-star guard Drake London to form USC’s class right now.

The frontline of Okongwu and Mobley has a chance to be very good while London will add depth to the roster as he attempts to play both football and basketball for the Trojans. Adding another talented wing like Agbonkpolo is great for the Trojans because he’s an upside wing who is long and athletic enough to grow into an impact Pac-12 player.

Having four commitments already in the fold before the July live evaluation period also means that USC can focus its efforts on closing out the class with another star talent as it’ll be fascinating to see who the Trojans now trail during the month of July. USC could make a move on high-end four-star guard Cassius Stanley, who is from Southern California. Or they could also ramp up efforts on a five-star guard like Josh Green.

Either way, USC is in great position for the future right now as they are landing a lot of high-level talent. The hiring of assistant coach Eric Mobley will likely net them his sons Isaiah, and five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. And head coach Andy Enfield and his staff are landing players to compliment the star recruits. There’s still a lot of time left, but this has the makings of a potentially special recruiting class at USC.

Arizona fan pretended to be restaurant employee to upgrade cable to Pac-12 Network

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An Illinois man is facing multiple charges after pretending to be a restaurant employee over the phone to enhance the place’s cable package. The goal: to secure the Pac-12 Network to watch an Arizona basketball game while the man was in the area for the weekend.

Arlington Heights, Illinois native Kevin M. Cayton has been charged by Sauk County prosecutors with felony identity theft for financial gain and unauthorized use of an entity’s identifying information, according to a report from KVOA Tucson. The 51-year-old Cayton said he was an employee of Buffalo Phil’s in Lake Delton in order to secure the Pac-12 Network. The business manager for the place eventually noticed a large increase in the restaurant’s cable rates.

Eventually, 11 phone calls were linked to Cayton and the cable provider, Charter Spectrum, in December. Cayton was linked to the trip to the area through social media.

He was booked and released on a $2,000 signature bond. Cayton is due in Sauk County Circuit Court on July 31 as each of his charges carries a maximum six-year prison sentence.

As an Illinois resident who has tried to watch Pac-12 Network games in public, I can relate to this being tough to deal with. Pac-12 Network isn’t available in very many places around the Midwest and it can be tough find a place that will air a west-coast game that you’re looking for. But pretending to work at a restaurant in order to watch a game there is taking things to a ridiculous new level.

(H/t: Sean Mooney with KVOA Tucson

Oregon lands key transfer in guard Ehab Amin

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Oregon pulled in a solid transfer on Friday as guard Ehab Amin pledged to the Ducks on Twitter.

The former Texas A&M CC guard led the nation at 3.4 steals per game during the 2015-16 season as he also put up 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. The 6-foot-4 Amin sat out last season with a hip injury as he’s immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

Originally committed to Nevada earlier this offseason, Amin found himself the victim of a scholarship crunch when Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins all opted to pull out of the 2018 NBA Draft. Now with the Ducks, Amin should help offset the loss of freshman Troy Brown on the wing. Amin should provide immediate experience on both ends of the ball for Oregon as he gives head coach Dana Altman another talented perimeter threat to work with.

The big question for Amin at Oregon will be his perimeter shooting — which was questionable at times during his three-year career with the Islanders. Shooting 28 percent as a junior, Amin will have to knock down a higher clip in order to be at his best for Oregon next season. After shooting 36 percent in a smaller sample size as a sophomore, there is some hope that Amin can be an effective perimeter option for a more talented offensive team.

2019 NBA Mock Draft

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With the 2018 NBA Draft in the books, it is time for us to take a look at the 2019 NBA Draft, one in which NBA scouts are not all that enthusiastic about the players at the top. 

One thing to note here is that there are quite a few players in the Class of 2019 that are old enough to reclassify. Ashton Hagans and Charles Bassey have already done it. There may be a few more than follow in the footsteps of Marvin Bagley III and enroll in August. 

Here is a quick mock of the 2019 lottery:

1. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

Barrett seems like he is ready to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins before him, becoming the third Canadian youngster to get picked No. 1 in the draft. Before we get into stats and projections, it must be noted: Barrett was phenomenal at the U19 World Cup last summer, as he led the Canadians to a gold medal. That included a semifinal win over Team USA where Barrett put up 38 points, 13 boards and five assists on an American team that included the likes of P.J. Washington, Cam Reddish, Carsen Edwards and first round picks Josh Okogie and Kevin Huerter.

There is an awful lot to like about Barrett and the way that he projects at the NBA level. He stands 6-foot-6. He already has a solid build. He can play on the ball given his passing ability and has the athleticism to play as a wing and a slasher off the ball. He should be able to guard multiple positions. His ceiling will be determined by how well his jumper develops, but he’s already spent time working with the Three-Point Whisperer, Drew Hanlen.

2. NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina

Little’s college career got off to something of a rocky start before it even started. He found himself ensnared in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball when shoe company executives were caught on wiretaps talking about a bidding war between Nike and Adidas and whether they’d funnel him to Arizona or Miami. That turned out well for North Carolina, because he fell into their lap and could end up being the highest Tar Heel picked in the draft since Marvin Williams went No. 2 in 2005.

Little was one of the biggest risers in this recruiting class, going from being a four-star recruit to a top five player in the class. He was the MVP of the McDonalds game. He’s added strength and continuously played with a motor that he hasn’t always shown. His size (6-foot-7), length (7-foot-1 wingspan) and athletic ability makes him an ideal switchable wing, and if his jumper continues to progress, he’ll have a chance to play for a long time in the NBA.

3. CAM REDDISH, Duke

Like Little and Barrett, Reddish is a fluid, 6-foot-7 wing with a long wingspan and the kind of athleticism that would lead you to believe he can play and defend multiple positions. Unlike Barrett and Little, Reddish is further along on the offensive side of the ball than on the defensive side. He’s a better shooter than the two guys listed in front of him, but his growth will come as he learns to be tougher and improves defensively.

But that skill-set he has offensively is really intriguing, and there are some that believe that, given what his ceiling is as a scorer, he could end up being the best player in this class if it all comes together for him.

(Eric Espada/Getty Images)

4. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

Hunter is going to be an interesting draft prospect to monitor. For the most part, Tony Bennett has done a phenomenal job at turning relatively average — from an NBA perspective — prospect into quality pros. Mike Scott is still in the NBA. Malcolm Brogdon won Rookie of the Year and looks like a steal of a second round pick. Joe Harris. Justin Anderson. Even Klay Thompson is a Tony Bennett product from the Washington State days.

But Hunter, who averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards last season, is different. Given his physical tools and skill-set, he fits the mold of a wing in the modern NBA perfectly. He has the size at 6-foot-7, the wingspan, the defensive versatility. He can makes threes and attack closeouts. He has some ability to create his own shot. How will he develop in a system that is so … well, Virginia?

5. QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas

Grimes is stepping into a situation at Kansas that is going to be somewhat strange. On the one hand, with four starters gone — including the entire perimeter — the Jayhawks are going to have shots available. On the other hand, Kansas had three players, including all-american Dedric Lawson, sitting out as transfers. Rarely has a new roster ever been so experienced.

Grimes should fit in just fine. At 6-foot-5, he has the size and ability to play on or off the ball. He can shoot it, he can operate in ball-screens and he has a feel for the game. He’s just a good, solid basketball player that has some upside and should provide Bill Self — who he spent July playing for with the U18 team — with some immediate backcourt relief.

6. SEKOU DOUMBOUYA, France

I’m not going to pretend like I’ve watched a ton of video on Doumbouya, but people I trust are high on him. The native of Guinea checks all the boxes for what NBA teams are looking for: Long, athletic, versatile defensively. Read this profile on him to get a feel.

(AP Photo/Michael Woods)

7. DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas

Gafford was arguably the biggest surprise in this draft class, as he turned down a chance to sneak into the back-end of the lottery to return to Arkansas for his sophomore season. At 6-foot-11, Gafford, who posted 11.8 points, 6.2 boards and 2.2 blocks as a freshman in the SEC, is an absolute freak of an athlete with solid length, some defensive instincts and quite a bit of potential.

To me, Gafford is built in the mold of of the rim-running, lob-catching, paint-protecting big with the potential to be switchable on the perimeter. We’ll see if his jumper ever comes around, but even if it doesn’t, he’s giving off some strong Clint Capela vibes, and that’s something that everyone is going to be looking for.

8. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana

Langford has all the hype. An Indiana high school basketball legend that chased another Indiana high school basketball legend’s state scoring record, never left the state and opted to play his college ball for the Hoosiers. There’s a reason this kid spent an hour signing autographs for fans after his high school games.

He’s going to be an even bigger star for the Hoosiers next season, who I think will be in the NCAA tournament. Langford, a 6-foot-5 scorer and big-time athlete with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, could end up averaging 18 points next season. “He’s a bucket.”

9. LOUIS KING, Oregon

Bol Bol, the 7-foot-3 son of Manute Bol who spends all day shooting threes, is the Oregon player that is inevitably going to get the most hype, but for my money it’s Louis King that will end up being the best pro. At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, King is the kind of fluid, skilled wing that is en vogue in the modern NBA.

The thing that’s intriguing about him is that he has some skill offensively. He’s more of a combo-forward than he is a natural wing, but he can do some things off the dribble, has shown flashes of being a playmaker and has developed into a guy that is threat from beyond the arc. He should thrive in Dana Altman’s system at Oregon.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

10. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

Rui’s potential is off the charts, and I still get the sense that the 6-foot-8 Beninese-Japanese Gonzaga product doesn’t totally have a feel for how the game is played here just yet. I fully believe that Rui is going to get buckets for the Zags next season, but if he is going to develop into a top ten pick, there are some things that he needs to improve on.

Shooting is an issue for him — he’s shot just 9-for-40 from three in two seasons in Spokane. He is also going to need to continue to develop on the defensive end of the floor, where he is fairly unproductive for a player with his physical tools. But the potential is there, and he’ll spend plenty of time on national television; Gonzaga is No. 2 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

11. DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt

For me, Garland is the best NBA prospect of the point guards in the 2018 recruiting class. As competitive as Ashton Hagans is and as much of a proven winner as Tre Jones is, Garland’s game seems to fit the best at the next level. The NBA is a league where skill-level is becoming more and more important, which is why you saw Trae Young end up the No. 5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his warts.

For my money, Garland is the most skilled of the point guards. He’s probably the best shooter, he can operate in ball-screens and he’s a passer. He’ll be asked to shoulder plenty of the load for Vandy next season, so he should be fun to track.

12. CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue

I think Edwards is going to have a monstrous season as a junior for the Boilermakers. He averaged 18.5 points and 2.8 assists this season while shooting 40.6 percent from three despite playing on a team with four seniors, three of whom were all-league players.

Next year, Purdue will be his team, and I think we’ll get a better look at just how dynamic he can be. The key for Edwards will be his passing ability. He’s always been something of a score-first guard, and there’s a place for that in the NBA, but if he is going to end up being picked this high, he needs to showcase a better ability to get teammates involved.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

13. HERB JONES, Alabama

All the talk about Alabama’s recruiting class last season centered on Collin Sexton and, to a lesser extent, John Petty, but there is reason to believe that Jones could end up being the best of the bunch. At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, he was the guy that Avery Johnson tasked with slowing down Trae Young when the Crimson Tide faced Alabama this season. He has all the tools that you need to be a terrific defender in the NBA.

The issue is the other side of the ball. He averaged just 4.2 points last season, and his jumper was … let’s just say not great. But he played as a secondary ball-handler at times and initiated some offense, and he seems to have a decent feel of how to play. This is a big summer for him. With Sexton gone, someone is going to need to fill that void, and Jones could be the guy.

14. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

The hype-train for Zion, one of the single-most explosive athletes that I have ever seen, went totally off the rails during his senior season in high school, as the 6-foot-5, 275-pound forward went viral on a nightly basis with his in-game aerial antics. And look, I’m all the way here for the dunks, but I can’t help but wonder just how he impacts a basketball game beyond that.

In my mind, stardom for Williamson comes if he turns into Draymond Green, a small-ball five that fully embraces being a defensive stopper that can guard any position, protects the rim and is a threat to grab-and-go in transition. But Green is a terrific passer that played as a de facto point guard in college, and I’m not sure Williamson is that. Maybe he’s Julius Randle, who seems to be just good enough for the Lakers to have to resign but not quite good enough to have much trade value. That success, however, lies in accepting that he’s closer to being a five than a three. We’ll see how it plays out, I guess.