Friday, February 15, 2019

McDonald's Nuggets: Duke's on fire; 'Ant Man' is for real; more

Duke was the obvious pick for the Team of the Week.
Analyst Dan McDonald cooks up his weekly serving of McDonald's Nugget by talking about his team of the week, his top amateur player (it's not Zion) and an interesting recruiting update.


This was such an easy call. Duke’ started the week by completing a season sweep of fourth-ranked Virginia on the road by 10 points. That by itself could be enough of a reason to make the Blue Devils my team of the week, but that’s not where the story ends.
Duke trailed 59-36 on the road against 16th-ranked Louisville on Tuesday night with just over 9 minutes to play. It looked hopeless for the Blue Devils, but then 
 returned to the game after sitting out for a long stretch with foul trouble. Coach K also inserted sophomore guard   into the game, cranked up the pressure with a 2-2-1 zone, and next thing you know Duke is leaving the Yum Center with an incredible come-from-behind win.
As if it wasn’t already a popular opinion, this Duke team is going to be really, really hard to knock out, come NCAA Tournament time. It appears to me that the Blue Devils have figured out roles and have the confidence in themselves to go win in any environment.

HOT TAKE: 'Ant Man' best amateur pro prospect in America 

 going No. 1 overall. If you look at 2020 mock drafts, it’s a little more up in the air as to who could be the top pick, which is understandable given that it is so far out.
, the No. 2 overall player in the 2019 Rivals150 and recent Georgia commit, should not only be the top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but he’s the best amateur basketball prospect in the country right now, Williamson included.
Like Zion, although not to the same extent, Edwards is a physical freak at 6-foot-5 with a big, strong frame. He’s become a very good shooter. He has pro ball moves, and he’s always been a very crafty finisher who can also finish with some violence at the rim if needed. He can be as good of an on-ball defender as any guard in the country when he is locked in. The area he’s probably elevated his game the most in the past year is becoming a better lead guard. He’s very unselfish and has a good feel for keeping his teammates involved. He has the perfect temperament to be the leader of a college program and eventually an NBA franchise.
To back me up on this, I sought out one of his travel teammates with the Atlanta Xpress last summer, Clemson signee and four-star guard 
. Prior to last travel season, Hunter’s recruitment was pretty slow, but he took off last year while playing alongside Edwards.
“He was a great teammate for me because he was always working hard and wanting to get better, so he pushed me and made me go harder,” Hunter said. “He wasn’t cocky or arrogant with all the recognition he received, and he was always congratulating me and posting about me on social media whenever something good happened. In games when I was on a roll, he would let me go to work, but at the same time, if I wasn’t on my game, he would let me know. He was just always challenging me to be better. He is easy to play with.”
That’s about as high of praise as you can get from a teammate.

RECRUITING NOTE: Trendon Watford focused on three 

6'8" 224 LBS PF
 is one of six five-star prospects in the 2019 class who has yet to make a college decision. Early on it was thought that Alabama would be really tough to beat in his recruitment with Florida StateIndiana and Mississippi State all heavily involved.
His recruitment shifted a little bit last spring as the coaching carousel played out. When Penny Hardaway ended up at Memphis and hired a strong recruiting staff, the Tigers became the school many pegged as the favorite to sign the versatile forward out of Alabama. Will Wade’s Tigers also worked their way into the picture since last summer, and some have LSU as the leader for his signature in April. It still wouldn’t be wise to count out Alabama here, as the pull to the Crimson Tide is strong for in-state prospects.
I still have my FutureCast pick in for Memphis. Others have recently put in picks for LSU, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought long and hard about switching mine as well. Those two appear to be strong here, although I have had coaches in the area tell me to not be surprised if a blueblood type program comes in late to sway him.

PREDICTION: Tennessee loses at Rupp, Duke returns to No. 1 on Monday 

Jordan Bowden
AP Images
Kentucky lost at the buzzer in overtime on a controversial call - in Rupp Arena of all places - to a really talented LSU team. Life doesn’t get any easier for John Calipari as the Wildcats next play host to No. 1 Tennessee in a prime time ESPN game on Saturday night.
Tennessee has won all 11 of its SEC games by a combined 183 points. The Vols have been every bit as impressive as that stat sounds. Tennessee’s lone loss this year came in the NIT Season Tip Off to a Kansas team at full strength with 
 and   both playing. Tennessee’s streak comes to an end at Rupp in front of a rowdy Big Blue Nation crowd on Saturday night. The good news for the Vols is they have Kentucky coming to Knoxville in early March for a chance at a potential payback.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Class of 2020's Andre Curbelo developing into leader

Corey Evans •  @coreyevans_10  [REPRINT]

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Finding playmaking point guards who are smart about the game and are all about putting others before themselves is not easy to find in today’s world of high-scoring offenses.
That makes  Andre Curbelo  a valuable commodity.
A member of the Rivals150, the native of Puerto Rico discussed his evolution into the leadership role for his Long Island Lutheran team, the schools in pursuit and a timeline for his college decision.
“I think that I bring a lot of leadership," he said. "As a freshman, I couldn’t do much, but this year my coaches think this is my year and my team, so I just bring a lot of leadership and I try to encourage my players to play very hard, run the floor and crash the boards, just everything. I bring a lot of passion for the game, too, and I create for my teammates.”
FloridaGeorgetownGeorge WashingtonSt. John’s and Stony Brook are just a few that have kept Curbelo high on their board, he told

Florida: “They think that it could be the place for me, for sure. It is close to home, Puerto Rico, hot weather, and the style of play that they play, they think that I could fit there since they play a lot with ball screens.”

Georgetown: “They play pretty good with point guards and stuff. I saw their game against St. John’s and it was a good game. Point guards played good and I like the system, so we will see what happens.”
St. John’s: “I haven’t spoken with Chris Mullin yet, but I have with the other coaches. They come to some of my games and they just think that now that 
 is leaving after this year, maybe next year I could be the guy.”


Curbelo has only visited St. John’s thus far, an unofficial visit, as his focus remains elsewhere.
“There (are) a couple of colleges and a bunch that are saying that I could be the guy at their place, but I am not necessarily worrying about that too much right now,” he said. “I am just focusing on school and my grades and basketball, just pushing very hard.”
While he hasn’t thought too much about his recruitment, that could all be changing soon.
“Probably, after the season,” he said. “Then it is AAU, and that is when you start thinking about where you want to go. This will be my last year of that so in July, whatever I have, I will start cutting my list down and then the goal – I have to talk to my coaches – is to see what is best, verbally commit in the fall and sign after.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Five programs set to benefit from coaching change at UCLA

USC signee Isaiah Mobley
Nick Lucero/
Steve Alford was dismissed by UCLA on Monday following four straight losses and a disappointing 7-6 start to his sixth season in Westwood. A midseason firing will undoubtedly disrupt recruiting for the Bruins. Which programs stand to benefit from the coaching uncertainty at UCLA?


This one isn’t too difficult to come up. Besides being rivals and sharing the same city, the Trojans stock is soaring while the Bruins’ tanks. Upon Alford’s first few years on campus, UCLA was the dominant brand in LA, securing the best within its locale. A 180 has come about in recent years which coincided with USC's hiring of Eric Mobley, the father of five-stars 
and  , two years ago. However, it can all not be traced just to him as the Bruins’ disconnect with the powerful Compton Magic travel program has furthered their downturn. Coming up short in their pursuit of the best local talents is one thing, but not even making the final list for a prospect, that is an entirely different dynamic. 

The Trojans still have not reaped the rewards on the playing floor compared to what they have done on the recruiting front (ironically the Trojans have the same 7-6 record as the Bruins), but they have replaced UCLA as the sexy brand within its city.


Sean Miller has been a dominant force on the west coast upon his hiring, where he made it a point to land the best from within his state and those that are near it. Could the proper hiring at UCLA displaces the Wildcats from their west coast supremacy?
While Arizona’s top-ranked recruiting class this fall comes on the backs of three in-state talents in 
 and  , the Wildcats have not struggled to find their footing in California. Whether it was  , or  , or currently with  , the Wildcats have had no shortage of success in a terrain that the Bruins should be somewhat controlling. Miller has been seconds away from the Final Four, something that Alford was unable to even sniff.


While Oregon has become a dominant bunch in securing the best from Canada, it has also created the proper in-roads near the UCLA campus. The enrollment of 
 was just another big one for Oregon, just as   was a few years back. Dana Altman’s success in Eugene would have been more than acceptable if it were to be happening at UCLA as he has elevated the Ducks’ brand nationally while reaching the Final Four three years ago. 

Oregon also just enrolled two five-star prospects and will do the same another next fall. They’re also a favorite for top-five guard 
, a product out of New York, where the Ducks are recruiting better and more successfully nationally than UCLA in recent years. It is about protecting your own turf, but the fact that Oregon can land three five-stars from out of its state compared to UCLA doing so with just one says something about the dynamics of things in LA.


While the immediate connections between Indiana and UCLA do not jump off of the page, the hiring of Alford and his strong connections to the Midwest enabled for the Bruins to dip their toes into the Hoosier State. They went as far as landing the commitment of five-star junior 
 two years ago and also just enrolled   this fall. They were also in the top-three for   and currently sit as a finalist for top-30 wing 

UCLA wasn't winning all of its priority recruitments of Indiana natives, though it was an extra school Indiana had to deal with. Archie Miller has cleaned up the state since his hiring but the change in Westwood, unless there is a clear connection to the state, would mean one less national brand that they have to fend off.


While the Jayhawks have not gone to battle a whole lot with UCLA in recent years, they are currently fighting one with 
, a top-30 guard that has each in his final three. The Bruins were thought to be the favorite a few days ago, so Alford's dismissal can only help Kansas

 is another five-star prospect that UCLA and Kansas are heavily pursuing, and Kansas can only benefit from UCLA's coaching change.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Five-star Trendon Watford cuts list to four, sets commitment timetable

Corey Evans • Basketball Recruiting Reprint from
The final step has been taken by 
as he gets closer to making his college decision. One of the top prospects available this winter, the five-star forward has cut his school list one last time with an official visit scheduled for the coming weeks.
Slated as the 17th best prospect in America, Watford is now focused on a school list that consists of AlabamaIndianaLSU, and Memphis. He told why it was time to trim his list another time. “I feel like, with my last list at eight, I feel like these are just the right four for me,” he said.

Alabama: “They were really the first school to start recruiting me. Coach Avery (Johnson), I like him a lot. They have been down with me through this all and there is a lot of loyalty and I like what they are doing there.”
Indiana: “It is like a second home to me. I have been up their multiple times. My brother 
 played there and there is a big family connection. I love what Coach Archie Miller was saying during my in-home visit. I just love what he is doing now.”
LSU: “I took my official visit last month and I enjoyed it. I hung out with the guys and I like how they all are. Coach Bill Armstrong, he is real cool and I have known him for a long time going back to when he was at Ole Miss. I just like what they are doing right now and they are going to be one of the top SEC teams this season.”
Memphis: “I like what he (Penny Hardaway) is doing with the team now. He still has some of Tubby’s guys in there but I like how they are playing and whenever I went down there during my official visit, they were really welcoming and all of the players they were all pretty cool. 
and  , they text me pretty much every day or two.”


Having already taken official visits to LSU and Memphis, Watford will take his third official visit to Alabama on the weekend of Jan. 5. From there, a visit to Indiana remains in the works. “I was trying to visit there for their game against Louisville but I ended up having a game but we just having to plan out a time according to my season,” he said. “We will find a date, though.”
From there, expect a commitment before the spring. “If not late February, then early or mid-March,” he said. “Probably right after my high school season.”
Watford is a super talented and versatile forward that can take on a point-forward role for his team. He is a skilled passer that can score from each level but has the length, strength and toughness to guard all three frontcourt positions.
Wherever he does choose, the respective program will enroll one of the more college ready prospects from the 2019 class and someone that should impact it from day one.