Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adidas Chicago Classic highlights top AAU programs in the country, and top 150 prospects all weekend!

The Adidas Chicago Classic was another Memorial Day travel team event full of top players and teams from around the nation. While several ranked prospects, and fresh faces, impressed over three days of competition, it was a pair of players from the class of 2016 who ended up stealing the show. Those two rising sophomores, and some other storylines, highlight what we learned from the Adidas Chicago Classic.
Worth the hype
Since the day they stepped onto campus at their local high schools, Braxton Blackwell and De'Ron Davis have received an enormous amount of hype. Both 2016 prospects are said to be among the top 10 or so freshmen in the nation, and they have the potential to go to any college they want when the time comes.
Braxton Blackwell displayed a mature all-around game.
In Chicago, both proved that hype to be more fact than fiction, putting together one excellent performance after another. With the class of 2016 receiving extreme praise on a nation level from scouts, coaches and media, these two surely belong on any list of elite prospects. They are likely future five-star prospects.
Blackwell is a 6-foot-6 small forward from Nashville (Tenn.) Christ Presbyterian Academy with a mature all-around game. For a rising sophomore, he's got a great skill set. He can handle the ball in the open court, and he loves to make the extra pass for an assist. Blackwell is an above-average athlete with good strength in his frame, and he uses those physical tools to be an efficient shot blocker and rebounder on the defensive end.
With 10 scholarship offers from high-major programs, plus interest from elite programs including North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida, Blackwell's skills are far from a secret.
Davis is a high- or low-post power forward with good passing skills and the ability to score with his back to the basket, especially with a right-handed hook shot. At 6-foot-9, he's stronger, bigger and way more athletic than most of his competition at his age group, and the Aurora (Col.) Overland big man knows how to dominate the game by using those physical traits.
Davis has offers from Colorado, Arkansas and Purdue, and he mentioned Indiana as showing a lot of interest.
Kevon Looney played a string of big games in Chicago.
Triple-double trouble
From the opening tipoff of the first game to the final buzzer when his Milwaukee Runnin' Rebels squad was bounced from the tournament in the semifinals, power forward Kevon Looney was by far the top 2014 prospect in Chicago.
The No. 8 prospect in the Rivals150 out of Milwaukee (Wis.) Hamilton had big game after big game, including an impressive triple-double performance against IBA Select in which he recorded in excess of 10 blocked shots.
Looney used his size, 6-foot-9, and high-level athleticism all weekend to impact the game on the glass and on defense, and he focused on his perimeter skills to score on offense. Looney handled the ball more than he usually does on a Runnin' Rebels team that has strong guard play, and he shot from deep more often and much more efficiently than we have seen him do in previous events this spring.
The five-star prospect didn't have a ton of new information about his recruitment to share; however, he mentioned Connecticut and UCLA as new schools that he's adding to his list. He denied rumors that he is a strong Duke lean.
He's got game
He might not have much of a reputation yet, but as the class of 2015 develops you're going to hear more about Pocatello (Idaho) Century combo guard Malek Harwell. The high-scoring shooter from the Utah Pump-N-Run 16-and-under team had a breakout weekend, creating a buzz as he drew nearly every scout and media member in attendance to his final game of the tournament.
Harwell is an elite shooter with a quick release and deep range on his pull-up jumper, which he loves to shoot driving to his left in ball-screen situations. At 6-foot-3 and with the ability to handle the ball, Harwell has the potential to be a high-major combo guard.
Utah State is the only school that has offered the Idaho native so far, but he listed Colorado, Utah, Stanford and BYU as showing varying levels of interest this spring.
Staying hot
Makinde London, Kelan Martin and Brandone Francis made Eric Bossi's list last week of 15 prospects from the 2014 class who are fighting their way toward a Rivals150 ranking. In Chicago, all three furthered their hot springs and increased their chances of becoming ranked players.
Makinde London should see a bump in his recruiting after his performance.
Perhaps the most impressive, and with by far the smallest reputation, London was at times dominant for his Nashville Celtics team. The Spring Hill (Tenn.) Summit power forward has elite-level athleticism. At 6-foot-8, he is developing a skill set that will let him be more efficient in putting the ball on the floor out of the high post and he has a high motor with a competitive drive.
London listed VCU, Texas, Tennessee, Wichita State, Mississippi State and Marshall as his top suitors, but expect that list to grow in quantity and intensity as schools recruit the-flying power forward.
Martin has earned a lot of praise this spring with Indiana Elite, because the Louisville (Ky.) Ballard combo forward has been a scoring and playmaking machine off of the dribble at several Adidas events. At 6-foot-6, Martin is a bit of a tweener, but he can flat out score in a variety of ways and he presents matchup problems with his combination of wing skills and strength. To continue his success at the next level, he needs to buy in more at the defensive end of the court and be as efficient a rebounder on that end as he is on offense. The potential is there for him to be one of the top late-blooming forwards in the land.
Butler, Iowa, Creighton, Minnesota and Dayton are among the schools that are on Martin. Expect that list to grow significantly thanks to the buzz he has created in April and May.
Finally, Francis came off a huge junior season at Arlington (Fla.) Country Day and continued his high level of play on the spring circuit with Florida Elite. The 6-foot-5 guard has a fiery demeanor, he can score in bunches, and he is one of the better leaders on the circuit. With an aggressive mindset to attack the rim, but also skills in the midrange game, Francis has established himself as one of the more difficult matchups on the Adidas trail. He has led his team to multiple championships at some of the biggest events in the nation in April and May.
Indiana, Florida, Florida State, Cincinnati, West Virginia and South Carolina are some of the schools that have offered Francis this spring, and the intensity in this recruitment should pick up, especially when Francis rises to four-star status as he is expected to do in the next Rivals150.

Reprint from Rivals.com.  Author Eric Bossi

2013 Super ELITE TOP-25 POWER POLL released for State of Georgia Middle School Travel Teams

The first 2013 summer polls have been released for the 6th and 7th grade in Georgia.  Here is sitting at the top of the travel basketball, middle school rankings in the TOP 25 ELITE POWER POLL:

6th Grade - 12U
1.    Georgia Warriors
2.    Albany Elite Tigers
3.    Georgia Tar Heels
4.    ELW Future Stars Orange 
5.    AOC Thunders
6.    Atlanta Bulls
7.    Atlanta Metro Ballers 
8.    TNBC Gold
9.    Fayette Force
10.  Georgia Stars 
11.  All GA 
13.  Georgia Heat 
14. God's Property Thunder 
15. Skillset Vipers
16. Georgia Elite Ballers 
17. Atlanta Hoop Starz
18. Triple Threat All Stars
19. Coastal Crew Rebels
20. Rome Magic
21. Georgia Red Storm
22. South GA Kings
23. Georgia Go Hard
24. N. GA. Irish

7th Grade - 13U
1.   Southern Stampede
2.   ELW Future Stars EW
3.   Fayette Force Blue
4.   Georgia Go Hard TL
5.   Georgia Stars Select 
6.   Healthman 
8.   North Georga Elite - Poole 
9.   Team Athens
10. ELW Future Stars RG 
11. TNBC Red 
12. Atlanta Raptors
13. Georgia Go Hard PW
14.  Middle Georgia Raptors Red
15.  Georgia Stars RG
16.  Fairview Kings White 
17.  GA Stars RD
18.  Crawford County Supersonics
19.  Atlanta Bulls
20.  GFBB TP 
21.  South GA Kings
22.  TNBC Gold
23.  ELW Future Stars CH 
24.  Champions Choice
25.  Warner Robbins All Stars

Monday, May 27, 2013

"The Miracle at Pebblebrook!" Michael Rodriguez buzzer beater lifts Kennesaw Elite @ the T.R.U. ELITE MDC

In what was quickly dubbed "The Miracle at Pebblebrook" - the Kennesaw Elite 12U BLUE squad defeated the Gainesville Hurricanes in the quarterfinals of the TRU Elite MDC @ Pebblebrook High School.  Michael Rodriguez hit a game-winning three pointer as time expired to lift KE into the semis by a score of 38-36.

"You don't have time to think in a situation like that," commented Rodriguez.  "Coach Cherry drew up a perfect play, our bigs were covered, so the ball came to me.  I just fired it up, and the next thing I knew, I was underneath a pile of my friends!"
Rodriguez's heroics were made possible by an unprecedented comeback by KE BLUE.  A critical 3 pointer, and 3 free throws, in the second half by Cameron Cherry helped with the scoring.  Alex Windham was big in the post, as was Jordan Veneziale.  But 2 plays stood out the most in leading to the late-game theatrics.
First, KE 12U BLUE was trailing by 10, 31-21, with 2:50 to play.  By going to a full court man, KE was able to force several turnovers that had not bounced there way most of the game.  Second, Mickey Maguire DRILLED a long range three to cut the score to 36-35 with 0:00.4 left on the clock.  By all accounts, the game was over.
But the Hurricanes made a critical error.   They smartly decided to throw a long full court pass which, if done correctly, would have ended the game when the ball was touched. 
But it wasn't touched.

This gave the ball back to KE under the basket with that 0:00.4'ths of a second remaining.  The play was designed for a big - Alex Windham - who was critical in his underneath play, to get the ball on a lob and tip it in.  That was not available, which left the screeners, Logan Jackson and Mickey Maguire, to roll down onto the opposite block.  That too was covered.

That left the final option - Michael Rodriguez - alone on the perimeter for the end-of-game thriller.

"This was a team effort.  I was glad to contribute in an important moment,"  commented Rodriguez.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wolfpack Staff Heads to Maryville for "READ and REACT" Clinic with Rick Torbett

North Paulding High School Head Coaches Ryan Dyer (Men's) and Scott Green (Women's) headed to Maryville University in St. Louis, MO for the "Read and React Offense" Coaches Clinic.  Maryville, home of the Saints, is the alma mater for Coach Dyer. 

The "Read and React" is the brainchild of Better Basketball author Rick Torbett.  Coach Torbett hosted the clinic which involved numerous coaches, including North Paulding's very own Coaches Dyer and Green.  Both coaches expect to make great strides with their teams in the upcoming 2013-14 season.

Coach Dyer commented:  "It was an honor to be selected as one of the 30 coaches in the country to attend the Read and React Retreat in St. Louis Mo. I believe the read and react coincides with our identity we are creating here at North Paulding. My players are looking forward to striving to meet the mastery level of the offense. I know this offense gives us a proficient chance to succeed as an overall program in our upcoming 3rd year."

Here are some more pictures-

Updates from D1SPECTS and T.R.U. ELITE Memorial Day Tournaments

Kennesaw Elite 12U ORANGE Nike Travel Squad pulled off a 6th grade Division Championship at the D1SPECTS Memorial Day Classic at Therrel High School in Atlanta. 

13U squad struggled with some high level competition and left with 51-43 quarterfinal loss.  12U BLUE is still playing, heading to Pebblebrook High School for Memorial day tomorrow to play in the quarterfinals of the T.R.U. ELITE Memorial Day Classic.  So far, blue has taken 2 out of three, defeating the Higher Goal Heat 41-35 and the Gainesville Hurricanes 44-32.  They have a very good chance of making the finals.

So far, ORANGE has benefitted from stellar play from the bigs - Kevin Hester and Tyrese Crawford, as well some major quality minutes from TJ Black.  North Cobb High School's future seems to be in good hands with their player's development so far.

Cameron Cherry (North Paulding High School) continues to extend his scoring proficiency.  Through three games he leads the team in scoring and is number one in the tournament in 3-pointers.  Alex Windham (Allatoona High School) and Jordan Veneziale (NPHS) had impressive performances in the paint against the Hurricanes.

Watch for finals updates from TRU ELITE tomorrow night.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Southern Jam Fest Update @ the Boo Williams Sportsplex

HAMPTON, Va. -- Day two at the Southern Jam Fest was a good one. With eight floors underneath the roof of the Boo Williams Sportsplex and a schedule that played out well, there was never a shortage of action. Some under-the-radar guys stepped up, and it was a big day for the class of 2016 as Thon Maker and Edrice Adebayo were two of many who are generating plenty of early college interest.
Youth is served at the Jam Fest
The early word on the class of 2016 has been that it is shaping up to be a good one. During several stops along the grassroots circuit over the past few months, the country's rising sophomore class has looked good. Saturday's action was more of the same as several 2016 kids stood out.
Edrice Adebayo is a powerful and explosive athlete.
Might as well start at the top with the 7-foot Maker of Boo Williams. The 16-year-old isn't just tall. He can run, he has ball skills, and he plays hard. He lacks strength, and that hurts him at times when he's trying to hold onto position in the post or make difficult catches, but he isn't soft and he fights back.
On Saturday, Maker was a high-volume rebounder, he changed shots, he scored from the rim to the 3-point line, and he often took rebounds coast to coast. When the first round of stars gets handed out to the class of 2016 after the summer, Maker is a lock to start as a five-star. Arizona, Georgetown and Virginia have offered, while Kansas, Ohio State, Memphis, N.C. State and Miami were mentioned as showing early interest.
As it turns out, Maker isn't the only likely 2016 five-star in the Boo Williams stable of talent. Adebayo, a 6-foot-8 power forward, doesn't have the same skill package that Maker does. However, the 15-year-old is an extremely powerful and explosive athlete, and he plays exactly like you would expect a guy known as Bam Bam to play. Adebayo plays way over the rim, and he uses strong hands to rip rebounds away from opponents. During a 15-and-under game, it looked like he was playing against grade schoolers on an eight-foot rim. Shortly after that, he suited up with Boo's 17-and-under squad and was a big factor around the rim.
Playing for the DC Assault's 16-and-under group, 6-foot-4 shooting guard Greg Williams of Lynchburg (Va.) Genesis Academy was another good-looking sophomore to be. The thin wing is a live-wire athlete with a great first step, explosion at the rim and the ability to make things happen off the dribble. Williams told Rivals.com that Virginia Tech became the first school to offer just over a week ago and that he's gotten initial contact from George Mason, VMI and Florida Atlantic.
Finally, Team Loaded Gore has two good-looking 2016 guys of its own. Physically tough, very athletic and with a versatile skill set, 6-foot-5 wing DeShawn Corprew jumps out at you. He turns the corner and gets to the rim at will, and he looked to be a competent jump shooter on Saturday. According to Corprew, N.C. State just offered to join Virginia Tech as his early high-major suitors. Just like Corprew, 6-foot-2 combo guard Curtis Jones from Highland Springs sports a Virginia Tech offer. He's a slick passer off of the dribble, and he has an impressive jump shot. VCU, Virginia and Wake Forest have shown early interest.
Nickens emerging
A prep school year can be helpful to a player. But going prep doesn't magically turn somebody into a player. Hard work is required. Since making the decision to move to the class of 2014, Jared Nickens looks like he's been working on his game.
The 6-foot-6 wing from the Westtown (Pa.) School has been a big name this spring, and he is showing why. He's lean, but he has added strength and is getting dangerous with the dribble. Nickens can knock home jumpers, and he showed a nice floater on a drive during an easy win. He says he's happy with his decision to go prep.
"I think it's been really good for me," Nickens told Rivals.com. "It has allowed me to mature mentally and physically and to get some skill work."
Currently a three-star prospect, Nickens has put himself into contention for the 2014 Rivals150. He looks like he could be the best prospect on a good Sports U squad. He just got back from a visit to Oregon State, where he says the Beavers put the full-court press on him for a decision. Nickens says he's gotten offers from others, including Miami, Maryland, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Dayton, Temple, Providence and Seton Hall. He's open, but he could start looking to lock in some of his visits in the relatively near future.
More Saturday notes and notables
Romelo Trimble was, as usual, steady and effective.
The DC Assault handled their business on Saturday and will meet up with Boo Williams in a big game on Sunday morning. That should give another chance to get a good look at 6-foot-8 combo forward Donte Grantham. An athlete who can make some plays, Grantham has been a big name of late and he shows promise. Maryland-bound Romelo Trimble was steady and effective as usual. There are guys who may be a little more athletic than Trimble, but his understanding of pace, what to do in each situation and ability to score or run a team impresses. No matter what happens, he never seems to be rushed.
As a member of the class of 2013, Marcus Bryan was at one point committed to play at Appalachian State. He decided that wasn't the right fit for him, and he may now end up doing a prep year. A strong 6-foot-7 power forward, Bryan is a solid player on both ends. He can bang some in the post, and he looks comfortable hitting jumpers from the vicinity of the free throw line. His Garner Road squad is rolling through two days.
Rivals.com was tipped off to check out class of 2015 shooting guard C.J. Keyser of Mid Atlantic Select. It turned out to be a good tip. A 6-foot-4 athlete from Bel Air (Md.) Patterson Mill, Keyser is a glider who can get to the rim and looks to have a feel for scoring. Certainly one to keep tabs on as we move ahead.
A class of 2013 kid, Dwayne Miner may end up at a prep school. A 6-foot-6 forward from Woodbridge (Va.) Christ Chapel, he showed flashes on Saturday. Miner is athletic, he can shoot it some from deep, and he is a finisher in traffic. According to Miner, he's taking the SAT one more time and is just short of a qualifying score. If he gets that score, he could be a nice late addition for a midlevel program.
Jawun Evans, a 2015 guard for the South Carolina Raptors, is one speedy guy. He is quick laterally, and he looks like he has a good motor. He scored big early before his team got out to a large lead.
Class of 2014 point guard Tarin Smith hasn't gotten a lot of notoriety, but the three-star floor general for Sports U can play. The 6-footer is quick, steady and shifty off of the dribble. Smith is a good decision maker, and he will get into his man on defense. La Salle, Bucknell, Saint Joseph's, Delaware, Holy Cross, Penn, Detroit, Buffalo, Quinnipiac and more have offered, according to Smith.
Devin Robinson was a major story for the Squires Richmond over the weekend and deservedly so. But 6-foot-6 three-star wing Caleb Johnson is an interesting case as well. An athletic southpaw, he can handle and shoot it just well enough to be dangerous from deep, and he's bouncy around the rim. He's raw and prone to bad decisions, but you can see his talent. There's a good chance that he will want to do a year of prep school, so he may end up a class of 2015 kid.
Zane Waterman is the kind of tough-guy four man most teams would be happy to have. The 6-foot-7 senior to be goes about his business in the paint and does what he can with his touches. UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb, Liberty, Winthrop, Saint Joseph's, Manhattan, Charlotte and Appalachian State have offered, Waterman says.
He made an impression on Friday night and then backed it up on Saturday. Clint Robinson is a no-nonsense, long-armed 6-foot-7 2014 power forward who will go and get a rebound. He can run the floor, he is bouncy around the rim, and he likes to compete.
Go ahead and issue a shooter alert for Paul Rowley. A tall and rangy small forward who checks in at 6-foot-6 (maybe pushing 6-foot-7), the product of Leesburg (Va.) Loudoun Valley can stretch a defense. For Virginia Elite, he can hit from 25 feet and he plays an emotional game. He's a good athlete and a great student who has most of the Ivy League, along with places such as William & Mary and George Mason, taking a look.

By:  Eric Bossi


We predicted the Spurs, Pacers and Heat victories, and got the number of games each series would go right for both the Pacers and Heat.  (We didn't predict OKC and did say in how many games for the Spurs).  So now that the conference finals are on, what can we see happening?

Spurs rout Grizzlies in game one 105-83.   Masterful performance from the grizzled, ageless veterans in San Antonio.  Classic game home team one rout.  But anyone who remembers the Memorial day massacre in Boston Garden, things are rarely decided on opening night.   Look for Memphis to punch back in Game two.  If they can be at 2-2 after four games, then they got a shot at pulling the upset.  If the Spurs go up 3-1 through the first 4, it will obviously be over.

Heat/Pacers Wednesday night!  I would give the Pacers a punchers chance, and would even bet on them - IF they had not given Miami trouble last year, and IF they had not taken the season series from the Heat 2-1 this year.  The revenge factor works in Miami's favor, and I would not bet against LeBron in such a circumstance. 

Predictions?  LeBron will rematch his 07 Cavaliers-Spurs finals as the Heat will advance to face San Antonio in the NBA finals.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wiggins Inks LOI With Kansas

Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self announced Tuesday that Andrew Wiggins has signed a national letter of intent to play for the Jayhawks. Wiggins will be a freshman for the 2013-14 season at KU.

Ranked the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2013 by every recruiting service, Wiggins, a 6-7 forward from Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, announced his signing at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep. He chose KU over Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina. Wiggins averaged 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists last season for Huntington Prep leading his team to a 30-3 record.

Andrew Wiggins has signed a National Letter-of-Intent with Kansas

"Obviously, everyone in Jayhawk-land is overwhelmed and excited today," Self said. "This was a pleasant surprise because we never had an idea which way he was leading. Andrew did this the exact way he said he was going to. He played his cards very close to his vest as did his mother and father. I knew we were one of four. The competition was very stiff and we were fortunate that we were able to ink him today. He's a tremendous talent and a terrific kid. Probably an even better kid than he is a talent. We think he has a chance to be about as good a prospect as we've ever had.

"He brings athleticism, length, scoring ability and he's also an assassin, an alpha dog and we definitely need that when you have a whole bunch of young kids," Self said. "I think he's going to be not just a good player, but have the chance to be a great one. I know the people that support our program are going to be pleasantly surprised when they see him run and play the very first time he gets the opportunity."


Wiggins joins an already highly-touted Kansas class with
Brannen Greene (F, 6-7, 200, Monroe, Ga./Tifton HS), Joel Embiid (C, 7-0, 220, Cameroon/Gainesville, Fla./The Rock School), Conner Frankamp (G, 6-0, 160, Wichita, Kan./Wichita North HS), Frank Mason (G, 5-11, 180, Petersburg, Va./Massanutten Military Academy) and Wayne Selden (G, 6-5, 225, Roxbury, Mass./Tilton [N.H.] School). Greene, Embiid, Frankamp and Selden are ranked in the top 40 according to rivals.com, while Mason is ranked in the top 100.

"We had an unbelievable class when we signed Brandon (Rush), Mario (Chalmers), Julian (Wright) and Micah Downs (2005-06); that's a big-time class," Self said. "This one has more upside. Andrew (Wiggins) has a chance to be the first pick in the draft. Joel Embiid goes from being an unranked player to being the top center prospect in the class. He's raw but so gifted physically. Wayne Selden is a McDonald's All-American and top-15 guy. Everybody knows about those three, but they are sleeping on are the other three. Conner Frankamp can play for anyone and so can Brannen Greene. Frank Mason is about as underrated of a point guard as there is in the class. It's been a great recruiting class, but we need to have a great recruiting class because we lost so many guys on a team that did pretty well this year."

Selden and Wiggins will join KU sophomore Perry Ellis as McDonald's All-Americans on the Jayhawk roster. Additionally, Wiggins played in most every postseason all-star this past spring.

Born into an athletically-gifted family, Wiggins' mother, Marita, was a track standout at Florida State and competed for Canada in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. His father, Mitchell, played collegiately at Florida State and played in the NBA from 1984-92 with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. Additionally, his brother, Nick, is a member of the Wichita State basketball team.

"Andrew's father, Mitchell, played at Florida State and had a very good NBA career," Self said. "His mother, Marita, ran track at Florida State and went on to be a two-time Olympian and would have been a three-time Olympian if it wasn't for the boycott (1980). It's a great athletic family and certainly I look forward to spending more time with them and getting to know them better. I'm so thrilled they put their trust in us and the belief he was going to mature as a man and a player.

"He's been a very well-coached kid," Self continued. "He played for CIA Bounce (located in Canada), which is one of the premier AAU programs in the country and had great success with that. He's spent the last couple of years at Huntington Prep and (head coach) Rob Fulford there has won as many games as just about anybody in America the last few years. He does a great job the kids. We feel we are getting a very mature and prepared player."


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Musings on the NBA playoffs.....

Golden State 97, Spurs 87.....Changing of the guard?  Not yet.  The Warriors held serve with a gritty performance from Stephen Curry and some 20+ numbers from Jarret Jack and Harrison Barnes.  The Spurs looked old at key moments, but in reality, the series goes back to San Antonio with the aging veterans as the favorites to advance.  Key Question - what did Jarret Jack dribble the clock out in regulation and take a challenged, very deep three as the final shot?  This was after a timeout, that couldn't have possibly been Mark Jackson's designed play.  It had to go to Curry, possibly Klay Thompson, or at the very least, Jack should have made a move with dribble penetration to draw a foul.

Also - anyone know the rule on Bogut's foot being out of bounds in the last Spurs possession of regulation.  I believe the ball was touching him when his foot was out of bounds, but it was also touching the Spurs' player, I think Danny Greene.  Is that a jump ball, Spurs ball, or was it the right call??  Let us know.
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 12:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2013 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Memphis goes up 2-1.....OKC has been fatally flawed since letting James Harden sign with the Rockets.  They have unproductive post play, and without Russell Westbrook, they lose every match-up on the court, but-for the match up with Durant.  That may be enough, and if OKC wins game four, they regain the momentum and the advantage.  Is Durant good enough to advance the Thunder to the finals?  Yes.  Will he?  I am no longer betting on it.

Even when Westbrook returns next year, without a third option, this team is doomed to bridesmaid status well into the future.

Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins holds Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11)in the closing moments of the second half of Game 3 in a Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in Memphis, Tenn., Saturday, May 11, 2013. The Grizzlies defeated the Thunder 87-81. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Pacers destroy Knicks 82-71.....JR Smith is non-existent, and Carmelo Anthony remains a one-dimensional option.  The Knicks won most of the statistical categories yet STILL lost to the Pacers.  Anthony deserves credit for carrying this team all the way to a division crown, and into the second round, but the Knicks have less talent and more dysfunction than the Thunder.  Give Indiana's no names credit, they will punch their ticket into the Conference finals against the......
MIAMI HEAT!  Despite the dismissal of Lebron as the greatest player of all time in a previous blog, he has still earned the recognition as one of the greatest and to be in the conversation.  Any productivity from Wade and Bosh should move the Heat into the Conference finals.  It may go six games, but the Bulls simply do not have the horses.
The formula to beat Lebron remains the same, a variant of the Pat Riley-90's Knicks teams, who learned from the Jordan Rules created by Chuck Daly - turn the game into a wrestling match, have brute force shut down elite talent.  It can work, but without a full roster, it won't.  HEAT in six.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

CATS Poised for another title run??? (Reblog from Rivals.com)

MORE: UK still OK atop rankings, while SMU moves in
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The only thing left to do, really, is to start a slow clap for John Calipari. The finalization of the Rivals150 for the Class of 2013 showed that the Kentucky basketball program will be welcoming the best class in the country to Lexington. This particular group could be the best of any class, for any school, ever. Power forward Julius Randle, point guard Andrew Harrison and shooting guard Aaron Harrison are each the top-ranked player at their respected position. Center Dakari Johnson, small forward James Young and power forward Marcus Lee are all ranked as five-star players as well. Each of the six are McDonald's All-Americans -- making this the first class in history to assemble six players from the prestigious event -- and all six are ranked among the Top 20 prospects in the country. This is where the slow clap builds steam.
Julius Randle will join Kentucky's historic 2013 class.
Starting when Calipari took over at Kentucky with the Class of 2009 though the current class, the Kentucky program has just two fewer five-star players signed (21) than Duke, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA, combined. In an embarrassment of riches, the Wildcats are still actively pursuing the top-ranked player in the Class of 2013, Andrew Wiggins. The volume of talent being assembled leaves Rivals.com national basketball analyst Eric Bossi at a loss for explanations. "If I could unlock what they are doing to get all those kids to buy in then I could make a lot more money as a consultant to other programs around the country than I do as an analyst," he said. "It obviously starts with Calipari and his reputation as a coach and a guy that can get you to the (NBA) quickly, but it has to be more than that because the way he gets guys to buy into being a part of the team instead of wanting to go and be 'The Man' at other programs is impressive." Getting players to the NBA has been a calling card for Calipari at Kentucky. Of his first three classes that have been eligible to go through the draft, 11 of his 12 five-star signees have been drafted. Ten have been taken in the first round. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe each signed with the Class of 2009. All four were one-and-done players with Wall and Cousins being taken in the first five picks, while Bledsoe went at No. 18 and Orton at No. 29. Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb came to Kentucky in the Class of 2010 and three of the four were Top 20 picks. Kanter and Knight were selected No. 3 and No. 8, respectively, after being on campus for just one season. Jones was the No. 18 pick after his sophomore season and Lamb was taken No. 42 in the 2012 draft. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer helped the program win a National Championship after signing as the Class of 2011. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist were the first two players taken in the 2012 draft. Teague was selected No. 29. Wiltjer returned to the program to see his minutes, points and rebounds all double. As for the Class of 2012, both Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin will leave after one season. Now, this is where the chorus of applause hits a pivotal point. The six nationally ranked signees in the Class of 2013 are joined by point guard Dominique Hawkins and forward Derek Willis, making this an eight-man class.
Derek Willis plans to make an impact at Kentucky next season.
How the roster is managed will be scrutinized by many. Sophomore Ryan Harrow has announced his transfer to Georgia State, while Twany Beckham and Julius Mays have exhausted eligibility. Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Wiltjer have announced they are returning to school. Junior guards Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson have yet to announce their future plans, but with eight players signed, it leaves three players who were granted scholarships -- Sam Malone, Tod Lantor and Brian Long -- as team members who will likley return to walk-on status. Bossi says that the roster will take care of itself, one way or the other. 
"They have 13 scholarships and they will use all 13, that is for sure," he said. "It is irrefutable the success in recruiting and on the court that the program is having. Other schools and other fan bases can't understand it. Kentucky is a blue-blood of basketball and he has momentum going in recruiting like nothing I have seen before." Brett Dawson covers the team for CatsIllustrated.com and sees the steps being taken to ensure the prosperity continues. He said that Calipari is the crux of the success but believes that what Kentucky is doing is explainable by looking at the professional ranks. "John Wall and Cousins really got this thing started by wanting to come to Kentucky and play together," Dawson said. "Calipari will always talk about how Kidd-Gilchrest and Davis took the fourth- and fifth-most shots on the team and were first and second picks in the NBA Draft. "Kids see players like LeBron James wanting to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or Kobe with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and that group, and so it trickles down. Calipari had something like this starting to build while at Memphis, and when he got here it was just a perfect combination of timing, personality and location. He can sell himself and his basketball, while Kentucky is a presold product that kids dream of being a part of." The point is most illustrated not by the elite athletes wanting to play for Kentucky, but by the lesser-talked-about Hawkins and Willis. Hawkins is a three-star guard from Richmond (Ky.) Madison Central who was named Mr. Basketball in the state. 
His other scholarship opportunities were Morehead State, Murray State, and Western Kentucky -- three places where Bossi said he would be the go-to player. 
Willis was ranked No. 115 in the Rivals150 and chose Kentucky over Indiana, Louisville, Purdue and Xavier. Each took the time to say that they don't mind their place on the board, even as others are making a big deal about it. Hawkins was the last player in the class to commit but said that he plans on making an impact on the team. "People overlook us but we're very good players, too," Hawkins told T.J. Walker of Rivals.com. "When we come in with the other six players, we'll show our stuff at Kentucky." Willis was the first player on board with the program and said that he doesn't mind being lost in the shuffle.
John Calipari has turned Kentucky into a dominant recruiting force.
"(I am) more or less an overlooked recruit, in a way," he said at the Derby Festival Classic. "I was the first to commit, then all that stuff blew up and the Harrison twins came along and made it a little better. "I guess in a way I have been kind of forgotten, but that's alright. I'll show them what I can do and people will come along." One place that each player will not be forgotten is on campus. Because of the passion of the fans, walk-on players at Kentucky are still treated like rock stars. It is that atmosphere that Dawson believes makes a major impact on any player. "The pride that people have surrounding this program would make anyone want to be a part of it," he said. "The fans are always fully committed to hoops." Likewise, the administration is showing its commitment to the program. Recently, the basketball facility at Rupp Arena went through a major update. Eight-foot showers were installed, the training room was revamped, a hydro-therapy whirlpool was added to go with a new team meeting room, a second coach's office, team lounge, food service area and an upgraded media area. With the elevated exposure and upgraded facilities came added pressure. Expectations do not drop at Kentucky. The season-ending loss to Robert Morris in the NIT may have signaled the end of a coaching era for previous head coaches at Kentucky, but Calipari has fans standing proud and more blue than ever. "At some places, guys become too big for the job and then there are some guys that the job is too big for," Dawson said. "I think Calipari is showing that neither is the case here and this is a perfect situation for everyone. "He is getting guys he wants and they are identifying early who the next group will be." 
It is only a matter of time before the Class of 2014 comes through, and when it does, Kentucky will likely be on the top line in recruiting behind Calipari. Before anyone realizes it, the slow clap will have turned into a standing ovation. "They have done things that I can't explain," Bossi said. "Some people cannot respect that because Kentucky is a program that is easy for outsiders to hate -- with all the history and success -- but people who follow the game should - at the very least - appreciate what is happening there."