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Jennings definitely heading to Europe

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 9, 2008

As pointed out by Coug1990, Brandon Jennings is indeed heading over to Europe for his (presumably) one season out of high school before heading to the NBA.

We’ve covered at length what this means for the Cougs, but the bigger question is what it means for college basketball. There will be a lot of of hand wringing about it — and I’ll post a bevy of links at the end of the post for your perusal — but I ultimately think it means very little, to be honest.

Think about it this way: Are guys like Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose instant stars signing mega endorsement deals the moment they declare for the draft if they spend their one year out of high school off the hoops radar in Europe?

Not a chance.

The elite players benefit tremendously from the exposure they get to the general American public in NCAA basketball. While they might make more in the short term in salary by heading to Europe — it’s been reported that Jennings’ salary would likely be between $100,000 and $300,000 next year — they stand to gain much more in the long term by taking it in the shorts financially for that one year at a university. Most guys will understand this, if they’ve got any brain at all.

The story might be a little different for the guys who aren’t top-level prospects, since they weren’t likely to get the kind of hype of an Oden or Durant anyway, but the reality is that almost all of these guys view themselves as Oden or Durant. And since they do, they’ll continue to go to college because they will want to have the one big year that will land them that No. 1 pick and endorsement riches beyond their dreams. Consider the story of Rose, who wasn’t even a lock for the No. 1 pick at the end of the season. Now, the hype is larger than life, thanks to his magical run through the NCAA Tournament.

One final thought. These guys absolutely crave attention; top-level basketball recruits have been coddled and worshiped since their junior high days, having been told they’re special pretty much everyday. They feed off the adoration. So, there’s a part of me that thinks Jennings is doing this simply because of the coverage that comes along with being the first. People will follow him to see how he does, given the novelty factor — it’s a unique way to generate hype and market himself.

But the second, third or 10th guy to go over there? No one will care as they watch their favorite college teams or fill out their brackets. And once they see a couple of guys head overseas where they’re viewed as just some snot-nosed kid from the States who isn’t ready to play with men, they’ll quickly realize college basketball is a much better means to their ends than European professional leagues.

Anyway, onto the hand wringing — starting with the one guy who has a well-reasoned agreement:

  • Mike DeCourcey, The Sporting News: “College basketball does not need Jennings to thrive. Arizona will miss him, certainly. The Wildcats might have been fashioned into a national title contender with another elite pro prospect on their roster. But to suggest his experience might lead to a flood of high school players moving to Europe is naive, and to declare that such a flood would irreparably damage NCAA basketball is ludicrous.”
  • Gary Parrish, CBS Sports.com: “Forget what it means to Arizona or Lute Olson. What it means to college basketball in general is what has the industry buzzing, because coaches will now have to approach the recruitment of elite prospects like they used to approach the recruitment of elite prospects, which is to say with great caution and the understanding that there’s a decent chance they’ll never enroll.”
  • Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: “Will he be able to help a top European club over the next year — when he would be a college freshman? It will be a trick for him to get a big deal in Europe, where teams face a lot of pressure to win now, play very intricate offenses, and prefer to develop point guards over several years.”
  • Jeff Goodman, Foxsports.com: “I don’t expect an influx of players to go this route, because frankly, there’s only a couple of kids each year at the highest level who would even explore this avenue.”
  • Lute Olsen, Arizona coach: “We as coaches warned the NCAA about this when it was first put in place. It’s going to turn into a bigger mess.” He advocates a system similar to baseball’s, where players either come straight out or are bound to go to school for two or three years.
  • Jason Whitlock, Foxsports.com: “Maybe Brandon Jennings will go down in history as the young man who forced the NCAA to honestly deal with the hypocrisy, stupidity and immorality of its rules.”

Posted in Around the 'Net, NBA Draft, News | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Jennings a lock for Europe?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on July 8, 2008

We’ll be writing up some more detailed updates of each Pac-10 team before too long — I swear! — but I wanted to pass along this little tidbit I ran across, because I think it has a lot of impact on the Cougs.

According to this report in the New York Times, no one thinks Arizona super recruit Brandon Jennings will actually set another foot in Tucson.

Jennings is having difficulty qualifying academically for admission, which has led him to publicly bandy about the idea of playing his (presumably) one season out of high school in Europe. He’s even floated the idea of heading to Europe even if he does qualify.

Why does that matter to us?

Just as Cal figured to be fighting with the Cougs to get into the top half of the Pac-10 and watched their effort to do that take a major hit when Ryan Anderson decided to stay in the NBA draft — a wise decision for sure (and I think New Jersey got an absolute steal late in the first round with him) — Arizona is another team in that situation.

The Wildcats did get a boost when Chase Budinger decided to return to school, but that’s been about all the good news there has been. Lute Olson’s return has been filled with drama, including the exodus of the coach-in-waiting, Kevin O’Neill, and assistant coaches Josh Pastner and Miles Simon, which led to the decommitting of top prospect Emmanuel Negedu. The recruiting class is weaker overall than what generally lands in Tuscon.

The Wildcats do have a very good core in Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, and if Jennings arrives, it might really be the return of Arizona to truly elite status, as Olson predicts. Jennings is just the kind of fast-paced point guard Olson loves. But if Jennings doesn’t make it, the Wildcats will have major problems at the point, with the departure of Jarryd Bayless and the graduation of Jawann McClellan.

Wise, who isn’t a natural point, would probably have to slide over. That wouldn’t necessarily be a huge problem for a lot of teams, but Olson promised on his return to get away from O’Neill’s defense-first mentality and get back to “Wildcat basketball,” which means running and running and running. Can Wise do that for them? I doubt it.

So, Wildcat fans will continue holding their collective breath. Probably in futility, if you believe that report.

Curious what all the hype is about? You can seen Jennings in action on a video after the jump. Keep in mind, it’s that cruddy AAU ball that allows players to do pretty much anything they want all game long, but you can clearly see the physical tools. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Recruiting, Video | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Good weekend for Cougar basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on June 10, 2008

A few notes to pass along on this Tuesday, as my busy life is finally permitting me a few minutes to write. (And let me tell you, it feels goooooood to finally write again.)

CASTO APPEARS GOOD TO GO: First, as has been reported elsewhere, recruit DeAngelo Casto apparently has graduated from Ferris H.S. — the final reported hurdle in his odyssey to WSU. As a high school teacher, I can tell you that walking down the aisle doesn’t always necessarily mean everything is kosher, but the S-R’s Vince Grippi says a source tells him it looks like Casto is going to make it.

That’s great news for the Cougs. As we’ve discussed before, Casto brings an element of athleticism to this team that was sorely lacking after the departure of Ivory Clark.

If you’re curious what you’re getting, check out the video (hat tip to Stadium Way). What I want you to notice is that this guy is a work in progress, especially offensively — most of those moves (other than the dunks, which are impressive) aren’t going to have a snowball’s chance in the Pac-10. I wouldn’t expect much more than 10-15 energy, defense and rebounding minutes from him, as his offensive game is far from polished. But he’s a guy with a nose for the ball, and that’s great.

And if he develops as he looks like he could — both physically and skill-wise — the Cougs could have a massive gem on their hands.

TOP-FLIGHT PG ON THE RADAR: Xavier Thames, a 2009 three-star PG recruit (Scout.com) has narrowed his list down to WSU and Iowa State. I’m not surprised the Cougs are drawing interest from a very good point guard, since they’ll have pretty much an immediate opening at the point in 2009-10 with the graduation of Taylor Rochestie.

I’d be pretty shocked if they didn’t go after another ball-handler, as well, given how the most pressing needs for this class are simply point guard and big man thanks to the plethora of 2s and 3s secured in this current recruiting class.

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Recruiting, Video | Tagged: , , | Comments Off

Weaver looking like a fringe first-rounder

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 29, 2008

Now that the deadline has passed for underclassmen to declare for the draft, both the 2008-09 college seasons and the 2008 NBA Draft are starting to take shape. This is still pretty preliminary, as a number of players who declared could still come back for their senior seasons, but we’re starting to get an idea of what “experts” think of where these guys will get drafted.

If you’re curious, Kyle Weaver is looking like a fringe first-rounder, according to DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net. I’d love to tell you what Chad Ford at ESPN.com thinks, since he generally seems to be a little more in tune with what teams actually might do, but all of his content is Insider. If anyone has access to that info, post it in the comments. There are other ones out there, too, but most of them have yet to reflect the guys that actually didn’t declare.

These projections can fluctuate pretty wildly in the next couple of months, based both off of performances at pre-draft camps and team needs/preferences, but it tells you what you need to know about how people are viewing Weaver’s skill set: He’s a winner who projects to point guard at the NBA level with his smarts, passing ability and defensive length. More or less the kind of guy that can help out a team that doesn’t need him to carry the mail, the kind of team found at the bottom of the first round.

I’m no draft expert, but that would seem to be the high end for Weaver, barring a spectacular showing at a pre-draft camp. The guys in front of him on the board are guys not likely to head back to college thanks to their potential, and of course, we all know what a premium the NBA places on potential in the draft over actual proven abilities.

Getting into the first round would be huge for Weaver. The difference between the 30th overall pick and the 31st? Two years guaranteed at just under $1 million each with team options for the third and fourth years vs. the prospect of a non-guaranteed contract.

As for Derrick Low? He had some well-publicized difficulties at the Portsmouth Invitational draft camp, and isn’t on anyone’s radar as even a second round pick at the moment. But that could change, too, with a good showing at another camp.

Posted in Around the 'Net, NBA Draft | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Another first for WSU basketball

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 26, 2008

It’s been nothing but a series of firsts for the WSU basketball program thanks to Dick and Tony Bennett.

Ready for another one?

Rivals.com recently released its final Top 150 list, and guess what? Two future Cougs are on it: Klay Thompson and Michael Harthun. That’s never happened before.

We keep talking about just how great this 2008 recruiting class is, and to be fair, it’s all just speculation at this point — ask any UW fan who has watched Lorenzo Romar rake in top 20 classes year after year, or ask any Coug fan what they think of that 2004 class these days. But it’s fun to talk about, nonetheless.

When the first portion of that class was announced, it was a widely held belief that Michael Harthun was the jewel, WSU’s first top 100 recruit since recruiting services such as Scout.com, Rivals.com and Scouts, Inc. started putting lists together. He’s currently ranked No. 96 by Scout.com, No. 100 by Scouts, Inc. and No. 118 on that Rivals.com list.

Harthun might well still turn out to be the best of this impressive class, but a huge senior season has propelled Thompson (above) right past him in nearly everyone’s eyes — a “late bloomer” in recruiting speak. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Around the 'Net, Recruiting | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Stanford hits a home run

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 26, 2008

If you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby really did hit the ball out of the park with his hire of Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins, who is reported to be Trent Johnson’s successor. This is the guy who’s been Mike Kzyzewski’s top assistant for 11 years, most of that spent as his top recruiter at a university whose admissions standards are similar to Stanford’s.

Of course, you never really know how a lifetime assistant is going to do as the head guy — hellloooooo, Paul Graham! — but I think this is a great hire. I’ve often wondered why Dawkins has never gotten a shot as a head man, and the thought has been that he was just patiently waiting for the right opportunity. He elected not to go the Jeff Capel route, assisting Coach K for a few years then parlaying a few years at a small college (VCU) into a bigger job (Oklahoma).

It looks like that patience has been rewarded. He’s learned from the best, and he won’t get a better fit than this.

And I stand by what I wrote Thursday: Bowlsby will end up looking like the smart guy in all of this.

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Pac-10 Stuff | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Sauls out, Casto in?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

Little-used guard Stephen Sauls, still suffering from the aftereffects of a concussion, has been granted a release from his scholarship so he can pursue opportunities closer to his home in Texas.

This is a move that has been speculated for some time, and most people are hoping the scholarship goes to DeAngelo Casto, an athletic big man from Ferris HS in Spokane who was the state player of the year.

He would certainly seem to be the best fit for the team, considering WSU’s already guard-heavy 2008 class. But with all the hype surrounding him, the Spokesman’s Vince Grippi has been strangely silent most of the year about Casto’s chances of playing for WSU next season, which I think should tell us something, since Casto played in the paper’s town.

Grippi says there are a number of options available for the scholarship, none of which, in his estimation, point to Casto:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Around the 'Net, News, Recruiting | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Why is it so hard to believe Bennett?

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

Seth Kolloen over at Enjoy the Enjoyment offers a Husky fan/outsider’s view on Tony Bennett today in response to what Vince Grippi and I have written, saying he’s “completely shocked” that Bennett didn’t jump ship for another program.

“Now I’m not the national media, but, frankly, I don’t believe it either. Maybe I’m just pessimistic about human nature, but when you tell me someone is ‘different,’ it’s tough for me to take. The list of coaches, politicians, preachers, etc, etc, etc, who’ve professed one thing and done the complete opposite when the pressure got too great is beyond my ability to enumerate.”

Now, before you rail about him being a Husky fan and make some snide comment about anybody who’s not a Coug always being shocked that anyone wants to spend any time in Pullman, I’ll tell you this: Kolloen is always even-handed in his assessments of the Cougs, and, to be fair, he is correct in stating that there are so few examples of guys not chasing the bigger job that the skepticism is warranted.

However, for as hard as it is for Kolloen to believe Bennett’s different, it’s just as difficult for me to understand why it’s so hard for some people to comprehend that a guy — in fact, any person, not just Bennett — wouldn’t necessarily want to jump at the first “good” thing that comes calling. While Bennett’s not the egomaniac that a lot of other coaches are, he does ooze self confidence. And if you believe in your own abilities and think you’re good at something, why would you:

  1. Presume that you “can’t” be as successful as you want to be where you’re at before you’ve even really had a chance to try?
  2. Presume that you’re never going to reach the level of success you’ve had so far and therefore aren’t going to have an opportunity to move on to another great job at some point in the future when the timing is better?

I think Bennett truly believes he can create a long-term winner at WSU, and he wants to find out for himself that he can’t win a national championship here no matter what anyone else says. And I’m sure he believes that when it’s time to move on, it’ll be the right time, and there will be a great job that presents the appropriate challenge right there waiting for him.

The bottom line is that I think we Cougs are in a great position. He’s going to build this program for a couple of more years and either fall in love with Pullman — again hard for anyone who’s never gone to WSU to understand, but it happens more often than they think — and stay for a long time, or build a very good program that is ready made for the next coach.

Either way, we win.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | Comments Off

Go read Vince Grippi this morning

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 9, 2008

If you don’t make the Spokesman-Review’s SportsLink a regular part of your reading, make sure you cruise on over there and check out this piece by Vince Grippi this morning.

Normally, Grippi just writes a little bit of analysis on different things, then passes along a bunch of links. This morning, though, he wrote an extended post on his thoughts on Tony Bennett. It pretty much fleshes out a lot of his personal perspective and feelings about Bennett and the coaching carousel, which he has been hinting about the entire season:

“It’s a vicious circle born out of the money college coaches make today and the vagabond existence most of them lead. But Bennett is about as far from a vagabond as you can find, and the money? Well, he is still shocked anyone would want to pay him nearly a million dollars a year to do his job. And those two elements are what most in the national media, who try to play kingmaker, don’t understand. They think Bennett is like everyone else, ready to jump at a ‘better job’ that offers more money and a chance to win the national championship.

“They don’t get a guy who thinks about his family first, second, third, ad infinitum. They don’t get a guy who is more than satisfied with the money he’s earning. They don’t get a guy who wants to win a national title, but at this point in his life welcomes the challenge of trying to win one with a certain type of player, players he can attract to Pullman. He’s different than the coaches they are used to dealing with, so they try to shove him into the coach-form they are used to. And it doesn’t work.”

It’s a great, great piece that reiterates what I’ve been saying ad nauseam this season: That Tony Bennett is different from other coaches, that his priorities aren’t the same as other coaches, and that this constant media speculation is born out of most reporters’ complete inability to comprehend that. My opinion was based solely off of outsider observations, just reading quotes and knowing a little bit about his value system. Grippi’s is based off of actual conversations, both on and off the record.

Will the national media ever believe Bennett? Probably not.

But is it more important that the national media believe him, or that we believe him? I’ll go for the latter. And that’s good enough for me.

Posted in Around the 'Net | Tagged: , | Comments Off

One shining moment

Posted by Jeff Nusser on April 8, 2008

Well, now that we know Tony Bennett is sticking around for at least one more season (no surprise here), maybe we all can finally relax, kick back, and suspend our Cougar angst just long enough to exhale.

In the first of what will be a couple of looks back at this season — which I can now finally let go of since the champion was finally crowned last night — join me in watching One Shining Moment … again. I never get tired of it.

I count three four WSU appearances in the video. Enjoy.

Posted in Around the 'Net, NCAA Tournament, News, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

 
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