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The Breakdown: Mitch Trubisky

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(Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Mitch Trubisky came into the 2016 college football season as an unknown junior from Mentor, OH. Today, Trubisky is considered one of the elite prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft cycle and has a chance to be taken with the first overall pick. This deadly accurate, athletic quarterback ascended in a relatively lackluster North Carolina Tar Heel offense and assaulted opponents with intermediate passes all season long.

Trubisky, like any draft prospect, is not a perfect specimen. Aspects of his game are incredibly efficient and others lack the refinement that necessitates success at the NFL level. Seeing how he performs at the NFL Combine will be quite interesting, as he’s a fine athlete along with a very efficient pocket passer.

Positives:

First and foremost, Trubisky passes the eye test when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. At 6’3″ and weighing 225 pounds, he has the prototypical quarterback size and a muscular build. Athletically, this kid can move extremely well and uses his speed and size to get around the pocket while also keeping his eyes down the field. It’s rare to see a quarterback with this kind of height and weight be as shifty and athletic as Trubisky is.

Building off the previous point, there were times, specifically against Florida State, that Trubisky eluded multiple defensive lineman in the pocket and got away from the pass rush. Not every time will result in a completion or even a positive gain, but the extension of plays is only a positive with how athletic NFL defenses are becoming.

While he may not have the best arm talent in this draft, Trubisky makes up for it with incredible accuracy and touch on his deep to intermediate throws. This sounds like a negative, but his arm strength is more than adequate enough for the next level. In the North Carolina offense, many of the plays were telegraphed or near the line of scrimmage, so it was difficult to always gauge how strong of an arm the young quarterback possessed in terms of distance. Players like DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame likely have stronger arms, but he lacks the accuracy and downfield touch that sets this kid apart.

Accuracy and decision making is truly where Mitch Trubisky sets himself apart from the rest of the quarterbacks in this draft class. When I scouted players like Kizer and Deshaun Watson I was surprised at just how many passes were off target or simply bad decisions. In Watson’s case, it seemed like he was always trying to hit the big play or feed the football to the electric Mike Williams. Kizer, on the other hand, lacks sufficient talent around him on his offensive line and at wide receiver. Trubisky has the same deficiencies at skill positions and from his blockers, but doesn’t make the same mistakes as the far more experienced Watson and Kizer (Watson may have the top receiving threat in the nation).

In certain plays, Trubisky will cheat a defense with his eyes and hit his second read in a split second. It’s very rare that the young quarterback makes a poor decision passing the football or inaccurate throws down the field (look to negatives to see the counter argument to this point). Trubisky takes his shots down the field, but they are usually after he decimated the opposing defense with countless check-downs that got his offense first downs. The quick plays show how fast Trubisky’s mind and arm move, as he doesn’t always hit his first read on these plays. In the 2017 draft cycle, this kid has the fastest mind out of the entire crop of quarterbacks.

One last positive about Trubisky is his pocket presence. Not one time in the five games I scouted from 2016 did I see him feel ‘phantom pressure’ from nowhere. To me, that’s one of the true positives of his game. I don’t see a player that is afraid to take a hit and he will throw through the pressure smothering him for a completion. At times, this can lead to sacks and fumbles, but he always keeps his eyes down the field and is looking to pull the trigger on the first player he sees open. If no receiver is open, Trubisky can fit through a small lane and pick up positive yardage on the run. Against Florida State, the ability to outrun a defense and fit through small creases came into play when he ran for a touchdown on what was supposed to be a screen pass.

Negatives:

Many of the negatives that hover around Trubisky’s game are part of the North Carolina offensive philosophy. In many of the ways I was critical of Marcus Mariota at Oregon, I have to be critical of Trubisky at UNC. The difference is that Mariota utilized his athleticism far more often than the less experienced quarterback. There are remarkable similarities between the two offenses aside from the designed quarterback runs that Oregon was known for. UNC’s offense consists of the spread out of the shotgun, screen passes and the option.

From repeated viewings of tape, it doesn’t seem like the North Carolina offense is incredibly complex and Mitch Trubisky is asked to make far more telegraphed plays and throws than the typical NFL quarterback will make. Quarterbacks all have their reads and who the ball should go to on routes, but that’s not how it seems to work at UNC. The major concern here is whether or not Trubisky is able to read complex NFL defenses.

For a player like Marcus Mariota, who I had the exact same concerns with, it took some development and coddling from the Tennessee Titans to really push his development forward. Mariota is a fine NFL quarterback in 2016, but 2015 was a rough year based on his downfield accuracy and confidence throwing the deep ball. I see many parallels between the two, even with Trubisky being more of a pocket passer, and he could have the same type of developmental period as the former Oregon Duck.

Another potential negative for Trubisky is the amounts of vicious hits he takes from not reading defensive blitzes correctly. Some of these issues are based on the limited experience the first year starter has, but there were a plethora of plays in which a defensive end would take an outside angle and he would have absolutely no feel for the defensive player bearing down on him. Plays like the one I just described lead to lame duck passes, fumbles and injuries. Experience should correct Trubisky’s inability to feel a pocket from anywhere but in front of him, but some NFL starters are never able to learn that trait.

A real question mark I have is what happened against Duke and Virginia Tech. With only four interceptions on the year and eight over the course of three seasons in Chapel Hill, it’s safe to say that Trubisky is extremely efficient with the football. However, against Duke and Virginia Tech, he threw his entire seasons worth of picks and both games ended in Tar Heel losses. Virginia Tech was easily the worst game of his season, as he completed less than 40 percent of his passes and had no touchdowns in the 34-3 blowout. While the game was literally played in a hurricane, the biggest issue in the loss was his overall decision making and grip on the football.

Most of these issues will improve with experience, but the biggest question is how long it will take for him to develop these skills and become a viable NFL starter.

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky passes against the Miami Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky passes against the Miami Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

NFL Comparison: 

Comparing Trubisky to other NFL quarterbacks was a difficult task. The arm talent he exhibits, along with his size, screams Sam Bradford. Like Bradford, Mitch Trubisky makes quick decisions and methodically dissects opposing defenses with short and intermediate throws. After lulling the defense into a false sense of security, Trubisky will take his deep shots down the field and make the defense pay.

A simple comparison to Sam Bradford doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Unlike Bradford, Trubisky is an above average athlete for the position and will run with the football and escape pressure in the pocket. He combines his solid pocket awareness with his athleticism to extend plays and give his receivers time down the field. When Trubisky pulls down the football and decides to take off, I see some young Donovan McNabb in his game.

Consider Trubisky a combination of Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb. While Trubisky isn’t as accurate as Bradford or athletic as McNabb, the combination of each of their skill sets shows why he is likely to be one of the first players taken in the 2017 NFL Draft if he decides to declare.

Grade/Projection:

Mitch Trubisky comes away with an elite first round grade after I watched multiple games of tape from the 2016 season. Unlike other draft eligible quarterbacks, Trubisky ascended and brought his play to en elite level in his first year as a starter. Don’t be shocked to hear his name called in the first five picks with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears likely to be picking near the top this coming April.

There are definitely issues with his game, namely the lack of experience and offense he plays in, but he is easily the top quarterback in this class when talking about the prototypical NFL quarterback.

Seeing where Trubisky ends up could affect his development, as each one of the aforementioned teams have offensive deficiencies beyond the quarterback position. The best fit for him may be the Cleveland Browns, as they have focused on building their receiving talent with players like Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman. The Browns also have Hue Jackson manning the helm and his work with Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer can’t be ignored because of how poorly his tenure with Cleveland has started.

Don’t Panic Yet LSU Fans

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Photo credit (www.nola.com)

All stats courtesy of ESPN

For LSU fans, it is fair to say that all the expectation has now been overshadowed by questionable decisions and a constant supply of injuries. After another consistent top ten recruiting class, it could of been LSU’s year to perhaps win the SEC West. They could have made an impact in this years playoff. However, due to a lack of offensive production, the team has failed to take full advantage of this opportunity that was handed to them. Between having one of the worst starts in the past decade (3-2) and the recent passing of LSU mascot Mike VI (who passed away from cancer), nothing has gone their way at all whatsoever. Everybody has written off LSU. Luckily, despite all these shortcomings, there is a lot of positive on the horizon for the LSU Tigers.

Coaching Changes 

After watching the unacceptable collapse of LSU against Auburn just two weeks ago, the school felt that it was time to make a change mid way into the season. And rightfully so. The SEC is unlike any other conference in college football. There is no such thing as a rebuild year. Fans expect results immediately and if this does not occur, somebody is going to have to pay the price. That price was the jobs of former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and former head coach Les Miles. Although speculation was swirling even before the season, the writing was on the wall and the change will ultimately benefit all parties involved. There is no question that Les Miles is still an elite head coach in college football. Meanwhile, having also NFL coaching experience, Cam Cameron can certainly provide guidance to a number of developing quarterbacks in college football.

Ed Orgeron, who also has experience as an interim head coach at USC, was chosen for this position on an interim basis.  After a strong showcase against Missouri, it isn’t far fetched to suggest that some of the players support the move. After Miles was let go, players such as safety Jamal Adams publicly sympathized for Miles yet was optimistic about the future of the team:

“I definitely was surprised, I didn’t see that coming. I wasn’t thinking about it at all. I’m still shocked right now. It’s adversity we got hit with. We just got to connect as one, move forward, and look forward to Coach Orgeron coaching us up,” said safety Jamal Adams.

With the recent turmoil that LSU has gone through, it is essential that players such as Adams stand up for Orgeron. In the game against Wisconsin, they literally lost themselves the game. Due to a lack of control on the field and the overwhelming weight that Fournette has to carry, they have lost several close games within the past couple of years. But the losses to Wisconsin and Auburn was the icing on the cake that put Miles temporarily out of a job.

Leonard Fournette  

This guy is big time. In his freshman year, Fournette was a monster; he has averaged six yards per carry in his last two seasons at LSU. Even before the ankle injury, Fournette was on pace to have another fantastic season. He even make an compelling argument to be in the Heisman Trophy race. After conformation that he would be unavailable against Southern Mississippi, his quest for the Heisman Trophy is now hanging in the balance.

“No, he’s not ready. He’s just not ready,” Orgeron said, via The Advocate. “It’s taking a little longer than we thought. I’m sure if he’d be ready, he’d be playing. He’s not ready to even practice right now.”

Unfortunately, Fournette has had a history of ankle issues. Just this season, he has already tweaked in twice. The first time being courtesy of week one against Wisconsin. It doesn’t really help matters that Brandon Harris has been shaky at best throughout his playing career at LSU. LSU hasn’t really had a steady quarterback since Zac Mettenberger between 2011 and 2013. Nobody is expecting Harris to throw 300 yards every single week. However, throughout the season, not many teams have never felt threatened by LSU’s aerial attack. This is enlarge to the amount of pressure they’ve put on Fournette. In addition to Cameron’s lackluster offensive play calling. If LSU truly wants to propel into an elite team once again, they need to compliment Fourtnette as opposed to depending on him in every crucial situation.

The services of Fournette catapulted LSU into serious contention for a top bowl game this season. Now that is derailed because of head coaching changes and the injury to Leonard Fournette. Although on paper entirely negative, LSU can use this and turn a new leaf of success and prosperity like they enjoyed with a national title back in 2007 with former Oakland Raider first round selection JaMarcus Russell. LSU is a team that is slowly starting to take shape again.

Having games against Southern Miss and Ole Miss will be solid preparation going into their biggest game of the season. With a tough schedule ahead and having LSU’s biggest weapon in Fournette hopefully returning in a couple weeks, LSU has a promising future and can be serious contenders if they start to build the team back together. Starting with the progression of quarterback play and a new head coach.

2016 67 386 5.8 35 2
2015 300 1953 6.5 87 22
2014 187 1034 5.5 89 10

The Perfect Storm: Richt can be college football’s biggest surprise in 2016

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The day that Mark Richt accepted the position to be the Miami Hurricanes football head coach, he wasted no time cleaning out the program and what was keeping Miami from achieving greatness that it continues to seek. Now with a staff that includes Manny Diaz (DC), Craig Kuligowski (Former Missouri D-Line coach), Thomas Brown (Former Georgia Bulldogs running backs coach), Todd Hartley (Former Georgia Bulldogs Tight Ends coach) and Ron Dugans (WR’s coach), the Hurricanes look to be a serious threat and contender in the ACC Coastal with a solid staff and some returning star players such as quarterback, Brad Kaaya who has been named to the Davey O’Brien Award Watch list this coming 2016 season.

The last time the Miami Hurricanes had a 10 win season was in 2003. With Mark Richt being Miami’s 24th head coach, and a Hurricane alum, he’s hoping to bring the glory days back to Coral Gables sooner than what fans expect. Richt just might be the answer and what Miami needs after compiling a 145-51 record with the Georgia Bulldogs that included two SEC titles (2002, 2005), 15 straight bowl appearances and finishing in the top 10 seven times.

Despite finishing 8-5 (5-3) and finishing third in the coastal division last season, Miami boasts a lot of talent on both sides of the football. Mark Richt knows Miami can play better than what their overall stats were in 2015: Rush Offense 119.9 (111th), Passing Offense 277.1 (28th), Rush Defense 201.0 (95th) and Pass Defense 203.8 (36th).

Richt has always had a solid running game at Georgia with Knowshon Moreno, Sony Michel and Todd Gurley. He wants to have the same at The University of Miami for which is why he hired Thomas Brown as his running backs coach whom was also the running backs at Georgia. Brown was a former freshman All-SEC selection in his college career as a running back, and he coached some of the best half backs in his coaching career that included Melvin Gordon (former Wisconsin Badger running back) and Sony Michel who topped 1,000 yards rushing in 2015.

All eyes are on Mark Richt. The coming years look very promising for the Miami Hurricane football program including this year. The Hurricanes open up the season against two FCS teams at Sun Life Stadium, and then the road will get rougher down the stretch when they face Georgia Tech, FSU, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Richt is just like Alabama football head coach Nick Saban after every season ends, and has made it clear to all his players: If you want to keep your job, earn it. Every position is up for grabs, and Richt will make sure he puts the best players on the field that put his team in the best position to win every game. Watch out college football world, there’s a category 5 hurricane coming near you.

 

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball Notebook: David Beatty cuts list to eight, Jordan Chatman transfers to BC

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2017 guard David Beatty, who is ranked 96th in ESPN’s top 100 recruiting rankings, cut his list down to eight schools on Tuesday. Indiana, Temple, La Salle, Georgetown, Virginia, UCLA, Maryland and UConn are the finalists for the 6’3″ Philadelphia native who plays his high school basketball at St. Benedict’s Prep.

Beatty is a high quality offensive talent, who has great range on his jump shot. He still has to improve his efficiency from long range, but he is strong, has a great frame, is physical, can make plays in the lane, and is capable of finishing at the rim and in transition.

Beatty is a solid defender, although he could certainly improve in that area of his game. Passing is another element that could be developed at the next level.

Jordan Chatman transfers to Boston College

Chatman, who played his freshman season under Dave Rose at BYU, committed to Boston College on Tuesday. The 6’5″, 195 pound guard averaged just 2.7 points, 1.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 10.3 minutes per game. He shot 38 percent from the field, 34 percent from beyond the arc and 70 percent from the free throw strike.

The Vancouver, WA native played point guard at Union High School, and was a two-star recruit who only received one quality offer (from BYU).

In an interesting case, Chatman is a graduate transfer (eligible immediately), but still has three years of college basketball remaining.

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

“Chatman left his high school in Vancouver, Wash., with an associates degree and served a two-year LDS Church mission to Taiwan before ever enrolling at BYU.”

Chatman gives Jim Christian a guard who has great size, can play both backcourt positions, has a strong frame, is a willing passer and is capable of getting in the lane.

The Eagles are losing their top scorer Eli Carter and youngster Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, but they do have rising sophomore Jerome Robinson, who should be the team’s best player this season.

Jeremiah Tilmon cuts list to six

2017 center from East Saint Louis, IL is down to Illinois, Michigan State, North Carolina, Texas and Kansas. According to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, Tilmon is also receiving interest from Missouri and he has yet to cut Kim Anderson and company off his list.

Tilmon is a bit undersized for a center, however, he’s ranked 29th on ESPN’s top 100 list and is labeled as a four-star or five-star recruit on multiple sites.

Attending La Lumiere in Florida, Tilmon’s squad made the Dicks High School National Tournament final at Madison Square Garden, losing to Oak Hill Academy in overtime. The center suffered a shoulder injury in that game – he had surgery on it – and did not return.

The big man has great potential due to his widely built shoulders, good agility, excellent athleticism, and ability to run the floor. Tilmon is a solid rebounder, but will need to improve his competitiveness and post moves.

Recruit leaves UCLA before career begins

Class of 2016 recruit and three-star small forward, Kobe Paras, withdrew from UCLA after “academic conditions of his admission were not met.”

The 6’5″, 190 pound prospect held offers from UCLA, Arizona State, California, Portland State, Texas-Arlington, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.

Paras was expected to give Steve Alford’s Bruins an athletic wing who plays with energy on both ends of the floor. He has a really effective first step that could have been dangerous in Pac-12 play, while his ability to attack the lane would have also been valuable for the Bruins.

Regardless of Paras departure, UCLA still maintains one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Point guard Lonzo Ball is the best floor general in the class (he is an ELITE passer), T.J. Leaf is a skilled power forward who can score inside and out, and Ike Anigbogu provides toughness and length at center.

Paras, who played his high school ball at Middlebrooks Academy, will leave a bit of a hole at small forward, but the Bruins will be able to mix and match. Although Noah Allen is transferring to Hawai’i, the team returns Jonah Bolden and they can always move Isaac Hamilton to small forward with Ball and Bryce Alford taking command in the backcourt.

Remember it’s position-less basketball, so this is not a departure that the Bruins have to be concerned about.

Instant Reaction: Malik Newman commits to Kansas

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Malik Newman was a star at Callaway High School in Mississippi, as the 6’3″ combo guard was labeled as a five-star recruit and was ranked 10th in ESPN’s top 100 for the class of 2015.

Instead of joining a blueblood program – Kansas and Kentucky were heavily in the mix for Newman out of high school – the Jackson, Miss native opted to remain at home, deciding to attend Mississippi State to play under new head coach Ben Howland.

And it all went downhill from there.

Newman, who was projected as a one-and-done prospect before his freshman campaign kicked off, dealt with a nagging toe injury throughout the season and had a brutal year in the SEC.

The guard averaged 11.3 points, but grabbed only 2.8 rebounds per game, averaged only 0.3 more assists than turnovers, and was often left standing in the corner on half-court offensive possessions. Quinndary Weatherspoon was the best freshman on the team, and when Newman declared for the NBA Draft following the season, he was projected to go undrafted.

Newman was invited to the NBA Combine in Chicago, however, he played poorly, fumbling the ball out of bounds, taking bad shots, and failing to play solid defense in the 5-on-5 scrimmages.

Before the NCAA’s NBA Draft deadline, Newman decided to return to school. But instead of remaining with the Bulldogs, him and his family felt a fresh start would be best. Newman wasn’t happy with his role and clearly wasn’t pleased with the fact that the Bulldogs weren’t able to make the NCAA Tournament during his freshman season.

And with that, Newman finds himself in a situation that he could have very easily been in from the start.

On Friday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman announced that Newman has officially transferred to Kansas over Western Kentucky, Oregon and North Carolina State. He visited all four schools in the past few weeks, but felt most comfortable playing under Bill Self in the Big-12.

“I’m glad they wanted me again,” Newman said to ESPN. “I love the basketball culture at Kansas, the way Bill Self holds guys accountable and love the atmosphere.

Goodman is reporting that one of the main reasons that Newman chose Kansas was the opportunity to compete against one of the best backcourts in the country, Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, on a daily basis.

Newman is an excellent scorer – he is a solid shooter, good ball handler, great pick-and-roll player and can attack the rim – but he needs to work on his defense and consistency. Mason and Graham, who are always on the attack and bring a sense of toughness to any court they step on, will certainly test Newman, even if it’s only in a practice setting.

This is also a smart decision for Newman in terms of publicity. His goal is clearly to play at the next level and there is no place better (besides Kentucky and Duke) in terms of gaining national exposure than Kansas. The Jayhawks have won 12 straight Big 12 titles, make the NCAA Tournament in Lawrence is a yearly occurrence and play on national television all year long.

And most importantly, Newman will have a solid supporting cast, which should take the burden off his shoulders. The Mississippi State has to sit out one season (he doesn’t have eligibility until 2017-18 and can play two more seasons after that year), so Mason won’t play a second with Newman.

But Graham will be back for his senior season in 2017-18, and the Jayhawks also will have Lagerald Vick in the backcourt. Self is always active on the recruiting trail so they will almost certainly add at least one other guard in the near future.

Newman has some areas of his game to clean up, but this looks like the right move for the combo guard who hoped to dash to the NBA after one season in Starkville.

Oregon point guard Dylan Ennis granted sixth year of eligibility

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The Oregon Ducks were the favorites to win the Pac-12 even before Thursday’s breaking news.

With point guard Dylan Ennis being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, Dana Altman’s squad has the depth, talent and experience that should confirm that status atop the Pac-12

The former Villanova guard played in just two games last season (21 minutes and two points) due to a broken foot, but was always on the bench cheering on his teammates and working with the younger players.

Even though Ennis has never averaged double digits points in his career, he is an effective scorer, is smart with the ball in his hands, has valuable experience and can play numerous positions.

In his two seasons with Villanova (he played one year at Rice), the Brampton, ON native averaged 7.5 points, 2.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Ennis had a career year during his junior campaign where he averaged 9.9 points per game, shot 42 percent from the field, and drilled 36 percent from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, the Ducks have an intriguing core set up for the 2016-17 season. Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, Chris Boucher, Ennis, Jordan Bell, Casey Benson, Kendall Small and Roman Sorkin all return from a team that made the Elite Eight in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, while the squad is only losing seniors Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook.

And don’t forget about a solid freshman class. Oregon adds four-star sharp shooter Payton Pritchard, three-star small forward Keith Smart, three-star center Michael Cage Jr. and one of the best JUCO prospects in the country in Kavell Bigby-Williams.

Keeping Ennis in the fold not only gives the Ducks a quality leader and a player who has been through the gauntlet of college basketball, but it provides the team with more versatility. They can play with three-guards, can play small ball with Brooks at the four, and can switch ball handling duties between Benson, Dorsey, Pritchard and Ennis.

What does this all mean in the big picture?

Oregon has a legit chance to make their first Final Four since they won their only championship in 1939. The Ducks came so close to reaching Houston this year (they lost to Oklahoma), but with the experience they bring back in Eugene, this team will not only be the most dangerous unit in the Pac-12, but likely a top-7 team in the country.

So buckle up, Arizona and UCLA are in for some stiff tests in the Pac-12, while teams like Villanova, Kentucky and Duke cannot overlook the power of the Ducks.

Is former five-star recruit Thon Maker starting a new trend?

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12/5/15 7:20:06 PM -- Benton, KY, U.S.A -- Athlete Institute Prep forward Thon Maker (14) lines up for a free throw during the second half against Oak Hill Academy at the Grind Session basketball tournament. -- Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel USA TODAY Sports Images, Gannett ORG XMIT: US 134138 Grind Hoops 12/5/2015 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

7’0″ center Thon Maker couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

The Milwaukee Bucks were so enamored with the former five-star recruit that a smokescreen was sent out less than 12 hours before the start of the draft.

And the rest was history.

Maker, who was being heavily recruited by Indiana, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Kentucky before he found a loophole in the NBA Draft rules, was picked by the Bucks at number 10 overall. The selection sent shock waves throughout the NBA, college basketball and high school basketball landscape, as Maker hasn’t proven anything more than that he can look really, really talented on a mixtape.

But Maker played this one off nicely. He played at three different high schools and competed on the AAU circuit, but opted not to attend college (possibly because of eligibility issues), did not play in the Nike Hoop Summit this season and didn’t participate in the 5-on-5 portion of the NBA Combine.

The Sudan native was basically hiding from NBA scouts and executives, while former Kentucky Wildcat Skal Labissiere exposed himself at the college level. Labissiere, a prospect from Haiti, completely out-played Maker at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2015, but had a brutal season at Kentucky, where he lost confidence, couldn’t get off the bench and showed a lack of toughness.

Labissiere wasn’t selected until pick number 28 to the Sacramento Kings.

So the questions are, would Labissiere have been picked in the top-five if he didn’t attend college? And will other high school prospects decide not to play college basketball because of this situation?

CBS Sports and The Vertical were the first two outlets to mention this possible trend, and both sources believe that there is certainly a chance more players opt to make this decision.

But it is highly doubtful that the majority of prospects skip college basketball altogether. Regardless of the Maker situation, not playing college basketball is a true risk as it opens up issues about desire and attitude.

In Maker’s case, he has a unique skill set that sets him apart from other pro prospects. He has a combination of size, mobility, shooting touch, ball handling skills and guard-like skills. Very few athletes at his size can play on the perimeter and impact the game on all three levels.

Maker is not Kevin Durant (as high school basketball bloggers once predicted due to his unbelievable mixtape in 2014) and never will be, but there’s no question his upside and potential is there – especially if he gets stronger.

Was it a smart decision for Maker to hold out his services until now? Absolutely. He’s going to receive a four-year guaranteed contract with the opportunity to begin his career at the NBA level (instead of starting in the D-League).

That doesn’t mean others can do the same though. Each prospect and recruit is unique.

Maker would have had his fair share of questions at the college level (questions about his guardian, Ed Smith). Instead, he hid for months and is now ready to take his game to the next level.

College Football 2016: Four teams fans should look out for

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1.) Michigan: I’ve never seen a head coach who loves the game of football more than Jim Harbaugh. Watching Harbaugh pace down the sidelines, motivate his players and showing his emotions is like watching a college football fan bounce up and down in excitement when his team scores. Harbaugh is such an energizer bunny getting so into the game, that his players feed off of his energy and emotion and respond to it in a positive manner while playing extra harder for each other no matter the circumstance. To come into a place like Ann Arbor in your first year as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines football team where the tradition is known for championships, and go 10-3 that included a blowout win against an SEC school in the Florida Gators in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 41-7, that pretty much says it all about Jim Harbaugh’s football knowledge and understanding of the game. Did I mention they had two losing seasons the previous years before Harbaugh decided to become the head coach? I wouldn’t be surprised if Michigan is a favorite by some college football analysts to get to the college football playoff championship this year. If you haven’t been paying attention to the Wolverines recruiting or watching them period, I suggest you do. Here’s three letters for you on their recruiting: WOW.

2.) UF: McElw-i-n or McElwain? I can tell you this, Jim McElwain is winning and he’s the same Jim McElwain from Colorado State and Alabama who’s a true offensive guru and puts his players in positions to always make big plays and score touchdowns. What I’m very impressed about other than McElwain going 10-4 in his first year with a mediocre talent is his staff. He has some of the nations biggest coach names on his staff that includes Doug Nussmeier (Offensive Coordinator/Qb’s), Geoff Collins (Defensive Coordinator), Randy Shannon (Associate Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) and Chris Rumph (Assistant Coach/Defensive Line). The coaching staff is more than solid, but it’s time to see if they can get the right players to fit what the Gators are trying to achieve in Gainesville. The teams biggest need is quarterback, and it’s going to be interesting to see who’s number will be called to be under center when it August comes around. Who will it be? Will Gator fans be surprised and Treon Harris starts? Luke Del Rio? Austin Appleby?

3.) Texas: My grandfather always told me that “Patience is a virtue”. The ability to wait for something good to happen without getting upset can be tough to some people when you really want something, but it’ll all work out in the end if you just believe and stay patient. Do Texas Longhorn fans still believe Charlie Strong can do great things in Austin, TX? Strong was successful at Louisville in his four years going (37-15) along with two Big East championships and being named Big East Coach of the Year twice (2010, 2012). I’m not sure why fans don’t believe he can have the same success at Texas? May I remind you that Charlie Strong has also been weeding out players and cleaning up the program since he’s been there so that he can truly see who wants to be there for the long haul and be a Longhorn football player. Strong has an upbeat personality, but he’s a no non-sense guy. I can personally tell you that having going to one of his Florida Gator football camps when I was younger. As much as he wants to make the fans happy and win ball games, he wants to discipline the players and make them into responsible young men. Once these players buy into what Charlie Strong is trying to install at Texas, it’ll translate onto the field. I have no doubt Texas will be a national powerhouse again under the authority of Charlie Strong who has the track record to prove it.

4.) UCLA: Everybody, please give a round of applause for head coach, Jim Mora, on his two year contract extension with UCLA. He deserves it. He is 37-16 in four seasons with UCLA. The Bruins have also had a Pac-12 conference high eight players selected in this past NFL draft. Mora’s teams is returning just about all his starters on both ends of the football (Offense: 9), (Defense: 10), so we should expect another successful season in his fifth year with QB Josh Rosen under center, Paul Perkins in the backfield and Randall Gorforth and Jaleel Wadood at safety.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAVBbPz8gL0

Nebraska’s Andrew White requests release, intends to transfer

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Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Tim Miles cannot be pleased.

With only four months until the 2016-17 college basketball season tips-off, one of the team’s best players and leaders, Andrew White, has requested his release. He intends to transfer as a graduate student, and will be eligible immediately in 2016-17.

The 6’7″ Richmond, Virginia native averaged 16.6 points and grabbed 5.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 41 percent from downtown.

White played the first two seasons of his college basketball career at Kansas, where he played less than 10 minutes per game under Bill Self. In his freshman campaign, White averaged just 2.2 points per game before increasing (not by much) his total to 2.4 points per outing.

After opting to look for more playing time, White settled on Nebraska, where he developed into a solid inside-out player. The forward is capable of grabbing rebounds on the interior, handling the ball in transition, and knocking down open threes from the perimeter. He’s highly efficient, versatile and smart, but doesn’t exactly have great athleticism or speed.

His request to transfer has not been officially accepted just yet, but his return certainly doesn’t look promising, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

“Husker coach Tim Miles said Saturday evening that he talked to White earlier Saturday and was expecting to have another conversation on Saturday night. During that time, Miles said, White contacted Nebraska administration through social media to request a transfer.

White entered the NBA draft this spring and stayed in until pulling out on May 25, the final day.

Sources close to the program said even after White withdrew, they felt uncomfortable with his commitment to returning to Nebraska following his graduation in early May. The uncertainty has bubbled up periodically for the past month.”

Requesting a transfer through social media is not exactly the most professional way to go about business, but it’s clear that White doesn’t feel like he can reach his goal (professional basketball) at Nebraska.

That or he just wants a fresh start and an opportunity to explore his options at a new school following his graduation.

NCAA Basketball Notebook: Jordan Mathews to Gonzaga, Dayton lands four-star forward

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The drama of the 2016 NBA Draft overshadowed two critical stories in the West Coast Conference and the Atlantic-10 Conference.

While Ben Simmons is headed to Philly, Brandon Ingram is taking his talents to Los Angeles and Thon Maker was shockingly picked 10th overall, we cannot discount offseason additions in the college basketball world.

Jordan Mathews officially to Gonzaga

The worst kept secret in college hoops over the last few weeks was the fact that former California guard Jordan Mathews was going to commit to Mark Few and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. It was a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’

Following the draft, Mathews announced his decision, giving the Zags an immediately eligible guard who can knock down shots from the perimeter on a consistent basis and help space the floor.

Mathews averaged 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game during his junior campaign with the Golden Bears. He shot 41 percent from long range and 42 percent from the field.

While his shooting ability is second to none, Mathews also gives Gonzaga an experienced guard, who has played at a major level of college basketball.

Mathews adds another piece to already deep backcourt that consists of Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, freshman Zach Norvall and Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss.

And while the backcourt is good, the Bulldogs front court is dangerous as well, despite the losses of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. Przemek Karnowski (returning from a back injury) provides excellent defense and rim protection, four-star freshman Zach Collins adds size, length and ability in transition, Ryan Edwards is 7-foot-1, and Johnathan Williams III is an intriguing piece from Missouri.

 

The wing position is a major question mark for the Bulldogs, but this may be Few’s best team ever. They have depth, balance, experience and talent.

Other than Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga should roll through conference play, and part of the reason is because of the addition of Mathews.

Kostas Antetokounmpo lands at Dayton

Four-star forward and the brother of Milwaukee Bucks guard/forward Giannis Antetokounmpo committed to Archie Miller and the Dayton Flyers on Thursday. Kostas is a 6’9″ combo forward out of Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Dominican High School who had interest from Florida and St. John’s.

Antetokounmpo possesses great length and size, but his game is raw and he still needs to develop a jump shot. The good news is that the ‘Mini Greek Freak’ won’t be counted on to provide Dayton with much production in year one, as the team is already loaded with returning, experienced players.

The Flyers have plenty of depth, which should give Antetokounmpo the opportunity to learn the nuances of the game before gaining at major role in the A-10 Conference.