The players and teams that work behind the scenes

By Jake Navarro ’20

After a long hard fought out season NCAA basketball has come to an end, as the Villanova Wildcats won their second championship in three years. Even though the biggest achievement of basketball is winning the national championship, individual accolades, outstanding teams and failed seasons should be further discussed.

Every year, new freshmen enter the league and surprise everybody with their talents. According to Jared Wainshal ’19, “Trae Young deserves more credit than he received. He led his team to March Madness as a freshman while being accountable for 50 percent of their teams points.” Wainshal continued to talk about the lack of skill from the rest of the players on the team and that Trae Young deserves to be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

While individual players showed lots of talent, many teams surprised us this year showing that no-name teams should never be slept on. “Loyola Chicago was one of the best underdog teams that I have watched in the past couple of years. I really think they can be good in the ensuing seasons,” Sammy Guthartz ’20 said. He continued to talk about the depth of the team and how any man can step up to make a big play.

On the other hand many teams were talked upon very highly, but did not deserve the recognition that they were given. “Michigan played well throughout the year and they made it to the final four, but if you look at who they played their schedule was extremely easy and should of had no trouble making it as far as they did,” Henry Beck ’21 said. He mentioned that not only was their schedule easy but many of their players were not as talented as past generations of Michigan basketball players have been.

This year, many teams did not play up to par as they used to, showing the lack of skill and the fall of a super team. “The Wisconsin badgers went 7-11 this year in the Big Ten going four games under .500 and not making it to March Madness,” Brett Levy ’20 said. Levy continued to talk about how the Wisconsin Badgers had made it to the tournament for the past five years and even making it to the finals, but their lack of talent has been making their basketball program plummet.

Many people when they watch games pay attention to who scores the most points or who is the flashiest player, but no one talks about how much a team prides themselves about defense. “The West Virginia Mountaineers played one of the best defenses I have ever seen and point guard Jevon Carter is one of the most outstanding defenders,” Jake Glickman ’20 said. He continued to talk about the strength and speed of Jevon Carter and how important it is for a leader like him to captain a team.

Every year players show off their talent to impress NBA scouts and coaches to help make their case to be drafted. “My MVP would go to Deandre Ayton of the Arizona Wildcats. He proved that age does not matter as he destroyed the competition as a freshman,” Holden Cohen ’20 said. He commented on how he truly took over the Pac-12 and the NCAA in his first year in playing a collegiate sport.

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NBA Mock Draft

By Jackson Daignault ’18

With the NBA playoffs starting this week, the regular season is officially closed. While the contenders are focusing on advancing in the playoffs, lottery teams are finally in NBA draft season. This is one of the more talented drafts in the last 10 years, so it figures to be pretty unpredictable, with multiple potential franchise cornerstones throughout. The Phoenix Suns have the best chance at the number one overall pick (25 percent) with the Nuggets in the rear (0.3 percent).

Below is my mock first ten picks for the 2018 NBA draft in June, based off of the record of teams who did not make the playoffs.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Deandre Ayton, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Arizona

Ayton is a generational talent. He averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in his lone season at Arizona. He has elite physical traits, at 7’0” with a 7’5” at 243 pounds. He has shown flashes of intense potential on the offensive end, but needs to put it together on defense. In terms of fit in Phoenix, the Suns lack a go to scorer up front. A Devin Booker-Ayton pick and roll will be deadly, with both having the capability to score from almost anywhere on the court.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Luka Doncic, 19 years old, Real Madrid

Doncic is the best international prospect in 10 years. His unique blend of scoring and facilitating puts him in a class of his own. He has a smooth three point shot, but also runs the pick-and-roll very fluidly. He can rotate from the 1-3, and figures to fit in very well in the new positionless NBA. The Grizzlies are in no position to pass on talent, and Doncics upside is high enough for Memphis to take him to become the face of their franchise.

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Marvin Bagley Jr., Freshman, 19 years old, Duke University

Bagley is one of the more difficult prospects to scout. His athleticism is no doubt, at 6’11” with 7’0.5”, but he lacks a position in the NBA. He seems to have the defensive tools to succeed regardless, but does not have a reliable enough jump shot to play the three. He scored well in college, averaging 21 points on 64 percent shooting, but his half court offense remains a question mark. Still, the Hawks need a culture change, and Coach Mike Budenholzer is known to maximize the talent out of his players. If Atlanta doesn’t hop onto the Bagley Jr. hype train, expect him to be drafted within the next two picks.

  1. Orlando Magic

Michael Porter Jr., Freshman, 19 years old, University of Missouri

Porter is another extremely interesting prospect to scout. After being highly sought after out of high school, he suffered a back injury and was forced to miss the majority of his senior season. Injuries aside, the upside for Porter is unlimited. A dynamite scorer, Porter can hit shots from anywhere on the court. He needs to work on his decision making both when shooting and handling the ball. Still, his confidence doesn’t waver, and he has the potential to be a very dangerous scorer in the NBA. Similarly to the Hawks and Grizzlies, the Magic are in talent acquisition mode. Last years lottery pick Jonathan Isaac will continue to be a project for Orlando and figures to be a small ball four, depending on the future of Aaron Gordon. Porter will become the go to guy in Orlando immediately.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Jaren Jackson Jr., Freshman, 18 years old, Michigan State

Jackson is the youngest player in the top five, but is also one of the safest bets. He is one of the best defenders in the nation this season, averaging three blocks per game. He is a prototype switch-everything type defender, which proves he deserves a place in the NBA. Still, his offensive skills will need to catch up with his defensive talent. Regardless, Jackson is a great fit for the Mavs. After the Nerlens Noel fiasco, the team is looking for a long term answer to man the middle. They already have a young star in Dennis Smith Jr., and a reliable, defensive and athletic center to run the pick-and-roll will do wonders for both of their developments.

  1. Sacramento Kings

Mo Bamba, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Texas

An absolute physical specimen (7’0’’ tall, 7’9” wingspan, 9’6” standing reach) has the potential to be something special in the NBA. Similar to Jackson, he was a great defender with 3.6 blocks per game. His physical tools and length allow him to move around the court with ease, guarding multiple positions. His shot does need work, despite his attempting of 51 threes during his lone collegiate season. Many experts agree that if Bamba can put it all together, he will be a three-point shooting Rudy Gobert. The Kings would finally have a piece to replace their Demarcus-Cousins-sized hole. The Willie Cauley-Stein project is still a work in progress, but the Kings would be silly to pass on Bamba. The team lacks interior scoring, especially after Zach Randolph retires after this season, and Bamba will do wonders to fill that spot. If Bamba reaches his full upside, he will be a great potential cornerstone for the Kings.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Via Brooklyn)

Collin Sexton, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Alabama

Sexton solidified his lottery status with his post season play. He lead the Crimson Tide to the SEC semi-final game, and was instrumental in defeating Virginia Tech in March, with 25 points on 50 percent shooting. Sexton plays hard with an infectious swagger. Sexton is a score-first point guard that plays with a ton of grit. His overall relentlessness gives him the potential to be a lockdown defender. If Lebron James leaves Cleveland in free agency, Sexton gives the Cavs a new, hard nosed identity. They may flip back and forth between Sexton and Oklahoma star Trae Young, but Sexton seems to be the safer pick who will fit in Cleveland regardless of Lebrons next decision.

  1. Chicago Bulls

Wendell Carter Jr., Freshman, 18 years old, Duke University

The Duke product has rare quickness and poise for someone of his size (6’10”/263 lbs). Similarly to Al Horford, Carter Jr. is a “do-it-all” big man. He does not have terrific athletic ability, but instead gets by with sound fundamentals. He can shoot spot up threes, finish lobs and is also a great passer. He is a very strong rebounder and a talented interior defender. The Bulls could use someone of Carter Jr.’s nature, as a glue guy that does not have a lot of weaknesses. He currently does not have the roaring upside that players like Ayton and Bamba have, but for a Bulls team with no clear future, getting someone as reliable as Carter Jr. seems like a win.

  1. New York Knicks

Trae Young, Freshman, 19 years old, University of Oklahoma

Trae Young is the most complex prospect in the 2018 class. He started off the year on a tear, compiling highlight plays for a living. He looked unstoppable from beyond the arc, being compared to Steph Curry. He also passed the ball very well, proving that he was not one dimensional. He looked like a bonafide top five pick and potential franchise cornerstone. Fast forward a couple of months, and Young’s stock has plummeted. He has been criticized for his shot choice on a bad Oklahoma team and his poor defense. Both of those issues were caused by his Oklahoma team that couldn’t compete without him. If he wasn’t scoring 30 points a game and playing the entire game, the Sooners couldn’t compete, so he developed poor shot selection and saved his energy for the offensive side of the ball (see Hero Ball in dictionary). Still, there is no denying his talent, as he lead the nation in points (27.4 per game) and assists (8.7 per game). Young seems like a no brainer for New York. A team that has been looking for a point guard since Steve Francis, Young will become a New York hero. His rare combination of outside shooting and crafty passing screams Madison Square Garden. He will have to play second fiddle to Kristaps Porzingis, but will thrive when KP is doubled and he’s squared up at the top of the key. New York seems like the perfect fit for the star from Oklahoma.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles)

Mikal Bridges, Junior, 21 years old, Villanova University

Fresh off his second national championship, Bridges is no stranger to winning. Bridges is the prototype 3-and-D player. He averaged 17.8 points per game on the best team in the country. He excelled in catch-and-shoot situations, with 43.6 percent from beyond the arc. He also averaged 1.5 steals along with 1.1 blocks per game. Bridges is also strong driving to the lane, and is no stranger to swinging the ball. Bridges will excell on the defensive side of the ball, where his speed and length will give him the ability to defend guards and wings. Bridges will fit in perfectly in Philadelphia. While the Sixers have Robert Covington on the wing, NBA teams will never turn down another player who can guard four positions on the floor. Bridges will not be a go-to-scorer in Philly, but instead will play off of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He will not be asked to shoulder the load, but instead will be in prime position for spot up threes and shots off screens – either on the fast break or in half-court scenarios with Simmons. Philly seems like the perfect landing place for Bridges.

The NCAA is Correct in its Ruling Against Louisville Basketball

By Jack Lev ’20

On Feb. 27 the NCAA upheld penalties against Louisville’s men’s basketball program regarding a sex scandal which involves players, recruits and prostitutes. The punishment which was handed to Louisville is harsh but justified.    

According to the New York Times, Louisville wll be stripped of 123 wins, as well as “every game it won from the 2011-12 through the 2014-15 seasons — and all of its N.C.A.A. tournament appearances during that period, including its 2012 and 2013 trips to the Final Four and the 2013 national championship.” Along with this punishment, the program must vacate roughly $600,000 in tournament payouts from those seasons.

The way the NCAA handled this situation may seem a bit cruel considering they’re attempting to take away a championship from student-athletes who worked hard to accomplish their goal, but it is perfectly suitable. According to the New York Post, it was found that a Louisville athletic department operative “determined he’d invite strippers and hookers into a dorm exclusively housing athletes to do what hookers and strippers are paid to do.” The article went on to discuss how the Louisville “escort” claims she was paid $10,000 over a four-year period by the director of basketball operations at the school, Andre McGee.

After the NCAA ruled on this case, the President of Louisville basketball, Greg Postel had the nerve to come out and say he believes the NCAA is “simply wrong.” First of all, it is insulting that Postel would say such a thing after it was made clear that the NCAA is correct in their findings, and Louisville is on their second coach of the season due to an earlier scandal which regarded the team violating NCAA recruiting rules and paying players, so I would suggest that Postel focuses on getting his program in the correct manner before he critiques others. Lastly, many will argue that schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have gotten off easy for similar violations, but just because the NCAA did not make the right decision in the past, doesn’t mean Louisville should go unpunished. We must start somewhere.  

FBI Investigation Uncovers Years of Paying Student Athletes

By Jacob Kogan ’18

A recent FBI investigation has uncovered multiple potential under-the-table bribes and payments to NCAA student athletes. On Feb.23, documents were released that put over 20 schools under the microscope, including Kansas, Duke and Kentucky. These schools have been linked to the sports marketing agency, ASM Sports, which has been allowing for loans and payments to ensure enrollment for top college and NBA prospects and remain competitive in collegiate basketball. Students were taking loans from coaches and agents to help them take care of extra the extra expenses of college such as food and transportation with the understanding that the agencies will be paid back once the player enters the NBA and recieves his first contract.

However, the most solid evidence of misconduct comes from the FBI wiretaps that put Arizona head coach Sean Miller in the hot seat.  According to the New York Post, a conversation occurred between Miller and associate Christian Dawkins regarding a $100,000 payment to secure the enrollment of elite freshman DeAndre Ayton. Digging deeper into Arizona’s history, it was found that assistant coach, Emmanuel Richardson has taken $20,000 in bribes and has been paying players to play for Arizona. Despite Miller’s denial of any wrongdoing, Richardson was charged with six felonies.

Among the scandal and the accusations toward Arizona, incoming freshman Shareef O’Neal recently announced that he is decommitting to Arizona. Last Saturday, O’Neal tweeted that he and his family “think it’s in [his] best interest to look at other options to assure [his] play in the NCAA next year.”

In the future, the FBI will uncover many more instances of bribes and payments among top NCAA basketball teams around the nation. This is the way that these schools have been running their programs for years and there’s no stopping it just yet.

Who Will Claim the Throne?

By Jack Lev ’20

With the season beginning on Nov. 10, the buzz up and down the hallways of Staples High School is centered around the 2018 college basketball season.  

Students have been investigating questions such as: will the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill take home the national championship for the second year in a row or will there be a new team whom claims the throne? Who will receive the award of Naismith Player of the Year? Are freshman phenoms such as Mohamed Bamba of Texas and Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky going to live up to the hype?

When asked which team will take home the National Championship this year, Benny Feuer ’20 was adamant that Duke will win the title. After coming off of a disappointing season where Duke was the first team to ever be ranked number one going into the year and not advance past the “sweet 16”, this program is hungry for a championship. In order to accomplish this goal of winning a national title, the Blue Devils staff dedicated themselves to recruiting top-notch incoming freshman for the 2018 season. Duke acquired seven players, four of which rank amongst the top 20 players in the country according to ESPN, including the number one player in the nation, Marvin Bagley. With the likes of Bagley and returning senior, Grayson Allen, Feuer’s prediction is certainly not unjustifiable.

Jake Thaw ’20 disagrees with Feuer’s stance. Thaw believes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will win their second title in a row.“Coming up big in the recruiting class of 2017, they (the University of North Carolina) got Jalek Felton, a much needed young guard to help support Joel Berry,” he said. Thaw went on to state how there would be “no reason this team wouldn’t be able to contend with the fantastic freshman of Duke, Louisville, etc.” Although North Carolina lost some great players to the NBA draft this year such as Justin Jackson and big-man Kennedy Meeks, as Thaw pointed out, the school acquired Jalek Felton who ranks number 28 in the country via ESPN and number one for his position (point guard), amongst six other exceptional recruits.

Another highly debated question at Staples is who will win the award for Naismith Player of the Year? Last year, Frank Mason III of the University of Kansas received the award, but now that he is in the NBA, there will be a new winner. There is a lot of talk surrounding guys like Marvin Bagely of Duke and DeAndre Ayton of Arizona, but Sam Maged ’20 has a different thought on who will claim the award this season. “Michael Porter Jr. will win the Naismith player of the year because of his versatility; he will lead a struggling Missouri team last year to a successful season where they will finish with a winning record,” he said.

Maged seemed quite sure that the number two recruit according to 247sports, will be taking the Naismith award home this year. The 6’10” small forward is full of potential and represents a case similar to what college basketball fans witnessed in the 2015-2016 season with Ben Simmons who averaged a staggering 19.2 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game at LSU; Simmons wound up being selected number one overall in the NBA draft following his freshman year. Other players who have the potential of winning the award for the 2018 season include: Colin Sexton out of Alabama, Joel Berry II from UNC at Chapel Hill, Trevon Duval of Duke, and Jevon Carter from West Virginia.

Lastly, there’s the question of will freshman phenom such as Mohamed Bamba of Texas and Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky live up to the hype. “I think Bamba will play well but won’t live up to the hype he is getting from media entering the season, but I do think Diallo will be unreal,”  Michael Loucas ’20 said.

Mohamed Bamba, although just a freshman, has already been called a “potential top ten pick in the 2018 NBA draft” and “an elite defensive presence,” by NBC Sports. Only time will tell if Bamba will rise to the occasion and surpass the pedestal he has been put on by the media or crumble under the pressure and fall.

After redshirting his freshman year, Hamidou Diallo has decided to return to Kentucky and not declare for the draft. Although Diallo didn’t play his freshman season, he was projected to be taken in the 20’s of the first round for this year’s NBA draft. Despite not playing a game for Kentucky to this point, Diallo has been called the “holy grail of guards” by SBNation, and has given hope to the fans of Kentucky. According to SBNation, Diallo has a 44.5 inch-vertical and a wingspan of 6’11,” although he is only 6’5”.  

Watching the freshman talents of Marvin Bagely, Michael Porter Jr., Colin Sexton, etc. will make for an exhilarating 2018 college basketball season. And by the time it gets to March, the students at Staples will of course have their computers out doing hard work (not watching March Madness to see who will win the national championship).