Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 NBA Draft: A Running Diary

NBA commissioner David Stern displays his self-deprecating humor by addressing Celtics fan prior to Boston's first selection in NBA Draft.  (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection)

This was a pretty interesting NBA Draft.

About 30 minutes before game time, I made the conscious decision to avoid Twitter after having the 2011 draft ruined by reporters scooping draft picks minutes before they were announced, and instead decided to pay homage to Bill Simmons with the following.  So without any further ado, I give you a running diary of the 2012 NBA Draft.

7:32 – David Stern booed as usual and says “Thank you for the warm welcome.”

7:33 – Stern channels his inner Hulk Hogan circa 1996 and even does the hand-cupping to his ear motion when referencing the Miami Heat’s NBA championship win, prompting even louder boos from the Newark crowd.  A few years ago, this could have counted as a WWE SmackDown opening segment until Vince McMahon moved the show to Friday.

7:37 – Stern officially inducts Anthony Davis into the NBA.  Love this year’s draft hats by the way.  Any time you can get an old-school style into a sport that desperately needs it, you’ve done something right.

7:39 – We get our first “wingspan” reference from Jay Bilas, who triples the effect by saying it thrice.  Ever the entertainer, Bilas says “three times, America” – a nod toward the drinking game that most fans play whenever listening to his analysis.

7:41 – Heather Cox interviews Davis’ parents.  Not seeing Craig Sager looking like a blackjack dealer is quite refreshing.

7:42 – Rece Davis points out the Bobcats are “coming off a historically bad season.”  We knew that already.

7:43 – The Bobcats shock the critics by selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but as CBS’ Jeff Goodman pointed out before the draft, it’s not really a shock since Kidd-Gilchrist and new coach Mike Dunlap share the same agent.  Also not shocking: Stern hails the kid as being from New Jersey for a cheap pop from the crowd.

7:44 – Daly Dose superfan David Rochford boldly points out that there are more fans at the Prudential Center tonight than there are for a Seton Hall game.  Sadly, he may be right.

7:47 – The run on SEC players continues as the Wizards draft Florida’s Bradley Beal, who turned 19 tonight.

7:50 – Impressed with the fact that ESPN hasn’t made a big deal out of Twitter the way most other networks do.  Not one @(insert name here) graphic yet.

7:53 – I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cleveland take Thomas Robinson and then trade him to Charlotte for Kidd-Gilchrist.

7:54 – ESPN’s Andy Katz was all over this last night: The Cavaliers take Dion Waiters out of Syracuse fourth overall.  One of the best players in the draft, Waiters is Syracuse’s highest draft pick since Carmelo Anthony went third overall in 2003.

7:56 – With Irving and Waiters, Cleveland has their best backcourt since Mark Price and Terrell Brandon in the mid-‘90s.

7:57 – Am I the only one who thinks John Calipari looks like Robert De Niro?  Think about it: They even have the same mole on their right cheek.

7:59 – Steal number two as Robinson goes to the Kings.  I’m a little surprised to see Harrison Barnes fall out of the top five, but most critics called this; so as Chris Russo would say, “that’s a great job in a big spot.”

8:02 – I’m just hearing about Thomas Robinson having lost both grandparents and his mother three weeks apart.  For him to be doing this and supporting his sister speaks volumes about the kid.  From someone whose parents separated when I was 13 and was raised by a single mother, I can somewhat relate.  This kid has my respect and support even more now than he did when he was just a great player at Kansas.

8:05 – Portland takes Damian Lillard sixth overall.  For Portland fans praying he doesn’t suffer the same fate as Sam Bowie or Greg Oden, remember this: He’s a guard.

8:08 – First Twitter sighting with a tweet from South Carolina coach Frank Martin appearing on screen.  New York fans get to see Martin twice, as he takes on St. John’s at Carnesecca Arena and Manhattan at the Barclays Center this season.

8:09 – I’m curious as to the reaction of my good friend Evan Roberts, the WFAN midday show co-host who is a long-suffering Nets fan.  (Remember, the Nets traded the pick Portland just took Lillard with to get Gerald Wallace.)  Roberts is on vacation at the moment, so I’ll post his reaction if I get it.

8:11 – North Carolina’s first draft pick is Harrison Barnes, who goes seventh to the Warriors.  As a die-hard Carolina fan, I hope Barnes turns out better for the Warriors than Brandan Wright did, because that kid would have been something special if he would have stayed in school rather than leaving after one year.

8:12 – Is it me, or is Rece Davis starting to look like Jay Wright?

8:16 – The Raptors take Terrence Ross from Washington eighth overall.  Bryan Colangelo may have spit it up again with this pick, passing up on Jeremy Lamb and Austin Rivers.

8:17 – From David Rochford in regard to Washington having Ross and Tony Wroten, but missing the NCAA Tournament: “#1BidPac12.”  (Thank Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner for spreading that hashtag to the masses)

8:19 – My friend and fellow college basketball insider Jon Rothstein said the Pistons were doing last-minute research on Andre Drummond in case he fell to them at No. 9.  Guess what: The UConn big man is still out there.

8:20 – I can’t tell you how much I love Fran Fraschilla’s analysis of international players.  I forgot about Jonas Valanciunas before tonight, to be honest with you.

8:21 – ESPN defying Roger Goodell’s vision of not tipping picks by showing Drummond on camera.

8:22 – The boos for Stern never get old.  Neither does him eating up the reaction.  Pistons take Drummond by the way.

8:23 – Another three shots if you’re playing the Bilas drinking game.  Drummond has a 90-inch wingspan for those of you scoring at home.

8:25 – Drummond tells Mark Jones he made the right call leaving UConn early.  Due to the Huskies’ APR problems, next season really wouldn’t count for much, would it?

8:28 – Jon Rothstein is 2-for his last-2 now that the Hornets drafted Austin Rivers tenth overall.  The man had this in an interview yesterday with WFAN’s Joe Benigno.

8:35 – Portland takes Meyers Leonard at No. 11.  Will the 7-1 big man be as good as Arvydas Sabonis, or as average as Chris Dudley?

8:41 – With their first of three picks, Houston takes Jeremy Lamb at No. 12 rather than a big man.  A surprising pick, but the UConn guard will make up for it with his mounds of talent and potential.

8:48 – I didn’t know Kendall Marshall turned into Roy Williams!

8:49 – Marshall’s selection by the Phoenix Suns is great because he’s just as good a passer as Steve Nash.  This kid will be great in that system.  My mock draft was also vindicated with this pick, but nobody really cares, right?

8:53 – John Henson goes from the best North Carolina player over the last three years to the Milwaukee Bucks’ best frontcourt player with the 14th overall selection.

8:54 – Wingspan AND Bill Simmons references?  Great work, Mr. Bilas.

8:58 – With the 15th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Maurice Harkless, forward from St. John’s University.  Harkless is the first St. John’s draft pick since Omar Cook in 2001, and first opening round selection since Erick Barkley in 2000.  It’s about time my alma mater is back.

9:01 – WSJU host and play-by-play announcer Jon Perez, who also does a great Marv Albert impression, texts me to remind me that he called Harkless to the Sixers earlier in the day.  Be sure to listen to “Jon and John in the Morning,” which Perez co-hosts with fellow St. John’s student John Sudolsky, next semester when they return to the air.

9:05 – The Rockets take Royce White of Iowa State with the 16th overall pick.  This kid is a star in the making if he can replicate his NCAA Tournament performance against Connecticut.

9:10 – Mavericks take Tyler Zeller, but will reportedly trade the rights to the North Carolina center.  It’s a shame too, because he would have been great alongside Dirk Nowitzki.

9:18 – Rockets complete their trifecta with Terrence Jones in the No. 18 spot.  With Lamb, White and Jones, it’s safe to say that Daryl Morey had yet another excellent draft.

9:23 – Speaking as a Magic fan, I’m very happy with this Andrew Nicholson pick.  Got to see him against Fordham last year, and this kid is freaking amazing.  Scored 30 with no effort at all against the Rams, and with a little seasoning, he could be a Tim Duncan-esque pro.

9:27 – Denver takes Evan Fournier, a French swingman.  Best part of this pick: We get a detailed scouting report from Fran Fraschilla.

9:33 – David Rochford: “Let’s see how much the Celtics kill Bill Simmons.”

9:34 – Stern points to a fan holding a sign stating “In Danny (Ainge) we trust.”  You just have to love a guy who can play along with his never-ending criticism.  Boston drafts Jared Sullinger in the No. 21 spot for those of you scoring at home.

9:42 – Celtics take Fab Melo at 22.  After how much of a force he was defensively for Syracuse, this will help the Celtics get the foul calls they should have got in the Eastern Conference finals against Miami.  This kid should be a solid pro in Beantown.

9:48 – Atlanta gets the best shooter in the draft at No. 23, taking Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins.  An Allan Houston clone in terms of shooting, Jenkins will keep Atlanta in close games and adds a reputation for success in the clutch to a backcourt that includes Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson.

9:52 – Picking for Dallas as a result of the Tyler Zeller trade, Cleveland takes Jared Cunningham out of Oregon State.  Considering he played for Michelle Obama’s brother in college, this is shaping up to be a pretty good night in the White House.

9:59 – Kentucky’s fifth player still on the board after Tony Wroten goes to the Grizzlies at 25, eliciting another “#1BidPac12” reference from David Rochford.

10:04 – Miles Plumlee to the Pacers?  Seriously?  This kid has to be getting traded.  Not sure what the Pacers are thinking if they keep this pick.

10:06 – ESPN really can’t go more than an hour without mentioning LeBron, huh?

10:08 – Rece Davis on Stern taking forever to come out: “I promise he’s back there.”

10:09 – Stern REALLY knows how to work a crowd.  If Vince McMahon needs a new bad guy, all he has to do is have Stern announce the “NBA champion” Miami Heat the way he just did in Newark tonight.  The reigning champs get a solid pick in Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie, who I had going twelve spots earlier.

10:10 – Lost in the shuffle of draft night is the fact that the festivities are being held in an arena that no longer hosts an NBA franchise after the Nets decided to make it real and trade in these wings on some wheels.  (For those of you unsure of that reference, watch the following video)

10:14 – Oklahoma City selects Perry Jones at No. 28.  After playing at Baylor, he instantly upgrades the quality of his jersey.

10:21 – Chicago gets their backup to Derrick Rose, and it’s Marquis Teague of Kentucky, who surprisingly fell to 29.  Bulls were going to take Tyshawn Taylor if Teague wasn’t there, but this is a better choice.

10:25 – Another trade, as Miami sends Arnett Moultrie to Philadelphia for the 45th overall pick.

10:26 – David Stern’s swan song announces Festus Ezeli to Golden State.

10:27 – Stern reminds us that Adam Silver will conduct the second round.  Is that really a good thing?

10:28 – WE WANT GRANIK!  For those of you scoring at home, that’s a reference to former deputy commissioner Russ Granik, who never should have retired.

10:32 – Adam Silver comes out to a rousing ovation and announces Jeffery Taylor as the Bobcats’ second-round selection.


10:36 – Tomas Satoransky from the Czech Republic joins countryman Jan Vesely after he is drafted by the Wizards.  Cue Fran Fraschilla’s always-refreshing analysis.  I wonder if Satoransky can top this.

10:40 – Cleveland drafts Bernard James for Dallas.  Solid pick for a guy who is a true defender on and off the court, the latter for serving three tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar during a six-year stint as a member of the Air Force.

10:43 – The third of Cleveland’s picks for Dallas goes to one of the best players in the draft, Marquette’s Jae Crowder.  The unheralded junior college transfer was the Big East Player of the Year last season, and now gets to learn from one of the best small forwards in the NBA in Shawn Marion.

10:50 – Draymond Green goes to the Warriors at No. 35 overall.  The kid is simply a winner.  He’ll make this team better the first time he shows up for practice.

10:51 – Sacramento selects Orlando Johnson at No. 36, keeping him in the state of California for just a few minutes before they trade him to the Pacers.

10:52 – Raptors may have taken their replacement for Chris Bosh if they hold on to him, drafting Baylor’s Quincy Acy with the 37th pick.

10:54 – Two guys named Quincy from Baylor go back-to-back, as Quincy Miller gets drafted by the Nuggets.

10:55 – Jay Bilas speaks for the nation when he says “those (Baylor) uniforms are burning my retinas.”  Well done once again, Jay.

10:58 – ESPN goes to break and misses the Pistons’ second-round pick, who turns out to be Khris Middleton of Texas A&M.

11:02 – Portland continues a surprisingly solid draft by adding Will Barton and Tyshawn Taylor to their first-round haul of Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard.

11:03 – Well, maybe just Barton now that Andy Katz reported that Taylor was traded to the Nets.

11:04 – Moving right along as Milwaukee picks up Doron Lamb to join Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in a star-studded backcourt.

11:05 – Still waiting for Iona’s Scott Machado to get selected.  When he does, there may be a few fist pumps to commemorate it.

11:06 – A graphic shows Kentucky has a 5-4 lead on North Carolina in players selected.  Carolina isn’t going any higher than four.  Justin Watts is not getting drafted, people.  Even though I like the kid, it’s just not happening.

11:08 – Silver announces a trade we knew 10 minutes ago.  WE WANT GRANIK.

11:12 – Mike Scott (forward from Virginia) and Kim English (guard from Missouri) taken 43rd and 44th by the Hawks and Pistons, respectively.  ESPN shows the Scott pick but misses the English pick.

11:14 – While the Worldwide Leader is again away doing a little business with America, (in the words of the late great Gene Rayburn) the Sixers draft another big man, LSU center Justin Hamilton, but send him to Miami to complete the Arnett Moultrie deal.

11:16 – Hornets take the sixth Kentucky player by going for Davis’ teammate Darius Miller at No. 46.

11:17 – Machado could be in play for Utah after he worked out for the Jazz last week.

11:18 – So much for that, as the Jazz go for Tennessee Tech’s Kevin Murphy.

11:19 – Knicks on the clock.  The NBA’s answer to the Jets on draft day, but not quite as raucous.

11:20 – The Knicks would do something like that, taking Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou.  This looks like Frederic Weis all over again.  At least we get a Fraschilla scouting report.

11:21 – David Rochford: “Maybe James Dolan can solve the Greek financial issue.”

11:22 – Machado to the Magic would be a dream come true since Jameer Nelson has an option at the end of next season.

11:23 – Magic take Kyle O’Quinn from Norfolk State.  Somewhat anticlimactic, but the kid is legitimate.  Got to see him in person when Norfolk State beat St. Francis before they shocked the world against Missouri.

11:24 – Nuggets draft Izzet Turkyilmaz out of Turkey.  They tried this in 2002 when they took Nikoloz Tskitishvili fifth overall.  Didn’t work then, may not work now.

11:25 – Celtics take Kris Joseph at No. 51, reuniting him with Fab Melo.  Great pick in a tricky spot.

11:26 – Nine picks to go and Machado is still on the board.  Starting to get a little uneasy here.

11:27 – Another “wingspan” reference from Bilas, and another shot for those who haven’t already passed out.

11:30 – Mavericks/Cavaliers trade announced by Silver an hour after it was initially reported.  WE WANT GRANIK.  Who is Ognjen Kuzmic?  The Warriors just drafted him from Bosnia.


11:33 – Clippers select Furkan Aldemir from Turkey during a commercial break.


11:35 – The bottom line inexplicably disappears from my screen.  If Machado gets picked here, I may go on strike against ESPN.

11:36 – Bottom line and ESPN return with the Sixers still on the clock at No. 54.  No pick during the break.

11:37 – Fraschilla earning his money yet again.  This guy needs to get a coaching gig though.  He’s too good not to have one.

11:38 – Tornike Shengelia?  At least we get more Fraschilla analysis.

11:41 – Dallas gets a great pick in Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom.  Mavs also reunite him with Jae Crowder, who was taken for them by Cleveland earlier in the night.  (Note: Johnson-Odom was traded to the Lakers shortly after the draft went off the air)

11:42 – Five more picks left.  Hopefully Machado is one of them.

11:44 – Fran Fraschilla has one more to give us when ESPN comes back from break now that Raptors have taken Tomislav Zubcic of Croatia at No. 56.

11:45 – Brooklyn Nets on the clock.  Would love to see Machado stay home.

11:46 – Robbie Hummel cracks Jay Bilas’ best available list.  If anyone really does deserve to be drafted, it’s him.

11:48 – Nets add to the Fraschilla workload drafting Turkey’s Ilkan Karaman.

11:49 – Seven of the last ten players taken are European.  This is unbelievable.

11:50 – Minnesota on the clock.  Let’s see what rabbit David Kahn pulls out of his hat this time.

11:51 - Silver announces the Moultrie-for-Hamilton swap before announcing the Timberwolves’ pick, which is Robbie Hummel.

11:52 – David Kahn gets it right taking Hummel.  The kid deserves every minute of this.

11:53 – Down to the Spurs and Lakers now.  Will Machado go to one of them?

11:54 – Magic Johnson not in attendance in Newark can only mean one thing: He’s working on fixing the Dodger Stadium parking scenario.

11:55 – A typical Spurs pick: Marcus Denmon of Missouri.  Excellent pick of a shooter who fits right into Gregg Popovich’s system.

11:56 – The Lakers wrapping it up with…hopefully Machado.

11:59 – One final montage played before the announcement of Mr. Irrelevant.  Really tense moments here waiting for Machado to hopefully get what he deserves.

12:00 – Mitch Kupchak was at the Hynes Center this season.  Could it be?

12:01 – Lakers draft Robert Sacre out of Gonzaga, a deserving pick that will make Andrew Bynum even more expendable.

12:02 – Thank you, NBA salary cap.  Your restrictions have turned general managers onto the concept of stashing picks overseas and depriving deserving players of their rightful moments in the sun.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Harkless Drafted By 76ers

Maurice Harkless meets David Stern after NBA commissioner announces him as 15th overall selection in tonight's NBA Draft, taken by Philadelphia 76ers.  (Photo courtesy of Comcast SportsNet Philly)

The wait is over.

St. John's University finally had a player selected in the NBA Draft again after an eleven-year drought, as forward Maurice Harkless was taken fifteenth overall by the Philadelphia 76ers tonight.  The Queens product joins a young and rising Sixer team led by Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala in the backcourt, with fellow wing Evan Turner developing into a blossoming star in his own right after just two seasons.  Harkless said of his new team that they are "really young and they play really fast.  I think that's the type of game that I like to play, and I think I'll fit in well."

"Maurice is the most well-rounded and complete player I've coached relative to this juncture or stage of a playing career," said St. John's coach Steve Lavin.  "His intellect, size, skill set and athleticism set him apart from others."

The 6-8 Harkless, who worked out for Philadelphia among the many teams that showed an interest in him, is a developing talent with an expanding perimeter game that will endear him to the blue-collar fan base in the City of Brotherly Love right away.  He is every bit as good going inside and attacking the basket offensively as he is blocking shots and causing matchup problems on the defensive end, and in an Atlantic division that is still the Boston Celtics' to lose, this pick has helped the 76ers close the gap.

Harkless is the 60th Red Storm player to be drafted, and fourteenth for head coach Steve Lavin, who can now say that he produced a professional player on the corner of Union and Utopia.  The swingman capped off a sensational freshman season at St. John's by winning the Big East's Rookie of the Year award, becoming just the second Red Storm player to do so.  The 19-year-old also gets to remain relatively close to his New York home with the selection, something he is very ecstatic about.

"That's really cool to me because I've pretty much been close to home my whole life," said Harkless of the close proximity between New York and Philadelphia.  "Having my family close and being able to come out to games is definitely a great feeling."

Harkless should also have his St. John's family out in full force, as they have just as much to celebrate; for tonight, a program that was once great has again been resurrected.

Waiters A True Understatement In Draft

Syracuse guard Dion Waiters may have been a reserve, but still has one of highest potentials in NBA Draft.  (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Seven years ago, the Atlanta Hawks selected North Carolina's Marvin Williams second overall in the NBA Draft.  Williams may not have started a game in his only season in Chapel Hill, but was clearly one of the most talented prospects available.

Now turn the clock ahead to 2012.  Kentucky's Anthony Davis is a surefire No. 1 selection, and guys like Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal are also can't-miss prospects.  Yet rising up the board is a player who, similar to Williams, did his collegiate work off the bench, yet managed to make enough of an impression to both resemble a two-time NBA champion and earn the distinction of being one of the Big East's best players.

Syracuse's Dion Waiters was voted the Big East Sixth Man of the Year last season, and should become Jim Boeheim's third Top 10 draft pick in the last ten years.  If Waiters is indeed considered with Cleveland's fourth overall choice as ESPN's Andy Katz reported, the Philadelphian becomes the highest Orange player selected since some guy named Anthony won them a national championship in 2003.

Think about that for a second, my friends.  A player who never started a single game, yet is good enough to be taken at the same professional level as the man who was quite possibly one of the greatest Syracuse players in recent memory, and is now adding to his legacy in the NBA.  

UConn coach Jim Calhoun said that "no one can take over a game" the way Waiters can.  Having seen Syracuse destroy St. John's at Madison Square Garden this past February, I would be hard pressed to disagree with the Hall of Fame head man.  College basketball insider Jon Rothstein has compared the guard to Dwyane Wade several times, highlighting that his potential and explosiveness is reminiscent to that of the Miami Heat star.

Regardless of where Waiters ends up, (I have him going seventh to Golden State) the team who drafts him gets a major steal in the 20-year-old, and will notice his impact right away as he sends his future employer onto the fast track to NBA success.  For all of Jim Boeheim's success stories in his thirty-six seasons at the helm, this one could be one of the better ones the legend has authored.

The story writes a new chapter for itself tonight.

I Can Get You To The NBA

Moe Harkless stands to become 60th St. John's player in NBA history when he is selected in tonight's draft.  (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

This submission comes from Rumble In The Garden columnist Quinn Rochford.

The day St. John's fans have been patiently waiting for has finally arrived.

When Moe Harkless walks across the Prudential Center stage and shakes David Stern's hand on Thursday night, it won't just be a 19 year-old kid realizing a childhood dream. A bearing weight will be pulled off of an entire program's shoulders - one that has kept a team and its fans grounded for 11 years.

Harkless, who is projected to be drafted anywhere in the mid- to late-first round of the NBA Draft, decided to leave St. John's after one season to turn professional. The fanbase, at first, gave a mixed reaction, claiming the forward was not quite ready to make the jump now.

But as Harkless has impressed mightily in pre-draft workouts with a bevy of possibly suitors, his stock has rapidly risen and St. John's fans have quickly gravitated to the positive, excited end of the spectrum.

Once the NBA team hat is put on, once Moe Harkless shakes Stern's hand and poses in his draft day suit, his captivating smile lighting up televisions across America, Harkless will have proven the "haters" wrong.

He will be a first round selection. And it's the best thing that could have ever happened to Steve Lavin's Johnnies.

If you're questioning just how important Harkless' draft selection is to St. John's, look at these facts.

The Red Storm have not had an NBA draftee since 2001, when the Orlando Magic chose Omar Cook (also a one-and-done) in the second round. On top of that, St. John's hasn't provided the NBA with a first round pick since Erick Barkley went to the Portland Trailblazers in 2000.

But, the landscape of basketball has changed dramatically in a decade. When St. John's last had players drafted, it was nice to see one of your own make it to the league. Sure, it helped recruiting and meant the staff was developing talent.

Getting players to the NBA was never the sole measurement of a successful basketball program. Now, in the age of Derrick Roses, Blake Griffins, and Anthony Davises, it means everything.

When coaches enter the living rooms of prospective high schoolers, they have much to sell. A chance to play on ESPN, to be treated like a king, to compete at the highest level - it's all desirable. But nothing means more to an aspring basketball player than the words "I can get you to the NBA."

Whether you think it's good or bad, elite college basketball has transformed into a virtual development league for aspiring pros. With the rule that high school seniors must wait at least one year before entering the NBA Draft, players have entered the NCAA on a strictly temporary basis.

Young kids all over the world watched LeBron James capture his first title, and every one of them wished they could be him. With a multi-million dollar contract, a South Beach lifestyle, and never-ending national praise, they know James has it all. And they're right.

When St. John's hired Steve Lavin, they knew what they were getting. Lavin brings that unique Hollywood style to New York, but more importantly, his ties to the pros are strong. He's had his players get drafted many times before during his days at UCLA. Now he can say he's done it in Queens.

Along with sending his top assistant Mike Dunlap to the NBA as a head coach, Lavin has now placed the Red Storm on the map. Even with playing in the same building as the Knicks, the association of St. John's with the NBA had been lost for a long stretch of time. And combined with barren win columns, the Red Storm lost ground in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, and in the eyes of major-conference basketball.

You can sell whatever you want to get kids to come to your school. Heck, you can sell the NBA to anyone - but if you can't prove that it is realistic with concrete results, you are just one of the masses. When Moe Harkless gets selected by whomever on Thursday night, St. John's will make that huge step forward.

So, Johnnies fans, when you hear Harkless' name called by David Stern, you should applaud. Applaud for the young man, for getting the opportunity to live a dream.

And applaud for the bright future unfolding.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The 2012 Daly Dose Of Hoops Mock Draft

Shown here last year with Kyrie Irving, NBA commissioner David Stern will have honor of announcing Kentucky's Anthony Davis as first pick in tomorrow's NBA Draft.  (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

For the third consecutive year, I will once again attempt to make it look like I know something about the NBA.

That's right, it's draft time once again; and one thing is certain prior to tomorrow night's selection show at Newark's Prudential Center, that being that Kentucky forward Anthony Davis will be selected first overall by the New Orleans Hornets.  What happens from there is anyone else's guess, but I will give it a shot for the fifty-nine picks that follow.  Please be advised that the draft order that I am using is current as of the time I write this, and that there can (and probably will) be several other deals before David Stern takes the stage to his usual resounding chorus of boos.

1) New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis (F - Kentucky) - The closest thing to a sure thing after his dominating freshman season at Kentucky, Davis becomes the biggest attraction in the Big Easy and sets the tone for what will be yet another record-breaking night for Wildcats coach John Calipari.  Davis also becomes the second Kentucky product in the last three years (John Wall in 2010 being the other) to go in the top spot.

2) Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson (F - Kansas) - Rumor has it that the Bobcats will be shopping this pick and that Cleveland is strongly considering taking the offer, but Mike Dunlap will get his power forward of the future if Charlotte stays where they are.  Robinson will join Bismack Biyombo to create a formidable front line of the future to protect Kemba Walker, D.J. Augustin and newly acquired Ben Gordon.

3) Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal (G - Florida) - The precocious Beal will celebrate his 19th birthday tomorrow night by heading to the nation's capital as the backcourt companion for the aforementioned John Wall.  Already compared to the great Ray Allen, Beal has had scouts salivating over his mounds of potential since he first took the court in Gainesville.

4) Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (F - Kentucky) - Kidd-Gilchrist could also go in the No. 2 spot regardless of who ends up making that selection, but Charlotte is rumored to be very high on Robinson at the present moment, which gives the Cavaliers a small forward to replace reigning NBA champion LeBron James.  A potential X-factor in this selection is that Kidd-Gilchrist played with 2011 No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving in high school when the two starred at St. Patrick's in New Jersey.

5) Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes (F - North Carolina) - After two years in which Barnes came very close to exceeding the sky-high expectations that were set for him before he even arrived in Chapel Hill, Barnes enters the next phase of his career.  Projected to be a better pro than college player, Barnes will join Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette in Sacramento to give the Kings a young core to build around wherever the team ends up.

6) Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (G - Weber State) - The Blazers are notorious for shaking things up on draft night, and this will be no exception.  Lillard is a guard unlike most others, and led the nation in scoring as a point guard.  The Big Sky superstar will need to become more of a passer to succeed at the professional level, but should get immediate opportunities to prove what he is capable of.

7) Golden State Warriors: Dion Waiters (G - Syracuse) - Golden State has made no secret of their affinity for the Syracuse reserve who was among the best in the Big East despite not starting a game last season.  Likened by some to Dwyane Wade, Waiters will be one of a handful of players that can make an immediate difference in the professional ranks, and will give Stephen Curry a backcourt partner with a game that is just as explosive.

8) Toronto Raptors: Jeremy Lamb (G - Connecticut) - With Waiters off the board, the Raptors settle for the next best thing in Lamb, a former national champion who will move DeMar DeRozan into the frontcourt on a permanent basis.  Lamb's length and tendency to make big shots in big moments will be augmented with Jose Calderon playing alongside him at the point.

9) Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond (C - Connecticut) - Hardly anyone could have expected Drummond to fall this far, but the Pistons get a second consecutive draft surprise after they had Brandon Knight fall into their laps in the No. 8 spot a year ago.  However, the Pistons are looking for a big man to serve as Greg Monroe's frontcourt partner now that Detroit has both solidified their backcourt and now acquired swingman Corey Maggette from Charlotte.

10) New Orleans Hornets: Meyers Leonard (C - Illinois) - New Orleans could (and probably should) take a guard here, but the Hornets could use a big man to sit under the rim while Anthony Davis makes his presence felt on the perimeter.  New Orleans has a solid backcourt anyway with Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Jarrett Jack, so the 7-1 Leonard makes more sense than some may initially suspect.

11) Portland Trail Blazers: Terrence Ross (F - Washington) - Nicolas Batum could be on his way out, opening a spot on the wing for the Blazers to draft the exceptionally athletic Ross to team with Damian Lillard.

12) Houston Rockets: Tyler Zeller (C - North Carolina) - Houston just acquired this pick from Milwaukee in exchange for Samuel Dalembert, and will use their first of three in the opening round to take his replacement.  Zeller comes in with four years of seasoning and a national championship at North Carolina, and should fit right in as the long-term successor to Yao Ming.

13) Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall (G - North Carolina) - Steve Nash isn't getting any younger, so the Suns take the highest-rated point guard to replace him.  Marshall's passing skills are already as good as the two-time MVP that he will learn from in the Valley of the Sun should Nash re-sign with Phoenix.

14) Milwaukee Bucks: Austin Rivers (G - Duke) - Doc's son gets to start his professional career in the same city in which his dad played college ball at Marquette, and gives the Bucks a combo guard to take some of the pressure off Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis while also freeing both of them up to make more of an impact in the open court.

15) Philadelphia 76ers: Arnett Moultrie (F - Mississippi State) - Many people tend to lose Moultrie in the shuffle being that he came from an SEC program not named Kentucky, but his game would be the perfect fit for the Philadelphia front line.  An aging Elton Brand and developing Nikola Vucevic could use a third man to give the Sixers an even stronger unit to complement Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala, and Moultrie looks to be more pro-ready than some of the other bigs still on the board.

16) Houston Rockets: Moe Harkless (F - St. John's) - Houston's trade of Chase Budinger for the No. 18 pick gives the Rockets an opening at the small forward spot that Harkless can fill right away.  A wing who played out of position all year last season due to the Red Storm's depth issues, Harkless has a perimeter game unlike any other that becomes enhanced when he makes his presence felt on the defensive end.

17) Dallas Mavericks: Royce White (F - Iowa State) - Dallas has Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki up front, but the 2011 NBA champions will not be able to look past a unique talent the likes of White if he is still on the board in this spot.  An unbelievably talented specimen who singlehandedly dominated UConn in the NCAA Tournament, White can do a little bit of everything, which makes his game indispensable.

18) Houston Rockets: Marquis Teague (G - Kentucky) - The Rockets will need a guard after using their first two picks on front line help, and Teague is the best available with Marshall and Rivers having gone off the board.  Teague will not start right away, but he provides an effective change of pace to Kevin Martin at the point in Houston.

19) Orlando Magic: John Henson (F - North Carolina) - The steal of the draft lands in the Magic Kingdom as Orlando picks up their long-term replacement for Dwight Howard.  Henson will most likely go much higher, but his raw offensive output may drop him out of the lottery.  Nonetheless, the Magic get a freakishly talented big man who can block shots on the perimeter and attack the glass under the rim while simultaneously scoring ten or more points every night.

20) Denver Nuggets: Will Barton (G - Memphis) - The Nuggets will be in the market for a guard who can spell Ty Lawson and provide immediate playing time now that Andre Miller is nearing the end of his career.  Don't be surprised to see Denver go for a backup point guard in the second round, but for their first pick, they take a player in Barton who has been extremely underrated in the days leading up to the draft despite his ability to change a game at any given time.

21) Boston Celtics: Terrence Jones (F - Kentucky) - The Celts need help on their front line with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both nearing retirement.  They just so happen to have a former national champion fall into their lap in Jones, who would have been a Top 5 pick had he come out after his freshman year.  Jones showed his ability to be a team player last year at Kentucky by sacrificing scoring opportunities for Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and his unselfishness can give Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen (if he returns to Boston) one last chance to ride off into the sunset.

22) Boston Celtics: Fab Melo (C - Syracuse) - Boston doubles up on their frontcourt rebuilding project with the defensively strong seven-footer from Syracuse who will always be a force under the rim despite his developing offensive skill set.

23) Atlanta Hawks: Perry Jones (F - Baylor) - Atlanta could use a forward/center hybrid to move Al Horford to the power forward position permanently, and Jones fits the mold if he is still on the board in this spot.  If not, look for the Hawks to go smaller and potentially draft a Jared Sullinger or Draymond Green.

24) Cleveland Cavaliers: Jared Sullinger (F - Ohio State) - Native Ohio product, forward, Cavalier.  Sound familiar?  That's about as close as you'll get to comparing Sullinger to LeBron James.  The Buckeye big man will be a difference maker right away in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson around him.  Sullinger has been criticized for not having an NBA body, but the same thing was said about Tyler Hansbrough, who is now turning into a solid professional player in Indiana.

25) Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Wroten (G - Washington) - Memphis' trade of Greivis Vasquez gives the Grizzlies a need to find a backup point guard for Mike Conley Jr.  With Marquis Teague off the board, Wroten is the man on Beale Street.

26) Indiana Pacers: Draymond Green (F - Michigan State) - Green is a true leader and winner.  Never mind the fact that he may not have a true position in Indiana, because he will force his way into the lineup by doing all the little things right.  He will be a solid pick for a Pacer team that could seriously be a threat to win the Eastern Conference next year.

27) Miami Heat: John Jenkins (G - Vanderbilt) - With Mike Miller poised to walk away a winner, Miami gets their sharpshooting replacement with the Allan Houston clone Jenkins, who automatically slides into a championship rotation.

28) Oklahoma City Thunder: Doron Lamb (G - Kentucky) - Lamb becomes the fifth Kentucky first-rounder this year, and his ability to hit clutch shots will serve Oklahoma City well even with Russell Westbrook and James Harden in front of him.

29) Chicago Bulls: Andrew Nicholson (F - St. Bonaventure) - Nicholson will essentially be the replacement for Luol Deng if he does not come back to the Windy City, and his tendency to put up a yeoman's effort every night will expand the abilities of Carlos Boozer and a recovering Derrick Rose next season.

30) Golden State Warriors: Jeffery Taylor (F - Vanderbilt) - A Richard Jefferson-esque swingman, Taylor will give Golden State some flexibility when Klay Thompson is not in the lineup, as well as assist Stephen Curry and Dion Waiters in the backcourt when needed.

Second Round
31) Charlotte Bobcats: Jared Cunningham (G - Oregon State)
32) Washington Wizards: Festus Ezeli (C - Vanderbilt)
33) Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Miller (F - Kentucky)
34) Cleveland Cavaliers: Drew Gordon (F - New Mexico)
35) Golden State Warriors: Quincy Miller (F - Baylor)
36) Sacramento Kings: Kim English (G - Missouri)
37) Toronto Raptors: Evan Fournier (G - France)
38) Denver Nuggets: Tyshawn Taylor (G - Kansas)
39) Detroit Pistons: Orlando Johnson (G - Cal-Santa Barbara)
40) Portland Trail Blazers: Miles Plumlee (C - Duke)
41) Portland Trail Blazers: Bernard James (C - Florida State)
42) Milwaukee Bucks: Jae Crowder (F - Marquette)
43) Atlanta Hawks: Khris Middleton (F - Texas A&M)
44) Detroit Pistons: Kyle O'Quinn (F - Norfolk State)

45) Philadelphia 76ers: Mike Scott (F - Virginia)
46) New Orleans Hornets: Kevin Murphy (G - Tennessee Tech)
47) Utah Jazz: Kevin Jones (F - West Virginia)
48) New York Knicks: Scott Machado (G - Iona)
49) Orlando Magic: Darius Johnson-Odom (G - Marquette)
50) Denver Nuggets: Tu Holloway (G - Xavier)
51) Boston Celtics: William Buford (G - Ohio State)
52) Golden State Warriors: Furkan Aldemir (F - Turkey)
53) Los Angeles Clippers: J'Covan Brown (G - Texas)
54) Philadelphia 76ers: Kostas Papanikolaou (F - Greece)
55) Dallas Mavericks: Robert Sacre (C - Gonzaga)
56) Toronto Raptors: Tomas Satoransky (G - Czech Republic)
57) Brooklyn Nets: Kris Joseph (F - Syracuse)
58) Minnesota Timberwolves: Tornike Shengelia (F - Republic of Georgia)
59) San Antonio Spurs: JaMychal Green (F - Alabama)
60) Los Angeles Lakers: Quincy Acy (F - Baylor)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Moe Harkless: Where Would He Fit Best?

Projected as a potential lottery pick, Moe Harkless stands to become first St. John's product since 2001 to be selected in NBA Draft.  (Photo courtesy of Jason Schott via Brooklyn Fans)

Despite a 13-19 record to conclude a season filled with hope and promise after the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, the optimism around St. John's University is still at the same fever pitch it had reached two years ago when Steve Lavin returned to the college ranks as the successor to previous coach Norm Roberts.

Lavin will be back on the Red Storm bench for his third season in Queens, but with a team that will have undergone significant changes since the final seconds of St. John's last game, a loss to Pittsburgh in the Big East Tournament last March.  Gone is assistant coach Mike Dunlap after the brilliant basketball mind was hired yesterday as the new head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, and forward Moe Harkless; who became just the second player in program history to win the Big East's Rookie of the Year award, declared for next week's NBA Draft after just one season on the corner of Union and Utopia.

For someone whose life is about to change drastically in just seven days, Harkless is definitely not playing the part of the young kid that is letting his vision get the best of him.  Rather, the 19-year-old swingman is remaining grounded and living in the moment, not to mention already  approaching what is about to become his life's work with a maturity far beyond his young age.  "Ever since I declared, I watch a game differently than I used to," Harkless said; "because next year, I'll be matched up against some of these guys."

The versatile Harkless, compared during his lone season at St. John's to former Connecticut forward Rudy Gay by college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, has a wide range in his draft projections; but after an impressive showing at this month's scouting combine in Chicago, Harkless is seemingly a lock to hear his name announced by NBA commissioner David Stern as a first-round selection a week from tonight.  Harkless could seemingly go anywhere from inside the first ten picks to somewhere toward the end of the first round, and just as we did for Iona point guard Scott Machado, we take a look at some of the realistic landing spots for a small forward that plays like a power forward while simultaneously improving his ever-developing game.

New Orleans Hornets (Selections: 1st and 10th overall) - Harkless going first overall would literally shock the world, but the Hornets are almost certainly using their grand prize from the draft lottery on Kentucky's Anthony Davis.  However, now that New Orleans has just finalized a deal with the Wizards in which Trevor Ariza is headed to Washington, Harkless could be in play for Monty Williams and the Hornets in the No. 10 spot.  Despite acquiring Rashard Lewis in the aforementioned Ariza trade, Harkless would complement a playoff contender in the Big Easy that will add Davis to a starting five that includes one of the best backcourts in the NBA with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon, not to mention Al-Farouq Aminu (who New Orleans got with Gordon in the Chris Paul trade) and Jarrett Jack as well.  Harkless' perimeter skill set would only add to the improving arsenal in New Orleans, and his ability to block shots would make him an X-factor alongside Davis if the Hornets were to take the bold gamble on the St. John's star.

Charlotte Bobcats (Selections: 2nd overall) - Mike Dunlap's arrival makes the Bobcats an intriguing option, but their best shot at Harkless would be to trade their second overall pick.  A number of teams are interested in moving up, including the Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, who were rumored to have offered guard James Harden in addition to the 28th overall selection.  However, Harkless is a near-certainty to be off the board at 28, so Charlotte would be better served moving down into the middle of the first round if they were to draft Harkless as a de facto replacement to Gerald Henderson and insert him into a lineup that already includes Kemba Walker and D.J. Augustin in the backcourt.

Cleveland Cavaliers (Selections: 4th and 24th overall) - The Cavs just drafted Tristan Thompson in the No. 4 spot a year ago, but worked Harkless out this month and are said to be impressed by what they saw.  Harkless would not be going fourth overall, but could be in play for Cleveland with their second pick if the Cavaliers go with either Bradley Beal or Andre Drummond to start off draft night rather than pursue North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, which would render a possible Harkless pick unnecessary.  Harkless' skills on the wing could put him in contention for Rookie of the Year honors if reigning titleholder Kyrie Irving replicates his first season on the shores of Lake Erie.

Toronto Raptors (Selections: 8th overall) - Rumored to be heavily interested in Syracuse guard Dion Waiters, Harkless makes more sense for the Raptors based on his position and potential.  Harkless has the tools and capability to finally give Toronto their long-awaited replacements to former franchise players Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh, all in one player.  Harkless at small forward would slide DeMar DeRozan into the backcourt, where his productivity at shooting guard would increase with Jose Calderon handing him the ball.  Harkless also will alleviate some of the pressure for former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani while creating a frontcourt matchup nightmare for any team facing the Raptors.

Orlando Magic (Selections: 19th overall) - Harkless has already worked out for the Magic, and with Dwight Howard having made no secret of his desire to leave Orlando, the Magic will need to upgrade their frontcourt.  A power forward such as Kentucky's Terrence Jones or Jared Sullinger of Ohio State could also be in play here, but Orlando gains a lot with Harkless coming on board.  Should Jameer Nelson exercise his option, he and Jason Richardson return to the backcourt.  Hedo Turkoglu has a player option for the 2013-14 season, which makes him a possibility to come off the books next season after he serves as a prospective mentor for Harkless.  Moe's arrival would also enable Glen "Big Baby" Davis to entrench himself as the full-time power forward assuming Howard is ready to go for the start of next season if he does not get traded somewhere else this summer.

Boston Celtics (Selections: 21st and 22nd overall) - The Celtics' aging core and back-to-back selections make Beantown the most logical and enticing spot for a player of Harkless' caliber.  Who better for Moe to learn from at the small forward position than Paul Pierce, one of the greatest clutch players in NBA history?  Harkless can also get valuable lessons inside the paint from Kevin Garnett, while also getting to study the brilliant outside game of the great Ray Allen.  Not only that, but Doc Rivers would use Harkless immediately in impact minutes next season off the bench should Boston be fortunate enough to draft him in either of their two spots.

Atlanta Hawks (Selections: 23rd overall) - The Hawks do not necessarily need Harkless with Josh Smith and Marvin Williams both capable of playing the small forward position, and would probably be better off drafting a big man (if North Carolina's Tyler Zeller falls to the Hawks at 23, he would most certainly be the choice) to play alongside Al Horford.  However, Harkless would benefit Atlanta most at the power forward position despite his wingman size, and would bring experience at that position from having had to play bigger than he should have during his one year at St. John's.  Harkless in between Smith and Horford on the Hawks' front line would put Atlanta in the hole from a size perspective, but the increase in athleticism would allow for greater productivity from each of the three.

Stay tuned to A Daly Dose Of Hoops over the next week for further draft analysis, including our annual mock draft on Wednesday night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mike Brey Signs Extension At Notre Dame

Two months removed from his latest success, Mike Brey gets rewarded with well-deserved 10-year extension at Notre Dame this morning.  (Photo courtesy of The Sporting News)

Sometimes nice guys really do finish first.

Mike Brey is living proof now that he has signed a ten-year contract extension that will keep the affable Notre Dame coach in South Bend through the 2021-22 season after it is formally announced at a press conference later this morning.  In essence, this contract is also an early birthday present for the man who turns 53 on Friday, and a reward for yet another year of unexpected success in which the Fighting Irish made the NCAA Tournament despite the loss of star forward Tim Abromaitis to a torn ACL.

"When I took the job here nearly thirteen years ago, I felt that this could be a place where I could retire from coaching," said Brey, a former Mike Krzyzewski assistant at Duke who coached Delaware before landing at Notre Dame.  "With the terms of this new contract, I certainly intend for it to be my last coaching stop.  It has been a privilege and honor to have coached the young men who have come through our basketball family.  They have shown a great trust and belief in me and helped me lead this program."

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick hailed Brey as a "true coach-educator" who "epitomizes all that a university like ours hopes for in a coach."  "The genuine and unique relationships that he has with our players, our community, and his colleagues in college basketball have built a great foundation for the future of our basketball program," said Swarbrick in a statement issued prior to the aforementioned press conference.

Brey's relationships with the media are just as genuine, and I am living proof.  As both a broadcaster and writer, I have always enjoyed my interactions with the coach over the years; and I can tell you that he truly does take a genuine and appreciative interest in each question you ask him, as well as make you feel like you not only enjoyed your brief chat, but also got your money's worth from talking to him.

Notre Dame will be one of the favorites in the Big East next season, returning everyone except Tim Abromaitis and Alex Dragicevich after it was announced that swingman Scott Martin received a sixth year of eligibility.  Brey also brings in one of his best recruiting classes in recent memory to team with Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman on a team that should find it rather easy to make a deep run in March.

At least now the Fighting Irish have security at the top of their program, an underrated giant in an unstable conference.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats Hire Mike Dunlap

In stunning development, St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap is leaving Queens after accepting Charlotte Bobcats' head coaching position.  (Photo courtesy of Rumble In The Garden)

St. John's was already losing Moe Harkless after a season in which they played most of their 32 games with just six scholarship student-athletes.  The Red Storm will now need to replace an assistant coach before the opening tip of the 2012-13 season this November.

In a shocking turn of events, assistant coach Mike Dunlap; who filled in admirably for head coach Steve Lavin during his time away from the bench due to prostate cancer surgery, has accepted the vacant Charlotte Bobcats head coaching position according to reports by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.  Dunlap, who has NBA experience as a former assistant to George Karl with the Denver Nuggets; became the choice after Quin Snyder, a Lakers assistant who was once the head coach at Missouri, turned the job down about a week after former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did the same.

The 54-year-old Dunlap not only counts St. John's among his resume, as he also filled in for the legendary Lute Olson at Arizona when Olson took a medical leave in 2008, but was passed up in favor of Russ Pennell when it came to naming a successor to Olson the following year.  When reached for comment, both his current and former employers offered glowing testimonials for the man who becomes the first NCAA assistant coach to jump from that position to a head coaching chair in the professional ranks.

"The Johnnies basketball family is ecstatic for Coach Dunlap's opportunity," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said in a statement issued last night.  "To make the unprecedented jump from college assistant to NBA head coach is a testament to both Mike's abilities as a teacher and our basketball program's marked improvement over the past 27 months."  

His former NBA boss was even more complimentary.

"Mike Dunlap absolutely elevates every player and team he comes into contact with," said George Karl.  "He takes you from good to great.  Name every elite coach in the game and the only difference between Mike and them is their addresses.  There is absolutely no one better."

Dunlap brings an impressive resume to the table in Charlotte and carries a reputation for being one of the best basketball strategists in the nation.  He will almost undoubtedly start preparing for the job in the coming hours, before his press conference even takes place.  Moreover, Dunlap's pedigree and ability to turn young players from potential stars into solid professionals has already been displayed not just in Harkless, but also Dwight Hardy after the latter was voted Most Valuable Player in his league in Italy.

Although it is still unclear what Dunlap will do with the Charlotte roster in his first NBA Draft as a coach ten days from tonight, his hire bodes well for Kemba Walker, the guard who Dunlap coached against when St. John's played Connecticut.  Based on Dwight Hardy's transformation two seasons ago, there is no reason to believe that Walker; an already proven winner who won a national championship under Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, cannot do the same given his mounds of potential and ability to thrive under pressure.

It is also unknown just who Steve Lavin will replace Dunlap with on his staff, but more details on Dunlap and his potential replacement will be relayed as they become available.  A name already being thrown around as a prospective candidate is former Manhattan head coach Barry Rohrssen, who was once a Big East assistant under Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh; but again, this is just speculation, and nothing is official at this point.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tyler Harris Transfers To Providence

Shown here blocking a shot on NC State's run to Sweet 16, Tyler Harris has decided to leave Raleigh after one year in favor of Providence.  (Photo courtesy of Voodoo Five)

Slowly but surely, Ed Cooley is building a Big East championship contender just fifteen months into the job he took after a successful five years spent turning Fairfield University from a doormat into one of the MAAC's elite teams.

Shortly after finalizing a four-man recruiting class headlined by highly touted guard prospects Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo, Cooley added yet another transfer to the Providence family yesterday when Tyler Harris announced his intent to join the Friars after a year at North Carolina State, where he helped lead the Wolfpack to the Midwest regional semifinals in head coach Mark Gottfried's first season at the helm in Raleigh.  Harris turned down offers from UAB, Temple, Dayton and Providence's Big East rival South Florida to take his talents to the Ocean State, and will be a sophomore when he regains eligibility in 2013.

"He has developed a great relationship with Coach Cooley and Coach (Andre, Cooley's top assistant) LaFleur," said Harris' father, Torrel.  "He believed in them and how they would utilize him to be a major contributor to the team.  He looks forward to competing in the Big East."

Playing for Providence also provides Harris the opportunity to be closer to his Long Island home.  The Dix Hills native comes from a great basketball family, following in the footsteps of his two siblings in the collegiate basketball ranks.  Many will recall his older brother Tobias starring at Tennessee two years ago before leaving for the NBA after his freshman season.  Tobias was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats before being traded to Milwaukee on draft night, and sister Tesia just finished her senior season on a Sweet 16 team of her own at St. John's University after transferring from Delaware.

Tyler Harris becomes Cooley's third transfer to join Dunn, Ledo, Josh Fortune and Ian Baker in the coach's newest recruiting class.  Cooley had already secured a commitment from former Arizona forward Sidiki Johnson during the season, and landed Wake Forest center Carson Desrosiers last month.  Johnson will be eligible in December, while Desrosiers and Harris will officially come on board for the 2013-14 season.  If all of these incoming players complete their eligibility, it is not inconceivable to think that Ed Cooley could possibly deliver the Friars' first Big East championship since 1994 in the near future.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Obekpa Stays Home With Commitment To St. John's

Highly regarded 2012 recruit Chris Obekpa decides to stay local with college decision, spurning Cincinnati and committing to St. John's.  (Photo courtesy of Adam Zagoria's Zags Blog)

For the last three months, despite the number of schools that were rumored to be interested in Chris Obekpa, it always came down to two.  From the moment Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans to celebrate their national championship and shifted the nation's attention to the spring signing period, it was either going to be Cincinnati or St. John's that landed the services of Obekpa, a power forward whose ability to block shots belied his tender age.  Through most of this period, it seemed as though Mick Cronin and the Bearcats employed the advantage in the Obekpa sweepstakes thanks to assistant coach Darren Savino, whose vast ties to the New York recruiting scene and AAU coaches make him one of the most valuable pieces to Cronin's staff.  However, as any St. John's fan will be quick to tell you, Steve Lavin should never be counted out when he pursues a prospect.

Obekpa proved that just about two hours ago, ultimately rejecting the overtures from Cronin and Cincinnati when he tweeted the aforementioned picture of himself wearing St. John's apparel with the caption "Keeping my talent in the Mecca," a reference to the nickname of Madison Square Garden, where the Red Storm play half their home games every season.  Moments later, college basketball insider Jon Rothstein became the first to confirm this commitment; one that both establishes the Red Storm as a contender in the upcoming season and solidifies their recruiting class just three months after St. John's completed one of their most difficult seasons in program history, competing with just six scholarship student-athletes that comprised the youngest roster in the school's 104 seasons of competition.

Obekpa, a 6-8 power forward from Long Island, comes to St. John's by way of Our Savior New American School, located in Suffolk County.  Obekpa immediately becomes a vital component of St. John's defensive schemes with his blocking talent, and should get more than just a few chances to augment his offensive ability as well.  The big man also has one of his teammates joining him in Queens, as guard Felix Balamou has already signed with St. John's out of Our Savior, and will also be donning red and white this season.  Obekpa and Jakarr Sampson should combine to replace Moe Harkless, the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year who is projected to be a first-round pick in this month's NBA Draft.

Likened by Jon Rothstein to Theo Ratliff, the college basketball insider proclaimed that Obekpa will be an "absolute menace" in Lavin's matchup zone system.  Despite his still-developing offensive skill set, the prospect already carries the reputation of being a "game changer" on defense.  Obekpa will join Sampson and 6-9 forward Orlando Sanchez as the three frontcourt additions to a deceptively strong recruiting class that includes Obekpa's teammate Balamou and French sharpshooter Marco Bourgault in a backcourt that also acquires the services of Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch once the point guard regains his eligibility in December.

Steve Lavin has always credited his "hammer to rock" philosophy as the force that has enabled him to keep St. John's relevant since replacing Norm Roberts two years ago.  Tonight, it took one big man to bring the hammer down and throw a rock in the path of the competition as St. John's looks to make their way back into the Big East's upper echelon.