Monday, June 22, 2009
What's buzzing in college and NBA circles
Quick hitters as we close in on Thursday's NBA draft:
• At least one source close to Florida International said the Panthers aren't pursuing uncommitted prep player Lance Stephenson. FIU and head coach Isiah Thomas would seem to be a natural fit because Stephenson would give the fledgling program a name to go along with its high-profile coach. But Thomas doesn't want to take on baggage from day one, and every coach that has been sniffing around the Stephenson camp contends there could be an NCAA investigation into him as soon as he commits.
• Holy Cross athletic director Dick Regan interviewed Boston College associate head coach Pat Duquette on Monday, according to a source. Multiple sources said Regan has already spoken to Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, former Boston University coach Dennis Wolff, Notre Dame assistant Sean Kearney and Pitt associate head coach Tom Herrion. The job could come down to the latter two and a decision is expected by July 1. Regan is pursuing a replacement for Ralph Willard, who left to take an assistant job at Louisville. There was also an exploratory conversation with Vermont's Mike Lonergan, which didn't go far because Lonergan is determined to stay with the Catamounts and is pursuing a long-term deal.
• Oregon coach Ernie Kent is ecstatic about the arrival of Chipola CC (Marianna, Fla.) point guard Malcolm Armstead. He said Armstead will allow Tajuan Porter to slide over to his more natural shooting guard, much like when Aaron Brooks was next to Porter in the backcourt. Adding Armstead's teammate, 6-foot-7 Jeremy Jacob, should also help the Ducks next season. Oregon returns the core of a team that was disappointing (2-16, 8-23) but didn't lack talent. "Tajuan will be allowed to go and do his thing -- which is score," Kent said. "Malcolm will be like Aaron Brooks but stronger and quicker and we'll now have more veteran experience overall in the backcourt. I wish we could have started last season over with these same players having experience."
• Rider coach Tommy Dempsey is ready for another bold prediction. A year after center Jason Thompson shocked most NBA personnel by going in the lottery to Sacramento, Jason's brother, Ryan, could be poised for a banner season. Dempsey said the younger Thompson will be one of the top guards in the country in 2009-10. He averaged 18 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and shot 42.2 percent on 3s last season. The rising senior will be playing on the summer circuit soon, notably at Nike's LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, next month.
• There is legitimate concern among NBA personnel about the long-term health of DeJuan Blair's knees. He had ACL surgery in both knees in high school. To what extent he needs any kind of future work on his knees is up for debate. The one thing that is certain, according to the Pitt coaching staff, is that Blair never missed a practice or a game in his two seasons with the Panthers.
• Three days before the draft, the Memphis Grizzlies certainly have an interest in Hasheem Thabeet and Tyreke Evans. Memphis general manager Chris Wallace isn't against taking the player who fits them the most at No. 2, even if that were to be Evans, whom most NBA personnel don't have going as high as No. 2. Wallace may be able to get Evans at No. 5 if the Grizzlies were to pick up the Wizards' pick. There is a scenario in which the Grizzlies could get both players if Minnesota were to make a trade with Washington to get the No. 5 pick and then package the No. 5 and No. 6 to get Memphis' No. 2. The curveball is that Evans could easily be gone by No. 5 if Sacramento looks to take the University of Memphis product. Evans is one of the rising stars in the draft. His play at the point for John Calipari and his ability to handle the ball and drive to the bucket make him a much more tantalizing option.
• As dominating as Thabeet was in college, his offensive liabilities are making some teams wonder where he fits. Thabeet is most likely to go to Memphis, Minnesota or maybe Oklahoma City. But if he were to slip past No. 6 (Minnesota), there could be a significant drop for someone who once seemed to be a lock for No. 2.
• If Brandon Jennings goes to New York at No. 8, which is a strong possibility, then the Jennings camp will be able to claim success for his one-year stint in Italy, no matter what happened statistically.
• Presumptive No. 1 pick Blake Griffin was on the ESPN campus Monday. He made cameos on various platforms and was trailed by an EA Sports marketing poster, promoting him as the cover boy for the 2009-10 NCAA edition. He even interrupted an ESPN basketball game on the court. He wasn't dressed to play, but can you imagine if Griffin had had the urge to get on the court? Can you imagine if he had tweaked his knee? But it didn't happen. You can rest easy, Clippers fans.