Archive for September, 2010

By Marcus Shockley

The nation’s premier All-American talent showcase for high school basketball talent will be playing its’ 2011 game in Chicago, at the famed United Center on March 30. While the game is hardly a true representation of what these players will be able to do once they land in the college ranks, making the roster is an honor, and it’s based on their body of work during their high school careers.

Chicago is a great basketball atmosphere and this should be a great game. Even though the rosters won’t be set for some time, there are some names that are likely to be locks, such as point guards Austin Rivers and Marquis Teague, power forward James McAdoo and small forward Michael Gilchrist. There is some good talent in this class, although the big men tend to be more of a power forward skill level.

One thing is certain, it’s a celebration of basketball, not just at the high school level, and many of the players who land on the Mickey D’s roster end up in the pros just a few short years later. To be perfectly fair, there are a lot of players who play in the game that do not go on to pro careers; there is a lot of focus on the fact that Lebron and Shaq played in the game and that tends to slant the memory of the game. But you can still see some of the best talent in the nation as they finish up their high school careers.

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By Marcus Shockley

The NCAA onslaught of investigations continues now with the Oregon Ducks, where one or more players’ eligibility over the past two seasons has come into question. While no player has specifically been named in the investigation, it’s apparently widely known exactly who is being referred to:

Oregon officials did not identify the player or players involved but numerous media reports have identified center Michael Dunigan as the key figure in the investigation.

However, even though the article cited above (from the Statesman Journal) states that Dunigan is still on the Oregon roster, that’s no longer true, as Dunigan has bolted for a professional gig in Israel.

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By James Blackburn

Mustafa Shakur

The New Orleans Hornets announced on Thursday that they had signed free agent guard Mustafa Shakur. Terms of the contract were not released.

Shakur (6’4″, 195) appeared in 47 games (all starts) for the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League last season, averaging 19.2 points, 6.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 37.8 minutes per game.

Personally, I think the Hornets made a great move by picking up the ex- Arizona guard. The team had no other PG on the roster to back up All-Star PG Chris Paul, after trading Collison to the Pacers. This might have been a problem, considering Paul missed 37 games due to injury last season.
After watching Shakur play with the Oklahoma City Thunder this year in the Orlando Summer League, I thought he had a good chance of landing on a team roster. In Orlando he showed scouts and GM’s alike that he can shoot and pass as well as any back up PG. He causes havoc on the defensive side of the ball with his length and he his deadly in transition. He has come a long way from his Arizona days and has learned a lot this past year in the D-League.

This is a move a lot of people will not pay attention too and it won’t generate a lot of media hype. But it is an underrated move and the right move for a franchise fighting to get back into the playoffs.

By Marcus Shockley

Kevin Durant and the rest of the USA basketball team, much maligned for their early lack of cohesive play, have reached the FIBA World Basketball Championship finals and will take on Turkey later today. Turkey, led by NBA star Hedo Turkoglu, are playing in front of a home crowd, as the games are being played in Istanbul.

Breaking down the game, the USA team should not lose to Turkey; although Turkoglu is by all rights an NBA star, one NBA player is not enough to beat another team with an entire roster of NBA players. But what the US team has to be wary of is that the international game is not like the NBA, and that means that Turkey does not just hand the ball to Turkoglu every time down the court and clear out. They play a motion team offense, with Turkoglu working within the offense to find his shot. Occasionally, Turkoglu will bring the ball up court, but he’s not actually running the point.

The US team should use Kevin Durant in the same manner, because there is a lot more scoring on the the USA team than Turkey’s team, and even if Turkey tries to stop Durant, the US team should be able to find buckets in other places.

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By Marcus Shockley

Worried your college basketball or college football team might get a visit from the NCAA soon? Well, if they do, they are probably going to find something.

If it seems like the NCAA suddenly woke up from a long winter’s nap in 2010 and decided to go on a King Kong-like rampage across major universities in the sports world, well, it’s because it’s true.

It’s actually more surprising that the NCAA didn’t start with basketball, which is one of the most corrupt and easily exploitable situations in all of college athletics. However, don’t believe the talking heads on ESPN when they tell you that it all started with Reggie Bush.

The NCAA has known about the problems in AAU baskeball and ‘runners’ for some of the top players for years, and the only reason they were spurred into action was the growing issue with players making college a one-semester stopover on the way to (usually short) NBA payday.

Do all college players get paid? No way, not even close. Do a ton of players get money and other considerations that are against NCAA rules? You’d better believe it. The latest recruiting scandal, this time rocking Bruce Pearl and Tennessee, should not be a complete surprise to anyone really familiar with college basketball.

Pearl comes across as affable person, and I loved his stunt of showing up bare-chested to a Lady Vols game covered in bright orange paint. He had success, albeit on a lower scale, prior to landing the job at Tennessee. He’d made the NCAA Tournament with upstart Milwaukee for three years running, which is a testament to his coaching ability. But Pearl started landing top recruits that made people wonder what was going on, and the NCAA is looking to lay down some law. While the ultimate decision on Pearl is still out, the fact is, the NCAA knows deals are getting done across college basketball and they intend to put a stop to it.

So, the questions remain:

What is the NCAA looking to stop?

The NCAA intends to stop the ongoing under the table deals for highly sought after recruits. The whole process involves more than just a head coach and a recruit. It involves, agents, runners and AAU teams. This isn’t a new game, but the AAU circuit and the quick NBA exit option has made deals much easier in too many cases.

What can the NCAA do to actually ‘fix’ the problem?

Beyond laying down punishments, the NCAA should be trying to figure out how to keep the problem from occurring in the first place.

Pretty specifically, the problem, which always existed, exploded with the sudden influx of early entrants into the NBA draft in the early 90′s. The talent level of the premier basketball league in the world became significantly weaker over the past two decades as more inexperienced players have flooded the league; ratings tanked as the product on NBA courts suffered.

In an attempt to improve his league’s product, NBA Commissioner David Stern instituted the age limit for the league, effectively improving the talent level. Scouts no longer were drafting off of high school rosters, but drafting players who had at least one year playing against college-level talent.

Consider that the one-year-rule moved Derrick Favors out of the number one draft spot (where he was projected when he graduated high school) and put John Wall in his place. That’s why the rule works for the NBA.

But what worked for the NBA doesn’t work for college basketball. Players who have one great year go pro, effectively making college basketball a true farm system. The NCAA could try and persuade the NBA to raise the age limit, but the player’s union will work to prevent it, and truthfully, the NBA doesn’t need to raise the age limit now that it’s working to stem the ratings losses.

The other tactic is that the NCAA could try and punish the agents and handlers. Currently, they go after the schools and coaches, while the agents, handlers and players leave it all behind for the big payday and bright lights of the NBA. It’s not really very effective at stopping cheating when the real people doing the cheating are long gone by the time anyone gets busted.

For the coaches, it can be a risk they decide to take in order to keep themselves employed. You simply cannot win at a major D1 school without major talent. Sometimes, rarely, a coach gets a gift player on his roster that no one knows about, like Gordon Hayward of Butler. But usually, players who can help you win are already on everyone’s radar.

If you are a coach at a major university and making $400-$600K a year, how are you going to last beyond two or three years? You have to win. Some coaches will take a chance, knowing that they might get away with it, or if they can avoid it for long enough, at least when they get busted, they’ll be wealthy enough to walk away.

However, none of this actually stops the problem effectively.

The NCAA, if it wants to actually put a stop to all of this, or at least slow it down, should institute the same three-year-rule on players that it already has for baseball. It’s the only way to prevent players who want to jump after one year from taking a scholarship and roster spot, and agents won’t be as keen on laying out money for players who won’t get drafted for another three years, if ever. It slows the dealings down. It doesn’t stop them…boosters who may not even have a university’s blessing can still circumvent the process to help their alma mater, and colleges who land top recruits profit heavily from the winnings.

But there’s one more significant point in all of this that the NCAA has worked hard to keep fans from realizing.

The NCAA Is Not The Law

There are laws in the country intended to prevent racketeering, extortion and fraud, and some of these types of deals fall right into those felony categories. However, guess what? Most of them do not.

It’s not illegal for some of the things that agents do, only against the NCAA’s rules, and lo and behold, the NCAA is not the law.

Not even close.

So while the NCAA talks a big game about punishing players, agents and coaches, their authority only extends so far. That’s exactly why players like Reggie Bush can take payments while in college, and then jump to the NFL without losing anything. Give back the Heisman? Yeah, who cares? He’s got millions of dollars, endorsement deals, a Super Bowl ring, a pension plan and a lot more. Honestly, the Heisman was just something he picked up on the way to his career.

In order to fix this, the NCAA has to recognize that the NBA isn’t going to solve this for them. The NBA can’t even solve it’s own labor agreements, being one of the worst managed leagues in the world, with several teams bleeding money every year with no end in sight. The NCAA is going to have to take matters into its own hands, and institute a three-year-rule.

And players will need to start deciding if they want to play for free for three years or try to get a job for a year. At least then they wouldn’t have to pretend to be amateurs for that year.

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By Marcus Shockley

Hikeem Stewart (6’4″, PG/SG, 2011), has reportedly made his college choice, picking the University of Washington. Stewart is a native of Washington and attends the well-known Ranier Beach High School in Seattle.

Ranier Beach was also known for where his older brothers, Lodrick and Rodrick, attended before also playing Division I level basketball themselves. Despite many who thought Stewart was playing the summer circuit as an attempt to draw more interest, he says that’s not the case.

According to Stewart, he was sure about his college choice at the end of his junior high school year, before his solid AAU summer season:

“It feels really good, because it was getting out of hand with so many colleges calling,” Stewart said. “I was like, there’s no point in me going through this. I already know where I’m going. I’m just going to make my announcement now.”

I have not seen enough of Stewart to give a full scouting report. What I have seen is that he’s a natural forward that will need to make the move to a guard in order to really advance. He plays defense well and is a solid passing forward. He can handle the ball well enough to play SG.

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By Marcus Shockley

Penn State landed a solid big man recruit with Patrick Ackerman, a 6’11″ center who plays for Worcester (Mass.) Academy. Ackerman is in the class of 2011 and was on an official visit with the Nittany Lions when it seemed everything just clicked and he decided to commit. Known as a solid shot blocking big man who can also score the ball, Ackerman is an excellent recruiting win for Penn State.

Ackerman’s decision to come to Penn State will be crucial during his freshman season, which will see much of the frontcourt for the Nittany Lions head off to graduation. Ackerman should have ample opportunity to see minutes early and get a chance to play a significant role, even in his first year.

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This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of USC. All opinions are 100% mine.

USC campus

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Giovonne Woods (profile on agency website), the 6’3” G out of Central Washington University, who I scouted at the Overseas Evaluation Clinic in Raleigh back in May, has since signed with the Spanish team, Tenerife Baloncesto.

A solid showing at the Raleigh showcase event, earned Gio an invite to the Tarvisio Camp in Vegas, where he again showcased his skills to scouts and teams, which paid off in the form of a contract offer from the Spanish club.

Tenerife Baloncesto plays in the A division of the EBA.

Giovonne Woods basketball
Baloncesto signed Giovonne Woods because of his shooting ability and his ability to attack the basket. In addition to his shooting, Giovonne’s defense, passing ability, and hustle, will carry over to the different style international game. Giovonne has played in the IBL and has played in multiple pro am leagues including the Jamal Crawford league which has prepared him for the rigors of professional basketball in Spain.

Giovonne has been impressive so far playing professionally across the water. In his debut game, Gio put up 16 points and 4 rebounds in a winning effort. His team just finished up the pre-season with a perfect 4-0 record and Gio has recorded averages of 14.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assist a game. Cup games start tomorrow for the club.

He is still getting acclimated to playing professional basketball, while learning the language and adjusting to the Spanish culture. He is learning quickly and is adapting to the different rules in international rules and play. Giovonne hopes to have a big year and to continue to improve game by game.

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