De’Anthony Melton Withdraws From USC

In some unsurprising news today, USC guard De’Anthony Melton withdrew from school to pursue his NBA career. Melton sat out all season after being linked to the FBI case in the Fall. In January, USC announced that he would miss the remainder of the season, more news that was not surprising at the time. It’s weird to say a player is trying to better his career by leaving school mid-season, but there is no reason for Melton to remain on campus.

Prior to the FBI news in September, Melton was a projected first round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. He was a well-rounded player for the Trojans last year, averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his first, and last, year. He was also good for almost 2 steals (1.92) per game. Melton was expected to be a key contributor to a USC team that was thought to compete with the top of the conference and then make his leap to the professional level. Obviously, that did not go according to plan.

“I have decided to focus on honing my strengths and improving upon my weaknesses for competition at the next level.”

The FBI probe left Melton in an interesting position. In his statement via Twitter, Melton said he reached a crossroads. Ultimately he chose to leave school to focus on improving his individual game. I agree with this decision. Staying in USC won’t help him as much as training on his own will. USC is playing to get into the NCAA Tournament, not to get players ready for the NBA. Anyone associated with, or around that program should have that goal in mind. It’s hard for Melton to have that mindset while being stuck to the bench all year long.

At the same time, he hasn’t played all year. He’s entering the NBA Draft not having been seen by scouts in live game action in over a year. He can perform well in individual workouts, but he’s at a slight disadvantage compared to most players entering the Draft. There’s just not as much tape on him. He’s also not someone like Michael Porter Jr, who was highly touted for such a long time. Melton was touted the Swiss Army knife for his versatility as a freshman, but there’s no second year tape to back this up anymore.

Melton was thought to be a late first round pick prior to the start of the college basketball season. Many recent mock drafts have left him out of their first round, but there will be so many changes that you should not read too much into that right now. I think while this news is unsurprising, it’s the right move for Melton as he sets his sights on the NBA. It will be interesting to see where he lands in June’s draft, and how much he can improve his stock in individual workouts after missing his sophomore year.

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Louisville Basketball Forced to Vacate Wins

The hits keep coming for Louisville basketball. In what has been an emotional season thus far, the school announced today that they will be vacating their wins during the 2011-12 season through the 2014-15 season. That includes their National Championship in 2013. The school must also give back the NCAA money received through conference revenue sharing for its NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012-2015.

The announcement comes after the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee upheld their initial ruling on the sex scandal that broke in 2015 in which a former Louisville assistant coordinated stripper parties for recruits on campus. Louisville was appealing that the punishment put forward was too excessive for the crime. Little did they know, back then, that this would just be the tip of the iceberg.

This case was what sparked the dumpster fire that is Louisville basketball at the moment. It was the first step in Rick Pitino’s dismissal from the program. What was once a well-respected coaching career, with over 750 wins and a National Championship, is now tarnished with scandal and corruption, and no championship banner. The opinions and perceptions gravitating around Pitino as a coach have changed immensely over the past two and a half years since this story broke.

In total, the school will need to vacate over 120 wins, four NCAA Tournament appearances, two final four appearances. Louisville will also have to relinquish a Big East Conference tournament championship, AAC regular season and tournament title and ACC regular season/conference tournament championship. Think about that, they were in three separate conferences during this time. Now they basically were never a part of the AAC.

Vacating wins isn’t a huge punishment to a program. People don’t just forget the four seasons the Cardinals had. They won’t pretend Louisville lost to Michigan in the 2013 National Championship. It just adds more insult to injury when you couple it with everything that went on in the Fall. Louisville got caught paying a player, lost their Hall of Fame coach, and now got caught again with different recruiting violations.

The announcement leaves Louisville in even more of a hole than they were already in. Fighting for a NCAA berth, it adds a great amount of pressure on David Padgett and his players. Not to mention this FBI scandal news is still floating around out there. Padgett has done a good job given the circumstances this season, but there’s only so much outside attention a program can receive before it becomes too much.

This is obviously a lot for one program to go through, given that just a few months ago they were under heavy fire for paying Brian Bowen $100,000 to attend school. If you really want to clean up the game though, this has to be done. The NCAA needed to be firm on this if they want change. Corruption and scandals run deep in college basketball. There’s not going to be a clean, easy fix of it. Based on what was teased from this FBI report, Louisville won’t be the first team to vacate wins, they’re just the first.

Jared Rhoden Excited to be on National Stage

In the past year, Jared Rhoden has emerged as one of the top class of 2018 prospects in the northeast. Rhoden took AAU by storm with the NY Lightning this past summer and added numerous high major offers. He eventually decided on the Seton Hall Pirates, which is likely to be a school where he can make an immediate impact. Now Rhoden is leading Our Saviour Lutheran into becoming one of the best basketball teams throughout the country as they have beaten talented teams like Prolific Prep and Hillcrest Prep. He is beyond excited for what he and his team have done so far this year.

“My senior campaign has gone great and it is by far the most exciting season of my high school career,” said Rhoden. “With me getting a chance to get put on a national stage after being overlooked by almost everybody is the best part especially doing it with everybody they said we couldn’t do it with.”

Being recognized as a national level team was a goal for Our Saviour Lutheran heading into this year and they have accomplished that. Rhoden is happy to see all of this hard work pay off.

“Playing a part in bringing this team to the nation’s top high school level has been surreal,” Rhoden said. “With us being a small independent Lutheran school located in the Bronx everybody over looked us. Every day we stepped on the court from the rebuild two years ago, we made sure we were straight business. We worked so hard and put in so much time for this opportunity to be a top team in the nation.”

Even with the amount he and his team have accomplished this year, Rhoden has plenty of goals on his mind going forward.

“One of my goals of this high school season is to leave my best legacy at Our Saviour Lutheran,” he said. “I want to influence all of the future kids and current kids that will be in the program. Another goal is to win Mr. Basketball for the state of New York. The last goal for me is that I want to make it to the Dicks Nationals.”

Once the high school season ends, Rhoden gets to look forward to playing his college career at Seton Hall. He broke down for Hoop Group Insider why he chose the Pirates.

“The main deciding factors for me choosing Seton Hall was the genuine trust I felt with the not only the school but in particular the coaching staff,” he said. “Another reason is because I felt they had the best balance of basketball and education.”

For Rhoden there is a lot to look forward at Seton Hall. He is excited about the opportunity that is presented with the coaches and teammates that he will be surrounded with.

“There are too many things to be excited about for next year because playing college basketball has been a dream of mine since I can remember,” Rhoden said. “I guess the thing that excites me the most is I’ll be playing under and with people I trust. I’ve found that the Seton Hall guys have similar mindsets, which will be great to see on the one of the biggest stages in college basketball.”

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