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.

Stop Worrying About Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz is likely done for the year. Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo gave a very blanketed quote when asked about Fultz’s status. “There’s always a chance that he’s going to be out there soon, and there’s a chance that he’s not going to play this year.” He said. The news of Fultz potentially sitting out the rest of the year has sent the NBA Twitter world into a frenzy. The word bust is being thrown around and people are already to lump Fultz with Kwame Brown and Anthony Bennett. But let’s make one thing clear.

Markelle Fultz will be just fine

The day he entered his name into the 2017 NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz received the criticism. “Washington didn’t even make the tournament,” is what many unknowledgeable fans would say. There’s truth to that, but neither did Ben Simmons a year before. The reason is not their fault. If you’re going to point to anything, point to the coaching first. Look at what Will Wade and Mike Hopkins are doing at LSU and Washington, respectively. They both have those programs trending in the upward direction for the first time in awhile. A good coach goes a long way at the college level.

Playing on the West Coast, and not in prime time a lot, left Fultz in the dark most of his year in college. Not many people on the East Coast stayed up to watch a bad Washington team lose in the Pac-12. That is completely understandable. But lack of knowledge or exposure doesn’t make a player less talented.

What’s going on with Fultz is very uncharacteristic, and the cause for concern by Sixer fans is understandable. Even more so when you remember what Philadelphia gave up to draft him. How does a player who has been playing basketball his whole life “forget” how to shoot? The more Fultz stays off the court, the more questions arise and the more people demand to see practice videos of him shooting. The situations are different, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons didn’t play their first seasons either. Now Fultz isn’t sitting due to injury, but let’s not turn our backs on a 19 year old so quickly.

It’s all bizarre. Colangelo said today that Fultz can’t shoot outside the paint. That screams scary, but it also seems a little unrealistic Regardless, as you’ve been doing for literally years now, Trust the Process. Don’t jump to negativity before year one is over. If there’s one person who will work his way back, its Fultz.

Markelle Fultz worked his way to the national spotlight. He didn’t grow up a highly touted recruit and prospect. He wasn’t playing varsity basketball as an 8th grader or some of the crazy things you hear top recruits doing at young ages. Markelle Fultz was playing JV basketball as a sophomore. He transformed himself from a kid playing JV basketball to a top 10 recruit nationally through his work ethic. He went from unknown to #1 pick by getting in the gym. The same work ethic that will get this bizarre shot dilemma solved. Take a deep breath, Philly.

Where Does Trae Young Stack Up in the 2018 NBA Draft

A freshman is taking college basketball by storm, and his name is not Marvin Bagley or Michael Porter Jr. In case you have missed it, Trae Young has taken over college basketball this season. Young is leading the country in points and assists per game right now. He is fresh off an absurd 26 point, 22 assist outing in only 29 minutes on Wednesday night. Plain and simple, Trae Young and Oklahoma is must watch basketball.

Dominating college is one thing, but not all players translate to the NBA game. Freshman phenoms like OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams are all examples of players who dominated college for a year, but did not live up to the hype in the NBA. They don’t necessarily deserve the bust label, but they are also not Kevin Durant, James Harden or Anthony Davis. So with that in mind, where does the best player in college basketball (yes, he’s been the best so far) net out in next year’s NBA Draft?

When it comes to way to early mock drafts, the names Bagley, Porter, Ayton, Doncic and even Bridges are the first ones written down. Not many people talk about the 6’2, 180 pound freshman from Oklahoma. Young is making the case though, to be drafted ahead of some of those names. For one, look at some of the teams projected in the Top 5. Chicago and Atlanta both took big men in last year’s draft. Taking another center could interfere in their development. Young’s ability to get his teammates involved and drop dimes would help Markkanen and Collins more than adding another big body next to them.

Secondly look at the body of work. I know it’s early, but Young has been superb. Porter has been out with injury. Bridges has been solid, but hasn’t taken the leap we expected; granted Michigan State is loaded with weapons. Bagley and Ayton have been great. Young has been better. He has had the highest scoring game this season (43) and tied the NCAA record for assists in a game (22). How does a team turn that down?

The biggest knack on Young is his size. He does not have the NBA ready body that Bagley, Ayton and Bridges do. Neither did the guy everyone is comparing him to, Steph Curry. Young may not be ready now physically, but he has the potential to put on strength and size once he is drafted. In a league where we now draft on potential, how can you turn down a player for his current body at 18/19 years old.

So where would I put Trae Young if I had an incredibly early 2018 NBA Mock Draft? I’m buying the hype, because the hype is real. I’m putting Young as the second best prospect on the board right behind Bagley. If I’m Chicago or Atlanta, I am absolutely taking him and giving myself a point guard and forward for the future. I would expect Young’s numbers to drop slightly once Big 12 play starts, but I think he will still put up crazy numbers that will make him near impossible to pass up come June.

Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t seen Oklahoma yet, check them out.

 

Bigger Than Ball Vol. 5: Aidan Igiehon

Aidan Igiehon is a top ranked basketball player whose aggression and footwork around the basket have colleges from all over the country lining up to see him play.  What’s even more impressive than his ability on the court is the unique journey he has taken to play basketball in the United States.  Igiehon is an Irish citizen, living and going to school in New York.  He’s also one of the most humble kids we have gotten the chance to interview so far.  Here’s our in depth Q & A with the number 55 ranked junior, Aidan Igiehon.  

 

You don’t typically see many kids from Ireland playing ball in the States, how’d you end up coming over to play?

 

It’s funny, I didn’t actually come over here to play ball.  I came over here with my local team called Dublin Lions, they play ball, and I went to this Sixers camp – Philadelphia 76ers.  I was 13, 6’5” – yeah, I was like tall and skinny…and then I was athletic and could dunk the ball.  They were like “yo he’s 13?”, and then a lot of high schools came to see me.  No one really helped me get over here.  I just traveled with my team.  I went from Philly to New York to visit my family, and then stayed a couple months; and then I was playing in the park with my Aunt – my Aunt’s daughter’s Coach is best friends with Dana. He set up a workout, and I’ve been with them ever since.  Never thought about playing with anyone else.  

How was it playing on the EYBL circuit? You were relatively unknown before  you started playing AAU basketball, how did that help your recruiting?

 

On the circuit that’s when I really blew up.  The first session…it was the game against Bol Bol and Shareef [O’Neal] – people were like…like didn’t know who I was at the time.  They were just focused on Shareef.  “theres a kid dunking crazy”, it was me – I was just cocking it back, like ahh!  I had 18 points with like seven dunks and a couple free throws.  After that game my phone started blowing up – they started calling me.  Then I got my first ACC offer.  Syracuse.  After I got that offer, a lot of schools started contacting me.  I was too excited.  Dana was telling me to relax.  I guess he expected it, but I didn’t…Syracuse was like my fourth or fifth, and from then on I had like 20 something.  

 

Who has been the best person you’ve played against so far?

 

Marvin Bagley. Gotta be – and second that Bol Bol.  Bol Bol might be better actually, I don’t know.  He’s nice…underrated.   Only thing is, he’s 7’3” but he hates to play around the rim.  He plays from the free throw line and up.  It’s easier for me to guard big men rather than guards so that made it tough.

 

Which NBA player do you think you play like?

A mixture…I wanna say a mix with Deandre Jordan…and with Anthony Davis.  Yeah – mix that – take a little skill off AD.  My aggression and how hard I dunk the ball is like him.  I am actually very skilled, but many people don’t know that.  All they see is the dunks.  I can finish with both hands and start the break.  It’s tough to show that sometimes because showcase games usually show the guards.  Nobody really knows my name like that so that’s why I’m trying to use this July period to get known.

 

Soccer is the main sport played in Ireland,  and you seem to have great footwork for a player your age – Did you play when you were younger?

 

Yeah, I actually started off playing soccer.  I started playing ball when I was 12, but before that yeah – it was only soccer.  So, I played center midfield – I started off playing right back, and right defensive mid.  I wasn’t thinking about playing in college honestly, I didn’t even know about college athletics when I was younger.

 

Do you still play?

 

I still play soccer for fun, like with my older brother.  He’s 20.  He’s playing semi-pro right now upstate.  He plays in college, but he’s going to be a pro…It’d be cool for me to be able to play for the same school as my brother…I still work out like a soccer player.  When I’m training I do a lot of ladder stuff.  With Dana [Dingle-New York Lightning AAU coach], we start with a couple sprints then some high knees and then other footwork. As you get really tall, really quickly you get kinda slow.

What was the biggest adjustment basketball-wise when coming over from Ireland?

 

The speed of the game, the physicality of the game, and how serious everyone is about it.  In Ireland it’s just fun and games.  Like people here, they work out like one in the morning – I’m used to like, training with a team. That’s how we do it. That’s why the development has been different for me.  I was probably one of the best players in the country back then.  For my age.  There were some good players though.  Now looking back it was kinda like, eh.  There was one guard though, Matt Drummond.  He was good.  I had to wait a couple months before I could play when I came here, just the speed of everything…they threw me into the fire though.

 

Biggest non-basketball adjustment?

 

So basically, I’m in New York so I’m in the city.  In Brooklyn.  So, how there are mad trains and mad buses, and how you don’t use cars to get anywhere…and just the speed of life. It was a big change.  I lived in a very nice estate in Ireland, that you had to drive everywhere. Everywhere’s kinda far…hilly – quiet.  Ireland’s nice, the weather’s just horrendous.  Sometimes you can have all four seasons in a day.  Freezing, then warm, then it gets kinda hot and it’ll rain.

 

You’ve been living in New York for a few years now, do you ever get homesick?

 

Oh yeah.  All the time.  I’ve got a ton of friends and even now, a ton of people follow me like “yo you’re my inspiration”…I actually have to go back and run a camp – I have to give a speech and everything.  A ton of people are going to be there. [laughing] I’m looking at them like, yo I’m just a regular kid – I don’t look at it like how they look at it.  I look at it like I’m just playing ball you know…

What are you planning on saying in your speech?

 

Basically…first thing they’re gonna ask me is if I can dunk.  After that there just gonna ask me questions about my life.  “How can we get there?” They all want to come over, but unfortunately they can’t all come, but who am I to say they can’t.  So I’m going to let them know they have to work hard, and try and tell them how I much work out – and how you have to stay focused on academics. That plays a huge part.  Because I have good academics my recruitment is great.  I have a 3.7 – because of that my recruitment took off.

 

You have well over 20 Division I scholarship offers now, which gives you the opportunity to pick a school that really fits you.  What are you looking for out of the programs that are recruiting you?

 

I want to be somewhere where I can play right away.  My goal honestly is to be a pro.  I’m going to try man.  I just started playing ball..like I’m working hard, so I think I have a chance.  That’s why I work out so much – I’m just trying to work on my skills.  I’m really gonna try.

 

What do you think you need to work on to become a more complete player, and hopefully reach your goal of playing professionally?

 

I think I need to work on outside shooting. ‘Cause i’m athletic enough to play the three, I think if I could spread the floor more I could really be good.  I do a lot of ball handling in workouts, because that’s the goal.  I’m trying to make the NBA.  Obviously still think the academics, so I can play anywhere in the country – and I really have to extend my game. Do the repetition so much so that when it comes game time it just comes naturally.  I’m going to work hard, so that once I get to college, I really can cement myself as one of the best bigs in the country.

2017 NBA Draft: Best Value Picks in Round Two

A sense of excitement always seems to disappear every year when the First Round of the NBA Draft comes to a close. Adam Silver leaves for the night, and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum takes over. Fans slowly trickle out as the illustrious names are off the board. The 2017 NBA Draft was no different. The appeal of the second round certainly cannot compete with the first round, but that’s not to say you can’t find an All-Star caliber player, or even a consistent role player, in the last 30 picks. Here are six players who, initially, look like great value picks by their new teams. 

Monte Morris (Iowa State): 51st Pick – Denver Nuggets

Monte Morris was an exceptional pick by Denver in the late second round. I was extremely surprised Morris was still on the board at that point, though in upperclassmen often get unfairly punished in NBA Drafts for their age. Morris however, I thought was an exception. Having watched a lot of Big 12 games, Morris has been a Top 3 point guard in the conference the past four years. He boasts a career 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, shot 47% from the field and 38% from behind the arc. His decision-making ability should, at the very least, make him a reliable back up for several years.

Jordan Bell (Oregon): 38th Pick – Golden State Warriors

Jordan Bell could not have gone to a better place. I know I know, anyone would say that when they’re going to the team that just won the NBA Championship, but Bell fits the Warriors style. Take Javale McGee for example, and how Golden State was able to revitalize what was a lost career. The reason Bell fits so perfectly is because he doesn’t need to change his game one bit. At Oregon he was a tremendous shot blocker and controlled the paint defensively with his athleticism. These traits alone had scouts looking at him in the late first round. Being able to focus as the defensive anchor first, and offense second, sets both Bell and Golden State up nicely next season.

Jonah Bolden (Australia): 36th Pick – Philadelphia 76ers

As ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said last night, Bolden would have been on more people’s radars had he stayed at UCLA instead of going pro overseas after his sophomore year. Bolden is an athletic 6’10, 225 pound forward who can knock it down from deep. He actually was able to find success in his time in the Adriatic League in Serbia. Bolden is a raw talent, but with focus on the Fultz, Simmons and Embiid trio, he should have time to develop his game in Philly.

Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State): 39th Pick – Los Angeles Clippers

Evans dropped in the draft due to his size. At 6’1 he will be very undersized at the point guard position in the NBA. Physical attributes aside, Evans is a skilled guard who can score for himself and improved his facilitating in his second season at Oklahoma State. In his sophomore campaign, Evans raised his APG to 6.4, good enough to lead the Big 12. While he will have to continue to adjust how he scores in the paint, he can be a solid role player from day one thanks to his decision-making and passing ability. And if Chris Paul sticks around for Evans to learn from, he will only benefit more from it.

Ike Anigobu (UCLA): 47th Pick – Indiana Pacers

The key word for Ike Anigobu is health. On the surface Anigobu only averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds for UCLA last season. A deeper dive shows a player who was once looked at as a first round pick, if not a possible Top 20 selection due to his athleticism and 7’6 wingspan. While critics point to Ike’s rawness and injury issues, the Pacers can afford to see this process out after the drafted TJ Leaf in the first round. With Thaddeus Young, Al Jefferson and a blooming star in Myles Turner in-house, the addition of Leaf gives Indiana a front court rotation for next season. For at least a year, they can Anigobu concentrate on strengthening his knee, while developing in practice against a solid group of bigs. This is a risk that could end up being a reward if the chips fall the right way.

Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga): 55th Pick – Utah Jazz

Similar to Monte Morris, Williams-Goss makes the list due to where he was selected. At pick 55, why wouldn’t you take a chance on an experienced guard with a history of success? The Jazz had a young guard in Dante Exum, and  veteran with an uncertain future in George Hill. With Goss they now have a reliable, seasoned rookie who can fill in and play as big or little of a role as needed. There’s a chance Hill stays and Goss never gets the minutes needed to make any sort of impact. But if the opposite happens, and Hill leads, it’s nice to have an experienced rookie to call on for back up minutes.

Every fan hopes that their team can find a hidden gem in the second round that will turn into a Manu Ginobili or Draymond Green or Gilbert Arenas. Few often pan out like we expect or hope. While nothing is guaranteed for many second rounders, these six players have a chance to not just make a team, but provide their respective teams with great contributions. Keep following Hoop Group Insider all summer long for NBA news.

 

@JN_Albano