CHICAGO — It was not a make or break situation, but when you walked into the gym for the NBA pre-draft camp on Chicago’s west side - filled with scouts, general managers, coaches, media and everyone in between – you could feel the intensity in the air.
Here are five fast facts about the Panthers to help you as you fill out your bracket:
1. Their best NBA prospect is a 7-foot freshman center named Steven Adams, who is a native of New Zealand. He’s averaging 7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2 blocks per game as he adjusts to the collegiate game.
2. They have only two players averaging double figures in scoring; senior point guard Trayvon Woodall (11.8 ppg, 38.2% 3FG) and junior swingman Lamar Patterson (10 ppg, 47% FG). When Woodall gets hot from beyond the arc, he’s dangerous.
3. Their worst loss was a 67-62 game against Rutgers on the road on January 5th…
4. However, they bounced back with their best win of the season in the form of a 73-45 smack-down AT Georgetown on January 8th. Pretty impressive.
5. In his nine prior seasons as head coach of Pittsburgh, Jamie Dixon has never taken the Panthers to the Final Four. In fact, the only time Pittsburgh’s made the Final Four as a program is 1941. Try to tell me the Panthers haven’t busted your bracket during Dixon’s tenure… And I’ll quickly call your bluff.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Over the past month, Noel has separated himself from the pack to be projected as the top pick in June’s draft. Instantly, Twitter blew up with reaction from fans and journalists ranging from the injury to the gruesome images to his draft stock.
In the days following it was revealed that Noel suffered a torn ACL and is expected to have surgery in the next few weeks. He should be recovered in six to eight months.
In an extremely loaded four-team preseason tournament, the Legends Classic in Atlanta tonight will place No. 7 Kansas against No. 14 Michigan State on one side of the bracket while the defending national champion No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats will face the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils.
Although Kentucky escaped its matchup with the Maryland Terrapins on Friday at the Barclays Center, it’s clear that this Kentucky team is a work in progress and will try to find itself as the season progresses.
Now that Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad are off the board and have chosen their colleges, only a handful of elite 2012 prospects remain uncommitted.
Here’s a look at the Top 10 prospects in the Class of 2012 and where they are going, plus six uncommitted players still available:
1. Shabazz Muhammad, G, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman — UCLA
Muhammad chose the Bruins over Kentucky and Duke, and could end up being the best wing scorer in college basketball during what is likely to be his lone year on campus before turning pro.
“Shabazz Muhammad is the No. 1 player in the country and his signing at UCLA is huge for our program,” embattled Bruins coach Ben Howland said. “I’m just so excited because he is a great kid that embodies what is needed to be an excellent student-athlete. He is an outstanding student who is a great person and is obviously a very special player. He brings so many skills to the table. He is very athletic and is a very strong and explosive player who is a very good passer and scorer and is an outstanding shooter. He will be a very special player for us.”
2. Nerlens Noel, C, Tilton NH Tilton School — KENTUCKY
Noel, who picked the ‘Cats over Georgetown and Syracuse, figures to slide in and take over the shot-blocking, center position in place of Anthony Davis, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Some believe Noel is a better shot-blocker than Davis, who led the nation this season with 4.7 blocks per game.
“I’ve been blessed three times in my career to have a player that can change the game without really scoring with Marcus Camby, Anthony Davis and now Nerlens Noel,” Wildcats coach John Calipari said. “I will tell you that Nerlens, just like Anthony, is not a finished product. He’s got a lot of work to do and we have a lot of work to do to get him to where I think he’s capable of being, but he is a special player who I am ecstatic to have an opportunity to work with.”
3. Kyle Anderson, PG, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony — UCLA
The 6-foot-9 Anderson chose the Bruins in the fall over Seton Hall, St. John’s, Florida and Georgetown and will now pair with Muhammad to form one of the most dangerous offensive combos in college basketball.
Bob Hurley Sr. called Anderson a “modern-day Magic Johnson.”
“I think he’s the most dominant player to ever play at the school,” said Hurley, a Naismith Hall of Famer. “His improvement from last year till now is unbelievable. He’s certainly the most versatile kid ever anywhere near his size that I’ve ever coached.”
4. Isaiah Austin, C, Arlington, TX Grace Prep — BAYLOR
The 7-foot Austin will be a welcome addition in Waco with Perry Jones III likely headed to the lottery.
“In recent years, Baylor has become known for its athletic versatile big men, such as Quincy Acy, Ekpe Udoh, Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Isaiah continues that trend and is someone who can pass, dribble and shoot, but still possesses a 7-foot-tall frame which allows him such a huge size advantage on opposing players.
“Isaiah affects the game on both ends of the court and Baylor fans will love cheering for him,” Drew said
5. Steven Adams, C, Fitchburg, MA Notre Dame Prep — PITTSBURGH
A New Zealand National Team player, Adams competed last summer for the Wellington Exodus Saints and helped lead the squad to the National Basketball League title. He has also guided his club team in Wellington to two national titles at the Under-19 and Under-17 age groups.
The 6-10 Adams is also a free spirit who likes to play guitar and pool.
“He’s tremendous,” said Chris Rivers of adidas. “He’s very Greg Oden-like from 2005.
“He runs, he blocks shots up by the square, he finishes with both hands. He’s a competitor, a true team player.”
6. Ricardo Ledo, G, South Kent (Conn.) — PROVIDENCE
The 6-5 Ledo is a tremendous wing scorer who will bring instant offense to the Friars, assuming he qualifies academically. Questions loom over whether he will be eligible to suit up next year.
“I think he being one of the best natural scorers in the country is going to allow us not just to attract other players, but other local young men that have dreams and aspirations of coming to Providence College,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said.
“We hope he can score a lot of baskets for us and also make sure he goes to class on time.”
7. Anthony Bennett, F, Henderson, NV Findlay Prep — UNDECIDED
Bennett is the highest-rated uncommitted prospect left on the board and is considering Florida, Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV.
Florida is thought to be the favorite for Bennett, who plans to visit three schools in the coming weeks. If Kentucky were to land him, Calipari would add a fifth recruit to what is already the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the land.
“He’ll take another [school] off by next week,” Mike George of the CIA Bounce AAU team said. “He’s only gonna visit three schools.”
8. Alex Poythress, F, Clarksville, TN Northeast — KENTUCKY
The 6-7 Poythress has played all five positions at his high school, but will be utilized immediately in the frontcourt to help replace Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, both projected NBA lottery picks.
“When Alex is at his best, because of his size and athleticism, he’s as good as anybody in the country,” Calipari said. “He is really athletic, and when he’s got his motor running, he can score at will.”
9. Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Southborough, MA St. Mark’s — ARIZONA
The 7-foot, 220-pound center chose Arizona over Kansas and is part of one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, along with forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett and guard Gabe York.
“Very seldom is it possible to get a seven-footer,” said Wildcats coach Sean Miller. “Kaleb can run, he has great hands and he loves the low post. His presence on the court can help us.”
10. Marcus Smart, G, Flower Mound, TX Marcus — OKLAHOMA STATE
The Texas Gatorade Player of the Year averaged 15.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game last season as a junior. Smart chose the Cowboys over North Carolina, Kansas, Stanford, Arizona, Texas, Marquette, Oklahoma, Missouri and Baylor.
“He does everything,” head coach Travis Ford said. “He plays at a level of energy that hasn’t been matched by many people that I’ve seen. He’s the ultimate competitor. He can really shoot it for his size, he’ll get down there and bang it, he’s athletic, he can rebound, and he does all these things for his high school team.”
WHO’S LEFT ON THE BOARD?
With about a month left in the NCAA late signing period, a handful of big names remain on the board in addition to Anthony Bennett.
- Devonta Pollard, F, Porterville, MS Kemper County — Considering Alabama, Georgetown, Missouri and Texas.
- Tony Parker, C, Lithonia, GA Miller Grove — Considering UCLA, Duke, Ohio State, Kansas and Georgia. Plans to announce Monday.
- Amile Jefferson, F, Philadelphia Friends Central — Considering Duke, N.C. State, Villanova, Ohio State and Kentucky.
- Chris Obekpa, C, Centerreach, NY Our Savior New American — Considering St. John’s, UConn, Providence, Cincinnati and Oregon.
- Bradley Hayes, C, Jacksonville, FL Sandalwood — Considering UConn, Georgetown, Florida and Texas A&M.