Odds and ends from the college basketball world—and other stuff, too:
One of the biggest recruiting battles taking place this spring isn't receiving much attention. Kansas and Virginia are considered the leaders for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a 6’6” shooting guard/small forward from the Ukraine.
“(He’s) the best prospect in Europe in a long time, probably since Ricky Rubio,” writes NBADraft.net's Rick Petro.
Fran Fraschilla, ESPN’s foremost authority on foreign players, agrees.
“If he were in the United States,” Fraschilla told me Tuesday, “he’d be one of the 10 best prospects in the Class of 2015.”
Notice Fraschilla said 2015. Mykhailiuk doesn’t turn 17 until next month. But he’s already completed high school in the Ukraine, where students receive diplomas after the 11th grade. Thus, if he achieves a qualifying score on his standardized test, he’ll be eligible to play Division I ball this coming season.
Fraschilla said qualifying shouldn’t be a problem for Mykhailiuk, the son of a history professor who speaks good English.
“If he ends up in college, he’ll face a little bit of a challenge because of his age,” Fraschilla said. “But he’s just so skilled. He would impact a team immediately.
“He’s a 6’6” combo guard. He’s not a pure point—but he can play the point. He’s a dead-eye shooter who is tough as nails. It’d be like signing a really good player from Detroit or Pittsburgh or Chicago. He’s a competitor.”
Fraschilla said Mykhailiuk wants to play college ball. The fear, however, is that a foreign team will offer him enough money over the summer to make he and his family reconsider.
“A club over there could make it very difficult for him to leave,” Fraschilla said. “Right now I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance he ends up in college.”
If that happens, Virginia or Kansas seems like the most likely destination. Virginia is thought to have a slight edge over the Jayhawks at the moment, mainly because the Cavaliers have been recruiting him longer and because the family has friends in the Washington, D.C., area.
But Kansas coach Bill Self met with Mykhailiuk at the Nike Hoops Summit last month in Portland, and sources said Mykhailiuk plans to visit Lawrence this summer.
One of the highlights of Mykhailiuk’s visit with Self, a source said, was watching footage of former Jayhawks center Sasha Kaun on a Kansas highlight reel. Kaun is from Russia, which neighbors Ukraine.
“Clips of Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur and Ben McLemore didn’t move him at all,” the source said. “He has no idea who those guys are. But when Sasha Kaun popped up on the screen, the whole family went crazy.”
Speaking of foreign players...as good as Iowa State has been the past few seasons, the Cyclones have had one glaring deficiency: height. Last year’s squad didn’t feature a single rotation player taller than 6’7”.
That will change in 2014-15, thanks to the addition of 7’1” Greek center Giorgos Tsalmpouris, who signed with Iowa State on Sunday. He will play for the Greek national team this summer before moving to Ames. Tsalmpouris, who was also being recruited by Davidson and Temple, doesn’t turn 18 until June.
It will be interesting to see how Maryland recovers after losing four rotation players—Seth Allen, Roddy Peters, Shaq Cleare and Nick Faust—to transfer.
Allen is the biggest loss. He averaged 13.4 points and 3.0 assists as the Terrapins’ starting point guard last season. Allen’s departure means that Romelo Trimble will have to start as a freshman. That’s a tall order in the Big Ten—or any conference, for that matter.
“We don’t have any other choice,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told me Monday. “But I think he’ll be fine. He’s a level-headed kid who doesn’t get too high or low. And he plays at a pace that allows him to play smart. He doesn’t get sped up. He’s 19, so that helps, too.”
Speaking of transfers, the situation in college basketball is getting out of control.
Two more high-level players—LSU’s Anthony Hickey and Georgia Tech’s Robert Carter—were granted their official release this week and are seeking new schools. The list of Division I transfers is now over 500, and it will only continue to grow throughout the summer.
Other transfer news and thoughts:
- I'm hearing former Oklahoma State guard Stevie Clark is heading to LSU, where his younger brother, Deondre, will be a freshman on the Tigers' football team. This would be a huge pickup for the Tigers, as Clark is a high-level guard who was contributing significantly off the bench (5.3 points and 2.7 assists in 16 minutes) as a freshman before being dismissed from the team Feb. 3 for multiple violations of team rules.
- I’m told former USC standout Byron Wesley is leaning heavily toward signing with Gonzaga.
- Speaking of Gonzaga, the Zags are losing a talented player in shooting guard Gerard Coleman, who played just one season in Spokane after transferring from Providence, where he averaged 13.2 points as a freshman in 2011-12. Coleman averaged 6.0 points a game off the bench last season.
- Wichita State should enter the season as a top-10 team, but there are question marks about how good the Shockers will be in the paint. It would help if they could find a quality, proven post player on the transfer market who could be eligible immediately.
Even with the loss of guard Anthony Hickey (transfer) and forward Johnny O’Bryant (NBA), I still think LSU will be the third-best team in the SEC next year behind Kentucky and Florida.
I expect rising sophomores Jordan Mickey and Jarrell Martin to make tremendous strides, and the addition of junior college point guard Josh Gray—who began his career at Texas Tech—could make the Tigers a top-25 team.
It should be considered a massive disappointment if Johnny Jones' squad doesn't reach the NCAA tournament.
Speaking of the SEC, Texas A&M’s Billy Kennedy made an attention-grabbing hire when he tabbed former Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury as an assistant.
Stansbury hasn’t coached since resigning under pressure in 2012 after 14 seasons in Starkville, the final two of which were derailed by trouble forward Renardo Sidney, who some say cost Stansbury his job.
Still, Stansbury went 293-166 with six NCAA tournament appearances at Mississippi State. That's nothing to scoff at. Stansbury had attempted to get involved in head coaching searches at other schools such as Houston but was unsuccessful.
"(Stansbury) is going to help on the recruiting trail more than anything," Kennedy told me Wednesday. "He's spent the last 22 years building relationships from Texas to Florida and all parts in between. The opportunity presented itself in the last month. There was no way I could pass it up. It's already obvious that he's a great fit."
The NCAA has denied Baylor’s request for a sixth year of eligibility for marksman Brady Heslip, who made 301 three-pointers and shot 43.7 percent from beyond the arc during his three years with the Bears.
Heslip redshirted at Boston College in 2009-10 and sat out the following season after transferring to Baylor. Rather than appeal the NCAA’s decision, Heslip will sign with an agent and pursue a professional career.
As much as I would’ve liked to have seen Ben Howland return to the sideline, I can’t blame the former Pittsburgh and UCLA coach for withdrawing his name from the Oregon State search. Whomever takes that job (and it sounds like it may be former Arizona star Damon Stoudamire) will face a massive rebuilding project.
I’m not sure Mike Krzyzewski could win 10 games with Oregon State’s 2014-15 roster. Granted, the situation was similar at Missouri, and Howland wanted that job. But it’d have been much easier to turn things around there than it will be at Oregon State.
I’ve got to think something better will come along for Howland eventually.
Notre Dame’s Mike Brey tells me he’s excited about the return of point guard Jerian Grant from an academic suspension that forced him to miss the entire spring semester.
“He’s grown from it,” Brey said. “He’s learned from his mistakes and is set to graduate in December. I told him, ‘When you come back you’ll get the biggest ovation of anyone.’ It’s a great success story.”
Grant was not allowed to take classes at Notre Dame this spring. Instead, he returned to his native Maryland, where he worked out constantly both on the court and in the weight room. Brey said Grant also spent time with friend and Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo and traveled to the West Coast to work out with his uncle, Horace, a former NBA standout.
Grant was averaging 19.0 points and 6.2 assists when his suspension was announced just before Christmas. Brey is counting on Grant and Pat Connaughton to provide senior leadership in 2014-15.
Mike Brey, Indiana’s Tom Crean and Alabama football coach Nick Saban are among the dignitaries slated to attend the ninth annual Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota, Florida. The event, which will be hosted by ESPN’s John Saunders, benefits the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Vitale pledged in early April to raise $250,000 for a pediatric research grant in memory of Lacey Holsworth, the eight-year-old Michigan State fan who lost her battle with cancer a day after the NCAA title game.
Event organizers said earlier this week that about $60,000 is needed to reach that goal. Donations are still being accepted.
Also on the horizon (May 18-20) is Lon Kruger’s Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Classic in Las Vegas. Some of college basketball’s top names (Roy Williams, Steve Alford, Tim Floyd, etc.) have attended the event in the past.
The entry fee includes two nights at the MGM Grand Casino and a round of golf at the exclusive Southern Highlands Golf Club, although the highlight of the event may be the party Kruger, the former UNLV coach, hosts at his Las Vegas home.
Two years ago, country singer Toby Keith conducted a concert in Kruger's backyard. Last spring, comedian George Wallace provided the entertainment.
One thing that really ticks me off is when friends go to Las Vegas, like, once every three years yet brag about all the offers they receive in the mail for free rooms.
The natural inclination is to assume they gamble a lot, but when I ask them about their playing habits, most respond like this: “I usually play $15 blackjack a time or two, but I mainly just hang out at the pool.”
Those were the exact words of a buddy who just received an offer for two free nights at the Cosmopolitan. The Cosmo is by far my favorite hotel. I’ve stayed there on my last five Vegas trips (and eight times overall) and have never been offered so much as a slice of pepperoni from their to-die-for pizza joint, Secret Pizza.
And while I’m not a huge gambler either, I certainly play larger hands than $15 a pop. And, yes, I have a player’s card that I use at all of the tables, restaurants, etc. Can I at least get on the mailing list, Cosmo? Seriously.
To gear up for my weeklong Vegas trip in late July (I’ll go again in September), I’ll use this space each week to run a top-five list about something Sin City-related. This week’s list: my favorite Vegas nightclubs.
1. XS (Encore): Massive indoor-outdoor facility. A little too much house music at times, but still...this place is truly striking.
2. Marquee (Cosmopolitan): Love the old-school rap in the Boom-Boom Room; the people-watching is great, especially when you're sitting outside the club and below the escalator around 4 a.m.
3. Hyde (Bellagio): A smaller boutique club that plays great music; stunning waitresses; cramped if you don’t have a table with bottle service.
4. Hakkasan (MGM): Went here for the first and only time last July with Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish and others to see Deadmau5. He was terrible, but the rest of this huge club was a ton of fun. The DJs on the second floor were much better than the live act upstairs.
5. Surrender (Encore): A smaller version of XS; go for the Thursday night pool party.
A friend asked me to recommend an under-the-radar sports movie the other day. I went with Eight Men Out starring John Cusack, Charlie Sheen and others. It was between that and Wildcats with Goldie Hawn. #kidding #kindof
ESPN reportedly played “The Man” by Aloe Blacc 108 times during the NFL draft. My count was a bit off. I had it at 339.
Speaking of overplayed songs, I’m starting to get mad every time I hear “Happy." On the flip side, there’s another overplayed tune that doesn’t bug me at all: “Timber” by Pitbull and Kesha. Oops, excuse me, Ke$ha. Can’t get enough of her or that jingle.
I spent two weeks on the “Slim 4 Life” diet and—no exaggeration—lost 16 pounds in 14 days. Granted, a lot of time was spent on treadmills, weight rooms and in saunas to make that happen, but it’s nice to be back at my playing weight.
Gaining it back is going to be so much fun. I'll begin that task in earnest today with two dozen wings from Wings Cafe in Gladstone, Missouri. It’ll be my first visit there after reading a ton of great reviews. I’ll let you know next week how it went.
Thoughts About Restaurants/Food
The New York Dawg Pound has been in Kansas City for three years now, but for some reason, I’d never stopped in until a few weeks ago. Boy oh boy, have I been missing out.
The NYDP serves up some of the biggest, baddest and unique hot dogs I’ve ever tasted. I went with the Chicago dog and the chili-cheese dog on my first visit, but next time I’ll push the envelope a bit.
I’m thinking either the Yankee Poodle (with bacon, egg and cheese) or the Boxer (blue cheese crumbles, bacon, red onions, sweet mustard).
One of my favorite things about visiting John Lucas’ gym—also known as “The Lab”—in Houston is that it’s located about two miles from Gatlin’s Barbecue, which is generally regarded as one of the top 10 ‘cue restaurants in the Lone Star State. Love the links, sliced brisket and, most of all, that dirty rice.
I’ve never been a fan of Mexican fast-food restaurants other than Taco Cabana (and I’m not sure that’s a fast-food place anyway), but I must say, I’m intrigued by the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Burrito at Taco John’s. I think I’ll give it a try.
More and more restaurants seem to be offering meals and appetizers featuring “pork belly.” I guess it's the trendy thing to do. In the past, whenever I thought of pork belly, I thought of the movie Trading Places. Only now do I realize how delicious it can be on anything from nachos to sliders to salads.
I need a food tour guide the next time I go to New York. I’ve spent weeks there in the past and have alternated between Ray’s Pizza, street gyros on 57th and 6th and pastrami sandwiches from Carnegie Deli for nearly every meal.
Other than Hill Country and Blue Smoke (both barbecue joints), I can’t remember the name of a single restaurant in the Big Apple where I’ve dined. I’ve always wanted to try Carmine’s. Any good? I notice that they've opened a location in Vegas in the Shops at Planet Hollywood.
I'll add it to the itinerary for my July trip.
Until next week...
Jason King covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.