News, notes and thoughts from the college basketball world. And a few other things too.
1. Within an hour of Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, pro basketball experts across the country began posting updated versions of their mock drafts. The majority of them predicted Cleveland would select Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick.
Wiggins certainly wouldn’t be a bad choice.
But I’d take Joel Embiid.
And I wouldn’t even hesitate.
I attended 14 Kansas games last season and have interviewed each player extensively in one-on-one situations. Embiid impresses me more for a variety of reasons.
I can’t recall a 7-footer in the last decade who can match Embiid’s footwork, soft hands, gait and shooting touch—not to mention his shot-blocking ability, which improved dramatically throughout the season. And I realize this has been said countless times, but he has only been playing basketball for three years. He’s just getting started.
I honestly believe he’ll be a perennial All-Star. I’m not all that concerned about his back injury, the nature of which isn’t all that serious or uncommon.
Embiid would be a perfect fit in Cleveland, which is in desperate need of a quality big man. Spencer Hawes is about to enter unrestricted free agency, and Anderson Varejao is nearly 32. I’d love to see Embiid on a roster that features Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and, potentially down the road, LeBron James.
From a public-relations standpoint, Cavaliers fans would love Embiid, who is friendly, jovial and incredibly well-spoken for a guy who didn’t speak English three years ago.
Even though Embiid and the Cavaliers seem like an ideal match, it will be difficult for Cleveland to pass on Wiggins. He’ll instantly become one of the most athletic players in the NBA and will have an immediate impact defensively.
I also think Wiggins will be able to play with more of a free mind than he did at Kansas, where his desire to share the ball—and the glory—with his teammates often caused him to drift and disappear.
Still, as big of an upside as Wiggins has, there are also factors that give me pause. He’s a mediocre outside shooter who has difficulty finishing around the rim. He was a complete no-show in three of Kansas’ most high-profile games of the season—losses to Texas and Stanford and a home win against Oklahoma State. He averaged just 4.7 points in those contests.
If you’re going by stats and numbers and measurements, Wiggins is the best prospect in this draft. But his lack of an alpha-dog personality is why I’d take Embiid No. 1 overall. I would love to see Wiggins operate with the same type of aggressive mindset as Duke’s Jabari Parker, who isn’t as gifted as Wiggins athletically but is a far better leader who plays with more confidence and assertiveness.
2. The prospect I feel is being undervalued in this draft is Kentucky’s James Young, who most pundits have going between Nos. 12-15. His skill set will transfer well in the NBA. In addition, he has good size (6’6”, 215 pounds) and moves extremely well. He can defend multiple positions and can beat his opponent off the dribble. He’s billed as a shooter—although he made a pedestrian 34.9 percent of his three-pointers as a freshman—but he can do so much more than that.
I would take Young somewhere in the six-to-10 range, ahead of players such as Marcus Smart, Nik Stauskas, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon and Gary Harris.
3. Multiple sources in Dallas have told me that SMU’s Keith Frazier is unhappy with the playing time he received as a freshman and is considering transferring. Frazier, the first McDonald’s All-American in Mustangs history, averaged 14.8 minutes per game in 2013-14 and contributed 5.4 points.
A 6’5” shooting guard, Frazier chose the Mustangs last spring over Texas Tech, Auburn and Texas A&M. The Tigers and Red Raiders have since changed head coaches. Mustangs coach Larry Brown is trying his hardest to get Frazier to stay, sources said, but losing Frazier wouldn't be devastating to a squad that returns most of its key pieces while adding McDonald's All-American guard Emmanuel Mudiay.
*Note: Frazier tweeted out late Wednesday evening that he has decided to stay at SMU. Smart move.
4. Remember Stilman White, the seldom-used North Carolina point guard who was thrust into the starting lineup after Kendall Marshall injured his wrist in the 2012 NCAA tournament?
White missed the last two seasons while participating on a Mormon mission. He will be classified as a sophomore and certainly isn’t a threat to challenge for a starting position. But he’ll provide quality depth behind standouts such as Marcus Paige and Nate Britt. White combined for 13 assists in NCAA tournament games against Ohio U. and Kansas.
5. Not many teams have done as well on the transfer market this spring as Creighton. Former Cal and Missouri guard Ricky Kreklow announced on Tuesday that he’ll spend his final collegiate season as a Bluejay. He joins point guard Maurice Watson (Boston University) and forward Cole Huff (Nevada) as new additions to Creighton’s roster.
Unlike Huff and Watson, Kreklow will likely be able to play immediately if he receives his undergraduate degree from Cal this summer, as expected. The 6’6” Kreklow is a strong outside shooter who should compete with returning starter Avery Dingman for playing time at small forward.
Kreklow averaged 5.5 points as a junior for Cal last season, when he missed 11 games in January and February with a broken hand. He was sidelined for 24 games the previous year because of a broken foot.
6. Considering the extensive travel and hectic schedule that goes along with being one of the most sought-after recruits in the country, it’s always good to see coveted prospects such as Jahlil Okafor taking time to have a little fun.
Okakor, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the class of 2014 by ESPN.com, tweeted that he’d be the main attraction in a dunking booth at a carnival Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago this week. Now that would be a sight.
Please send pics, Jahlil.
7. Andy Enfield won just two Pac-12 games during his inaugural season at USC. But the former Florida Gulf Coast coach is making headlines on the recruiting trail.
Enfield this week secured a pledge from guard Elijah Stewart, a top-100 talent who initially committed to Loyola Marymount before a banner senior season elevated his profile and caused him to look elsewhere.
USC—which beat out Oklahoma State, Cincinnati and North Carolina for Stewart—also out-dueled UCLA for top-50 prospect Jordan McLaughlin and has received a pledge from 4-star junior Chimezie Metu.
Also, former UNLV sharpshooter Katin Reinhardt will be eligible this season after sitting out the 2013-14 season under NCAA transfer rules.
8. Kansas, Texas and Iowa State are the main teams being mentioned as Big 12 title contenders in 2014-15.
But don’t count out Kansas State.
I won’t be surprised if this ends up being Bruce Weber’s best Wildcats team thus far. Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams, D.J. Johnson and Wesley Iwundu all return. Transfers Justin Edwards (Maine) and Brandon Bolden (Georgetown) will be eligible. And K-State adds three impact recruits in shooting guard Tre Harris, junior college transfer Stephen Hurt (a power forward) and top-100 talent Malek Harris, a rebounding machine who was initially headed to Marquette before Buzz Williams bolted for Virginia Tech.
One of K-State’s biggest issues last season was a lack of size and depth down low, as the 6’7” Gipson and Johnson were the only true post players. The addition of Hurt (who began his career at Lipscomb), Harris and Bolden will help alleviate that issue.
The main question mark for the Wildcats is at point guard, where Weber is hoping Nigel Johnson and rising sophomore Javon Thomas make significant strides over the summer.
I have the Wildcats in my preseason top 20.
9. Utah played one of the nation’s softest schedules the last few years, which was completely understandable for a program in rebuilding mode. Now that the Utes are competitive again, coach Larry Krystkowiak has done the right thing and upgraded the nonconference slate.
Utah will play Kansas in Kansas City, UNLV in Las Vegas and Wichita State at home.
*Remember Charles Ramsey, the Cleveland resident who became a national sensation after helping rescue three kidnapped girls who had been held captive for years in the home of Ariel Castro, his next-door neighbor?
One year later, Ramsey has written a book. Dead Giveaway is now available online for $14.95. I was already considering ordering a copy after reading excerpts from Chapter 1, and once I realized he was offering to sign it for no extra charge, it became a no-brainer.
*Let’s say you go to Panera around 11 a.m., eat a $12 lunch and then open up your laptop for a three-hour work session. Around noon, the place is packed and you realize there are people who want your table. Do you leave? Or are you entitled to that table (a small one, with only two chairs) since you paid for a meal just like everyone else? I’m asking because, as I type this, I’m getting the stink eye from a handful of folks lingering about the restaurant holding their trays. Starting to feel a bit guilty. I think I'll relocate.
*Can you imagine spending $400 to take a picture of a celebrity, and then, as you’re waiting in line, you’re told you can’t shake hands with the person, put your arm around them or even brush up against them. That’s what happened to the poor—and, um, misguided—souls who shelled out big bucks to meet Avril Lavigne recently in Brazil. Disappointed in her. Click here for the awkward photos and compare them to the ones of fans at a meet-and-greet with Rihanna.
*Along those same lines...would you pay $400 for a picture with anyone? If so, who? I may shell out that kind of dough to meet Chevy Chase, but only if I got to spend at least 15 minutes with him and he promised to be nice and answer my questions. A few years ago, my friend Charlie Ryland saw Chase in Central Park and approached him. According to Charlie, the conversation went like this:
Charlie: Excuse me...aren't you Chevy Chase?
Chase: No, no, no. But I used to be.
This Week's Vegas Ranking: Best Sin City Pool Parties
Encore Beach Club (Encore) — The biggest, baddest, craziest pool party in Sin City. Hands down. Get a group together and rent a daybed or a cabana. You won’t be disappointed.
Wet Republic (MGM) — Unlike some spots, Wet Republic hasn’t lost its luster as it has aged. Still one of the best times in Vegas.
Daylight (Mandalay Bay) — One of the newer venues on the pool-party scene, Daylight’s huge stage creates a concert-like feel at the pool.
Marquee Dayclub (Cosmopolitan) — It’s no surprise that the pool at Vegas’ hottest, most hip hotel attracts some of Sin City’s top “talent.” High-profile DJ’s such as Kaskade are frequent headliners. This venue is considerably smaller than others. Cabana or daybed is highly recommended.
Drais Beach Club (The Cromwell) — Vegas’ newest pool party opens this spring at The Cromwell, the former location of Bill’s Gambling Hall and the Barbary Coast. Vegas’ only rooftop pool club is creating a ton of buzz, partly because it was designed by the same folks who created XS, the beautiful nightclub at Encore.
*Honorable mention: Liquid (Aria), Bare (Mirage), Tao Beach (Venetian)
Thoughts About Restaurants/Food
*Last week I mentioned plans to spend the first “cheat day” of my month-long diet at the newly discovered Wings Cafe in Gladstone, Missouri. It was definitely a good choice.
Even though The Peanut will always reign supreme, Wings Cafe has no competition for second place in the Kansas City wing war. In fact, I might even rank the establishments 1A and 1B, simply because they are equally good yet so different. It's dumb to compare the two.
Here’s what I love about Wings Cafe:
1. These are some of the bigger, meatier wings you’ll find. No skimpy drummies or flaps here.
2. The price ($5.69 for six; $10.99 for 12) is tough to beat.
3. The staff is as friendly and as helpful as can be without being fake and annoying.
4. With 18 different sauces and dry rubs from which to choose, the variety is unmatched. My personal favorites were the Regular Buffalo, Cowboy (buffalo and barbecue mixed) and Slap Yo Momma (spicy dry rub).
5. The sides are plentiful and outstanding. Wings Cafe is known for its mac-and-cheese. But the big winner for me were the fries. I highly recommend getting them seasoned with one of the dry rubs such as Cajun or Garlic Ranch.
Wings Cafe is 45 miles, round trip, from my home. It was completely worth the drive, which I'm sure I'll be making weekly until I decide to move back to Texas.
*Many thanks to Sports Illustrated college football writer/fellow foodie Andy Staples for recommending Slater’s 50/50 in Anaheim. The California-based chain known for its burgers definitely lived up to the hype. I had the 50/50 Burger, which included pepper jack cheese, a sunny-side-up egg, avocado and chipotle mayo. I thought about sampling the buffalo mac-and-cheese, but hey...I’m trying to eat healthy.
*Nothing like three weeks on an extremely low-carb diet to make a piece of stale, day-old pizza crust taste like a sirloin steak.
*After two weeks of watching the Taco John’s commercial advertising the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Burrito, I finally caved. I ordered two of those suckers last week and immediately wished I hadn’t. They weren’t terrible, mind you. But they were average-sized with way too many jalapenos and not enough meat and Cheetos. I’d pass if I were you.
*At some point this summer, my friend Derek Samson and I are going to go on a food bender—a four- or five-day road trip designed to hit cities with good restaurants. Right now we’re thinking Nashville-Memphis-New Orleans. Any other suggestions?
Until next week ...
Jason King covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.