When ESPN and Sports Illustrated start handing out their Coach of the Year awards late in March or April, typically they are handed out to one of two types of coaches: a big name coach leading a powerhouse to an exceptional record or a coach on the rise leading a non-traditional power to new heights. The awards are great recognition for coaches who undoubtedly have done a tremendous job with their respective teams. But more often than not, they aren’t the coaches doing the best job coaching that season. The awards are earned from compiling a couple good years of recruiting together and developing players over time; not for just their successful records that year.
But if you want to really look for the best coaching jobs of the individual season, you need to start looking at the bottom of the barrel. Look at the squads who have almost no returning talent in the power conferences, where legendary coaches are on the opposing bench two to three times a week. Graduation, transfers, and early entrants to the NBA draft can leave coaches with rosters full of question marks. When expectations are at their lowest, that’s when a great coach can really make his mark and show his excellence in his craft. Finishing in with a .500 record might not mean a lot to the national audience, but the basketball junkies will recognize a job very well done.
With that said, let’s look at some coaches who will be trying to prove all those preseason prognosticators wrong.
Steve Donahue, Boston College
Donahue will have to lead a young BC squad against the heavyweights of the ACC this year.
Here’s all you need to know about the daunting task Steve Donahue is facing this year: his top returning scorer is preferred walk-on Danny Rubin (4.1 PPG), who saw his playing time diminish in the middle of the ACC regular season. With Reggie Jackson’s early departure to the NBA and the graduation of six seniors, Donahue will realize how bare Al Skinner left the cupboard. Along with Rubin, guard Gabe Moton and junior Oregon-transfer Matt Humphrey will be the welcoming seven scholarship freshmen and a few other walk-ons. Although some of the freshmen will certainly be talented, Jeff Bzedlik learned last year how hard it is to compete in the ACC with a young, inexperienced Wake team. If Donahue can get this group to win more than five ACC games and show player development throughout the season, most Eagles fans will be thrilled.
Ed Cooley, Providence
A native of Providence, Cooley will try to resurrect the Friars and make them relevant in the Big East again. Losing first-round pick Marshon Brooks to graduation leaves quite a scoring gap for Ed Cooley’s young team and will be the reason most pundits are down on Providence. Throw in guard Duke Mondy being released from his scholarship and most will expect another bottom half finish for the Friars. But guards Gerald Coleman and Vincent Council have shown flashes of their talent and potential. But the Friars inability to consistently play team defense cost them in Big East play (8-28 Big East record previous two years) and ultimately Keno Davis his job. Cooley will be looking to build an identity that the Friar faithful can rally around and hopefully inject some life into the floundering program.
While most college coaches have been hitting the road and attending the summer all-star recruiting camps, Mayo and I decided to give a quick run-down on a bunch of formerly sought-after recruits who will be freshmen in the fall.The 2011 Class was loaded with talent and many will become instant household-names (if they aren’t already). But we’ll also look at a couple of the more intriguing recruits and a few sleepers too.
Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky:
Davis will give the Wildcats another weapon in the post.
I’m taking Kentucky’s Anthony Davis here. Davis is many people’s consensus #1 recruit of this year’s class, so I’m not reinventing the wheel here. Davis’ combination of size and athleticism is tantalizing, and what’s more: he’s an impact guy on both ends of the floor. What will be interesting to me is how Davis will fit in with incumbent power forward Terrence Jones, who decided to stay at Kentucky for his sophomore year. Jones’ presence might curtail some of Davis’ impact as a freshman, but there is no doubt about the talent that he brings to the table. John Calipari will have one of those good problems of figuring out how to use both effectively at the same time. (Mayo)
James McAdoo, PF, North Carolina: The McDonald’s All-American Game MVP is an athletic specimen who like Davis can dominate on offense and defense. I’ve said before that McAdoo’s joining a loaded Tar Heel team that is very deep in the front court (Zeller, Henson, Barmes); but that’s not going to prevent the explosive McAdoo from seeing the court. He’s just too talented not to. Roy Williams has had deep teams before and he usually experiments a lot during November and December before finding a rotation he likes for conference play. Expect to see McAdoo getting 25-plus minutes and a spot on the NCAA All-Freshmen Team. (Giblin)
Tony Wroten, PG, Washington: Isaiah Thomas was the key spark for the Huskies when Abdul Gady went down with an injury last year but declared early for the draft leaving a void to be filled by the powerful lefty. Washington has some depth in the backcourt but Wroten, former Husky Nate Robinson’s cousin, has the size and skills to start at the point from day 1. He’s a legit 6’4” who uses his size well and distributes the ball very well. He’ll make an immediate impact and his play will go a long way toward’s deciding the champs of the Pac-10 (12?). Any guy who crosses up John Wall this bad is going to have a BIG impact (Green #1, 0:30 mark…might want to mute that horrendous music). (Giblin)
This draft is plenty heavy on point guards and there’s plenty of fringe first-rounders to be analyzed. But, with guys like Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker almost assured of a top-10 selection, there is tons of talent left floating between the mid-lottery and into the second round.
Two of these such “tweener” guards are Reggie Jackson of Boston College and the lesser known, Charles Jenkins from Hofstra. Both point guards are seen as athletic freaks in the eyes of NBA scouts and there is even lottery whispers sprouting up on both guys, mainly due to their potential.
Now, not much is known about the Hofstra product, Jenkins, but he’s got a lot of upside and is firmly on the first round bubble due to a stellar career, averaging close to 20 points and 4.5 assists per game. Meanwhile, Jackson was performing on a much more prominent stage nightly, playing against some of the country’s best teams. The Eagles guard broke out during his junior season, averaging 18 points and 5 assists per, while showing off his drool-worthy athleticism and newly honed ball skills.
The two prospects present much of the same for NBA teams, with a combination of athleticism and instant offense in the back court. In fact the two prospects are so closely rated that ESPN NBA Analyst, Chad Ford, has them rated as the 24th (Jackson) and 26th (Jenkins) prospects respectively on his big board.
Let’s see how the players break down comparatively:
Thursday’s Twithitters has arrived and we’re talking NBA prospects for these former college stars (and a dude from the Congo). Mock drafts are all around here, here, and here. All of them seem to agree with our lottery sweepstakes projection with Kyrie going number one to Cleveland. Yay us!
But we also looked at some of their mock drafts and decided who we thought were the most underrated and overrated prospects in this year’s draft. We start with the guys we think are undervalued…
Most Underrated Prospects:
- Reggie Jackson, Boston College – Yes, I am a homer. Jackson’s freakish 7-foot wingspan and ability to get to the rim are not being valued enough. His outside shot improved every season at BC and he’s got a good feel for the game. He’s only going to get better at the point. Some team’s going to luck into a great player late first round.
- Keith Benson, Oakland – Why is Benson not getting more love? Are guys like Kenneth Faried that much better? He’s got NBA size and athleticism and has some good inside skills. He could be better than both Morris twins.
- Isiah Thomas, Washington – Everyone is pointing out his lack of size. We get it. But look at J.J. Barera and his contributions in the NBA playoffs. Thomas’s lightning fast quickness and ability to get in the lane will make him a great bench player for many years in the league. And of course he’s COLD BLOODED!
- Tobias Harris, Tennessee– Harris is solid in all aspects of the game and has great basketball IQ. His play during his freshman year wasovershadowed by the chaos of Tennessee’s program because of the Bruce Pearl circus that unfolded throughout the year. He probably won’t be picked until the later first round, if not the second, but can really be a legitimate starter in the league.
Is Faried one of the safest selections in this years draft?
- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State– Faried got his name out thereby leading Morehead State to a first-round upset of Louisville this past tournament but still isn’t a household name. He is built like a brick house and might be the best rebounder in the draft. He likely won’t go until the later lottery but could be the perfect complimentary player for a potential contender. Think Joakim Noah.
- Jordan Hamilton, Texas – Hamilton has great size and athleticism, and he is one of the most versatile scorers in the entire draft. Yet, you don’t hear his name too often when it comes to lottery picks. I see him as a bonafide starter and potentially a great number two option offensively.
- Kenneth Faried, Morehead State – NCAA’s All-Time leading rebounder, of course I’ll take him. His game reminds me a lot of Ben Wallace. A tad undersized and still developing offensively, but in today’s game how often do you find a guy who puts defense and rebounding ahead of all else?
- Chris Singleton, Florida State – Defense is becoming even more of a fad than the 3-pointer in the NBA and Singleton brings it better than anyone in this draft. At 6’9 and 225 and with elite athleticism he could effectively guard each of the Heat’s Big 3 at different points in a game. Give his offense some time but at the very least you’re getting a great wing defender for years to come.
- Josh Selby, Kansas – He had his struggle while in Lawrence, but the upside is too good to overlook. A bad year doesn’t necessarily mean a bad career. If you need any further proof, see: Brandon Jennings. Sure, there is a lot of risk in the pick, but with terrific guard fundamentals and a developing shot how could someone rightly pass him up in the 20’s.