Last week, when former Jayhawk point guard Russell Robinson got his first up-close look at current Kansas University sophomore Naadir Tharpe, he liked what he saw.
“I think he has enough talent to get some minutes on this team,” said Robinson, the starting point guard on KU’s 2008 national championship team. “You know, Tyshawn (Taylor) was ahead of him last year and that’s tough, but I think Naadir is a better point guard at that stage than I was.”
…During Robinson’s tough time, he got a lift from former teammate Aaron Miles, who simply reassured the New York native that he was a good player and that things would work out as long as he put in the time. Robinson said he tried to give similar advice to Tharpe.
“(I just tried) to set some knowledge on him,” Robinson said. “The fact that he was supporting his team (last season) means his mind is still into it. I think he’ll have an opportunity to play this year and I think he’ll make the most of it.”
Like Robinson, Tharpe, who hails from hoops factory Brewster (N.H.) Academy, logged fewer minutes (5.5 per game) than he would have liked during his freshman season and often found it tough to adjust from being a starting prep school point guard to a spot role player in college. But also like Robinson, Tharpe chose to remain at KU and currently is in the midst of an offseason designed to overhaul his game.
“Coach told me that he’s going to need more out of me,” Tharpe said. “And I know I need more out of myself. It’s definitely motivating. Last year I didn’t really get to play as much as I wanted to, but I had to look at myself in the mirror and see how much I really wanted to do this and I’m just working hard every day to try to get on that court.”
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis declared on the night of the draft lottery that the team would not trade the third pick. A week later, President Ernie Grunfeld said “in all likelihood” the Wizards would keep the selection and added, “We do what our owner says.”
Other NBA teams have apparently taken those comments as a dare. As Thursday’s draft draws near, the Wizards are discovering that No. 3 is in demand. According to two league sources, the Wizards have been fielding calls in recent days from teams interested in moving up to possibly select Kansas big man and District native Thomas Robinson.
David Aldridge of TNT and NBATV reports via Nets Daily that the Brooklyn Nets are aiming to acquire a pick with which to select forward Thomas Robinson of Kansas. The assumption is that the Nets would then flip Robinson to Orlando in their unicorn-chase-like pursuit of Dwight Howard.
The problem, of course, is that the Nets have absolutely nothing to trade for the No.2 pick.
The unplanned reality show that has become Robinson's life should take a much happier turn Thursday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. He could be selected directly after the projected top NBA draft pick, Anthony Davis, meaning Robinson will be able to provide for his sister and possibly allow her to move in with him wherever he makes his new home.
"I want to make sure she has no worries," Robinson said earlier this month after a workout with Olympic gold-medal sprinter Maurice Greene on the track at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village. "As long as I can remember, my family has struggled, so I feel like I have a chance to turn things [around] and fix it so I try to fix my whole family.
"We'll start with my sister and go from there."
Robinson's father was never a presence in his life. But his mother . . . well, she was everything.
Lisa Robinson was a caretaker for autistic children in Washington, D.C., who taught her son to always be prepared for whatever hardships life might throw his way. Whenever she meant business, she called him Earl, his middle name.
"Yeah, which was every day," Robinson said.
Robinson knew his mother wasn't feeling well when he saw her at his grandmother's funeral in December 2010. Lisa was experiencing migraine headaches, but she never disclosed to her son that she had undergone an angioplasty for a clogged artery in her heart. She didn't want him to worry in the middle of a basketball season.
Lisa did confide in Angel Morris, a family friend who lived at the time in Lawrence, Kan., to be close to her twin sons Marcus and Markieff, then forwards for the Jayhawks. Angel had also vowed to keep tabs on Lisa's son as a favor.
When Angel spoke with Lisa in late January 2011, the women discussed some new medication Lisa was taking for her headaches.
"I just told her, 'If that medicine doesn't work, go back [to the doctor] the next day,'" Angel recalled. "She said, 'I will. I'm just tired.' I said, 'OK, get some rest.'"
The next day, Lisa was dead.
…Jayla will be among a handful of family and friends who will accompany Robinson to the draft, on what figures to be a day fraught with memories of those who won't be there.
"I don't know what emotions are going to come on," Robinson said. "I just can't wait to get there."
Angel Morris has her own vision of how things will play out after Robinson walks across the stage and puts on the hat of his new team.
"I just think in his mind, he's going to say, 'Momma I did it, and I did it for you,'" she said. "And that's when the tears are going to come."
More than a month ago, when the draft process was just heating up, Taylor was hesitant to guess where he might be taken. He’d heard the projections: Probably second round; maybe first, if he impressed during individual workouts.
“I’m hoping to just get drafted honestly,” Taylor said. “To be in the first round, of course, is huge. But just to get drafted is going to be a blessing.”
Based on what Kansas coach Bill Self has heard, it may be a coin flip whether Taylor sneaks into the first round.
“I think he’s gonna be on the border, right there,” Self said. “Does he go first or second?”
...Taylor has reportedly worked out for close to 10 teams. The list includes Boston, Indiana, Miami, Cleveland, Memphis and Golden State — all teams that will pick in the latter third of the first round.
...A long-held view among some observers of the Kansas program is that Taylor’s game may be well-suited for the NBA. The theory: Taylor’s strengths — his turbocharged speed and ability to break teams down off the dribble — will be huge weapons in a game with shorter possessions and rules (no hand checks) that seem to benefit explosive guards.
“I think I could potentially become a better NBA player than maybe I was in college,” Taylor said. “And I think that’s a lot to do with the spacing. And I also think that’s a lot to do with the team and where I get drafted, too.
It’s an argument that Self doesn’t disagree with, either. But for Taylor, it may be all about landing in the right system.
...Still, to go in the first round, Taylor may have to convince a team that his offensive decision-making — he had 138 turnovers last season — won’t be an issue. Of course, Taylor says that he’s been doubted before. Last June, few would have thought that Taylor could guide a team to the NCAA title game. And that happened.
The scout said he always had Taylor listed as a point guard and not one that excited him much.
“This year he finally breaks out, not really as a distributor, but as a scorer,” Clibanoff said. “His senior year kind of confirms him as a two guard. If you’re not so turned on by having to have a guard who’s a prototype and you can throw him on the court and put good players around him, he could help that team. He’ll need to define his identity and refine his game at the NBA level. That’s what the second round is for.”
His identity, the scout said, will have to be as a guard who takes pride in playing outstanding defense against point guards and shooting guards. Clibanoff offered Armon Johnson as a comparable. Johnson was taken out of Nevada with the 34th pick in 2010 by the Portland Trail Blazers, has gone back and forth between the NBA and the D-League and now is the property of the Brooklyn Nets.
“If all goes well, try Keyon Dooling,” Clibanoff wrote in his draft guide, citing the former Missouri guard who has averaged seven points per game in 11 seasons with six different franchises.
Dooling has earned roughly $35 million, not bad work if you can get it. Taylor’s best shot at getting it lies in becoming a focused, non-stop defensive pest from Day 1.
Chalmers, 26, basked in the team’s championship celebration Monday with his mostly veteran teammates. The Heat’s starting point guard received one of the loudest ovations of any player when he was introduced during the team’s indoor ceremony that followed the parade.
But even then, James couldn’t pass up a chance to mess with Chalmers.
As he was interviewed at an auxiliary stage, the Heat played a montage of such instances of veteran scolding on the arena’s big screen.
James stood up and mimicked one of his on-court rants from the main stage across the arena — even slamming his cap playfully on the floor.
“It’s tough sometimes, but you have to keep fighting,” Chalmers said. “That’s my motto.”
Without Chalmers’ performance, the Thunder had a chance to swing the momentum of the series, something that did not go unrecognized by his teammates.
“They gave me a lot of love,” Chalmers said after Game 4. “They always have encouraging words. Any time I hear encouraging words after struggling like I have been, it gives you an extra boost of confidence.”
Chalmers added this championship to his list that already included two state titles at Bartlett High in Anchorage, Alaska, and a national title at Kansas.
“[Winning an NBA title] has got to be No. 1,” Chalmers said. “On this stage, with this team, these fans and this coaching staff…there’s nothing better.”
The Warriors have extended a qualifying offer to swingman Brandon Rush to make him a restricted free agent.
The team announced the long-expected move Tuesday. The tender allows Golden State to match any offer Rush receives this offseason.
Rush, 26, appeared in 65 games last season after coming to Oakland in a trade from Indiana for Lou Amundson. Rush averaged a career-high 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 26 minutes per game.
Rush ranked sixth in the NBA in three-point percentage, shooting a career-high 45.2. He also posted career highs by shooting 50 percent from the field and 79 percent on free-throw tries.
Former Kansas guard Jeremy Case has accepted an assistant coaching position with Houston Baptist.
Case spent the last three years as an assistant coach at Southeast Missouri State but was not retained by Redhawks’ coach Dickey Nutt after the season.
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Big 12/College News
I want to apologize to all the recruits this week. I'm spending the majority of my time answering questions from NBA teams about my six guys
John Calipari @UKCoachCalipari
This is Part I of ESPN.com's two-day series on the NBA's minimum age requirement. Check back Wednesday for the conclusion.
The search for Taj McDavid -- and the other prep-to-pro prospects who followed Kevin Garnett's model but failed to find his success -- tires the seeker.
Excluding the mentions of his decision to enter the NBA draft as an unheralded prep prospect more than 15 years ago, he's vanished -- in a contemporary sense. Unlisted phone numbers lead to frustrating chimes and, "We're sorry, but the number you have reached is no longer in service" messages from phone providers.
No Facebook page. No Twitter feed.
Google searches yield archives from the mid-90s and little else. His online footprint suggests he's lived off the grid following an unpopular choice to enter the 1996 draft. Yet he's still relevant in the ongoing dialogue about young men pursuing professional basketball careers.
From the barbershop to the boardrooms of NBA executives, McDavid and others like him (Korleone Young, Leon Smith, Ellis Richardson) provide the ammo for supporters of the NBA's minimum age requirement -- players in the NBA draft must be at least 19 years old and a year removed from their high school class graduation -- that the league implemented starting with the 2006 draft.
One and done stars
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Michigan State and Connecticut are planning to play a men’s basketball game on a U.S. Air Force base in Germany next season.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis says the game will take place Nov. 9 at Ramstein Air Base, pending final approval by the Defense Department. The Spartans and North Carolina played last season on an aircraft carrier, and the game drew ESPN’s highest-ever rating for a game played in November.
Hollis says the game at Ramstein would take place before an audience of 2,500 to 3,000 enlisted men and women.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo calls it “another amazing opportunity for Spartan basketball and Michigan State University” and says it would be an honor to be part of the first college basketball game played on a military base overseas.
2012-13 Early Season Events List
Abdul Gaddy was a late arrival but subbed in early in the game. Anrio Adams, Rainer Beach and incoming freshman for Bill Self and Kansas, drew Gaddy’s number on the defensive end. Adams picked his pocket a few times, but for the most part Gaddy was able to find his own shot.
He netted a total of 15 points as he was guarded closely by Kansas bound Anrio Adams. Rio was giving Gaddy some fits early on as he picked him clean off the dribble on a couple of occasions.
After a very good school season with Grace Prep (Tex.), four-star prospects Jordan Mickey shot up the rankings and emerged as one of the better forwards in the class of 2013.
Recently, Mickey took trips to Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky and West Virginia.
With the Cardinals, Mickey's athleticism and ability to make plays in transition could suit him well at Louisville. “There are great players out there,” he said.
His trip to Columbus came while the school was updating their facilities, but he was still able to take a tour.
“I went and saw the facilities, and they were remodeling,” Mickey said. “I saw the campus.”
Mickey also stopped at West Virginia, and had a chance to meet with the players and coaches.
“It was a great trip,” he said. “I got to work out with the guys, sat down with coach [Bob Huggins].”
After visiting Lexington in early June, Kentucky has emerged as a potentially intriguing option for Mickey.
“I could fit in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's spot as a hustle guy,” he said. “It makes it appealing.”
Those aren't the only schools in the mix for Mickey, as the 6-foot-7 prospect is also hearing from Providence, Kansas, Texas, Florida State, Florida, Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Arkansas. His performance at the NBPA Top 100 camp, where he averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds, certainly didn't dissuade any schools.
After his initital quartet of trips, he also went to Arkansas this past Sunday and Monday.
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