Jeff Eisenberg

  • Chris Walker's sad tale is unlikely to have a happy ending

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 23 hrs ago

    The steep decline of Chris Walker reached its nadir Friday afternoon.

    It was then that the onetime top 10 recruit announced he's leaving Florida and declaring for the NBA draft despite having virtually no chance of being selected. 

    In two tumultuous seasons at Florida, Walker delivered occasional flashes of athletic potential but never came close to blossoming into an impact player.

    The 6-foot-10 forward didn't become eligible until early February as a freshman and played sparingly off the bench for a Final Four-bound Florida team, averaging 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. He made little impact in the postseason for the senior-laden Gators, scoring only seven points and logging only 18 total minutes in five NCAA tournament games.

    The Gators needed Walker to play a bigger role as a sophomore after losing their entire starting frontcourt, but he wasn't up to the task, He frequently looked lost defensively and was constantly a step slow on rotations, which was a major reason he logged only 14.6 minutes per game and averaged a modest 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds. 

    There are few signs Walker has that level of discipline.

    - - - - - - -

  • Mississippi State lands commitment from elite prospect Malik Newman

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Six months before he coaches his first game at Mississippi State, Ben Howland has already achieved a meaningful victory.

    The first-year coach landed a commitment Friday from elite scoring guard Malik Newman, Rivals.com's No. 8 prospect in the class of 2015. The son of former Mississippi State forward Horatio Webster chose the Bulldogs over a long list of more high-profile programs including Kentucky, Kansas, LSU and North Carolina State.

    That Howland was able to land Newman is especially impressive considering he took over at Mississippi State less than a month ago. The hire forced Newman to more strongly consider staying home as a result of Howland's history of success at UCLA and Pittsburgh and his track record of producing successful NBA players like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo.

    The arrival of Newman gives Howland a real chance to contend for a postseason bid in his debut season in Starkville. Mississippi State returns five of its top six scorers from a 13-19 team that lost nine games by six or fewer points under former coach Rick Ray.

    - - - - - - -

  • Buddy Hield's return makes Oklahoma a potential top 10 team

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    How high expectations will be for Oklahoma next season always largely depended on whether Buddy Hield returned to school.

    The Sooners still could have contended for an NCAA tournament bid had Hield turned pro, but they have a chance to accomplish something far more memorable now that the reigning Big 12 player of the year has announced he'll be back for his senior season.

    Oklahoma will likely begin next season in the top 10 in the polls thanks to the return of four starters from last season's 24-win Sweet 16 team. The Sooners also figure to be squarely in the Big 12 title chase along with perennial favorite Kansas and potential preseason top 5 Iowa State.

    The catalyst for Oklahoma will be Hield, one of the highest-scoring guards in the Big 12 both of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4 native of the Bahamas averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior, impressing NBA scouts enough that he had a chance to be a late first-round pick had he opted to enter the draft.

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Expectations mount at Cal now that Tyrone Wallace is returning

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Cal's hopes of ascending in the Pac-12 pecking order received a huge boost Thursday when its best player announced he's staying in Berkeley.

    Point guard Tyrone Wallace revealed he will return for his senior season after flirting with declaring for the NBA draft for most of the past month.

    Wallace emerged as a potential second-round pick last season when he averaged 17.1, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his first year playing point guard. Staying in school gives the long, athletic 6-foot-5 guard a chance to cut down his turnovers, improve his 31 percent 3-point shooting and fulfill a promise to his late grandfather to earn his diploma.

    The return of Wallace could land Cal a spot in the preseason top 25 next fall and should give the Bears a chance to challenge Arizona, Utah, Oregon and UCLA for the Pac-12 title. Some of those teams may have more depth than Cal, but the Bears have as talented a nucleus as any of them.

    Cal's strength should be a backcourt that features Wallace, high-scoring Jordan Mathews and former elite recruit Jabari Bird. Returner Sam Singer and 6-foot-7 Georgetown transfer Stephen Domingo should provide perimeter depth off the bench.

    - - - - - - -

  • Louisville lands the most coveted transfer on the market

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    The most prized graduate transfer on the market will join a program that desperately needs a scorer of his caliber.

    Former Drexel wing Damion Lee announced Thursday that he has committed to Louisville, providing a jolt of offense to a Cardinals team trying to overcome the loss of 82 percent of its scoring from this past season's 27-win campaign. 

    Lee received offers from the likes of Arizona, Gonzaga, Maryland and Marquette because he was one of the few transfers who were both immediately eligible and capable of making a real impact. The 6-foot-6 rising senior averaged 21.4 points per game for the Dragons this past season, fifth most of any Division I player in the nation. 

    Louisville could promise Lee guaranteed playing time at wing after losing leading scorer Terry Rozier to the NBA draft, fellow starter Wayne Blackshear to graduation and backups Anton Gill and Shaqquan Aaron to transfers. Incoming combo guard Donovan Mitchell and wing Deng Adel will also surely contribute, but Lee's presence decreases the pressure on both of them to make an immediate impact.

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg

  • Christian Wood's departure dims optimism regarding UNLV

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    On the eve of his announcement whether he'd stay at UNLV or turn pro, forward Christian Wood tweeted a picture of himself and three of next year's Rebels with the caption, "Kinda a cool pic. What do yall think?"

    UNLV fans thought it was an omen. Turned out it was Wood giving them false hope.

    Wood announced through a video on his Twitter account Wednesday night that he'll skip his final two years of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft. The athletic 6-foot-11 sophomore is projected as a late first-round pick and could rise even higher if he impresses in pre-draft workouts.

    A role player as a freshman, Wood enjoyed a breakout year this past season during an otherwise forgettable winter for the UNLV basketball program. He was second on the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game, averaged a team-best 10 rebounds per game and developed into a very capable rim protector on defense.

    UNLV needs its frontcourt to be special because its backcourt lacks elite talent or outside shooting in the wake of leading scorer Rashad Vaughn's decision to enter the draft.

    - - - - - - -

  • 'Awful' fourth quarter can't tarnish Tim Duncan's big night

    Jeff Eisenberg at Ball Don't Lie 2 days ago

    LOS ANGELES — Forty-eight minutes into his second-highest-scoring playoff performance in five years, Tim Duncan entered the San Antonio huddle and did something none of his teammates expected.

    He apologized.

    The same guy who sank 10 of his first 11 shots and kept the otherwise cold-shooting Spurs in the lead for most of Wednesday's game was in no mood to celebrate any of that. Duncan felt responsible for the Clippers rallying from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime after blowing a couple of fourth-quarter shots he thought he should have made and committing a costly turnover that led to a pair of late J.J. Redick free throws.

    "I was awful," Duncan said. "I missed two or three layups. I made two or three defensive mistakes where I got out of position and gave up dunks. I was awful in that fourth quarter."

    "There are not many teams who have come back from being down 2-0," guard Manu Ginobili said. "It has happened but it's very hard. For us, it was a very important game. We were very upset about our performance in Game 1 and we did not want to go home down 0-2."

    - - - - - - -

  • Kevin Ollie addresses speculation he could leave for NBA gig

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    Hoping to douse the speculation over whether he'll leave for an NBA job this spring, UConn coach Kevin Ollie released a carefully worded statement Wednesday reaffirming his commitment to the Huskies.

    Ollie insisted he will not pursue another job this spring but stopped well short of guaranteeing he'd be at UConn next season.

    "As I have said many times, I am proud and honored to be the head basketball coach at the University of Connecticut and I have no plans to pursue other opportunities," Ollie said. "We are already excited about next season and I am looking forward to preparing our team to be the best we can be on the court, in the classroom, and in our community."

    Ollie's statement came only hours before Oklahoma City formally parted ways with Scott Brooks. My Yahoo Sports colleague Adrian Wojnarowski wrote last week that the Thunder were still evaluating Brooks and that Ollie and Florida coach Billy Donovan were both potential candidates should the job open.

    - - - - - - -

  • Long-dormant Maryland-Georgetown rivalry will restart

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    The last time Maryland and Georgetown scheduled a regular season game against one-another, a handful of current players on both teams weren't even born yet.

    The 21-year wait will finally end next season.

    CSNWashington.com reported Tuesday that the Terps and Hoyas will finally meet in College Park as part of the inaugural Gavitt Tip-Off Games pitting teams from the Big East against teams from the Big Ten. Maryland and Georgetown will play a return game at the Verizon Center during the 2016-17 season.

    While it's ridiculous that the two regional rivals have played so infrequently, the timing of the renewal of the series is at least ideal.

    The two schools have only faced each other a couple times in tournament play since that 1993 game. The Terps beat Georgetown in the 2001 Sweet 16 and the Hoyas got some revenge by throttling Maryland in a 2008 game.

    Perhaps that's the reason Tuesday's news broke via sourced reports rather than via an announcement. Both sides are keeping things hush-hush until all the details have been agreed upon.

    - - - - - - -

  • Duke finds potential solution to looming point guard problem

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 4 days ago

    When Tyus Jones announced he will enter the draft last week, it left reigning national champ Duke without a point guard on next season's roster.

    Six days later, the Blue Devils found a creative solution to that problem.

    Highly touted point guard Derryck Thornton committed to Duke on Tuesday and intends to reclassify from the high school junior class to the senior class, Rivals.com and other media outlets reported. Thornton, who had been a consensus top 15 prospect in the Class of 2016, will join the Blue Devils in the fall and likely will be given every chance to replace Jones as the team's starting point guard. 

    Whereas Jones arrived at Duke as a polished decision maker who could shoot from the perimeter or create for himself or his teammates off the dribble, Thornton is a different type of point guard. The 6-foot-1 Chatsworth, Calif. native might be a bit more erratic with the ball in his hands than Jones was as a freshman, but he also should be a better on-ball defender.

    Rivals video of Derryck Thornton:

    - - - - - - -

    Follow @JeffEisenberg