Jeff Eisenberg

  • Kyle Wiltjer's return ensures Gonzaga's elite frontcourt stays intact

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 11 hrs ago

    One of this past season's elite frontcourts will return intact next year.

    Kyle Wiltjer made that certain Monday when he joined fellow Gonzaga big men Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis in deciding to remain in school.

    Whereas Sabonis revealed his decision soon after Gonzaga's Elite Eight loss to Duke and Karnowski made his plans known last week, Wiltjer's process dragged out the longest most likely because of his age. The skilled 6-foot-9 forward already has spent two years at Kentucky and two at Gonzaga and will turn 23 years old before the start of next season, young by real-life standards but not for a NBA prospect.

    What surely kept Wiltjer from making the leap is the uncertainty over whether he would have been drafted. Concerns about whether he has the strength, quickness or athleticism to guard either NBA small forwards or power forwards have diminished his NBA stock despite his multifaceted offensive game.

    The return of that trio is the biggest reason Gonzaga will probably begin the season in the top 15 in the polls despite the graduation of its entire starting backcourt.

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  • Brandon Sampson bolsters already solid LSU recruiting class

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 15 hrs ago

    For a team that lost its two best players to the NBA draft earlier this month, LSU still has a chance to be awfully good next season.

    The Tigers are bringing in a recruiting class more than capable of offsetting the departure of all-conference forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey.

    LSU landed another impact player Monday when Rivals.com's No. 41 prospect Brandon Sampson chose the Tigers over St. John's and Oklahoma State. The Baton Rouge native joins a recruiting class that already includes No. 1 overall prospect Ben Simmons, five-star scoring guard Antonio Blakeney and Arizona transfer Craig Victor.

    A slender but sweet-shooting 6-foot-4 wing who excels in transition and can also finish at the rim, Sampson initially chose St. John's but reopened his recruitment when the Johnnies and fifth-year coach Steve Lavin parted ways earlier this spring. He considered St. John's anew after Chris Mullin was hired but opted instead to stay at home and join his talented classmates at LSU.

    The one concern with LSU is the program's history of often not getting the most out of the talent on its roster.

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  • Potential first-round pick Jakob Poeltl's return is a coup for Utah

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 18 hrs ago

    Had Utah center Jakob Poeltl entered this year's the NBA draft, the smooth, fluid 7-footer probably would have been selected in the first round. 

    Instead Poeltl will return to the Utes for his sophomore season, gambling that an offseason spent adding muscle and diversifying his offensive repertoire can improve his stock next spring.

    "I really enjoy it here at the University of Utah," Poeltl said in a statement released Monday morning. "I love my teammates, coaches and college in general. I think another year will help my development and I'm looking forward to next season."

    Poeltl's patience gives Utah a good chance to remain nationally relevant next season. Do-it-all star Delon Wright and productive 7-footer Dallin Bachynski both are gone from this past season's 26-win Sweet 16 team, but Poeltl is the centerpiece of a returning core strong enough to keep the Utes in the Pac-12's upper echelon next year.

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  • Albany hero Peter Hooley to deliver commencement speech

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    If the ideal commencement speaker should be both successful and inspiring, then the University of Albany is making a great choice.

    School officials called on junior guard Peter Hooley, the hero of the Great Danes' America East tournament title game victory over Stony Brook.

    Six weeks after his mother's death after a 4.5-year battle with colon cancer and four weeks after he returned from a period of bereavement in his native Australia, Hooley felled Stony Brook with a top-of-the-key three just before the buzzer sounded. The shot earned top-seeded Albany a one-point victory and propelled the Great Danes into the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season.

    Hooley's story attracted nationwide attention in March both because of his dramatic shot and his emotional and poignant reaction afterward. Tears flowed down his face as he knelt next to the scorer's table just after the final buzzer sounded.

     

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  • Elite recruit's commitment could be crucial for UNLV coach Dave Rice

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 3 days ago

    When elite center Stephen Zimmerman announced Thursday night that he has chosen UNLV over the likes of Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas, his decision surely inspired a mixture of joy and relief from Rebels coach Dave Rice. 

    The presence of a skilled 7 footer can only help Rice entering a crucial year in which he will face pressure to finally achieve a breakthrough. 

    In Rice's four-year tenure at UNLV, he has stockpiled more talent than any Rebels coach since the program's golden era under Jerry Tarkanian. He has landed nine Rivals top 50 prospects, six in the past three recruiting classes with Zimmerman (No. 11) and wing Derrick Jones (No. 43) set to arrive next fall and forward Justin Jackson (No. 40) coming the following year.

    All that talent hasn't always translated into a return to the glory days just yet though. UNLV has yet to finish higher than third in the Mountain West under Rice, nor has it won an NCAA tournament game, falling in the opening round in both 2012 and 2013 before missing the postseason altogether the past two years.

    Video of new UNLV commit Stephen Zimmerman:

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  • Cayman Islands tournament could be a boost to the Mountain West

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 4 days ago

    The recent success of the perennially loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament has spawned another holiday tournament in the same region. 

    Global Sports Management, in partnership with Caymax Sports LTD, announced Thursday it will hold a new eight-team tournament in the Cayman Islands beginning Nov. 2017. The Mountain West is sponsoring the Cayman Basketball Classic and will have a team in the field every year.

    How much partnering with this event will help the Mountain West depends on the quality of the field Global Sports Management annually attracts and what sort of TV deal gets negotiated.

    If power-conference programs flock to it and ESPN or another major network airs it, it could be a boost in exposure and strength of schedule for the Mountain West. If the event struggles to attract top teams or a prominent TV network, it could be more of a hassle than it's worth given the cross-country flight required for a Mountain West team to participate.

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  • Oakland University unveils new blacktop-esque floor

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 4 days ago

    Of the legion of college basketball programs who have tried to bolster their brand by installing distinctive new floors, only a few have actually managed to improve the look of their court.

    Count Oakland University among those.

    The new blacktop-style court that the Golden Grizzlies unveiled this week manages to successfully straddle the line between memorable and garish. All that's missing is a chain-link fence around the court and chains instead of nets.

    "It’s branding our program," Coach Greg Kampe told the Oakland Press. I know that when our games are on TV, no matter where you are in the country, when you turn that game on, you’re going to know it’s Oakland University immediately when you see the floor. I’m really excited about that.”

    Amazingly, Oakland isn't even the first Division I program to go with the blacktop-style look. Central Florida did it to mixed reviews two years ago.

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  • Loss of two stars leaves Arkansas poised for a fall next season

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 4 days ago

    Had either sophomore forward Bobby Portis or junior guard Michael Qualls returned to school, Arkansas had a good chance to sustain last season's success and compete for a second straight NCAA bid.

    Instead the Razorbacks appear poised to take a big step backward next season after losing both to the NBA draft on back-to-back days. 

    Qualls' announcement Wednesday evening that he will turn pro ensures Arkansas will lose four of its top five scorers from a 27-win team that finished second to Kentucky in the SEC and nearly toppled North Carolina in the NCAA tournament's round of 32. Qualls, Portis and seniors Rashad Madden and Alandise Harris accounted for 65.1 percent of Arkansas' scoring this past season and 58.9 percent of its rebounding.

    For Arkansas to weather that roster attrition and still remain an upper echelon SEC team, it will need returning guards Anthlon Bell and Anton Beard and talented but enigmatic big man Moses Kingsley to each make a substantial leap next season.

    The frustrating thing for Arkansas has to be how close it was to having a preseason top 20 team next fall.

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  • Why Trevor Lacey entering the draft isn't an illogical choice

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 5 days ago

    NC State guard Trevor Lacey isn't likely to be selected in this June's NBA draft. He would be the centerpiece of a preseason top 20 Wolfpack team if he returned to school.

    So clearly Lacey made a bad decision Wednesday when he announced he was forgoing his final year of college eligibility and entering the draft, right? Well, not necessarily.

    Lacey will turn 24 in October, young by real-life standards but not for a pro basketball prospect. He'd be 25 by the start of his first professional season if he returned to NC State as a fifth-year senior making him as much as six years older than fellow draft prospects. 

    For Lacey, staying in school would mean forfeiting another year of earning potential, something that is a lot tougher to do as a 24-year-old than it is at 19 or 20. The window to make money playing pro basketball is only so long, and Lacey doesn't want to waste another year of it even if it means trying to fight his way onto an NBA roster as an undrafted free agent or heading overseas to play in Europe or Asia.

    One day they love you they next minute they hate you lol

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  • Houston will gamble on Oregon transfer Damyean Dotson

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 5 days ago

    Houston coach Kelvin Sampson needs to massively upgrade his program's talent level to compete in the American Athletic Conference. Houston native Damyean Dotson sought a school willing to offer a chance to resurrect his stalled career.

    As a result, it appears the second-year coach and Oregon transfer will form a partnership that can only be described as high-risk, high-reward.

    Houston announced Wednesday that it has signed Dotson just over a year after he and two teammates were at the center of a sexual assault investigation. No charges were filed in the case because authorities were skeptical they could prove the sex was nonconsensual, but Oregon still dismissed Dotson, fellow starter Dominic Artis and Providence transfer Brandon Austin last spring. 

    "He has learned from previous experiences in his life and has shown himself worthy of a second chance," Sampson said in a statement released Wednesday by the school. "I am certain that he will make the most of this opportunity."

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