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Seniors On The Rise

The legendary Bob Knight once said, “People change over the years, and that changes situations for good and for bad.” In an ever-changing college basketball landscape, this idea has been instilled among an array of seniors throughout the country.

While freshman earn most of the draft buzz, Jonathan Holmes, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Jerian Grant have shown that seniors can also use their experience to transform into NBA prospects. They aren’t just making the most of their respective situations, but thriving.
 
Holmes was recruited to Texas in a six-man recruiting class that featured four ESPN 100 prospects back in 2011. The class ranked fourth in the country and – with an infusion of young talent – signs pointed up for head coach Rick Barnes and the Longhorns. Texas made the NCAA Tournament in Holmes’ freshman year, but the Longhorns failed to go dancing the following season for the first time in Barnes’ career. The five other recruits left, either for the draft or another school, and Holmes was the final piece of the 2011 recruiting class by his junior year.
 
With the program now in question and Barnes on the hot seat, Texas looked for Holmes to lead the way as the only upperclassman on scholarship. He was just the sixth highest scorer on his team as a sophomore, but was the top returner in the scoring department. There were certainly some questions going into his junior year.
 
Holmes, however, stuck with the process and averaged a team-high 12.8 points per game while shooting 50.5% from the field. He added another 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game at the power forward position. Texas made the tournament, won a game, and surpassed expectations as a young squad. He was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player and he seemed to cement his spot as a dominant power forward in the Big 12.
 
Over the offseason, Texas landed ESPN’s No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class in Myles Turner. The 6-foot-11 center added even more size up front to a loaded frontcourt, but the Longhorns already had plenty of talented big men with Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh, Connor Lammert, and Holmes returning. After thriving as a junior, Holmes was asked to assume a different role on the wing.
 
As his role changed, Holmes reportedly lost 20 pounds over the offseason to help his quickness and athleticism on the wing. It’s also obvious that he worked on his jumper, as he’s seen a spike in production as a senior. The payoff came in a win over Connecticut.
 
With starting point guard Isaiah Taylor out with an injured wrist, Holmes led the Longhorns with a team-high 13 points and eight rebounds in a 55-54 victory. The game-winner? A corner three from Holmes with just three seconds remaining.
 
“It was a really good look, as good of a look you’ll get with four seconds left,” Holmes said after the game. “All the credit to my teammates, they screened me and gave me the ball in the spot where I can score it.”
 
Holmes has emerged from the fourth-best prospect in his team’s recruiting class to Texas’ most valuable player. He’s averaging 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season while shooting 44.6% from the field and 44.1% from behind the arc. At 6-foot-8, his transition to the wing has taken his stock from an undersized power forward to a potential second round pick. Texas is off to a 7-1 start with its lone loss to Kentucky, and Holmes has the Longhorns looking like a Final Four darkhorse. In the process, Holmes is also gaining NBA intrigue.
 
Elsewhere in the Big 12, Iowa State shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has emerged as a possible NBA candidate. His Twitter bio explains his outlook on the season, as the first three words read, “Getting NBA ready!!!!”
 
Unlike Holmes, Dejean-Jones has bounced around. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard was considered a four-star prospect by ESPN, but the Southern California native turned down bigger offers to play for his hometown USC Trojans. He started in the first 10 games of his career, averaging 11.2 points per game, but saw a bench role after a transfer gained eligibility. Dejean-Jones had reported trouble with head coach Kevin O’Neill along with off the court issues as a freshman and ultimately decided to transfer.
 
Dejean-Jones ended up at UNLV and made an instant impact after sitting out due to transfer rules. In his redshirt sophomore year, he averaged 10.3 points per game and boosted that number to 13.6 points as a junior. While he led the team in scoring as a junior, he decided to hit the transfer market once again. He became immediately eligible to play due to the graduate transfer rule and eventually settled on Iowa State.
 
While Dejean-Jones was regarded for his scoring ability, he faced questions in his shot selection. He shot just 41.3% from the field as a sophomore and 34.7% from three-point range. He made some improvements from the field as a junior, shooting 42.7%, but dropped to 32.3% shooting from deep.
 
With the success Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg has had with recent transfers, it’s no surprise that Dejean-Jones has emerged as an NBA prospect. No longer is he regarded as a “chucker” but instead a productive player on both ends of the floor.
 
There’s no better example than what Dejean-Jones did in his last game against a nationally ranked Arkansas squad. In 37 minutes, Dejean-Jones scored 27 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting that included four three-pointers in a 95-77 win. He’s having his most efficient season of his career, averaging 16.3 points per game on 53.2% shooting.
 
“That’s a pretty good line, I can’t believe he missed a free throw,” Hoiberg said jokingly of Dejean-Jones after the Arkansas game. “He had a heck of a matchup with [Michael] Qualls, he had to play good defense. He was out there that whole second half without rest. He took a couple heat check shots, but when you haven’t missed you can take a few of those. It was great to see him get it going from the three-point line. He had been struggling a little bit with his shot – been working on a few things to get his rhythm a little bit better – and tonight it paid off.”
 
But it isn’t just his offensive ability that’s drawing attention – it’s also what he’s done on the defensive end. Early in the season against Georgia State, Dejean-Jones did a good job stopping perhaps the top shooting guard in the country in R.J. Hunter. He didn’t see major minutes on Hunter, but did block two of his shots and made it tough for him to find space throughout the night.
 
As a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, Dejean-Jones has the size and athleticism to play at the next level. He’s older than most of his peers due to a redshirt season, but he’s shown maturity and growth during the process. Dejean-Jones has helped Iowa State jump out to a 5-1 start as the Cyclones will be another top team in the Big 12.
 
While Holmes and Dejean-Jones showed improvements on the court, the key for Grant was getting back on it. He was suspended midway through last season due to academic issues and questions loomed whether he’d pursue a career in the D-League or overseas.
 
After averaging 19 points on 51.8 percent shooting to go with 6.2 assists per game, Grant had emerged as an NBA candidate, but now the future was uncertain. Instead of pursuing a professional career, Grant made a point to return to Notre Dame and complete his unfinished business.
 
Grant saw his younger brother, Jerami, get drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers over the summer and returned for his senior year in South Bend. Instead of spending his off time as a partial vacation, Grant put in the work in hopes of hearing his name called in the NBA Draft as well.
 
The 6-foot-5 guard was off to a stellar senior year, but had his breakout performance against nationally ranked Michigan State. He scored a career-high 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting that included an array of impressive scoring moves to create separation. He also added six assists, four rebounds, and three steals in the win and impressed opposing head coach Tom Izzo.
 
"I think he's a pro player,” Izzo said of Grant after the game. “I think he's a guy who's so unselfish. He doesn't force shots. He took seventeen shots, but to me you wouldn't even have known it. He gets fouled, he can make passes and he defends pretty well. I think he's as complete a guard as we've played against so far. I told him after the game I was very, very impressed by him. I thought he was a very good player in a lot of different areas."

Now off to a successful senior year, Grant is actually averaging similar numbers to last season. He’s contributing 19.0 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57.7% from the field and 36.2% from three-point range. The 6-foot-5 guard has played both spots in the backcourt this season, but has certainly been the engine for the Irish offense this season. As a result, Grant has returned to the NBA Draft discussion as a likely second round pick.
 
While we are certainly living in the one-and-done era of college hoops, there are plenty of success stories among seniors throughout the country. Stars can’t shine without a bit of darkness, and these three have made the most out of their respective situations. With continued success, an NBA opportunity may be on the horizon for these seniors.

Europe Interview: Luke Harangody Of Unics Kazan

Former Notre Dame star Luke Harangody is having his first taste of European basketball this season. Last summer the 6-foot-7 forward has started his career outside the U.S. by signing a contract with Unics Kazan and making Russia his first stop overseas.

In first 11 games with Unics, Harangody’s playing time was limited as he averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in only 16 minutes per game. However, Harangody’s role has been increasing as he has been a starting power forward in last eight games. Harangody also put his best performance so far this season in last match against VEF Riga, where he scored 16 points, grabbed seven boards and dished out tree assists.

RealGM caught up with Harangody to talk about his experience in Russia, playing under foreigner coach, NBA and more.

RealGM: First of all, what are your first impressions of Russia and Unics Kazan? Which things are different than you expected?

Harangody: My first impression is I love the city I’m in. It’s been a great experience so far. To be out of my element has been interesting, to see a new culture. As far as the team, I couldn’t ask for better teammates. It’s made the transition easier. It’s a great group to play with overseas.

RealGM: It is probably the first time you’re playing under a non-American coach (Andrea Trinchieri). Could you name a few differences between the U.S. and European coaching?

Harangody: Yes, this would be the first time I’ve played under an international coach. I think the approach to the game is much different in the U.S. There’s some things I’ve learned, just fundamentally. It’s a lot slower of a pace. It’s more of a chess game in Europe.

RealGM: Andrew Goudelock has also made his debut in Europe. Is it easier when there’s an American player who is pretty much sitting in the same boat with you?

Harangody: Yes. Having Andrew and also two other Americans on the team to lean on has made the transition a lot easier because they’ve gone through the whole transition.

RealGM: There’s another American on your team, Chuck Eidson, who’s been playing in Europe for ten years. Did you get any advice from him in terms of living and playing basketball in Europe?

Harangody: Yeah, Chuck’s been great. He’s a veteran so he’s seen it all, so any questions I have I go to him for it. He’s what you’d expect from a veteran leader. Whether on the court or off the court he’s been amazing.

RealGM: How did you choose your first team in Europe? Did you have any other options?

Harangody: I had about three options, but my agent and myself decided this is the best opportunity competition-wise for my first experience overseas.

RealGM: Talking about your NBA career, what are your best memories from Boston and Cleveland?

Harangody: I think a few of my best memories from my first year in the league was how exciting and new it was and realizing a dream and just taking it all in. It was surreal for me. I’ll always be able to look back on that experience and have good memories.

RealGM: During your time in the NBA, you’ve been assigned to the D-League for a few times. Could you take us through the process of what goes through players’ mind when this happens? 

Harangody: Any time a player gets sent down it’s always looked at as a negative, but in my case I tried to take it in stride, showcase my skills and it was a chance to play more. I’d give the same advice to anyone who’s going down there - to take advantage of the opportunity to play and be as successful as you can.

RealGM: After being waived by the Cavaliers, why did you decide to spend a season in the D-League instead of going to Europe straightaway?

Harangody: I think going to the D-League was the best bet for me. I felt more comfortable staying in the U.S. Looking back on it, it was the right decision. I needed to get healthy. That was the biggest goal for the season.

RealGM: Is playing in Europe something you would like to continue doing on your upcoming career years, or will you be attempting to get back to the NBA?

Harangody: That’s yet to be said. I’m enjoying playing in Europe. It’s a new experience. I’m making the most of the experience as I can. I can easily see myself making a career over here.

RealGM: What are your individual expectations for this season and also what goals do you want to achieve as a team with Unics?

Harangody: Basically coming over here, it’s been a transition. I’m still learning the European game and figuring out a couple of things individually. I’m just trying to be a part of the team. I know it sounds cliché but for the first couple of years over here that’s as much as I can do.

Comparing The Conferences

The Pac-12 has been suffering through a long dark period. The Big Ten has been dominant (at least in the pre-conference schedule) for the last few years. Should we expect a change this year? Is the Pac-12’s slump over? Is the Big Ten’s boom about to come to an end? Let’s take a quick look at some basic roster data and see if we can uncover any trends.

Part of predicting the season is noting the number of elite high school prospects on each roster. Not only are these players more likely to play well as freshmen, but they are also more likely to breakout later in their career. Recall, for example, Michael Snaer of Florida St. Snaer was a former Top 20 recruit, and while it took him three seasons, he broke out in a big way in 2011-12. After adding up the numbers…

- The Big East has the most former RSCI Top 100 prospects on rosters heading into the season with 58.

- But the Big East has more teams, and the Big East has only 3.9 elite recruits per team. The ACC has the most former Top 100 recruits per team with 4.6 per team.

- But James McAdoo is the only former Top 10 prospect in the ACC this season. That seems like an unprecedented lack of super-elite talent for the conference. If you want super elite talent, you probably want to watch the SEC, assuming everyone is declared academically eligible. John Calipari never lets us down on the recruiting trail.

- The SEC, however, is only welcoming ten Top 100 freshmen this year as a whole. Even the Big Ten, the land of typically poor recruiting, is welcoming more Top 100 freshmen than the SEC this season. And yes, the slumping Pac-12 brings in quite a few elite recruits this year.

Conf

T10

T100

T100 Fr

ACC

1

55

22

BE

1

58

17

SEC

4

49

10

B10

1

40

15

B12

3

33

11

P12

3

37

15

MWC

1

15

5

A10

0

11

3

The next table isn’t really roster data, but it does reflect some of my preliminary projections about playing time.

- The ACC is going to be the youngest conference in the nation this year, according to my projections.

- The Big East has a startlingly low number of key seniors on rosters this year.

- As usual, the MWC and A10 have more mature rosters. They lose fewer players to the NBA and that helps the top MWC and A10 teams compete, even without a plethora of blue chip talent.

Class

Sr%

Jr%

So%

Fr%

MWC

35%

30%

17%

17%

A10

33%

27%

19%

21%

P12

28%

32%

18%

22%

B12

32%

19%

26%

23%

BE

22%

32%

27%

19%

B10

27%

26%

23%

24%

SEC

25%

28%

24%

22%

ACC

25%

22%

23%

31%

The Pac-12 is getting older in a hurry, thanks in no small part to an influx of transfers. Note that your transfer numbers may vary slightly. I’m excluding transfer walk-ons and a few JUCOs who seem unlikely to play in the next table.

Incoming Transfers

D1

JUCO+

P12

15

8

SEC

10

11

BE

14

6

MWC

7

5

B12

7

5

A10

8

3

ACC

3

3

B10

5

1

The transfer table doesn’t mean the Pac-12 has suddenly become the conference of transfers. This is all a natural consequence of recent league history. The Pac-12 teams have struggled the last few years making those teams particularly attractive places for transfers to matriculate. If you want to transfer and PLAY in an elite league, you would have chosen the Pac-12 too.  On the other hand, the Big Ten has been on an upswing and few coaches have needed to dip into the JUCO ranks as a quick fix. Deverell Biggs of Nebraska is currently the only incoming JUCO player projected for the Big Ten this year.

Overall, the Pac-12 was a depleted league, but it is adding a number of impact freshmen and key transfers this year. The days of the league failing to field a Top 25 team are over. As for the Big Ten, the jury is still out. The teams at the top still have plenty of talent, but programs like Purdue could be in for a bit of a slip without an influx of can’t miss players coming in.

2012 Big East Power Rankings

Syracuse finished the regular season with a 17-1 record and were predictably significantly better than any Big East rival.

Who Is Hot, Who Is Not

When it comes to February in college basketball, some teams get better, the rest get left in the rear view mirror. Here are the teams that are surging and falling over their past 10 games.

Top NCAA Coaches Of Past Five Years

There are a lot of complicated ways to evaluate college coaches, but in this edition we look at the coaches with the best per possession numbers over the last five years.

Freshmen Bring Hope

Teams that play a lot of freshmen are the most likely to improve as the season goes on, while those with a lot of experience are more likely to plateau. In this piece, we examine freshmen minutes for every major school in the country.

Big East Prospect Watch

With Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Khem Birch and Mouphtaou Yarou, the Big East once again has several high-quality NBA prospects.

Bounce Back Candidates

A sudden drop in production can be a pure statistical outlier and a recovery could do wonders for their team's performances this season. We outline a few candidates for the 11-12 college basketball season.

Surprises And Flops, Part 2

Examining the surprises and flops this season in the Big East, ACC, Big 12 and Atlantic-10.

Conference Rankings (End Of Jan. Edition)

As we have commonly seen in recent seasons, the Big East has been the deepest conference in the country.

 

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