Alec Peters to Return to Valparaiso 

By Kevin Sweeney

One of the most fascinating storylines of the offseason has just been resolved, as Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports is reporting that star forward Alec Peters will return to Valparaiso for his senior season. 

After concluding a junior season in which he averaged over 18 points per game while being on track to graduate in the spring, Peters was left with plenty of options for next season. He could enter the draft, graduate and transfer, or return to Valparaiso. He entered the draft without an agent and waited until the latest possible date to announce his decision to return to school. However, he still had the option to transfer to play his final season at a larger school. Many floated the idea that he could follow former Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew to Vanderbilt. However, Peters chose to return to Valparaiso, immediately making the Crusaders the favorite in the Horizon League. 

For Valparaiso, Peters’ decision is huge for their NCAA Tournament hopes. Valparaiso is looking to replace 4 out of their top 6 scorers from last year’s team, as well as their head coach. Peters gives the Crusaders a leader to help a young team, as well as an absolute superstar. Peters’ versatile game makes him a matchup nightmare, especially at the mid-major level. Valparaiso will look to bounce back from being upset in last year’s Horizon League Tournament and return to the NCAA Tournament for the 3rd time in 5 years. 

Canisius Head Coach Jim Baron Retires

The Canisius basketball community was shaken this morning with the shocking news that head coach Jim Baron would be retiring. Baron leaves after a 4 year stint as the head coach of the Golden Griffins. 

The move comes at a strange time, but it appears that Baron is leaving for personal reasons. One source told ESPN that Baron wants to spend more time with his 2 sons, Jimmy and Billy, who play professional basketball in Belgium. 

In his 4 years at Canisius, Baron had a 73-59 record, reaching postseason tournaments in 3 out of 4 seasons. Before his time with the Golden Griffins, Baron was the longtime head coach at St. Bonaventure and University of Rhode Island, spending 9 years with the Bonnies and 11 years at Rhode Island. He was a 4x recipient of the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year award. Baron also spent time as the head coach of St. Francis (PA). 

The Golden Griffins must look to regroup. At this point, most incoming players have signed their letters of intent, but the new regime will need to hold onto these players. In these circumstances, teams tend to hire from within in order to maintain program continuity. 

Who Should Enter, Who Should Drop Out of the NBA Draft 

By Kevin Sweeney

With the NBA Draft Combine complete, student-athletes now have until May 25 to decide whether or not to return to school. This year’s new rules have allowed players to get a better sense of their draft stock before committing to the Draft, and now players who have worked out with teams and met with front office executives can make an informed decision. Here are my takes on whether players should stay in school or chase their NBA futures:

Melo Trimble (Maryland)- Return to School

Trimble entered the season as a potential lottery pick, but the 2015-16 season did not go as planned. Trimble struggled with his shot and didn’t develop into the Wooden Award candidate that many thought he would be. Combine that with below-average measurables at the Combine, and Trimble is left squarely on the fence as to whether to stay in the draft. I think Trimble needs to return to school to improve his stock. He has fallen out of first round consideration, and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported this weekend that NBA scouts were nearly unanimous in their belief that Trimble should return to school. With the loss of all 4 other starters, Trimble would have a chance to prove that he is capable of being the lead dog for an excellent team.

Ben Bentil (Providence)- Stay in Draft

Bentil has truly come out of nowhere. He had a breakout season at Providence in a complimentary role to star point guard Kris Dunn, but the draft process has helped him prove that he is a great player in his own right. He projects as a great fit in the modern NBA offense as a stretch four, a position in which Bentil can use his shooting touch and athleticism to be a very effective player. He now looks to receive first round consideration, as contenders will likely be interested in Bentil as a player who can contribute right away.

Alec Peters (Valparaiso)-Return to School

While Peters doesn’t have much left to prove at the college level, I still believe that he would be best suited to return for his senior season at Valparaiso. A season at school would help him improve his handle and athleticism, allowing him to take the next step smoothly. He possesses a unique skillset for his 6’9″ frame due to his ability to shoot from downtown, and could improve his stock by proving himself as a capable option at the small forward and power forward positions. I think it would be better for Peters to work on these things while still in college, rather than in the D-League or Europe.

Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)- Return to School

Swanigan is the classic example of a raw talent. He is extremely athletic, and has a pro-ready body. However, Swanigan is certainly not without flaws. He has no handle, lacks shooting touch, and is what many would call a tweener. In order for him to have any chance of being a first round pick, he must return to school and add to skill and finesse to his game. In the NBA, Swanigan won’t be able to bully defenders the way he did in college. As Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress said, “Unless he has his heart set on playing for his hometown Fort Wayne Mad Ants next year, returning to Purdue is certainly his best bet.

Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson)- Stay in Draft 

Blossomgame is another player who enters the draft process with lots of momentum. After being the most improved player in the ACC this season, Blossomgame shined at the Combine this weekend. He had the 3rd-heighest vertical jump, and had one of the heighest player efficiency ratings of all players who participated in the scrimmages. While it would be nice to see another year of Blossomgame at Clemson, I think it would be best for him to take his talents to the NBA.

Breaking Down NBA Draft Combine Invitations

By Kevin Sweeney

Over the course of the past week, invitations were extended to NBA Draft hopefuls to the NBA Draft Combine. An ivitation to the combine is very important, as it allows players to showcase their skills in front of scouts and executives from all 32 teams. 

The NBA released the complete list of players who accepted invitations to the combine: http://www.nba.com/2016/news/05/06/more-than-70-players-invited-to-2016-nba-draft-combine/

Here are my observations about the invite list: 

  1. Mid-Major Stars Rewarded- While many mid-major standouts are often overlooked in favor of players from blue blood programs, this year’s combine features a nice nucleus of players from mid-majors. Ron Baker, DeAndre Bembry, Joel Bolomboy, AJ English, Kay Felder, Isaiah Miles, and Pascal Siakam make up this year’s mid-major invitees. Size is often critical with mid-major players, as they often don’t have the NBA-ready bodies that scouts love. Therefore, the measurement process will be important for these players’ draft hopes. 
  2. Briscoe, Poythress Left Out- Prior to the 2015-16 season, it appeared Kentucky would once again produce up to 6 first round picks. However, the season didn’t go as planned for guard Isaiah Briscoe and forward Alex Poythress. As a result, neither were invited to the combine. Briscoe, who was a consensus first round pick entering the season, struggled with his shot and showed little ability to play the point. He now appears likely to return to school or face being a late 2nd round pick. Poythress, who has battled injuries throughout his college career, will now look to earn his way onto an NBA roster next season. 
  3. Picture Becoming Clearer for Early Entrants- With this season’s new rules allowing players to explore the draft process until May 25, provided that they don’t hire an agent, an incredible number of underclassmen decided to test the waters. However, with the invites out, the decision as to whether to stay in the draft is becoming easier. Already, players like UCONN’s Rodney Purvis and Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes have announced their intentions to return to return to school. Other players, like Valparaiso’s Alec Peters and Peter Jok of Iowa seem likely to return to school. 
  4. Strong Portsmouth Performances Lead to Combine Invites- The Portsmouth Invitational can be a great stepping stone for seniors in earning invites for workouts and the combine. This year, 5 of the star performers of the tournament earned combine invites. Tournament MVP AJ English, along with Isaiah Miles, Isaiah Cousins, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Elgin Cook all turned in great Portsmouth weekends, and as a result, are headed to the combine. 
  5. Ingram to Attend, Simmons to Skip- The consensus top 2 picks in the upcoming draft have taken different approaches to the combine process. Ben Simmons, the favorite to be the #1 pick, decided to decline his invitation to the combine. He truly has very little to prove at an event like the combine. However, Duke freshman sensation Brandon Ingram has decided to attend the event. This also makes sense, as he wants to gain ground on Simmons as the #1 pick.