Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:48 am
Edited on: December 20, 2011 11:55 am

Griffin could be first NBA player from Campbell

By Jeff Borzello

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Campbell University has never had a player reach the NBA. Considering the Fighting Camels have only reached one NCAA tournament, that’s probably not a surprise.

Could Campbell break through and produce an NBA prospect this season? The school has its best chance in years with senior forward Eric Griffin.

Prior to Monday night’s game against UNC-Wilmington, DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony tipped me off about Griffin. Givony compared him to Jeremy Evans, the former Western Kentucky forward who was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2010. In college, Evans wasn’t highly touted, but he was efficient from the field and a very good shot-blocker.

Givony’s pick didn’t disappoint. Griffin had 18 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the last-second loss to UNCW. He might have finished with about 30 points and 18 boards if he didn’t go 2-for-9 from the free-throw line or disappear in the last eight minutes.

Griffin is athletic, long, and runs the floor like a gazelle. He has surprisingly good passing ability, and can also knock down 3-pointers or go off the dribble. Moreover, he has great footwork around the rim. Just check out the first two dunks from the video below to get a preview of what he can do.

Here’s the kicker: Griffin has only been playing basketball for five years.

“He’s definitely improved,” Campbell head coach Robbie Laing said. “His composure, his patience is better. He’s really raw. He has to adapt every night to whatever arena he’s in, how the game is being called, what size guy is guarding him. It’s part of the maturation process. He doesn’t have a lot of basketball minutes.”

Griffin, a 6-foot-8 forward from Orlando, was cut from his high school team his junior year, a source told CBSSports.com. He grew five inches after that, and then went to two community colleges – Hiwassee and Garden City – before landing at Campbell.

“Where he was in JUCO to where he is now is night and day,” the source said.

On the season, Griffin is averaging 17.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, while shooting nearly 65 percent from the field. His performances in back-to-back games against Iowa and Creighton put him on the national radar. In a 16-point win over the Hawkeyes, Griffin went 10-for-11 from the field, finishing with 23 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. He followed that up with 29 points and 14 boards vs. Creighton.

Laing said that Griffin still needs to work on some of the little things in order to reach his full potential, but his ceiling is very high. Interestingly, Griffin is also young for his grade, which makes him more intriguing to NBA types.

“He could be really special,” Laing said. “We’re getting inquiries from the next level, people are stopping by to watch us. That will be up to him and his maturation.”

Photo: Campbell University (Bennett Scarbrough)

Posted on: June 27, 2011 10:15 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 10:24 am

Did the Timberwolves really reach out to Coach K?

By Matt Norlander

I haven’t gotten to do this on the blog yet, so is it cool if I do it, just this once? It’s a meme that’s sort of played out, but I have to try it just so I can say that I did.


Meh. That didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped. So few things live up to the build-up nowadays. But here’s why that exclamation was necessary: Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reported Saturday that David Kahn, much-maligned, much-mocked general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, tried to pry Mike Krzyzewski away from Duke to coach the Timberwolves recently.

"He tried to get him," said one Kahn confidante.

Kahn was looking for a miracle or two. The other miracle is turning Ricky Rubio into a first-rate NBA point guard. As he showed over the last two seasons in Spain, the T-Wolves' No. 1 draft pick of 2009 can't shoot consistently or beat people off the dribble. That was versus inferior competition in Europe. Now he's supposed to be able to do those things against the top players in the world?

No wonder Krzyzewski isn't running to the Twin Cities anytime soon.

As if Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio were the pieces that could lock and lure K in. Truly Kahn-esque in every sense of the term. Isiah Thomas is even laughing at that notion, David.

Krzyzewski, by way of Duke PR, came out and said he was never officially contacted by Minnesota management. Well, maybe he wasn't, but perhaps his agent was? That's how you obfuscate such contact claims these days. You're not technically lying if you do.

Those who are even decently versed in their Coach-K-in-the-NBA history know that the legendary Duke coach couldn’t be swayed by the Lakers back in 2004. (Though he’s admitted that’s as close as he’s ever come to leaving college.) There’s a difference between reaching for the stars and taking crazy pills. At this point, with Coach K only need three wins to usurp his mentor, Bob Knight, for all-time wins in college basketball, how did Kahn think he could sell K on leaving? And that upcoming achievement is only first on a laundry list of reasons why K will remain at Duke.

At this point, the age of 64, it’s clear Krzyzewski is never leaving Durham. If it were remotely possible, the Lakers or his hometown Bulls would be the only logistical choices — and neither of those are logistical in the here and now.

So, thank you, David Kahn, for infusing your ego into the college game ever so briefly. I think we needed that laugh on a Monday in the dead of late June.

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 21, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 2:00 pm

A closer look at Duke players' NBA careers

By Matt Norlander

Used to be that Duke was seen as the school that got the most out of guys in college but couldn't prep prep stars for the NBA. Grant Hill was the exception; Christian Laettner also was exempted for those who didn't have their blinders on.

But beyond that? Nothing, really. A bunch of underachieving NBA afterthoughts, those Dookies. Or so many thought.

Since Coach K is putting three more proteges into the NBA this Thursday night -- Kyrie Irving, plus Nolan Smith (at left) and Kyle Singler (right) -- Dan Wiederer of the Fayetteville Observer did some fine research recently and looked at who Duke has put into the association in the past two decades.

His findings?

Duke is truly one of the most proficient schools at not only sending guys to the top level, but having many of its former players have a decent, if not exemplary, amount of success once they establish their NBA careers.

Wiederer points out that Krzyzewski has had 33 of his players drafted in his 31 years at Duke. Despite the fact that Hill, Laetnner, Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand are the only four players who've made an All-Star Game, that's mighty impressive. And the All-Star stat is a bit misleading, too.
For context, consider this breakdown. Since 1992, 147 different players have played in the NBA All-Star game. The school that has had the most all-stars in the last 20 years is North Carolina, proudly able to claim seven all-stars: James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison.

Sure, that gives Tar Heel fans some local bragging rights. But behind UNC, Duke is one of eight schools that has had four of its former players reach all-star status in the last 20 years. The other programs able to make that claim: Georgetown, Connecticut, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Michigan State and UCLA.
The Duke star ≠ NBA star issue stems from the fact so few Duke players that get drafted to lottery teams have come up short. Jason Williams' career abruptly ended because of a motorcycle accident; Cherokee Parks was considered a stiff of the highest order; Trajan Langdon could never develop his  shot in the NBA as he could in college; Shelden Williams clearly hit his peak while at Duke.

But for every one of those lottery busts, Wiederer correctly points out that second-round picks like Boozer and Chris Duhon have had buoyant NBA careers. And there's something to be said for a guy like Luol Deng, who so frequently gets forgotten in this conversation.

The other trump card Duke haters point to is undeniable -- Devils don't win NBA titles. But even if that's still the case now, Duke's winning ways have pretty clearly embedded themselves into a number of teams that made this year's playoffs.

Duke bashers often like to mention the manner in which NBA championship glory has evaded former Blue Devils. Of Krzyzewski's former stars, only Danny Ferry has won an NBA championship ring. And Ferry claimed his jewelry as a seldom-used reserve with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Meanwhile, since 1980, rival North Carolina has had 11 players combine to win 25 NBA championships. It's no wonder Tar Heel fans love to bring that trivia up as often as possible.

Looking at this past season's data, Duke has far more to boast about. The 2010-11 NBA season started with 12 former Blue Devils on active NBA rosters, putting Duke behind only UCLA (13) in that category.

A pretty great stat, and I wouldn't have guessed UCLA at the top of that list, though it's not surprising it's there.

As for this year's Draft, there's an interesting wrinkle with the Blue Devils. Ironically, Duke could become the first team in 23 years to not have a player from a national title-winning squad (2010) picked in the first round. If Smith and Singler get their names called by NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver instead of the Almighty David Stern, that means it's the second round and Duke's 2010 title becomes all the more ... impressive?

Unlikely? Bolstering to Coach K's already-sterling legacy?

It's unlikely this year's triumvirate of Blue Devils will reach multiple All-Star games and change the casual basketball fan's perspective of Duke players in the NBA. But the ignorance to Duke alumni persevering with long careers at the NBA level speaks to just that -- the casual basketball fan's continued hatred and bias toward the most polarizing college basketball team. Long after the Duke jerseys are disposed of, the connotation still lingers, sometimes incorrectly.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke, NBA
Posted on: May 19, 2011 9:39 am
Edited on: May 19, 2011 9:40 am

Can Marshon Brooks be an NBA first-rounder?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Looking at the NBA draft, most pundits would rather talk about Kyrie Irving or Enes Kanter. Those players will hear their names called very early in the process, make bulging sackloads of money, and play for teams with... limited prospects.

Sometimes, it's more interesting to look near the bottom of the first round. The sacks of cash are still pretty full down there, the contracts are still guaranteed, and the rookies at that end of the deal have a very good chance to play a role for a championship contender. Not a shabby deal, really.

Anyone who watched Marshon Brooks play at Providence knows the 6-foot-5 guard can score. He dropped in 43 at Georgetown last season, and topped that with a 52-point effort when Notre Dame came to town. The knock on the kid is that his team lost both of those games. As such, wouldn't it be nice for him to go to a team that didn't need him to be 'the man'? Brooks' handle and shooting touch might come in very handy for stealing minutes in a lineup full of accomplished NBA players.

SLAM magazine recently shot some footage of Brooks at a pro workout. With no rim rattle and plenty of string music, this practically qualifies as a music video:

This workout took place in Chicago, and some pundits have Brooks ending up with the Bulls. With a POY point guard in place in Derrick Rose, and playoff expectations in place, could there be a better landing place for one of college basketball's hidden gems?
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com