Posted on: July 25, 2008 2:52 am
Edited on: July 25, 2008 2:55 am

From Arizona to ESPN?

LAS VEGAS -- Arizona did not renew Miles Simon's contract after this past season, leaving him currently unemployed and coaching the Pump N Run Elite team here at the Adidas Super 64. On Thursday, his star-studded roster defeated the MBA Hoops Elite featuring Class of 2011 star LaQuinton Ross, and afterward I had a chance to chat with Simon for a moment.

Obviously, he wants to get back into coaching.

That much, he made clear.

But if nothing develops in the next couple of months, the Most Oustanding Player of the 1997 Final Four said he's already working on a back-up plan, specifically the possibility of being a college basketball analyst for ESPN. According to Simon, he interviewed and auditioned recently and expects to hear something in the next couple of weeks.

"It would be a great opportunity if it happened," Simon said. "It would help keep my face out there."
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 16, 2008 3:48 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2008 3:48 pm

Jennings signs with Italian team

Brandon Jennings has signed with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian league, meaning the Arizona signee will indeed play in Europe this season and become the first American to spend the year immediately following high school overseas while waiting for the NBA Draft.

"David Stern said when the age limit was put in that this wouldn't force kids to college, that they could still go to the NBDL or Europe," Sonny Vaccaro, who was instrumental in Jennings' decision, said by phone Wednesday. "Well, someone took David's advice."

Specifics of the deal have not been disclosed. But a source close to Jennings told CBSSports.com the elite point guard has signed a three-year, multimillion dollar contract that features a buyout each year designed to protect the Italian team. Meantime, Vaccaro said he will accompany Jennings to Rome next week for a formal press conference.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 14, 2008 2:13 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2008 2:16 pm

I wouldn't pass on Oden (but you can win w/o him)

Like I wrote in Monday's column, I don't agree with Lute Olson's decision to stop recruiting potential one-and-done prospects because I think it's silly to eliminate individuals for no reason other than that they supposedly belong to a group with which you don't think you're interested in dealing. In other words, if you don't want to invite a one-and-done candidate like Renardo Sidney (and the possible NCAA investigation that'll follow him) to campus, I sorta understand. But what I can't understand is why anybody wouldn't want a player like John Henson (committed to North Carolina), if only for a year.

That said, history indicates one-and-done prospects aren't necessary to succeed at the highest level.

In that respect, perhaps Olson is smarter than us all.

Consider that the past three national champions (Florida in 2006, Florida in 2007 and Kansas in 2008) did not have a one-and-done prospect and that just two of the past six national champs (Syracuse with Carmelo Anthony in 2003 and North Carolina with Marvin Williams in 2005) did. Furthermore, 17 of the past 24 Final Four participants did not use a one-and-done prospect. That's 71 percent and proof that one-year wonders aren't necessarily necessary to be elite ... though I still wouldn't turn away the next Greg Oden if he wanted to spend a season blocking shots for my school.

Anyway, here's the breakdown of Final Four teams from the past six seasons:

(Italics indicates the use of a one-and-done prospect)

--2008 --

Memphis (Derrick Rose)
North Carolina
UCLA (Kevin Love)

-- 2007 --

Ohio State (Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook)

-- 2006 --

LSU (Tyrus Thomas)
George Mason

-- 2005 --

North Carolina (Marvin Williams)
Michigan State

-- 2004 --

Georgia Tech
Duke (Luol Deng)
Oklahoma State

-- 2003 --

Syracuse (Carmelo Anthony)

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 9, 2008 1:15 am

Jennings the first of what could be many

AKRON, Ohio -- One done, how many more to go?

That's the real question surrounding Brandon Jennings' announcement that he will spend the next year in Europe as a professional while waiting for the 2009 NBA Draft. Forget what it means to Arizona or Lute Olson. What it means to college basketball in general is what has the industry buzzing, because coaches will now have to approach the recruitment of elite prospects like they used to approach the recruitment of elite prospects, which is to say with great caution and the understanding that there's a decent chance they'll never enroll.

"By his sophomore year, nobody was recruiting LeBron anymore because everybody knew he wasn't going to college," were some of the words Akron coach Keith Dambrot shared Tuesday night at the LeBron James Skills Academy while we chatted about the superstar he once coached in high school. By the end of the night, I couldn't help but think this is the way coaches will again be approaching situations because they won't want to waste time on a prospect chasing the dollar.

And by dollar, I mean euro.

In that way, Jennings is very much going to be the trendsetter Sonny Vaccaro wanted, and anybody actively recruiting Class of 2009 stars Renardo Sidney and Lance Stephenson had better reevaluate things, ASAP. Because on Tuesday night Jennings officially opened the door the NCAA and NBA hoped would never open, and now there's no telling how many prospects are going to try to follow his lead.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: July 8, 2008 4:59 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2008 5:01 pm

Olson watching his future Wildcats

AKRON, Ohio -- It's been a difficult 12 months at Arizona.

Perhaps you've heard.

From Lute Olson's leave of absence to the Kevin O'Neill experiment to the first-round loss in the NCAA tournament to the departure of Josh Pastner to the Emmanuel Negedu release to the ongoing Brandon Jennings saga, there hasn't been much positive coming out of Tucson. It's been bad, almost non-stop. But a good thing happened when Chase Budinger returned to school and a couple of subsequent recruiting scores have given Arizona fans a much-needed reason to be optimistic.

One of the recruits is Mike Moser.

The other is Greg Smith.

Both committed to the Wildcats within the past three weeks and both are here at the LeBron James Skills Academy. So it should come as no surprise that Olson has spent time in the first row under a basket watching his prospects, and though coaches aren't allowed any contact with players at these events don't think for a second that the prospects didn't notice.

"I loved seeing him," Smith said. "He's one of the greatest coaches of all-time. When I saw him a big smile was on my face."
Posted on: June 23, 2008 3:36 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2008 3:38 pm

More Jennings tidbits

This Brandon Jennings-to-Europe thing is gaining serious momentum.

Not only is it now clear Jennings will explore going to the Euroleague regardless of whether he is cleared academically to play at Arizona -- which was reported Sunday here at CBSSports.com -- it's also obvious, from talking to various sources Monday, that Jennings plans to use a qualifying SAT score as nothing more than leverage in possible negotiations. So the bottom line is that the Arizona signee really wants to be a professional, ASAP, and unless there simply isn't a market for him overseas put me down as someone who believes Jennings is more interested in being a trendsetter than a Wildcat.

"I think the family is going to take a real hard look at the options here," said Jeffrey Valle, a Los Angeles-based attorney who is advising the Jennings family. "He owes it to himself to look at what is potentially available and do what's best and that's not always an easy call."

If Jennings jumps to Europe he'll be the first player to flip the proverbial bird, if you will, to the NCAA and NBA and essentially tell both institutions he's not interested in doing a year in college just because the NBA demands a prospect to be one year removed from high school before entering the draft. Assuming it works this could lead to a slew of Class of 2009 prospects exploring the same route, among them Renardo Sidney and Lance Stephenson. But it remains unclear what kind of money is genuinely available to a prospect like Jennings, and that's the biggest question mark to date.

"You'd think several hundred thousand would be realistic,” Valle said. "And if it becomes a bidding war, who knows?"

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 19, 2008 11:16 am

Dear Gary ...

Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I'm not sure you need to admit you were wrong. Arizona without (Chase) Budinger could have been in some trouble, and as far as I'm aware, you haven't been proven wrong that they wouldn't have been. No way to know that Budinger was coming back. Everything being tossed around -- and believe me I've checked every article I could find for the past month -- indicated he was gone. I don't agree with you completely on the future direction of the program but I do think that your concerns are warranted. Either way, it's nice knowing that you won't let pride get in the way of changing your opinion.

-- Chris

Glad you saw that acknowledgment (in the comments section of a Monday blog), Chris.

The other Arizona fans must've missed it because there has been no shortage of emails telling me how Arizona is back and Lute Olson has things headed in the right direction and I am an idiot, so on and so forth. Either way, I was indeed wrong about Budinger and the possibility of him returning to college. I thought there was no chance barring an injuryand that was incorrect, and though I love telling people when I was right I also have no problem ever admitting when I'm wrong, and I plan to always be that way unless I reach a point when I'm wrong all the time and can no longer keep up.

So yeah, on Budinger, I was wrong.

By extension, that makes me wrong about Arizona in 2008-09 because a possibly poor team just improved drastically, same way West Virginia would be way better off had Joe Alexander returned to college, same way Texas would be way better off had D.J. Augustin returned to college. That said, I'm still not sold on the theory that everything is back to being great with Arizona as a program. Too much has happened in the past year to remove concern on a larger scale, regardless of Budinger's decision. But in the short term, of course, I think Arizona will be good this season. I'll have the Wildcats in the Top 25 (and one), guaranteed, and I'll have Budinger as a solid contender for Pac-10 Player of the Year -- though Arizona State's James Harden, UCLA's Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday, USC's DeMar DeRozan and Arizona's Brandon Jennings are also reasonable possibilities for that honor.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 9, 2008 10:46 am
Edited on: June 10, 2008 11:42 am

Dear Gary ...

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Lute Olson said it was "ridiculous" for Chase Budinger to stay in the draft. Do you think he'll come back?

-- Rob

In a different time I could have a lot of fun with the article in the Tucson paper and Olson's quote about how he thinks it "would be ridiculous for (Budinger) to go out somewhere around 20 or 21 when a year from now he could be in the top six" but at this point I'm kinda over the idea of documenting the strange times at Arizona. Honestly, it feels like piling on, and I'm not interested in piling on because I know it comes off the wrong way to most people, like I'm taking one shot after another at a Hall of Famer and legend.

But I will say this: Let's pretend Budinger, like Olson claims, will go 21st. That means he's guranteed to sign a two-year deal worth roughly $2.1 million, and nobody is ever going to be able to convince me that taking $2.1 million after two years of college is "ridiculous." That's a lot of money, and I'll never call a person ridiculous for taking it particularly when there is no evidence whatsoever that players actually get better in college the way some like to pretend.

I mean, some players get better in college.

But do you think Chase Budinger got better from his freshman to sophomore seasons? I don't. So why should anybody believe he'll get better between his sophomore and junior seasons and launch himself into the top six of next year's draft? It could happen, I guess. After all, that's what Al Horford did between his sophomore and junior seasons. But for every first-round pick who improves his status by remaining in college there is one who hurts himself by remaining in college, and I'd argue even those who don't hurt themselves are taking a risk that from a financial standpoint doesn't make a lot of sense.

So I guess I disagree with Olson.

But either way, I don't think it matters at all, because there isn't a single NBA or NCAA source I've spoken with in the past month who believes Budinger has any intent on returning to college barring a Brandon Rush-type injury. Short of that, he's gone. So Olson's pleas are probably not going to work, though I do like that he's being so vocal in stating what he believes and trying to help his program.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com