Cubs

Sam: Top Prospects of the Sweet 16

Sam: Top Prospects of the Sweet 16

Friday, March 25, 2011
Posted: 2:07 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WithJune's upcoming NBA Draft on the minds of fans of pro teams without ashot to make the playoffs down the stretch of the regular season,here's a look at some of the top remaining pro prospects left in theNCAA Tournament.

Harrison Barnes, 6-foot-8 freshman, North Carolina:Projected as a first-team All-American and the hands-down No. 1 pickbefore the season even started, Barnes endured early struggles, thenbounced back to show the potential--specifically, a sweet shootingstroke, good athleticism, a high overall skill level and solidunderstanding of the game--to restore him back to the draft's lottery.

Jon Diebler, 6-foot-7 senior, Ohio State:One of the most prolific shooters in NCAA history, Diebler has recentlybeen gaining steam as a pro prospect because of his near-unlimitedrange, good size for the wing, savvy game and underrated ball skills.

Jimmer Fredette, 6-foot-2 senior, BYU:There has been much debate about how Fredette, the darling of thiscollege basketball season, will fare in the NBA, but while hisdeficiencies of defense rightfully give teams some pause, hiscreativity and pure shooting stroke should enable him to be at least aninstant-offense guard in the league.

Justin Harper, 6-foot-10 junior, Richmond:A sleeper from a sleeper team, Harper's versatility, length andoutstanding shooting range for his size and position--he appearscapable of transitioning into a face-up power forward in the pros--hasNBA scouts very intrigued as of late.

John Henson, 6-foot-10 sophomore, North Carolina:Henson is far from a finished product, but the ACC defensive player ofthe year's length, shot-blocking prowess, athleticism and mostimportantly, potential somewhat mitigate concerns about how his skinnyframe will fare in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving, 6-foot-2 freshman, Duke:Thought to be the consensus top pick after his hot start to the season,a toe injury sidelined the talented point guard until the start of theNCAA Tournament and while he might not return to form before season'send, his return to health alone, combined with his previous blend ofplaymaking and scoring could return him to his throne in June.

Terrence Jones, 6-foot-8 freshman, Kentucky: Jonesstarted this season with a bang (some thought he could be the top pickin the draft), but despite the versatile forward's inconsistency, thesouthpaw's perimeter skills, rebounding ability, athleticism andoverall versatility still have him projected as a lottery pick.

Enes Kanter, 6-foot-10, Kentucky:Don't blame yourself if you're not familiar with the Turkish bigman--he hasn't suited up all year because of an NCAA suspension forbeing paid to play in Europe--but NBA scouts project him a consensustop-five pick, based on his strength, post-up game and reboundingability, which they viewed prior to this season.

Brandon Knight, 6-foot-3 freshman, Kentucky: The latest in John Calipari's point-guard tree (following Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall),

Kawhi Leonard, 6-foot-7 sophomore, San Diego State:A sleeper coming into this season, Leonard and his team are no longersecrets, especially to NBA teams, who view him as an athletic,versatile swingman with playmaking skills, rebounding prowess,defensive acumen and transition scoring ability worthy of a lotterypick.

Jon Leuer, 6-foot-10 senior, Wisconsin:After creating some buzz with a solid performance while scrimmagingagainst Team USA last summer, Leuer has built upon it with a solidsenior campaign, in which he has carved out a niche as a "stretchfour," a highly-valued role in the NBA.

David Lighty, 6-foot-5 senior, Ohio State:A jack of all trades, but master of none on offense, the fifth-yearsenior (he was a freshman on the Buckeyes' Final Four team with GregOden and Mike Conley) projects as a defensive-oriented wing in the NBA,where there should be a spot for him because of his maturity and highcharacter.

Marcus Morris, 6-foot-8 junior, Kansas:The Big 12's MVP broke out this season to become a true inside-outsideforce as a go-to scorer and rebounder and while pro scouts aren't surewhich forward position he's best suited for (there are questions abouthis speed in the wing and his athleticism inside), he has certainlysolidified himself as a first-round, if not lottery, pick.

Markieff Morris, 6-foot-9 junior, Kansas:"The big twin" (due to his one-inch height advantage and morepost-oriented game) came even further than his brother this season, ashe has developed into a dominant low-post presence, separating him fromhis brother, due to his projected NBA position, power forward, beinghis natural role.

Chandler Parsons, 6-foot-9 senior, Florida:The SEC's MVP is a big wing with finesse--range on his jumper, superbballhandling skills for his size--and underrated athleticism, but thereare persistent questions about his toughness, although his high skilllevel should earn him an opportunity, at the very least.

Mason Plumlee, 6-foot-10 sophomore, Duke:Some believe Duke's style of play inhibits the monster athlete, whileothers think he's simply not developed enough to be productiveconsistently, but regardless of which opinion is correct, hisrebounding, shot-blocking and agility have NBA scouts drooling,regardless of his current readiness for the pro game.

Thomas Robinson, 6-foot-8 sophomore, Kansas:The only non-starter on this list, Robinson's off-the-chartsathleticism, rebounding prowess and high-energy style make him asleeper among NBA personnel types, some of whom view him as theJayhawks' best NBA prospect, although his game still needs polishing onoffense.

Josh Selby, 6-foot-3 freshman, Kansas:After coming into the season as a projected lottery pick, then missingearly action because of an NCAA-mandated suspension, the athletic comboguard started his career with a bang, then dropped off to the pointwhere he fell out of Bill Self's rotation, almost ensuring he'll beback in a Jayhawks uniform next season to deliver on his potential.

Kyle Singler, 6-foot-9 senior, Duke:Some might question his decision to return to school after winning atitle last season, but while his stock took a slight dip because of aprolonged shooting slump, his polish, versatility, intangibles andwinning background make a coveted piece for NBA teams looking to add alow-maintenance young player.

Chris Singleton, 6-foot-9 junior, Florida State:One of the most versatile defenders in the country, his late-seasoninjury woes could push him back to Tallahassee, but if thesuper-athletic forward does leave school early, he has prototype lengthfor the wing in the NBA and adequate enough scoring ability to succeedas a rotation player.

Nolan Smith, 6-foot-2 senior, Duke:Throughout his career, Smith's talents were nit-picked by observers,but his improved all-around game and point-guard skills in Irving'sabsence showed he'll at least be able to function as a versatile andvaluable combo guard, particularly if he ends up sliding in the draftand getting picked by a playoff team.

Jared Sullinger, 6-foot-8 freshman, Ohio State:Although the freshman sensation is a tad undersized, not the mostexplosive player and could stand to improve his conditioning, hismassive frame, savvy beyond his years and dominance on the glass andwith his back to the basket justify his projections as a top-five pick.

Kemba Walker, 6-foot-1 junior, Connecticut:Probably a few inches shorter than his listed size, Walker's yeomanscoring efforts, shot-making ability, exciting ballhandling, nerves ofsteel and unbelievable heart have overshadowed his tough defense andplaymaking ability--prior to this season, he functioned as a pass-firstfloor general--which should allow him to be an effective NBA scoringpoint guard.

Derrick Williams, 6-foot-8 sophomore, Arizona:The Pac-10's MVP blend of solid athleticism, emerging perimeter skillsand a rugged low-post game has made believers of many, especiallycoupled with his ability to rise to the occasion in big situations,which has elevated him to a potential top-five pick.

Tyler Zeller, 7-foot junior, North Carolina:The rail-thin big man had been plagued by injuries prior to thisbreakout season, but his ability to run the floor, polished post moves,underrated toughness inside, soft touch and clutch play as of late hasopened eyes and have him pegged as an agile, high-energy, pick-and-popspecialist on the next level.

Honorable Mention:Kevin Anderson, Richmond; Jimmy Butler, Marquette; Matt Howard, Butler;Doron Lamb, Kentucky; Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut; Shelvin Mack, Butler;Vernon Macklin, Florida; Roscoe Smith, Connecticut; Jordan Taylor,Wisconsin; Patric Young, Florida.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Palatine's Eduardo Orozco

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Maine West girls basketball

Highlights

No. 1 Simeon holds off No. 4 Whitney Young

No. 2 Orr gets revenge on No. 3 Curie

No. 9 New Trier takes down No. 6 Evanston

No. 8 Fenwick handles No. 10 Loyola Academy

No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor rallies past No. 18 Bolingbrook

Oswego East upsets No. 20 Joliet Central

Andrew shuts down Thornridge

Sandburg tops Lockport in OT

Richards runs by Shepard

Maine West captures second straight girls basketball regional title