Redskins

Mid-major hoop stars thriving in return to school

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Mid-major hoop stars thriving in return to school

Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and Creighton's Doug McDermott are making headlines for mid-major programs instead of trying to find supporting roles as NBA rookies.

The three Associated Press preseason All-Americans all returned to school instead of entering the NBA draft. They knew there was a good chance they could have fallen out of the first round, making it even harder to succeed in the league without a guaranteed contract. Instead, they're focused on helping their teams top last year's runs to the NCAA tournament - which could ultimately help their pro prospects, too.

All three are averaging better than 21 points per game while their teams are a combined 29-4 to start the year.

``I don't regret not going to the NBA,'' Canaan said. ``I've got five young guys with me and I know it's not going to be the best early, right now. But we're not worried about early. We want them to be at their best in the later part of the season. I'm trying every day to make them better because I'm going to need them, we're going to need them.''

Ryan Blake, senior director of NBA scouting operations, said the odds of a player making an NBA roster drop significantly if he slides out of the first round and misses out on the guaranteed three-year contract that comes with that perch.

Blake said Canaan and McCollum, now seniors, would've fallen into the risky late-first/early-second category in a strong draft after last season. NBA rules prohibit Blake from talking about McDermott, who is a junior.

``My philosophy is if you're projected as a low first-round or second round (pick), that means you may not get drafted,'' Blake said. ``That's how the variable is in the NBA - especially in last year's draft.

``Then again, it's not that big of a deal if you're enjoying college, if you're able to hone your skills and improve and so forth. I think that adds a lot. Maturity adds a lot.''

It's guys like Canaan, McCollum and McDermott - experienced players with developed games - that fuel March Madness as the scary upstarts facing big-name programs often led by young talent. Just ask Duke.

McCollum scored 30 points to lead the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks past the Blue Devils in Duke's home state last March.

The 6-foot-3 guard became the Patriot League's all-time leading scorer earlier this season. He entered the week leading the country by averaging 24.9 points per game on 51 percent shooting.

McCollum, who was held out of Lehigh's 90-75 win over North Texas Thursday night with a sprained ankle, said last year he returned to school because he had promised his parents he would earn his degree. In addition, his family was financially stable and didn't desperately need the money that comes with an NBA contract.

He said he got ``mixed feedback'' on his pro prospects, though it was hard to learn much considering the deadline to stay in the draft came before prospects were allowed to work out for teams.

``Some scouts said I should strike while it's hot and leave school,'' McCollum said. ``Some said I should stay and try and improve. ... With the way the draft is set up now, you can't get workouts unless you're all the way in. That put us at a disadvantage. It really hurts.''

McDermott, a 6-8 forward, wasn't in a rush, either. After averaging nearly 23 points and eight rebounds last season while leading Creighton to the third round of the NCAA tournament, he's averaging about 23 points and seven rebounds this year for the No. 17 Bluejays.

``I had my mind made right after the season,'' McDermott said. ``I knew I wasn't ready for (the NBA) quite yet and there's a lot of stuff I still want to accomplish here at Creighton. ... I think we can do some special things and take this program where it's never been before, so that's my main priority.

``It's hard not to think about the next level, but for now I'm still in college and I'm going to make the most of it.''

His father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, also pointed out that his son ``doesn't have any bills to pay, so he doesn't have to be in a hurry.''

``These years could very well be the best years of his life,'' Greg McDermott said, ``so he's enjoying every second of it.''

Canaan, a 6-1 senior, averaged about 19 points to lead Murray State's charge into the national rankings last year. He's upped that average to around 21 points this year for the Racers.

All three ranked among the nation's top seven scorers entering the week.

There's no guarantees the trio's decision to return will pay off with a first-round draft selection in June. Canaan and McCollum don't have a lot of size, while McDermott doesn't possess elite athleticism.

Still, staying in school can't hurt if things go well the rest of the year.

``It's a long process,'' Blake said. ``I mean, it's a grind. It's a year of playing more basketball. It's a year of being more consistent, a year of ups and downs, a year of game toughness and maturity. If a player can improve through his freshman season, think about what someone can do in four seasons. If you continue to prove yourself, you'll get those opportunities.''

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AP Basketball Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this report

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Get ready for the NFL Draft, and get ready for plenty of surprises

Get ready for the NFL Draft, and get ready for plenty of surprises

In some circles of modern culture, producing shocking commentary or content seems like the top goal. Being shocking gets clicks, gets attention, and in turn, gets dollars. 

On NFL Draft night, nothing should be shocking. Remember, last season there was no way Jonathan Allen would fall to the Redskins at 17. There was no way Kansas City would trade up for QB Patrick Maholmes. There was no way Chicago would trade up for Mitchell Trubisky. But all those things happened.

Sure, for months draft experts have expounded about what will happen, but the truth is, once the Browns are on the clock, nobody actually knows anything. 

With that in mind, let's look at a bunch of options that should not shock Redskins fans. 

  • Don't be shocked if Washington takes Minkah Fitzpatrick. They want him.
  • Don't be shocked if the Redskins draft Da'Ron Payne over Vita Vea. Washington loves Payne's potential to be a disruptor in the pass game and his incredible strength. 
  • Then again, don't be shocked if the 'Skins take Vita. Plenty of folks like him too. 
  • Don't be shocked if a team makes a move for Louisville QB Lamar Jackson. That could happen after the Redskins pick at 13, but Washington's pick could also prove important in the race for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
  • Derwin James will be on the 'Skins list, but don't be shocked if he goes off the board before the Redskins pick. 
  • Don't be shocked with a trade back, but remember that isn't the goal. With four QBs expected in the Top 10, an elite talent should make it to Washington at 13. If that happens, the Redskins should take advantage of adding a blue chip to their squad. 
  • Don't be shocked if Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds ends up wearing the Redskins draft hat. Also, don't be shocked if he plays some outside linebacker in the Washington 3-4 scheme, not just the inside LB role most project for Edmunds. 
  • Don't be shocked if a seemingly sure thing slips all the way to 13. Perhaps that's Quenton Nelson? Or Denzel Ward? Remember, there was no way Jon Allen was supposed to fall to 17 last year.

There are some things Redskins fans should be shocked by. 

  • Washington should not trade up. 
  • Washington should not draft a running back at 13 unless Saquon Barley is available. He won't be.
  • Washington should not draft a wide receiver at 13. 
  • If one of the top four QBs is available at 13, Washington should vigorously work the phones to move the pick. Move down a few spots and get Payne should be the exact plan in that scenario. Arizona at 15 needs a QB. 

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Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

Fourth quarter has been an issue for the Wizards in series vs. Raptors

It was all going so well for the Wizards in Game 5 on Wednesday night until just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That's when their offense went from good enough to win to bad enough to alter a series and put their 2017-18 season on life support.

The Wizards head back to Washington down 3-2 and have only themselves to blame. From the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter all the way until 16.2 seconds remining in the game, they did not score a single point. Meanwhile, the Raptors kept rolling and finished that stretch on a 14-5 run. 

The Wizards missed 11 of their final 15 shots. They stopped moving the ball and moving off the ball and even some of their open shots clanged off the backboard or the rim.

It was a stunning display of offensive ineptitude from a team that was above average in scoring during the regular season. 

"We just missed some shots," guard Bradley Beal said. "We feel like we got some good ones, especially down the stretch."

The Wizards managed 20 points in the fourth quarter and 15 came in the first 7:55 of the frame. That would put them on pace for a solid quarter. If they maintained that course, they may have won the game.

Instead, the fourth quarter amounted to a disaster and it cost them dearly. Teams that lose Game 5 to break a 2-2 tie have a 17.2 percent chance of winning the series, based on the league's history.

Otto Porter went scoreless and took one shot in the fourth quarter of Game 5. John Wall had two of his seven turnovers and shot 2-for-6.

"I had two crucial turnovers trying to split screens in the fourth quarter," Wall said. "Just bad reads on my part."

Beal shot 1-for-6 from the field and 1-for-4 from three. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who shot just 40.3 percent from the field during the regular season, took six shots in the fourth quarter, tied for most on the team. He made two of them and missed all three of his threes.

The Wizards had six of their 18 giveaways in the fourth. Though they outrebounded the Raptors 50-35 for the game, they were outdone 15-12 in the frame.

The Wizards' scoreless drought of three minutes and 49 seconds in the fourth quarter was perhaps foreshadowed by some problems with their offense early in the game. There were plenty of stretches characterized by bad shots, turnovers and a lack of passing.

The Wizards' 21 assists in Game 5 were their fewest in the playoffs so far.

"We need more ball movement," Beal said. "We need more player movement. We were way too stagnant."

The fourth quarter has been an issue all series. Only once, in Game 2, did they outscore the Raptors in the final frame. 

The Wizards rank 14th out of 16 playoff teams in fourth quarter points (23.4/g) and dead-last with a 40.4 field goal percentage and 28.1 three point percentage.

This is a bit of a carryover from the regular season. Only five teams shot worse than the Wizards in the fourth quarter (43.7%) and only five teams allowed more points (26.5) to their opponents.

Washington has had issues closing games all year and throughout this series. Wednesday night was an extreme example and it has them just one loss away from elimination.

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