Bulls

Decision time looming for college underclassmen

439330.jpg

Decision time looming for college underclassmen

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 12:30 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Just because Monday nights NCAA Championship game was a stinkerin case youve been under a rock this week, Connecticut prevailed over underdog Butler in a horrific offensive displaydoesnt mean you should turn your back on whats going on in the college game. While the actual season is over, this time of the year is notable for not only the annual coaching carouselthe flurry of coaches either getting fired or hired around the countrythat occurs in college basketball, but for star underclassmen deciding whether or not theyll remain in college or hightail it to the professional level.

After missing the majority of the season with a toe injury before returning for the NCAA Tournament, Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving decided Wednesday to declare for the NBA draft. Irving is perhaps the top overall prospect in college basketball and his odds of being the top pick in the draft are increased by the fact that others regarded as No. 1 candidatessuch as Arizona forward Derrick Williams and North Carolina swingman Harrison Barnesremain on the fence about their respective futures.

While theres still plenty of time for underclassmen to decide if theyre leaving schoolthe deadline to declare for the draft is April 24, but players who have not retained agents can pull out by May 8some notable players have apparently already decided theyll stay in school. Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, Texas freshman Tristan Thompson and North Carolina twin towers John Henson and Tyler Zeller are among the players who have publicly declared theyre up for another March Madness run next season.

Besides Irving, however, no truly elite underclassmen prospects have put two feet in the door (i.e., ruled out a return to college because they have or plan to sign with an agent, which would compromise their college eligibility) just yet, although the likes of UConn star junior guard and national champion Kemba Walker, Baylor freshman Perry Jones, Kansas twin junior forwards, Marcus and Markieff Morris, and the aforementioned Williams, a sophomore, are expected to do so eventually, while players like North Carolinas Barnes and Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight supposedly are in limbo.

Meanwhile, the handful of players who have closed the door on coming back include Illinois freshman forward Jereme Richmond, who struggled through an up-and-down debut season in Champaign that include team-related suspensions. Richmond, a native of Waukegan, Ill., in Chicagos northern suburbs, was a highly-rated high school prospect and although he was inconsistent in his lone season with the Illini, he will likely be selected in the draftalthough with the impending NBA lockout, players who arent considered first-round or even lottery-pick locks should be cautiousdue to his vast potential.

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.

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Forget statement games, Zach LaVine is having a statement month. 

In 10 January games, the Bulls’ 6-foot-6 messiah is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 30.6 points on 50% shooting (22.8 attempts). 

To borrow a word from Jim Boylen, his latest installment — 42 points on 19-for-31 shooting in a game the Bulls clawed back from down 19 in the second half to topple the Cavaliers 118-116 — was “herculean.”

“If that's not an all-star performance I don't know what is,” Boylen said. “He’s been a monster, man. He’s been a monster.”

To LaVine, there isn’t much supernatural about these types of nights; he’s been preaching his confidence and readiness to carry this team since day one. LaVine scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and on a night he conceded his legs were a tad worn, he attempted only six 3-pointers, instead finding most of his offense in the midrange and at the rim.

“Make or break time, we're not gonna get back in the game by just playing nicely. So I'm gonna attack their body, try to make them make a call. Had some tough finishes, made some tough shots, but I take that upon myself,” LaVine said. 

“Just playing the right way,” he added of his recent torrid streak. “I expect to. I put the work in for it.”

But All-Star berths and widespread acclaim aren’t dolled out based on individual point totals, alone, regardless of how effortless LaVine’s prolificity looks at times. And LaVine knows that. Casting the 42 points aside, he also finished the night with a team-high six rebounds, five steals and three assists. He was all-encompassing. Michael Jordan is the only player in Bulls history to post a line with those minimums in a game.

His contributions to a tightly clamped Bulls defense in the fourth were note-worthy for a player that's often advertised his motivation to grow as a two-way, all-around player. And most importantly, the game ended in victory.

“He [LaVine] wants to win. And he knows in order to win you gotta do multiple things in this league and I feel like he did that tonight,” Kris Dunn said. “He was guarding today, scoring the ball, getting rebounds, getting guys involved. We need that from him.”

LaVine lauded the Bulls’ new-look closing lineup of he, Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls ventured to switch pick-and-rolls with that lineup late, as opposed to their usual blitzing, and outscored the Cavaliers 31-14 in the final period while forcing 10 turnovers.

“We made a lot of defensive stops, we got in transition. Chandler [Hutchison] came in and made some really big plays. Kris Dunn on the defensive end was incredible,” LaVine said. “And that helped me even recently get in some passing lanes. We put it together in the fourth.”

Tonight marked LaVine’s third 40-point game of the season and tenth straight with more than 20. His 31 field goal attempts were a season-high, three more than he hoisted in his record smashing 49-point night in Charlotte. Night in, night out, the on-court production and responsibility acceptance is there. But behind the scenes, he’s ever-improving, as well.

“He's been talking in the huddles, he's been chattering, he's been locked in,” Boylen said. “He's bouncing back from maybe a poor moment or a bad stretch. He's bouncing back now, he's not playing backward at all. And that's what the great ones do.”

“I stepped into this year from the get-go using my voice more, and you know, I've never been a real vocal person but you know, when I say something I think my voice carries weight,” LaVine added.

LaVine isn’t getting ahead of himself. He called this win — however exhilarating — an “ugly” one and lamented the familiar lackluster play that dug the Bulls their 18-point halftime deficit to begin with.

Still, the statements are piling up. If his overall outing wasn’t enough, LaVine offered another one to the United Center crowd after his final bucket of the evening, an and-one finish through Collin Sexton with 16 seconds remaining to put him over 40 points and the Bulls ahead by four.

What did he say?

“You want the explicit version or the PG-13?” LaVine said with a chuckle. “This my stuff.” 

Continuing to stuff stat sheets, as he has been, is going to make All-Star jurors’ lives that much more difficult.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine makes All-Star statement in win over Cavs

bulls_outsiders_podcast_website_listen_now.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine makes All-Star statement in win over Cavs

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 118-116 win over the Cavs.

1:00        On Zach LaVine and his 42 point effort

2:00        Big Dave does LaVine highlites

4:20        Viewer comment on how much of a boost LaVine will get to his All-Star bid

7:30        On the new lineup in the 4th quarter

8:20        Viewer question on LaVine being the #1 option on a winning team

11:30     Viewer comment on if LaVine can lead Bulls into playoffs

14:45     Viewer comment on Markkanen in the 2nd half

16:30     On Boylen’s timeout usage at the end of the game

18:45     Breaking news: Kendall Gill wants to know if Matt Peck saw what Derrick Rose did tonight

21:45     Viewer comment on Bulls waking up in the 4th quarter

23:30     Viewer comment on if Thibs was coaching Kris Dunn

24:20     On Olympic swimmer Ryan Held wearing a Ryan Arcidiacono rookie jersey

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.