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.

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

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USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

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Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA TODAY

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”