Nationals

Indiana expect another top recruiting class

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Indiana expect another top recruiting class

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Devin Davis likes being No. 1.

He was the first player to commit to Indiana in this year's recruiting class, the first to send in his national letter-of-intent Wednesday and he hopes to be the first to hang more than one national championship banner during his career in Bloomington.

The 6-foot-6 forward was one of five players expected to sign with the Hoosiers on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. School officials were waiting for the last player in the six-man class, which has been rated in the top five nationally, to sign before talking about the incoming freshmen.

Davis couldn't wait to start talking.

``I'm really excited, just playing in front of all of those fans and playing for Coach (Tom) Crean, you couldn't ask for much more,'' said Davis, who plays at Warren Central in suburban Indy. ``And now that they're ranked No. 1, it makes it even better.''

There's only one problem: In a group this talented, Davis isn't going to Bloomington as the top-ranked recruit.

That honor belongs to 6-9 forward Noah Vonleh, who has been rated in the top 10 nationally. The New Hampton (N.H.) Prep star announced last week he had chosen the Hoosiers over Syracuse, Ohio State, Connecticut, North Carolina and Georgetown.

The rest of the group doesn't trail by much.

Troy Williams, a 6-6 forward from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, and Stanford Robinson, a 6-4 shooting guard from Henderson, Nev., have both been ranked in the top 60. Luke Fischer of Germantown, Wis., is considered one of the nation's top centers. And Crean got two of the state's best prep players, Davis and Collin Hartman, a 6-6 forward from Indianapolis Cathedral.

The question isn't how good this class will be, it's how Crean intends to fit them in.

Indiana (2-0) has only three seniors on the roster - Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. Adding six freshmen next fall would put them over the NCAA's scholarship limit. If 7-foot center Cody Zeller left early for the NBA, as some believe he will, that would open a fourth roster spot but would still leave Indiana two over the limit.

Crean faced a similar situation earlier this year until Ron Patterson enrolled in prep school after Indiana announced he had not met the school's academic requirements. It could happen again, though Davis and Hartman have big plans for their college careers.

``Obviously I want to go in and contribute right away. That's my goal right now is to get myself set up for that,'' Hartman said. ``I really just want to come in and hang banners. I just want to be part of that and contribute to it. I think they're going to do big things.''

Purdue (1-1) signed three players Wednesday morning - guard Bryson Scott and forward Basil Smotherman, both Indiana natives, and forward Kendall Stephens, an Illinois native with strong Indiana ties.

The 6-1 Scott averaged 25.2 points and .6.5 rebounds at Fort Wayne Northrop last season, while Smotherman averaged 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds at Lawrence North, another suburban Indy school.

``Bryson gives us a lead guard and we think we can play two point guards together. I think when you look at teams that play two point guards together, it's really hard to defend,'' coach Matt Painter said. ``Smotherman is a kind of a combo forward that has the size to play the three and the four. We think he can be a matchup type of guy.''

The most intriguing signee, though, might be Stephens. He averaged more than 24 points as a junior at St. Charles East High School and 17.1 points as a sophomore and comes from a lineage of scorers.

Like Scott, Stephens is considered a Top 100 recruit, and Stephens made it clear that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Everette, who scored more than 1,000 points during his career at Purdue.

``Any time someone wants to be at your place and be at your Purdue because of his mom and dad, you're going to recruit those guys,'' Painter said. ``He's a great person and a great player.''

While the Indiana and Purdue men stole Wednesday's headlines, as usual, they certainly weren't alone in signing players.

Notre Dame signed forwards V.J. Beachem and Austin Torres and guard Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia. Beachem, Torres and Jackson all played high school ball in northern Indiana. Vasturia is from New Jersey and played was the Philadelphia Catholic League's MVP at St. Joseph's Prep.

``We felt that we needed to strengthen our perimeter game with this year's class and I really think that we accomplished that,'' coach Mike Brey said.

Butler, a two-time national runner-up, signed three recruits in its first recruiting class since joining the Atlantic 10. Coach Brad Stevens said the Bulldogs (1-1) received letters from 6-10 Nolan Berry, a Missouri native; 6-7 Andrew Chrabascz of Cushing, Mass.; and 6-2 Rene Castro of Worcester, Mass.

``One of the things that we've really tried to prioritize in the class of 2013 was recruiting kids with competitive maturity, guys who have won and guys who we think are mature beyond their years and will have an impact sooner, rather than later,'' Stevens said in a statement.

Indiana State signed Brenton Scott, who averaged 16.3 points at Fort Wayne Northrop and is the twin brother of Bryson Scott, who is headed to Purdue.

It wasn't just the men bringing in new talent.

Purdue's women's team signed 5-9 guard Ashley Morrissette from Twinsburg, Ohio, and 6-2 swing player Bridget Perry from Indianapolis Roncalli.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

MORE NATS NEWS:

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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