This week has already seen a flurry of NBA draft decisions by top collegians who elected to either remain in school (Kentucky’s Willie-Cauley-Stein and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell) or leave for the pros (Arizona’s Nick Johnson, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III and Michigan State’s Gary Harris,). But college basketball’s most impactful stay-or-go decision has yet to be made public. Jabari Parker will either come back to Duke for next season and in so doing turn the Blue Devils into a prohibitive national title favorite, or he’ll move along to the NBA and battle for a spot near the very top of the draft board.
Parker is expected to announce his decision within the next day or so. Should he move on, his only college season will be considered among the best of the one-and-done era, but not as high up as might have been anticipated when this so-called Year of the Freshmen began last November. Here’s a ranking of the best one-and-done seasons since the NBA instituted its age minimum in time for the 2006-07 season:
One measure for a college basketball player’s stay-or-go decision is: Will he be better off bypassing the NBA draft for another season? And if not, what exactly is the point in hanging around?
This helps explain Tuesday’s spate of departures that featured the Michigan duo of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, as well as Arizona guard Nick Johnson. Their outlooks vary: Stauskas received word from the league that he was a likely late lottery pick, no worse than mid-first round. Robinson III likely received first-round grades. Johnson, meanwhile, might slip into the late first round but also might have to settle for a second-round slotting.
Cuonzo Martin got what he wanted, which was a program that wanted him. He is the new head coach at California, a move seemingly stemming from how he was treated or perceived at Tennessee. It was sudden. And it is with even more haste that Martin now must get up to speed in a rapidly improving, mostly well-coached, strikingly deep Pac-12 before his new program falls too far off pace. A coach with one NCAA tournament bid and zero apparent ties to the West Coast must prove he was worth the fuss, and time isn’t on Martin’s side.
Cuonzo Martin’s biggest flaw at Tennessee was one he could never control: He wasn’t Bruce Pearl.
Martin, who left the Volunteers on Tuesday after three seasons to take over as the head coach of California, had the misfortune of arriving in Knoxville in 2011 on the heels of the Pearl era. Pearl had been fired after lying to NCAA investigators, as well as the cumulative effect of other violations, after what was perhaps the most successful run in Tennessee basketball history. In six seasons in Knoxville, Pearl took the Volunteers to six NCAA tournaments and lifted UT to the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking. At a football-heavy school, Pearl made the Vols matter on a national basketball level.
The college basketball transfer market is not exactly the equivalent of free agency. But given the volume of players switching uniforms in the offseason – and the wide disparity of talent available, from end-of-benchers to impact performers – it comes close.
Some players who were prime catches already discovered new homes, such as Anthony Lee (Temple to Ohio State), Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV to Iowa State) and Tyler Lewis (N.C. State to Butler). Restricting the discussion to who remains available, here’s a look at 10 top players (in alphabetical order) seeking a new home this spring and summer: