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Friday / July 19.
  • After Several Players Test NBA Waters, Big Ten Loaded With Draft Prospects

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    Michigan State  coach Tom Izzo joked at Big Ten Media Day that he’s not a big fan of the new rules that allowed players to test the NBA Draft waters and still return to campus.

    “Yeah, it made me feel awful,” Izzo cracked. “Mine left and the others stayed.”

    While Michigan State lost freshman Deyonta Davis and senior Denzel Valentine to the NBA Draft, three other Big Ten players tested the waters and opted to return to campus.

    Indiana’s Thomas Bryant, Maryland’s Melo Trimble and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan all chose to come back and are now part of a deep group of NBA prospects in the Big Ten.

    According to DraftExpress.com, the Big Ten has seven players projected to go in the 2017 NBA Draft: Indiana’s OG Anunoby at No. 11; Bryant at No. 20; Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges at 20; Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes, the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, at 36; Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop at 46; Illinois’ Malcolm Hill at 48; and Trimble at 56. Swanigan is currently projected to go undrafted.

    “It’s good that a lot of guys are staying and there are some key guys in our league that I thought might go that stayed,” Izzo said. “In all honesty, I’m happy for those coaches, I’m happy for those players. I think we are trying to rush the process sometimes too much, but that’s the day and age we’re in. But I think it’s good for college basketball and it’s even better for the players.”

    As for the 6-foot-10 Bryant, Indiana head coach Tom Crean said he made a “long-term decision” on his future to return to campus after he was a borderline first-round pick last year.

    “I don’t think he made a short-term decision, he made a long-term decision,” Crean said. “There’s no reason when he leaves Indiana why he shouldn’t have an extremely long career at the next level.”

    At Maryland, the 6-2 Trimble waited right up until the deadline on June 21 to opt to return to campus after three of his teammates — Diamond Stone, Robert Carter Jr. and Jake Layman — departed for the NBA.

    “Melo’s had an unbelievable first two years for us,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought his sophomore year was exceptional, too, and he doubled his assists and still scored at a high level. So he is at great peace. I think all along Melo wanted to stay. He knew it was the best thing for him, and he’s been very
    happy since he made that decision. He’s improved again in a lot of areas. Probably the area he’s improved the most is he’s just very comfortable being a leader. He’s always been a great player, but when you’re a freshman, it’s hard to lead seniors sometimes. And I think he’s become more comfortable. He knows it’s his team in a lot of ways, so he’s very comfortable in his own skin right now and he’s playing at a high level.

    “He’s at a high, high level right now, and better than I’ve ever seen him, which is great for our team. But he knows this is his team. He’s kind of relaxed about that. He’s not worried about stepping on anybody’s toes maybe like he has in the last couple years. So it should be a great year for Melo.”

    As for the 6-9 Swanigan, Purdue coach Matt Painter pointed out that he skipped a year of high school and is young for his class so another year of college can only help.

    “The feedback for him [from NBA people] was really just keep doing what he’s been doing and keep improving,” Painter said. “He did skip a year of high school which is a little different. A lot of people add a year of high school and do a post-grad year and have five years in high school. He was in high school for three years so he’s still a very, very young guy in their eyes.”

    One NBA scout told me that Swanigan has “been the most impressive” from early reports of the three Big Ten players who returned to campus.

    “Melo is still a second-rounder at best,” the scout said. “Bryant needs to develop and maybe stay even one more year unless he has a great year.”

    Meantime, Bridges headlines a freshmen class at Michigan State that is loaded, and he could be the standout one-and-done player for Izzo.

    “I think he can be one of the more versatile guys we’ve had since a Jason Richardson,” Izzo said. “He shoots it pretty good, he’s stronger than most freshmen, he’s a man-child in that respect, he’s a power jumper.

    “But he has been an incredible kid. Sometimes you’re Top 10 or 15 players are full of themselves. he’s about as humble and hard-working and coachable a kid as I’ve had. When your best players are your hardest workers and some of your easiest to coach, that’s usually a recipe for success and I think Miles Bridges is going to be the next Flintstone that is going to have great success at our place because of the way he’s handled everything from this recruiting on. It wasn’t only about him and he’s been a good teammate. And his versatility, I think he can play three positions right now if you ask me.”

    Projected at 20 right now, Bridges could work his way up the draft board for next summer.

    “He could play his way into the lottery but not to start the season,” the NBA scout said.

     

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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