Starting Five: Give Mike Anderson a chance; Lecque enters Draft
The St. John's job search ultimately landed on Mike Anderson late last week and NC State bound Jalen Lecque has decided to enter the NBA Draft. Those topics and more in this week's edition of the Starting Five.
1. MIKE ANDERSON DESERVES A FAIR SHOT AT ST. JOHN'S
Late in March, I couldn't believe it when I learned that Mike Anderson had been fired at Arkansas. He had taken a program in bad shape and led them to the postseason in five (3 NCAA Tourneys) of the last six years. He had recruited well enough and even with a bit of a down 2018-19 campaign, he looked to be on the way to the consistent success he experienced at Missouri and UAB. At the very least, the man deserved another year.
I was just as surprised late last week when a college assistant called me to ask what I knew about Anderson and if he would be good to work for. I said yes, I think he'd be good to work for, but he's currently out of a job. It was then the coach told me that Anderson -- seemingly out of nowhere -- was going to be the guy to replace Chris Mullin at St. John's and 24 hours later, the deal was done.
Look, there are some fair questions to ask about Anderson getting the job. Can he connect in New York? How did the search get to him? I get it. I'm kind of curious to find out myself.
What I don't need to find out, though, is whether or not Anderson can win. I've seen more than enough of Anderson to know that his 65 percent career winning percentage and nine NCAA Tournament appearances over the course of three stops are for real. It's also worth mentioning that he took over a difficult situation at each program. For those reasons, I hope he gets a fair shake from the local fans and media who have been critical of his hire.
Yes, there's a pretty big rebuild ahead of Anderson and yes he's going to be doing so in a city and region where he hasn't recruited heavily. But, I would hope he gets the fair chance he deserves because Anderson has proven that he is a winner capable of turning a bad situation into a good one.
2. JALEN LECQUE ENTERS NBA DRAFT
Ever since we first discussed the possibility with him last June, it has looked like there was a great chance that N.C. State signee Jalen Lecque would submit his name for the NBA Draft. He made the move official on Saturday by announcing that he would test the waters. Lecque is 19 years old and one year removed from high school graduation before doing a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., making him elgible for the draft.
With junior point guard Markell Johnson also testing the NBA waters, things could get kind of tricky in Raleigh for Kevin Keatts and company. That's another bridge to cross down the road, though, and I want to keep the focus on Lecque for the moment.
There's no question that Lecque is an NBA-caliber athlete. He's actually on the upper end of the spectrum when it comes to athleticism at the highest level of professional sport. As a player, things get a little questionable. He's explosive to the rim, can perform in transition and has some wow moments, but his jump shot is still a question and whether or not he's a full time point guard is a question.
His athleticism is going to be the reason why teams put in serious research -- they've been doing so since early in the winter -- when it comes to Lecque. The NBA sources I spoke with over the weekend told me that the vibe they get is that Lecque is likely to remain in the Draft. As for his potential to get picked, those same League sources told me that Lecque is currently being looked at as a mid- to late-second round pick.
3. JORDAN RAWLS HEADS TO WESTERN KENTUCKY AS 2019 PLEDGE
The stage was set for Jordan Rawls to emerge as one of the class of 2020's breakout stars. Instead, Western Kentucky's Rick Stansbury pulled the rug out from everybody, getting Rawls to not only commit, but enroll as a 2019 prospect.
A high-scoring guard with a good first step and some playmaking ability, Rawls impressed during the high school season and early in the grassroots season. He could be an instant impact guy for the Hllltoppers.
Previously ranked No. 65 in the class of 2020, Rawls will enter the 2019 rankings as a four-star prospect when they are finalized next week. His place in the 2020 rankings will actually be taken by a former high school teammate, small forward Samson Ruzhentsev.
4. INTERNATIONAL DUO STANDS OUT AT PANGOS EASTER CLASSIC
I was in Las Vegas for the past few days and spent some time at the Pangos Easter Classic. The International duo of 2020 center Saba Gigiberia and 2021 power forward Alex Tchikou, who are teammates at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep and for the Uneek Ballers, left an impression on me.
A native of Georgia who moved to the U.S. for his junior season, Gigiberia is a legit seven-footer with broad shoulders and a great frame to build on. He's got a bit of a mean streak in him, soft touch and scores with both hands around the rim.
Tchikou is a class of 2021 four man from France who can really run, has long arms, is bouncy around the rim and shows some potential as a faceup shooter and high post passer. He plays with energy and a chip on his shoulder. He's raw for sure, but has high upside.
I was pretty surprised to find that neither player has scholarship offers but I suspect that will change soon enough when coaches see them on the Adidas grassroots circuit this weekend. With strong showings down the road, the duo will not only attract scholarship offers but serious consideration for the rankings in their respective classes.
5. HARRIS IN THE MIDST OF VISITS
Virginia Tech remains involved and Maryland and Georgetown are among the others looking to get in. We'll see if any of those programs could make a run but the early intel on this one suggests that Harris' choice is likely to come down to the Hoosiers and Heels and that choice could be made in the relatively near future.