Three-Point Play: Fred Hoiberg, Nassir Little, Anthony Edwards
There's already one major name to consider when the college coaching carousel gets moving in the spring. In today’s three-point-play National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi discusses why Fred Hoiberg will be among the hottest names, plus Nassir Little’s start and top-three 2019 player Anthony Edwards' quiet visit to Georgia.
1. EXPECT HOIBERG TO BE A POPULAR NAME
The college coaching carousel for basketball won’t get started until March and we’ve already found the man who will be the hottest name. The Chicago Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg on Monday and he’ll be the most heavily courted coaching free agent come spring time.
At least he should be. Living in Kansas City, the heart of Big 12 country, I got to see what type of coach Hoiberg was at the college level during his time at Iowa State. He was an innovator, he had good relationships with his players and he found plenty of success at his alma mater, winning the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2012 and conference tournament titles in 2014 and 2015 while making the NCAA Tournament and finishing in the top-four or better during conference play each of his last four years leading the Cyclones.
No, the NBA didn’t go as Hoiberg had hoped it would, but let’s face it, there are more guys like Hoiberg or Rick Pitino or John Calipari for whom the NBA doesn’t prove to be the best fit than there are guys like Brad Stevens who make a smooth transition. Hoiberg has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can coach at the college level.
Now, it’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity. Hoiberg is still making a nice chunk of change from the Bulls and he can sit back to see what opportunities may be available and be choosy. Just how soon his return to a college sideline will be is still to be determined, but I feel pretty confident that he can coach at the highest level in college and that whoever gets him will be landing a stud coach.
2. THE NASSIR LITTLE DILEMMA
In the first month or so of the season, North Carolina freshman Nassir Little has been a lightning rod for debate. The class of 2018’s No. 2 ranked player and a projected Lottery pick in the 2019 Draft, Little hasn’t been starting in Chapel Hill. Is he struggling? Should he be starting? Are Roy Williams and the Heels doing him dirty? Will it impact future recruiting?
Well, I guess that depends who you talk to. I don’t think Little is being done wrong by Williams and his staff. Given that we seriously considered Little for the No. 1 ranking in 2018, yes I’m a little surprised he hasn’t played more. But his lack of playing time is getting blown out of proportion. Carolina plays up and down, as a combo forward he’s playing in the one spot where the Heels have some productive returners in Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson and he has looked somewhat lost at times because he’s pressing when he does get minutes.
It’s understandable. There’s a lot of pressure on Little to put up big numbers and expectations for NBA success aren’t always fair to a college freshman. As for Williams holding him back, It’s something that has always been thrown against Williams all the way back to when people used to joke that he was the only coach who could hold Paul Pierce under 20 points. To me, the complaint is unfounded in reality. No, Williams hasn’t coached a lot of one-and-dones but I don’t know how anybody could regularly watch him and say he doesn’t give his players freedom and that the way he does things doesn’t usually work out to the benefit of those who play for him. Look no further than this year’s team in Chapel Hill. Little’s fellow five-star freshman Coby White is probably much more of a need for next year’s squad than Little is because they don’t have many playmaking guards. Yet, White is being given so much freedom that he’s developed into a potential one-and-done. If Williams was trying to hide guys from the NBA, White wouldn't be gunning away like he is.
It’s too early to be making a big deal about Little “only” averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game. People may try to make a big deal out of it on the recruiting trail, but I don’t see it hurting Williams and the Heels. He’s dealt with this for years and his results speak for themselves.
3. ANTHONY EDWARDS TAKES FIRST VISIT, MORE IN THE WORKS
Over the weekend, 2019’s No. 3 ranked player Anthony Edwards took his first official visit. The explosive and skilled shooting guard checked out Tom Crean’s Georgia program and sources close to Edwards indicated to me that the visit was strong and Crean made a stronger impression than expected.
So, what’s next? Along with Georgia, Edwards is down to Duke, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and UCLA. Of those programs, Florida State, Kansas, Michigan State and North Carolina are looking like favorites to land his other four official visits and I would look for those trips to be set in the relatively near future. It’s just a matter of matching Edwards' high school schedule with opportunities to be on campus and experience game day situations and have time to spend with the players and staffs at each school.
I would also expect this to be a pretty quiet recruitment. Edwards is a low key kid and nobody around him seems interested in creating a spectacle as he starts to take steps towards picking a school.