basketball Edit

Three-Point Play: Returning players, grassroots, Rafael Castro

The last few days leading up to the date for early entry candidates to withdraw from the NBA Draft proved to be pretty good for fans of college basketball. A pair of Mid-Atlantic grassroots powers locked up for a high-level scrimmage and more in today's Three-Point-Play.

Starting Five: Josh Minott & Zuby Ejiofor show out, event notes

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75


1. SEVERAL RETURNS WILL BOOST COLLEGE HOOPS IN 2020-21

Jared Butler
Jared Butler (AP Images)

The last few days have been very good for fans of college basketball as several notable players chose to withdraw from the NBA Draft and added to what was already looking like a promising 2020-21 season.

ArkansasIsaiah Joe, Baylor’s Jared Butler and Iowa’s Luka Garza were three of the biggest decisions left to be made and they all came back. Arkansas gets the dependable three-point shooter with experience to help ease the load on new talent they needed and a pair of national title contenders each got back potential All-Americans and National Player of the Year candidates in Butler and Garza.

Iowa – which I felt was a legitimate Final Four contender in 2020 – is going to be absolutely loaded with the return of Garza but the Hawkeyes weren’t the only winner in the Big Ten. Illinois came up huge as team leader Ayo Dosunmu decided to return for a junior season in the Illini backcourt and big man Kofi Cockburn electing to return. This should be the best Illini team since their 2005 Final Four team. At Michigan State, Tom Izzo and the Spartans did lose Xavier Tillman to the draft but he’d been trending in that direction and Aaron Henry did decide to stay in school. They’ll be right in the mix to contend with Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin in what should be an awfully fun Big Ten next season.

Arkansas wasn’t the only SEC team getting good news. The good news was flowing throughout the league. Alabama – which could be a sneaky top-10 team by the time it is all said and done – got a dangerous shooter back in John Petty. The Crimson Tide are loaded with perimeter options, even after losing Kira Lewis. LSU got stability in their backcourt with JaVonte Smart returning for his junior season. The Tigers also get forward Darius Days back. The huge news for them, though, is the return of skilled combo forward Trendon Watford. The Tigers should be at least a top 20 team nationally with their returns. Also, Tennessee's chances to be in the mix with the nation's best got even better with the return of Yves Pons. Like the BIg Ten, the SEC should be as strong as it has been in some time during the next season.

UCLA got stung a few months ago by heralded five-star point guard recruit Daishen Nix choosing to take the G League pathway. However, after it looked very likely that the Bruins would lose forward Chris Smith to the draft, but they get a huge boost with his return. He has been a bit inconsistent throughout his time in Westwood, but he’s a potential All-Pac-12 player in 2020-21 and has versatility. Thanks to the return of Remy Martin, Bobby Hurley and Arizona State just may be the favorites in the Pac-12 and Martin will likely be considered one of the preseason favorites for conference Player of the Year.

Gonzaga was going to be good with or without Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, Mark Few’s program is built to last. However, their return cements the Zags as one of the top two or three teams in the land and like Baylor and Iowa, they’ll be serious contenders for a national championship in 2020-21.

Finally, the last decision that really stands out to me is that of 2020 five-star Makur Maker. He’s big, he’s skilled and he’s going to get a lot of attention playing at Howard this season.

2. TEAM DURANT AND BOO WILLIAMS LOADED WITH PLAYERS

Dariq Whitehead
Dariq Whitehead (https://usatoday.com)

Over the weekend, two of grassroots basketball’s power programs Boo Williams and Team Durant locked up for a closed scrimmage in Hampton, Va. I was able to get my hands on the video from the scrimmage and with nine Rivals150 prospects on the floor and a pair of five-stars, there was plenty to see.

He’s not the highest ranked of the guys who were participating, but Team Durant’s 2021 big man Sam Ayomide really stood out to me. He’s a true big who runs from rim to rim, sets big-time screens, plays physically around the rim and does a nice job passing out of the interior. Since May, the near 7-footer had picked up offers from Illinois, LSU, Memphis, Providence, Seton Hall, TCU, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. On Monday, he added an offer from Kansas after the Jayhawks staff watched his weekend film.

A five-star in the class of 2022, Dariq Whitehead looks ready to blossom. He’s played for a loaded Montverde (Fla.) Academy team in high school but looked much more assertive with Team Durant and way more polished in getting to his spots. He’s another who has blown up lately with offers from Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Memphis, NC State, Oregon, Texas and Texas A&M since June.

Top 25 Jalen Warley and four-star Jordan Hawkins of Team Durant could both come off the board this week with Florida State looking to be the leader for Warley and Connecticut the team to beat for Hawkins. Vanderbilt’s newest commit Gabe Dorsey showed off deep range and a college-ready frame.

For Boo, the most impressive player in the scrimmage was five-star two guard Aminu Mohammed. I was impressed by the advances he’s made as a pull-up jump shooter from deep and he really gets downhill in a hurry.

Point guard Zion Harmon is going to score a ton of points at Western Kentucky. The four-star loves to shoot it from deep, had a few really clever passes in traffic and is going to be a problem playing for Rick Stansbury.

Finally, power wing David Jones showed why he was moved into the 2021 Rivals150 during the spring. He plays hard on every possession, has a nice mix of post and face up game and loves to get physical. Tough guys like him are always welcome. A native of the Dominican Republic, Jones has offers from Auburn, Clemson, Houston, Illinois, Louisville, Maryland, Oregon and Pittsburgh.


3. CASTRO PROVES DESERVING OF TOP 150 RANKING

Rafael Castro
Rafael Castro (NJHoops.com)

We work together as a team to put together the rankings but the one guy in our 2021 rankings who I hadn’t yet seen was 6-foot-9 forward Rafael Castro. His inclusion in our spring update was thanks to Corey Evans having seen him and I have to give it up to Corey. He got it right in making sure we included Castro.

I got my first look at him while watching Team Rio University online and the Jersey product is somebody that impressed me. He needs to get a lot stronger, but he’s crafty to the rim, really runs the floor and has a pretty high ceiling for improvement down the road. Dayton, Florida, Miami, Providence, Seton Hall, VCU and Xavier all offered during the spring and I see their long-term vision with Castro.