John Calipari, head coach at Kentucky is used to losing players. He will lose a few more before the NBA Draft.
The time has come for college basketball stars to decide whether to return to school or head to the NBA. Such stories have dominated the news cycle of the past week. Of course, there have been a few other surprises along the way as well. Here are the top college basketball stories of the past week.
A couple of the top programs in the country may be about to lose some of their top players to the NBA. At Kentucky, sophomore Wenyen Gabriel and freshman Jarred Vanderbilt have both announced their plans to head to the NBA, joining Wildcats teammate P.J. Washington. However, those three players have not signed with agents, so they can all return, whereas the freshmen trio of Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Kevin Knox have all signed with agents and are leaving Lexington for good.
Meanwhile, Villanova could be also be losing players who would have been key pieces next season.Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman have both declared, although neither will sign with an agent, leaving the door open to return to school. After DiVincenzo’s heroics in the national championship game, his prospects may have be higher than they are right now. Spellman, meanwhile, averaged 11 points and eight rebounds this past season as a freshman, so he may also want to give the NBA a shot while his stock is high. National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson has already left Villanova and hired an agent.
Among the other notable players who announced this week they would be heading to the NBA are Tyus Battle of Syracuse, Kevin Huerta of Maryland, Charles Matthews of Michigan, Udoka Azubuike of Kansas, and Luke Maye of North Carolina. However, all four players have yet to sign with an agent, leaving the door ajar to return to school. At first glance, Matthews appears more than likely to stay in the draft. Azubuike, meanwhile, made it sound like he’s genuinely looking for feedback and not set on going if he doesn’t compare favorably to the other big men in the draft. The same could be true for Maye. Finally, both Battle and Huerta appear to be a coin flip at best with regard to whether or not they’ll stay in the draft or head back to school.
On a more serious note, Memphis forward Karim Sameh Azab announced over the weekend that he’s been diagnosed with cancer. The school announced in March that Azab was being treated for a medical illness, but did not go into specifics at the time. Azab announced via Twitter that he has Leukemia-Lymphoma and is currently receiving treatment. The 6’ 10’’ sophomore is a native of Egypt. He was in line to be a starter this season before a preseason injury set him back. Following the injury, his minutes were limited, only appearing in 15 games. The University of Memphis helped arrange for his parents to visit him and has released a statement saying, “The resources available to help Karim in this fight are second-to-none.”
While so many players are at least testing the NBA waters, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter is staying in school. Many viewed Hunter as a possible first-round pick, so his decision is no doubt surprising. As a freshman, he averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game but was instrumental to Virginia’s defensive prowess. Of course, Hunter did not play during his team’s loss to UMBC in the NCAA Tournament after breaking his wrist during the ACC tournament. That injury would have prevented him from being a full participant for the NBA Combine, which may have influenced his decision to return to school.
Former Auburn point guard Davion Mitchell has announced he will transfer to Baylor. Mitchell will have to sit out next season but will then have three years of eligibility left. Despite being a top-50 prospect coming out of high school in the eyes of many recruiting services, Mitchell had a fairly disappointing freshman year at Auburn. He played in every game but only averaged 3.7 points and 1.1 assists, shooting 29% from three-point range. He will hope for better fortune at Baylor under head coach Scott Drew.
After a year in limbo, the South Carolina Gamecocks have officially parted ways with point guard Rakym Felder. Head coach Frank Martin suspended him from the program last summer after multiple arrests in less than a year. He was reinstated in January but did not end up logging any minutes. Martin said Felder had to meet certain guidelines for returning, but he did not meet those expectations. Felder was key coming off the bench during South Carolina’s Final Four run in 2017, averaging 5.6 points per game and shooting 42% from three-point range. Where his career goes from here is anybody’s guess.