NCB On The Trail: Robert Johnson

By now we know which freshmen should be difference-makers in college basketball this upcoming season. But there are many more first-year players who can impress and impact their respective teams.

Every season, freshmen emerge on the scene as the season unfolds. The adjustment from high school to college, changes in such things as the physicality and speed of the game, and learning how to play with a high basketball IQ, takes time for a newcomer.

1. Kameron Chatman, Michigan: No. 38 in ESPN 100
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Let's take a look at who is leaving Indiana, who is returning and which new players are coming into the program.

Indiana is losing four seniors in Will Sheehey, Evan Gordon, Jeff Howard and Taylor Wayer. At the semester break, Luke Fisher transferred to Marquette, and just recently Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell left the program. But perhaps the biggest departure will be Noah Vonleh to the NBA draft. Vonleh was the Big Ten freshman of the year this season as he averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds per game, which was the best in the Big Ten.

The Hoosiers return one of the best point guards in the Big Ten and in the nation in Yogi Ferrell (17.3 ppg), as well as athletic players such as Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson.

As for their incoming recruiting class, the Hoosiers have two guards coming in who could start and will help immediately in shooter James Blackmon Jr. and combo guard Robert Johnson.

There is plenty of roster space to fill right now in Bloomington, Ind., but hardly anyone left in the 2014 class to fill needs. They are, however, still involved with ESPN 100 forward Josh Cunningham, who could bring a combination of scoring and defense to the small forward/power forward spot.

When you analyze Indiana's future roster, it's important for the coaching staff to land some quality players with size in the frontcourt -- prospects who can score and/or be an elite rebounder or shot blocker.
As the NCAA tournament moves on to the Sweet 16, here's a look back at five former ESPN 100 players who helped their teams advance -- and five members of the 2014 ESPN 100 who could play a similar role next season:

[+] EnlargePatric Young
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesPatric Young and the Gators cruised by Pitt and Albany.

1. Patric Young, Florida

ESPN 100 rank: No. 13 in 2010
Young was the most physical player on the floor for Florida in its wins against Albany and Pittsburgh. Young knows he can dominate the game in the paint and on the glass. He is the type of player who produces double-doubles regularly. He's relentless on the glass, is a terrific position defender and is a shot-blocker.
The next Patric Young: No. 3 Cliff Alexander, Kansas. The most physically imposing player in the high school game, Alexander will be a difference-maker in the paint. Both Alexander and Young make their presence in the paint felt by being more powerful and explosive than their opponents. Alexander will give the Jayhawks an anchor in the middle.



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#AskCoachB: Making a point

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
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video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

I really like this question!

Romelo Trimble is headed to Maryland, and the staff there is grooming him to be a point guard. Right now, Trimble is a combo guard, which means he can run a team and get baskets at any time. He plays for a great high school coach at Bishop O'Connell in Joe Wootten, who has taught him the balance of putting up big scoring numbers and distributing to his teammates. Trimble must pay attention to making good decisions if he truly wants to be a point guard.

James Blackmon Jr. has been a shooting guard his whole life and he is one of the best in the country. I think he should stay as a shooting guard who can handle the ball on screens and push the ball on fast breaks. He is a good passer, but he is a great shooter. He should be the best 3-point shooter on Indiana's roster next season.

Robert Johnson is currently a combo guard because he plays equally well both on and off the ball. Johnson can process the game and still look for his offense. He's a good passer with a dribble-drive game, and I like the way he defends opposing point guards. Johnson could gradually play some possessions at the point for Indiana because he is a solid decision-maker.

Tadric Jackson is headed to play for Brian Gregory at Georgia Tech. Jackson has super speed and wants the ball in his hands. At times he is a one-man fast break. His DNA is to score, but he also possesses great vision. He gets into the lane at will to create for himself or find his teammates. Jackson is a dangerous scoring point guard.

There are no pure point guards in that group, but those are definitely some extremely gifted guards.

Recruiting needs change for these five 

February, 13, 2014
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video

The most successful recruiters are the ones with both a philosophy and a strategy.

They analyze their rosters, the competition and style of play in order to systematically build the most comprehensive team possible.

But as the old saying goes, even the best laid schemes often go awry, so flexibility and adaptability become equally imperative to long-term recruiting success.

That can be especially true during the college season, when a number of factors can change the course of a team’s plans.

Sometimes a team evolves in ways in which their coaches didn’t project, one player develops more than expected while another’s learning curve is less. And so that program needs to bring in a different position player than they once thought.

Most often, recruiting needs evolve according to turnover within the roster. Transfers are the most obvious example, but for many of the nation’s most prestigious programs, it’s the ramifications of the NBA draft that become especially hard to project.

With that in mind, here is a look at five programs whose recruiting needs now look much different than they did at the beginning of the season:


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#AskCoachB: Hoosiers will get stronger

December, 16, 2013
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One of the glaring weaknesses with the Hoosiers this year is their lack of outside shooting. With the addition of top-100 players Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr., those concerns will eventually be gone.

Johnson is a terrific guard who can make shots, drive, defend and he makes solid decisions. Blackmon has range and accuracy from deep.

The only certain losses next year are the graduation of Will Sheehey along with Evan Gordon.

They should have an outstanding backcourt with the additions plus returning players such as Yogi Ferrell at the point. If the front-court returns Noah Vonleh Indiana could be the one of the favorites in the Big Ten and a top 25 team again on a national level.

#AskCoachB: Star power for Hoosiers?

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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When you say "big-name" players I am assuming you mean highly ranked prospects. When you look at the last few years the Hoosiers landed ESPN No. 14 Cody Zeller in 2011, No. 24 Yogi Ferrell in 2012, No. 13 Noah Vonleh last year, and are set to bring it No. 19 James Blackmon Jr. and No. 44 Robert Johnson in this year’s class.

Zeller commitment changed the program and gave the Hoosiers the No. 1 class. Ferrell kept that going. Now Vonleh is there to replace Zeller as the star power on the roster. Next year I would take Johnson and Blackmon against almost any guard combination in the class. In fact, IU beat out Kentucky for Blackmon, although the Hoosiers were beaten by the Wildcats for No. 7 Trey Lyles.

The highest-ranked players don't always pan out to be the best college players. Indiana has a roster full of very talented players -- they are just extremely inexperienced right now.

In recruiting you can't be concerned what others are doing as long you are getting who you want and what you need. There is no way to explain how each recruit makes his decision. I will tell you the dynamics of every prospect is so different, so what might be a good fit at Duke might not be as good at Indiana.

The Hoosiers are doing just fine landing big-name talent.

Scout’s take: Blackmon to Indiana 

October, 31, 2013
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video James Blackmon Jr., the No. 19 player in the ESPN 100, said it was a close call on his final decision, but in the end he wanted to stay home. The 6-foot-2 shooting guard just needed to look elsewhere first before he could confirm his final decision as a Hoosier.

After visiting Kentucky, Michigan and Michigan State, and with a final unofficial visit to Indiana, he chose the Hoosiers. This is a major coup for the Indiana program. A ton of credit goes out to Tom Crean and his staff for having patience with the process.

How will Blackmon fit with the Hoosiers?


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Inside the rankings: ESPN 100 review

September, 27, 2013
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When we analyzed the 2014 ESPN 100, we found upside in the front court as eight of the top 10 players in this class played the center or power forward position.

When we look at the top of those respective positions it’s easy to be impressed. Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young) continues to hold the top spot because he is the best and most polished low post player in this class. Okafor has transformed his body; he is lighter on his feet and now possesses more stamina than ever before. In the lower half of the paint, he has perfected a jump hook over his left shoulder and he is improving his up-and-under move as counter. He demands double teams inside and reads where the help is coming from and has the vision to find the open man.

Other standouts in the class include Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie), the No. 3 overall player and No. 1 power forward, who won us over with his high motor and tenacity on the glass and paint scoring. When it comes to putting points on the board, the shooting guard and small forward positions are deep and talented. North Carolina commit Justin Jackson scores the ball at a high level and is lethal from mid-range. Seton Hall commit Isaiah Whitehead (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) has improved his approach to the game and had a breakout performance at the Elite 24.

At this point, the class lacks a true superstar, but it has plenty of talent and potential. Here's a look at players who made the biggest moves in our rankings:

Five who moved up
  • Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Trinity) went from No. 10 to No. 2 because of his play this summer. Turner is the best long-term prospect and the best shot blocker in the high school game. Offensively, he possesses a soft touch and an impressive 3-point shot.
  • Stanley Johnson (Fullerton, Calif./Mater Dei) climbed his way inside the top 10 to No. 9 with his effort and productivity. A power driver with a much improved jumper, Johnson is a consistent rebounder. Summer is a grind but Johnson got stronger as it went on.
  • Kelly Oubre (Fort Bend, Texas/Findlay Prep) made a significant move, shooting up 10 spots to No. 10, because he consistently makes highlight reel-worthy plays. Ourbe is a dynamic blend of athletic ability, skill and versatility.
  • D'angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde), the No. 12 overall player, is dangerous with and without the ball. If you leave him alone, the future Buckeye will make you pay.
  • No one made a bigger jump than Devin Robinson (Chesterfield, Va./Christchurch), whose ranking went from No. 74 to No. 28. A good 3-point shooter and a playmaker, he exudes potential.
Five who moved in
  • No. 44 Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va./Benedictine) is a true combination guard who competes and displays poise. The Indiana commit can run the point is good enough from deep to keep you honest.
  • No. 68 a href="http://espn.go.com/college-sports/basketball/recruiting/player/_/id/124498/tadric-jackson">Tadric Jackson (Tifton, Ga./Tift) will bring speed and scoring on the perimeter to Brian Gregory and Georgia Tech. An off-the-charts athlete, he is constantly in attack mode and is talented enough to play the point. Jackson is a perfect fit, as Georgia Tech wants to push the ball and he can lead or finish the fast break.
  • No. 70 Jonah Bolden is a long, athletic forward brings size and skill to the floor. The Australian is more of a finesse player than physically imposing, beating opponents with his long and mid-range shooting and impressive passing ability.
  • No. 72 Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian) has the ability to create and push the tempo, which may be unmatched in his class. Nairn loves to go fast -- in fact, the faster the pace the more he thrives.
  • No. 86 Isaac Haas (Piedmont, Ala./Hokes) has a massive body that is made to bang inside, set screens, rebound and be a physical presence in the painted area. The Wake Forest commit runs well for his size.

Weekly Commitment Update

September, 27, 2013
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Big Ten
Indiana
Robert Johnson | SG | Richmond, Va./Benedictine Prep
HT: 6-3 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 10
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 44

Northwestern
Scott Lindsey | SG | Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick
HT: 6-3 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 42
Stars: 3

Iowa
Brady Ellingson | SG | Menomonie, Wis./Hamilton
HT: 6-3 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Michigan State
Lourawls Nairn | PG | Bel Aire, Kans./Sunrise Christian
HT: 5-10 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 16
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 72

ACC
Georgia Tech
Ben Lammers | C | San Antonio/Alamo Heights
HT: 6-10 WT: 220
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 28
Stars: 3

Miami
Omar Sherman | C | Dallas/Prime Prep
HT: 6-8 WT: 225
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 14
Stars: 4

Big 12
Oklahoma State
Jeff Newberry | PG | Atlanta/New Mexico Junior College (Juco)
HT: 6-2 WT: 175
Class of 2014

SEC
LSU
Aaron Epps | C | Tioga, La./Tioga
HT: 6-9 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Pac 12
Oregon State
JaQuori McLaughlin | PG | Gig Harbor, Wash./Peninsula
HT: 6-2 WT: 155
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Conference USA
Marshall
Henry Uwadiae | C | Nigeria/Kirkwood C.C. (Juco)
HT: 6-11 WT: 210
Class of 2014

Shane Hall | PF | Paintsville, Ky./Johnson Central
HT: 6-9 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 40
Stars: 3

North Texas
Jeremy Combs | SF | Dallas/Carter
HT: 6-6 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Old Dominion
Isaiah Maurice | PF | Durham, N.C./Bull City Prep
HT: 6-8
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big East
Creighton
Leon Gilmore | SF | Manvel, Texas/Manvel
HT: 6-7 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 26
Stars: 4

Xavier
Makinde London | PF | Thompson's Station, Tenn./Montverde Academy
HT: 6-9 WT: 195
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 22
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 91

Atlantic 10
St. Joseph's
Markell Lodge | PF | Creedmoor, N.C./Christian Faith Center
HT: 6-6 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 3

St. Bonaventure
Jordan Tyson | C | Cincinnati/Fishburne Military Academy (Post Grad)
HT: 6-10
Class of 2014

Virginia Commonwealth
Mike Gilmore | PF | Tallahassee, Fla./Rickards
HT: 6-9 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 19
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 76

Duquesne
Eric James | SG | Westerville, Ohio/Westerville
HT: 6-5 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

AAC
Central Florida
Chad Brown | PF | Deltona, Fla./Deltona
HT: 6-8 WT: 210
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MVC
Indiana State
Brandon Murphy | PF | Birmingham, Ala./Carver
HT: 6-7
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

America East
Maryland - Baltimore County
Malcolm Brent | SG | Silver Spring, Md./Kimball Union
HT: 6-4
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ivy League
Columbia
Noah Daoust | C | Montreal/Hotchkiss School
HT: 6-8 WT: 230
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Yale
Sem Kroon | C | Greenwich, Conn./Northfield-Mt. Hermon
HT: 6-10
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

MAC
Toledo
Cuyler Mosley | SG | Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek
HT: 6-3 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Kent State
Devon Andrews | PG | Lorain, Ohio/Lorain
HT: 6-4
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

West Coast Conference
Loyola Marymount
Elijah Stewart | SF | Los Angeles/Westchester
HT: 6-5 WT: 165
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Ohio Valley Conference
Eastern Kentucky
Daniel Norl | SG | Clarksville, Tenn./Kenwood
HT: 6-2 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big West Conference
Long Beach State
Temidayo Yussuf | SF | Alameda, Calif./St. Joseph Notre Dame
HT: 6-7
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Hawaii
Isaac Fleming | PG | New Castle, Del./Massanutten Military Academy
HT: 6-3 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

CAA
Delaware
Skye Johnson | PF | Lynchburg, Va./Virginia Episcopal School
HT: 6-9 WT: 230
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Northeastern
Devon Begley | SG | Pearland, Texas/Pearland
HT: 6-3
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big South
Winthrop
Joseph Lopez | SF | Miami/South Miami
HT: 6-6 WT: 225
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Southern Conference
Chattanooga
Shaquille Preston | SG | Metairie, La./East Jefferson
HT: 6-3 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Georgia Southern
Shawn O'Connell | SF | Alpharetta, Ga./Milton
HT: 6-8 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Sun Belt
Texas - Arlington
Kevin Hervey | SF | Arlington, Texas/Bowie
HT: 6-6 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Mountain West
Utah State
Julion Pearre | SG | McKinney, Texas/McKinney North
HT: 6-2
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Atlantic Sun
Northern Kentucky
Jordan Garnett | SF | Indianapolis/Warren Central
HT: 6-6 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Summit League
North Dakota State
Evan Wesenberg | PF | Germantown, Wis./Germantown
HT: 6-7 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Patriot League
Navy
Daniel Noe | SF | Alexandria, Va./Bishop Ireton
HT: 6-5 WT: 205
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Colgate
Sean O'Brien | SG | Philadelphia/Penn Charter
HT: 6-2 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

NEC
Mount St. Mary's
Mo Sallah | PF | Falling Waters, W.Va./Fishburne Military Academy (Post-Grad)
HT: 6-9 WT: 205
Class of 2014

Farleigh-Dickinson
Darian Anderson | PG | Washinton, DC/St. John's
HT: 5-11 WT: 150
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

MAAC
Qunnipiac
Dimitri Floras | SG | Merrimack, N.H./The MacDuffie School
HT: 6-1 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Four-star SG Johnson picks Indiana 

September, 20, 2013
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The first time I watched Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va./Benedictine College Prep) back in April, not only did he play well, he played with poise and stood out. At that time he had several mid-major offers, and some of the high major programs were inquiring. His recruiting since then took off like a rocket because of his impressive performance in the last six months. On Friday, he chose Indiana over North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State.


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Notes: Cartwright could be double value 

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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This time of the year, there's always something brewing. From campus visits to the value of Stanford's newest pledge, we've dumped out the notebook into a nice, tidy column to catch you up.

Cartwright's value could be two-fold


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The shooting guard position is the spot that teams count on for scoring and to take over when the squad needs to make a run. So much skill and practice goes into becoming a player that teammates and coaches can count on to score points.

Besides the physical tools, confidence may be as vital as any skill for a great shooting guard. Does he have the makeup to take and make game-winning shots? Does he possess the self-confidence to shoot another open shot after missing consecutive attempts? Will he make the big free throw to close out a game?

Below are five keys that are vital to being an elite shooting guard, with a look at which prospects from the Class of 2014 best demonstrate each of those traits.

[+] EnlargeRashad Vaughn
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/Under ArmourRashad Vaughn is the No. 1-ranked shooting guard in the ESPN 100.

1. Create their own shot


Why it’s important: The ability to create a shot in transition, half-court sets or on a broken play separates the elite shooting guards from their peers. The best 2-guards are ideally players who can score in as many ways as possible from all three locations on the floor: behind the 3-point arc, the midrange area and in the paint. Producing points from the foul line is also a significant part of the total package. Every great team needs a player with the gift to create scoring opportunities for himself or others at any point during the game.

Who does it best:
Rashad Vaughn: Vaughn has a natural knack for putting the ball in the basket, and he does so with a high skill level, confidence and a soft touch. He can change gears in a moment’s notice, get his shot off in traffic and make difficult shots as he produces points on the move, off the bounce or from a stationary position. As his volume of shots lessens and his shooting percentage increases, he will stand out even more. With his combination of deep range on his jumper and creative pull-ups, drives and finishes, Vaughn is one of the most lethal scorers in the nation. And when he does have a passing opportunity, he can see it and make the pass.

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Four-star guard Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va./Benedictine Prep) has come a long way in the past year. This time a year ago, he had only some mid-major scholarship offers, and he fondly recalls his first offer.

"I still remember when (UNC Greensboro head coach) Wes Miller offered me a scholarship,” Johnson said. “I was so excited."

These days, Johnson is one of the fastest-rising and most sought-after recruits in the country thanks to strong performances this spring and summer on the travel circuit playing for Boo Williams, the powerful AAU program out of Virginia.


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The best performers of July 

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
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In basketball recruiting, the July recruiting period is a chance for college coaches to zero in on their top targets. And for us here at RecruitingNation, it is likewise a chance to attend July’s biggest events and watch the nation’s top players.

To wrap up the hottest evaluation time of the year, let’s hand out some superlatives to the biggest standouts from the entire month of July.

Biggest difference-maker: Jahlil Okafor
When you play with and against older, more experienced competition and win a gold medal while being named to the all-tournament team, you make a massive difference. Okafor represented USA Basketball at the U19 World Championships in Prague at the beginning of the month and was one of only two high school prospects on the team (Justise Winslow was the other). Okafor impacts every game because you have to have a plan and then a back-up plan to stop him or at least contain him. He operates in the low post better than anyone in the 2014 class as he works for deep position and knows how to move his feet to gain an advantage. He can score with a jump hook or drop step, and he can and will also throw it back out of the post and reestablish himself for better position. If he’s on your team, the offense should go through him as much as possible.

[+] EnlargeMyles Turner
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/Under ArmourNo. 10 recruit Myles Turner continues to raise his stock and has almost every major program in the country after him.
Hottest prospect: Myles Turner

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