By Adam Zagoria, ZagsBlog.com
When Ben Simmons picked LSU and Malik Newman chose Mississippi State, both initially faced some heat over their college decisions.
Many asked: Why would potential one-and-done players pick SEC schools with no recent tradition of success over bluebloods like Kentucky, Kansas or Duke?
Well, here we are a year later and neither Simmons nor Newman is headed to the NCAA Tournament and both players are still getting heat for their college decisions.
Simmons will sign with LeBron James’ agent and could be in store for a sneaker contract worth $100 million, while Newman has yet to announce his future plans. He’s currently projected as the No. 40 pick by DraftExpress.com.
Meantime, it remains an open question whether elite recruits will now make decisions differently based on what happened with Simmons and Newman.
“If you’re the next Ben Simmons and you’re looking at it, you’re saying, ‘Why shouldn’t I go to Kentucky or Duke or some of these big-shot schools where I know we’re going to win,'” ESPN’s Jay Bilas said Monday on Mike & Mike.
“I may not score as many points but nobody’s going to question whether I’m a winner. They’re just going to talk about my talent and how good I am because nobody asked whether Karl-Anthony Towns was a winner. He didn’t score as many points, grab as many rebounds, all that. Ben Simmons did some amazing things this year…Ridiculous numbers that nobody had seen before but his team didn’t win and he left us with an unsatisfied feeling and questions about him, like, ‘Is he all that?’ And he is, he is all that.”
I reached out to a mix of NBA Draft experts, high school coaches and AAU guys to see if they thought future recruits would do things differently.
Some said no and some said yes.
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com is one who doesn’t think this will change much going forward.
“No,” he said. “There aren’t enough spots at Kentucky for all of them to thrive at. Look at what happened to [Isaiah] Briscoe, Skal [Labissiere], Marcus Lee, the Harrison twins, etc. You can hurt your stock anywhere.”
As it turns out, Simmons‘ stock hasn’t really been affected. He’s pretty much been the projected No. 1 pick all year long, although there is some thought that Duke’s Brandon Ingram could eclipse him for No. 1.
Ironically, Newman is on record saying he would have gone straight from high school to the NBA if there were no one-and-done rule. Now his stock has gone down after a year in college.
Evan Daniels, national analyst for Scout.com, thinks the Simmons/Newman experience will end up giving recruiting fodder to the bluebloods.
“I think what this situation really does, is give even more ammunition to the one-and-done powers,” he said. “The next time [Kentucky coach John] Calipari, Coach K [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] or [Kansas coach Bill] Self are recruiting against a school that doesn’t have the same track record, they’ll point to this instance and use it to help them.”
Terrance “Munch” Williams is the director of the PSA Cardinals AAU program that features 7-footer Mohamed Bamba, one of the top players in the Class of 2017 and a projected future pro.
Williams also doesn’t believe things will change much going forward.
“I don’t believe that,” he said. “Most kids end goals are to make it to the NBA. As long as Ben Simmons and Malik Newman are able to capture that goal, young men will continue to choose schools that put them in the best position to make it to the next level.”
Oak Hill Academy (VA) coach Steve Smith, who has produced a slew of NBA players including Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo, also isn’t sure Simmons and Newman will alter things much for younger players.
“When a player only plans on staying in college for one year I don’t know if winning or going to the NCAAs enters their thought process when picking a school,” he said.
Still, some believe this whole deal might change some minds going forward.
Brian Coleman is a coach with the Sports U AAU program that produced Towns, as well as Wade Baldwin of Vanderbilt, a projected first-round pick.
“I think it might,” Coleman said, “because most of the kids feel like they need the NCAA Tournament to best showcase themselves to the NBA scouts.”
One thing’s clear: Ben Simmons and Malik Newman won’t be showcasing themselves during the NCAA Tournament, March Madness will carry on without them.