Report: Kyle Wiltjer returning to Gonzaga

Jim Meehan of the Spokesman Review reports that Kyle Wiltjer will return to Gonzaga for his senior season.

The former Kentucky forward, who had a terrific first season for Gonzaga this past season after transferring to the Zags, was reported to be giving up his senior season to put his name in the NBA Draft.

Wiltjer averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Zags, who reached the South Region final of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual national champ Duke. Wiltjer shot 46.6 percent from the three-point line. Wiltjer scored a career-high 45 points against Pacific, the highest-scoring game by a Gonzaga player in 54 years.

By returning, he should be a pre-season All-America selection next season.

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LSU adds to recruiting class — and pressure

The pressure will be on LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones next season now that the Tigers have added another top-50 prospect to an already loaded 2015 recruiting class.

Brandon Sampson, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Baton Rouge who had originally committed to St. John’s, pledged to the Tigers on Monday. Sampson is ranked as the No. 41 prospect in the class of 2015 by Rivals.

Sampson joins a recruiting class that already includes Ben Simmons, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation, and Antonio Blakeney, a talented shooting guard from Orlando who at one time was committed to Louisville. In mid-December, the Tigers will welcome Craig Victor, a 6-9 transfer from Arizona. Victor also is a former top 50 recruit.

LSU finished 22-11 last season, losing to North Carolina State, 66-65, in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64. Despite having a frontcourt tandem of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, both of whom opted for the NBA Draft, the Tigers stumbled down the stretch, losing three of their last four games.

In February, the Tigers came within a missed three-pointer by Keith Hornsby at the buzzer of beating Kentucky. A 16-0 run, partly fueled by a technical foul on Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns for doing a chin-up on the rim, gave LSU a 66-60 lead with 7:29 remaining, but the home team couldn’t hold on, losing 71-69.

Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Josh Gray all return for Jones, who is 61-37 in three years as the LSU coach, including 29-25 in the SEC. Considering the strength of the Tigers’ recruiting class, the Tigers could very well be a pre-season top-10 choice.

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BBL: Anthony Davis ready for another shot at Warriors


Big Blue Links for Monday:

Kentucky football gets a commitment from a three-star quarterback, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “Three-star quarterback Gunnar Hoak committed to the University of Kentucky during a visit to the school Sunday afternoon. Hoak — a 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect from Dublin, Ohio — received a scholarship offer from UK during his first campus visit last weekend.”

Kentucky’s cost-of-attendance payments not as large as some competitors, reports Jennifer Smith of Herald-Leader. “The new money available for athletes — between $3,330 annually for in-state students and $3,598 for students from outside Kentucky — is similar to what already comes as part of academic scholarships and loans that other students on campus receive.”

Anthony Davis more comfortable going into Game 2, reports Antonio Gonzalez of Associated Press. “This is the same place where another big man, Bill Russell, won consecutive NCAA Tournament titles in 1955 and 1956 before forming a dynasty with the Boston Celtics. Davis, who won a national championship in his one season at Kentucky, has been hyped as a player who could reach Russell-like status in his generation.”

Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd is happy to share the load, writes David Climer of the Tennessean. “It’s a growing trend, particularly in the SEC. Last season, Arkansas had two running backs go for more than 1,000 yards — Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Nick Chubb was getting plenty of carries for Georgia even before Todd Gurley was first suspended, then injured. At Alabama, (T.J.) Yeldon had only 25 more rushing attempts than (Derrick) Henry.”

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BBL: Cheick Diallo takes top honors at Jordan Brand

Big Blue Links for Saturday:

Eight ex-Cats are in play as the NBA playoffs get started Saturday, reports ExCats.

Arizona State may now have a shot at Thon Maker, reports NextCats. Bobby Hurley has added an assistant in Tempe who has ties to Maker.

Baseball Cats clinch series with Tennessee, reports Mark Maloney of the Herald-Leader. The Cats got a strong start from Dustin Beggs, who pitched into the ninth.

Cheick Diallo won MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic, reports College Basketball Talk. The uncommitted Diallo scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Diallo is to meet with St. John’s coach Chris Mullin on Saturday, reports Newsday.

UK defensive end Kengera Daniel once gave up football for basketball, reports Brett Dawson of Cats Illustrated. The Cats are glad he returned to football.

Jon Hale of the Cats Pause looks at how the UK offensive line came out of spring drills.

Reggie Bonnafon had a strong showing in Louisville football’s spring game, reports Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal.

Rick Bozich of WDRB has some takeaways from the Louisville spring game.

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Big Blue Links: Mississippi State’s shirt fiasco

Big Blue Links for Friday:

Mississippi State takes a black eye over baseball warm-ups, reports the Clarion-Ledger. Supplied by Adidas, the jerseys had a hidden message that read “F–k The School Up North.” That would be Ole Miss. Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin apologized once the message was discovered.

Stephen Zimmerman picks UNLV, reports Next Cats. Not a huge surprise that the Las Vegas native would go with the Rebels.

Charles Matthews still has plenty of support, reports Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. The Kentucky signee has dropped in the rankings, but his high school coach says Matthews’ skills have not declined.

The secret is out on guard Jamal Murray, reports Roberts. Kentucky is among the schools interested in the Canadian guard, who played well at the Nike Hoop Summit.

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Video: Mark Stoops lists spring standouts

Uploaded this video on Wednesday but did not post to the blog. Here’s UK football coach Mark Stoops when asked to list some standouts from spring drills, which were completed Wednesday.

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Chart: NBA Draft 2015 early entrant list (so far)

As of Thursday, here is a list of early entrants who have publicly declared for the 2015 NBA Draft. If you know of a player I have omitted from the list, please let me know.


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BBL: WHAS dropping sports talk radio show

Big Blue Links for Thursday:

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SEC links: Michael Qualls, Bobby Portis leaving Arkansas

SEC links for Thursday:

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Podcast: NextCats talks Kentucky basketball recruiting

One week after seven Kentucky basketball players declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, I talked with Ben Roberts of NextCats about where John Calipari is looking to reload his roster.

We talk about UK’s three signees, plus prospects Malik Newman, Stephen Zimmerman, Jaylen Brown, Chieck Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Thon Maker, Mike Thorne, Jamal Murray, Dazon Ingram and Mychal Mulder. Ben also talks about the upcoming EBYL Classic in Lexington.

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