The Latest: Williams' return surprised Aggies' Kennedy
Oct. 18, 2017
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Latest on Southeastern Conference men's basketball media days (all times Eastern):
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy acknowledges he was "a little surprised" that forward Robert Williams returned for his sophomore season rather than entering the NBA draft.
Kennedy said Wednesday at the SEC Tipoff that the 6-foot-10 forward "could have been a lottery pick" if he had turned pro. Kennedy says potential lottery picks often feel pressure to leave early and added that "fortunately for him, he did what he wanted to do and his family allowed him to do what he wanted to do."
Williams says he returned to school because he felt he needed to grow "on and off the court" before entering the NBA.
Williams averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds last season. SEC coaches named him the league's defensive player of the year.
Kentucky coach John Calipari says any changes to recruiting in the wake of the FBI investigation need to be thought out to avoid unintended consequences.
One proposal that has been floated would give players coming out of high school the option of staying two years in college or going to the NBA or the NBA's G League. Calipari said Wednesday at the SEC Tipoff for men's basketball that change would make his job much easier.
Calipari says recruits would have to decide if they're ready to be on their own or spend two years winning and building a personal brand at Kentucky. Those choosing Kentucky would have Calipari "whistling and skipping" at practices since he would be able to keep teams together for two years.
The Kentucky coach says the key is making sure whatever is changed is right for the players. Calipari says behaviors will change, but wants any moves made to keep the great college basketball environment going and make the sport even better.
After three of its five NCAA Tournament teams reached regional finals last season, SEC coaches believe the league should have more representatives in the 2018 field.
Alabama coach Avery Johnsons said at the SEC Tipoff for men's basketball Wednesday that he doesn't "see why we can't have seven or more teams in the NCAA Tournament."
The SEC has never received more than six NCAA bids in one season.
Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy says that "top to bottom," the league looks as strong as it's ever been during his 12-season tenure. Kennedy says the difference is that the teams generally at the bottom of the league standings have improved.
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland believes it's likely that the NBA eventually changes its draft rules so there won't be any more "one-and-done" players in college basketball.
Howland said Wednesday at SEC Tipoff that he would "be shocked if it's not changed here in the near future" and added that "it's just what are they going to change it to."
Howland says he would like the NBA to allow prospects to enter the draft directly out of high school but require players who enroll in school to stay in college for at least two years.
Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield isn't complaining about the Volunteers being picked to finish 13th out of 14 Southeastern Conference teams.
The Vols have outperformed their preseason prediction each of the last two years, but Schofield says Tennessee must accomplish much more before it starts getting additional respect.
A panel of SEC and national media picked the Volunteers to finish near the bottom of the SEC. The preseason picks were announced Wednesday at the SEC Tipoff event.
Schofield says the Vols "haven't done one thing to say that we should be a top-five team in the SEC." He added that Tennessee has "won big games" and "were close to certain teams. But we didn't finish."
He says Tennessee has the identity of "the 13th team in the league, and that's fine because this year we have another chance to change that, and I think we will."
Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., the nation's top recruit coming out of high school, says the FBI's investigation into college basketball recruiting hasn't involved the Tigers . He says that's because of how coach Cuonzo Martin runs his program.
Porter is part of a top five recruiting class for Martin at Missouri. The freshman was picked Wednesday at SEC Tipoff as one of three players to share Southeastern Conference's preseason player of the year honors. Porter says he and his father, now an assistant coach at Missouri, helped convince Blake Harris to join him and his brother, Jontay, with the Tigers.
Still, it's been impossible for anyone in the sport not to be concerned about the FBI investigation.
Porter says, "it is crazy to see some of my friends getting investigated by the FBI."
Arkansas guard Daryl Macon says he's finally stopped watching replays of the Razorbacks' heartbreaking 72-65 NCAA Tournament loss to eventual national champion North Carolina.
Macon said Wednesday at SEC Tipoff that he "actually just stopped watching it when school started. The guard added that, "Every other day during the summer, I was watching it, (thinking), 'How did we lose that game?' We were so close to beating the national champions and we fell short."
Macon says the Razorbacks learned from that experience that they must start games better. Arkansas trailed by as many as 17 points before rallying to take a 65-60 lead. North Carolina won by closing the game with a 12-0 run.
The Razorbacks are motivated by realizing how close they came to beating the eventual national champions.
Macon says, "It made everybody work 10 times harder as a team and individually."
Defending Southeastern Conference champion Kentucky is picked to win the league's men's basketball title again.
A panel of SEC and national media made the Wildcats the preseason favorite. The preseason picks were announced Wednesday at the SEC Tipoff event. Kentucky was followed in order by Florida, Texas A&M, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee and LSU.
Voting for SEC preseason player of the year resulted in a three-way tie featuring Georgia forward Yante Mate, Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. and Texas A&M forward Robert Williams.
First-team all-SEC selections included those three players as well as Florida guard KeVaughn Allen and Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo. Second-team selections were Alabama's Collin Sexton, Kentucky's Kevin Knox, Ole Miss teammates Terence Davis and Deandre Burnett, Mississippi State's Quinndary Weatherspoon, Texas A&M's Tyler Davis and Vanderbilt's Matthew Fisher-Davis.
Southeastern Conference teams should have plenty to boast about at their annual event to meet with media and discuss the upcoming season.
Long derided for its lack of postseason success, the SEC responded last year by sending three teams to regional finals, including Final Four participant South Carolina.
Defending league champion Kentucky should garner much of the preseason attention at this year's Tipoff event. The Wildcats continues their annual tradition of welcoming one of the nation's most highly touted freshman classes. Kentucky's freshmen will help restock a roster that lost first-round draft picks De'Aaron Fox, Marcus Monk and Bam Adebayo from last year's team.
Kentucky isn't the only SEC team with a heralded freshman class. Missouri, which finished last in the SEC each of the past three years, has higher hopes under new coach Cuonzo Martin thanks to a crop of newcomers that includes Michael Porter Jr., regarded as the nation's No. 1 prospect in the freshman class.
More AP College Basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org