Good news just keeps coming for SEC

June, 8, 2009
So far, the SEC has been the biggest winner in early-entry withdrawal decisions after Patrick Patterson (Kentucky), Michael Washington (Arkansas), Tasmin Mitchell (LSU) and Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State) all announced they would come back to school.

The league could be bolstered even more if Jodie Meeks (Kentucky), Tyler Smith (Tennessee), Devan Downey and Dominique Archie (South Carolina) do the same.

But when grading schools that will dramatically benefit from players' decisions to withdraw from the draft, Arizona will be near the top of the list.

Nic Wise's decision to return to Arizona for his senior season gives new coach Sean Miller one of the top point guards in the Pac-10, a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, and the guarantee that the Wildcats won't go through any kind of Indiana-like transition period.

Miller wants to temper the enthusiasm in his new locale, as any first-year coach would. But getting Wise back to go along with role players Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne and impact newcomers Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Kyryl Natyazhko means the Cats should be considered for a top-half finish in the Pac-10.

That would have seemed impossible a month ago, when it appeared Wise would leave with Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger and before Miller locked up three key recruits. But after Cal and Washington, the Pac-10 is wide open. Arizona has just as good a shot to finish third among a group of teams that includes UCLA, Oregon State, Oregon and Washington State.

• Memphis coach Josh Pastner found out Sunday that fourth-year junior center Shawn Taggart would stay in the NBA draft. This didn't come as a shock. He will, after all, be 25-years-old by the time the 2010 NBA draft rolls around. Taggart would have been returning for his fifth season and playing for his third college coach. (He transferred from Iowa State.) But let's also not kid ourselves into thinking Taggart is going to be a star -- it's hard to imagine that he'll be any more than a role player. And there's a decent chance he might not be drafted at all.

The Tigers will now lean on 6-9 JC forward Will Coleman for inside scoring, as well as the return of limited offensive big man Pierre Henderson-Niles and 6-11 redshirt Angel Garcia. Highly touted 6-8 newcomer Latavious Williams will also be counted on to score inside, along with a true project, 6-8 Martin Ngaloro of France. Doneal Mack will be Memphis' top returning scorer at 8.7 points a game, followed by guard Roburt Sallie (5.8), who busted out with a 35-point performance in last season's NCAA first-round win over Cal State Northridge.

• Pastner's pickup of Baltimore-area brothers Will and Antonio Barton from the class of 2010 proves that he can recruit as a head coach. Getting Will -- ranked No. 12 in the ESPNU 100 -- away from Kentucky, Louisville and Pitt, among others, is a huge coup for Pastner. He should be an impact player for the Tigers at multiple positions. And Memphis didn't hesitate to take Antonio, who was being recruited by Syracuse and Miami (Fla.), among others. The Tigers anticipate he'll have a role as well.

• Tulsa made the official announcement that Connecticut guard Scottie Haralson transferred and will sit out the 2009-10 season. Haralson saw limited minutes at UConn and clearly will be much more featured with the Golden Hurricane. He's a sturdy guard who has the potential to be a solid shooter. Western Kentucky's D.J. Magley is also transferring to Tulsa and sitting out one year.

• In an attempt to fill his staff, Isiah Thomas went back to Indiana and approached fellow Hoosier alumnus Dan Dakich about being on his staff at Florida International. But the timing wasn't right for Dakich to leave the Indianapolis area. Thomas is hiring Franklin Holloway, who coached locally in South Florida after spending time coaching in Germany. FIU also picked up seldom-used 6-9 Arkansas freshman Brandon Moore. He will sit out next season and be eligible in 2010-11.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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