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4-Point Play: Chaz Lanier to Tennessee while Wooga Poplar plans Kentucky visit

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim05/24/24

Scratch one off the list for Mark Pope in what was trending as the likely outcome for North Florida star Chaz Lanier, who announced his commitment to Tennessee on Friday. He chooses the Volunteers over Kentucky and BYU after taking officials to all three programs, ultimately picking the home-state program as a native of Nashville.

Lanier graded out as one of the most efficient scorers in college basketball this past season, an absolute deadeye shooter out to NBA range. The issue, though, is he comes from the ASUN, widely considered one of the weakest conferences in the nation. How will his production translate to the SEC? That’s a risk Kentucky was obviously willing to take, but a reality Tennessee will now have to face bringing him to Knoxville, hoping for similar results to Dalton Knecht’s success story making the jump from Northern Colorado in the Big Sky.

Where does that leave Pope and the Wildcats, though? All eyes are on BYU’s Jaxson Robinson, who has until May 29 to withdraw from the NBA Draft — a player widely seen as a Kentucky lean should he pull out. If he chooses to push his chips in on his professional future, 2025 five-star wing Will Riley is a name to monitor as a potential reclass option. He’ll be taking an official visit to Lexington in June.

But how about another name to keep an eye on?

Is the Miami standout still a legitimate option?

Things have been quiet with Miami’s Wooga Poplar, who has been focused on the draft after impressing at the G League Elite Camp in Chicago. He’s currently working out for NBA teams — namely the Sacramento Kings on Friday — with visits scheduled up to the withdrawal deadline on May 29.

From there, though, college visits are in the works with the likelihood of his return to school growing. Among planned trips? Kentucky, Oregon and Arkansas, his father tells KSR, after previously checking out his hometown Villanova Wildcats.

There are no dates for those visits scheduled as of today, but those are the locations on the docket at this point, opening the door for the Wildcats to land one of the top scorers in the nation early in the college basketball season before injuries derailed his junior campaign for the Hurricanes.

As is, Poplar averaged 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 31.1 minutes per game in 2023-24, shooting 42.6 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from deep (5.6 attempts per game) and 86.4 percent from the line.

Hardly a consolation prize considering his three years of experience in the ACC, including double-digit scoring efforts vs. Kentucky (19 points), North Carolina (13 points) and Duke (15 points) this past season.

Reed Sheppard ranked No. 1 by teams in the draft

As we follow the stay/go decisions of Robinson and Poplar closely, you should probably keep a close eye on Laurel County’s finest stock now just over a month away from the 2024 NBA Draft in June. We already knew he was a surefire top 10 selection and trending toward top-five status, but what about No. 1 overall? Sheppard is grading out as the top prospect by some teams in their draft models, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

“Sheppard measured a little bigger than expected at 6-3 in shoes while testing a 42-inch vertical leap in Chicago. He also looked like the clear-cut best shooter in the draft every time he had a ball in his hands — both at the combine and his pro day in Los Angeles this week,” he wrote. “Several teams have said that Sheppard’s statistical profile — with his incredible scoring efficiency (56% FG%, 52% 3P%, 83% FT%) combined with his excellent steal, block and passing metrics — have him ranked as the No. 1 prospect in their draft models, something that surely has caught the attention of analytically inclined front offices, such as the Houston Rockets.”

No matter what happens at the top spot and whether or not Sheppard goes there, Givony doesn’t see any scenario where he slides past No. 5, solidifying his status as a top-five pick.

“With the premium that NBA teams are increasingly placing on perimeter shooting, it’s hard to see Sheppard dropping below the top 5, with his fit in San Antonio alongside Victor Wembanyama looking especially strong at the Spurs’ No. 4 pick,” he added.

Justin Edwards thrives at Klutch Pro Day

Edwards came in at No. 28 overall in ESPN’s latest update of best available prospects, sliding in at the end of the first round — the hope when he declared for the draft after an up-and-down one-and-done season in Lexington. He put his intriguing physical tools on display in Los Angeles at the Lakers practice facility this week following a productive showing at the Draft Combine in Chicago.

“Good day for Justin Edwards at the Klutch Pro Day showcasing his improved conditioning and movement shooting ability,” Givony said of the former Wildcat, who made shots at a high clip from three and the mid-range in a room full of NBA GMs and scouts.

The Nuggets own the No. 28 pick, potentially pairing the long, smooth wing with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic in Denver. A winning culture that would allow Edwards to develop at his own pace is a phenomenal situation for the former five-star recruit

Mitch Barnhart speaks on landmark NCAA decision

The future of college sports changed forever on Thursday with the NCAA and Power 5 conferences agreeing to a $2.8 billion settlement that will pay past and current student-athletes directly dating back a decade. They also reached an agreement on a revenue-sharing plan that will allow schools to share $20 million per year with student-athletes moving forward.

This deal will pay upward of 25,000 athletes across 363 DI schools who could not make money from their name, image and likeness leading up to restrictions being lifted in 2021, money paid out over 10 years by the NCAA and Power 5 conferences. The NCAA will cover 41 percent while Power 5 conferences will cover 24 percent, other College Football Playoff conference competitors adding 10 percent, FCS schools paying 13 percent and DI schools who do not play football adding 12 percent.

What are the University of Kentucky’s views on the landscape-altering move? Mitch Barnhart embraces it.

“Here at (UK Athletics) we continue working to navigate the landscape in college athletics,” Barnhart said. “Our commitment to putting diplomas in our student athletes’ hands and championship rings on their fingers remains. This is who we are. This is what we do. That won’t change. Go Cats!”

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