McDonald's Nuggets: Hayes on Kobe; Dylan Cardwell; UNC
This week’s edition of McDonald's Nuggets touches on the passing of Kobe Bryant, an update on a four-star big man, the Team of the Week and the Wagers of the Week.
WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Kobe
I’m 30 years old. I started really getting into basketball around the time Michael Jordan’s last three-peat started, but I was 7 years old then, so the memory is blurry. I missed his prime. With Kobe Bryant, he came into the NBA right when I was starting to become a big basketball fan and right when I started to play.
I was 7 years old when he played his first NBA game and 27 when he retired. You could say I grew up with Kobe. I had the lofty dream of wanting to be Kobe. He was the Michael Jordan for my generation. I don’t even think I realized how much of an impact he had on my life and love for basketball until Sunday, but it became crystal clear then just how big of a deal he was to me and everyone else in the basketball community. It’s just an incredibly sad situation.
Growing up in Georgia, another guy I grew up watching was Jarvis Hayes. He was an All-SEC player at Georgia and was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, the same year LeBron James was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jarvis has become a good friend and is now an assistant coach at Georgia State, but during his NBA career, he had the opportunity to play against Kobe more than a dozen times. I reached out to him to learn more about what it was like to be matched up with one of the greatest of all time.
“He didn’t have a weakness,” Hayes said. “How do you guard that? With a young LeBron for example, he could make shots, but you defended him to make him shoot. There was no weakness with Kobe. He was a man of few words on the court, but he was just so intense.
“I wouldn’t say I knew him well, but whenever I saw him, we would catch up and have small talk. Even if you didn’t know somebody in the NBA, we all kind of knew each other. He was a good guy and really intelligent. I don’t get emotional too much, but it’s the first time since my dad passed that I got emotional to the point of tears. I really believe as driven as he was and how he was able to put his focus into whatever he did, what he was going to do after basketball was going to be even more impactful than his basketball career. It’s just incredibly sad and it still doesn’t feel real.”
RECRUITING NOTE: Latest on available four-star 2020 big man
Dylan Cardwell’s recruitment appeared to be close to a commitment back around the Early Signing Period, but then the period came and went without him signing. It’s been very quiet surrounding his recruitment since then.
I spoke with him on Thursday night for a quick update. He said the same four schools remain in the mix: Georgia, Miami, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. He has taken official visits to all four schools already and appears to be happy with his current list. He mentioned hearing that Auburn could come calling soon.
So why did his recruitment go quiet? Cardwell, who originally went to Evans High School near Augusta (Georgia), spent his junior season at Oak Hill Academy before coming back to Georgia to attend McEachern High School for his senior year. He’s run into eligibility issues with the Georgia High School Association, which has taken his attention away from the recruiting process.
With regional tournaments starting next week followed by the state tournament the week after, it’s looking unlikely he’ll get to play his senior year at this point. But whenever the season ends, that is likely when he’ll move forward with trying to pick a school. He sounds genuinely torn between the schools, but I’ve always heard from various sources that Georgia and Tennessee are really strong here.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: UNC
When a team is struggling like North Carolina was during the recent five-game losing streak, sometimes it just takes one good night to completely change the course of the season. The Tar Heels bounced back this week with a 23-point home win over Miami and followed it up two days later with a 10-point road win against in-state rival NC State. That’s a huge two-game winning streak for Roy Williams. On top of that, it sounds like Cole Anthony is close to being able to return and four incoming signees have been picked to the McDonald’s All-American Game. All of a sudden, the sun is coming out again in Chapel Hill.
WAGERS OF THE WEEK
We had our first winning week of the season last week with a 3-2 record to get us up to 11-13 for the year. This is the week we build on that momentum and get up over .500 as I feel great about these picks. There may not be a high-major matchup on the docket for Friday night, but there is an opportunity to make you money.
Starting with an A-10 matchup, I like VCU (+1) to steal one on the road at Rhode Island. I also like this to go over 141.5. The first game was a low-scoring outing, but both of these teams have been scoring more lately.
Let’s move over to the MAC and take Buffalo (-4.5) to win at home against Bowling Green. I also recommend the under at 156.5. Despite these being higher scoring teams, that’s a lot of points.
And lastly, let’s head over to where the smart kids hang out with some Ivy League picks. Take Harvard (-1.5) at Penn to win a close one. The Crimson are riding an eight-game winning streak and should stay hot with a road win. The final pick of the evening? Princeton (-4.5) against Dartmouth is stealing money.