R.J. Cole

Summer League Commitments: Lakers, Suns, Magic, Warriors

Undrafted UConn guard R.J. Cole has committed to play summer league with the Lakers, a league source told Hoops Rumors. Cole, 22, is coming off an impressive season with the Huskies, averaging 15.8 points and 4.1 assists per game. He also recorded 1.1 steals per contest and shot 41.5% from the floor.

The Las Vegas Summer League will be held from July 7-17 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cole will reportedly join a number of other undrafted players on the Lakers’ roster, including Shareef O’Neal and Fabian White Jr.

Here are some other summer league-related notes:

  • Free agent forward Louis King — MVP of the 2021 Las Vegas Summer League — has accepted a summer league invite from the Suns, sources said. King most recently played for the Knicks’ G League affiliate. He holds past NBA experience with Sacramento.
  • Undrafted Saint Mary’s guard Tommy Kuhse has agreed to play summer league with the Magic, a league source told Hoops Rumors. Kushe is expected to see significant minutes with the team. He averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists per game this past season.
  • Kalob Ledoux has committed to play summer league with the Warriors, his agents BJ Bass and Cam Brennick of RBA Sports told Hoops Rumors. Ledoux played 14 games with Golden State’s G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, this past season.

Southeast Notes: Hornets Workouts, Atkinson, Wizards

The Hornets hosted a couple of potential lottery picks for solo workouts on Friday, the team announced (Twitter links): Duke’s Mark Williams, who is ranked No. 14 on ESPN’s big board, and Shaedon Sharpe, who is ranked No. 7 due to his enormous upside despite not playing a game for Kentucky. The Hornets control the Nos. 13, 15 and 45 picks in the 2022 NBA draft.

Williams has been linked to Charlotte multiple times in mock drafts, which makes perfect sense since he’s a rim-running, paint-protecting center with great size and athleticism. He could fill a major weak spot if he’s NBA-ready, as the team has lacked a big man in that mold for several years.

Sharpe seems unlikely to fall to No. 13, so the Hornets were probably just doing their due diligence and getting a look at a player who hasn’t played competitively in nearly a year, but they theoretically could package their picks in order to move up and select him.

The team also hosted a group workout on Friday (Twitter link) featuring Michigan State’s Max Christie, UConn’s R.J. Cole, Richmond’s Grant Golden, Furman’s Alex Hunter, France’s Ismael Kamagate, and Brazil’s Gui Santos. Kamagate and Christie are the highest-rated prospects among the group at Nos. 40 and 45, respectively, so they could be possibilities for Charlotte’s second-rounder.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic explores what the Hornets are getting in new head coach Kenny Atkinson, noting that Atkinson earned league-wide praise by establishing a culture in Brooklyn that was reminiscent of a college team, something the Nets have sorely lacked since he resigned in 2020. Known as a meticulous worker who embraces analytics, Atkinson used to physically participate in Nets practices, writes Schiffer, adding that Atkinson appears to be entering a better situation in Charlotte than his previous head coaching job in Brooklyn.
  • The Wizards are among the teams weighing the idea of trading their lottery pick (No. 10 overall) in a possible win-now move, Marc Stein reports in his latest article for Substack.
  • Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson and Kansas’ David McCormack will work out for the Wizards on Saturday, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Robinson is ranked No. 77 on ESPN’s board, so he could be a possibility for the team’s second-round pick, which is No. 56 overall.

Pacers Notes: Turner, Walters, Brown Jr., Workout

After breaking up their big man combination by trading Domantas Sabonis in February, the Pacers are in no hurry to part with Myles Turner, Marc Stein says on his latest Spotify podcast (hat tip to Jackson Frank of Uproxx). Indiana is hoping to return to contention next season, and the team views Turner as part of that effort.

“Myles Turner, every time I ask, the word I get back is that he’s likely to stay in Indiana,” Stein said. “I don’t think that discourages teams from trying to get him, I’m sure the Pacers are getting calls on Turner. But every time I check, that’s kind of the word I get.”

Turner will have an expiring $17.5MM contract next season, so the Pacers’ stance on trading him could change if they get off to a slow start. He was limited to 42 games this year, missing the final 39 with a stress reaction in his left foot, but he remains one of the league’s best shot blockers.

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • Turner offered evidence that he has recovered from his foot issues, posting a video Tuesday that showed him working out with the Knicks’ Julius Randle, per James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. Turner didn’t do anything on the court in the video, but he leaped over hurdles while holding a basketball, practiced chest passes from his knees, jumped rope and lifted weights.
  • Former player agent Happy Walters has joined the Pacers as a consultant, Stein tweets. Walters is an Indiana native who has also found success in music, television and movies, Boyd adds in a separate story. His clients included Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire and Jimmy Butler.
  • Washington guard Terrell Brown Jr., who worked out for the Pacers on Monday, talked to Boyd about the influence of his godfather, former NBA star Jason Terry“It’s a wonderful feeling to have him in my corner, just talking to me through all of the workouts, showing teams that I can improve,” Brown said. “(He) just keeps giving me confidence more and more. Going into last season, he was like, ‘If you average 20 points, you gonna have a lot of interest.'” Brown is projected as a possible late second-round pick.
  • The Pacers hosted six players today for a pre-draft workout, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. On hand were Jalen Adaway of St. Bonaventure, R.J. Cole of Connecticut, Collin Gillespie of Villanova, Fanbo Zeng of G League Ignite, Amadou Sow of UCSB and Trevion Williams of Purdue.

Southeast Draft Notes: Murray, Hawks, Wizards, Hornets

The Magic hold the No. 1 pick and Iowa’s Keegan Murray isn’t expected to go higher than No. 4 in the lottery. That didn’t prevent Orlando from doing its due diligence on the high-scoring wing. Murray came in for a pre-draft workout on Thursday, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. The two sides also had a discussion during the draft combine in Chicago, Price adds.

We have more developments from the Southeast Division:

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Green, Lakers, Kings

Speaking to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Warriors owner Joe Lacob referenced a division rival when he discussed his long-term goals for the franchise.

“We are very goal-oriented,” Lacob said. “Our goal right now is to sustain being really good for a long time. I look at Jerry Buss and the Lakers, and how he owned the team for 33 years and made 16 Finals. That’s just an astonishing achievement, an incredible owner.

“Whether we can sustain that over such a long period of time, like Jerry Buss did – the Celtics certainly had great history but it was a little bit of a different time – I don’t know. But we’re going to try. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

The Warriors are back in the NBA Finals this year for the sixth time in the last eight seasons, and are seeking their fourth championship during that time.

  • Even though he only appeared in 46 of 82 possible regular season games this season, Warriors forward Draymond Green views it as a “slight” that he didn’t make the All-Defensive First Team, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. “When I look at the First Team, I am not sure I can pinpoint, definitely not five guys that had a better defensive season than me,” Green said. “And there are no (games-played) requirements. There is not some amount that you have to play in. If there was an amount that you had to play, then I would be an idiot sitting here and saying that.”
  • The Lakers are working out six prospects today, bringing in R.J. Cole (UConn), Jules Bernard (UCLA), Kur Kuath (Marquette), Jaden Shackelford (Alabama), Zyon Pullin (UC-Riverside), and David McCormack (Kansas) for a pre-draft audition, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. Pullin is reportedly expected to remove his name from the draft pool before tonight’s NCAA withdrawal deadline.
  • Houston’s Fabian White Jr. was among the prospects to work out for the Kings on Tuesday, per Sean Cunningham of FOX40 News (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Taylor, Lore, A-Rod, Kroenke, Jazz

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has forged a sound working relationship with minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, proven by their successful recruitment of Denver’s Tim Connelly to head up their front office, The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski writes. Taylor, who allowed the duo to design an offer that would be very difficult for the Nuggets to match, enjoys the ambition and energy of Lore and A-Rod and has gained confidence in their ability to complete a major transaction.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The press conference involving Nuggets president/governor Josh Kroenke has been postponed after he recently tested positive for COVID-19. He is one of several members of the organization to test positive this week, according to the team. The press conference, scheduled for today, has been tentatively moved to Tuesday, according to the Denver Post’s Mike Singer (Twitter links).
  • What are the Jazz seeking to upgrade their roster? A long, rangy wing player who is solid offensively and can defend on the perimeter and switch 1-to-5, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. However, those players are in high demand throughout the league, which makes the Jazz’s task of finding such a player quite difficult.
  • The Jazz’s draft workout on Thursday included R.J. Cole (UConn), Tyson Etienne (Wichita State), Johnny Juzang (UCLA), Jared Rhoden (Seton Hall), Akoldah Gak (Australia) and Trevion Williams (Purdue), Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Williams (No. 50 on ESPN’s Best Available list) is the highest-rated among that group of second-round prospects.

Draft Notes: Hamilton, Mucius, Cole, McConnell, Mock

UNLV guard Bryce Hamilton and Wake Forest forward Isaiah Mucius have both declared for the 2022 NBA draft, reports Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter links). Hamilton will forgo his final year of college eligibility, but Mucius will maintain his for next year.

UConn guard R.J. Cole (via Twitter) and Rutgers guard Caleb McConnell (via Instagram) have also declared for the draft, the two players announced. McConnell plans to maintain his eligibility for next season, but Cole’s intentions are unclear, based on the wording of his statement.

All four players are seniors, but in 2021 players were granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility due to the pandemic, so four-year players have the option of staying for what essentially amounts to a second senior season.

Hamilton is a three-time All-Mountain West Conference member who averaged 21.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 2.2 APG this season. Mucius was mostly used as a spot-up shooter, averaging 36% on 5.8 attempts per game from deep in ’21/22.

Cole was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year in 2018/19 with Howard prior to transferring to UConn. He was an All-Big East member this season with the Huskies. McConnell was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year in ’21/22 for the Scarlet Knights while averaging 2.2 SPG.

In other draft-related news, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) explore how the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the NCAA tournament have impacted their latest mock draft and prospect evaluations.

The first-round of the mock draft is quite similar to the one Givony released last week, but a couple of Duke players have risen: forward Paolo Banchero has jumped up to No. 2 from No. 3, swapping places with Auburn’s Jabari Smith, while center Mark Williams has gone up four spots to No. 17. Duke faces their long-time rival North Carolina in the Final Four.

P.J. Washington, Grant Williams, Others Entering 2019 Draft

Kentucky forward P.J. Washington has opted to enter the 2019 NBA draft and will hire an agent, according to a press release from the program. Washington, who considered going pro after his freshman year, returned to the Wildcats for his sophomore season and had a strong year. Now, he plans to keep his name in the draft pool, forgoing his remaining NCAA eligibility.

“When I decided to come back to school a year ago, I knew there were things I still wanted to accomplish so I challenged myself to become a better all-around player, to develop more consistency and to become a leader for this team,” Washington said in a statement. “Although we fell a couple games short of our ultimate goal, I’ll never forget the season we had with my brothers. We did some special things this season and made memories that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Washington increased his numbers across the board in his second year at Kentucky, averaging 15.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.2 BPG on .522/.423/.663 shooting. He’s currently ranked 15th on ESPN’s big board, with Jonathan Givony praising his “enviable physical tools.”

Here are more updates on players declaring for the 2019 NBA draft:

  • Another one of the top 25 players on Givony’s board – Tennessee junior forward Grant Williams – has announced his intention to test the draft waters. Williams, the No. 24 prospect per ESPN, averaged 18.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 3.2 APG for the Vols. He indicated that he’ll go through the pre-draft process, leaving the door open to return for his senior season.
  • Florida State’s Mfiondu Kabengele is entering the draft and intends to keep his name in this year’s pool, he tells Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. “My decision is I’m going to put my name in the draft this year,” the sophomore center said. “Just because of the season I had, the growth, I feel like I did as much as I could at Florida State. I learned a lot. My next challenge is going to be to expand my game.” Kabengele is the No. 30 prospect on ESPN’s top 100.
  • Three Michigan underclassmen on ESPN’s big board – freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis (No. 48), sophomore guard Jordan Poole (No. 68), and junior guard Charles Matthews (No. 69) – will go through the draft process, the school announced today in a press release. All three players will hire agents, though they’ll still have until May 29 to withdraw if they so choose.
  • Auburn junior guard Jared Harper is leaving school and declaring for the 2019 NBA draft, per a press release. “I have always been a believer in Jared,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said of the No. 61 prospect on ESPN’s big board. “He is a special player with speed, quickness, power and a skill level that is unmatched by virtually any player his size. He will make it in the NBA.”
  • Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans, a candidate to be drafted this year, will instead return to the Wildcats for his sophomore season, he confirmed today. As ESPN’s Jonathan Givony tweets, Hagans will focus on improving his shooting and play-making in his second season at Kentucky.
  • Here are a few more early entrants who don’t rank in ESPN’s top 100, but who are entering the draft: