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NETS WORKOUT: MSG weekend notes: Kentucky, Seton Hall and St. John’s

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Bryan Fonseca was parked at the Garden this weekend for Saturday’s Citi Hoops Classic, featuring Seton Hall’s upset over No. 9 Kentucky, and Sunday’s MSG Holiday Festival, whose main event was St. John’s beating Princeton. As we continue to gather intel on Draft prospects, P.J. Washington, Myles Powell and Shamorie Ponds stand out in this edition of N.W.O.

Kansas State v Kentucky Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Many NBA scouts were on-hand for Saturday’s Citi Hoops Classic at Madison Square Garden, for Seton Hall OT upset of Kentucky. Maybe they stuck around for the Nets beatdown of the Knicks that night.

It was another example of how unsettled this draft is. Other than the top five picks or so, the stock of other prospects has yet to be analyzed and classified.

Take John Calipari’s operation in Lexington, Kentucky. Even though Kentucky typically boasts a collection of top flight prospects, this year it isn’t as obvious, nor as deep. Still, Calipari and his staff have sent multiple Wildcats to the NBA in every draft since he’s gotten to campus prior to the 2009-2010 season. The laundry list includes John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and others, but also has a few duds, like Daniel Orton, Skal Labissiere and James Young. So ya gotta pay attention.

Then, there’s Seton Hall, who lost current NBA G Leaguers Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez and Brooklynite Khadeen Carrington to graduation this past year, but proved they’re worth watching. Well, at least one Pirate is, Myles Powell.

Here’s our scouting thumbnails...

F/C P.J. Washington, Kentucky

Washington is easily the most recognizable name in the possible NBA talent pool from the weekend but he likely won’t be a high draft pick. On the other hand, at least one mock draft, Tankathon, has the Nets taking Washington at No. 27, the Denver pick acquired in the Kenneth Faried salary dump.

Washington is a 6’8” bruising power forward who plays a great college-style game, which leaves questions what he’ll be at the next level. The following two things should be noted.

  1. Washington has added a little jumper, and is 8-of-15 from college three through nine games to begin the season, a big progression from his 5-of-21 showing last year.
  2. The Nets did bring him in when he tested the waters in the spring before returning to Kentucky for what is now his sophomore season.

Washington even went through the NBA Combine before dropping out and had several workouts with teams with Celtics, Bucks, Clippers and Timberwolves as well as the Nets, despite needing finger surgery. His father Paul has said a first-round guarantee would’ve kept P.J. in the draft last season. No word on whether that remains true this year. but the 2019 class is not as deep as 2018.

“I’ll tell you what, that kid is going to make a lot of money,” remarked a seemingly blown away Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard, after Washington dropped a season-high 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Seton Hall.

“Watching him on film, I was really impressed, but when you see him in person, you see his size and athleticism in person, he’s the real deal. He really is. I love the way he plays; he plays hard, he doesn’t just float to the outside, he gets inside and posts up, he’s the real deal.”

Washington is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds through nine starts, up from his near 11 points and six rebounds per game last season, and he’s doing so in three fewer minutes per game (24.8 from 27.4). Per-40 minutes, Washington’s production translates to 22.6 points and 14.3 rebounds.

Calipari wants the dominant Washington we saw against Seton Hall more consistently.

“P.J. at the end of the game, that’s who he should be the whole game,” said Calipari. “That’s who you are. Why aren’t you getting 35 and 20? ‘Well, I don’t maybe feel like it.’ What? If that’s who you are, and you’re making free throws, and you’re doing the things that you’re doing, and you’re as good as any player in the country, be that guy every night. Hard, though. It’s really hard to be that guy every night. I mean, you’ve gotta bring it. That’s a lunch pail.”

G/F Keldon Johnson, Kentucky

Johnson – a potential one-and-done lottery pick in the 2019 draft – was en route to his worst game of the season, netting all of two points in nearly 40 minutes played of regulation, before this:

Johnson, tacked on five more points in overtime, but he needs to score big if the Wildcats are going anywhere. He’s currently the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 15.2 points per game. The 6’6” Oak Hill Academy alum is also shooting 50% from the field, but is only at 32% from three and under 70% on free throws through his first nine college games.

Still, coach Cal also wants more.

“We need to get him more involved. I’m still learning about this team,” he said post-game.

And he expects more, as evident but this past summer, where Calipari talked up Johnson while the team was in the Bahamas.

“If there’s five better players than him in the country, you’ve gotta tell me who they are,” being the most notable quotable from the video.

G Myles Powell, Seton Hall

No one’s stock rose more than this Seton Hall sharpshooter. The 6’2” guard, who had a 40-point game against Grand Canyon on November 22, is in his junior season, and could stay beyond 2019.

However, the Nets have been in the building watching Powell on more than one occasion, and the Trenton native is up to 23 points per game, while shooting 46% from the field and 38% from three this season.

Each year he’s improved on both ends, pretty much across the board.

Basketball Reference

Against Kentucky, he dropped 28 points, including the shot that nearly won the game in regulation.

And he left an impression on Coach Cal, who knows a thing or two (or one-hundred) about NBA talent.

“Oh, he was great,” he offered of Powell, who had 25 of his 28 between the second half and overtime. “And the one and the four away from us on the other side where he double clutched it and fell into the stands, come on. We went in our huddle and said, ‘Look, you defended great. The kid made a ridiculous shot.’”

F Reid Travis, Kentucky

Like his teammate Washington, Travis is a 6’8” forward whose done plenty of dirty work in the paint, but is in the process of stretching the floor with his jumpshot.

And also like Washington, Travis worked out with the Nets prior to pulling out of the 2018 draft. Travis, who is now 23, came to Kentucky as a graduate transfer, coming over from Stanford, where he was a star. Travis averaged 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds, while shooting nearly 55% from the floor from 2016 through 2018. With Kentucky, Travis is off to a good start, averaging 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 58.2% from the field – including a 4-of-7 display from three. In fact, his per-40 numbers more or less mirror his production from out west.

Travis’ stock isn’t that of Washington’s and his age will likely be used against him. But he does have the experience of going through the draft process once. Aside from the Nets, he also worked out for the Nuggets, who generously posted his media scrum.

Although this is expected to be a down year for Kentucky, especially since Duke’s got all “the guys”, a number of Wildcats haven’t yet popped, due to Calipari trying to figure out the team’s rotation.

As a result, a few Wildcats, who are expected to get NBA Draft looks, may fly under the radar this season. You may want to keep them on yours.

C Nick Richards, Kentucky

Richards, back for his sophomore, is only logging 12 minutes per game after a disappointing freshman season, where his production was actually better.

The 6’11” big did leave an impression, however, during the Wildcats’ trip to the Bahamas in August, where they went 4-0.

According to Zagsblog, Calipari said scouts were “amazed” with Richards. “They’re looking at Nick, saying wait a minute, and he’s way better than he was. And he’s 7-foot. If you look at the tape he’s flying up and down the court.”

The rest of the ESPN top-30 class:

The Wildcats recruited seven of the ESPN’s top-30, led by Johnson, who was seventh. E.J Montgomery (14), Ashton Hagans (20), Immanuel Quickley (25) and Tyler Herro (30) round out the talented group.

Herro – a 6’5” guard – is third team minutes at 26.2 per contest, and is averaging 11.6 points with 4.2 rebounds.

The 6’3” Quickley logs 25 minutes per game and is posting 7.1 points per contest. Both Montgomery and Hagans sit at just under 20 minutes per, with the 6’3” Hagans only at 3.8 points per game, and 3.0 field goal attempts, while the 6’10” Montgomery drops in 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds off the bench.

PG Shamorie Ponds & G Mustapha Heron, St. John’s

We’ve already taken a look at Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron. And as noted last month, the Nets brought both in during the spring, and liked what they saw, before both ultimately returned to school, each for their respective junior season.

On Sunday, the Red Storm defeated Princeton 89-74, and the team is now 9-0.

“We’re working towards being more consistent … you see the potential,” coach Chris Mullin said of his team, who are led by Ponds and Heron. “I think everyone understands, players understand what the difference is and that’s why you practice. That’s the exciting part to me, that we see what we can do. Doing it consistently is the next step.”

The Brooklyn native Ponds had another prolific scoring day, recording 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting, draining a single three in four attempts, while also recording five rebounds, five assists and four steals.

The 6’5” Heron was part of a five-guard line-up to start the game, and Chris Mullin utilized a four-guard line-up for much of the contest thereafter. Heron logged 30 minutes and was utilized in the post, foul-line down, at times on offense, similar to how Theo Pinson was used in North Carolina last season in particular.

While Heron is obviously not a “big,” his 220-pound frame helped in the post against a Tiger squad that actually had a legitimately bigger 6’8” and 6’9” frontcourt. (The Red Storm doesn’t have one legit center in their rotation.) And Heron was able to showcase his passing ability down low, including this behind-the-back gem to Ponds for a lay-up.

Heron finished the game with 12 points, three steals and two assists.

As the moment, the diminutive Ponds is pegged as a late second rounder while Heron didn’t make the top 100 on NBADraft.net or ESPN.