Thoughts of the Day: April 7, 2020

THE FIRST DOMINO FALLS: SCOTTIE LEWIS COMING BACK

The first domino has fallen. Scottie Lewis announced on Twitter Monday morning that he will be returning to the University of Florida for his sophomore year rather than entering the NBA Draft. In his tweet, Lewis, who averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds while being named to the SEC All-Freshman team, said, “My dream of playing in the NBA is still a top priority, but my heart is in Gainesville.”


The decision by Lewis leaves two question marks for the 2020 roster – sophomore point guard Andrew Nembhard and sophomore power forward Keyontae Johnson. Neither Nembhard nor Johnson have announced their intentions for the upcoming season, but both have been weighing their draft stock against the virtues of returning to UF for a third season. Of the two, Johnson is thought to be a mid-second round to undrafted while Nembhard is expected to be an undrafted free agent if he chooses to leave.


A decision by both Johnson and Nembhard should be coming in the next couple of weeks. Of the two, Johnson is almost certain to come back while Nembhard might be weighing his options to leave UF to head for Europe, where his skills are a better fit than the NBA.


The ambiguity of what’s next for the NBA had to have a huge impact on the decision by Lewis, who was being projected second round with a chance to work his way into the late first before the corona virus shut things down. Lewis would have almost certainly been invited to a combine and pre-draft workouts that would have allowed him to work his way into the first round where contracts are guaranteed and for a minimum of three years. Second round contracts are not guaranteed money and a two-way contract with an NBA team and the G-League only pays $75,000 with rookie minimum per game for every game on the NBA roster.

With no combines or workouts on the horizon and the likelihood that the draft won’t take place until August, Lewis couldn’t afford to put off his decision. If he can put on 15-20 pounds of muscle and play an entire sophomore season like he did the final four games of the regular season, he will almost certainly be a first round choice in the 2021 draft. So, a a chance at a contract worth millions that’s guaranteed for three years or a second round contract that isn’t fully guaranteed? If for no other reason but the economics, Lewis made the prudent choice.

THE UF ROSTER AS OF APRIL 7, 2020 Low Post: Omar Payne (6-10, 225, SO); Jason Jitoboh (6-11, 280, SO); Osayi Osifo (6-8, 220, JR)

High post/wing: Keyontae Johnson (6-5, 235, JR); Anthony Duruji (6-8, 220, RJR)

Wing: Scottie Lewis (6-5, 180, SO); Noah Locke (6-3, 205, JR); Samson Ruzhentsev (6-8, 205, FR)

Combo wing/point: Tre Mann (6-4, 180, SO); Niels Lane (6-5, 195, FR)

Point: Andrew Nembhard (6-5, 195, JR); Tyree Appleby (6-1, 165, RJR); Ques Glover (5-11, 175, SO)


GARY PARRISH OF CBSSPORTS.COM ON THE LEWIS DECISION

Garry Parrish is the best and most well-connected basketball writer in the country. Here is what he said about Scottie Lewis deciding to return to Florida for his sophomore year:

“Will there be a combine? Will there be predraft workouts? Right now, nobody knows for sure. So if you’re a likely second-round pick who is on the fence about staying or going like Lewis was, and who has a real chance to improve your position with another year of school like Lewis will, and who doesn’t want to have your time in college remembered as nothing but disappointing like Lewis would’ve, why not just stay in school? Why race into an uncertain world? Why run from a good things straight into an unknown?”


SIX GATORS CHOSEN IN 7-ROUND CBSSPORTS.COM MOCK DRAFT

This one by Ryan Wilson is probably the worst I’ve seen and not because there are six Gators taken, but some of his selections are so radically different than some of the mocks I’ve seen. For example, he has the Los Angeles Chargers passing on a QB until the fourth round and the New England Patriots picking Utah State QB Jordan Love in the first. Yeah, right.

But, here are the Gators who Wilson has going in the draft on April 23-26.

Round 1, pick 17: C.J. Henderson, CB, Dallas Round 3, pick 22 (86 overall): Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Buffalo

Round 3, pick 23 (87 overall): Van Jefferson, WR, New England Round 3, pick 26 (90 overall): Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Houston

Round 6, pick 35 (214 overall): Lamical Perine, RB, Seattle Round 7, pick 28 (242 overall): Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Green Bay


AL KALINE IS DEAD AND I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD MYSELF Unless you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, the name Al Kaline probably doesn’t mean much. Oh, if you follow baseball, then you know he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown but probably not much else.


Let me tell you a little bit about him. He went straight from high school graduation in Baltimore to the Major Leagues and never spent a day in the minors. Two years after his debut with the Detroit Tigers, he became the youngest winner in baseball history of a batting championship when he hit .340. He also had 200 hits and hit 27 homers with 102 RBI. In 680 at bats, he only struck out 55 times. He finished second in the MVP voting to Yogi Berra. Not bad for a 20-year-old.


During his 22-year career, Kaline had 3,007 hits and 399 home runs. He struck out only 1,020 times in his entire career. During his career, he won 10 gold gloves. The only player in the game who played right field better was Roberto Clemente. They both had lethal throwing arms. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer.


I want to share a couple of things with you that might tell you why I hold Kaline in such high esteem.


The Tigers made the World Series only one time in Kaline’s career. Everybody remembers how Denny McClain won 31 games that year and how Mickey Lolich won three games in the World Series as the Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Kaline broke his arm that season and when he came back, the Tigers were playing so well that manager Mayo Smith didn’t want to make a big change to his lineup so Kaline filled in mostly at first base or pinch-hit. Then came the World Series and Kaline went to his manager and told him he didn’t deserve to start. Mayo Smith didn’t pay attention and started Kaline in right field all seven games. He hit .379 with two homers and eight RBI to help the Tigers win their first World Series since 1945.


The second thing I wish to share is a bit more personal. In the spring of 1962 when I was living in Sanford, my dad took me to Orlando on a Sunday to see an exhibition game between the Tigers and the Minnesota Twins at Tinker Field. Our seats were right beside the Tigers dugout. Following batting practice, several of the Tigers came over to the horde of kids standing past the dugout down the third base line who wanted autographs. Before I got out of our box to join them, the man sitting next to us wearing a Tigers cap, grabbed me gently by the arm and pointed out Al Kaline to me. He said, “If you go over there to him and you’re polite – call him Mr. Kaline; don’t call him Al – he’ll sign your program, your ball or your baseball card."


I had a program and an Al Kaline baseball card. Kids were yelling, “Sign this Al! Sign this!” I managed to catch his eye, held up my program and card and asked, “Can I have your autograph Mr. Kaline?” He smiled, signed both the program and the card, and then patted me on the head when I said, “Thank you!” When I got back to my seats, the man in the Tigers cap grinned and said, “Al’s a gentleman. He appreciates when folks are polite.”


When the game was over (Tigers won, 6-4, if I recall, on a homer by Jake Wood), we waited outside the Detroit locker room as players trickled out and headed to the buses that would take them back to Lakeland. I got autographs from Norm Cash, Billy Bruton and Rocky Colavito as a lefty pitcher named Don Mossi (one of my best friends had a Don Mossi autographed baseball glove so I couldn’t wait to show him the next day at Lake Mary School). We were about to leave when Al Kaline came out of the locker room so I asked my dad if we could stay another few minutes. Kaline signed some more autographs and when he came by where I was standing with my dad he smiled and nodded.


When you’re 10 years old, you remember when a guy like Al Kaline smiles and nods his head at you. I’ve spent a lot of my life in press boxes and I’ve dealt with a lot of jerks, but I always have remembered the nice guys. Al Kaline is one of the nice guys I’ll never forget.


RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NFL will draft in 16 days in virtual format. All the teams will be drafting from their homes and there will be no group gatherings. The draft won’t be nearly as exciting in this format, but I’m sure commish Roger Goodell won’t mind not hearing boos every time he shows his face … ESPN draft guy (I just can’t bring myself to call him guru) Todd McShay rates Florida’s CJ Henderson as the #2 cornerback and UF running back Lamical Perine as the #7 running back … Todd Helton, the former Tennessee QB turned Major League Baseball star, got two days in jail for a DUI … Kentucky freshman guard Tyrese Maxey will sign with an agent and enter the NBA Draft … It has been a mere 14,341 days since the University of Georgia last won a national championship in football. Not that anybody’s actually counting or anything, but since Georgia last won a national championship, Alabama has won six, Florida and LSU have won three each and both Tennessee and Auburn have won one.

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