MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) - An NBA scout's trip to Morehead State University isn't the easiest of the year.
Fly into Lexington, Ky., drive around traditional power
Kentucky's campus. Head almost 70 miles east Interstate 64, fighting construction-related traffic. Morehead State's Johnson Arena is about three miles from exit 137.
But several NBA scouts have made the trip this fall anyway to see center Kenneth Faried.
Faried, who the preseason Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, averaged 16.9 points and 13.0 rebounds last season as a junior.
The 6-foot-8, 228-pound center entered his name into NBA draft consideration but after being told he'd likely be selected in the mid- to late-second round, he opted to return to Morehead State for his senior year.
The Eagles finished last season 24-11 and 15-3 in OVC play, runners-up to Murray State in the regular season standings and the conference tournament. The 24 wins were second-most in school history and to match or top that this season, Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said the burden will rest on Faried.
Although Faried has been a dominant player throughout his career, Tyndall said this will be his first season without
considerable help in the frontcourt. Tyndall plans to start a
four-guard lineup, playing similar offense to that of Villanova
when the Wildcats went to the Final Four in 2008.
"We've got some young big guys that I think will come along as the year progresses and maybe we could go back to our traditional style of play for parts of games, but we're going to start our best five players," Tyndall said. "If you're going to be a smart coach, in my opinion, you have to get your best players on the floor and this style of play will allow us to do that."
The Eagles were picked to finish second to Murray State in the conference's preseason media poll. Catching the Racers won't be easy, Tyndall said, because they return eight of 10 main-rotation players from last season's team that upset Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual runner-up Butler, 58-56.
But Murray State's only conference loss last season was to Morehead State, so Tyndall knows the Racers can be beaten. Although the four-guard lineup will be new to Morehead, it will continue to run a hard press on defense - maybe even harder - after finishing 12th in Division I last season with 9.0 steals per game.
"When you have a great player like Kenneth inside and you give him more room to operate around the rim, and you know he can change a lot of shots defensively, you can get away with playing smaller," Tyndall said.
In August, Morehead State was placed on NCAA probation for two seasons for recruiting violations involving illegal booster activity.
The probation includes the loss of one scholarship and cutbacks in recruiting days, visits and calls.
"I don't think one scholarship down will affect us a whole
bunch," Tyndall said. "I just think we'll continue to grow our
program. We went from 12 wins my first year (at Morehead) to 15, to 20 and now 24 last year. The biggest thing is just to improve on that each and every year, even if we're down a scholarship."
Tyndall said another strong season and a 2011 draft class perceived to be weaker could put Faried in the NBA draft's mid- to late- first round.
And if the Eagles have another strong season in the OVC, NBA scouts will continue to find their way to Morehead.
"Kenneth Faried is a once-in-a-lifetime player at this level," Tyndall said. "We've got to have a great year to send him out the right way. A lot of the burden is on his shoulders to have a great year but he's embraced that."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)