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Ross might be Washington’s top dog next season

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Washington’s trying to reload for 2011-12. It shouldn’t be a huge issue given the team’s guard talent and Lorenzo Romar’s preferred up-tempo style.

Question is, which potent weapon will the Huskies feature?

Let’s move past Darnell Gant. The senior might be the vocal leader, but he’s not their go-to guy. Same with point guard Abdul Gaddy, but only because it’s unclear how healthy his knee is after an ACL tear last season.

That leaves four players.

Incoming freshman Tony Wroten’s one of the most promising prospects of the Romar era. He’s big (6-4, 195), savvy (scouts rave about his passing skills) and confident (some might say cocky). If Gaddy’s bum knee lingers, expect Wroten to step into the lead guard role, though it’s hardly a smooth transition for most freshman guards.

But as Percy Allen notes in his latest Husky Blog post, Wroten already displayed promising chemistry with teammates during pickup games, probably because he never hesitates to involve them in the offense. That’s why he’s already on Drew Cannon’s list of college hoops’ top 100 players.

Senior guard Scott Suggs might be the team’s most versatile player. He was their top 3-point shooter (45 percent) and has improved his ball-handling enough that he could play guard. He’s also big enough to play forward. Yet Suggs seems more suited as a role player, filling in where needed.

Sophomore C.J. Wilcox has the opposite problem. He’s always been Washington’s purest outside shooter, but has had issues creating his own shot. Allen notes that Wilcox’s handle has improved somewhat, but not enough to boost his role. He remains a potent weapon off the bench, not a featured player.

That leaves sophomore Terrence Ross, who impressed Allen with his aggressiveness and skill. From his blog:

Even with NBA players on the court, at times Ross looked like the best player on the floor. Still if you were drafting a team of the players Thursday, the 7-1 Hawes would probably be the first person taken. But Ross would likely go No. 2. He thrives in an open-gym setting. He wowed the few folks in the stands with high-flying dunks, alley-oop slams and putback jams. Whenever anyone guarded him one-on-one, Ross either tried to blow past them with a dribble drive or he jabbed and whirled to create room for a fadeaway jump shot. Ross, a 20-year-old sophomore, also looks much more chiseled than he did last season.

Allen’s far from the only UW onlooker expecting big things from Ross. Ross rates higher than Wroten on Cannon’s list (and will probably be the highest Husky), both for his offensive skill and development down the stretch last season when he averaged 13 points a game in the team’s final five games.

Expect more of that in 2011-12. Washington’s still lacks size, which means it’ll certainly push the pace and create opportunities for guys like Ross, Wroten and Wilcox to put up plenty of shots. The one who can create his own shot will be the main man next season. Right now, that sounds like Ross.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.