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Kyisean Reed latest second chance story at Utah State

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LOGAN, Utah – Stew Morrill has built Utah State into a power in the WAC. They’ve won seven regular season titles since 2000 and made eight NCAA Tournaments in that time. To get an idea of the level that this program has reached, think about this: they packed the 10,270 seat Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at more than 80% capacity — over 90% capacity in the 4,000 seat student section — in a down year and it was still considered a mediocre crowd.

Granted, he did take over a team coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998, but before Larry Eustachy built that team into a winner, the Aggies hadn’t been to an NCAA Tournament in a decade. Recruiting players to spend the winter in Logan, UT, a small town in the northeast corner of Utah that sits squarely in one of the most religious areas of our country, is not an easy sell.

Which is why Morrill has to take some risks.

And those risks don’t always pan out.

Remember Anthony DiLoreto? A 7’1″ center from Wisconsin, DiLoreto was supposed to be headed to Cal Poly before he was arrested for taking part in a bank robbery while he was in high school; he was the getaway driver. Morrill gave him a shot, and DiLoreto blew it. He enrolled at Utah State during the 2009-2010 season, but couldn’t make it a full year without getting in trouble. He was kicked off of the team after getting caught with weed that May.

“I’m willing to roll the dice,” Morrill said. “I’ll give a guy a second chance. I won’t give him a third.”

And there have been times where those second chances have paid off.

Gary Wilkinson dropped out of high school after getting cut from the basketball team, spending his time, as he told ESPN.com, sitting around and partying with his friends. But Wilkinson turned his life around, finding religion — he became a member of the LDS church, like the overwhelming majority of USU students — while earning his GED before spending two years on a mission in Canada and heading to Salt Lake Community College. Wilkinson eventually ended up at Utah State, where he became the WAC Player of the Year in 2009 as a 26 year old power forward.

Willkinson was “as solid as they come”, Morrill said. He had turned his life around by the time that he reached Logan.

That wasn’t necessarily true with David Pak.

In 1993, when Pak was 16 years old, he raped a 23 year old woman at knife point. After pleading guilty to one count of forcible rape and another count of forcible rape with a weapon, Pak was sentenced to eight years in prison. Pak cleaned up while he did his time, eventually enrolling at Saddleback Community College, winning the Orange Empire Conference’s MVP as a sophomore.

It took some cajoling, but Morrill eventually convinced Utah State to accept Pak. “A lot of people wouldn’t take that gamble,” he told the San Diego Tribune back in 2006, “I’ll be honest with you. Our president said, ‘It’s on you.’ I swallowed hard and said, ‘OK.'”

Pak was a two year starter for the Aggies, leading the team in assists in 2005-2006 and eventually carrying them to the NCAA Tournament. That’s quite a difference from asking his cellmate’s permission to dribble a basketball late into the night.

The latest risk Morrill has taken is Kyisean Reed, a bouncy, left-handed 6’6″ combo-forward that can crack the Sportscenter Top Ten just as easily as he can step out and hit a 17 footer. Reed enrolled at Antelope Valley, a Junior College in Lancaster, CA, that is more well-known for producing USC transfer Dewayne Dedmon, but he didn’t last the full two years there.

“I guess me and coach didn’t really see eye to eye,” Reed said of getting kicked off the team as a sophomore. “I made a mistake.”

Reed was concerned about his reputation, especially when it came to the schools that were recruiting him. He’s not a bad kid, he’s actually quite friendly. Shy, even. And while he got himself kicked off of the basketball team, he wasn’t kicked out of school. Reed finished up his classes and got himself eligible for Division I basketball, but that didn’t change the fact that he was concerned about his image.

“No one absolutely knows what happened except me and the coach,” he said. “I understand that, even coming here, people had questions like, ‘What did he do? Was it really that egregious to get kicked off the team?’ Well, I’m here.”

And his arrival was something that Morrill was not concerned about.

As he did with Pak, Morrill got a tip from AVJC about Reed. Its a program that he has a long and established relationship with, so when he was told he can trust in Reed, he believed it.

“I’ve known the program — the AD and the former basketball coach is a longtime friend of mine,” Morrill said. “I was up to speed on everything that went on. Kyisean had a tough background growing up at times. It was a different type of issue, it wasn’t criminal or anything like that. They allowed him to finish his year [academically] and we felt like we could take a chance on him.”

And its paid off. Reed has started 15 games while averaging 10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and leading the team in blocked shots. That said, Morrill isn’t yet satisfied with Reed, but that dissatisfaction stems completely from Reed’s performance on the court.

“We need him to rebound a little better and play a little harder at times, but he gives us an athletic presence that we desperately need,” Morrill said.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

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.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.