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Jim Calhoun: Shabazz Napier ‘is not Kemba Walker’

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NEW YORK–Let’s stop the noise before it starts. Shabazz Napier is not this year’s Kemba Walker.

Following his team’s 71-67 overtime win over West Virginia on Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun wanted to draw a distinction between his 2011 National Championship team and his 2012 squad.

“Last year and this year, two completely different deals. This is not Kemba Walker,” Calhoun said, pointing down the table at guard Shabazz Napier. “He’s a totally different player. “

Napier had a game-high 26 points, including a personal 9-0 run at the end of regulation to help Connecticut to force overtime, before fouling out in the extra session.

“I think any comparisons are unfair to last year’s team and unfair to this team,” Calhoun continued. “In the last week that I’ve been around Shabazz, he’s a different player than he was three weeks ago.”

What was going on three weeks ago? Napier had just called out his teammates, telling the Hearst Connecticut’s Kevin Duffy, “I hate to say it, but I gotta question some of these guys’ heart,” after a loss to Marquette.

On Wednesday afternoon, he changed course completely, saying almost the exact opposite.

“I have faith in my teammates no matter what,” he said.  “I know Jeremy [Lamb], I know [Ryan Boatright], I know Andre [Drummond]…I love watching them play because they play with a lot of heart.  That’s exactly what they did.”

Napier, himself, was the one who played with considerable heart, powering the Huskies while fellow guard Jeremy Lamb, who still finished with a strong 22 points, was quiet for the majority of the second half.

Not that the sophomore had shied away from the spotlight recently, though. Does anyone remember when he pulled up a few steps inside the half-court line and nailed a shot to beat Villanova?

But Wednesday’s big game doesn’t automatically crown him the leader of the Huskies, going forward.

“He’s one of our more vocal leaders. We’re all leaders in our own way. We all have something to say to each other,” said freshman Andre Drummond, who had seven points and four rebounds. “It’s not just one person. That’s not how it works.”

There is one thing to be certain about, though: the leader of the 2012 Huskies might be Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, or someone else, or all of them together, but it certainly is not Kemba Walker.

Calhoun may have had the most succinct, pithy response as to why one should leave memories and comparisons to Walker in the past.

“Kemba is making a lot of money, just built a house, doing great.”

And with a laugh, Connecticut moves on to play Syracuse on Thursday at noon.

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Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

VIDEO: Collin Sexton with a trick shot for the ages

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Earlier this summer, we told you the story of Collin Sexton, how the 6-foot-2 Georgia native went from being a mid-major recruit to a five-star prospect being courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina and Villanova.

It’s because he’s a bucket-getter.

     RELATED: Making A Five Star

He averaged 31 points in the Nike EYBL circuit, nine points better than Michael Porter, who finished second in the league in scoring. No one puts points on the board like he does, so it’s only fitting that he was the guy that made a shot from the balcony during ‘The Trip’, Nike’s effort to keep kids associated with their brand from Elite 24:

Lonzo Ball struggled on UCLA’s Australian tour

Lonzo Ball (UCLA Athletics)
UCLA Athletics
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UCLA capped their three-game trip to Australia on Sunday night with a 94-91 win over the Brisbane Bullets, a game in which sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday finished with a team-high 17 points. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton both added 16 points and freshman Ike Anigbogu finished with 13 points and 10 boards.

This win came just two days after the Bruins lost to Melbourne United, 89-84, when Hamilton — 18 points and five assists — and Holiday — 16 points — were both once again impressive. Alford also added 18 points in Friday’s loss.

It’s not surprising that the Bruins had some up and down performances abroad. Everyone does. It’s what happens when a team of college kids, with three freshmen playing key roles, heads to the other side of the world to square off against teams made up of professionals. Don’t go hanging the ‘Fire Steve Alford’ banners on anymore airplanes just yet.

There are, however, two interesting things to consider from this trip:

– Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn’t shoot well. At all. In UCLA’s 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball’s ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.

– And then there’s this, from Bryce Alford:

UCLA needs to travel with more towels.

VIDEO: Mixtape for ton ten prospect Hamidou Diallo

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Hamidou Diallo is arguably the most in-demand scoring guard in the country.

He currently holds offers from Duke, Kentucky, Indiana and Louisville, among many others, and in the mixtape above, you can see why. He’s has explosive as any guard that has come through college basketball since Zach LaVine, which is why his mixtapes are so enjoyable to watch.

Plus, the beat that Ball Is Life uses here is sick.

LOS ANGELES, CA. JULY 26, 2016. The Academy. Hamidou Diallo #33 of Putnam Science Academy dunks. (Mandatory photo credit: Jon Lopez/Nike).
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Former Michigan State star arrested for third time in four months

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For the third time since May, former Michigan State star Keith Appling has been arrested in an incident involving a loaded gun.

According to police, Appling was the driver of a car that was pulled over on Sunday night in Detroit. After an officer detected the scent of marijuana and requested Appling’s license, Appling rolled up his window sped off. He was stopped a short time later, but officers noticed that a Gucci bag that was in the back seat his car was missing. As they went over the route of the pursuit, they found the bag, which contained a loaded handgun and paperwork with Appling’s name on it.

In June, Appling was arrested when, during a traffic stop, he was in the back seat of a car where a handgun was found in the floorboard. That happened a month after he was arrested in the parking lot of a Dearborn, Michigan, strip club when a handgun and a loaded AK-47 were found in his car.

Tennessee football to honor Pat Summitt with helmet sticker

KNOXVILLE, TN - JULY 14:  Flower wreaths line the wall at Pat Summitt Plaza before the start of a ceremony to celebrate the life of former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt at the Thompson-Boling Arena on July 14, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Summitt died June 28 at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (Photo by Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics - Pool/Getty Images)
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Tennessee’s football team will be wearing a commemorative sticker on their helmet this season to honor the late Pat Summitt.

Summitt coached the Lady Vols for nearly four decades, building the women’s basketball program into a goliath in the sport and simultaneously doing more than just about anyone to advance women’s athletics in this country while becoming the winningest Division I college coach of all-time.

“We’re excited about wearing a commemorative sticker on the back of our helmet to honor the late Pat Summitt,” football coach Butch Jones said. “We know everything she stands for. I think it’s very fitting that Tennessee football and Team 120 recognize her and everything she means to the University of Tennessee and state of Tennessee.”

The stickers will look like this:

Tennessee athletics
Tennessee athletics