It’s apparent that when head coaches Lon Kruger and Ed Cooley took over the Oklahoma and Providence programs, recruiting guards during their first recruiting cycle was a heavy priority. With commitments in the last week, both the Sooners and Friars now have three expected incoming freshmen guards for next season.
Oklahoma landed one of the fastest rising prospects in the country in 6-4 Isaiah Cousins of Mount Vernon (N.Y.). The Sooners are expected to make the skinny Cousins a full time point guard, as they have a pair complementary pieces in combo guard Jelon Hornbeak and top notch athlete wing Buddy Hield. Cousins rose quickly in recent months, netting scholarship offers from UConn, Virginia Tech and several other high-major programs.
Likewise, Providence has an additional piece to add to their future. With arguably the most talented backcourt pair in the country locked up in 6-3 Kris Dunn and 6-5 Ricardo Ledo, the Friars added an additional piece in Ian Baker of Arlington Country Day (Fla.). Some will remember that Baker was committed to South Carolina with his teammate Carlos Morris, when the Gamecocks were headed by Darrin Horn.
Baker is a native of Washington, DC, and with development can be a factor at point guard as Dunn is versatile enough to play shooting guard, and Ledo has enough size to play small forward if necessary. Dunn was a recent participant in the McDonald’s All-American game, and Ledo, a blistering scorer, likely would have been selected to the game if he would have been eligible to be, as Ledo is a prep school student and fifth year player.
Both Oklahoma and Providence will need all hands on deck as they face next season, and it doesn’t hurt to have plenty of options in the backcourt. In the long run, Cousins can be a dandy player if he continues to gain strength and get ready for the physicality in college, and Baker is a solid supporting piece to what coach Ed Cooley already has in place for next season.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.