The Morning Mix

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Well, last night sure was interesting. Shabazz Muhammad announced his intentions to attend UCLA, and most of Big Blue Nation cursed him out on Twitter. An hour later, Nerlens Noel verbally committed to Kentucky, and shaved “UK” into his head, and Big Blue Nation welcomed him with open arms. According to many college basketball media members and recruiting experts, there has not been a signing day with this much excitement in quite some time.

– Eamonn Brennan explains what both of these commitments mean to the respective programs

– Jeff Eisenberg isn’t sure if Muhammad with restore UCLA to glory or if it will be a quick fix, but it sure will bring some lost enthusiasm back to Pauley Pavilion 

– Shabazz Muhammad is a superstar, no doubt about it. But can even he save Ben Howland?

– This is John Calipari’s fourth recruiting class at Kentucky, and every year they’ve been ranked No.1 by the recruiting experts. This team could be even more scary good in 2012-2013

Andy Katz details the potential impacts provided  by the upperclassmen who are returning to school

Doug Gottlieb hands out his grades to all the ACC teams for the 2011-2012 season (insiders only)

– Following the firing of head coach Isaiah Thomas, several members of the Florida International basketball team requested releases from the scholarship. Apparently the school denied them

– SMU is in fact in talks with Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus about the school’s head coaching vacancy

– LSU is looking for a coach to replace Trent Johnson, who recently bolted for TCU last week. North Texas coach Johnny Jones is in talks with the Tigers about the opening. It seems as though Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon might also be a candidate for the job

– Yesterday it seemed as though former-Oregon coach Ernie Kent would become the new head coach at Colorado State. But apparently Colorado State administrators vetoed the decision. instead it will be Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Eustachy who becomes the Rams new head coach

– Now this is a question I did not expect to see so early in the off-season: What is next for Butler basketball?

– The 2012-2013 season will begin with no less than 35 new head coaches running the sidelines

Ryan Fagan ranks the top-10 forwards of the expanded bracket era

– You too can own one of the sideline chairs sat in by the Ohio Bobcats during their memorable Sweet-16 run in this past season’s NCAA tournament

– Arizona got a point guard for the future in Duquesne-transfer T.J. McConnell, but they just found out they won’t have a point guard of the present. Why? Because troubled-freshman Josiah Turner has decided to transfer

– Arizona also lost another player, as Ukrainian center Kyryl Natyazhko has decided to leave the program in order to pursue a career overseas. He becomes the sixth program defection in three years

– Former-McDonald’s All-American LeBryan Nash struggled in his first season at Oklahoma State. But the athletic forward knows what he needs to do in order to improve

– After a bizarre week in which he was reportedly both staying and going, Bryce Cotton has decided to stay at Providence instead of transferring

– North Carolina State has one of the best incoming recruiting classes in the country, and should be ranked pretty high in the preseason top-25. But DeShawn Painter and JaQawn Raymond have both announced their decisions to transfer from the school

– Cameron Ridley, a five-star center who verbally announced his intention to sign with Texas, finally put pen to paper

– Sources are indicating that Villanova swing-man Maurice Cheek is leaning towards entering the NBA draft

Florida forward Walter Pitchford has decided to transfer. The silver lining is that his departure will open up a scholarship which the program can use to sign highly touted recruit Anthony Bennett

Baylor placed themselves on three years probation for the improper phone calls and texts made by their men’s and women’s basketball programs. They will not face any punishment from the NCAA

– One of Bernie Fine’s accusers has been sentenced to three years in jail for sexual crimes

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.