Ben Howland

What does Tony Parker’s commitment mean for UCLA?

8 Comments

It took 57 minutes for Tony Parker to get around to announcing it, but the Miller Grove HS (GA) big man committed to UCLA on Monday afternoon at a press conference.

That gives Ben Howland arguably the best class in the country. Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad are two of the top three recruits in the country. Parker is top 30. Jordan Adams is top 75. That’s quite a bit of talent to bring into a program.

But does it guarantee the Bruins success?

Frankly, no. The issue with UCLA’s roster isn’t the talent, because there is an abundance of that. The issue is the makeup of the roster:

– Who is going to be UCLA’s point guard? Kyle Anderson is the easy answer, and given his skill set, he should be able to facilitate the Bruin’s offense. He’s an excellent passer and playmaker that can create his own shot off the dribble. But he’s also slow-footed and 6-foot-8. I know the argument: so was Magic Johnson. But Anderson is no Magic. Calling him Jalen Rose may even be a stretch. Can he bring the ball up the floor if he’s being hawked by a smaller, quicker guard?

More importantly, if he is running the point for the Bruins, who is he going to defend? Will Howland put him on the three defensively and slide Tyler Lamb and Shabazz Muhammad onto the other team’s back court? Will UCLA go zone? Or will Kyle Anderson’s physical tools force Howland into playing Larry Drew major minutes?

– How will Parker and Josh Smith share the floor? Both are big, both are strong and both are powerful low-post presences. In other words, they are the same player. What happened with UConn this season should give you concern about two unproven centers sharing the floor. Along those same lines, will Josh Smith’s aversion to exercise rub off on Parker, who is checking in at 270 lb himself?

– Will Howland have enough front court minutes to go around? In addition to Smith and Parker, both of the Wear twins and Anthony Stover will need minutes. Anderson, Muhammad and Adams can all be considered small forwards as well, meaning that you can legitimately say UCLA’s roster has eight front court players and two back court players. How will that work?

– Most importantly, however, is the question of whether or not Howland will be able to get all of that talent to be able to play together. He’s had talented recruiting classes before (see: 2009), and we all saw how that played out. The SI article from February should make you even more concerned about his ability to manage talent.

UCLA will be one of the most talented teams in the country heading into 2012-2013 and will likely be found somewhere near the top of most preseason top 25 lists. They probably deserve that consideration, but there is still plenty for this team to prove before you give them a free-pass to the Final Four.

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

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.