Will Barton, Memphis: Barton is a frustrating guy to see head to the NBA. He’s a terrific athlete and a guy that plays the game hard. He’s a defensive playmaker and a guy that can make a difference on the glass despite being just 6-foot-6. The problem? Barton’s offensive repertoire needs a lot of work. His handle and his jump shot are both suspect enough at this point in his career to the point that it seems unlikely he’ll be a first round pick. I generally don’t have an issue with players heading for the NBA unless they are costing themselves a chance at earning some guaranteed money. Barton may have done just that.
Dominic Cheek, Villanova: I’m not exactly sure what Cheek was thinking here. Does he have family members to take care of? Was he simply done playing college basketball? Both of those things happen, and both of them are legitimate reasons (in my mind, at least) to enter the NBA Draft. But if Cheek thinks he’s going in the first round, he’s going to have a rough draft night party.
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Jared Cunningham is arguably the best on-ball defender in this draft class. At 6-foot-3, he’s quick enough to defend point guards and athletic enough to defend shooting guards. He can work around screens and he can stay in front of someone trying to beat him off the dribble. Don’t get me started on his ability to jump passing lanes. But Cunningham’s offensive game is so incomplete that there is a real chance he could go undrafted. The irony here is that I think he will end up carving out a career in the NBA so long as he can become a 40% three-point shooter.
Khris Middleton, Texas A&M: Khris Middleton spent much of 2011-2012 laid up with injuries. When he did play, he didn’t look to be the same player that he was as a sophomore. And as a sophomore, he was criticized for being a relatively unathletic, 6-foot-7 small forward that could do nothing more than shoot the ball in the mid-range. As a junior, he shot 26.1% from three. I guess he didn’t like playing for Billy Kennedy.
Hollis Thompson, Georgetown: I like Thompson as a player. He’s a lights-out three-point shooter that stands 6-foot-7. Those don’t come around all that often. The problem is that for him to be able to succeed at the next level, he needs to be James Posey. Or Bruce Bowen. In other words, he needs to be a terror defensively that spreads the floor offensively. At this point in his career, he’s not that kind of defender. Another year’s worth of work on the defensive end of the floor could have changed that.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.