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How much pressure can one player feel at Arizona State?

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Arizona State’s basketball program is not exactly thriving under Herb Sendek.

The Sun Devils are coming off of a 10-21 season in which they went 6-12 in a watered down Pac-12. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Sendek lost three of his most important players to transfers. Keala King, a former top 25 recruit, was kicked out of the program in February. Kyle Cain, along with Chance Creekmur, decided in March to transfer out of the program. Trent Lockett made the decision earlier this month to transfer closer to his ailing mother.

In other words, 2012-2013 doesn’t exactly look promising. Enter Jahii Carson. Carson was a top ten recruit back in the Class of 2011, but he was never cleared academically to play last season. Not only will next season be his first as a collegian, but he will be playing with the weight of the program on his shoulders. Making matters worse, Carson is a hometown kid, a native of Phoenix.

Being anointed the savior of a program as a freshman is tough enough. Doing it in such close proximity to your hometown — your friends and your family and everyone person that’s ever been in your ear about hoops — is even tougher. In an interview with Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, talks about this and about the advice he got from Memphis native and Memphis Tiger Joe Jackson:

“When I played with USA Basketball (last summer) I was roommates with Joe Jackson. And he played at Memphis and he’s from Memphis. And he was saying that when he had down games and he wasn’t at his best, the city kind of turned on him. Like, ‘It’s Joe’s fault. He should know what to do.’ If Will Barton didn’t hit the jump shot, it was Joe Jackson’s fault. That’s kind of what I’m afraid of. People just putting everything on my back. Putting everything on me. Expecting me to be prepared for every moment next year. Losing games. Winning games. Having off nights. Not seeing a teammate if he’s open. … Joe and I talked about that because he knew I was going to my home-town school. He said he had talked with Coach (Josh) Pastner beforehand about what he was going to have to deal with, but he said it was still hard.”

The difference?

Arizona State doesn’t have the same kind of expectation as a basketball program as Memphis does. Memphis fills the FedEx Forum with 18,000 fans every night. It’s a basketball town, and they love their Tigers. When Jackson had a bad game, the city talked about how he was overrated or about how he wasn’t the savior.

Tempe? Phoenix? Arizona State?

At this point, they expect to lose. Every win that Carson creates and every good game he has will be celebrated. A loss won’t be a big deal. Plenty of them are expected this year as it is.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen Carson play, well, there’s a reason folks are excited:

Image via here.

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

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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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

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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)
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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.