Jay Wright

Yet another AAU coach gets a high-major assistant position

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Villanova’s basketball staff has undergone a restructuring.

Doug West is leaving, according to a tweet from Jeff Goodman, and will be replaced by Doug Martin.

Normally, coaching staff changes don’t require a post of more than a couple words, saying where the new assistant coach came from while stuffing in some quote from a press release by the head coach on why this new hire will lead them directly to a national title.

But Jay Wright’s decision to hire Martin is quite interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Martin coaches for DC’s Team Takeover, one of two powerhouse AAU programs in one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. And I’m sure the fact that Villanova is currently pursuing Josh Hart, a DC native and a kid that plays for Team Takeover, had nothing what-so-ever to do with Wright’s decision to bring Martin aboard.

“I like Villanova’s coaching staff,” 2013 Sidwell Friends guard Josh Hart told SNY.tv at the recent “Live in AC” event. “They seem kind of genuine and that kind of thing. And also my 16s coach I think is going to be at Villanova so that’s never a bad thing.

“I know I will be taken care of with him there.”

It’s become a bit of a hot topic in recent years. According to a story from Mark Gianotto of the Washington Post, 13 coaches from the DC Assault program have become assistant coaches. One of those coaches is Dalonte Hill, who was hired at Kansas State because Bob Huggins knew Michael Beasley would come along with him and is now an assistant at Maryland. David Cox is responsible for three starters at Rutgers. Martin is the fourth Takeover guy to get a Division I coaching job. Kenny Johnson’s hiring at Indiana helped Tom Crean land a commitment from Stanford Robinson.

And it’s not just the DC area, either. Ben Howland hired Korey McCray of the Atlanta Celtics last June and has two Atlanta natives in this year’s recruiting class, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams.

This trend has, obviously, rubbed some people the wrong way. There is a stigma involved with being an AAU coach, three scarlet letters that mark you unscrupulous, money-hungry and incapable of coaching basketball. There are plenty of cases where that stereotype is true, but there are also good coaches on the AAU circuit. Don’t believe me? The DC Assault had former NBA head coach Eddie Jordan working for them in April. Former No. 1 pick Pervis Ellison has coached Philly’s Team Final in recent years.

The bigger problem, however, is the assumption that hiring an AAU coach as an assistant implies that there is something else — something straight out of the movie ‘Blue Chips’ — going on. While there are unquestionably situations where that is the case, the bottom line is that these AAU coaches are getting these jobs because of who they know, not what they know. Recruiting is all about connections, and, frankly, it’s much easier to hire a guy that already has connections with a group of talented recruits than to hope that the coach that is hired is able to build those friendships over time.*

(*For those that don’t remember, in 2010, the NCAA passed a rule that curbed some of these package deals. They implemented a rule that said a school couldn’t recruit a player that was associated with anyone hired to a non-coaching position. No more putting a player’s father on staff as a strength and conditioning coach, in other words. If you’re going to hire a coach for his connections, you have to hire him as one of your three assistants.)

By hiring a guy like Martin or Johnson or Hill, you get immediate results and, hopefully, an immediate infusion of talent.

It is a bit discomforting — when you step back and look at it, grown men are relying on their relationship with 16 year old kids to get them six-figure paydays — and, like I said, it’s unlikely that all of these deals are acceptable in the eyes on the NCAA.

But I, personally, have no issue with it. Recruiting is all about connections, and if you can’t recruit talent into your program — if your staff doesn’t have those connections — you won’t be winning many games or coaching for very long at that institution.

And you better get used to it. As this method of recruiting continues to prove successful, it will only become more common-place.

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

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.

Xavier lands second top 100 commitment in 2017

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Xavier landed a key commitment on Friday morning in Naji Marshall, one of the Musketeers’ top targets in the Class of 2017.

Marshall is a la 6-foot-5 wing from Washington D.C. that is currently ranked 62nd in the 2017 class by Rivals. He’s a scorer that has shown off a versatile offensive game, averaging better than three assists on the Under Armour Association circuit.

This is the third commitment from head coach Chris Mack in the class and the second top 100 player to pledge to the Musketeers. Marshall picked Xavier over Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia Tech, among other.

Four-star 2018 guard Coby White commits to North Carolina

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, center, reacts with his team behind him after a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. North Carolina won 88-71. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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With guards Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek having committed in their 2017 recruiting class, North Carolina received a commitment from one of the better guards in the Class of 2018 Thursday night. Four-star guard Coby White, who’s ranked 61st in his class by Rivals.com, made his pledge to Roy Williams’ program. News of White’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com.

The 6-foot-4 White is a native of Wilson, North Carolina, where he attends Greenfield HS, and he played his grassroots basketball for the CP3 16U basketball program this summer. His commitment to UNC comes just a couple days after the ACC school offered him a scholarship.

White took an unofficial visit to UNC in June, and his play in July ultimately led to the program making the aforementioned scholarship offer. By the time White enrolls in Chapel Hill, current veterans such as Joel Berry II and Nate Britt will be out of eligibility. Among the perimeter would could potentially be on campus in 2018 are freshmen Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson, and sophomore Kenny Williams.

White is the second commit in the 2018 class for the Tar Heels, with 6-foot-7 guard Rechon Black being the first.

Point guard Small to transfer from Oregon

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18:  Kendall Small #21 of the Oregon Ducks shoots over Derek Mountain #40 of the Holy Cross Crusaders in the second half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After navigating a lack of depth at the point to win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and earn the program’s first-ever one seed in the NCAA tournament, Oregon will have no such issues in 2016-17. Dylan Ennis, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is back for another season as is returning starter Casey Benson. Add in freshman Payton Pritchard, whose shooting ability can help a team that struggled from three a season ago, and Dana Altman has multiple players to call upon at that spot.

That left Kendall Small, who played just under eight minutes per game as a freshman, in a spot where it would have been tough to earn more playing time as a sophomore. As a result he’s decided to transfer, with the news first being reported by Scout.com.

In addition to the three guards mentioned above, sophomore Tyler Dorsey also has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Small will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at whichever school he chooses to transfer to, and he’ll have to sit out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules.

A 6-foot guard from Anaheim, Small’s best outing came in Oregon’s 77-59 win over Savannah State on November 23. In that game Small accounted for nine points, four assists and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. But he played double-digit minutes in just four games after the Ducks began Pac-12 play in early January, the last of which being Oregon’s win over Holy Cross in the first round of the NCAA tournament.