Oregon picked up two significant commitments on Sunday, as twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson (both 6-4, with Tyree being a 2-guard and Tyrell a small forward) verbally committed to the Pac-12 school (subscription required) on Sunday afternoon.
But this isn’t simply a one-sport deal either, as the two stellar athletes from San Diego will play both football and basketball for the Ducks.
The twins took their official visit to Oregon this weekend, and that was all they needed to seal the deal.
The twins helped lead Lincoln High School to the finals of the CIF San Diego Division II tournament, where they fell to La Costa Canyon 58-54 in overtime.
Both were also members of the Oakland Soldiers AAU program, which won the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam in July.
Tyrell played in the event, averaging 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in eight contests, while Tyree sat out due to an injury.
Tyree played in 14 of the Soldiers’ 20 games leading up to the Peach Jam, averaging 10.7 points per contest and shooting 48% from beyond the arc.
Tyrell didn’t shoot as well from the perimeter as his brother, but both are excellent athletes that will add a dimension to Dana Altman’s program on the perimeter (and it isn’t as if they lack for bodies on the outside either).
Oregon has four seniors on this season’s roster if you count Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi, with wings Carlos Emory and E.J. Singler and center Tony Woods (that number drops to three if Kazemi has to sit out this season).
With freshman forward Arik Armstead also playing both sports, Oregon will have three two-sport athletes on their 2013-14 roster.
Not only is the Tennessee native talented, rated by most services as a four-star recruit, he suddenly became available when players of his caliber are in short supply, having decommitted from UNLV last spring.
The likes of Baylor, Ohio State, Florida and UConn were all interested. So, too, was TCU.
While rarely a player for prospects of Fisher’s pedigree, the Horned Frogs had a strong recruiting pitch, starting with a new coach, Jamie Dixon, taking over for his alma mater after 11 NCAA tournaments in 13 years at Pitt, plus the assistant who got him to commit to UNLV, Ryan Miller, joining the staff.
TCU, though, had a perception problem.
“Last year they didn’t charter (to away games),” Dixon told NBCSports.com in October, “and everybody else chartered.
“Everybody was using it against us in the conference, saying TCU doesn’t charter to games. I didn’t know that because they had told me we were going to charter to every game. So we had to address that and get that out there.”
Such is life at a place that has long prioritized football and baseball, with winter being the time before spring football, not basketball season.
That, though, may be changing.
TCU is investing in basketball, from chartered flights, to a new arena to Dixon himself. The race is on to climb out of the Big 12 cellar, get to the program’s first NCAA tournament in nearly two decades and then win its first game there in three.
“We’re trying,” senior Karviar Shepherd said, “to make basketball a big thing.”
Since bolting the Mountain West for Big 12 to pursue football glory, basketball has been a disaster for TCU.
The Frogs have won eight conference games in four years, going 0-for-2014 with 18 league losses that season. The highwater mark came in 2015, when they went 4-14 and finished a game ahead of last. They’ve finished last in attendance every year, averaging fewer than 5,000 fans per game.
“I came in knowing that it was going to be that way, kind of,” Shepherd, a four-star recruit in 2013, said. “I didn’t know it was going to be that intense, but it happened.”
Losses were only part of the ignominy for the Horned Frogs.
The school’s largest public pronouncement of caring about basketball also caused the program to appear its most unimportant.
They spent 2014-15 playing in a high school gym.
Certainly, it was an ends justify the means situation as TCU was displaced by a $72 million renovation to the outdated Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (now Schollmaier Arena).
But a season’s worth of games at the Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center, home of the Fort Worth Independent School District, was no picnic.
“Playing at the high school was more like an away game,” Shepherd said. “We didn’t have that much of a crowd come in.
“It was kind of compact, orange all over. We had to get through it.”
The Horned Frogs now hope the growing pains have been worth it.
They spent last year in the Schollmaier Arena, a modern facility that helps keep pace with the rest of the league. The losses eventually proved too much for the school to stay with Trent Johnson, but their decision to act aggressively with his dismissal allowed them to pursue Dixon, who not only won at the highest levels at Pitt but graduated from TCU in 1987 after winning back-to-back Southwest Conference titles.
“Losing a coach that’s been with you for three years, any coach, that’s hard to do,” Shepherd said. “(Dixon) came in with a positive attitude, which helped us and guided us in to what he wanted to do.”
Dixon status as not only an alum, but one with connections to one of the few successful eras of TCU basketball is something that makes him uniquely qualified to turn the Frogs from cellar-dwellers to contenders.
“I think it gives more passion,” Shepherd said. “It’s TCU for TCU. He has that type of thing going on. He wants to do the best for his community, which is TCU.”
Dixon’s degree makes for a nice recruiting pitch, too.
“I think it brings something different,” he said. “Not many coaches out there are coaching at the place they went to school. I made the choice to come there. I had choices to be at other great places, other great programs, move to other great places and I think I‘m recognizing it more.
“I don’t think I saw it initially but now that I’ve been at it and I’ve seen and I’ve looked around, you can sell, you can talk about a different experience than the other coaches can. We talk about once you go to TCU, it’s not a four-year decision, it’s a decision for life.
“There’s no better example than myself.”
TCU’s investment in basketball appears to be initially paying off. The Frogs are 8-0 heading into tonight’s matchup with their crosstown counterpart, SMU, tonight. The schedule they’ve conquered to remain unbeaten is no Goliath, but when you’ve spent as much time as TCU has with that zero on the front end of your record, strength of schedule is of little consequence, at least at this point.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Dixon said at Big 12 media day before the season. “The administration is expressing that and there’s some things that I have to bring to their attention, too as well.
“And then there’s things that are happening over time. Next year there’s going to be something that’s hot that everybody’s going to do and you’ve got to stay up with that. That’s what I learned at Pitt. You’ve got to stay up with the times and advantages because it’s a war out there.”
The real war is always on the recruiting trail, where it looks as though TCU is making up ground in the talent-rich Lone Star State. Kevin Samuel, a four-star center from Houston, and R.J. Nembhard, a four-star guard from right outside Dallas, are both signed for the 2017 class.
The Horned Frogs may be seeing early returns, but their true return on investment won’t be known for some time. TCU, even with a fast start, wouldn’t appear to be on an NCAA tournament track this season. Building a program, especially one with little previous historical tradition and playing in one of the country’s toughest league, takes time.
“You don’t want to say, that’s how we did it at Pitt. You don’t want to say that every sentence,” Dixon said, “but we’ve had experience building something from nothing. That’s the reality of it at Pitt. We need to do that.”
Part of that begins with changing perception. An 8-0 start – and potentially a win against SMU – would helps in that department. Dixon, though, has already begun to change the way TCU is thought of.
Before they got Samuel and Nembhard, the Horned Frogs got Fisher, getting out in front of any aircraft-related negative recruiting.
“When you’re picked 10th and you finish at the bottom,” Dixon said, “we’re easier to take shots at. They can find them and people are more apt to believe it too.”
So are the darkest days now behind TCU?
“The losses that we had,” Shepherd said, “it built character within each player, just knowing where we came from, where we want to be and where we’re going.
“It builds character.”
With the character secure, it’s now on Dixon and TCU to build a program.
Washington’s one season with Markelle Fultz looks destined to end in obscurity
The hardest thing to do at a Power 5 school is to lose consistently, to put together an extended run of underwhelming, disappointing seasons without having to find new employment.
Only three of the 65 head coaches employed at Power 5 schools have missed five straight NCAA tournaments at their current job. Two of those three are basketball coaches at football schools, Penn State’s Pat Chambers and Clemson’s Brad Brownell. Chambers has built enough recruiting momentum in Philly that the argument can be made that his program is trending up; at least that’s the pitch that earned him a sixth-year. Brownell made the tournament his first season with the Tigers, and with Jaron Blossomgame back this season and Elijah Thomas coming eligible in December, this group will be the best team he’s had since then.
The third member of that ignominious group isn’t like the others.
Both Chambers and Brownell have coached a single NBA player at their current gig – Tim Frazier and K.J. McDaniels, respectively – and neither of them were first round picks.
Washington’s Lorenzo Romar has had five first round picks in the last five years.
None of them have played in the NCAA tournament, and without a win over No. 8 Gonzaga on Wednesday night, there’s a very real chance that Markelle Fultz, the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, will find himself watching the NCAA tournament on television as well.
As of today, Washington is 4-3 this season. They lost to Yale at home in their season-opener. They lost a pair of games to TCU – one on a neutral court, one on the road – and while the Horned Frogs are currently undefeated this season, they haven’t really landed a win that would let us know just how good they actually are.
After Wednesday, the Huskies won’t get another chance against a real team until Pac-12 play, and that could end up being a real problem.
A loss tonight puts them at 4-4 on the season and ensures that they will not have a quality non-conference win on their résumé, which wouldn’t be a huge issue if we could ensure that neither Yale nor TCU would eventually show up as a bad loss. But the other side of it is that the Pac-12 isn’t quite as loaded as we expected it to be. Oregon has fizzled out of the gate, failing to impress during non-conference play, while Arizona’s one relevant win – Michigan State – looks like it is anything but a marquee victory. UCLA is carrying the torch for the league.
Put another way, we’re looking at a situation where, for the second straight season, the best NBA prospect in college basketball will end up missing the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Ben Simmons-to-LSU experiment started slowly and ended as a train wreck, with the team opting not to accept a bid to the NIT.
1. Washington just does not have the talent around Markelle Fultz that Romar needed, and it’s not entirely his fault. Marquese Chriss and DeJounte Murray, who both ended up being first round picks in the 2016 NBA Draft, were one-and-done players that no one expected to head to the NBA when they did. Chriss was a borderline top 50 recruit coming out of high school. Murray was closer to the top 30, but you’d be lying if you said you thought he was going to be able to leave school after one season with a guaranteed contract.
What’s left is a crop of players that are just OK. David Crisp is a fine player but isn’t necessarily a guy you want as your second option at the Pac-12 level. Malik Dime and Noah Dickerson are, at worst, serviceable high-major bigs. Matisse Thybulle hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that he had entering the season. Part of the reason that Romar is left with a roster bereft of high-level talent is a result of the way that he coaches.
Romar is going to play his most talented guys right away, said a person with knowledge of the way that Washington’s staff operates. It doesn’t matter if they are freshmen or seniors, he’s going to let his best players do what they can do. If that comes with a learning curve – Fultz isn’t going to get pulled for turnovers the same way that Chriss and Murray were allowed to play through their freshmen mistakes – then so be it. Compare that with a program like Wisconsin, where guys like Devin Harris and Frank Kaminsky, eventual top ten picks, were buried on the bench until they learned the system and earned the playing time. Even Bill Self has struggled with when to let his one-and-done stars play through their issues and when to hold them accountable.
Romar gives his talent a chance to showcase what they’re capable of, for better or worse. And, of late, it’s been the latter.
2. His teams don’t defend. “They were so ******* bad on defense. It was like they had never been coached,” a coach who has played the Huskies this season told NBCSports.com. “They had no plan.” The Huskies are entertaining to watch offensively because of how fast they play – they’re currently sixth in KenPom in tempo – but there isn’t much structure on that end and it comes at the expense of any kind of discipline on the defensive end.
That’s a by-product of giving his young guys freedom that they wouldn’t necessarily experience at other programs. It’s also a result of how he wants to play defensively. His best teams would get out and play a pressuring, half-court man-to-man defense, and with the new freedom of movement rules, that just doesn’t work. All Washington does is foul. They’ve been in the bottom 25% nationally in free throw rate the last two seasons. Chriss fouled out of 15 of the 34 games he played in college.
3. That environment isn’t necessarily the best for getting the most out of a guy like Fultz. For as talented as he is, Fultz still has some warts. He’s a slow-starter, a guy with a sleepy demeanor that has a habit of slowly growing into games. He’s a talented defender that doesn’t always play with the kind of effort on that end of the floor that he needs to. If he was from the west coast, he’d get criticized for having the same kind of “Cali-cool” that Lonzo Ball gets knocked for.
And it’s a shame, because Fultz really is an unbelievable talent.
But, at this point, it looks like he’ll be the unknown in this NBA Draft.
With the exception of Washington’s only game against Oregon and their second matchup with Arizona, every quality opponent that Washington plays will tip after 10:30 p.m. ET.
How many people are going to stay up that late to watch what could very well end up being a series of blowouts?
Lorenzo Romar is in a decidedly unique situation at Washington.
On the one hand, in the last five years, his teams have underperformed given the amount of talent that has come through Seattle. In 2011-2012, Washington won the Pac-12 regular season title but failed to get an at-large bid to the Big Dance with Terrence Ross, the No. 8 pick, and Tony Wroten, the No. 25 pick, on the roster. C.J. Wilcox, the No. 28 pick in the 2014 Draft, couldn’t get Washington into the dance either of the next two seasons, and this past year, Romar was NIT-bound despite having Marquese Chriss, the No. 8 pick, and DeJounte Murray, the No. 29 pick, on his roster. The only time in his Washington coaching tenure that he didn’t have a future first round pick on the roster was the 2014-15 season, and, in theory, that fact could change if current Gonzaga point guard and Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss gets drafted.
In 15 years with the Huskies, Romar has reached the tournament just six times, the Sweet 16 just three times and finished with fewer than 10 losses just three times despite a nine-year run where U-Dub finished top three in the Pac-12 seven times and won two regular season titles.
But he’s also been by far the best coach in the history of the program. The Huskies reached the Final Four in 1953, and in the nearly 50 years between that day and the day that Romar was hired, Washington reached just six NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s.
Washington fans have a right to be frustrated with the way his tenure has gone, but that frustration stems from the fact that Romar carried Washington to an unprecedented level of success.
But that’s in the past. Brandon Roy’s college career ended a decade ago. Isaiah Thomas was drafted in 2011.
So while there’s an outside chance that both Fultz and Michael Porter Jr., the star that Romar has committed in the Class of 2017, could end up being the No. 1 pick in their respective NBA Drafts, it may be more likely that, without a win on Wednesday night, Romar may never end up coaching the latter.
Coach K hopes to have Harry Giles back ‘before Christmas’
Duke’s freshman center Harry Giles II is close to returning to the game action, according to head coach Mike Krzyzewski, potentially as soon as Christmas.
“Harry’s participating,” Krzyzewski said, “he hasn’t had as much contact yet. We’re hoping before Christmas, those two games.”
Duke is playing UNLV in Vegas on Saturday, then after a nine-day break for finals, the Blue Devils get Tennessee State and Elon at home on the 19th and the 21st.
Giles warmed up with the Blue Devils on Tuesday night. Giles, who was long considered the top prospect in his class, has torn ACLs in both knees. He had a knee scope in October that has kept him out of action since.
“I don’t want to put a gun to his head, like, ‘You have to do it,'” Coach K said. “I want to see how he does during the exam period with a little more contact, before we go forward.”
History repeating itself led to another heartbreak for Lipscomb.
For the second time in a week, the Bisons fell to Belmont in the final seconds in their Battle of the Boulevard matchups. This time it was a Taylor Barnette 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining in overtime that gave the Bruins the win over Lipscomb, their 11th-straight over their intra-Nashville rivals, by the score of 78-76.
Last week at home, the Bruins erased an 18-point second-half deficit on Dylan Windler’s layup with under a second remaining to best Lipscomb.
In between to those two bad beats to Belmont, Lipscomb also managed to fit in a 72-71 loss to Tennessee State that came courtesy of a Tigers jumper with nine seconds left. Here’s guessing the 104-85 win over Tennessee Tech the Bisons also snuck in that week isn’t enough salve for those wounds.
No. 5 Duke knocks off No. 21 Florida in the Jimmy V Classic
He was a McDonald’s All-American. He’s the second all-time leading high school scorer in the state of Ohio, finishing his career with more points than LeBron James, and had his pick of just about any school in the country when he decided that he would play his college basketball at Duke.
And he knew that, at Duke, at a program that has spent recent history building around the likes of Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Brandon Ingram, he was destined to be the unheralded prospect. He knew that when Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Grayson Allen all committed to being his teammates during his sophomore season, that he would be relegated to a role.
Here we are a month into the season, Duke is through every test they’re going to get in non-conference play, and not only is Kennard Duke’s leading scorer, if the season ended today, he’d be a first-team All-American with a very legitimate case to be the National Player of the Year. Per Draft Express, he’s the only player in college basketball averaging more than 20 points and 3.5 assists per 40 minutes and less than 2.0 turnovers per 40 minutes while shooting better than 60 percent on twos and 35 percent from three.
If I had told you that in October, you would have called me an idiot.
And you wouldn’t be the only one that was skeptical.
“I probably wouldn’t believe you,” Kennard said after putting up 29 points on 16 shots as the No. 5 Blue Devils handled No. 21 Florida in the Jimmy V Classic, 84-74. It was Kennard’s second-highest scoring output of the season and, arguably, his second-best performance in Madison Square Garden this year.
“He’s come through for us,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Beautifully.”
It’s good to be Coach K these days.
We’re a month into the season and Duke has yet to play a game where half of the four potential lottery picks on the roster have been healthy enough to look like, you know, potential lottery picks. Harry Giles is still more than a week away from actually playing in a game for the Blue Devils; Coach K said that he hopes to have him back for Duke’s two games in the week before Christmas. Marques Bolden has played just 14 minutes in two games since returning from a lower leg injury. Jayson Tatum played his second game with the Blue Devils on Tuesday night, and it wasn’t until the second half against Florida, when Tatum scored 14 of his 22 points, that he got into enough of a rhythm to take over a game the way we know he can.
And Allen, the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year? He’d played in seven of Duke’s eight games, but a toe injury has sapped him of the burst that makes him such a difficult matchup.
But that hasn’t slowed the Blue Devils down. They’re 9-1 on the season, ranked in the top five of every poll and a Frank Mason III buzzer-beater away from surviving an injury-laden first month without a blemish.
It’s a credit to the amount of talent that Duke has stockpiled on their roster.
Because Kennard isn’t the only unheralded star on this Duke team. Amile Jefferson, a fifth-year senior that is only on the roster this season because Duke opted not to bring him back late last year after he suffered a broken foot, has picked up where he left off. Entering Tuesday night, Jefferson was averaging 14.7 points, 9.8 boards and 2.0 blocks. On Tuesday night, he played arguably his most impressive game as a Blue Devil, finishing with 24 points, 15 boards and four blocks.
He, too, is playing at an all-american level this season, and man, what a luxury that is to have. There isn’t another team in the country that could handle that kind of devastating injury luck without missing a beat.
“We have so many weapons in offense,” Tatum said after his breakout performance, which couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only was this Tatum’s first nationally-televised came with the Blue Devils, but he put on a show in Madison Square Garden with what seemed like half of the NBA in attendance. “On any given night two or three guys can go off. Other guys that can score might have more rebounds or assists. [Grayson’s] shots weren’t falling but he had eight assists.”
“There is absolutely no jealousy on the team with who is scoring,” Kennard said. “We have a lot of guys willing to share the ball and it’s fun to play with.”
And that may be the best news for Duke for two reasons.
On the one hand, roles are going to change now that the Blue Devils are getting healthy. The minutes-crunch will likely be felt more in the front court, where Giles and Bolden are going to have to force Coach K to take Jefferson off of the floor. Minutes and touches will be at even more of a premium if Duke continues to roll out small-ball lineups that feature Tatum at the four. Chase Jeter, who only got on the floor for one minute on Tuesday, is going to get buried on the bench again, and it wasn’t exactly promising that, in a game where Giles only participated in warm-ups, Bolden got off the pine for just two minutes.
The back court rotation will take a hit as well. Duke’s best lineup come ACC play could very well end up featuring Allen, Kennard and Tatum on the perimeter with Jefferson and Giles up front, meaning that Frank Jackson – who only played 20 minutes against Florida – and Matt Jones will likely end up seeing much less of the floor than they are right now.
But it’s also a sign that the concerns over Duke’s point guard play may have been overblown.
Entering the season, that was the biggest concern with this group. Jackson is the only point guard on the roster, but even he’s more of a scorer than he is a facilitator. That lack of a point guard hasn’t hurt Duke yet, however, and the reason for it is, as Kennard said, “There is absolutely no jealousy on the team.”
That lack of jealousy comes through in the way that Duke plays. Not only do they whip the ball around the perimeter, the Blue Devils are always going to have four-if-not-five players on the floor that can handle the ball in transition or against a press. Their best guards may not be Tyus Jones or Lonzo Ball, but they are kids that are willing and able to create off the bounce and understand how to operate in ball-screen actions. Beyond that, Duke runs crisp offense, which is as essential to efficient offenses as anything, and will always have three guys on the court that can create offense for themselves in a 1-on-1 situation.
That’s even more relevant to point out after playing Florida, who, on paper, is precisely the kind of team that should give the point guard-less Blue Devils trouble. Florida presses, entering Tuesday night 12th in defensive turnover percentage, and yet the Blue Devils committed just 13 turnovers in 71 possessions, a really good number considering the opponent and the matchup.
“Whoever gets the rebound, perimeter guys and Amile, they told us we can bring it up,” Kennard said. “We have a lot of playmakers, guys that can handle the ball coach wants us to push it. We’re a really good transition team if we get stops on defense.”
“Not having a true PG benefits us in a way.”
That’s not too bad for a team that’s still trying to work out their early-season kinks.
“It’s almost like we’re in October mode now when everyone else is in December mode,” Coach K said.