Tony Bland, Steve Fisher

Sacramento connections pay dividends for San Diego State as D’Erryl Williams II commits

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Taking in “Madness on the Mesa” was apparently enough to convince another Sacramento native to commit to San Diego State.

2013 guard D’Erryl Williams II, who is a high school and AAU teammate of SDSU commit Dakarai Allen, made his pledge to Steve Fisher’s program (subscription required) on Saturday after his official visit to the Mountain West school.

Williams averaged 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists at Sheldon High School last season, helping lead the team to the CIF Division I state final (where they lost to Mater Dei).

Like Allen, who is seen by many as one of the best defenders in the 2013 class, Williams II can be a nuisance on that end of the floor (3.0 steals per game).

“He had a perception of how things would be here,” said D’Erryl Williams Sr., his father. “The reality was better than the perception. It doesn’t get any better than that. He said, ‘Dad, I don’t need to visit anywhere else.’”

In addition to commitments from Allen and Williams II, the Aztec program has two players from Sacramento on their current roster in senior shooting guard Chase Tapley and junior point guard Xavier Thames.

Adding Allen and now Williams II to the program are good moves for San Diego State, which is looking to make its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

But the hope of Aztec fans is that they aren’t done in the Sacramento market, as 2013 shooting guard Darin Johnson has yet to make a decision with SDSU in the running.

While some naysayers have pointed to their pending move to the Big West as the beginning of a slide for the program, San Diego State’s work on the recruiting trail and it’s run of success on the court suggest anything but.

SDSU enters the 2012-13 season having won 20 or more games in seven consecutive seasons, and with the roster assembled an eighth could be on the way.

Tapley, Thames and reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin lead the way along with senior guard James Rahon in what is a very good back court.

The question for San Diego State in regards to making national waves: how much of an impact can their newcomers in the front court have?

Freshman Winston Shepard can play any position from the point to the four and is a very good defender.

Transfers James Johnson (Virginia; eligible in December), J.J. O’Brien (Utah) and Dwayne Polee II (St. John’s) will join Shepard and senior DeShawn Stephens in the front court.

It would be unfair to rate this group alongside the 2010-11 Aztecs (34-3 and a Sweet 16 appearance) before a game has been played, but San Diego State is more than capable of winning another Mountain West title.

And with their work on the recruiting trail it wouldn’t be wise to expect them to slip off into oblivion in the future.

“This is a Top 25 program,” Williams Sr. said to Mark Zeigler of the Union-Tribune. “D’s dream is to play in a Final Four. In order to do that, you have to play with a group of players and coach who has assembled something that allows you to do that. And that’s now in play for him.”

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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)
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.

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)
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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
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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.