Big 12 Media Day Basketball

KU’s Self: Athletes should be paid

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Payment for student-athletes is one of those nuanced topics people seem to be unnervingly certain about. Many hew to the principle of amateurism espoused by the NCAA charter, and declare that a free education is all any player can ask for. Others point out that the NCAA and its member institutions are undeniably profiting from the free labor of student-athletes, to the tune of millions of dollars, and note that any other student on campus is free to get a job at any time to help pay the bills.

While we await the results of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, it behooves us to listen to all sides of the issue, and to keep an open mind. If one of the nation’s top college basketball coaches can change his mind based on new evidence, it’s safe to say there really is no easy way to think about the problem.

The coach in question is Bill Self, architect of the Kansas Jayhawks’ 2008 national title run, and current caretaker of one of the sports blue-blood programs. The Lawrence Journal-World recently learned that Self has altered his  opinion on the matter of pay-for-play, as realignment wreaks havoc on the geographic footprint of each major conference.

“I used to be totally against paying players, paying athletes. I’ve changed,” Self said Friday in a phone conversation with the Journal-World to discuss particulars of his upcoming “Courtside View” panel discussion set for 7-8:30 p.m., Nov. 1 at Lawrence’s Crown Toyota Pavilion.

“I think if presidents are willing to take these athletes and send them across America, miss more school because they have conference realignment, and with the big business of the BCS Championship playoff in football plus the amount of money we generate through television in basketball, I can’t imagine why there aren’t different angles and avenues in which we could compensate the people that are exactly the ones bringing the money to the schools — the student-athletes,” Self said, taking one long breath.

Self’s panel discussion will include Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, Fran Fraschilla and Jay Bilas of ESPN and Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. Plenty of heavy topics will be under discussion, in addition to the hot-button topic of pay-for-play.

My own stance on the topic? I feel student-athletes should share in the revenues generated by their efforts. If the proposed compromise of post-graduation trust funds is adopted, I’ll consider it fair. In the meantime, as long as everyone’s nominally bound by the current NCAA charter, any attempt to get around said rules by under-the-table payments is clearly legally wrong, even if it’s morally defensible.

I know I sound like I’m waffling — none other than the estimable Mr. DeCourcy tried to nail my opinion down on Twitter one afternoon. Suffice to say that I hope a day is coming soon in which student-athletes have access to a fair percentage of the money they earn for their “employers”, because as long as it’s a grey area, the shady stuff will continue to go down, and that hurts the sport and the young adults who play it.

Bill Self called it: realignment is about money, not even remotely about what’s best for student-athletes. That fact bears examination.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.