Delaware embraces standing as the hunted in the CAA

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ARLINGTON, Va – Recruiting is a fickle science.

As much as any coach or recruiting pundit wants to claim that they can watch an AAU game and pick out who will be the best collegiate players, so much of a program’s recruiting success can come down to dumb luck. Were you in the gym on the right day to see the right kid, or did you give up on a player too quickly after one poor performance.

The former happened to Delaware head coach Monte’s Ross, and the latter nearly did.

Jamelle Hagins is the best big man in the CAA, and there really isn’t much of a discussion to have on the matter. The 6-foot-9 senior is coming off of a season where he averaged a double-double, 12.4 points and 11.1 rebounds, while swatting away 3.0 shots on a nightly basis. But the first time Ross saw Hagins play, he had no interest in the Roanoke, VA, native.

“I was in Vegas and my assistant sent me to see him, and he played three minutes,” Ross said at CAA media day last week. “I’m like, ‘I would like to like him, but he didn’t play, so I don’t know.'”

Luckily for Ross, he had a coaching staff that believed in Hagins, enough so that the same assistant made a trip down to Roanoke over Christmas, a trip that Ross responded to by saying “I think you’re wasting your time, but if you want to, go ahead and watch him.” Eventually, his staff convinced Ross to give Hagins another look, and they offered a scholarship. Hagins picked the Blue Hens over Radford.

“It was the best recruiting trip that he twisted my arm to go on,” Ross said. “That’s recruiting, though. It came down to us and Radford for him, and now he’ll be the best big man in the league.”

And that’s not the only stroke of luck Delaware had on the recruiting trail. At one AAU tournament, Ross and his staff, on the trail for a shooter, happened to walk by a court and see a kid hit a three. By the time they reached the other end of the court, the same kid had hit another three. They decided at that point to stop and check out the rest of the game, and the kid eventually went for 40 points. His name was Kyle Anderson, and he was a 6-foot-2 guard from Illinois. He didn’t have a profile on Rivals.com and he wasn’t graded as a recruit on ESPN.com.

Anderson started 30 games for the Blue Hens as a freshman and averaged 8.9 points.

It hasn’t all been luck for Ross, however, as the biggest reason his team was picked to finish second in the CAA are the two smallest guys on the floor, Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt.

Saddler is a proven scorer; he averaged 18.8 points as a sophomore. Where Saddler needs to improve is in the efficiency department. With the talent surrounding him on the roster, shooting 39.1% from the floor and turning the ball over 3.2 times per game (for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.55:1) is no longer acceptable.

“One of the things that we’ve really talked to him about this summer was, ‘You have to cut down on your turnovers,'” Ross said. “We consider a bad shot a turnover, so be more selective in the shots that you take.”

Ross wants to see Saddler embrace the role that Charles Jenkins played for Hofstra and Damian Lillard player for Weber State. Those guys not only put up massive numbers, but they did so while posting efficiency stats that made Kenpom salivate. “That will allow him to elevate his game,” Ross said. “Maybe he didn’t fully trust it when he was younger, but now he trusts the talent around him and I think that will lead him to making better decisions and also taking better shots.”

One of the guys that Saddler will need to learn to trust is Threatt, who capped off his freshman year in dramatic style. Over the last eight games of the season, Threatt averaged 19.6 points while getting to the line an incredible 92 times during that stretch.

It will be interesting to see how Ross will spread shots and touches throughout his lineup, as both Saddler and Threat are talents that like to have the ball in their hands. Too much talent is a good problem to have, however.

It’s why the Blue Hens find themselves in a unique position heading into the season: as “the targeted and not the targeter.”

“It’s [a different position for us], but it’s a position I like better than being at the bottom,” Ross said.

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

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.

Report: NCAA ‘anticipates’ hearing UNC case in mid-August

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Today, the AP churned out a story on Greg Sankey’s involvement with the NCAA’s investigation into the academic scandal at North Carolina, and buried within that story is this little nugget:

UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

We’ve been down this road before, as the current iteration of the Notice of Allegations is the third that the NCAA has provided the university. The first was given out back in May of 2015 for an investigation that began back in 2010.