Rodney McGruder, BaeBae Daniels

Kansas State’s offense needs to work out their kinks

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NEW YORK, N.Y. – Bruce Weber is in a unique position as Kansas State coach. He’s got a team at his disposal that certainly doesn’t lack depth — entering the game, 11 different players averaged at least 14 minutes per game — or experience.

But the difference between Weber’s more lax, free-flowing coaching style and that of the uber-intense Frank Martin creates an awkward partnership. These guys have spent as many as three years having one system, one style, one set of rules ingrained into every fiber of their being, and now everything that they’ve been taught about college basketball is changing.

It’s something that every coach has to deal with when he takes over a new job, but not every coach is inheriting a roster of players that actively decided to play basketball for Frank Martin. It’s something that will take time to develop.

Take a look at a guy like Rodney McGruder. He came into Wednesday’s Preseason NIT semifinal game with Delaware averaging 10.5 points and shooting 14.3% from three. The Wildcats won 66-63, but McGruder finished with just eight points on 4-14 shooting from the field. He’s not exactly in a rhythm.

“Rod wants to do so well, he almost thinks to much and worries to much,” Weber said  “Relax, come off the screen, hit the shot. Let the game come to you.”

“I asked him today, are you a good player? Than be a good player.”

The biggest issue Kansas State has had is on the offensive end of the floor. We touched on the struggles McGruder, a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate coming into the season, has had early on this year, but he’s not alone. The Wildcats had some ugly offensive sets against the Blue Hens, shooting 30.3% from the floor in the first half and 38.5% for the game, which was inflated when Jamelle Hagins, UD’s shot-blocking presence in the paint, went down with cramps with 15 minutes left in the game.

But that’s by design.

“We told our guys, we can win early if we defend, play hard and rebound,” Weber said. “Offensively, [we’re] trying to figure it out. I think if we get through Friday night, we only have two games in a three-week period. Now we’ll get back to practice and hopefullyget a little more fluid offensively.”

That makes sense. The foundation of any team is on the defensive end of the floor. You start by figuring out how to keep people from scoring and survive on the basics and raw talent of the players on your roster before implementing a more complicated offensive system.

What’s concerning, however, is that Kansas State has had time to practice. They took a trip to Brazil in August and had ten practices preparing for that trip in addition to the preseason workouts coaches were allowed during the summer.

Weber’s reworking the wiring of his team, and while this game against Delaware was, in actuality, just a single game, it’s still concerning that the Wildcats aren’t further along offensively.

The talent and the defensive ability is there for this team to make some noise in the Big 12 and a run in the NCAA tournament. The question is whether it will all come together.

I guess we’ll find out in the next three weeks.

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

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.