Forward Kelly Olynyk returning just in time for Gonzaga

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While No. 17 Gonzaga (3-0) hasn’t had much of an issue in any of their games to date, averaging 94.3 points per contest and winning by margins of 30+ points in each, it never hurts to add an experienced body to the rotation.

After redshirting last season and sitting out the first three games of this season due to suspension, 7-0 junior forward Kelly Olynyk is ready to see action for the first time since Gonzaga’s loss to BYU in the 2011 NCAA tournament.

And with the Bulldogs taking on a Clemson squad whose strength is up front (seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings lead the way), the Kamloops, British Columbia native will help from a depth standpoint.

“He’s going to help us a bunch,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He’s been a very good player for us in the preseason, one of our best so far in practice and all the workouts. He’s hungry to get back out there.”

Olynyk joins a rotation that already has Elias Harris, Sam Dower and freshman Przemek Karnowski, so it’s pretty clear that Mark Few isn’t lacking for answers in the paint. But if Olynyk is productive in whatever role he’s given Gonzaga becomes all the more formidable not only this weekend but for the remainder of the season as well.

Both Gonzaga and Clemson enter tonight’s game boasting offensive rebounding percentages above 40%, while the Bulldogs have been a slightly better team in regards to cleaning up their own glass (74.4% defensive rebounding percentage) and have five players averaging double figures.

Clemson plays at a slower tempo under head coach Brad Brownell, and they’ll look to combat their youth on the perimeter with the front court that also features wing K.J. McDaniels (9.9 ppg) alongside Booker and Jennings.

The Old Spice Classic tips off with West Virginia playing Marist and Vanderbilt taking on Davidson in the afternoon session, and Oklahoma plays UTEP in the first game of the evening session. The winner of the match-up between the Sooners and Miners will play the winner of Gonzaga/Clemson in one of Friday’s semifinals.

Photo credit: Gonzaga University

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how CBSSports.com summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told CBSSports.com Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Getty Images
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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.