Elias Harris, Milton Jenings

College Hoops Player of the Week: Elias Harris, Gonzaga

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Player of the Week: Elias Harris, Gonzaga

Harris didn’t put up eye-popping stats this week, as he averaged 18.3 points and 7.7 boards in Gonzaga’s run through the Old Spice Classic down in Orlando. He did, however, look like a first round draft pick as the Bulldog’s knocked off Davidson in the title, game, 81-67. Harris had 24 points and 10 boards on 9-11 shooting in that game, but his value extended beyond the box score. Harris is a much improved defender this season, and he’s really taken on something close to a point forward role this season. He’s not Kyle Anderson and he’s not Draymond Green, but he’s capable of pushing the ball up the floor and leading the break, which becomes especially useful when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell are in the back court.

For the first time since his freshman season, Harris looks 100% healthy. He’s explosive, making a couple of athletically-impressive plays over the weekend. Perhaps more importantly, he’s embraced his role with the Zags. There’s simply too much talent on that roster for him to be concerned about how many points or shots he gets; he’s a complimentary piece, a rebounder and a defender, that just so happens to be able to get you 24 points on a night when you need it. Fran Fraschilla had a great line about Harris in Sunday’s title game broadcast: Harris was one of the most overrated players in the country during his freshman season, but he’s one of the most underrated players in the country as a senior.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Quinn Cook, Duke: Cook was terrific for the Blue Devils this weekend, as they picked up three very impressive wins to bring home the Battle 4 Atlantis crown. Cook isn’t the star of this Duke team — that award goes to Mason Plumlee, with Seth Curry being the runner-up — but he may be the most important piece. In three games, Cook averaged 13.7 points and 6.3 assists, which included playing 73 minutes on back-to-back nights against two of the toughest full-court presses that he’ll see this season in wins over VCU and then-No. 2 Louisville. Cook’s role this season is to be the facilitator: protect the ball, get Duke into their sets, create open shots for teammates off the dribble, and knock down an open jumper when it’s given to him. After struggling with turnovers in the preseason, it’s pretty clear Cook’s embraced this role.

G: Andre Hollins, Minnesota: No one in the country woke up on Sunday morning with a bigger smile on their face that Hollins. On Friday, the Memphis native went for 41 points against his hometown Tigers, who chose Joe Jackson over him, as the Gophers beat a roster full of his former AAU and high school teammates. Then on Saturday, Hollins finished with just eight points, but hit three free throws with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to beat Stanford; he was fouled taking a three from half court.

G: Brandon Paul, Illinois: Paul was going to be the Player of the Week this week until he needed a last-second three from Tyler Griffey to help him lead the Illini past Gardner-Webb at home. Paul was terrific in three games out in Maui, however, scoring 26 points in a rout of USC in the opener and closing the event with 20 points in a win over Butler. Here’s the million dollar question, however: are the Illini truly contenders for a tournament berth, or was this simply an early-season tease?

F: Doug McDermott, Creighton: Here’s the crazy thing about how good Doug McDermott has been in his career: he averaged 29.5 points and 8.5 boards in wins over Wisconsin and a much-improved Arizona State, yet I still came away from the weekend feeling like he didn’t play all that well because he shot 47.6%. Granted, McDermott’s legendary stroke has been a bit off early in the season — he’s down to 51.9% from the floor and 30.0% from three from 60.1% and 48.6% last year — but that’s still an impressive way to have a mediocre night.

C: Colton Iverson, Colorado State: The Rams won at Denver and at Washington this week, to improve to 4-0 on the season. They look like a team that can make a serious run at the MWC title, and the addition of Iverson is one of the biggest reasons why. The Minnesota-transfer averaged 14.5 points and 12.5 boards this week, giving CSU a low-post scoring threat and a big-body on the block that they lacked last season.

Bench: Tim Hardaway Jr (Michigan), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Markel Starks (Georgetown), Jeff Withey (Kansas)

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

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

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.