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.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.