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College Hoops Player of the Week: Erick Green, Virginia Tech

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Player of the Week: Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech wasn’t supposed to have a chance this season. Not only was head coach Seth Greenberg fired at the end of April after his entire coaching staff had left during the offseason, but without Greenberg at the helm, both Dorian Finney-Smith, a rising sophomore, and Montrezl Harrell, Greenberg’s star recruit in the Class of 2012, decided to continue their careers elsewhere. When former assistant James Johnson was hired, most believed that it was an empty cupboard he was inheriting; a rebuilding job that would take a couple of seasons to make relevant.

Enter Erick Green. The star point guard for the Hokies has gone from one of the ACC’s best-kept secrets the past two years to a guy that is legitimately deserving of all-america consideration. After going for 24 points, five boards and five assists in a win over Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and following that up with a 28 point performance in a win over a ranked Oklahoma State team last week, Green is averaging 24.9 points, 4.4 assists and 40 boards. He’s also shooting at ridiculous rates (51.6/37.5/87.7 are his splits) while posting a 2.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For those that are into the stats, he’s currently the most efficient player in the country that uses more than 28% of his team’s possessions.

Making those numbers all the more important is that Green is spearheading a new style of attack. He told CBSSports.com that the team’s motto is “bring your track shoes“, which makes it all the more important for Johnson to have an efficient, talented ball-handler. Undefeated Virginia Tech is one of the nation’s most surprising teams, and Green is the biggest reason for that. This week proved it.

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

  • G: Dez Wells, Maryland: Dez Wells set career-highs in back-to-back games this week, going for 23 points on 9-11 shooting in a 20 point win at Northwestern and following that up with 25 points in a win over George Mason on Sunday. When it was announced that Wells would be eligible for the Terps this season, the general consensus was that it would make Maryland a competitor in the ACC. That was before we knew that he was capable of putting up scoring numbers like this. With NC State, North Carolina and Florida State faltering, could it be that Wells makes Maryland the second best team in the league?
  • G: TJ Price, Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers started off league play in the Sun Belt with two roads wins thanks in large part to Price. The sophomore averaged 26.5 points, 8.5 boards and 3.5 assists while shooting 54.3% from the floor and 42.1% from three.
  • F: Nik Stauskas, Michigan: Trey Burke is Michigan’s star. Tim Hardaway is their second option. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are the superstar freshmen. But fellow frosh Nik Stauskas is quietly putting together a great season. After averaging 21.0 points in wins against NC State and at Bradley, he’s averaging 14.3 points while shooting 57.7% from the floor, 62.1% from three and 97.5% from the free throw line.
  • F: James Southerland, Syracuse: Syracuse played just a single game this week, but Southerland’s performance in that one game was on a different level. He finished with 35 points on 12-17 shooting (9-13 from three) as the Orange went into Fayetteville and knocked off a good Arkansas team. He’s now averaging 19.2 points and shooting 54.5% from three for the Orange despite coming off of the bench.
  • C: Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey put together one of the most dominating performances from a post player in recent memory against San Jose State on Monday, finishing with 16 points, 12 boards and 12 blocks while notching just the second triple-double in Kansas basketball history. (That’s impressive.) he followed that up with 17 points, five boards and three blocks in a win over Oregon State. Withey’s averaging an absurd 5.7 blocks thus far.
  • Bench: Karvel Anderson (Robert Morris), Raheem Appleby (Louisiana Tech), Reggie Johnson (Miami),  Mike Muscala (Bucknell), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Nick Russell and Jalen Jones (SMU)

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)
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
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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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.