John Calipari

Kentucky’s ‘Camp Cal’ could turn the season around

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John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats lost two straight, one at home snapping a 55-game home winning streak and marking the first time Calipari has lost inside Rupp Arena while on the UK sideline and if that wasn’t enough, Kentucky went from being No. 8 in the nation to be unranked…in a week.

Safe to say Coach Cal is not happy and so the emergence of ‘Camp Cal’ has occurred.

For the past two days, the Kentucky roster has gotten up at 7 a.m. for workouts, followed by an afternoon practice. This will continue until Calipari is satisfied with his team, that started entered the season ranked No. 3.

Camp Cal started after Calipari was unhappy with his team’s efforts in an 88-56 win over Samford, a game in which the Wildcats only outscored the Bulldogs by one in the second half. Calipari certainly wasn’t happy with Saturday’s loss to Baylor.

This lack of effort, especially in Tuesday’s second half against Samford, sparked Coach Cal to use a “forced breakfast club” to get players to begin their days together with training. Classes have already ended at UK, meaning more time has opened up for extra workouts. However this could all be over soon – or extended through Christmas break – depending on the Wildcats performance against 3-5 Portland on Saturday

“We’ve got a good group of guys, we really do,” said Calipari. “They just don’t know how hard you’ve got to work or what kind of investment you have to make in this sport. I’ve always had a couple of guys on the team that could drag others. We’re still trying to find that mix.”

One of the main issues with the team thus far is the uncertainty at the point guard position. Junior point guard Jarrod Polson was great for the season-opener against Maryland in Brooklyn. But in a John Calipari team, the point guard has always been critical, whether it be Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, or Marquise Teague. That floor general was suppose to be Ryan Harrow, who has been unable to find a role after battling illness and dealing with a family matter the first few weeks of the season.

Since then, Archie Goodwin, making the transition from the two guard has filled into that role.

“I worked out like three times on Thursday,” said Harrow. “I was just trying to get a workout in and I’ll work out tonight. … We want to be in shape. We need something.”

At 5-3, this isn’t where Kentucky was expecting to be, but Camp Cal – whether it ends on Saturday or continues through the holiday season – this could make or break the Wildcat’s season.

“It may be a month and half before you really see,” said Calipari. “It won’t change overnight.”

Kentucky has three games remaining on this current home stand – Portland, Lipscomb, and Marshall – before a Dec. 29 road game against rival, Louisville.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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)
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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)
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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)
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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.