Mike Rice

Rutgers head coach Mike Rice suspended three games, fined $50,000 for inappropriate behavior (UPDATED)

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Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti announced on Thursday afternoon that the school was suspending head coach Mike Rice three games without pay and fining him $50,000 due to a violation of athletic department policy.

Inappropriate behavior and language were the reasons cited by Rutgers, and according to Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger, the school found out that Rice threw basketballs at players’ heads during a practice in either his first or second season on the job.

“It’s a difficult situation, certainly,” Pernetti said during a conference call on Thursday according to the Star-Ledger. “I was made aware of some things in the last couple of weeks. We commenced a pretty thorough and lengthy investigation and this was the result of that investigation.

“There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated.”

Associate head coach David Cox will coach the Scarlet Knights (7-2) in games against UAB, Howard and Rider. Rice will return for the team’s Big East opener January 2 at Syracuse.

In addition to Pernetti’s statement Rice released a statement of his own:

“Since becoming a coach at the age of 21, I have taken great pride in not only helping young men learn the game of basketball but also in teaching them about character, respect and hard work,” said Rice. “To the extent that my conduct has ever been in contrast with those principles, I have failed my players – and myself – and I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the terms of my suspension. I will learn from my mistakes and I will become a better coach, teacher and role model.

“I sincerely apologize to our players, both past and present; to our incredible assistant coaches and staff; to President Barchi, the Board of Governors and Director of Athletics Tim Pernetti for their belief in me; to the University faculty, staff and student body who represent the greatness of RU and to our Scarlet Knight fans who provide so much support to our teams,” Rice continued. “My commitment to becoming a better man and coach is only matched by my passion to make Rutgers basketball a great source of pride for the community.”

Rice has been one of the more passionate coaches in college basketball for some time now, dating back to his years spent at Robert Morris where he led the Colonials to two NCAA tournament appearances.

But clearly Rutgers has seen something that needs changing, hence the suspension. And it isn’t as if the program hasn’t been down this road with a head coach before, as Fred Hill eventually lost his job for behavioral reasons.

Hill got in trouble at a Rutgers baseball game (his father Fred Hill Sr. has led the Rutgers program for nearly three decades), ignoring Pernetti’s orders to not attend a series between the Scarlet Knights and Pittsburgh. The end result was Hill being fired, opening the door for Rutgers to hire Rice.

With the school’s past dealings with its head coach’s behavior in mind, it’s good for both Rutgers and Rice (even though he’s lighter in the wallet as a result) to address this situation now.

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

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)
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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
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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.