Shaka Smart

VCU blitzes Alabama 73-54, ruins Anthony Grant’s homecoming

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The story lines didn’t happen by accident. There’s little doubt that Alabama would have never set foot in Richmond in December if Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant hadn’t felt some love contractual obligation* for the program that gave him his start. Grant guided the Rams to two NCAA tournaments between 2006-09, which led directly to his big move to the SEC.

So Grant brought his Tide into Richmond, and went home thoroughly beaten. His former team, under the leadership of his replacement Shaka Smart, blitzed the visiting team, winning by a convincing 73-54 margin.

Smart’s “Havoc” defense racked up 11 steals and made shooting an uncomfortable nightmare for the visiting team, holding the Tide to 39% from the floor. Sophomore guard Levi Randolph was the only ‘Bama starter in double figures, barely notching ten points. Freshman Devonta Pollard led the Tide with 13 off the bench.

The Rams got 16 from free-shooting Troy Daniels, who hit 4-11 from deep. Treveon Graham (14) and Rob Brandenberg (10) were the other starters in double figures. Melvin Johnson, a freshman from the Bronx, added 12 in extended reserve minutes.

Alabama extended a three-game skid that brought the team to 6-3 on the season. With injuries striking the team, Grant must get creative to right the ship as quickly as possible – his Tide begins SEC play at No. 12 Missouri on January 8. VCU (7-3) is just beginning a four-game homestand, and will face preseason All-American C.J. McCollum and Lehigh on January 5.

*As pointed out to me by a sharp-eyed CBT commenter below, and by Marcus Shrock of VCURamNation, Anthony Grant is contractually required to schedule VCU as a term of his early exit from Richmond. Whether this means he actually hates VCU or is merely indifferent to the program is not clear at this time. Merry Christmas.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Top-100 guard commits to Xavier

Chris Mack has Xavier back in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo)
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Xavier has added a top-100 prospect into its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday.

Elias Harden, a shooting guard from Georgia, pledged to the Musketeers via social media to become the second member of Chris Mack’s next class.

“The recruiting process was not EASY AT ALL,” Harden wrote on Twitter. “I wanna thank all the coaches that took time to recruit me.

“WIth that being said I will continue my academic and athletic career at Xavier University.”

The 6-foot-6 guard is ranked 92nd overall by 247Sports and had offers from Auburn, Maryland, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. He joins Jared Ridder, a Missouri guard, as part of the 2017 Xavier class.

The Musketeers return the bulk of last year’s 28-6 team that narrowly missed out on the Sweet 16.

Clemson recruit to enroll early

Brad Brownell
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Clemson will get a four-star recruit on campus a year earlier than it expected, though his on-court debut for the Tigers will remain on schedule.

A.J. Oliver, a guard from South Carolina, will enroll early at Clemson and redshirt this upcoming season, he announced via social media Wednesday.

“I woke up this morning and realized that the greatest opportunity for me is to enroll early into Clemson,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will redshirt a year & start my college career early.”

Oliver, whose mother is the head women’s basketball coach at Clemson, was a consensus top-100 player in the class of 2017 who committed to the Tigers last December. Texas Tech and the College of Charleston were involved before his commitment.

A three-star shooting guard, Scott Spencer of Virginia, was previously the only member coach Brad Brownell’s 2016 class. While Oliver’s decision to redshirt will keep him off the court for the 2016-17 season, he’ll have spent a full season in the Tiger program before making his debut in 2017

The cupboard isn’t bare in 2017 for the Tigers due to Oliver’s reclassification because Clemson received a commitment from power forward Malik Williams, a consensus top-150 player, earlier Wednesday.

Kentucky used Calipari-Chaney fight in media training

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Kentucky Sports Radio
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Kentucky held some media training sessions yesterday, and one of the topics that head coach John Calipari used to make a point was … his blow-up with John Chaney. The moment was captured on SnapChat by a trio of Kentucky newcomers.

You remember that incident. Chaney, then the head coach at Temple, and Cal, who was coaching Atlantic 10 rival UMass at the time, nearly came to blows over the way that Cal handled officials during the game. Before the video below picks up, the two shared this exchange:

“Could I say this to you, please?” Chaney said, before the video above picks up. “You’ve got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don’t want to be a party to that. You understand?”

Cal responded: “You weren’t out there, Coach. You don’t have any idea.”

Chaney fired back: “You got a game given to you by officials right here with G.W. on three bad calls, O.K.? Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don’t want to be a party to that.”

And that led to “I’ll kill you”:

(h/t KSR)

VIDEO: Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, with monster dunk in Vegas

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Shareef O’Neal is a top 50 prospect in the Class of 2018. In Vegas this past weekend, he threw down a monster put-back dunk.

South Dakota State gets two commits

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Tuesday was a busy and productive one for South Dakota State on the recruiting trail.

The Jackrabbits secured two 2017 commitments from the state of Wisconsin in Ryan Krueger and Alex Arians, a source tells NBCSports.com.

Krueger is a 6-foot-5 wing player from New London, Wisc. while Arians is a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisc., who also held an offer from Wright State, which is coached by former SDSU coach Scott Nagy. Both players spend their summers playing for the Wisconsin Swing grassroots program.

The pair make it a trio of commits for the Jackrabbits in 2017 with another Wisconsinite, Alou Dillon, pledging to first-year Jackrabbits coach T.J. Otzelberger, himself a Wisconsin native, earlier this summer.

South Dakota State went 26-8 last year and the bulk of the team that made the NCAA tournament last year, including sophomore Mike Daum, who led the team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman.