Kevin O'Neill

What Kevin O’Neill did wrong

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So the three-and-a-half year tenure of Kevin O’Neill ended today at USC. First of all, it’s never good to see a coach, and especially a good guy like O’Neill, lose their job. Here’s to hoping he lands on his feet quickly, which he should. He’s a fantastic basketball mind.

But what cost him his job? A few things.

Failure to recruit Los Angeles well

I thought about this after seeing a tweet from Josh Gershon of Scout.com.

That’s a huge mistake by O’Neill. Much like not recruiting New York City as the coach of St. John’s or Chicago at DePaul (though at this point…). You have to be able to keep the home base as your home base. Although, in fairness, UCLA splits it with them. This season? One player from the actual city of Los Angeles in Brendyn Taylor. Excluding his first season, in which he was playing with a number of Tim Floyd’s players, O’Neill brought in five total Los Angeles recruits. He also went after guys that left pundits scratching their heads. That’s totally unacceptable for the fanbase.

Injuries or not, 2011-12 cost him

Injuries aren’t something a coach can control. Players get hurt. But even after the variable infirmary O’Neill had in his training room last season, the 6-25 record that came out of it signaled a complete loss of everything. Players, effort, talent. It also signaled what O’Neill’s teams had when faced with adversity. O’Neill couldn’t help it. These are college kids. But even glossing over who was healthy, they had enough to at least compete in a Pac-12 Conference that sent just two teams to the NCAA Tournament. Which brings me to this…

Inability to compete in the Pac-12

Injuries or not, the Pac-12 has routinely been one of the worst of the Power Six conferences in O’Neill’s four seasons in L.A. With that, programs expect to all be able to compete, even if that’s because everyone is on the same level of mediocrity. In his three-and-a-half years, his teams were 21-37 in Pac-10/Pac-12 play, with their best record being 10-8 in 2010-11 when they squeaked into the NCAA Tournament at 19-15. Things have improved a bit this season, and when the Trojans didn’t, O’Neill got the axe.

No signature player

From a straight-up on-the-court perspective, O’Neill was never able to bring in a dynamic player that defined his team. Before him, Floyd brought in O.J. Mayo (even if it eventually got him ousted). Every solid team has one and he failed to get one. From the looks of it, maybe O’Neill though Jio Fontan could be that guy. While he’s been the best player on the team, he hasn’t been a guy that can put a program on his back.

These are a few reasons O’Neill is no longer employed by USC. He’s a great coach and shouldn’t have any trouble finding a program that needs his services, but you can’t have all these things and keep your job.

David Harten is the editor and founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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.